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News: PC Gaming Week: Maximum PC Editors' Rigs

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We invite you in to check out our personal systems

In celebration of PC Gaming Week by our sister publications, we at Maximum PC thought it would be good to contribute to the cause, with an article dedicated to exploring the rigs of our editors. The bunch of us gathered together, and you could tell it was a battle of testies. Truth be told, it wasn’t really about who had what system, but rather, why did things get built that way and for what purpose. We hope you’ll see how diverse we are in terms of builds, and each build will be accompanied by the editor’s comments, on why they put together what they did.



In the media world, people like to talk about how we should remain unbiased. But truth be told, there’s some amount of bias in everything. And you know what? That’s great, because if you didn’t want valuable insights and opinions, you would read an article written by a robot. Bias, under appropriate moderation, allows you as a reader to come away with a level of awareness that help lead you toward either a better buying decision, or a better understanding of what helps and what’s just garbage.

We hope you enjoy reading about each of our personal rigs and the insights into why we picked the stuff we have.


First up: Alex Campbell, Associate Editor

CPU: AMD A8-5600K 3.6GHz

CPU cooler: ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro


Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-F2A88X-D3H


GPU: EVGA 01G-P3-1556-KR NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 1GB


RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3


SSD: Kingston HyperX 3K SH103S3/120G 120GB


HDD: Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 500GB 7200RPM x 2, Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB 6,200rpm


Audio: Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi


PSU: Rosewill RX850-S-B Extreme Series 850W


Case: CM Storm Scout 2 Advanced


Keyboard: Logitech K800


Mouse: Logitech M310


Display: An unimpressive 1080p display


Accessories: None




Alex Campbell's home rig.

My machine at home is a bit of a Frankenstein monster that I built in early 2014, from a combination of new-ish parts and cannibalized bits from my old desktop built in 2010. In early 2014, I was still in school finishing up my bachelor’s, which was focused on photojournalism.


In case I turned photography into a business, I needed a new machine to handle some photo editing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I also wanted a machine that could handle some video editing. I knew my budget wouldn’t be able to handle a 4K load, so I didn’t even try to reach that level. Instead, I focused on making sure I had enough storage to keep all the hefty RAW files from my Nikon D90.


I play games, too, so I needed a card that could render decent framerates with a some RTS and FPS games I could find on Steam. Primarily, though, my goal was to create a midrange digital workstation to produce media.


I’ve been an AMD builder most of my life, so I looked for a decent mid-range FM2 chip to do the number crunching, and settled on an AMD A8-5600K Trinity Quad-Core 3.6GHz. I dropped it into a GIGABYTE GA-F2A88X-D3H that I chose for its price, USB 3.0 ports, and decent reviews on Newegg. The fact that it sports 8 SATA 3 ports was a big plus, as I was planning on packing it full of spinning drives. I transplanted my ARCTIC Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 2 CPU Cooler onto my new chip, and used the stock AMD fan for my old CPU, which is now the heart of a SAMBA file server.


Video is powered by an EVGA GeForce GTX 550 Ti, which was a solid card, and can still play many games at a decent framerate. While it’s still a great card for what I paid, the 550 Ti doesn’t support many of the latest features of NVIDIA’s drivers and software.


I grabbed a couple of 8GB DDR3 1866 GSKILL Ripjaw X Series RAM sticks to run my apps. Sure, 1866 wasn’t the fastest speed available, but again, my starving-student budget didn’t give me much wiggle room.


Storage was the name of the game for this build, so I nabbed a 120GB Kingston HyperX 3K SH103S3 SSD for my system partitions. The SSD houses both Windows 8.1 and Arch Linux. A pair of 500GB Seagate Barracudas house my “active” video and photo files. One drive serves as the “main” working disk and the other is the backup. In case you’re wondering, they’re not linked in RAID 1, because RAID is not a backup scheme, it’s a drive redundancy scheme. Using the second drive as a backup ensures that if something happens to my work, I can get the next most recent version of my working files back.


Media and personal live on a 1TB Barracuda, which is split between an NTFS partition for Windows and an Ext4 partition for my Linux /home directory.


I threw all of this into a CM Storm Scout 2 Advanced case. The case is nice because the built-in front LEDs have their own toggle switch and the carrying handle on top is quite comfortable to use. When I moved up to the Bay Area, it was much easier to pack into my car than my server was. It also has decent space for cable management on the back panel and plenty of fan-mounting options.


I powered the rig with a 850W Rosewill RX850-S-B Xtreme Series I transplanted from the server box. The power supply is 80 Plus Bronze, which helps with my power bill. The thing is also surprisingly silent, which is nice if I sleep with the computer on in my room.


My storage solution also includes my server, running on a quad-core Athlon X2 Black Edition with two cores unlocked in BIOS. The server’s Arch Linux image lives on a 60GB SanDisk SSD. A pair of 2TB Barracudas serve as photo-archive drives. One drive serves as the primary and the other as backup, just like the working drives in my main box. Backups are automated with rsync and cron. The server also has a 3TB Barracuda for NAS use and is encrypted with dm-crypt/LUKS. I really should buy a couple more for a RAID array, though. The server is powered by a 650W Cooler Master GX.


My peripherals and display are rather lackluster and in dire need of replacement, but I do like my illuminated Logitech K800. It’s not mechanical or great for gaming, but the backlighting is gentle and fades in and out as you move your hands over it, which is great for working at night, or just adjusting the system volume while watching Netflix from across the room.



Tom McNamara, Technical Editor

CPU: Intel Core i7 3770K @ 4.2GHz


CPU cooler: NZXT Kraken X40


Motherboard: Gigabyte GX-Z77-UD5H


GPU: MSI Gaming 4G NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980


RAM: Corsair LP 16GB (4x 4GB) DDR3


SSD: Crucial M500 480GB


HDD: Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB


Audio: Onboard


PSU: Thermaltake TPG-675M Toughpower 675W


Case: Fractal Design Define XL R2


Keyboard: Logitech G710+


Mouse: Logitech M310


Display: Dell S2340M 23-inch


Accessories: None



Tom McNamara's home rig.

My overall strategy with this system was to create something that would be fairly quiet, spacious, and understated. I don't go for case windows because they let more noise through, and I get over looking through them after a few days anyway. So, the Fractal Design Define XL R2 fit the bill. It has sound-absorbing panels and three 140mm fans pre-installed.


For the CPU, I wanted something with eight threads, so I went with the Intel Core i7-3770K. It gets me better performance than AMD's FX-8350, and it draws much less power. I cool it with an NZXT Kraken X40, since I'm not going for particularly high clock speeds. I still use the original "Kraken Control" software instead of CAM, because I prefer the simpler interface. The radiator is mounted in the top of the case. The GA-Z77-UD5H motherboard has served me pretty well so far. I might try an Asus board in the future, because I like their fan control software, and I tend to get pretty high overclocks out of them, and with less fiddling in the BIOS. I use low-profile RAM because you never know when you might need the physical clearance, and I don't need fancy heatsinks. DDR3 just doesn't get hot enough to warrant them, in my experience.


I went with the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G because I wanted something beefy, but not noisy. This GPU is rated to pull around 165 watts under load, so the card's cooling fans don't have to make much noise. I can also add a second 980 without stressing out my 675-watt power supply, whereas two Radeon R9 290Xs would call for about 850 watts.


For storage, I got a good deal on a 480GB Crucial M500, but I ended up running out of room for my Steam games, so I got a 1TB Samsung 840 EVO to give me some breathing room. I was using my 4TB Seagate HDD to copy games over when I needed room; copying them back later is much faster than re-downloading. It's also good to have for system and file backups.


For input, I've been using the Corsair M65 for a while now. Its finish doesn't rub or flake off, which I've had happen with other mice. That flaking makes the texture feel weird and like the mouse is dirty even though it looks fine. I'll probably be trying out the Logitech G303 soon, though, for some variety.


I got a good deal on the Dell S2340M monitor, and I liked it so much that I bought another. The back of it is a bit awkward, though; bulky DVI connectors simply can't fit. It also doesn't do HDMI. The image quality is great, and the bezels are thin, but 23 inches is just a bit too small for my tastes. I'll probably be getting a 2560x1440 monitor soon, now that we're going to be getting things like 144Hz IPS and FreeSync. Unfortunately, the S2340M doesn't rotate into portrait mode, and I don't currently have enough desk space for two of those and a 1440p display. First-world problems.


I've had good luck with Logitech's keyboards, so I bought a G710+ a while back. It has white LED backlighting, Cherry MX brown mechanical switches, and some macro keys that I never use. But it's quiet and hasn't let me down yet. I tried the Corsair RGB keyboard, but I found its keys too springy for my taste. Before this, I was using a Tesoro Durandal G1NL, which is also Cherry MX Brown, but with a reddish-orange backlight similar to the Sidewinder X4 that I had before that. I stopped using the G1NL because it wouldn't initialize until Windows had booted, meaning I couldn't access the BIOS. No amount of tweaking would fix it. I keep hoping that Microsoft will enter the mechanical keyboard fray, but they don't seem to be interested in enthusiast keyboards or mice anymore.


I play a variety of games on this rig. Lately, it's been Cities: Skylines, which some people have described to me as the de facto sequel to Sim City 4. I think it's pretty great, especially for $30. I've also been dabbling with Star Citizen; its very transparent and publisher-free development process has been fascinating to watch. Shadow of Mordor has also been great fun, and I'm looking forward to testing my system's limits with The Witcher 3.



Jimmy Thang, Online Managing Editor

CPU: Intel Core i7 3770K


CPU cooler: Stock


Motherboard: Something useful




RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3


SSD: Samsung 840 Pro 256GB


HDD: Seagate Desktop HDD 4TB


Audio: Onboard


PSU: A car battery


Case: Fractal Design Define R4


Keyboard: Razer Black Widow


Mouse: Logitech G602


Display: ASUS VG248QE 24-inch 144Hz



Jimmy Thang's home rig.

At the heart of my current home rig, I’m using a 3770K CPU, GTX Titan GPU, and 16GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM. In addition to gaming, I dabble in photo and video editing, and my i7 processor and 16GB of RAM are good enough for my amateur needs there. I’ve also got a 4TB Seagate HDD that allows me to store the copious assets. Of course, that isn’t my only storage drive. For the OS, I’m running a Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSD, which allows my PC to boot up in under 15 seconds. All of this is wrapped in a white Define R4 chassis, which I like because of its clean aesthetics.


Currently, my main display is a 24-inch 144Hz 3D panel from Asus. I don’t use the 3D features at all, but I do like having super high framerates (for when 60fps simply won’t do). I also have a separate 24-inch IPS display from Dell, which I use as a secondary monitor to help with productivity work. My GeForce GTX Titan may seem overkill for a 1080p display, but I’m also playing around with an Oculus Rift DK2, which has demos render 1080p scenes twice for each eye, and demands experiences be a consistent 75fps. VR games like space simulator Elite Dangerous really put my Titan to work here.



When I’m not running around in VR, I find myself playing a lot of different indie games like Darkest Dungeon or Transistor. I was also really into League of Legends for a while. Yes, these games don’t tax my hardware at all, but I’ll occasionally play more demanding games, such as Evolve or Shadow of Mordor, and I like knowing that I have a relatively future-proof rig capable of maxing out any game I throw at it. This, of course, will change when I make the eventual move to a 4K monitor (I’m mostly waiting for the scaling issues to be resolved before I dive in).


The accessories I’m using to play these games include Razer’s Black Widow mechanical keyboard (I like the really loud and clicky feel of it) and Logitech’s Daedalus Prime mouse, which was originally designed for MOBAs with its quick click-actuation time. For audio, I’m using Corsair’s Vengeance 2100 wireless headset. It can be a burden to charge every now and then, but the audio quality and sound isolation are great, and I really enjoy the freedom of being able to walk around my room untethered as I listen to music. I’m also using a wireless Xbox 360 controller, which I feel is the best controller for PC gaming at the moment, but that could change with Valve’s Steam Controller that’s coming out this November.



Tuan Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief

System 1, The Workhorse:


CPU: Intel Core i7 3970X


CPU cooler: NZXT Kraken X41


Motherboard: ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition




RAM: Samsung “Green” Low-profile (8 x 4GB) DDR3


SSD: Samsung 850 Pro 256GB x 2


HDD: Western Digital Black WD4003FZEX 4TB x 4


Audio: Onboard + Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1, Astro Gaming A40 headset


PSU: Seasonic Platinum-1000 1000w


Case: NZXT H440 Black/Blue


Keyboard: Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate


Mouse: Razer DeathAdder 2013


Display: Dell UltraSharp U3011 30-inch, Dell UtraSharp 2311h 23-inch


Accessories: APC Smart-UPS 1500 UPS, Fujitsu U2300 Magneto-Optical drive, Logitech C920 webcam



Gigabyte X79A-UD5 mobo has since been replaced with an ASUS Rampge IV Black Edition.

System 2, The Decapitator: Digital Storm Bolt 3


CPU: Intel Core i7 4790K


CPU cooler: Digital Storm HydroLux Liquid


Motherboard: ASUS Maximus VII Impact




RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum (2 x 8GB) DDR3


SSD: Samsung 850 Pro 512GB


HDD: Western Digital Black WD4003FZEX 4TB


Audio: Onboard + [below], Astro Gaming A50 headset


PSU: Seasonic Platinum-1000 1000w


Case: Digital Storm Bolt 3


Keyboard: Das Keyboard 3 Ultimate


Mouse: Logitech G502


Display: Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UB Projector


Accessories: APC Smart-UPS 1000 UPS, Xbox 360 controller (wired)


Audio: Pioneer Elite VSX-82TXS receiver, Aperion Audio Verus Grand HD speakers



Tuan's Decapitator: Digital Storm Bolt 3


I’ve been a gamer for as long as I could remember. I gamed on Atari’s old systems, 286 PCs with yellow monochrome CRT monitors, and a huge array of everything available, up until today. I grew up on all the consoles. I actually don’t own any of the recent consoles, but I do own a first-generation Sony PlayStation running over SCART RGB video into my receiver—I know, it’s pretty nerdy, but I love it. The last console I bought was an Xbox 360. There just aren’t enough great games on the current consoles to warrant getting them. But there are many, many great games on the PC. My setup consists of two different PCs for two different purposes, although one could argue that the two systems could swap duties just fine.


The first system is called The Workhorse. It’s used for… you guessed it, work. I’d wager though, that it could play games decently, too. I do play a limited number of games on it, but I save the real entertainment for another system.


I went with an NZXT H440 chassis because I enjoy having a minimalistic and clean setup, at least on the outside. On the inside, however, I’ve crammed just about the best components that I could into the system. It’s using a Sandy Bridge Extreme Edition only because I haven’t the chance to move into the new CPUs, but the Core i7 3970X is still a beastly six-core CPU. The motherboard is a loaded ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition, and I chose it because I ended up preferring ASUS’s EFI over Gigabyte’s. Previous to the Rampage, I was using a Gigabyte X79A-UD5 board, which wasn’t quite as stable. And honestly, Gigabyte really needs to do a better job with their firmware. One of the photos shows my old Gigabyte motherboard, but the more recent photo of the entire computer shows the ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition.


I’d like to point out that the RAM you see in the photo doesn’t look like much. In fact, it may even look like old DIMM sticks before heatsinks became all the rage. In the overclocking community, these Samsung DDR3 sticks are considered the “golden” standard. They run so cool and clock so fast, you don’t even need heatsinks. I’ve never been a fan of decorative heatsinks, instead I prefer simple ones with actual fins that are efficient at removing heat. A lot of the stuff that’s out there today is all about grabbing your attention. Give me stability over that any day.


Other than that, the components I picked are what I feel are best in class. From the SSD to HDD, to GPU and PSU, the components I have in The Workhorse are essentially the best. The Dell UltraSharp U3011 was the company’s previous flagship 30-incher. Dell now has the U3014, which delivers a 30-inch display backed by LED instead of the CCFL backlighting in the U3011. Still, it’s a beauty, but it’s not a “gaming” display by any means. It doesn’t do any of the faster refresh rates, nor does it have the best response time for some types of games, and it doesn’t come with G-Sync either. I use an Acer XB280HK 4K 28-inch display at work that has G-Sync, and I can honestly say, I want G-Sync or FreeSync in all my future displays.


To round out the system, I use a Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate for input nirvana. I actually have 3 of these keyboards. Once for this system, one for the entertainment system, and one for my PC at the office. I’m just a really big fan of Cherry MX blue switches. And yes, all the keys are blank on these keyboards.


OK, enough work, let’s play.


For my entertainment duties, I was really attracted to Digital Storm’s Bolt series of PCs. No only does Digital Storm build really good PCs, they do so with the best components that you and I can buy. Thus exists the Bolt 3.


Digital Storm designed a chassis that I feel is an excellent fit for the living room—that is, not too big, and looks great laying horizontally. At this point, you might be asking why didn’t I just build another rig. Good question. My answer is, this publication is called Maximum PC, not Maximum DIY. I think as fans of PCs, and fans of technology in general, we should appreciate and embrace all types of technology. There are plenty of reasons why someone would choose to build or not to build. Since I’ve been building all my life, I figured: why not see what’s going on the other side? And you know what? It’s awesome! Funny how life works.


The Bolt 3 is loaded to the gills with the best parts: an NVIDIA Titan X, Core i7 4790K, Samsung 850 Pro SSD, and more. The best part of the rig, though, is the design. It’s sleek, black, and has a huge plane of dark tempered glass covering one side of the system. It’s slightly larger than the outgoing Bolt 2, but the slight increase in volume allows better airflow, as well as maintenance. In fact, there’s space for two Titan X cards, but I have yet to figure out how to cram that second card in.



For its duties as a home-theater gaming rid, the Bolt 3 is connected via HDMI to my Pioneer receiver, which in turn is connected to a monster of a projector: an Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UB. This is one of the best prosumer 1080p projectors you can buy. It’s extremely highly rated, and outputs a mind-blowingly good picture, even with ambient lighting.


I play (or have played): Battlefield 4, Titanfall, League of Legends, Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, Supernova (alpha), and a bunch of other titles. Right now though, the game I enjoy playing the most is Ori and the Blind Forest. If you haven’t played it, get it. If you don’t know it, get it. My game library is a mixed bag of different genres, and we know that different games require different hardware to get maximum fidelity. So, going with a Bolt 3 configured as it is allows me to enjoy any title on the market in my living room without fuss. Of course, we’d be just as happy and supportive if you built your own, too.


Other than games, I use the Bolt 3 for all other duties, such as movie playback, and the occasional web browsing.


And that's a wrap

We hope you enjoyed having a deep look into what we use for our own personal systems at home. We try to keep things varied, and all of us have different things that we do with our PCs. No matter what each of us use though, one thing is clear: we love to build stuff. I'd like to point out though that Alex only showed a photo of his PC from the outside because his system is horrendously dusty on the inside. Awful!


We're interested in what you guys have in your builds, or if you bought a pre-built, what did you configure it with and why? Why one CPU over another? Why 64GB of RAM instead of 32GB? Is there a brand favorite you have and why? And, if you have questions for our editors about their specific setup, hit us up in the comments!


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