Themed PC builds can be a fun project for enthusiasts with a lot of hardware. This time, we're going all “orange and black is the new black” with a Halloween-themed build. If you fancy yourself a Jack Skellington (or just the orange and black color combination), this could be the perfect build for you. We also recently did a high-end streaming and video editing build and a $430 low-budget build.
There are no tricks here, just loads of treats -- including a Devil's Canyon CPU and one of the last GTX 970s available right now, all inside our Editor's Choice award-winning NZXT H440! This Halloween-themed $1111 gaming PC build will play almost all current games at max settings.
A large portion of the enthusiast market caters to overclocking: Intel sells unlocked CPUs at a premium, Asus, Asrock, and MSI all market their motherboards as “overclocking ready” and guaranteed to OC higher, and GPU manufacturers market their graphics cards as having better cooling, a bigger VRM, and binned chips. All this, and monitor overclocking is rarely -- if ever -- advertised or discussed. This may change with the recent popularity of Korean off-brand monitors, like the QNIX 2710.
The Zotac GTX 980 Extreme ($610) is the most disappointing, saddening attempt at a high-end overclocking device I've ever seen. I've never been so resonantly disheartened by a review product. I've also never seen an aftermarket product perform worse than the reference model while being priced more than 10% higher. The added cost is justified – on paper – by several factors, including a better cooler and higher bin (better GM204).
Testing Zotac's GTX 980 Extreme overclocking card began with excitement and anticipation, rapidly decaying as despair and uncertainty took hold. When the card failed to overclock higher than my reference GTX 980 ($550), I first suspected error on my end – and proved that suspicion wrong – and then went to Zotac with strong emphasis that the BIOS needed a serious overhaul. A BIOS update should have been quick and easy if no hidden problems existed in the hardware, as other video card manufacturers have proven in the past. We published all of this about a week ago, firmly stating that no one buy the GTX 980 Extreme until we could revisit the topic.
We're revisiting it.
A lot of enthusiasts have been buying off-brand Korean monitors lately. Now, this alone is hardly newsworthy, but these monitors are a little bit different than the average off-brand product. The QNIX 2710 ($333) is an LED-backlit, 27” PLS -- Samsung's version of IPS -- monitor at 1440p resolution. The QNIX 2710 is abnormal due to its lack of a scaler, which does require you to use DVI-D input, but allows the screen to be overclocked to 96Hz+. Yes -- these monitors can be overclocked. In fact, most users can overclock their QNIX 2710 to 96Hz, and some lucky people reach 120hz (though very rarely).
Due to the lack of a scaler, the QNIX does require DVI-D as the input source, adapters won't work, and consoles are not compatible with this monitor. The QNIX uses Samsung PLS panels, so the colors are quite vibrant and color-banding (inaccurate color presentation) isn’t common. These monitors do use cheaper casings, stands, and packaging to help decrease the cost. The standard QNIX 2710 comes in at $300 with a maximum of 5 stuck/dead pixels, and the “Pixel Perfect" version comes it at $345 with up to 3 stuck/dead pixels -- not quite pixel perfect, eh?
We've been playing around with Zotac's GTX 980 Extreme for about a week now. The story of Zotac in this launch cycle is sort of an interesting one. The company has been making mini-PCs (“ZBOX”) and nVidia video cards for many years now, but they've managed to remain in an unremarkable B-list / C-list of vendors in the GPU market. I don't think many would really disagree with the statement that Zotac has historically not been the first company that pops into mind when looking for a new GeForce card. But all of that changed with the GTX 980 and Game24, where we caught our first glimpses of a revitalized effort to capture the limelight.
From a design standpoint, the GTX 980 Amp! Extreme is positioned to be the best overclocking GM204 device on the market, short of adding liquid. It will compete with K|NGP|N on air. The triple-fan setup uses dual flanking exhaust and a single, central intake fan, with a massive copper coldplate mounted to the semiconductor, stemming from which are four heatpipes that feed into an aluminum sink. This will help cool the ~171W TDP device that can theoretically (2x8-pin) consume upwards of 300W (or more) when overclocked correctly. Additional aluminum is available near the somewhat over-engineered VRM, making for what should be cooler phases when placed under load. The problem is just that, though – we can't place the card under load. Yet. We've been trying for an entire week now, and I think we've deduced the heart of the issue.
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.
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.
The first of our more major X99 motherboard coverage comes bearing MSI’s dragon-engraved badge. Intel’s new platform and CPU officially launched on day one of PAX (where we got some video), bringing a new era of $1000 Extreme Series CPUs for professional development and enthusiast rigs. We saw ASUS’ X99 Deluxe board on day one, but didn’t get much of a chance to go in depth.
MSI, EVGA, and Gigabyte also have a presence at PAX Prime 2014, making for a firm hardware showcase at a typically gaming-oriented event. MSI’s booth hosted the X99S XPower AC board, the X99S Gaming 7, and the X99S SLI Plus. We took an extended look at the company’s X99S XPower AC motherboard, home to 5xPCI-e slots, the X99 chipset, M.2 SATA, SATA-e, and one of the biggest VRMs we’ve seen recently.
Retailers and manufacturers are always happy to give consumers purchasing options: Spend an extra $30 and get buying insurance, another $50 and you get an extended warranty, spend untold thousands on a car to add Bluetooth, and in the case of video cards, an extra $20 and you get a “faster” card in the form of a pre-OC or “SuperClock.”
We’ve explained overclocking as it pertains to GPUs in the past, but never looked specifically at pre-overclocked or SuperClocked cards. The realistic intent of higher-clocked GPUs is to enable users who are either too busy/lazy to overclock, would prefer to have an expert do it for them, or who are legitimately unaware of or afraid of overclocking. Some of the high-end overclocking cards are binned-out with hotter chips (chips that can overclock higher), but not all SuperClocked and pre-overclocked cards are like this. Many of the available options are just overclocked versions of the stock card.
We've covered memory overclocking world records a few times over the last few years. From memory (ha!), our first coverage was of Christian Ney's 4000MHz LN2 OC using a kit of G.Skill Trident RAM. Back in June,
After generations of thermal issues stemming from Intel's poor TIM and IHS design, the company's "Devil's Canyon" chips have arrived in full force. We first looked at Devil's Canyon back at GDC and have since looked at Haswell Refresh, which was effectively a non-K SKU of what's being used in this build today.
The "Gen 4.5" CPU runs on existing Haswell architecture and remains on a 22nm process, but sees the redesign of its TIM (using a polymer thermal interface) and capacitor layout. This redesign ensures cleaner power delivery to the die and allows great overhead for overclocking. Intel's Devil's Canyon chips include the i5-4690K and i7-4790K (+0020 to the SKU), each of which ships with a slightly higher BCLK and turbo-clock frequency. The quad-core, hyperthreaded 4790K runs at a native 4.0/4.4GHz over its predecessor's 3.5/3.9GHz; the quad-core, non-hyperthreaded 4690K operates at 3.5/3.9GHz over the 4670K's 3.4/3.8GHz.
TDP is roughly the same, hovering right around 88W over the previous 84W.
This high-end gaming PC build will get you started with moderate overclocking on Intel's Devil's Canyon CPU. At just under $1300, the machine will play all current games at near-max (high / ultra hybrid) settings on a 1080p screen without issue.
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