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So, I built my new gaming machine last night

Posted on 2nd Feb 2009 at 12:55 by Tim Smalley with 33 comments

I've been wanting to build my new PC for some time now because I've been having my fair share of issues over the past few months, but it's not as new as many of you would expect. I've been running a quad-core processor since 2006 and I haven't felt the need to upgrade it yet, even though Intel has now released its true successor, Core i7.

I'm still running a QX6700 and this is the third system upgrade the same processor has gone through. I guess it's a testament for how forward looking Intel's quad-core processors were - performance enhancements came with the 45nm Penryn core and then there's even more performance available with a Core i7, but I'm more than happy with how much performance there is on tap with my QX6700.

So, I built my new gaming machine last night So I built my new PC last night

I've merely upgraded some parts of my system that were either on their last legs or just getting a bit long in the tooth.

My old P5B Deluxe motherboard has been in and out of my system twice now - it was my board of choice when I first upgraded to the QX6700 and I'd upgraded to a P35 motherboard a year later. However, I didn't get on with that particular board, so I went back to my 965P-based stablemate. But it's been on its last legs for a while, and it was the most important thing for me to change.

I believe it is what has been giving me the most headaches over the past few months because, although I'd got 4GB of memory installed, every monitoring tool I've tried said only 3GB of it was working. I'd tried moving the memory around to no avail - each time it said there was just 3GB of the 4GB working. It had to be a dead memory slot.

Understandably, this was causing my whole system to slow down and often grind to a halt so it had to be fixed. I talked with Rich at great length about what motherboard I should upgrade to, and in the end we decided that the Asus Maximus II Formula would fit the bill for my needs and, touch wood, that has worked out incredibly well so far. What's more, it was our motherboard of the year last year and one of an elite group of boards to be given a 10/10 overall score, so it'd be a bit strange if one of us didn't put our money where our mouths are.

With my 4GB of RAM now working fine, there was no need to upgrade my memory - I'm still running 4x1GB OCZ PC2-6400 C4 modules at pretty lax timings. The reason I've done that this time around though is so that I can increase the memory bus with some overclocking. Although I said my CPU has more than enough power, I've decided that a bit of overclocking can't hurt - my main reason for not overclocking in the past was the power consumption, but because the Maximus II Formula allows Intel SpeedStep technology to continue working when using the CPU Step Up auto overclocking function, I'm no longer going to be needlessly consuming power that I'm not using. I used the 'crazy' setting and that pumped my CPU up to 3.51GHz (351x10) - that should be more than enough to keep me going for a while.

So, I built my new gaming machine last night So I built my new PC last night

I've also upgraded both my graphics and power supply as well - I've gone with BFG Tech on both fronts because I've had good experiences with the company as a customer in the past. The graphics card I opted for was a BFG Tech GeForce GTX 280 OC, which I've got running at its stock speeds as it should be plenty to power my current 1,680 x 1,050 monitor with lots of anti-aliasing turned on for good measure. Previous to this card, I had a Radeon HD 4870 512MB in my system - a great card, but there are a couple of downsides. First, the amount of anti-aliasing I was trying to play games with was proving a little too much for the card's 512MB frame buffer and second, its idle power consumption isn't that great. The GeForce GTX 280 doesn't have either of these problems and it is actually a pretty power efficient card with all things considered. There's also support for PhysX as well, and I've been wanting to play Mirror's Edge ever since I first saw the console version. Of course, Mirror's Edge is one of the first games to implement PhysX and so I want to play the game with all of that turned on... even if it is only eye candy.

The power supply I've opted for is BFG's 800W ES Series unit - it combines high power efficiency afforded by the innovative design with pretty solid rails. It's also an exceptionally quiet unit when running at the kind of load levels I'll be using it at.

The only other hardware upgrade I've done was to my storage array - I'd been collecting hard drives more readily than stamps, it would seem. I had five different drives in my system before I upgraded - two 500GB Western Digital Caviar Blacks, a Maxtor MaxLine III 300GB, a 120GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 and a 160GB Western Digital Caviar. I've replaced the three smaller drives with a single 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F1 and that's now my boot drive while the two 500GB drives are for games, music, video and photos. My Steam folder is almost 200GB on its own, so one of those drives is reserved solely for my collection of games.

Probably my most interesting upgrade though was to the operating system. I've been testing the Windows 7 beta on my notebook ever since I got back from CES and I've so far been thoroughly impressed. So much so that I didn't want to go 'back' to Vista when it came to building this machine - it's not that I don't like Windows Vista, I just believe Windows 7 is a much better OS. Even in its beta state.

So, I built my new gaming machine last night So I built my new PC last night

I'm keen to find out how stable Windows 7 is as a gaming platform at this point in time because Windows Vista drivers appear to work just fine. Of course, they're not based on the newer WDDM 1.1 specification yet, so I won't see any advantages from what the new spec brings, but that's not a major concern at the moment. I've currently got the 181.22 WHQL drivers installed and so far so good - I'll keep you updated on my progress with the OS, but I see no reason to go back to Vista for the time being.

33 Comments

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Psytek 2nd February 2009, 14:01 Quote
I agree that W7 seems a lot better than Vista. I've been getting better performance in most games I play.
Xtrafresh 2nd February 2009, 14:45 Quote
I did almost the same thing Tim :)

The last month i've added some stuff to my PC, but it seems my budget is slightly lower. My endresult is very similar though:
2TB harddisks, W7, 1GB GPU an overclocked quadcore ;)

So far, i've had two issues with W7:
1) installing the OS, it was unable to create a system partition. It was the first time i ever used a RAID array, so i thought that i had a driverproblem, but it turned out you need to install W7 on the volume that's listed first in BIOS. For some reason, my 1GB pendrive (used for RAID drivers) was occupying that spot
2) unable to install certain programs, such as skype and daemon tools.

I'm also very impressed with it though.

Great build Tim, and fun to read what kind of setup you are running. I'm glad it's not an i7 965/24GB RAM/2x GTX295/1600W/12TB RAID5/Watercooled/uberuber-rig :p

Have fun with it!

PS: shame on you for not overclocking a QX!
Tim S 2nd February 2009, 15:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psytek
I agree that W7 seems a lot better than Vista. I've been getting better performance in most games I play.

I had a quick game of HL2DM at lunch time today and it seems good so far. I'm not expecting it to be faster on my own machine - what are you running out of interest?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xtrafresh
Great build Tim, and fun to read what kind of setup you are running. I'm glad it's not an i7 965/24GB RAM/2x GTX295/1600W/12TB RAID5/Watercooled/uberuber-rig :p

Have fun with it!
Haha, I might end up upgrading the graphics again soon as I'm still on the verge of buying an NEC MultiSync LCD3090WQXi. I need someone to tell me it's a really bad idea... but nobody seems to be able to convince me that it is.
Quote:
PS: shame on you for not overclocking a QX!
I wasn't, but I am now - I didn't see a need, plus the power bill increase wasn't worth it because it disabled EIST. :p
Krikkit 2nd February 2009, 15:49 Quote
Wow, that's a serious Steam games list. It doesn't help that Steam is a hungry momma though! I've not got that many games installed, yet my Steam folder runs to 25GB without breaking a sweat. Ridiculous that it can't have a decent number of common data repositories tbh.
Gremlin 2nd February 2009, 16:08 Quote
Nice upgrade there tim

I'm also currently using Win 7 (X64 naturally ;)) as my main OS even though im tri booting Vista & XP and i find that my games are running much smoother compared to Vista (even with it heavily tweaked)
kenco_uk 2nd February 2009, 16:21 Quote
Very strange concerning the P5B. I had one with 4 x 1GB modules in last year and it ran fine - I reckon you're right in thinking the slot was dead.
thehippoz 2nd February 2009, 16:56 Quote
sweet rig.. 16q is pretty nice- try guildwars on that card you can get 16q+4x aa application enhanced.. even old games like the witcher 16q override 16x af is good to go =] haven't been gaming here lately- stuff to do but mirrors edge is on the list
Xtrafresh 2nd February 2009, 17:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim S
Haha, I might end up upgrading the graphics again soon as I'm still on the verge of buying an NEC MultiSync LCD3090WQXi. I need someone to tell me it's a really bad idea... but nobody seems to be able to convince me that it is.
It's not... it's a really GOOD idea. I put my spending on the PC on hold for now to be able to save up for one... either that or go for 3x 24", which is actually cheaper

A GTX280 should be able to handle 2560x1600, shouldn't it? I think the horsepower race has given us some rediculously overpowered cards lately, even at that resolution. I mean, do you need 16xAF + 32xFSAA + 8 instances of Folding@Home in the background? :p
Jamie 2nd February 2009, 18:25 Quote
So when are you going to build me a gaming system Tim?


HUH?
wuyanxu 2nd February 2009, 18:59 Quote
nice system, your p182 needs a little polishing :)

so your system is now: q6700 at 3.5Ghz, 4GB RAM, gtx280 BFG OC1 and 2TB of storage?
my system is surprising similar :P q6600 at 3.4Ghz, 8GB RAM, gtx260+ OC2 and 1.07GB of storage.

are game reviews going to be using that system? it's a very rounded system and a very good representation of current mainstream.
DougEdey 2nd February 2009, 19:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
So when are you going to build me a gaming system Tim?


HUH?

When you actually game probably, macboi
MrWillyWonka 2nd February 2009, 19:50 Quote
One question, why the 1TB drive as a boot drive? I always try to keep from using my boot drive for storage to keep boot times low.

I also have P182 as a server, the shiny special edition B)
Tim S 2nd February 2009, 21:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrWillyWonka
One question, why the 1TB drive as a boot drive? I always try to keep from using my boot drive for storage to keep boot times low.

I also have P182 as a server, the shiny special edition B)

It's the fastest of the drives I've got in my system now and most of my storage is on the two 500GBs at the moment. I'll probably get all of my photos and such copied onto the 1TB, but aside from programmes, that's about it.
alastor 2nd February 2009, 23:26 Quote
Nice rig, now get back to 360 gaming :p

What weather gadget is that by the way?
perplekks45 3rd February 2009, 03:14 Quote
Nice rig you built there. Pretty solid work, nothing fancy... me likey. And I told you you'd like Win7. :p

Sorry for the hijack but Xtra: You can get the Skype 4 Beta. Runs perfectly fine on both my computers. :)
rembo666 3rd February 2009, 14:06 Quote
I agree. I think Windows 7 is basically a polished version of Vista--it's what Vista should have been in the first place. I run it as my main OS at home and I'm not planning on switching back.
Tim S 3rd February 2009, 14:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by alastor
Nice rig, now get back to 360 gaming :p

What weather gadget is that by the way?
Quite ironic you say that, I get my 360 back this weekend. :p

The weather gadget is just the enlarged version of the standard Win7 weather gadget.
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45
Nice rig you built there. Pretty solid work, nothing fancy... me likey. And I told you you'd like Win7. :p

Yep, Win7 is great... tonight I'll be playing Mirror's Edge til either I drop or the system does! :D
Quote:
Originally Posted by rembo666
I agree. I think Windows 7 is basically a polished version of Vista--it's what Vista should have been in the first place. I run it as my main OS at home and I'm not planning on switching back.

Yeah, Win7 is a polished version of Vista in many respects... but I think it's much more than that. Most of the design choices were right this time, whereas a lot of Vista's weren't. Moving back to something lightweight when it needs to be is refreshing to say the least.
perplekks45 3rd February 2009, 22:03 Quote
I thought about picking up ME for my 360 from game.co.uk, preowned for less than 15£.
Tim S 3rd February 2009, 22:40 Quote
I played the first few chapters tonight and I'm loving it so far. It's hard to explain why... it's just something completely different and I like what I'm seeing/playing.
Whalemeister 4th February 2009, 16:23 Quote
Very tidy rig, loving your cable management skills!

I see you had the same issue I had with the gtx 280 and the P182's upper drive cage ;)
Adnoctum 5th February 2009, 18:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim S
Win7 is a polished version of Vista in many respects...

It was time for my yearly XP re-install last week, and I decided to give Win7 Beta (x64) a go. I had decided to give Vista a miss, but I was curious and thought I could just install XP if I didn't like it.

So far my experience has been positive. I haven't used Vista so I have no basis for that comparison, but I agree with what you and others have said about Win7. Gaming has been smooth, I haven't noticed lower frame rates compared to XP, but I've only been playing DX9 games for the past week.

The only issue I've had is with my AVG anti-virus. Every time I boot I get an Action Centre warning to turn AVG on, I do this, but AVG never turns on. I can live with this for a while until I have time to research a fix.

MAJOR GRIPE ALERT! What the hell has happened to the UP tree button in folders?? I never knew how much I used it until it was gone! Alt-Up is just no substitute for a handy button in the save-file dialogue box.
wuyanxu 5th February 2009, 18:39 Quote
can't you just click on the folder name before your current folder name??

i do miss the UP button, but the folder names are good enough once you get used to it.
perplekks45 5th February 2009, 22:26 Quote
Backspace?
Adnoctum 6th February 2009, 05:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
can't you just click on the folder name before your current folder name??
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45
Backspace?

You can do both of these if you are browsing folders, but it is missing from the save/load-file dialogue box, where I use it most.
If you need to access a folder OTHER than the one you just saved to/loaded from, you have to either use Alt-Up or take the long path from the drive root (in my case, my storage D:).
I can't seem to find any options regarding this, and from looking around other's comments this seems a "feature" new to Vista. As I've never used Vista this was an unpleasant surprise.
thehippoz 6th February 2009, 07:04 Quote
adnoc- in the save dialog.. it works like the explorer- same way.. in the bar you'll see > Computer > Local Disk (C:) > Temp ... depending on the folder your in

Click on the > right before the current directory to see a listing above or click on Local Disk (C:) for example to go there.. it took some time to adjust for me too when I switched from xp
automagsrock 6th February 2009, 09:14 Quote
I am running a system similar to what yours was before upgrades and what you've done is exactly what I am saving up to do with mine. I am def. in the need for a new video card, and I need to up from 2 to 4 gigs of RAM as well.

Quick question: the GTX 260 is a pretty slick card and cheaper then the GTX 280 but performs similarly. Why'd you chose the 280 over the 260?
Tim S 6th February 2009, 09:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by automagsrock
Quick question: the GTX 260 is a pretty slick card and cheaper then the GTX 280 but performs similarly. Why'd you chose the 280 over the 260?

There were a few deals going around on the 280s and I snapped one up when I could - we mentioned the good deals in our January buyer's guide. :)
wuyanxu 6th February 2009, 10:38 Quote
that OCuk £218 deal?? which brand did you get?
Cupboard 6th February 2009, 13:06 Quote
^it was BFGTech
stoff3r 11th February 2009, 01:34 Quote
hi nice rig :) I was wondering how Windows 7 works for you on a day-to-day basis? Can it take the same programs as Vista? I am thinking not just games, but Autodesk Maya, Photoshop, Premiere, Warcraft 3.... :P

I am considering giving this a try now as i will probably buy a upgrade anyway.
perplekks45 11th February 2009, 02:15 Quote
WC3 - works perfectly fine
PS - CS4 works perfectly fine

Don't know about Premiere or Maya but Sony Acid 6, Vegas 8 run without any problems although 7 said during the Acid install that the MS SQL Server Desktop Engine is known to have issues with this OS.
stoff3r 13th February 2009, 13:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by perplekks45
WC3 - works perfectly fine
PS - CS4 works perfectly fine

Don't know about Premiere or Maya but Sony Acid 6, Vegas 8 run without any problems although 7 said during the Acid install that the MS SQL Server Desktop Engine is known to have issues with this OS.

thanks!
Tim S 13th February 2009, 13:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by stoff3r
hi nice rig :) I was wondering how Windows 7 works for you on a day-to-day basis? Can it take the same programs as Vista? I am thinking not just games, but Autodesk Maya, Photoshop, Premiere, Warcraft 3.... :P

I am considering giving this a try now as i will probably buy a upgrade anyway.

I've got Photoshop and Premiere Elements running on my Win7 machine and they work fine. :)
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