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back to article Build a BONKERS gaming PC

There is a select band of gamers who will only be satisfied by a huge amount of graphics and processing power. For them, the only thing to do is build a bonkers gaming PC. In my opinion, the tricky part of the job is organising the pile of parts that you’ll use for the build. While we ‘Build a Bonkers...’ writers don’t worry too …

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Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

Bet it must be nice when someone sends you the hardware instead of having to pay for it yourself... In the real world, it's possible to spec up a "bonkers" gaming PC for a fraction of the price of the stuff listed here. You don't even mention overclocking; what's the point of such a powerful machine if you're not even going to attempt to get the best you can out of it? That chip will easily hit 4-4.2GHz.

And your RAM is seriously overpriced; remind me not to go shopping in the same places that you do.

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Joke

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

Yes, but it's Bonkers. It thus needs to be overpriced too. Maybe Apple should make a Gamer PC that runs windows.

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Pint

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

It was an interesting read, but I agree with blcollier.

I know it wasn't the point of the article, but if you still wanted the same "premium" parts and were willing to sacrifice a few % in performance, you'd probably save a huge amount of cash.

Annoyingly, though, the only i7 Extreme currently seems to be the 3970X mentioned... the next enthusiast chip down is the 3930K unlocked, but at over £300 saving for just 0.3GHz drop, you'd need to be doing something very specific (such as competitive overclocking) to care about the difference for the cost (IMHO).

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Paris Hilton

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

And basic over clocking is so easy these days and is so much the norm now for even a basic gaming rig, for a Bonkers build, it should be mandatory!

I recently (about 3 weeks ago) upgraded my ageing Quad core Phenom that's done me proud for a few years but showing it's age these days. But I was a lot more conservative with my money than the build in the article.

Mobo: Asus P8Z77-V PRO Z77

CPU: i7 3770K (Stock 3.5GHz)

Corsair Hydro H60 cooler, so basically the smaller version of the one in the article.

Corsair Vengence Memory 16GB (4x4GB) DDR3 2133MHz

OCZ 240GB Vertex 3 SSD. (Plus some hand-me-down 1TB & 3TB HDs from the previous rig as data drives).

Asus provide out of the box over-clocking and tuning, both within the BIOS itself (which is a full menu drive mouse controlled affair now), and apps within Windows. This covers CPU speed, voltages, cooling fan tuning etc.

A single click OC after the build was all patched up, and the above was running a 4.2GHz, and still not hot enough to cause the CPU cooler fan to hit 100% speed. And this was using the 1 click option where it does everything for you, ideal for people who either have no idea what to do, or like me who simply can't be bothered to go into all the details. Obviously more time and effort spent on tweaking and it'll go even faster.

Also just a note on the CPU chosen, I don't see the point (at the moment at least) of more than 4 cores in a gaming rig, as most games still only have 1 or 2 threads, so don't really take advantage fully of even a quad core, let alone 6 or 8 cores. So I think currently, a faster core speed is still more important than having more cores and would suspect for gaming, for the CPU, that my current rig would outperform this Bonkers PC.

This will of course change over time, muti cores are now standard in even entry level devices and the new generation of consoles, with muti core i386 CPUs, will force game engine developers to start taking real advantage of those cores, so I expect over the next year or two, we'll see updates to main gaming engines to make them more muti core friendly, which should directly improve the PC performance of those engines as well. But it will still take some time to fully utilise a 4 core, let alone a 6 or 8 core rig.

Oh, that went on linger than I planned! Happy gaming everyone :-)

Paris, well, just because.

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Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

If Apple made a "gaming" PC:

-Stupidly expensive

-Not upgradeable

-Not overclockable

-Runs games from 5 years ago and calls them "bleeding edge"

-Use proprietary hardware that you can only get from Apple or Apple-approved dealers

-Woefully underpowered compared to spending the equivalent amount of money on a PC

-Include a stupidly high resolution screen then upscales/interpolates everything to run at effectively half that resolution, rather than displaying in the true native panel resolution

Oh wait. That already exists; it's called an Apple computer...

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@Boothy (re: overclocking)

The moment I got the machine built and installed Windows, my old Dual Core E5200 rig was overclocked from 2.5GHz to 3.75GHz - instant 1.25GHz speed boost. It took about half an hour of tinkering and has never missed a beat in the 4 years it's been overclocked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

Much of those things are totally false.

You seem to forget, Apple makes computers the old school way. When I bought my Amigas they didn't let me stick any old CPU on or other commodity hardware, so what? they were better than PC trash for a while. Even on a modern PC with SSDs the Amiga would still be more responsive.

Tablets have brought us back to the nice responsive computing many of us used to love before inferior PC crap took over.

Many old computers people look back on fondly were custom like that. Lets face it, the usual DIY PC is a big dusty box of poo, noisy, dusty and unloved. If they were so great people would be buying those instead of laptops and tablets.

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Coffee/keyboard

"Amigas ... didn't let me stick any old CPU on or other commodity hardware"

Wrong.

Not only did they allow such things, but indeed the market for them was booming.

I personally had two CSA Derringers, a GVP A530 Turbo and a CyberStorm PPC, not to mention a room full of other bits of very commonly available, third-party, after-market Amiga hardware.

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Alien

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

The cost isn't even the most "bonkers" thing about this rig, it's the fact that, having wasted all that money, you now have something that's only good for about five minutes, before the Content® racket industry hits the planned obsolescence button, and forces you to ditch it for this week's hardware.

And then you have to deal with DLL Hell, and the "wrong trousers drivers", and the "wrong version of Windows", and the "wrong version of DirectX", and the "wrong service pack level", and viruses, and BSODs, and a broken Registry, and DRM bullshit, and "online-only" bullshit, ad nauseam.

What a nightmare.

No wonder the video game industry (and the PC industry in general) is in crisis. It's amazing it even lasted this long.

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Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

If money is no object, Why mess about with an SSD and HDD combo, just get a 3.2TB OCZ Technology Z-Drive R4 CM88, with a Read/Write speed of 2.8GB/s for a little over £14K :D

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WTF?

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

I disagree. A rig like this will last the user 5+ years. Its hugely overspecced, and PC games allow gfx settings to be moved up and down. At the moment, and for a couple of years, this rig will rip through all games. And as games are tied more and more to the release cycles of the platforms, game gfx nowadays tends to step change as opposed to linearly ramp. So, this rig isnt going to be outdated anytime soon.

I built a rig like this as a treat to myself after a nice payrise a few years ago. Sadly its still going strong, hitting 60fps consistently even with the latest games. I *want* to buy a new one, and can afford it, but its difficult to justify when my 3 year old rig is still going so strong. A rig like documented here, or something similar (good Intel thread-strong chip, masses of memory, and a top-range nVidia card) and you will be in gaming heaven for years.

As to Windows...I dunno wtf you people are doing with your PCs? Like or hate Microsoft, my Windows (currently using 7) is f*cking rock solid. Keep the nVidia drivers updated, dont run as admin, dont-be-stupid-online, prefer to use Steam to buy and manage your games, and you should be good.

I do agree with the DRM issues. See also EA / SimCity et al. Vote with your wallet, just dont buy from them.

Windows 8 is ruined by its GUI though.

Also, not mentioned, "Cleanability" of the case fans is something I rate highly when buying a case.

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Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

@AC

I'm sorry, did the lack of "JOKE ALERT" icon confuse you? No need to get so butthurt.

@GameCoder

I'm not disagreeing with having a powerful machine, and I agree: spec up a decent system now and it will last you for years to come - the only thing you'll be looking to upgrade on a machine like this in 3-4 years' time is the graphics card (to support future versions of DX). My point was more that this article didn't go "bonkers" so much as "ridiculously overpriced and sheer overkill". A 1200W PSU, FFS? A rig like that would still struggle to stretch a good quality ~600W PSU. Sacrificing a few points in a benchmark would net you significant cost savings.

If they wanted to go "bonkers" then at least include a complete custom watercooling loop - including graphics cards and chipset blocks - and overclock the s*** out of everything. Hell, if we're *really* going bonkers then why not submerge the whole thing in mineral oil?!

And yes, don't get that awful-looking Inwin "case" they featured; get something from Antec, Coolermaster, Fractal Define, etc...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

"........ What a nightmare."

Do you know what FUD means?

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Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

Other advice I thought strange: to do it over a few weeks.

To wit, if you want pure brutal expensive force, that's a property that's completely lost over a year (give or take). So each week it takes you to build, you lose about 2% of the value of the thing.

Or better 3%, if you fit the curve exponentially instead of linearly, as you should.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

This reminds me of the PCs that Tired^W Wired magazine would build back in the days when I could be bothered to care about them: "We are so hip we cannot see over our pelvis, so here's a machine an order of magnitude more expensive than anything you would build. Remember, ever dollar over $5K is a millimeter of penis!"

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Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

"Oh wait. That already exists; it's called an Apple computer..."

Or a Dell,on most of the counts you mention.

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Mushroom

Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

Can't afford an iMac but you're dying to have one, eh? So you choose to lash out in this way? Sad...

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Re: Bonkers? Yes... Overpriced? Most definitely

@blcollier

"My point was more that this article didn't go "bonkers" so much as "ridiculously overpriced and sheer overkill""

Yes I thought that too. The machine isn't awe inspiring, only pricey. I'd like to see its budget handed to someone who really knows how to build game rigs and see how they could spend it. I'd expect to see an overclocked monster, with lights to match the mouse, keyboard and mat :) And 4 nVidia Titans in SLI :)

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Windows

Articles like this just make me feel sickeningly jealous.

Sadly, life keeps getting in the way of my dream gaming machine.

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As much as I enjoyed building PCs in my youth, I'm glad I don't do it anymore (I tend to buy the bundles from places like Novatech).

The spec of that beast made my eyes water :)

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Happy

"As much as I enjoyed building PCs in my youth, I'm glad I don't do it anymore (I tend to buy the bundles from places like Novatech)."

Sounds familiar round these parts. Needed (yeah, really, really) to upgrade the old 2007 machine at home, and found it more expensive to buy the components than to pay Scan to assemble them for me - only by a couple of quid, but as a system it has a three year warranty as opposed to typically one year as parts. Not much of a patch on this bonkers rig, sadly.

I wonder if one option for the bonkers PC that's missing is an SSD cache drive for the storage drive? Possibly of limited use on a random reads of stored data if there's no pattern to you accessing the stored data, but a good way of speeding up writes for perhaps fifty quid?

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Pint

Yep - it was great fun building PC's in my 20's and just into my 30's but these days you can get a good pre-built PC with a 3 year warranty for not much more, rather than 12 months part warranty.

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The last few years, when someone asks "What PC should I buy", I tend to respond with "Whatever's got the software and the holes in it that you want, and you can play with in the shop". There's not much can go wrong for the average user (even if they claim their kid is a "gamer" - there's a difference between a gamer and a hardcore-overclocking-thousands-of-pounds nutter and the latter wouldn't let their parents buy their PC) and they'll run what they need to. Time was when they needed someone like me to steer them clear of Cyrix CPU's or make sure they got a real Soundblaster or a proper 3DFX card, and the back end hardware to support it all. Nowadays? They're all running damn supercomputers just to open Internet Explorer (against my advice).

Hell, the last laptop I was bought for work has a quad-core CPU with HT, 8Gb RAM, and a nVidia graphics card that laughs at my 500-game Steam account. I'm not a hardcore gamer by any means, but I don't tolerate flaky performance in games and I've not yet found a reason to have a desktop over this laptop (and I could have one tomorrow, if I really wanted it). Same with the previous laptop they bought me. My only criteria was nVidia graphics (I use some GPU-boosted video transcoders so I'm not sitting around forever waiting for it to convert things) and the laptop they bought lasted for years for personal and professional use until it literally broke in half at the hinges through over-use.

For the average person, their lag in World of Warcraft or whatever isn't down to their graphics card or some bus setting, it's because they have a ton on junk running that you can't compensate for, or a junky connection. I pretty much always have the smallest ping on any gameserver because I have a clean network, a bog-standard average connection and a PC that is properly managed, not because of a graphics card costing more than my car. Hell, I run my own gameservers in a remote datacentre and I get accused of being local to the server (or even running the game on the server) and I'm further from it geographically than most of the people complaining!

And if they've only got 10fps (which I saw one brute of a new machine running WoW at, when they asked me to take a look at it), it's because you've overloaded the machine with junk and/or tried to be clever and change settings that "some guy on the Internet" said would help things run better, or you need to knock down the graphics levels a tad. A clean install gets them back to 60-120fps and then they'll just do it again anyway (and I guarantee they wouldn't notice the difference on the graphics levels unless they went into the menu and saw "Medium" instead of "Ultra").

Gone are the days where my knowledge of memory timings or bus bandwidths is actually any use any more. Hell, I couldn't even tell you what CPU sockets are in vogue at the moment, the last time I had to spec a machine to that level of detail (and not just "send me 100 PC's with a quad-core, 8Gb and Windows 7") we're talking over 10 years ago.

I'm actually surprised anybody bothers to build their own machines any more. SLI is pretty commonplace and not like the rare "Wow" it used to be, and even in BitCoin'ing you're better off with a cheap ASIC than any number of graphics cards jammed into a chassis with a kilowatt power supply.

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Whether or not you assemble it yourself, the important thing is NOT to buy a packaged PC from any of the brand-name vendors. These companies use commodity components purchased at rock-bottom prices, in order to fatten their slim profit margins. When you spec out a rig yourself, you can cherry-pick top-notch brand-name components, for only a little more money. This makes a vast difference in performance, and more importantly, reliability.

Too many PC purchasers don't realize that having a trusted logo on each component is far better than having one familiar logo on the outside of a box full of no-name rubbish. I think it's a big reason that PC sales have slumped - too many consumers have been burned by junkpile brand-name PCs.

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Anonymous Coward

Non-tech users often throw away a perfectly good desktop just to get an upgrade on the cpu. Yet what they needed was more ram and a better graphics card.

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@ Network67

Yup, seen that myself a few times.

Visited a friend one day to find they'd spent £400 on a new laptop. I asked what was wrong with their old one, they said it was really slow, so wanted a new one. They gave me the old one to look at.

It had Vista, and 512MB of memory, and looked like it had never had a disk clean up (full of temp files and other crap, and the defrag tool had never been used (no last used date!). Also drivers were all the original stock ones from the maker from years back.

So this was obviously hitting VM RAM constantly, on a heavily fragments drive, that would have been a slow HD to start with!

I took it away, cleaned the drive (would have re-installed if I'd had more time and an install disk). Patched it all up, put better drivers on for the GFX etc and various other tweaks.

I found some old spare RAM kicking about at home, so put 2GB in, (2 x 1GB sticks I had spare after updating an old XP laptop from 2GB to 4GB a few years earlier). Would have only been about £15-20 quid to buy if needed.

Gave it back afterwards, said 'Try this'. It was just as fast as his new shiny lap top! He was both please and annoyed at the same time, was quite amusing. :-)

General processing power usage (offcie, web etc) hasn't changed much for years. Just the overheads have increased, (i.e Windows). But 9 times out of 10, just more memory and a clean drive (or a switch to an SSD), improves things no end.

PCs with not enough memory is one of my pet peeves, crippling a PC for something that for budget RAM, would cost you about £20 to fix and make the PC so much more usable.

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Linux

Can't let a merchant do your thinking for you...

Building the PC is the easy part really. Regardless of what form you are buying the parts in, you still need to be familiar with those parts. Otherwise, you won't know if they are suitable or overpriced. You just can't get away with letting some merchant do your thinking for you.

PC salesmen and used card salesmen...

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Anonymous Coward

@fung0

"Too many PC purchasers don't realize that having a trusted logo on each component is far better than having one familiar logo on the outside of a box full of no-name rubbish. "

In some cases yes, but to be fair that isn't always the case. My now retired Dell D9200 wasn't lacking in quality components - PSU was reasonable quality, came with an 8800GTX, genuine Soundblaster, etc etc. The biggest failing of that Dell were all related to my expectations - that the BIOS was all bolted down (so no overclocking), a bit noisy because the fan speeds ramped for cooling and reliability, and the BTX format meant that virtually nothing carried over to the replacement machine. Support was dreadful if you knew anything about PCs - offshore waste of time, and was the main reason that I didn't bother with Dell for the replacement. But if you were a non-tech user then the support was probably pretty good - on board and web diagnostics enabled support to identify hardware problems. In fact, this very week I did some diagnostics using the Dell web site on a five year old machine, downloaded a BIOS update.

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Re: @fung0

dell XPS used to get you a line to scotland. That got dropped in recent times though. They were better as you got a next day optiplex bod out to fix em when they went pop.

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Devil

Low power PC's - traps for new buyers

"...There's not much can go wrong for the average user..."

I fell foul of that line the last computer I bought for my wife. Rather than build a power machine from the ground up, like the hardware geek in me wants to, I bought a pretty-looking Asus AIO. She doesn't need all that power to run hotmail and facebook, right?

Turns out that the AIO, with it's Atom CPU and slow everything else is completely miserable to use, even after uninstalling the bloatware and stopping unnecessary services. It seems that Facebook in Internet explorer actually does push the machine a bit, and even just loading the front new page of canada.com can take up to 10 seconds to render. Click on a link and you wait another 5-10. Try doing some product-purchase research online with 10 or more windows open, and it's unusable.

Once bitten.... Next machine will be a hand built geek rig. I imagine none of this would have been a problem had I purchased a cheap but "traditional form factor" PC. The point is, I think there still are traps out there for the average user.

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JDX
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Cores

I'm not convinced most games are optimized to maximise performance on 2 cores, let alone 4 or 6.

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Re: Cores

Some games definitely are, but not all.

However, this wasn't about "building a prudent, realistic, budget but well rounded gaming machine". So this comment has no place here.

This was about building a bonkers gaming PC.

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Re: Cores

I would assume things like RTS games would take advantage of multiple cores simply because they tend to put much more stress on the CPU than other game genres. Imagine a 4v4 game of StarCraft 2 where everyone simultaneously Zerg Rushes an opponent.

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Re: Cores

This is not how it works, to use more than one core the application has to be designed to do so. Writing concurrent stuff aint trivial and it's quite error prone.

At some point you need to synchronize everything just b/c everyone rushes doesn't mean it's done concurrently.

Some tasks can be easily parallelized like path finding, sorting large arrays, etc however when operating on small structures the lack of locality and price to fork/join outweights ability to run in multi-core.

For games usually single threaded performance is the most important factor when picking the CPU (unlike servers [usually])

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JDX
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Re: Cores

>>this wasn't about "building a prudent, realistic, budget but well rounded gaming machine". So this comment has no place here.

You miss the point which is that a 6-core PC could be slower than a 4-core one. Bonkers means the pinnacle of performance, therefore the components best for games should be picked rather than the most powerful components in a general sense. Chips which auto-overclock one core whe the others are not being used for example - which possibly those CPUs do anyway?

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Re: Cores

Yeah, a certain component benchmarking and testing website suggests that beyond a certain point, many modern games just don't tax more powerful CPUs too much, and the money be better spent elsewhere.

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Re: Cores

AFAIK pretty much all the modern Core iseries chips under and overclock as needed. I have a three year old i5 rated for 2.66 GHz. Most of the time the cores are powered off completely and not running at all. When they are running it's usually at 1.2GHz. When there's actually a load on it'll crank one core up to 3.2 GHz. I'm not sure it ever actually spends any time at all at its official rated clock speed. I'd have to do something quite artificial like run four MP3 encoders simultaneously.

If you have a suitable O/S, this tool http://code.google.com/p/i7z/ allows you to see what the cores are up to.

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Re: Cores

However it means other things can run at the same time in the background with less impact with the 6 core.

I do concede that it is a shame there is no Ivy Bridge-E at this time, but Sandy Bridge has shown to have higher clock headroom (especially because of the heatspreader fiasco with Ivy Bridge!) so in the end, stick them both on high quality water, overclocked, it would be a crap shoot in games with fewer threads, and out right wins on multi-threaded games and when you're playing with things in the background. I'd take Sandy Bridge-E and clock it up until it squealed, too, personally, but of course for anyone who hasn't hit their head, Ivy Bridge 3570k is the only CPU choice people need to know.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cores

"Ivy Bridge 3570k is the only CPU choice people need to know."

That's what my games machine runs, but whilst I'd agree it is a sensible recommendation, that's not a bonkers machine, it's a machine for people with more sense than money. Those lucky enough to have the money to waste would be advised to buy the fastest i7 and overclock that, not because they need to, but simply because they can.

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FAIL

Monitor?

No point in spending so much money on a 'bonkers' (I have better) pc at home if you are going to plug is into a 21" cheapo monitor. Splash another grand on a 30" Dell fercryingoutloud.

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Re: Monitor?

Or three 23" monitors, depending upon the type of game. If you are going to buy one, with a view to adding to it later, consider the thickness of the bezel.

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Go

Bonkers?

That's not bonkers, not with such a rubbish SSD. SATA? Pah!

No, what you want is one of these:

http://www.ocztechnology.com/ocz-revodrive-pci-express-ssd.html

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: Bonkers?

How is that going to give you a better FPS or run at higher detail settings? It's not.

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Facepalm

Re: Bonkers?

Good point. In fact, take out the SanDisk SSD and replace it with a 5900rpm SATA drive, or slower if you can find one. Sure, load times will increase to durations best measure in ice ages, but even though you've called your build 'bonkers' and gone as far as speccing a GTX Titan it's important to save those pennies and cut back on the storage.

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Nya
Mushroom

Re: Bonkers?

The Revo drives are a piece of trash. I just got rid of one as it takes up that many motherboard resources you end up crippling half your system (let alone how slow it'll make your boot time). Use a Revo and lose a RAID controller, use the Revo and expansion slots gets disabled, use a Revo and USB3 get's nerfed down to only running at USB2 speed. And to top it all off, when I swapped the POS thing for a pair of OCZ Vectors, the Vectors smoked it in outright speed when paired up in RAID0...which worked perfectly along with all the other parts of the motherboard the naff Revo nerfed.

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Re: Bonkers?

Keith_C, you are an enlightened guru. I am astounded no one else has raged against the SSD / SATA / USB storage nonsense. Bootable PCI-e solid state storage is so much faster it has to be included in the specification of a bonkers PC. Feel the IOPS.

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FAIL

Re: Bonkers?

Not had *any* of those problems with my Revo, nor has my mate with either of the ones he has, both original and Revo 3 (and he's running quad SLI in one rig), so I would suggest that perhaps the problem isn't with the Revo but elsewhere...

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Happy

So what's the total build cost then?

'Cos that'd be nice to know!

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Re: So what's the total build cost then?

More than a brand new Ford Fiesta.

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AOD
Stop

Re: So what's the total build cost then?

For folks that are interested in an automotive experience, could I direct you towards the following:

http://www.costco.co.uk/view/product/uk_catalog/cos_5,cos_5.6,cos_5.6.2/140490

Not strictly a PC as such, but I think you'll agree it is suitably bonkers.

I especially admire the part that states:

Price includes delivery, set up and training.

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