Let´s face it- I hate most of this thing refererred as "reality". My primary interests are heavily involved in escaping it, my job is to make it disappear and my home looks like a crossbreed between a typical family home and something that escaped from Tim Burton´s movie located in the imaginary middle ages. Since a kid, I´ve always felt the need to belong somewhere else, sometime else and someworld else- and 30 years later I still need to drown my mind daily into sound, visions, literature, games and pictures to visit regularly places beyond the world as we know it.
And thus is why a grown man needs a good and solid gaming computer to escape the world he has not chosen for himself.
I had owned my previous computer since early 2008, which was am "ok"- ish Thinkcentre compiled for me at work. It cost 270 € and was probably best suited for watching Youtube videos when you´re not preparing Excel sheets.
So I always had this little envy when visiting Tundra, seeing his blinking led- supermachines and razermambas accompanied with a screen so crisp you thought you could pull all those little orcs out from there from their ears. I convinced myself every time that those awesome things "are just gimmicks and I don´t need no fancy stuff for playing", usually succeeding to assure myself that. But- if you are into PC gaming at all, you'll probably know as well as I did back then that the Seeds Of Corruption (see what I did there? AoE wallet damage, baby!) had been spread into my fragile mind and the only cure was a dose of l337ness.
This is not exactly that particular l337ness. Luckily for her, she found a perfect new home at my friend´s house a bit later!
The specs were the following:
BIOS: IBM Bios Ver 2OKT47.0
Intel Core 2 Duo CPU E4500 2.20 GHz
4 GB RAM
ATI Radeon HD 4600 series [non- stock]
For years I could resist the temptation about getting some proper gaming equipment, but during the last couple of years I managed to "accidentally" buy a Logitech G11 keyboard second- hand from my friend and a bit later a G300 mouse. The my monitor broke down completely last summer (after taking 5-15 minutes to turn on every time for half a year), so I got myself a second- hand 24" HP very cheap.But at some point, after replacing my second broken- down cheap budget GFX card with another cheap budget card while trying to find a faster replacement processor for an outdated motherboard, last autumn, I started to realize that there´s a huge bottleneck in my gaming and it´s called my cheap PC. And that problem would stay forever if I just always bought cheap shit on top of cheap shit.
So I made some calculations, consulted a couple of gamer and PC- builder friends and settled for a budget of about 600 € for the parts I needed, which were the case and everything inside it without the hard drives. Needless to say, I had to stretch my budget a bit but still kept it way under 700 €. Which, in case you´re not a PC gamer, is practically half the price of the same machine if it was bought ready- made. But what did I get with that money?
"I´m your biggest fan"
For the case, I chose a mid tower which was Zalman´s Z11 Plus- not because of the functionality first but for the fact that when I saw it I knew instantly that I want this, no matter what it costs. I called it a "Starcraft command center" and my wife probably thought she was the only adult in the house when I was pointing the picture of it from my screen while bouncing with excitement. Much blue leds, such wow!!!! The motherboard (Asrock S1155 H77) and processor (Intel i5 3350P, 3.1 gHz) were easy- MoBo being something compatible with the processor while having surround- sound possibilities and loads of USB ports and processor being "something relatively ok- ish and fast enough from Intel". (Later I´ve only regretted a bit that I didn´t buy the unlocked K- version for overclocking, but maybe at some point. ^^) This time I also decided to invest on a proper processor cooler as well, as my primary interest is gaming, so I ordered a Cooler master Cm Hyper 212 Evo for doing the job, and am very happy with it. I can´t get the temps rise over 42 C no matter the game, and even with stress tests with OCCT and Prime95 it took over half an hour of 99% load to rise even over 50 C. So I´d say that was one of the best 35 € I´ve spent for a while, and can warmly suggest it to anyone without the possibility of using water- cooling.
The PSU, playing a very important role in gaming setups, was Antec HCG PSU 520W: while not putting out extreme amount of power, it was enough for me with the processor and GFX card I was buying and it was reviewed as being reasonably quiet as well. Retrospectively, I should had bought a modular PSU instead if I had realized it earlier, but that´s something for the future as well. And- as you can guess- I realized this small and annoying mistake when trying to hide and tidy the spaghetti inside the case. For the memory I chose two 4GB pieces of Kingston HyperX- blocks (which I still haven´t tweaked- shame on me!) and when I had already ordered everything, I realized I want a SSD- drive afte all so I got one used from my stepfather for 20 €- one of the best decisions I made with this computer. If you´re still using HDD as your primary disk- don´t. Just don´t. :D It´s that noticeable difference.
One of the most important things for gaming is of course the graphics processor, which took me the longest to decide. It had to be AMD with 2GB of memory and definitely not the cheapest one but not a flagship either. I had only 200 € of the budget left at this point, so I needed to find the best possible product for that money, which was a Radeon HD 7850 royalQueen. Though the manufacturer- Club 3D- hasn´t always been the best option around, thus far I´ve been very satisfied with it. I´ve overclocked it a bit but it´s still on process for me to get some time to push it to it´s limits.
Such lights! Next time it´s a modular PSU in order to get rid of the spaghetti, though.
With windows like this, I feel sorry for putting the computer hidden beneath the desk.
After getting everything together and working, I started to tweak with the cooling and fan control, and realized I had left the air ventilation and pressure still a bit neglected. So I ended up ordering a couple of more fans and a Bitfenix Recon- hardware controller for them. I spent some hours tweaking the software (note- under any circumstances do NOT use Bitfenix´s own software but get Phoebetria instead for that!) and finally got myself a fully- automated 5- fan system with temperature sensors. And led -fans! Moar leds!!! Starcraft!!! "RAYNOR MUST SURVIVE". Ahem.
I´m having a positive air pressure unless the case temperature reaches 40 C, in which case it switches to neutral by simply speeding up the exhaust fans. I´ve yet to see more radical inside- temperatures, but in case (*drumroll*) they go over 50 C, all fans hit total maximum bananas. In case you´re interested more on the airflow directions and pressure- and how it affects your computer, I suggest you to surf here!
Did you know that blue leds and buttons are extremely good for luring toddlers to touch them? Especially when dads are in the middle of a fucking WoW raid and suddenly the screen goes blank??? I KNOW IT NOW.
So, my computer was ready. But one quite essential part for the escapism and illusion wasn´t. And that was the audio- in fact, I hadn´t even thought about it. Me, the 1st Duke of Sorvali? Here? With my reputation? Has no-one thought of the consequences?
Fastshows aside, something had to be done, so I gave my Visa a sad look and marched to buy a sound upgrade as well. Sporting a 10 years old crappy Logitech 2.1 speakers and the cheapest USB headset I had found years ago from a supermarket, I decided to buy something that would last as long, so I walked away with a box of Logitech Z506 5.1 speaker set.
Seriously, a 5.1 set. In gaming? I felt like a kid at christmas morning. I´ve always adored the surround sound, as I feel it´s a really essential thing on building the complete illusion of escapism and finally I actually the opportunity to use that on games! I spent quite a time tweaking it via software into oblivion and back but it was worth the time when I got it finally working. Cranking that loud in a game makes you really feel like you´re an actual part of it, so I´d say mission accomplished!
As I still needed a headset as well (especially now when I have more kids who still take naps, etc) and the old one was held together with a duct- tape (...) I took some time to compare different models and prices and finally settled to Steelseries Siberia v2, like so many others before me.
The sounds is incredibly good and sports a lot of lo- mid- frequencies while not being mushy at all and they keep their comfortability extremely well during even longer periods of gaming. A really otherwordly experience was also the use of virtual 7.1 with the accompanied USB sound card, though I have to say the software is quite a pain in the ass to get working properly and has a ´98- esque interface with some annoying bugs which ended up resetting all it´s configurations a couple of times.
My personal escape pod was now finally finished and I could start enjoying my games with almost maxed- out GFX settings and surround sound. The comparison was pretty much the same than changing from a black- and- white telly into a plasma flat screen and even though it cost me about 900 € I really feel it was a good decision to "invest".
The fun thing is that as you can´t really put a price tag for actually getting time to use the setup as well, it´s more than usual that I have someone accompany me if I play (something family- friendly then, though). It really tells more than a thousand words that my son insisted to get into the same picture with the computer while I was taking those. :D
PS: Yes, it´s a World of Warcraft- poster in that cupboard. And you have absolutely no idea what I had to go through to convince my wife that it will stay there.