Steve Burke

Steve Burke

Most of our readers (and staff) are avid PC builders, generally opting to select and install components from one of our DIY PC guides. There are entire companies devoted to custom PC builds, though, and they often build and ship hundreds of custom gaming PCs each day; that's a huge number, considering the relative size of the “gaming PC” market compared to biz-client sales. Out of curiosity, we toured a few of these SIs (system integrators) to observe the process and learn about the automation involved in system building.

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We previously toured CyberPowerPC, where we looked at a high-end PC build with custom NZXT components. Today, we're looking at iBUYPOWER's warehouse and assembly line, where you'll see a wall of thousands of dollars of video cards, conveyer belts moving rigs from one bench to another, and even packing tape automation. Yes. A robot that does nothing but tape boxes.

Six new headset SKUs just hit the gaming market, all from eSports sponsor and peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries. The company has updated its lineup to scale from $60 at entry-level up through $200 with the Elite series of headsets. We've previously gotten hands-on with SteelSeries' Siberia Elite, a high-end gaming headset that's getting an update in this launch cycle.

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SteelSeries new headset stack looks like this:

Shortly after Game24 and the GTX 980 unveil (fully benchmarked here), we visited the likes of NZXT, HyperX (Kingston), CyberPower, and others to learn more about the inner-workings of the industry. This is something we're making a habit of, including previous tours of nVidia's phenomenally expensive silicon failure analysis lab and Kingston's SMT line, where we showed how RAM & SSDs are made.

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We found a fairly high-end system in the CyberPowerPC meeting room that was begging for video coverage. The unit used a modified version of NZXT's S340 enclosure, through the window of which we spotted nVidia's new GTX 980. As for the processor, the custom-built rig was running on Intel's Devil's Canyon 4790K CPU overclocked about 10% (it's capable of more, but would require fine tuning due to thermal constraints). The CPU was topped-off with NZXT's X61 that we've previously spoken about – a 280mm CLC powered by Asetek, staking variable pump speed as its claim to fame – and the host platform was Gigabyte's SOC Force Z97 overclocking motherboard. A full 32GB of HyperX Fury memory (clocked at 1866MHz natively and easily overclocked) was found slotted into the board. We previously reviewed HyperX Fury over here.

Intel's latest Extreme Series processor and accompanying X-class chipset were officially launched back during PAX Prime, where we videoed one of the first systems to use an X99 chipset and Haswell-E processor. Haswell-E and X99 are intended for deployment in high-end production and enthusiast rigs; they'll game far better than anything else available, but if there's ever a time that “overkill” is applicable, it's using HW-E / X99 to play games. These components are classed for the likes of 3D rendering, video encoding / editing, high-bitrate game streaming, and production environments.

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In this $2660 high-end PC build, we'll show you how to build a top-of-the-line streaming and YouTube content creation system that will last for years.

Most of the tech industry’s major players are located somewhere in California – a state that has, in our experience, proven to be very large and very saturated with horrifyingly bad drivers. It also happens to be saturated with leading technology innovators and game development companies; the hardware split is pretty even between SoCal (Orange County, Fountain Valley, LA, Industry) and NorCal (home to Silicon Valley). Game developers mostly hang-out in San Francisco and San Jose.

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We’ve previously toured both regions, with some of our best content focusing on nVidia’s silicon failure analysis lab (San Jose) and Kingston’s automated RAM/SSD manufacturing line. Following Game24 and the GTX 980 launch, we returned to the Los Angeles area for more. In our most recent California trip, we visited NZXT, HyperX, CyberPower, and iBUYPOWER to see their assembly lines and warehouses.

MSI certainly didn't invent second-hand embarrassment or technology industry sexism, but you might think that to be the case after watching one of their “how to build a PC” videos that features bikini-clad women (semi-NSFWhow to build an MSI computer” video). I suppose you'd be less likely to ESD a component with fewer clothes, but something tells me that it wasn't MSI's intention to convey that helpful advice. Corsair wants in on the second-hand embarrassment “gaming” videos, apparently, and has done so by inking its keyboards with a tribal tattoo.

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Online backup solution BackBlaze has been publishing its data on hard drive reliability since January now, with its last update shedding some light on HDD endurance. The company uses thousands of hard drives for online backups of consumer and corporate clients and has elected to publish its performance data. DOAs are fairly common across the industry, but those are more survivable – a failed hard drive means lost data.

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Innovators in wallet abuse by owners, Valve today announced an update to its client that aids in streamlining the discovery of new titles. “Discovery” is one of the more tangible benefits of real-world shopping that has been lost to the sands of time (or EB Games); there’s a very distinct, satisfying experience that accompanies finding a new title, buying it, and taking a chance. Steam hopes to bring eyes to its thousands of titles with greater ease, noting that the company has brought-on more than 1300 games in just nine months.

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NVidia’s GPUs bring all the manufacturers to the yard. The release of GM204 first saw our review of the reference GTX 980 – presently the objective best video card we’ve ever tested – followed-up shortly by coverage of ZOTAC’s new Amp! Overclocking GPU lineup. While at the Game24 unveil event, we managed to catch up with MSI to discuss its SKUs for the GTX 970 and GTX 980 series.

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MSI brought their GTX 970 4G “Gaming” video card along, equipped with an updated Twin Frozr cooler using dual 100mm push fans and a somewhat standard heatpipe / heatsink design. Let’s get into the specs.

Following-up on our GTX 980 benchmark and review that went live yesterday, board manufacturers now have their own variations on the new Maxwell cards up for sale. Most of the manufacturers have altered the design in some way: a cooler overhaul, pre-overclocks, heavier-duty capacitors, and additional pins for power are a few of the common changes. Zotac has done all of these with their “Amp! Omega” GTX 970 GPU we got hands-on with.

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Zotac’s new GTX 980 and GTX 970 both ship in standard (unmodified GPU specs + aftermarket cooler), Omega, and Extreme editions. The Omega and Extreme GPUs host a suite of OC-tuned hardware features and a slightly boosted clockrate.

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