As the year nears its end and our gaming PC guides get their yearly revamp (see: CPU, video card, & case buying guides), it's time for a new Enthusiast's Holiday Gift Guide. Similar to our "What Next? Post-Build Upgrades" article, this guide explores expansion and upgrade options for your recently-completed PC build. If you've got people who don't know what to buy for your gaming PC, send 'em this way and give them some ideas.
We'll cover functional and aesthetic upgrade options in this guide. This page will be dedicated to more aesthetic-focused components; page 2 contains video cards, coolers, mechanical keyboards, mice, gaming headsets, and CPUs.
Let's get started with our Gifts for PC Gamers holiday hardware guide!
The memory space has been somewhat volatile lately and hasn't featured many major releases, but a couple of refreshed G.Skill and
We've posted several articles that discuss what determines a "good motherboard for gaming," but until today, haven't had the chance to properly define what some of the more important board components do. Oscillating clock crystals, MOSFETs, chokes, the VRM, and other low-level motherboard components are defined in this post.
Judging from our forums, motherboards are one of the more nebulous components for hardware -- they all feel similar to each other, and from a specs sheet, it looks like there's not much separating one board from another. Part of this is because Intel and AMD have moved several controllers to the CPU, part is because the deeper differentiators between quality are often not listed on a product spec sheet.
After numerous questions from a large reddit thread, we've decided to start a new video/article series exploring the components on the components -- or what comprises each individual piece of hardware. Starting with the motherboard made sense.
The silicon powering modern microprocessors consumes significantly less wattage than consumer technology leading up to this point. Look back at the GTX 400 series (Fermi) for an example of this: The flagship GTX 480 was 250W, and it ran damn hot, too. NVidia acknowledged this when we toured their facilities, noting that the complaints of noise, heat, and power consumption directly impacted the development of Kepler units. To put things into perspective, the GTX Titan also draws 250W and has approximately 2.5x the transistors over the GTX 480 (7.5B vs. 3B).
Despite the overall trend toward improved power-to-performance ratios, a mid-range gaming machine can still easily pull 500W+ under full computational (CPU/GPU) load -- that's a lot of power. Even idle, without BIOS advanced power saving features configured, you could easily be resting on a couple hundred watts. Personally, I've got almost a constant system up-time, and that consumes a lot of power. In order to mitigate power consumption and the electric bill (~$20 / mo. with full up-time on my machine, dropped to $10 / mo after taking these steps), we can use modern advanced power saving states implemented by Intel and AMD.
Before we even get started with our coverage of the next BS Mods case modding masterpiece (really inspiring work), let me note that we're hosting yet another giveaway of PC hardware. This is our third giveaway this month. Check toward the bottom of the page for those details.
That noted, let's dive in. We had the pleasure of speaking with BS Mods' Bob Stewart and Rod Rosenberg back at PAX Prime '13, where the duo gave us expert insight for those interested in getting started with case modding. Since then, the team has graduated from the Rosewill Throne Industrial mod to a new StarCraft / Protoss-inspired thematic build for this weekend's BlizzCon event.
With Battlefield 4's beta officially opened to those who pre-ordered the game, it's time to start looking into rig configurations to best take advantage of the game's high-end visuals.
Battlefield has historically pushed PC hardware significantly harder than most other games simultaneously hitting the market. When it comes to games like Crysis and Battlefield, we see the biggest differentiator lying in the game engine: Frostbite and CryEngine both support heavy multithreading (CryEngine natively supports 8 active threads), offload to GPU hardware for real-time physics processing (PhysX), and drive intensive tessellation / volumetric particle effects through the GPU.
Given our dedication to DIY system building, we've historically been wary of system assembly companies and still maintain that building your own rig is the best option. That stated, there are a number of legitimate reasons to contract your build out to an assembly company: Maybe there are time constraints, or maybe the system is a gift / not for you, or maybe you need a half-way step between the Dells and HPs of the world and a DIY machine.
We've been wanting to post a round-up of all the major system builders for a while now; with the rise of companies like Origin PC, Digital Storm, CyberPower, iBuyPower, and plenty of others, we've heard enough horror stories and high praise to thoroughly confuse newcomers to the market. The issues that arise with system building organizations is often one of quality of service and price: We've received numerous consumer complaints over CyberPower shipping rigs in such a way that the weight of the video cards rips the PCI-e sockets from the board, and I've personally commented on their $50 charge for a 20% overclock -- which can be done in 5 minutes.
After talking with Origin PC Product Manager Jorge Percival at PAX Prime 2013, we're a bit more hopeful about the future of pre-build companies. Let's hit the video before discussing why we walked away with that feeling.
If you've ever been to a major LAN event or gaming convention (or, y'know, the internet), you've probably seen case mods. They're some of the most inspirational creations when it comes to upcoming system build projects for GN's staff, and if you've seen our recent "best system builds of PAX" gallery, it's easy to see why we get so excited about sleeving and painting.
It's intimidating to jump into case modding, though, and while our team has done half a dozen mods, we're certainly no experts. That's why we recruited Bob Stewart and Rod Rosenberg of BSMods -- makers of the Rosewill Throne Industrial mod we showcased -- to give us a top-level "how-to" guide to case modding and PC painting.
If you're looking for the getting started guide for performance tuning, check out our Overclocking Primer.
Haswell's here. We've thoroughly analyzed Haswell's viability and performance for gaming and light workload applications, and with that research backing us, we can comfortably recommend that new system builders opt for Haswell over its predecessors. Fear not, though -- if you're on Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, and in some cases, even Nehalem, our conclusion was that it's not necessarily immediately beneficial to make the leap to Intel's new Tock. For new builders, though, there's absolutely no reason not to opt for the newer chip, especially given its support of emerging graphics technologies by Intel and game developers.
GRID 2 is a fine example of this: Self-shadowing smoke (adding depth and volume to the tire smoke) is only available to owners of Haswell systems, whether or not you're using the IGP or a discrete card. Similarly, OIT (order-independent transparency) and other render techniques can be 'unlocked' in the options menu only by Haswell users.
This custom ~$1000 high-end gaming PC build aims to put you in a position to play almost any game currently on the market on maxed or high settings, including the likes of Crysis 3. We've got a "cheap bastard's" build coming out shortly, for those on an ultra budget, and then a normal budget build for the in-betweeners. Buying a pre-built system can't lay a hand to the level of power, customization, and affordability gained in building your own gaming PC -- let's jump to the list.
Its knee-high, monolithic stature almost resembles what you'd find in a server farm: Wide, imposing, and externally simple. NZXT's H630 was slowly leaked via a drawn-out, week-long marketing campaign, towing behind it a website revamp and the Sentry Mix 2; with all the fanfare reinforcing the H630's launch, NZXT puts itself in the vulnerable position of living up to hype. Let's see if they do.
This NZXT H630 silent gaming / PC case review looks at its benchmark performance, additional fans, specs, build quality, and briefly skims over noise level. We also tested multiple add-on fan configurations within the case, ideally helping interested buyers to determine the optimal fan configuration.
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