Build a BONKERS gaming PC
Money to burn? Put it to use building a monstrously powerful games rig
Feature There is a select band of gamers who will only be satisfied by a huge amount of graphics and processing power. For them, the only thing to do is build a bonkers gaming PC.
In my opinion, the tricky part of the job is organising the pile of parts that you’ll use for the build. While we ‘Build a Bonkers...’ writers don’t worry too much about money, I don’t want to encourage waste.
The sensible and cautious way to proceed, then, is to do things in stages. Buy the case and power supply; install the motherboard, CPU and memory; hook up the cooling; bung in some storage followed by a few graphics cards and - voila - you have a bonkers PC. The slow and steady approach will take you a few weeks but should avoid commonly made mistakes, such as buying a 200mm fan for a case that only provides 120mm and 140mm housings.
Alternatively, you can finalise your plans, go for broke and order a stack of hardware in one hit and that way keep the carriage costs to a minimum while also saving time.
Let’s start with the processor, as that has a massive bearing on performance, as well as dictating your choice of motherboard chipset. The fundamental question is whether you buy from AMD or from Intel. On paper, AMD’s Socket AM3+ Bulldozer FX-8150 looks convincing. It has a clock speed of 3.6GHz and eight physical processing cores, all for a mere £150.
AMD's FX-8150 Bulldozer is giving ground
In practice, the FX-8150 disappoints and in the 3D Mark Vantage benchmark turns in a CPU score of 18,994. Even an aged Intel Core i7-2700K can manage to rack up 24,721 points. Using the latest, 2013 edition 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme benchmark, the AMD achieves a Physics score of 6709 while the Core i7-2700K weighs in at 9226.
Just as significantly, the AMD system with a single Radeon HD 7950 graphics card draws 250W of power under load while the Intel equivalent only needs 190W. So the AMD draws more power and delivers less performance than Intel’s previous generation of processor, Sandy Bridge. It looks even worse compared to Intel’s newest platform, Ivy Bridge, which has slightly higher levels of performance - approximately five per cent - than its predecessor, as well as improved efficiency that saves about 20W under load.
So AMD is out of the equation.
The obvious starting point for the gamer with one eye on the budget is the Core i7-3770K, a 3.5GHz part with four physical cores and Hyper-Threading technology to make it appear to have eight. However, we want a bonkers processor so my chosen piece of silicon is the Sandy Bridge Extreme. This CPU is based on previous-generation Intel technology, but you get six physical cores which Hyper-Threading takes to 12, and a quad-channel DDR 3 memory controller. This requires a larger, LGA2011 processor socket, an Intel X79 chipset and £800 out of your wallet.
CPU-Z readout: Intel's Core i7-3930K and AMD's FX-8150
In return, you get a 3D Mark Vantage CPU score of 36,699 marks and a Fire Strike Extreme Physics score of 12,560, while the PC power draw is a reasonable 245W under load - ie. the same as the AMD Bulldozer, which scored rather less well in those benchmarks.
It is far from clear whether Intel will release an Ivy Bridge Extreme processor later this year or simply move straight on to Haswell, its next-generation processor architecture.
Next page: Fruitcake form-factors
Yup, seen that myself a few times.
Visited a friend one day to find they'd spent £400 on a new laptop. I asked what was wrong with their old one, they said it was really slow, so wanted a new one. They gave me the old one to look at.
It had Vista, and 512MB of memory, and looked like it had never had a disk clean up (full of temp files and other crap, and the defrag tool had never been used (no last used date!). Also drivers were all the original stock ones from the maker from years back.
So this was obviously hitting VM RAM constantly, on a heavily fragments drive, that would have been a slow HD to start with!
I took it away, cleaned the drive (would have re-installed if I'd had more time and an install disk). Patched it all up, put better drivers on for the GFX etc and various other tweaks.
I found some old spare RAM kicking about at home, so put 2GB in, (2 x 1GB sticks I had spare after updating an old XP laptop from 2GB to 4GB a few years earlier). Would have only been about £15-20 quid to buy if needed.
Gave it back afterwards, said 'Try this'. It was just as fast as his new shiny lap top! He was both please and annoyed at the same time, was quite amusing. :-)
General processing power usage (offcie, web etc) hasn't changed much for years. Just the overheads have increased, (i.e Windows). But 9 times out of 10, just more memory and a clean drive (or a switch to an SSD), improves things no end.
PCs with not enough memory is one of my pet peeves, crippling a PC for something that for budget RAM, would cost you about £20 to fix and make the PC so much more usable.
Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely
Bet it must be nice when someone sends you the hardware instead of having to pay for it yourself... In the real world, it's possible to spec up a "bonkers" gaming PC for a fraction of the price of the stuff listed here. You don't even mention overclocking; what's the point of such a powerful machine if you're not even going to attempt to get the best you can out of it? That chip will easily hit 4-4.2GHz.
And your RAM is seriously overpriced; remind me not to go shopping in the same places that you do.
Re: welcome to th 1990'2
Playing games in less than DX11, with half the textures and effects missing, and using suboptimal gamepad.
I thought everyone knew?
Having a bonkers gaming machine has very little to do with gaming performance, its all about willy waving. I thought everyone knew that?
Non-tech users often throw away a perfectly good desktop just to get an upgrade on the cpu. Yet what they needed was more ram and a better graphics card.