PC Upgrade Time… Again

benchmark

The last time I upgraded was about a year and a half ago, but that time I was really only adding a 2nd graphics card. I have actually been wanting to upgrade my CPU for a while now, but until now the only real upgrade was the 4770k which was still only 4 cores. Sure, I would get hyper threading but that didn’t seem like a worthwhile upgrade to me. Now that the new Haswell-E CPUs are out, I decided that it was finally worth it. Going from 4 Cores with 4 threads to 6 cores and 12 threads is pretty noticeable in specific workloads, but its not much of a difference for games yet. There are a few games out there that benefit from the extra cores, such as Battlefield 4, but for the most part it doesn’t really matter right now. However, I am starting to see games recommend more cores, and expect this to be the norm once this current console generation is in full swing.

Of course Haswell-E requires a new motherboard and DDR4 ram, so I had to upgrade those as well. The prices for DDR4 are pretty crazy right now, and the motherboards and CPUs are not cheap either. I also got a new CPU cooler, because my old H60 wouldn’t be able to handle the overclocking I plan to do with this CPU.

The build went pretty well for the most part. The only issue I had was due to mixing an older case with a newer motherboard. The 600T has 4 USB2 ports on the case. Add to that the card reader that I have and the USB connection on the H100i and I was a few internal USB2 headers short. So I ended up buying a NZXT IU01 to add some additional internal ports to connect everything up.

All of my old parts are going into a new HTPC that I am building. It should work nicely for Steam In-Home Streaming and media center duties. Once that build is done I will make a post about it as well.

My new specs are:

Processor: Intel Core i7-5930K
CPU Cooler: Corsair H100i w/ Air Series SP120 Fans
Memory: 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 2800
Primary Hard Drive: 256 GB Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series
Other Drives: Over 7.5TB of storage
Optical Drive: LG Blu-ray Burner
Video Card: 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 in SLI
Monitor: Asus VG236H 120Hz 3D Monitor
Speakers/Headphones: Corsair Vengeance 2100 Wireless 7.1 Gaming Headset & Logitech X-540 5.1 Speakers
Keyboard: Corsair Vengeance K90
Mouse: Corsair M95
Mouse Surface: Corsair MM600
Operating System: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
Motherboard: ASUS X99-DELUXE
Computer Case: Corsair Graphite Series 600T
Power Supply: Corsair HX Series HX750
Card Reader: NZXT Aperture M
Lighting: NZXT Hue

 



PC Build May 2014

I already posted about one Gaming PC Build I did back in May, but here is another one I helped out with. This friend was still using a PC he built years ago with a Q6600 processor which released in 2007. He certainly got his money’s worth out of that build, but it was time to retire it in favor of something newer. He would like to occasionally play some games, but that was not the focus of this build. He simply wanted something faster and more modern, that might be able to last as long as his previous build did. In the end, we went with a very similar build as the Gaming PC I put together a few weeks earlier, and just swapped out some parts based on his focus and budget.

The specs are:

  • Corsair Graphite Series 600T
  • ASUS Z97-C Motherboard
  • Intel Core i7-4770K
  • MSI GTX 760 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5
  • CORSAIR CX Series CX600
  • CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB)
  • SAMSUNG 840 EVO 120GB
  • Western Digital Blue 1TB
  • LG 24X DVD Burner
  • Corsair Hydro Series H75
  • Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit

The main difference between this build and the Gaming PC build is that we went with a less powerful, but still fairly capable, GPU. Since he wanted this build to last, we ended up keeping the 4770K and the newer Z97 chipset motherboard. We went with 8GB of RAM instead of 16GB, and we also substituted a 1TB WD Blue drive instead of the 3TB Seagate drive. This was because he didn’t need a lot of storage and neither of us are big fans of Seagate drives and their failure rates. The only other difference is that we went with the Corsair H75 closed loop liquid cooler instead of the stock heatsink and fan. My friend lives is California where it can get pretty hot and while he is not going to be overclocking at all that extra cooling should be helpful. Windows 8.1 took a little bit of convincing, but I got him a copy of Start8 which took care of his concerns.

 



System Shock 2 Scene Remake

A user going by the name of Mr Smo has posted some screenshots over on the polycount forums showing off his plans to remake one of the most memorable scenes from System Shock 2 in CryEngine 3. I have always been on the fence as to whether or not I would like to see a full remake of System Shock 2, but his work on this one scene has me thinking it could be pretty cool if done properly. I don’t want to go into detail on what the scene is (potential spoilers), but those of you who played the game will instantly know what scene he is working on.

Mr Smo based his remake of the scene on this piece of artwork by JimHatama

Shodan_by_JimHatama

And here are some screenshots of his work in progress:





BitBox Cases

BitBoxes

With the Retron 5 releasing soon, I decided to get my collection of Retro Games in good working condition. I opened and cleaned all of my NES cartridges, and also decided to replaced the 72-pin connector in my NES so I could test my cleaned games before getting the Retron.

Cleaning all of the games is a lot of work, so I was looking for a way to keep them clean so I hopefully wouldn’t have to go through the time consuming process again. I bought some NES Game Sleeves. The quality was pretty decent, but they are fairly ugly. I wanted to find something that would keep my games dust free but also be something I would want to show off.

That is when I came across the BitBox cases from Stone Age Gamer. These cases remind me of the old plastic VHS boxes. They are big, sturdy, and look great. They offer to print out the cover art for you, or you can download and print it out yourself. The box art comes from The Cover Project, but they have slightly altered it to keep the aspect ratio correct for the box. They don’t have art for everything, but most of it is there. Personally, I had them print it out for me. It was worth it not having to take the time to do it, and the cost of printing it yourself is fairly high when you factor in the need to get decent quality legal sized presentation paper and ink (more on this in my upcoming post on UCGs and my N64 library). You also have the option to add a pouch for game manuals to your order. These come on a sheet backed with adhesive, so you just peel them off and stick them inside the case.

I was hoping that the cover art would already be inserted into the cases before they shipped, but they come in a separate envelope so you have to sleeve them all in yourself. It was a bit of a bummer that they were not ready to go immediately, but inserting them all only took about 10 to 20 seconds per case. I was a bit worried about smudging the artwork, but the print quality seems to be pretty good and had no issues despite touching them when inserting the covers.

The only real downside to the cases is that they are pretty expensive for what they are. You can buy them in larger quantities to save some money, but this will result in either having too many or not enough cases for many people. Personally I had about 12 left over from my order, but I plan to expand my collection so I think those will get used at some point. The breakdown of my order was:

Order

The price definitely makes these a product aimed at the serious collector, since I can’t really see a casual person dropping $100+ dollars on cases (individual cases are $4). Still, the cases themselves are pretty nice. If you are in the market for this kind of thing I would recommend them assuming you can handle the price tag. If not, there are always those NES Game Sleeves I mentioned.






Gaming PC Build May 2014

Last April I helped one of my friends build a nice gaming PC. This time I am helping a friend and co-worker build a new gaming PC. I am pretty happy with the results we got considering the cost. We managed to pick up quite a few of the components for a good price + rebates.

The specs are:

  • Corsair Graphite Series 600T
  • ASUS Z97-C Motherboard
  • Intel Core i7-4770K
  • PNY GTX 770 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5
  • CORSAIR CX Series CX600
  • CORSAIR Vengeance 16GB (2 x 8GB)
  • SAMSUNG 840 EVO 120GB
  • Seagate Barracuda 3TB
  • ASUS 24X DVD Burner
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Professional 64-bit

If you compare this to last year’s build, you will see a number of similarities. Both of them are in the Corsair 600T, an incredibly well designed case thats a pleasure to build in and looks great. They also both have 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3 memory, a 3TB Seagate drive for storage, and a 120GB SSD for the operating system. Last year the SSD was an entry-level OCZ Agility 3 drive, this year its an entry-level Samsung 840 EVO. The EVO is not a high performance SSD by any measurement but any SSD is better then a typical mechanical HDD, and for the price the EVO is pretty great.

We used the ASUS Z97-C Motherboard for this build for two reasons: it has the new 9 series chipset and its fairly cheap for what it provides which allowed us to spend most of the money on the parts that really matter. The 9 series board is nice for a couple of reasons. First, it supports the M.2 spec as well as SATA Express. There are not many devices that support it, but going forward expect to see a lot of the high end SSDs use it. The approximately 67% increase in speed should help with SSDs being bottle-necked by the SATA 6Gb/s performance. Second, the 9 series motherboards will support the upcoming 14nm Broadwell based CPUs. Most 8 series boards will not support them despite Broadwell being LGA1150 due to new power requirements for the CPU.

The i7-477k is the modern equivalent to the 3770k I used last year, and the reasoning for using it over the 4670K is still the same: while the hyper threading might not matter too much right now, it is certainly going to start to matter as more games are developed for the new consoles with their 8 core processors. The CPUs in the new consoles have fairly slow clock speeds, so in order to get acceptable performance the games are going to have to be heavily threaded. Game developers didn’t have much incentive before to make their games use more then 4 threads, but they have a pretty big one now.

We went with the PNY GTX 770 because its a pretty great card. It maybe doesn’t have the value-to-performance ratio that the 760 does, but it was within our budget and we wanted to build a pretty nice PC so we went for it. Normally I wouldn’t have suggested a 4GB card over a 2GB card for 1080p gaming, but the 4GB edition did not cost much more. Plus, it might start being beneficial for similar reasons as above: the new consoles have 8GB of unified memory so they might start requiring more VRAM. One example would be Watch Dogs, which requires at least 3GB of VRAM for the highest quality textures, even at 1080p. Throw in some high quality anti-aliasing and you can see how having more then 2GB could be beneficial. As for why we went with Nvidia over ATI, Nvidia has a lot of interesting things going on right now such as GameWorks, PhysX, G-Sync, Geforce Experience, and ShadowPlay.

The rest of the build is fairly uninteresting. A DVD drive for the convenience of installing Windows and the off chance he actually buys physical software, and Windows 8 Professional. We went with professional simply because he wanted the ability to RDP into his desktop.

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