Tag Archives | build a gaming pc

Liquid Cooling for you Gaming PC

When building a computer, the subject of cooling often just gets glossed over – “buy an after market fan.” It’s a pretty simple solution, and is quite effective. The other option is Liquid cooling – and for a long time this has been a somewhat complex and involved solution. There are now liquid options that are just as easy as Air, and diving into the custom liquid solutions is actually not that difficult. First, the differences between air cooling and liquid cooling:

An air cooler is basically a metal block with finned radiator design on top – usually with fan mounted to it. The heat dissipates up the fins and is then distributed to air via the fan (and/or other moving air components). You will notice RAM often has a metal “heatsink” on it as do certain chips on the motherboard – these usually don’t have fans because the amount of heat being distributed is typically not too great that the moving air in the case can’t take care of it. A typical liquid cooler is a metal block with hollow section that has tubes attached to it. The heat dissipates into the metal block and is then transferred to the liquid which is flowing in a specific direction through the metal block. The basic reason for going liquid over air is that liquid transfers heat much more efficiently than air, allowing for much higher levels of cooling.

corsair h100 060211 thumb 251x300 Liquid Cooling for you Gaming PCThe easiest way to do liquid cooling is to purchase an all-in-one unit, typically made for the CPU – such as the Corsair H100. These units are installed very much like air cooled units, but they come with tubes attached to an external fan (typically attached internally to an external port). These are basically the cooling block, pump, and radiator all in one. They are designed to not need a reservoir.

Those CPU units are excellent if you are looking to do some decent overclocking with your CPU (though there are air units which handle this just fine as well). They are also well suited for processors like the Sandy Bridge E, which naturally runs hotter than regular Sandy Bridge – as a note, you can just look at the wattage of a CPU to determine roughly the level of heat it produces. Sandy Bridge E is a 130W CPU vs the Sandy Bridge i5-2500k which is a 70 Watt CPU.

Aside from those premade CPU units, if you want to also use liquid cooling for your graphics card, RAM, motherboard, and even hard drive, then you want to look towards building a custom liquid cooling solution. Here I want to touch on the basics of this. Once understanding the basics, it is not that difficult to dive in – so to speak.

The Liquid cooling systems is typically comprised of four core components.

  1. The water/heat block to transfer heat from the component
  2. The pump to move the liquid through the system
  3. The reservoir to hold the liquid used by the system
  4. The radiator to exchange heat from the liquid system to air

Once understanding this, the critical detail to figure out is how much you are going to cool with liquid. As previously stated, you could easily acquire a stand alone CPU liquid cooler and be done with it – you could also put together a custom liquid cooler for the CPU which would no doubt be able to provide higher levels of performance. The real reason to put together a custom liquid setup is to cool multiple components.

reserator 1 v2 01 300x249 Liquid Cooling for you Gaming PCLet’s say we want to do this for the Ultra Dream machine build. To start, we would want liquid cooling for at least the CPU and the two graphics cards. The way you handle multiple components in a liquid cooled system is quite simple – this involves setting up a loop for the liquid to travel. In this case it would be from reservoir to cpu to gpu to gpu to radiator. You might wonder – won’t each successive component receive heated water? This conundrum is handled by acquiring the proper type of pump for the amount of components you are using. A larger pump moves more water faster, increasing the rate of heat exchange, increasing the amount of heat that can be exchanged.

This means that you can create extremely customized system setups. For a fully liquid cooled system – including chipsets – it isn’t uncommon to build multiple loops. The company I prefer for looking into custom built liquid cooling is Koolance – while I have not used them personally (as I have not custom built liquid cooling), they have been around a long time, are well reviewed, and well respected.

Comments { 0 }

Join Build a Gaming PC on Facebook!

Greetings! I wanted to take a brief interlude to invite you to join the Build a Gaming PC Facebook. As you can see on the site here, I like to write articles explaining details and reasonings for all different aspects of building gaming computers – from looking at my preferred z68 motherboard to explaining cpu cache. I also like to put together my recommended builds for different budget ranges.

The Build a Gaming PC Facebook page is a place where I like to share daily news and tidbits related to building gaming computers and the pc gaming world in general. It’s a great place to stay up to day and see cool things like different computer cases, headsets and the like.

So please take a moment and come like the Build a Gaming PC Facebook page – join the conversation!

Comments { 0 }

The Best Power Supply

seasonic fanless031 300x213 The Best Power SupplyFinding the best power supply is – contrary to other components – not about price. The power supply is the most critical component of the system. I believe in getting the most top of the line manufactured power supply that I can. I go exclusively Seasonic – Corsair is also well rated these days.

There is an interesting (non)secret when it comes to PSU manufacturing. Most PSU brands are made by the brand that sells them. Most PSUs are made by a handful of companies and just rebranded – sometimes with slight modifications. Seasonic for example is the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of their own PSUs – so you know there is one solid line of quality control from creation to your computer.

When I see other manufacturers who have their PSUs made by third parties I haven’t heard of, I lose confidence. Corsair is not an OEM for their PSUs – however, a majority of their PSUs are actually made by Seasonic (this is why they are among the best PSUs available today, aside Seasonic). This article by Tom’s Hardware looks at all the PSU Brands and who actually Manufactures the base PSU.

PS SE SS350FT 300x225 The Best Power SupplyIf you have a power supply that is sub par, you risk your ENTIRE system. Damage to a motherboard, for example, done by a poorly made power supply (by having too much variation or causing some kind of surge or whatever), is likely to void the warranty on your motherboard – this is the case for every component. So if you have a sub par power supply and it goes kaboom, torching your entire system – then you are out the ENTIRE system. The power supply is the BLOOD of your system…if the blood is corrupt, your system dies.

So this is why I consider the power supply the most critical component. The best power supply is the highest quality, most stable, most highly rated power supply – regardless of price.  Every other component in the system relies on this one working perfectly – I am more than happy to pay a premium. Again, I highly recommend Seasonic and prefer them exclusively myself. If you want to consider other manufacturers, there are more details to know and I encourage you to study this article at Tom’s Hardware. You can check out my system builds pages for my specific PSU recommendations.

 

Comments { 0 }

Picking a Gaming Monitor – What to Consider

Originally I wasn’t going to go down the route of suggesting a gaming monitor due to the wide selection of high quality monitors. I also traditionally have approached monitors from a color accuracy perspective, as I do a lot of production work – particularly with photography and video. The nice thing about finding a gaming monitor is that there are a lot of excellent monitors out there, and for gaming there aren’t too many constraints on decisions.

You don’t necessarily need accuracy for gaming – though you want the monitor to “look nice,” which can11195286 cheap asus vh242h 236 inch widescreen lcd for sales 300x300 Picking a Gaming Monitor   What to Consider generally be reliably determined by looking at customer reviews (which I have done here). It really just comes down to figuring out the size you need, then choosing a monitor that is well reviewed by other gamers.

You might hear from many gamers that response time on a monitor is important – you can see this in a millisecond measurement (generally around 8ms). Many gamers will claim that the quicker the response time the better, but for the most part, as long as the monitor has a response time under 10ms, you are fine. The response time is a measurement of time it takes for a pixel in an LCD monitor to switch from one color to another and back again. In games – particularly FPS games where there are a lot of real time rendered objects moving around – if the response time is too high you can end up having visual artifacts such as ghosting. Again though, as long as you are below 10 (and I have read many people with 16ms response time monitors have no problems) you will be fine.

  • A tip: If you are looking at monitor specs and reviews, response time is actually measured in two ways – black to white is the traditional more accurate/legitimate measurement, but some companies tend to list a gray to gray measurement which will make the monitor appear to have a faster response time. Try to find the black to white measurement.

The real question for choosing a gaming monitor comes down to budget. But, before you start thinking in terms of the size of the monitor (22”, 24”, 27” etc) I encourage you to think in terms of resolution. This is because, as mentioned in previous articles, the resolution of your monitor is key in determining what video card you acquire – and visa versa.

NEC AccuSync AS191 AS191WM and AS221WM LCD Monitors 300x268 Picking a Gaming Monitor   What to ConsiderLet us say that you are building an entire system from the ground up including a new monitor. If you decide that you want a 27 or 30 inch monitor with 2560×1600 resolution, then you are going to want a 560ti MINIMUM – in fact I would argue that you would want to consider no less than a 570 if you are going to be spending the money on such a nice monitor.

That may be too much for you though, so now we want to look at the best resolution/card combo for the price. Two options – 560ti with a 1920×1080, or a 550ti with a 1680×1050. The sweet spot to me is a 560ti with a 1920×1080. Obviously a 560ti will give you higher FPS on a 1680×1050, but the price between those two resolutions is not very much, and the 560ti is perfectly fit for the 1920×1080.

If you have read my previous articles, you will know that I always encourage you to consider the manufacturer. I personally tend to go with NEC monitors – but again, that is partly due to my need for color accuracy. NEC makes very excellent quality monitors, but they tend to be more expensive than other offerings. ASUS happens to make monitors which are extremely well reviewed, as does Dell.

If I were to purchase a monitor for gaming today, I would chose from the following:

1680×1050

NEC Display Solutions AS221WM-BK 22-Inch 5ms 250 cd/m2 1000:1 Widescreen LCD Monitor (Black) Picking a Gaming Monitor   What to Consider

Acer V223W EJBD 22-Inch Wide LCD Display Picking a Gaming Monitor   What to Consider

1920×1080 (HD)

>> RECOMMENDED << ASUS VH242H 23.6-Inch Widescreen LCD Monitor – Black

STQ310 – G235H Abd 23 H 0.248MM 1920X1080 60HZ Picking a Gaming Monitor   What to Consider(ACER)

2560×1440

Dell UltraSharp U2711 27-inch 2560 x 1440 (WQHD) Picking a Gaming Monitor   What to Consider

2560×1600

HP 30IN LCD 2560X1600 1000:1 7ms Picking a Gaming Monitor   What to Consider

My gaming monitor of choice is the Asus 23.6” 1920×1080 monitor.  A note on speakers: some monitors come with speakers – don’t use the speakers, they are most likely poor quality.  I will be adding this monitor to my mid-range gaming build list.

As you can see, the are a bevy of choices when it comes to finding a gaming monitor – just remember to keep in mind your video card’s capabilities and the resolution size of your monitor.

Comments { 0 }

The Budget Gaming PC Build

The release of Bulldozer showed us that for the meantime, Intel is the king of the castle – for the mid range build (and top end), Intel holds the cake with the i5-2500k for gaming. Now we can take a look at the budget range and consider what sort of budget gaming pc system can be built for those who have a constricted budget.

A quick word: The easiest way to save money building a system is to cannibalize old systems – using partsCorsair Vengeance dark blue radiators 1 300x207 The Budget Gaming PC Build from previous systems. This of course only works if you have built systems in the past, or want to take apart an old premade system. Parts I like to cannibalize are hard drives, optical drives, sound cards, and sometimes RAM (new RAM tech is cheap these days) as these components can be used for a long time. One word of caution; Hard drives can last a long time, but when building a new system it is recommended to acquire a new hard drive as these WILL die eventually so they are better as secondary storage drives in the system (they won’t be accessed as much, so this lengthens their usability).

With all that said, I’m going to lay out the specs for a Budget Build. Similar to how I set up the Mid Range Build, the Budget Build isn’t just the cheapest components available – this is about value. I still want to build a system that will last a number of years and will have the least amount of problems (again, picking well rated manufacturers with good return policies).

In order to reach a ‘Budget’ level, we have to sacrifice somewhere – that area is going to be in higher level game performance. The goal with this system is to be able to play any current game – not necessarily on the highest levels – but also to be able to play most games for the next 3 years or so. This is of course speculative, but it all comes down to finding the best performance for the price range we are looking at.

In the Bulldozer article I mentioned that I was going to look at AMD for the budget build – this is because AMD tends to lend itself to the lower range of spending. While their CPUs are excellent, Intel’s Sandy Bridge offering still tops AMD at the lower level – not just with individual performance, but also with the potential to upgrade to the supremely powerful i5-2500k.

antec 300 beauty 282x300 The Budget Gaming PC Build

I gave you a choice between the H67 and the P67 – this depends on your desire to upgrade in the future. If in 6 months (when Ivy Bridge comes out and the Sandy Bridge prices drop) you decide to upgrade to the i5-2500k – and you want the ability to overclock – then you will need the P67. If you don’t see yourself taking this future upgrade to overclocking path, the H67 will serve you fine.

Changes 1-25-12:  After reviews, reading experiences and feedback, as well as Tom’s Hardware’s charts, it is clear that the HD 6790 is head and shoulders above the 550TI – so I have removed the 550TI.  At this budget level, the money is better placed with the HD 6790.  I have also switched the Antec 300 with the Antec 300 Two – newly released upgrade to this great budget case.

Just as with the Mid Range Build, this doesn’t include the monitor and other peripherals. One can of course interchange between this Budget Gaming PC and the Mid Range Build, and this system is easily upgradeable.

Comments { 0 }

The New AMD Bulldozer CPU – Where does it Stand?

This isn’t necessarily an analysis of AMD platforms so much as it is a look at the new AMD Bulldozer CPU offerings and seeing how they stands up vs the Intel Sandy Bridge offerings. This is with respect to my general approach of ‘value’ building – which tends to land within the mid-range build.

One of the questions most people ask who are getting into computer building is: Do I go AMD or Intel? I can understand a certain appeal for either. AMD makes some very good quality processors at the lower prices ranges, and there is a fair argument for going AMD when building a budget system. For me, it simply comes down to performance and value. How much am I spending now and how long will this system likely last? Right now Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPU systems score very high in the charts and on top of that, the i5-2500k can be overclocked an impressive amount (increasing the long-term value of the system).

AMD’s philosophy is geared towards making multi-core CPUs. Of their offerings, they have 4 core, 6 core, and 8 core CPUs – the Bulldozer FX-8150 is AMD’s 8 core offering which looks to stand against Intel’s impressive 4 core i5-2500k. Intel does not have an 8 core processor – instead they have the i7-2600k, which is a 4 core processor that uses hyper-threading to virtually duplicate the 4 cores creating what is effectively 8.

Here’s the deal though: 8 cores are technically better than 4 cores with hyper-threading used to create an effective 8. The problem that is being experienced right now is that the way Windows is constructed, and the way most games are made, they won’t take advantage of more than 4 cores. This is a rather simplistic explanation – the way AMD constructed Bulldozer is rather complex on the technical level, but in the end it’s all about real world performance.

The short of it is that when put the FX-8150 up against the i5-2500k Sandy Bridge Intel CPU, the Bulldozer offering just doesn’t cut the cake. One would need a game to take advantage of 8 cores (or conceivably at least more than 4 cores) in order to see a benefit over the i5. Considering the i5 is cheaper and performs better, that still keeps us with the Intel based I5-2500k system. The AMD systems generally are more well suited to a budget build approach. I have yet to write up a budget suggestion, but I suspect that I will be looking into AMD’s Phenom II X4 955 CPU, as it performs well next to Intel’s i3-2100 with the right setup.

If you want to read up on the more detailed technical analysis of AMD Bulldozer cpu look here, and for testing on the Bulldozer FX-8150 look here.


Comments { 0 }

The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Choosing among the vast array of gaming pc cases is a very personal decision – it is quite easy to find one which has excellent cooling and sound ratings, which is liked by many people. However this is something that you will live with for quite awhile – which will adorn your desk (or floor) and thus should be something you really feel excited about having. I was originally going to avoid making recommendations on gaming cases, but I have since realized that this website is a complete representation of my feelings towards building computers – so I should just throw it all out there.

Remember: The case is one of the least important in terms of performance, there are just a few overall points to keep in mind.

Things to consider:

1) Unless you are going for liquid cooling, airflow is important. Having a case that allows good cable management is key.

2) Cases made out of aluminum are AWESOME. Very light and Very strong. Cases are commonly made out of a combination of steel and plastic. The more plastic a case is made out of, the less sturdy the case will be overall. Most cases will have the front/outside panels made of solid plastic, so disregard the visual architecture (the plastic molding).

3) Some cases also come with interior lights. IF this computer is going to be in the same room that you sleep – you may not appreciate the interior lighting. Don’t let that dissuade you from buying a case you like though, as you can always disconnect the LEDs if it becomes a problem.

4) Accessibility: This is the overall word I use to describe the ease of accessing sections of the case while being able to fit all your ‘stuff’ (cards, drives etc).

I like Antec because their cases are extremely solid, usually with excellent airflow and easy accessibility. Antec will be on my list a lot. Second behind Antec, I tend to like NZXT – they rate well and look good. Following that there are a couple cases from Thermaltake and Cooler Master which I like. One of my favorite off-character cases that I like is the Cooler Master Cosmos (the original) – mainly for its tremendously sturdy design (it is really heavy) and it’s negative airflow (at least in the first version). I like it mainly as a liquid cooling case. That particular case is rather expensive for what you get, so I haven’t found it worth going for myself – I just kind of…like it.

My Personal choice for Mid Tower is the Antec 900, although I am interested in the Antec Lanboy – which isn’t for everybody. If I was on a budget I would go with the Antec 300. I used the Sonata series for a long time – it is very compact and well built.

One thing you will note is that I did not list cases that include a power supply. As I previously noted, the power supply is one of the most critical components and not to be taken lightly – so I always prefer to purchase separately and from a very small list. See my article ON POWER SUPPLYS IASERKNA

 

MID TOWER:

Antec Three Hundred Two The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Antec Nine Hundred Two V3 The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Antec Eleven Hundred The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

NZXT Apollo  The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases << Comes in multiple colors

(Honorable Mention) Antec Sonata Elite The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases<< This is a good alternative to the 900 if you absolutely hate the blue lighting and don’t want to deal with it.

(Honorable Mention) Antec LanBoy Air Modular Case The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases << I love the concept, I just haven’t had the opportunity to form more than a visceral opinion.

 

Changes 1-25-12: I’ve added the Antec Eleven Hundred here – this is now my preferred case.  It is about the same price as the 900 V2, has amazing performance, looks awesome – and includes great built in wire management capabilities.  Here is an excellent review at Overclockers.  I’ve also replaced the Antec Three Hundred with the Antec Three Hundred Two – a recent update.  Read more about the Three Hundred Two at Anandtech.

 

I usually don’t go with a full tower system. When would you need this? Typically when you plan on having a large number of extra stuff in your system. If you plan to go SLI, then you may want to look here – though most Mid Towers (such as the 900) can take 2 video cards, if you want to expand to 3 or 4 then you will need a larger case. Also, if you have an inordinate amount of hard drives (I actually have 3 in my system currently, as I tend to reuse old ones), then you need more hard drive space – ditto for optical drives (multiple blue ray burners, card inputs etc).

As you can see, Full Tower is usually not necessary – if you are going by my mid range build suggestions, then you won’t need this.

If, however, I was going to get a Full Tower case – I would go with the Antec 1200. The Silverstone I included because it tested so darn well – if I was going purely on numbers alone, I would probably go with the Silverstone – but I love Antec’s Cases too much for that.

FULL TOWER:

Thermaltake Element V The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Antec Twelve Hundred V3 (Black) The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Silverstone Raven 2 The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

Cooler Master Cosmos II The Vast Array of Gaming PC Cases

 

You will have noticed throughout this article that I constantly used words like ‘feels’ ‘love’ and ‘like’ to describe my decision for choosing one case over another. That’s simply because it is a completely personal decision.  While it is naturally important to make sure you have a case that will fit your components (mid tower at least for a standard motherboard) There are too many good gaming pc cases (in terms of treating the components right – airflow and accessibility) to say that certain cases are ‘the correct choice.’ The ones listed above are what I would chose from, and that is that.

Changes 1-25-12:  I’ve added the Coolermaster Cosmos II to the list – the original Cosmos was one of my favorite cases, and this new version carries with it some of the things which I loved about the original.  It also has one of the things I don’t like – a ridiculous price tag of $350.  If you don’t have a limited budget, you would love this case.  Check out the review at Kitguru.

 

Also, if you aren’t a member of my Build a Gaming PC Facebook Page, you should check it out – I publish industry news and reviews on a daily basis.  Every now and then I come across cool new case reviews and share them there.

 

 

Comments { 0 }

Why I Learned to Build a Gaming PC

I just wanted to take a moment to tell a little story of how I got started building gaming computers. My story is probably like many, beginning when I was in high school – actually with the release of Starcraft and Diablo 2 (I think it was starcraft first). I met my best friend in freshman Marine Biology – we sat around the same table and I overheard him talking about Starcraft and BOOM, best friends.

The wonderful thing about building gaming computers is that it makes it possible for so many people to have these sorts of experiences. If I couldn’t build my own computers, it’s likely I wouldn’t have been into computer gaming as much as I am. Having an up to date system is necessary for playing the latest games, but if you want to be able to play the latest video games with good quality experience you don’t need to spend a boatload on a premade system – simply build a gaming pc.

I got into building gaming computers when I was in high school. I wanted to keep having the ability to play new games, and often times that requires upgrading your system (especially if your system is a prebuilt paperweight from Gateway). I learned all about building computer systems in a high school class – had loads of fun destroying circuitry by fumbling around with cheap spare parts (a friend of mine actually blew up a system by forgetting to unplug it from the wall…screwdriver met motherboard attached to power supply) – and eventually learned everything I need to build a gaming pc.

Early on, I was in the segment of people who want to play video games, but don’t have a powerful enough system and not very much money. Now, I am in a position where I can save up – spend a little bit more – and build really solid systems of value that will last for years. This is what I preach now – if you can save up a little bit more ($1,000 instead of $600 for example), it is worth it to produce a system that can last you easily 2-3 times as long and be a better overall experience during that time.

When you are in the state of needing to build less expensive systems however, you limit your choices. This is actually where I recommend looking at AMD. They provide quality powerful processors, but at lower prices than Intel. It’s a basic trade-off – you get what you pay for. Actually in terms of extended value, you get slightly less than what you pay for with AMD (as you will have to upgrade sooner), but game playing ability compared to price, they are pretty comparable. If you have the ability to cannibalize some basic parts like hard drive, cd drive, case, and power supply – you can easily build a new system for a $200-$300. This was a pretty darn good deal when I was younger.

So what about you, my faithful readers? It would be cool if y’all would share your experiences getting into building gaming computers.

 

Comments { 0 }

PCIe 3.0 – Looking at Future Tech for Computer Building

Don’t you just love how everytime you purchase some new technology, the next version is just around the corner? It always seems like you have a very short lived time until whatever you have bought new becomes obsolete. Fortunately I like to think otherwise, and my strategy towards building gaming computers is to build a gaming pc that has a certain level of value which will allow it to perform well, even if it is two or three generations of technology old. That being said, every time you purchase a new system, it can be prudent to ask – what is next? Should I buy new now or should I wait? Should I upgrade?

I just wanted to take a quick look at some technologies that aren’t too far around the corner – PCIe 3.0 and Ivy Bridge Intel chipset which will start making their appearance next year. Before I go into them, it is safe to say that with the release of Z68, any Sandy Bridge built system on H67 chipset, P67 chipset, or Z68 chipset will last you a long time. The improvements made with this current generation are the kind with which one can build a pretty decently budgeted system that could easily last 5 years. I currently have a system built around older technology that is like this.

I run a Q6600 with 8 GB RAM (upgraded from 4 originally) and an EVGA 8800GT. There isn’t a game out there that I am unable to play – though I tend to stick to games like Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft (not so much these days), and soon to be Diablo 3. They are certainly more forgiving on graphics than Crysis 2 for example, but I use them to show that a system can be built with value to play even brand new games 4-5 years down the road (I built this in early 2007). So all that being said, if you are ready and want to build a new gaming system right now, then you shouldn’t wait potentially 6-8 months for the next iteration.

The current PCIe version is 2.0, or 2.1 on some graphics cards. The PCIe 2.1 cards are simply cards which are primarily PCIe 2.0 compatible, but have some capabilities which will be usable when PCIe 3.0 finally comes out. Now for the techy part: Currently PCIe 2.0 provides 4 Gbps (Gigabits per second), or 500 MB/s per channel per direction (500 Megabytes up and 500 down -> 8 bits = 1 byte). On a board which provides a 16x (16 channels) PCIe 2.0 slot (all the boards I consider have this), you get 16 GB/s full bandwidth. PCIe 3.0 will provide 8 Gbps, or 1 MB/s per channel per direction. This doubles the information bandwidth at 32 GB/s full bandwidth. Needless to say, driving double the information is likely to lead to some pretty awesome graphics architecture.

The reason I talk about PCIe 3.0 right now is that we are likely to start seeing motherboards released over the next 6 months which provide PCIe 3.0 slots. Here is the very important key to understand: PCIe 3.0 is only going to work with an Ivy Bridge CPU. The Sandy Bridge CPUs do not interface with the PCIe 3.0 bandwidth. So you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of that until you have an Ivy Bridge CPU loaded in the system – not to mention you would also need a PCIe 3.0 video card which do not exist yet either.

IF a Z68 motherboard were to be developed with PCIe 3.0 capabilites, AND the Z68 chipset is confirmed to support the new Ivy Bridge Intel architecture, AND the board tests better than my current recommendation in the Mid Range Build list. One such board which could fill that slot is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 – judging from the press release, it appears that the board may supply 16x/16x PCIe 3.0 SLI/Crossfire. That sort of board is likely going to run on the expensive side. I will be keeping an eye on these developments and will post new recommendations as they arise.

Until then, Ivy Bridge looks to make its appearance sometime early/mid 2012, which means we won’t see any serious implementation of PCIe 3.0 until then as well. If you are looking to upgrade, and you want to do so now then I would say don’t hesitate!

Comments { 0 }

Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming

People will often ask, “what is the best motherboard?” That might seem like an obvious question to ask – and 10 years ago that was certainly a more important question to ask – but these days manufacturer quality has increased quite a bit, and figuring out the ‘best motherboard’ is not such a clear process. Aside from figuring out good manufacturers to purchase from, there are so many different options for different objectives that there is no one best motherboard. I definitely have a recommendation, but that doesn’t mean that making a different choice is going to be bad.

Now we are looking at the Z68 motherboard offerings, and we can see that there are a number of quality options. For the key elements of the Z68 chipset, see my previous article ‘The Z68 Chipset – What it Means to Gamers.’ In this article, I am going to go over some Z68 motherboard offerings from the three major motherboard manufacturers as they stand today. As you may have noticed from previous articles, I tend to prefer motherboards made by Asus. Not only do they consistently present a high level a quality in performance, they also present a high level of quality in workmanship – as well as customer service. Check out my article on motherboards – The Motherboard: Lifeblood of the Computer – as to why I think the way I do about this.

That being said, there are three major manufacturers today that provide high performance motherboards at high quality. You would not be making an error of judgment by choosing boards from any of these manufacturers, though I will still make one ultimate recommendation. The three manufacturers are Gigabyte, ASRock, and Asus. In this article, I will be looking at Z68 motherboard offerings in the $200 range – these will roughly correspond with the P67 motherboard offerings which are now in the $170 range. All of these boards utilize a UEFI over the traditional BIOS (basically a BIOS with a much more user friendly UI).

 

ASRock LGA1155/ Intel Z68/ DDR3/ Quad CrossFireX & Quad SLI/ SATA3&USB3.0/ A&V&GbE/ ATX Motherboard, Z68 EXTREME4 Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming
:

  • Allows SLI/Crossfire at 8x/8x and 8x/8x/4x.
  • 12 phase voltage regulator is excellent for overclocking – and for the non overclocking means less stress from power over the lifetime of the board.
  • 2 year manufacturers warranty.
  • Less USB 2.0 ports than typical, to make space for video output – this is seen in the Gigabyte board as well, with Asus removing a PS/2 port.

Gigabyte Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2133 LGA 1155 Motherboards GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming
:

  • Gigabyte makes up for the reduced usb ports by adding more internal ports (so you can add expansion bays connecting to the internal connectors, if you have a lot of USB devices) – 8 usb 2 ports and 4 usb 3 ports internal.
  • Only supports SLI/Crossfire at 8x/x8, there is no third video card slot.
  • Seven phase voltage regulator – the least of the three.
  • Three year manufacturer Warranty.

ASUS LGA 1155 SATA 6Gbps USB 3.0 Supported Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2400 Motherboards P8Z68-V PRO Choosing a Z68 Motherboard for Gaming
:

  • No PS/2 port. If you still use a PS/2 keyboard, then you would have to get a cable to switch to usb (they are cheap) – I actually still use an old keyboard, because it just won’t break.
  • Allows SLI at 8x/8x, and 8x/8x/4x with a catch. With the one slot set at 4x, you have to disable the two 1x pcie slots and the two front panel usb3 ports. At first glance this sounds like a bum wrap, but there are a couple ways to look at this: if you intend on using three video cards, then I would recommend going for a much higher level of motherboard – also the chances of requiring two 1x pci slots, 4 usb 3.0 slots, and an x4 pcie slot is minimal – the only thing requiring an x4 pcie slot is going to be a 3rd video card, any other pci board can utilize 1x with no problems.
  • So why go with this board? Aside from being at the top of the benchmarks, this board comes with a 16 phase voltage regulator, which is quite impressive at this level.
  • Three Year manufacturer warranty.

So with the details aside, it comes down to the benchmarks. As you can see from Tom’s Hardware’s benchmarking reviews – all three of these motherboards are pretty much in line, and also in line with the Asus P8P67 Deluxe which was used for comparison. Gigabyte does well, but not as well as the other two. Toms recommends the ASRock, due to the Asus board requiring special settings for the third video slot. My opinion of that is previously stated, and I see the Asus Z68 motherboard as the best motherboard purchase – their history of quality and customer service brings them over top of the other two options. Again, the motherboard is the lifeblood of the computer, so it isn’t the place to sacrifice any level of quality just to save a few $$.

I’ve also updated my mid-range build page with the P8Z68-V Pro motherboard.  Before you make a decision, be sure to read my Z68 Chipset article, as it will make clear for you whether you should acquire a Z68 Board or a P67 board – you will see both options on the Mid Range page.

 

Comments { 0 }