How to Build the Ultimate Gaming PC, Step by Step

Whether you’re an Italian renaissance cosplayer or a Starcraft II addict, you’ll love our $1,400 gaming rig. Parts, prices, and procedures inside!

How do you know when it’s time to replace your gaming rig? When you’ve turned down all of the game settings to minimum and you still have to play at 1024×768. Or you’ve just completed the Steam hardware survey and Valve rejects your score because it’ll drag down the curve. Of course, if you’re asking the question in the first place….

Dressing up as Ezio from Assassins Creed 2 before PC assembly is optional.

In spec’ing this year’s gaming build, we decided to restrict ourselves to a budget of approximately $1,400. This would provide a nice challenge, but would still give us enough cash to build a powerful and feature-filled machine. If you’ve ever tried to squeeze high-end performance into this price point, you already know that the road to our final configuration wasn’t clear, obvious, or easy.

The truth is that there are many ways to skin a Tribble, and there is no single right config for everyone. To give you some insight into how we arrived at our final destination, we’re going to walk you through our decision-making process.

Foundation First

Initially, we decided the foundation for our configuration should be an LGA1366 board with a Core i7-930. We reasoned this would give us the ability to run a quad-core now, and then upgrade to a hexa-core in the future.

When we pondered this a little more, however, we reasoned that maybe the LGA1366/i7-930 route wasn’t the best choice for a balanced gaming system. The CPU costs nearly $300, and you have to pay for a third DIMM to keep its tri-channel memory stoked. Furthermore, LGA1366 boards tend to cost $50 to $100 more than LGA1156 mobos. The final blow? As much as we love six-core computing, it’s not essential for gaming. Not yet, at least.

With this in mind, we shifted our focus toward Intel’s LGA1156 platform, which permits a much wider range of processor choices that scale all the way down to $113 Core i3 CPUs. Our first inclination was Intel’s 2.93GHz Core i7-870 chip. Recent price cuts from $562 to $294 make this powerful quad-core with Hyper-Threading mighty appealing. In raw performance it actually comes surprisingly close to Intel’s original Extreme Edition chip, which sold for $999.

Cooler Master’s special edition HAF 922 is a great DIY case, and it looks nice, too.

Good to Go, Right? Wrong!

The more we considered the possibilities, however, the more we started to wonder: Given the gaming orientation of this rig, did we really need to pay for Hyper-Threading? Probably not. If you look at any survey of gaming hardware, the vast majority of users are still happily humming along with dual-cores. (We actually considered making this rig a dual-core at one point, but hey, even gamers like to occasionally transcode videos.)

In the end, we picked Intel’s new 2.8GHz Core i5-760. AT $205, the chip gives us four cores but lacks Hyper-Threading. We’re going to pull extra value out of the CPU by overclocking the crap out of it.

Finally: SSD in a Midrange PC

Trimming the hundred bucks from our CPU cost and going with LGA1156, gave us more money to play with, which allowed us to do something we’ve never done in a budget gaming rig: add an SSD.

Why SSD? If you haven’t kept up with current events, the simple answer is that they absolutely kick ass. System builders and upgraders who make the leap are shocked at the speedy boot times, and SSDs are ideal for gaming because they shorten level load times to near-zero.

Corsair’s Force F60 gives our rig the responsiveness of an SSD.

Of course, the $1,400 question is: How much SSD can you fit into a budget gaming rig? About 60GB. That’s what we got with Corsair’s Force F60 and it only set us back $160. The drive uses the much-beloved SandForce controller, which enables performance that pretty much tops out the SATA 3Gb/s interface. The SSD isn’t the only storage in the system, of course—we also include a 1TB Seagate 7200.12. It’s pretty fast itself, and is a perfect storage drive.

CPU Compromise?

As always, we double-checked our decision. Did SSD really make sense? After all, couldn’t we take that $160 from the SSD and put it toward the fattest GPU possible? Well… yes and no. A balanced system isn’t about one single component. We could have, say, poured a ton of the budget into the CPU or GPU. But that would have been a bit like putting a big-block motor into a Miata.

In the end, the GeForce GTX 470 fits our needs well. At $289 before a $20 mail-in rebate, Asus’s ENGTX470 is one hell of a deal. Why not a single GTX 460 1GB? As fantastic as that card is for the money, we’re getting a lot more videocard for just $50 more. We also considered two GTX 460s in SLI but that would have meant spending almost a third of our budget on graphics alone.

That doesn’t mean we weren’t biting our lips over our decisions. For example, we could have actually saved coinage by selecting the black Cooler Master HAF 922 and the bundled 600-watt PSU. On the street, this power supply sells for $160, but it lacks the juice to run SLI’d GTX 470 parts. In fact, it lacks the ability to even run SLI’d GTX 460 components. Better to pay for a quality PSU like Corsair’s TX750. This gets you approved SLI support for GTX 460 and GTX 470 cards.

Yes, we opted to pay more for a red case. That might seem a little frivolous after all our deliberating over parts. At the end of the day though, we decided that even though we were building a budget box, we still wanted a little panache. Something to let fellow gamers know that we didn’t just pick the lowest-price box and click “add to cart.” Call us reckless and irresponsible, but we went crazy and splurged $50 on the special edition red HAF 922. The case’s two-tone red and black design is a head turner, and it’s also a gem of a case to build in.


What’s in Our $1,400 Gaming Rig?

Budget and gaming go together like oil and water but we’re happy with our gaming rig. You get one of the most powerful DirectX 11 cards out today, an upgrade path that supports SLI (with a PSU to run it), and the responsiveness of a SandForce-based SSD.

A. Chill Out

Cooler Master’s Hyper 212+ has long been a Maximum PC favorite for giving us cooling performance that rivals heatsinks twice its price. Even though our Core i5-760 CPU came with a cooler, we’re ditching it for the Hyper 212+ so we can achieve higher stable overclocks.

B. SLI-Ready

The Corsair TX750 can be easily found for less than $100 and is rated by Nvidia to run two GTX 470 cards in SLI. That gives us a solid upgrade path for a second GPU when prices drop. We oriented the TX750 so that its bottom-mounted fan sucks air in and vents it directly out the back.

C. Leave it to the Pro

Some P55 boards in multi-card mode are known to have issues with SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0, but Asus’s P7P55D-E Pro should be less problematic. That’s because the P7P55D-E Pro uses a chip to help alleviate congestion in the P55 chipset.

D. Zero Access Times

Tucked into the hard drive tray is Corsair’s F60, a SandForce-based SSD that makes you smile at drive access times.

E. Red Hot

The special-edition red Cooler Master HAF 922 case was an extra expense, but we decided that its striking two-tone look and spacious interior made it worth the stretch.

The Budget Gaming PC Parts List

Part URL Price
CPU Intel Core i5-760 $209
Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212+ $30
RAM 4GB Corsair DDR3/1333 $99
Mobo Asus P7P55D-E Pro $159
GPU Asus ENGTX 470 $289
Optical Drive Samsung SH-S223F $23
Hard Drive 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 $74
Solid State Drive Corsair Force F60 $160
Case Cooler Master Red HAF 922 $139
PSU Corsair TX750 $90
OS Windows Home Premium 64 (OEM) $99
TOTAL $1,371


Next Page: Build it »

Build It

Step 1: Prep the Case

The first thing we do to get our red Cooler Master HAF 922 ready for the build is to install the brass motherboard standoffs in the case (image A). A few standoffs are already installed, but you’ll have to install the rest. To do this, carefully hold your motherboard above the case and eyeball where to install mounts. Ideally, one standoff should be installed for each mounting hole in your motherboard. Hand-tighten them first, and once they’re in place, use a pair of pliers or a small wrench to tighten them down. Torque them down enough so they don’t back off when you need to remove the motherboard.

(Image A)

(Image B)

Now, install the I/O shield (image B). These rectangular metal panels cover your I/O ports such as USB, LAN, and keyboard, and are matched to your motherboard. Your board should have come with one in the box. For some strange reason, some cases come with I/O shields already in place. If this is the case in your… erm… case, you’ll need to remove this first and pound yours in. Use the back of your screwdriver to pop it out by hitting from the outside of the case, and then pop your I/O shield in place.


Step 2: Install the CPU

(Image A)

Since our case does not have a removable motherboard tray, we’re going to add several components with the mobo out of the case. With the motherboard on a flat surface, unclip the arm that holds the CPU load plate in place and flip back the arm (image A). This will lift the load plate out of the way. You’ll now need to remove the protective plastic tab that covers the pins in the socket. The one Asus uses requires that you remove it from one side first (image B). Others may need you to grasp it on both sides. Do not throw this plastic tab away! If you need to return the board to the store or manufacturer, they will not accept it without the tab in place. Do not touch any of the gold contacts in the socket, either—bending one may kill the motherboard.

(Image B)

(Image C)

Install the CPU by holding it parallel to the socket and carefully lowering it in place (image C). Notice the two notches in the socket that should line up with the two notches in the CPU. With the chip in place, fold the load plate in place and lock the arm.

How We Overclocked a Core i5-760 to 4GHz

There are wild rumors that Intel may lock down overclocking on its new budget chips next year. Yes, you may be clock-blocked!

Thankfully, with existing chips there’s no such barrier. So, to eke the most out of the budget quad in our gaming build, we decided to overclock it from its stock 2.8GHz all the way to 4GHz. Ah, now you understand why we spent the extra ducats on our Cooler Master Hyper 212+ over the stock heatsink fan.

So, how did we accomplish the overclock? The first step was to make the correct voltage tweaks. Interestingly, our Core i5-760 part didn’t take too much crazy voltage to achieve a stable 4GHz. We set the CPU’s voltage to 1.25, the IMC voltage to 1.15, DRAM voltage to 1.36, left the CPU PLL voltage on “auto,” and set the PCH voltage to 1.0875. (If you’re faint of heart, you may want to avoid voltage tweaks and just run the simple automatic overclock available in the board’s BIOS.)

We then set the CPU ratio down one click from its default of 21 to 20 and cranked the block up to 200MHz from its stock 133MHz. Our target for the DRAM was a conservative 1,200MHz and the QPI was set for 6,407MHz.

Once configured, we stress-tested our rig overnight using our proprietary Maximum PC Lab stress test and a top-secret Intel stress-testing utility, and had no issues whatsoever.


Step 3: Install the Heatsink

Our CPU came with a stock Intel cooler. It’s fine at stock speeds, but we chose the Core i5-760 with overclocking in mind. To accommodate the increased heat, we chose to use Cooler Master’s Hyper 212+. At $30, it yields performance that rivals some heatsinks more than twice its price.

(Image A)

The first step in installing this cooler is to mount the backplate on the board. You’ll be putting a screw in through the front of the board and then tightening a nut to it on the back of the board (image A)—a special tool comes with the heatsink to aid with tightening the nut. Once the backplate is in place, we’ll carefully apply some thermal compound (it comes with the heatsink) on the CPU’s heat spreader (image B). We just place a few BB-size bits on the chip and use the tip of the syringe to spread it evenly around the metal top.

(Image B)

The heatsink ships with the fan attached. You’ll need to remove the fan by gently bending the clips that grip the heatsink. The Hyper 212+ works with multiple sockets and the X-shaped adapter comes from the factory set for LGA775. To set it for LGA1156, you need to pull up each of the spring-mounted screws and slide them to the middle hole. Now, take the adapter and slip it inside the heatsink. Next, screw down the heatsink using a cross-star pattern (image C).

(Image C)

Once the heatsink is in place, you need to also install the fan. But before you do that, put some thought into the airflow of your case. Do you want the air to be sucked into or blown out of the rear? You can easily reverse the flow by dismounting the case fan and heatsink fan. The industry standard is to exhaust air out through the rear fan, but there is a good argument for sucking in cool, exterior air and blowing it over the CPU first. With the HAF 922, you can run either way.

(Image D)

Let’s finish the installation by popping the fan assembly onto the heatsink (image D). Finally, plug the fan into the header marked “CPU.”


Step 4: Install RAM

The P55 chipset and Core i5 feature dual-channel memory support. That means you need to have RAM that’s the same size and speed, and install it in the correct RAM slots. The most common memory-installation mistake is to put the RAM in the wrong slots, thereby configuring the board for single-channel. The second-most common mistake is putting the memory in the inner pair of slots. That works for LGA775 and AM3 boards, but do so on a Core ix and it probably won’t boot.

(Image A)

(Image B)

On this board, we put the RAM in the two slots shown in image A. When you know where to install your RAM, match the notch in the RAM with the notch in the slot and gently push it into place with pressure on the outer corners until it locks in place (image B). You usually hear a click, but sometimes you may not. Make sure the arms that hold the RAM are securely in place, as well.


Step 5: Install the Motherboard

With our RAM, CPU, and heatsink in place, it’s time to install the motherboard. Not that you didn’t follow our instructions, but you did install the I/O shield, right? If you haven’t, now is a good time to do it. This Asus board uses a snag-less design, but many other boards continue to use cheap metal shields. Make sure the little metal arms in the I/O shield are bent upward, so the motherboard can be installed without the arms blocking the ports. Once the shield is in place, bend the metal fingers until they make contact with the top of the metal cage that holds the ports.

(Image A)

OK, now gently lower the mobo into place (image A). We installed nine motherboard standoffs in the case. All nine should line up with the mounting holes in the motherboard. If you installed nine standoffs and you only see room for eight screws, this means you have one of the standoffs installed in the wrong place. That means the bare metal standoff could be poking into a spot on the board, which could potentially short something out. In this case, you will need to remove the board and locate the one standoff that is in the wrong spot.

(Image B)

Back to the installation. Tighten down all the screws to hold the board in place (image B). The spacing should be fine but if you find that it is difficult to install add-in cards, you may have to loosen the screws and move the board away from the back of the case. The board won’t move much, but the tiny bit of wiggle room may be just enough to allow you to install the cards.

Next Page: Build a Gaming Rig continued »

Step 6: Install the GPU and PSU

We’re in the home stretch of our build and are almost ready to power her up. But you can’t do that without a power supply. This hasn’t changed in years—four screws hold the rectangular power supply to the case (image A). Lately, though, many cases feature mounts that let you orient the PSU upside down if you choose to. For PSUs with fans that suck air in through the front, this doesn’t really matter, but for power supplies with bottom-mounted fans, you can mount them so that they pull air in from either the top or the bottom. The HAF 922 case has external vents that allow the PSU to both suck outside air in and also vent hot air out of the case, so that’s what we’re doing.

(Image A)

(Image B)

The GPU should be mounted in the top full-length x16 PCI-E slot. Hold the card parallel to the slot and carefully push it in place until it locks (image B). If the rear of the card will not fit, check the fit near the rear slot covers. You may have to either bend the metal slot cover slightly or shift your motherboard a tad if it will not go in.


Step 7: Install the Umbilicals

It’s time to hook up the case’s front USB and audio cables to your motherboard (image A). They are clearly marked “USB” and “Audio” and there should be no chance of mixing them up as they’re keyed for slot entry. The HAF 922 does not have a front FireWire port, but if the case you’re using does, make sure you are plugging it into the right header on the motherboard.

(Image A)

(Image B)

The Asus board includes a nifty all-in-one Q connector that allows you to plug the entire set of front-panel connectors into it (image B). This saves you the hassle of hunching over your case with a flashlight trying to figure out which one you got wrong. Go ahead and plug the Q connector into the motherboard. For the audio header, the HAF 922 provides an AC97 or HD Audio connector. You should consult your mother-board’s manual to determine which one your board has—these days, it’s usually HD Audio. The Asus board is compatible with both types, but you have to input which type you’re using in the BIOS.


Step 8: Put in Your Drives

The drive cage on the HAF 922 makes it a snap to install hard drives. Simply pull out a drive drawer, spread the cage, and put in your drive. Then slide the drive back into the cage and lock the arm in place (image A).

(Image A)

(Image B)

It used to be that you couldn’t mount the typical 2.5-inch SSD without shelling out for a drive adapter, but today most ship with adapters. The Corsair Force 60 comes with the adapter already attached. Insert it into an empty tray (image B) and slide it back into the case. You don’t have to worry about it being completely fastened down as there are no moving parts to damage in an SSD. Finally, remove one of the front bezels from the case, slide in your optical drive and lock it in place (image C).

(Image C)

While we’re here, let’s also plug in the SATA cables to the three drives. Most feature-packed boards have more than one controller for SATA. Ideally, you’ll run most of your drives off the chipset’s own south bridge. If you are running a SATA 6b/s drive on Intel hardware, however, you will need to run the drive on the board’s discrete SATA 6b/s controller—on our board it’s color-coded white. Plug your optical drive and the SSD into the mobo but leave the hard drive’s SATA cable disconnected during the OS install. We’ve found that Windows Vista and 7 can get a bit wacky when more than one drive is attached during the OS install.


How to Live on a 60GB Boot Drive

With hard drives now reaching 3TB, it’s pretty hard to go back to a 60GB boot drive. But for people who like the sound of 250MB/s read speeds and damn-near-zero access times, it’s well worth scaling back. Here are a few tips to help make a smaller SSD work effectively as a boot drive:

Turning off System Restore or cleaning up restore points will save you a whole lot of storage space.

Disable Hibernation: Hibernation writes what’s in memory to a file on your hard drive. Unfortunately, if you have 4GB of RAM, it will take up 4GB of space. If you have 8GB, it’ll eat 8GB. Since most people on desktops don’t run hibernation—they run standby instead—you can probably live without hibernation enabled. To turn it off, spawn a command prompt with administrator rights by typing cmd in the search bar of Windows 7 or Vista and right-clicking it. Select Run as Administrator. At the command prompt, type powercfg -h off and close the window. Reboot and the hibernation file should be gone.

Disable System Restore:
Windows’ ability to create restore points can be helpful in a pinch but it’s also a big space suck. And while it does sometimes save your bacon, it also often can’t do jack when your OS gets broken or infected. To disable it, right-click My Computer. Select Properties. Select System Protection and then click Configure. Now click Turn off System Protection and reboot. If you want to leave System Protection on, but still shave off some gigabytes, double-click My Computer. Right-click the C: drive and click Properties. Click Disk Cleanup, and then More Options. Select Cleanup under the System Restore heading.


Step 9: Plug in the Power Connectors

The final step is to power up all of your components. This is easy for an old pro but rookies can still get snagged on the process. Because of the different connectors used in boards, PSUs now ship with universal connectors that split apart. This eliminates the need to use an adapter but confuses the hell out of newbies.

(Image A)

The Corsair PSU features convertible plugs (image A). On the top left is a 6-pin/8-pin GPU power plug. On the top right we have an EPS12V/ATX12V power plug (ATX12V in 4-pin configuration and EPS12V in 8-pin). On the bottom is the main power connector, which is convertible to 20-pin or 24-pin. These plugs convert by attaching or detaching the additional pins. On the GPU power plug, for example, to run it as an 8-pin you carefully line up the extra two pins and connect it to the corresponding port on the motherboard. Should you worry about plugging the pins in the wrong way? For the most part, no. The pins are keyed so as not to allow you to, say, jam your 8-pin EPS12V plug into an 8-pin GPU or vice versa.

You should also know that generally speaking, the convertible plugs are intended to be plugged into the same socket. Do not, for example, try to take your PSU’s 20-pin main power connector and combine it with a 4-pin ATX12V plug. It probably won’t fit, but don’t even try it.

(Image B)

First, let’s plug in the 24-pin main power connector (image B). The Asus board has a 24-pin plug, as most motherboards today do. Only very old boards still sport 20-pin connectors. Next, we’ll plug in the 8-pin EPS12V connector. The Asus board, like many others, has a plastic cover that needs to be moved from half of the pins. If your PSU has an 8-pin EPS12V (our Corsair does), remove the cover and use the 8-pin plug. If your PSU does not, you can get by using just the 4-pin ATX12V. In fact, many boards will run fine with just the ATX12V plug. But if you are planning on heavy overclocking or other tasks that put a lot of stress on the CPU, we recommend that you run the full 8-pin connector.

(Image C)

Now, fish out two of the combo 6-pin/8-pin connectors and plug them into the GTX 470 card (image C). Finally, attach power to your hard drives (remember to leave your mechanical drive’s data cable disconnected during OS install) and plug in the optical drive. The final step is to plug in the various case fans. You’re now, as they say, good to go. Well done!


Troubleshooting Checklist

OK, maybe you’re not really good to go, after all. Have no worries–we’ve distilled a quick drill for a system that will not POST.

Is the power supply switch turned on?
✔ Is the power supply plugged in firmly?
Is the power cable plugged into the wall?
Is the monitor on?
Is it plugged into the PC? (Hey, we have to ask.)
Is the front-panel connector for the power switch wired correctly?
Did you plug in the ATX12V/EPS12V? Failing to plug this in will prevent the system from POSTing.
✔ Disconnect any 4-pin Molex connectors. These are easy to accidentally short out.
Do you have the RAM in the correct slots? RAM in the inner pair of slots in a CORE ix rig may cause it not to POST. Remember to power down the PSU before you move RAM around.
Reseat RAM (with power off).
✔ Reseat GPU (with power off).
Reseat the CPU (with power off).
Remove and reseat the motherboard and check for errant stand-offs on the tray that may be shorting the system.


The Best Way to Install Windows

So you pulled off the task of building your new PC and it POSTed on the first attempt. Now what? Believe it or not, there’s actually a method to installing Windows and the associated service packs, patches, and drivers. Even with Windows 7. Here’s how we do it in the Maximum PC Lab.

First, perform a standard installation of Windows. If you’ve never done this, simply put the install disc in the optical drive and the machine should boot to it.

After you’ve installed Windows, next install all the service packs and patches. Since most people don’t have the patches downloaded, you will need to connect your machine to the Internet to download them. Windows 7 supports most network devices with native drivers, so you should be able to easily accomplish this task.

One thing to note: Make sure your box is hooked up behind a NAT—you do not want to hook an unpatched machine directly to the Internet because it will come under attack almost immediately. Also, do not do anything with the machine other than run Windows Update. Remember, the machine will have built-in vulnerabilities out of the box. Many people begin surfing around while downloading patches in the background. This is just patently not safe without proper antivirus protection and the latest security patches installed.

Once you have the latest patches or service packs installed, you should install the drivers for your board, load an antivirus application, and continue with your configuration and setup.

Finally, remember how we told you not to hook up the data cable of the secondary SATA drive? Now would be a good time to do this. Why did we recommend waiting in the first place? We’ve seen the Windows boot loader get quite wonky when it sees multiple drives to install the OS to. One time, on a two-drive machine, we watched Vista install the system volume on one drive and the OS on the other. This would mean that one day, if you removed the secondary drive, the machine would stop booting.

Next Page: The Final Analysis »

Our Budget Build in Action

Can a $1,400 rig take on a $2,000 and $2,500 machine?

When it came time to benchmark our budget gaming PC, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Our standard zero-point rig is, after all, designed to measure up to powerful $7,500 custom gaming rigs. The zero-point remains pretty state of the art, with a 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of DDR3/1333 running at 1,750MHz, an Intel 160GB G2 SSD, and an ATI Radeon HD 5970. Hell, the dual-GPU card in our zero-point costs half as much as our entire gaming system did.

So, how did our $1,400 gaming machine fare by comparison? Not bad, actually.

In our standard benchmark suite, the zero-point’s Hyper-Threading (and perhaps the third channel of DDR3) helped it win a decisive victory in Sony Vegas Pro 9. But the superior clock speed of our budget gaming machine gave it the upper hand in the mostly single-threaded Lightroom 2.6 benchmark. The zero-point and gaming rig drew a near stalemate in ProShow and MainConcept’s Reference, with our gaming build running 4 percent faster in ProShow and 6 percent slower in Reference.

In gaming performance tests, it wasn’t much of a contest as the budget gaming rig lagged behind our zero-point by 34 percent in STALKER: CoP and 37 percent in Far Cry 2. No surprise here—a battle between a $290 GPU and a $700 GPU can end only one way, particularly when you consider that our benchmarks run at 2560×1600 resolution.

That’s not to say our rig is a disappointment. Remember, most people are not going to be gaming on a 30-inch panel. At 1920×1080, this system will give you excessive happiness for at least a couple of gaming seasons.

A Different Perspective

For another point of comparison, we pitted our build against Acer’s fearsome-looking new Predator system (see review on page 78). Based on a 2.8GHz Core i7-930, 12GB of DDR3/1333, and a GeForce GTX 470, this $2,000 machine was a bit closer in specs.

In this arena, the budget gaming rig fared quite well. It beat the Acer Predator on every single benchmark—sometimes by very large double-digit percentages, thanks to the Corsair Force 60 SSD and the 4GHz overclock.

But in a wake-up call for those who maintain there is no value in Hyper-Threading, peep our Sony Vegas Pro 9 test. Despite the blazingly fast SSD and a 1.2GHz clock advantage, the budget gaming rig was only 5 percent faster than the Predator. Those virtual cores in the Core i7-930 definitely come in handy with highly multithreaded tasks.

Budget Gaming Machine vs. Zero-Point System

Zero Point
Vegas Pro 9 (sec) 3,069 3,660 (-17%)
Lightroom 2.6 (sec) 356 253
ProShow 4 (sec) 1,112 1,071
MainConcept Ref 1.6 (sec) 2,113 2,250 (-6%)
STALKER: CoP (fps) 42 27.9 (-34%)
Far Cry 2 (fps) 114.4 72.6 (-37%)

Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked to 1750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate.


Budget Gaming Machine vs. Acer Predator

Zero Point
Vegas Pro 9 (sec) 3,832 3,660
Lightroom 2.6 (sec) 443 253
ProShow 4 (sec) 1,445 1,071
MainConcept Ref 1.6 (sec) 2,728 2,250
STALKER: CoP (fps) 25.1 27.9
Far Cry 2 (fps) 69.9 72.6

The Acer Predator features a 2.8GHz Core i7-930, 12GB of DDR3/1333 on an X58 chipset motherboard, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 GPU, and a 1.5TB Western Digital 7,2000rpm hard drive, running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.


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