Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gaming computer build

Before throwing ourselves into part two of the build, a quick overview of the monster itself;
  • COOLER MASTER Cosmos Case
  • Intel Core i7-960 3.2GHz
  • ASUS P6T Deluxe V2
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200 RPM SATA
  • SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5870 x 2

For different reasons, the components came over several deliveries so I had the opportunity to check them out in detail days before the actual build. Whether it was because this computer is the sixth or seventh build or patience has simply come with old age, but this fairly detailed review of the components seemed to help the build go much smoother on the day.
In some ways its just as well. Regardless of the quality of the different pieces and as impressive as the components may have been, the instructions seem to fall to the low standard of disappointing.
From small scraps of paper to the manual being stored on a disc that came with the component, it seems manufacturers assume a builder will have access to not only a computer but also the internet for some much needed research. Only the Asus motherboard had a manual with any detail, but even then certain items were only made clear after some further online research.
The case
In every build before this the case was chosen with the least thought, strictly based on the best price and style over-powering functionality. But as everyone knows, a major killer of performance is heat and with modern computer components running hotter than ever,  not only is ventilation but also room for the air to flow over the different volcanic peripherals an important part of planning out this latest build. This was first and foremost in my mind.
After reading some opinions that not only the processor but also the graphics card were known to kick out some serious heat, cooling was a major concern and more time than usual was given to finding the right case. Oddly enough, it wasn't down to lights, perspex sides or even the look, more to a case that could fit eveything, help with cable management and of course keep its cool. I am not one for fan controls or monitoring case temperatures so I wanted a build and forget about kind of case.
Now it shouldn't be lost on PC Gamer readers that my gaming pc is a practical copy of their latest 'Dream Machine' outlined for most of the issues on the newstands throughout 2010. This came about from PC Gamer picking some phonemenal components as well as the sheer luck of already owning some items on the list.
The girlfriend's cat loved the unpacking of the case itself and as mentioned in the prior post, it came with everything and more. While I've never needed a manual for a case in the past, the Coolmaster came with so many options, filters and quite frankly, fiddly bits some instructions could be considered the most important accessory. A few filters had fallen out of place, but after thirty minutes of becoming familiar with the case, they eventually found their home.

The Motherboard
I had read a lot of good stuff about Asus and everything appeared to be spot on with the different accessories and of course a complete and detailed manual. Visually, the board looks good but with a full enclosed case it didn't matter.

This would ring true throughout the build, although the stuff looked good it didn't matter as much as knowing they would perform up to the high standard promised in the different reviews and recommendations.

Some nice touches; an adapter which helped plug the front panel wires into the motherboard. This saved using adult sized male fingers trying to push the connecters into an insanely small area which is always harded with these older eyes that always seem to have a depth perception problem with pins.

The motherboard was designed with the foresight and understanding it would have to house video cards of the modern, mammoth proportions. Such design considerations included moving the slot for the soundcard well away from the PCI slots allocated for video cards, lifting the worry or concern any slots would be covered or blocked.

The build itself
Like some maestro facing his orchestra of talent I monopolized the kitchen with the old gaming computer open and to my left, a clean work space on the breakfast bar and the case of the to be built gaming machine on a nearby counter to the right. It was as if one gladiator was passing the mantle, the responsibility of leading the battle to the other. With essential pieces coming from one to the other the analogies have never been more appropriate.
It should be noted that the kitchen itself was only renovated about six months prior to this build. Many men in relationships will ask how I managed to convince my better half to allow all the computers, boxes and chaos on the new, pristine counters.
The answer is simple; she wasn't in town.
Her job can pull her away from home a week at a time, giving me the perfect window to complete a build and season the gaming computer with enough games to appreciate just what it can do. Plenty of time for the all-nighters of loading up operating systems, drivers and of course games.
As for the particulars of the build, for various reasons, I screwed in the brass posts first. First, its a nice slow way to start the build, practically impossible to mess up and gives the mind freedom to run through a mental checklist over upcoming tasks and what has to be done.

Where as other cheaper cases have the post guide stamped on the inside of the case, the Coolmaster case came with a paper template taped inside the case with an easy to understand guide indicating which holes needed the posts for the appropriate board.

Speaking of boards, I used the non-conductive bag and padding that protected the motherboard during shipping to rest the Asus on while I built up the beasts engine that would bring so many hours of gaming pleasure. The computer was being bulit in the kitchen/dining room with the tall and clear countertop a perfect hieght with the rooms bright lights offering a well lit working area.

Some buyers of this particular board complained in reviews on Newegg they recieved warped boards. While not being a master computer builder, my board didn't seem anything but perfectly built even after a close inspection. After a good look at the board and a clockwise tour of what the different components on the board, what went where and anything I needed to know about the Asus, it was time to start plugging in the different peripherals.

The placing of the processor was reviewed, rehearsed and the victim of so much attention if it were a women it would have surely blushed. This was the first processor in many years that didn't have a golden triangle on the corner, instead using two symetrical indentations to act as the placement guide.

A large cooling fan for the processor was already 'pasted' so didn't have to worry about the messy job of applying silicon, but the snaps that hold everything in place just didn't feel like they were catching. After several attempts to securing the two corners which didn't seem to want to snap into place and coming close to pushing through the motherboard itself, a quick look under the board showed that they had in fact caught.

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