Customizing my monster gaming PC


Hello World and Happy New Year! Believe it or not, during the final days of the year, both my home-based DSL modem and personal Windows 7 notebook breathed their final breaths as well. Although my modem has been consistent for nearly 4 years, it was inevitable and understandable that an upgraded network would render my modem obsolete. Luckily, a new free modem resolved the connection issue.

Meanwhile, whether it was the outdated modem or the series of related reboots that caused its untimely demise, my 2011 Windows 7 notebook turned into a flat brick after an unexpected 2 years. Since the safe mode and system repair options failed to revive the operating system, I dusted off my 2006 Windows XP laptop to reconnect to the internet and I restored a few files from a 3-month-old external backup to resume my household tasks.

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer at IBM. Unfortunately, after being accustomed to my 2011 Windows 7 CyberPowerPC Xplorer notebook at home, the performance of my 2006 Windows XP Dell Inspiron laptop naturally felt sluggish. So I was forced to order my new 2014 Windows 8.1 CyberPowerPC Gigabyte X79 gaming desktop much sooner than planned. With these PCs in mind, let’s take a fresh peek at how far gaming PCs have evolved.

Why didn’t I order a mobile PC instead?

In a high-tech age where more and more personal computers, gaming consoles, and mobile devices are getting faster and faster yet thinner and thinner, it would be easy to add another mobile PC to my collection. After all, I already commute with my 2011 Windows 7 Lenovo ThinkPad laptop and 2012 Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphone. But this time, I didn’t want a mobile PC. Like many others who don’t mind the monster bulk of mid-tower and full-tower cases, I wanted a new gaming PC.

While I certainly don’t play every day or remotely consider myself to be a hardcore PC gamer, I definitely find the idea of building or customizing a monster gaming PC to my own personal specifications to be very appealing. Also, while I don’t have the true dedication or resources to build a gaming PC by myself yet, I always enjoy researching, comparing, and selecting the specific components, accessories, and software that will be assembled, installed, and configured for me.

Coincidentally, I began looking into a new gaming PC shortly after I started to play Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag last month. Although the 2013 game looks spectacular, my 2011 CyberPowerPC Xplorer gaming notebook barely met the specifications to run it at such a painfully slow frame-rate, probably around 3 to 7 frames per second (FPS). Meanwhile, my customized 2014 CyberPowerPC Gigabyte X79 gaming desktop is estimated to run comparable games at an astounding 100+ FPS.

What were my customized 2014 PC specifications?

To ensure that my next PC would run next-generation games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and 3D-rendering applications like Smith Micro Poser 9 as smoothly as possible within a limited present-day budget, yet retain some flexibility to upgrade to more-powerful future-day components, I knew that I wanted to customize a sexy new gaming PC. While many name brands offer their own configurators, another perfectly-contained HP desktop, Dell laptop, or Apple iMac didn’t interest me.

In the end, I returned to the CyberPowerPC website and selected the following specifications.

Gaming case, cooling, lighting, and power:

  • Corsair Carbide AIR 540, Dual Chamber Direct Airflow, Full Side Panel Window
  • Corsair Hydro H110 280mm Liquid Cooling Extreme Performance CPU Cooler
  • Corsair CX750 750W 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply
  • Flexible LED Interior Light Strip (Red Color)

Core components, boards, and cards:

  • GIGABYTE X79-UP4 ATX with Ultra Durable 5, 4 Gen3.0 PCIe x16, 2 PCIe x1, 1 PCI
  • Intel® Core™ i7-4820K Quad-Core 3.70 GHz 10MB Intel Smart Cache LGA2011
  • 16GB (4GBx4) DDR3/1866MHz Quad Channel Memory (ADATA XPG V2)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB GDDR5 16X PCIe 3.0 Video Card
  • Onboard High Definition 7.1 Audio
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0 Combo with Dual Antenna PCI-E Adapter
  • Onboard Gigabit LAN Network

Hard drives and optical drives:

  • 128GB ADATA SP900 SATA-III 6.0Gb/s – 550 MB/s Read & 520 MB/s Write SSD
  • 1TB SATA-III 6.0Gb/s 32MB Cache 7200RPM HDD
  • 24X Double Layer Dual Format DVD+-R/+-RW + CD-R/RW Drive

Accessories and operating system:

  • AZiO Large Print KB505U Keyboard with Tri-color backlight
  • AZZA Optical 1600dpi Gaming Mouse with Weight Adjustable Cartridge
  • Microsoft® Windows 8.1 (64-bit Edition) + Office 365 (Free 30 Days Trial)

Although the following product images don’t necessarily reflect the identical components and accessories that I chose, they do feature the same Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (YouTube: 19 minutes) that caught my eye and stole my heart. The unique dual-chamber design is pure genius!

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (blog.CyberPowerPC.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (Corsair.com)

What were the comparable 1999 PC specifications?

Just for fun, let’s compare these 2014 specifications to the high-end specifications from 15 years ago. Digging out and flipping through one of my oldest PC magazines, the January 1999 issue of Maximum PC, I found an old advertisement featuring a famous brand of gaming PCs: Alienware. Whether or not I adjust the prices for inflation, the Alienware “The Grey” model still offers the closest cost comparison.  So here are its specifications.

Gaming case, cooling, and power:

  • ATX Full Tower Case with 300 Watt Power Supply
  • PC Power Cooling K-1 CPU Fan
  • KoolMaxx Video Cooling System

Core components, boards, and cards:

  • Abit BH6, 1 AGP, 5 PCI, 2 ISA Slots, Expandable to 384MB SDRAM
  • Intel 440BX Motherboard 512K Cache
  • Intel Pentium II 350MHz with MMX
  • 64MB SDRAM (PC-100) Memory
  • Canopus SPECTRA 2500 TNT 16MB Video Card
  • SoundBlaster LIVE! 3D Sound
  • US Robotics 56K V.90 Fax/Modem

Hard drives, optical drives, and floppy drives:

  • 6.5GB Ultra-ATA Hard Drive
  • Toshiba 32X CD-ROM Player
  • 1.44MB 3.5″ Floppy Drive

Accessories and operating system:

  • 104-Enhanced Keyboard
  • Microsoft Intellimouse PS/2
  • Microsoft Windows 98 Operating System
  • Cambridge 4-Point Surround Speaker/Subwoofer System

Interestingly, except for the obvious differences in frequencies and capacities, the overall design of gaming PCs hasn’t changed much in 15 years. Even the newest trends in liquid CPU cooling, SSDs, and wireless LAN cards still serve the same basic functions of cooling, storage, and connectivity.

Maximum PC: January 1999

Maximum PC: January 1999

Maximum PC: January 1999

Maximum PC: January 1999

Maximum PC: January 1999

Maximum PC: January 1999

Maximum PC: January 1999

Maximum PC: January 1999

What are my final thoughts?

For the next few weeks, all I can do is rely on my other devices. This is probably the most amusing part. Like many computer aficionados, I’ve specialized my usage to the point where I depend on different devices for different activities. For example, besides my Lenovo ThinkPad for work, I’m currently using my iMac for treadmill entertainment, my Dell Inspiron for household tasks, and my Samsung Galaxy Note II for almost everything else. Of course, my missing pastime is PC gaming.

Naturally, when my CyberPowerPC Gigabyte X79 arrives, my Dell Inspiron will be retired once more, and the burden will ease on my other devices. But most importantly, after playing almost 40 hours of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag at the lowest FPS on the lowest graphics settings, I can’t wait to forget reality and experience how smooth and fluid this next-generation PC game can be on the highest graphics settings. Gaming PCs have evolved a long way and they’re probably here to stay.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Do I have an update?

Three weeks later, my sexy gaming PC arrived! It was about time to swing some weapons!

CyberPowerPC Gigabyte X79 with Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (camera flash)

CyberPowerPC Gigabyte X79 with Corsair Carbide AIR 540 (camera flash)

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