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Beast

Gamer of Darqness; Aug. 2, 2010; By Robert F. Ludwick
Type: Review
An account of the building of Beast

So let's see here... Over 6 years ago I built my last gaming rig. I never really named it. It was my primary Windows machine at the time. Could have been longer than 6 years, really. I don't remember. I know I upgraded it a little about 4 years ago or so, and I added a Blu-Ray burner about 7-8 months ago.

Unfortunately, that's all that really happened with that box. I got my HP Pavilion laptop about 4 1/2 years ago and it became my primary machine. I stopped using my old Windows rig for the majority of uses and only used it for some games. When I got back strong into console gaming, I almost entirely stopped PC gaming.

Enter StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. I knew I'd want the game and my old rig certainly wouldn't handle it. Oh, there was a chance my laptop could. But not my old rig. It didn't even have a PCI Express card in it, it was an old AGP card. Pretty old stuff indeed. Thus, I knew I needed to build a new rig if I wanted to play the game.

A plan was launched. My wife, Laura, signed off on my building a new gaming rig. What a happy gamer I was.  I went on to NewEgg and ordered my parts. Here are some of the parts I ordered:

These parts still exist in Beast. Unfortunately, I also ordered these and they didn't make it into the final build:

So I ordered all these parts and they came in. I started building the machine, as you can see in this series of photos:

The boxes my initial shipment came in.
The boxes my initial shipment came in.

The parts all removed from their boxes.
The parts all removed from their boxes.

Motherboard box, the board as well as all of the added components and manuals.
Motherboard box, the board as well as all of the added components and manuals.

The case, its box and apparently my cat, Samantha.
The case, its box and apparently my cat, Samantha.

CPU box, CPU and CPU fan.
CPU box, CPU and CPU fan.

My 4 sticks of DDR3 RAM.
My 4 sticks of DDR3 RAM.

Motherboard with the CPU and RAM installed.
Motherboard with the CPU and RAM installed.

Board's initial install into the case.
Board's initial install into the case.

Two optical drives and three hard drives.
Two optical drives and three hard drives.

Optical and hard drives installed.
Optical and hard drives installed.

This is as far as I got. I'll make a quite mention, however, of two parts in these photos that I did not list earlier. I hard an unused hard drive and the aforementioned Blu-Ray burner from my older gaming rig that I put in here:

Those were the only preexisting parts I used in this build, and the hard drive actually hadn't ever been used before. So my old box is still operational because it's still got two other optical drives.

Now, why did I list those other 4 parts separately and not show you photos yet? Well, it turns out the board supports CrossFireX. The cards I got were SLI. I knew I had to replace the two video cards, and I decided to replace the power supply too. The replacement cards I ordered were higher in power so I wanted to up the PSU's output, but the original PSU I ordered was only SLI-certified, and since I obviously haven't done dual-card setups before, I went the safe route and got a PSU that was CrossFireX-certified.

I also realized that I needed to get a higher version of Windows than Home Premium, a little too late. I have some applications, such as Photoshop CS2, that won't run on Windows 7, so I needed XP Mode to run it. Home Premium didn't have that, only the versions of Windows 7 above did. So I had to replace that, too.

As it turns out, NewEgg doesn't accept video cards for return. I ended up selling the two original video cards I purchased to a friend that wanted to upgrade his video setup, so that worked out. And since I hadn't opened the Windows packaging yet, I could return that for a full refund. I only took a restocking hit on the PSU I returned to NewEgg.

Thus, here are the replacement parts:

Note that I bought the Windows 7 Ultimate at Fry's, not NewEgg. I also bought a couple of 120MM LED case fans from Fry's for the side of the case to help with airflow. That, and I wanted some lights, dammit.

So I put all of that together, and:

The two video cards and the power supply unit.
The two video cards and the power supply unit.

One of the two video cards.
One of the two video cards.

The power supply unit.
The power supply unit.

Power supply and video cards installed.
Power supply and video cards installed.

The Beast, all put together!
The Beast, all put together!

The Beast, running.
The Beast, running.

So I'm done, right??? Well... Wrong. Unfortunately, neither the motherboard nor the video cards came with CrossFireX connectors, so I was unable to run both video cards in the system. I also discovered that I wanted to connect the front-side eSATA on the case, but was unable to because I'd already connected to all 5 SATA ports on the motherboard. Thus, I had to order the following, final parts:

Finally, the system was completed!

The video cards connected via CrossFireX.
The video cards connected via CrossFireX.

The CrossFireX cables installed, as well as the PCIe SATA card... But you can't see that.
The CrossFireX cables installed, as well as the PCIe SATA card... But you can't see that.

Beast, on the right, installed in my desk.
Beast, on the right, installed in my desk.

Profile shot of the Beast, running and set to go.
Profile shot of the Beast, running and set to go.

This daddy runs StarCraft II in 1680x1050 resolution in Windowed Fullscreen with all graphical settings at their maximum. It looks really, really nice, let me tell you. Running on a dual-monitor setup with 2 DVI KVMs so I can share the setup with my Linux development machine (which is also the machine I work on OMGN's code on). I'm running a set of Creative 5.1 surround speakers with it as well, I've had these for quite some time.

There you have it, folks. Beast.

Note: All photos in this post are clickable links to my Beast set on Flickr.

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