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Dan's New Monster Gaming Rig

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     Dan finally ditched his unstable, unreliable laptop (sold it to some unlucky bastard), and got himself a true gaming monster. In fact, he has the most powerful computer among us all, since he can run DirectX 10 games. His CPU may not be as fast as some of us OCers, but his 640MB GeForce 8800 GTS will destroy everyone in gaming performance (CORRECTION - Justin has the most powerful computer. I forgot that last winter he built a PC with a GeForce 8800 GTX with 768 MB of vRAM - it cost him over $600!). Dan spent about a month grabbing all the parts, and when the last of them came in, Kirk and I headed over there to build the thing (on March 20th 2007). Some of the other dawgz showed up to hang and check out the new PC. Dan didn't listen to my advice on all the parts though, and he got some sh*tty RAM (among other things). The 2nd stick didn't even work! That's a return for yah (not even an RMA, a full return cuz the RAM is crappy anyways). When he finally did get some kickass Corsair XMS2 RAM, the second stick still didn't work! That's some bad luck, and weeks of wasted time troubleshooting. So now the second pair has to be RMA'd. Finally, Dan ended up just using his first working stick together with the XMS2 working DIIM and ran them in dual-channel like that (glad it worked, because that doesn't always happen). It's the best choice he has right now (though definitely not ideal) since computers (especially those running Windows Vista) suck without dual-channel RAM. And with Vista, you need at least 2GB for acceptable performance. As for the GeForce 8, well I wish I had a picture of it to put on this page, but all I can say is that even a picture will not do it justice in showing just how massive the damn thing is. It's a huge freakin' card, and its pretty heavy too. You'll need alot of room in your case for this baby, and the GTS isn't even as big as the GTX! The dual-slot cooling unit contributes the most to the size of the thing, and it dumps out a significant amount of hot air from the back the the case. The GeForce 8 is hot, heavy, expensive, and it sucks juice, but that's the price of performance right?

      The pictures of the complete system are near the bottom, and you'll notice in those very last pictures I changed the orientation of the lights. I went back over there a week or two later to clean up the mess we made inside during the building of the system, and to fix some mistakes I made with mounting the inverter for the cold cathode lights. While I was doing that, I decided to change one of the lights so it was vertical. More light escapes the case this way, and overall it just looks better. I got the idea from my own case, where I'm using twice the lights (two horizontal and two vertical). With 4 lights I can stick two in the back to bring more light from back there (and so light reaches the UV-sensitive materials back there). Dan only bought two lights however, so I did the best I could with them. The horizontal red cathode is mounted farther behind the vertical light. I affixed it to the wireless network card with electric tape in order to bring the light up off the floor of the case, and thus allow more light to escape. I think the overall effect turned out great.

The specs for Dan's computer are as follows:

  • CPU - Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 Conroe. Runs at 2.13 GHz. 1066 MHz FSB. 64MB of L1 cache (crappy amount), and 2MB of shared L2 cache. Socket LGA-775. Of course you gotta go dual-core (heck that's the bare-minimum these days), and by some miracle Intel is actually leading with the superior architecture right now. Lemme tell you, no one is able to get over the fact that Intel is beating AMD, even after all these months. I never in my life thought I would see such a day. What amazing times we live in. We still like AMD better, but if you're buying a PC now you need to go with Intel and the Core 2 Duo architecture.

  • Memory - 2 x 1024MB DDR2-800 RAM (2048 MB / 2GB total) - Corsair XMS2 TwinX DIMMs. 5-5-5-12 timings. That's kinda slow if you ask me. He should have gotten the ones with 4-4-4-12 timings.

  • Graphics Card - eVGA-brand nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS with 640MB of video RAM, PCI-E slot. Full DirectX 10 support. I still don't know why nVidia is not following normal numbers for RAM amounts. After 256MB, it's supposed to be 512 MB and then 1 GB. But no, nVidia did 320MB for the low-end GTS, 640MB for the normal GTS and 768MB for the GTX. I don't know what they're smoking these days. Anyways, eVGA seems to have the best customer service these days (Kyle and Eric can attest to that), and their stuff is pretty reliable. A bunch of us use eVGA and have been really satisfied with the company, so no reason to digress.

  • Monitor - Unknown, mainly because Dan keeps switching monitors out. If he plans on getting a real gaming monitor, he better either get the Viewsonic VX922 (if he goes with an LCD), or the Viewsonic G90fB-4 (for CRTs).

  • Motherboard - eVGA-brand nVidia nForce 680i chipset with SLI. Of course we're gonna go with an nVidia chipset (even though most Intel users seem to prefer Intel chipsets). This is nVidia's top-of-the-line Intel motherboard, and it has a wealth of overclocking features. It looks pretty tight too with the black PCB and the awesome northbridge / southbridge / capacitor cooling (heat-pipe with an additional, optional fan for extra cooling, which we chose to use). Plus this motherboard supports SLI, so if Dan ever gets the stones and the money to do it, he can drop some cash down for another 8800 GTS and get some crazy gaming action going on up in there. Im my personal opinion though, SLI is a waste of money, since every next generation card will by itself outperform two (sometimes 4) of the model it replaces running in SLI. For example, the GeForce 7900 GTX runs faster than two 7800 GTXes running in SLI. The GeForce 8800 GTX overpowers 4 GeForce 7950 GX2 GPUs running in Quad-SLI! You get the picture.

  • Sound card - Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi (one of the higher models, I forget which one, but I think it's the XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro Series, which was the cheapest one with XRAM on it). Yeah-heah, thanks to me Dan is also the first among us to get the new awesome X-Fi sound processor. It has 64MB of sound-only X-RAM, and it doesn't just enable advanced sound effects (like EAX), it actually runs them on its own processor! This thing improves gaming framerates pretty significantly. Too bad it's going to waste in Vista with games and other apps that use DirectSound, thanks to Microsoft removing hardware 3D audio from Windows Vista. Now the only way to get 3D Hardware Audio is with that awesome sound API, OpenAL.

  • Speakers - Logitech somethings. I didn't even know Dan was trying to get speakers, so I could not advise him. Even though Logitech is good, the speakers he got aren't even THX-certified. Dan should realize by now he sucks when trying to pick out computer stuff on his own. Still, the speaker's dont sound half bad. I wonder how much he paid for them. I paid $134 for my Logitech THX-certified Z-5300e 5.1 speakers. That's the cheapest way to get 5.1 surround sound and THX certification, as far as I know. Those are what Dan should have gone with.

  • Hard Drive(s) - Seagate Barracuda 320GB: SATA 2.0 (3.0Gb/sec) interface with NCQ, 7200rpm, 16MB cache, Perpendicular recording, model ST3320620AS. Gotta go with Seagate and their awesome 5-year warranty. Plus I don't think any other company matches their performance or reliability right now.

  • DVD Drives - Unknown. All I know is that he didn't listen to me and get the NEC 3550A (or something better if I could find it). He bought whatever he felt like, and that's his problem. He has one DVD drive and one CD drive, both burners.

  • Power Supply - Unknown. Dan didn't listen to me (he didn't even give me a chance to suggest a PSU), so I have no idea how efficient or reliable it is. It's from Ultra though, so I'm not too convinced its really all that great. At least it's modular, but it has a tacky chrome design. Overall it looks pretty cheap, but it gets the job done at 500-something watts. It'll have to do.

  • Mouse / Pads - Logitech MX518 Gaming Mouse (Dan was the first one to get this mouse). He has some mouse pad that may or may not be Teflon-coated, and it has a clear acrylic perimeter that lights up with fancy light effects when the pad is plugged into a USB port. He really likes it, but I only go with RatPadz or fUnc.

  • Keyboard - Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard. Yeah he's rockin' the same keyboard as me, and I didnt' even tell him to get it! I figured it would be out of his budget (and completely unneccessary for him, or so I thought), but I guess that when he saw me using it, it impressed him a good deal. Well, I'm glad someone else has it. It gets a little hard to live without that LCD screen after a month of use. I still don't use the macro keys though, and I doubt Dan will make good use of either the LCD screen or the macro keys. Kirk on the other hand is an avid WoW player, so he would love to have 18 x 3 macro keys. And WoW has native support for this keyboard and its screen, but Kirk doesn't want to pay above $30 for a keyboard.

  • Controllers - Xbox360 controllers. Dan already has an Xbox 360 (hooked up to an awesome DELL plasma HDTV which sadly can only do 768p instead of 1080p), so he can just use those controllers for his PC. He has like 3 or 4 of them. And quite frankly there is no better controller to use on the PC, especially since the X360 controller is also the official controller for Windows.

  • Case / Mods - Uknown case model from Ultra. Nothing special, but it has a semi-reflective finish and its aluminum, and it gets the job done. It's been pretty easy to work with. I say its very nice for a cheap case. Case mods include acrylic side window, 2 12-inch red cold cathodes, and 2 120mm red-LED fans from Thermaltake. As you can see, Dan was going with a black and red theme (something my brother beat him to years in advance).

  • OS - Windows Vista Ultimate x64. Dan decided to take a risk and use Windows Vista. Like the rest of us who got Vista, Dan bought it from our good friend at Microsoft, and as a result only paid $45 plus shipping for the Ultimate edition, which retails for $399.95. He's using the 64-bit version of course, which has actually proven itself to be more compatible and more stable than the 32-bit version (not just my own personal findings, [H]ard| feels that way as well). That doesn't matter though, the real deal is that in this day and age there is really no reason to use a 32-bit OS anymore. Games and other apps are starting to take advantage of 64-bit computing. And pretty soon everything will be 64-bit, just like when Windows 2K / XP came out and we left the world of 16-bit behind for good. Video drivers for Vista are still very immature (ATi and nVidia are struggling to get the most out of the new driver model in Vista), and as a result game performance is worse than Windows XP for the time being. Vista makes much more efficient use of multiple cores and processors though, so that's a plus. And in my experience thus far it has been much more stable than XP (though to be fair my current XP install is almost a year old and has tons of games and applications on it, plus alot of my custom tweaking of the OS, the registry and other crap). Vista also makes the CPU handle sound processing until someone can figure out how to get Hardware 3D Audio back for DirectSound, which is also hurting performance. Finally, since Vista is a new OS, there are some program incompatibilities, but there is no mistaking that Windows Vista is the future of gaming. Thus far Dan is very pleased with it.

As with the last few picture galleries, the viewing of these pics was meant for the Firefox web browser, so I hope you guys are using it. When you first click on the pics, it shows the larger versions scaled down to fit onscreen (if your monitor resolution is lower than these pictures), and then you can click on this larger version to zoom in and see it at full size.

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Site Created January 5 2005. Page Last Updated on April 12th 2007.
Copyright © 2005-2006 Clifford Ferguson II.