We load our motherboard with RAM and processors for an eagerly anticipated boot test.
In part one of Greatest Gaming Rig, we took a look at what components we’d be featuring in the machine, as well as the accessories we’d be pairing with it. Now that we’ve got our grubby mitts on all the different bits and pieces, we’re ready to start building our behemoth. This week, we’re taking a closer look at the motherboard, RAM, and processors we’re going to use.
The EVGA SR-2 is an absolute monster of a motherboard. Not only does it support some of the latest desktop standards, such as SATA III and USB 3.0, but it also features a multitude of enthusiast-friendly features, which are capable of pushing components to the limit. It supports up to 48GB of DDR3-1600 RAM across 12 DIMM sockets; has two CPU sockets for dual Xeon processors; six SATA 3Gbps ports; two SATA 6Gbps ports; two eSATA sockets; 10 USB 2 ports; two USB 3 ports; two gigbit LAN sockets; and built-in 7.1 surround. However, its most unique feature is its seven PCIe slots, four of which can act as true 16X speed slots in parallel. This is different from most motherboards with several PCIe slots, which drop the speed of PCIe lanes to 8X when multiple cards are installed. The SR-2 accomplishes this feat by including two Nvidia Nforce 200 PCIe bridges, giving it a total of 64 PCIe v2 lanes--double that of most boards.
Overclockers are well catered for, with a number of features specifically designed for test-bench work without a case. There’s a row of voltage-monitoring points along the front edge of the PCB, allowing you to check voltages with a multimeter, a POST code display for boot diagnostics, and onboard power and reset buttons. There are also two CMOS reset buttons, as well as a BIOS switch. This allows you to load the board up with multiple BIOSs, so if you accidentally brick the board with some foolhardy tinkering, you can simply switch to backup and move forward.
Because the SR-2 has so many features, it really ups the stakes in power requirements. Each CPU socket has its own 8-pin power connector, as well as an optional 6-pin PCIe connection, so you have plenty of juice for pushing the clock speed when overclocking. There is also an additional 6-pin PCIe near the expansion slots, which is required when using multiple graphics cards. This makes it tricky to find power supplies that can actually power the board, as most aren’t supplied with enough power connectors to plug onto it, even if they can push enough voltage.
Of course, with so many features, the SR-2 isn’t exactly small. At 13.5 inches long and 15 inches wide, it’s one of the biggest motherboards available on the market. It’s so big in fact, that it only fits in a handful of cases without serious modification. EVGA has tried to get more manufacturers on board by giving the board a new form factor name, known as HPTX, though we can’t see many other chipset makers making boards of this size any time soon. However, none of this matters once you see the board in person--it is truly a thing of beauty. The sheer number of slots, capacitors, and buttons make it an awe-inspiring sight, and the red-and-black color scheme just adds to the wow factor. Also impressive are the number of high-quality heatsinks already installed, underneath which live the Intel 5520 chipset, Intel ICH10R Southbridge, and two Nvidia nForce 2 PCI-E controllers, all cooled by a single 60mm fan.
Slotting into our motherboard are Intel’s X5680 Xeon processors, which are at the top of their product range, a fact reflected in their £1250 price tag. They’re based on the Gulftown family of chips, which feature a 3.33Ghz clock speed, a 32 nanometer design, 12MB of L3 cache, and six cores with hyperthreading, allowing for 12 processing threads to run simultaneously. They also feature dual QPI links, which allow two processors to be used in the same system; something that can’t be done with Core i7 chips. The X5680s are intended to be used in servers and top-of-the-line workstations, often for rendering programs, medical research, and 3D design. They might be overkill for gaming, but they should ensure that our rig will be able to handle everything we throw at it.
For memory, we’re using unbuffered DDR3 RAM from Crucial’s Ballistix range. They’re 240 pin modules that run at on 1.8v at 1600Mhz, have an integrated aluminum heat spreader, and feature embedded LEDs, which light up when the RAM is accessed. The spreaders are also available in a variety of colors, with matching LEDs, so the style conscious can ensure their case is color coordinated. Though the EVGA SR-2 supports fully buffered RAM, we’re using unbuffered RAM due to its slightly better performance.
Check back here next week when we take a look at graphics cards and storage; we'll also go for a test boot to see if the kit plays nicely together. Don’t forget we’re giving you the chance to win the entire rig*, complete with accessories! Just head over here to find out more.
* To enter you have to be over 13 and a UK resident; the competition is subject to our normal terms and conditions.
I have a couple of points to make. Firstly, Intel never released any Core 2 CPU's with hyperthreading. Some could argue that the C2Q processors weren't STRICTLY quad core, as uber-geeks consider them a pair of dual cores on a single chip, but it still wasn't hyperthreading. Secondly, another great reason for not using water cooling exclusively in the rig. Memory and other components with only heatsinks installed and no fans directly mounted on them, require air movement within the case. Even just as small as the air getting blown outwards from the base of a CPU heatsink can make the difference between hot RAM and toasted RAM
@DarxPhil Back at ya, There's nothing quite like hitting the power and seeing that PC you've so carefully built come to life for the first time.
@NeilCardiff Exactly. You're never gonna get anywhere if you just keep waiting for the best next thing, as you said, get what fits your budget and run with it. When it gets really outdated and begins to run like crap in the things you do, then build a better system or upgrade the current system if possible. This is in fact an awesome hobby and i love getting the chance to build a new rig. :) I agree with ya 100%
@DarxPhil "I don't think anyone can argue that a new, better and faster part is always coming around the corner." That's what I was my thinking when I built my PC, many people said if you wait then they are releasing this new mobo, gfx card, processor etc. in a few months so wait. All you can do is find the best components that suit your budget and get them, there is no point waiting as there is always a new component just around the corner. (Obvious leaps in technology like multi core processors aside) I have never regretted the decisions I made and I am still very happy with my PC and know it will perform very well for at least another year of maybe more. When my PC starts to flag and does become "outdated in terms of technology" then I will have the pleasure of researching and building my next kick ass PC. I treat this as a hobby and feel like I have nothing to prove to anyone by enjoying it to the fullest.
@DarxPhil I am aware that 720p is a low resolution and actually my pc is a budget (costed me just a little over 300$ to build) , but I still dream of buying that nice fast pc , not this one though as it is an overkill ; I wonder how much they paid to build it.
@zidan4000 It's inevitable that technology will change, it progresses at a rapid rate. I don't think anyone can argue that a new, better and faster part is always coming around the corner. But you don't have to buy into it, there are so many factors to it. 720p is a pretty low res in the PC gaming world, so i not surprised your old PC can keep with newer titles, and the fact that the majority of PC games coming out are poorly done Consoles ports, making it easier to run on older hardware.
@NeilCardiff I was talking about terms of technology itself and not games as my pc is older than yours and I still can run some games on high @720p , what I meant is that if you have the latest and the best gpu for this year , next year a better gpu will be released ,the same goes with cpu.
@zidan4000 "dude if your pc is more than one year old then it is outdated in terms of technology I would like seeing you proving me otherwise ." How can anyone disprove something that is nothing more than your opinion. And why would anyone want to try and disprove something so obviously wrong. My PC is nearly 2 years old and it still has no problem running any game on maximum settings. If you owned a high end PC yourself you would understand.
@Humorguy_basic dude if your pc is more than one year old then it is outdated in terms of technology I would like seeing you proving me otherwise .
You know people are just gonna spend a mind boggling amount of time figuring it out to enter this. Don't blame them though.
Clearly one of the juiciest rigs ever in terms of money as lots ( and i mean all) of peripherals are miles more than what you would really want for gaming. It is meant to be a complete gaming rig.... Let's hope someone drops in a nice n juicy 3D monitor in there with some 3D glasses as well.
This is to get us to buy unneeded hardware - just like getting us to buy crap games from big companies rather than great games from small companies (based on the biased reviews they give!). If your PC is less than 3 years old and was up to date at that time, you don't need to upgrade. The media might still love calling the PS3 and 360 "Next-Gen", but the machines are getting on for 6 years old now! With 99% of AAA PC games now being console conversions, it would be amazing if code running on a 6 year old console would not work on a 3 year old PC! So keep you money in your pockets for those great indie and European PC only titles that game sites like this don't want to talk about, and have as much PC gaming fun while you can as PC releases are getting fewer and fewer each year!
whoever wins this don't listen to them and buy some fantastic water cooling before you even turn this on lol or else it will melt especially when gaming...
@wildshade haha, yeah if you're worried about electricity bills, then this isn't for you. Especially as it's looking like we're going to need two power supplies to run it.
sigh..... ram timings? must be low if they're using 1600 "They might be overkill for gaming, but they should ensure that our rig will be able to handle everything we throw at it." lets spend that money instead of working out the math to ensure we clear that cpu bottleneck... *face palm*
I think ur best to lock this up as some geeks will be forming a gang to steal it once it's up and running : ) Anyone fancy it? lol. Just don't give out the address to the winner >: )
This is why I think console drag PC games down. But thanks to consoles, at least games that come can be play on my old crappy laptop. :P
* To enter you have to be over 13 and a UK resident; the competition is subject to our normal terms and conditions. Payback Americans! I'm so happy right now. OnLive = US only Vindictus = US only Now this is UK only. Finally some justice in the world!
'Deserve' this? hahaha, if your the kind of person who deserves this then you need to buy yourself a nice big nuclear reactor otherwise people are gonna start complaining that their lights are randomly going out hahaha =P Or this could happen to your City =P - (copy and paste into your web bar =/) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WSPqLKgnQs
If you're looking for a case to fit all this into I have a nice one under my desk I'd like to try to fit it into :)
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