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Building Our New PC Gaming Rig - The AusGamers 3000 (Part Two)
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 04:15pm 19/12/17 | Comments
Where we continue our journey to put together a kick-ass PC gaming rig in 2017...

In case you missed it, last week we posted Part One in our epic journey to build a new gaming PC. Just in time for the holidays and all the big 2017 releases. Right from the get go we decided that our previous (aging) rig was simply not good enough to recycle. So, taking a cable from over here or a hard disk from over there was out of the question. Now, if we’re being completely honest we could have recycled a few of the drives. After all, for all its USB 2.0 glory it did feature a pair of SSDs – one for Windows 10 and another for Steam, GOG, 16-bit and old DOS-era games.

But, saying one thing and then doing another is not something that we abide. And really, building the entire rig from scratch felt like the only way to do it. Which in turn led to us living up to the Wonder Years theme song. In that we began asking and gently leaning on our friends for help. Getting in touch with colleagues in the hardware supplier game and discussing options over biscuits and tea in the garden.

Discussing overclocking both memory and increasing voltage settings over some Earl Grey

Yeah it was mostly emails, phone calls, and the odd meet and greet at conventions.

Anyway, in Part One we went through some of the main pieces of hardware that make-up the AusGamers 3000. Not just another Personal Computer in the year 2017, but a gaming rig that’s both affordable and powerful.

The story so far…

    The CPU: AMD Ryzen 1800X
    The CPU Cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120
    The Motherboard: GIGABYTE AX370-Gaming 5
    The GPU: ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
    The PC Case: Cooler Master MasterCase Pro 6

The AusGamers 3000 as seen in the 1967 French film 'Le Pretentious Photographique'

What did we learn? Well, that AMD are back in the CPU game in big way – and that its multi-core Ryzen line of processors represent great value for money. Also, liquid cooling is arguably easier to manage, install, and setup than a traditional and bulky CPU fan and heatsink combo. Also, modular cases like the Cooler Master MasterCase Pro 6 prove that there are still advancements to be made in the case game. From design features that minimise and improve cable management, through to being able to shift and move and decide on the best layout for your parts.

Gigabyte not only make a great motherboard, but its Aorus line has great performance features and other things that we didn’t know we needed until now. Like RGB lighting, a programmable feature of the GIGABYTE AX370-Gaming 5 that ignited a previously unknown element deep inside us. An element that now cannot live without a few of the 16.7 million colours that come from the RGB lights inside our case.

Step Five – Random Access Memories

    The Part: Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR4 3200 Memory
    The Price: ~ $500.00

RAM, another aspect of a build where you should never cut corners.

Not only in terms of how much to put in, but also in relation to speed and reliability. The memory that sits next to your CPU acts as bridge between data and stuff happening on screen. We think. Anyway, this isn’t a lesson in what RAM does, but having 32GB of it means being able to access multiple programs at once and alt-tabbing to check walkthroughs for solutions to difficult in-game puzzles the latest stock prices on our important stock quickly and easily.

Also, the jump to DDR4 means faster speeds in addition to more gigabytes. But, in the realm of the Ryzen CPU this unfortunately meant being limited to 3200MHz as opposed to the faster overall memory speeds supported by certain Intel processors and compatible boards. That being said 32GB of DDR4 RAM is more than enough to handle gaming and even stuff like video editing. Where we assume one could edit a better version of something like Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace by putting in more Jar Jar Binks. What a hilarious Gungan he was.

So glad he's the star of the new trilogy.

Ahem. Anyway, you get the idea. Choosing Ballistix Elite memory was easy thanks to the rugged look and exceptional built quality that has slowly made Crucial one of the better makers of storage and memory solutions in recent years. With the Ballistix line aimed at the gaming market, Elite memory represents both quality and performance.

Step Six – Storage Wars

    The Parts: Crucial MX300 525GB M.2 SSD / Crucial MX300 525GB 2.5" SATA III SSD
    The Prices: $226.99 / $208.99

When it comes to storage, SSD is one of those technologies that once you experience there’s just no way you can go back to using a standard hard-drive for anything other than being a media repository. A place to house files that end in .mkv and .flac. But if storing media, documents, samples, video projects, and other large volume things isn’t the primary concern of the SSD solution, then why would we need two?

Well, to answer that one need only to look at the most recent advance in storage - the M.2 SSD. Which looks like a mini RAM chip that you plug-in and fasten directly onto your motherboard. Not only similar in look, the M.2 SSD also provides both read and write speeds that are closer to RAM than those found with traditional hard-drives. Or even older SSDs.

And with 530MB/s Read, 510MB/s Write an M.2 is the best place to house your Windows 10 install in the year 2017. With a secondary 2.5" SATA III SSD being the perfect option for game installs. And then a third drive for media and file storage.

    The Part: Seagate 4TB BarraCuda 3.5" SATA3 Desktop Hard Drive
    The Price: $162.99

For files ending in .mkv and .flac.

Step Seven – Monitor Wars IV: The Search for a Screen Continues

Okay, so we still haven’t decided on which monitor to get.

A pretty big part of what makes up a PC we know. Why, without a screen a PC is a fancy box filled with mysterious silicon that sits there doing nothing. Currently, we’re using an Ultra-Wide Acer X34 – which we reviewed here. And really, it changed our whole display approach. And to some extent, lives too. Where now 4K doesn’t seem like the be all and end all it once was.

There’s just something about an Ultra-Wide screen that is more impressive than a simple resolution bump. If Ultra-Wide monitors were a religion we’d gladly join, especially if it turns out that the universe is several billion years old and that an ancient race of space lizards used to game in 640x480 before discovering the wonders of a widescreen HD display that you could watch Star Wars without the need for borders.

In fact, it’s a crazy time to be on the lookout for a new screen in general. With HDR capable displays still missing for the most part, and 2018 promising to introduce several HDR-ready screens at various resolutions and aspect ratios.

So, with that in mind we know what to look for but haven’t made the plunge just yet.

    1. Preferably ultra-wide with a 21:9 aspect ratio
    2. A horizontal resolution of 1440p or 2160p (4K)
    3. G-Sync support with a refresh-rate of at least 100Hz
    4. HDR capabilities

Which, when you think about it is specific enough to make a decision right now. So, stay tuned as we announce the winner of – ‘So, You Think You Can Dance and Become AusGamers New PC Monitor?’

Step Eight – Mouse and Keyboard

When it comes to input devices we’re no fan of the wire. But, when it comes to police procedurals we are fans of HBO’s The Wire. Which, is that rare thing of being as amazing as everyone talks it up to be.

Okay, back to input devices. As soon as console controllers went the way of the no-wire, PC peripherals kind of went the same way. So, it’s common these days to find both a wireless mouse and keyboard combo on many a desktop. But, when it comes to gaming and the required low latency, anti-ghosting, and zero point zero zero interference issues, wireless can be a bit of a mixed bag. Which is why most gaming desktops (the physical kind) mostly feature both a wired keyboard and a wired mouse. With one usually being mechanical and the other offering DPI settings where a twitch of a finger can result in a complete 180-degree turn, zoom, and fire in a modern FPS.

Which brings us to Logitech and two of their wireless gaming efforts.

    The Part: Logitech G613 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
    The Price: $149.00

As per our review, the Logitech G613 offers the feedback of a mechanical keyboard with the precision and accuracy usually associated with a wired option. In terms of design, outside of the fact that it doesn’t feature any sort of per-key or RGB lighting, the Logitech G613 is a fantastic option for both regular PC use and gaming. From the simple to program function keys to the dedicated wrist-rest and media keys, the G613 sports a great minimal look to match its functionality. And best of all, it’s wireless. With range and accuracy that can be extended via a game-mode switch, in addition to Bluetooth capabilities for additional device-pairing. A keyboard so good that these very words were born from deep within its hard plastic shell.

    The Part: Logitech G903 Lightspeed Wireless Gaming Mouse
    The Price: $179.00

Okay, so in terms of hardware equivalents the Logitech G603 wireless mouse pairs with the G613 keyboard. In terms of both look and functionality. But it’s a mouse that sits on both the productivity and gaming sides of the usage fence. Scroll down to the most expensive and premium wireless mouse that Logitech offer, and you get the G903 – arguably the best wireless gaming mouse on the planet.

A bold claim to be sure, and one that assumes other planets have yet to develop their own wireless gaming mouse tech, but it’s the sort of conclusion one comes to after spending a few hours with the G903. With fully customizable side buttons, weight, and impressive build quality, the G903 is a gaming mouse through and through. And hey, it’s one of the few Logitech products that opts for RGB lighting – with the Logitech G logo subtly lighting during use.

Step Nine – Sounds Good

    The Part: Sennheiser Game Zero
    The Price: $399.95

A decent gaming headset isn’t hard to find. Especially when companies like Razer, Logitech, Audio Technica, ASTRO, Roccat, Sennheiser, and many more, are all releasing great products. And in the end, when it comes to sound you usually get what you pay for. Plus, personal preference plays an important role.

As someone who won’t listen to music unless it's in a lossless digital or analog audio format, you might say that when picking the right headset what was more important to me may not be the same for you. With that in mind, the superb balance and straight up monitor-grade stereo sound of the Sennheiser Game Zero headset proved to be one of the most impressive we tested in 2017.

Step Ten – The Audiophile Edge

Okay, what does it mean to be an audiophile? Well, like with any pursuit there are grades and levels of how deep one’s obsession can go. In the realm of audio this can even go so far as purchasing speaker cables that cost more than most people’s cars. It’s not quite that level for me just yet, though winning the lotto might change that. Instead, as someone who also dabbles in music production (with a sweet synthwave album called Kbit – Future Yesterday) you might say that when it comes to gaming on a PC the audio setup errs on the side of monitoring. And stereo. Which is the combination of a dedicated sound card paired with bookshelf speakers designed for monitoring music and audio production.

Which, results in a clear sound where no emphasis is placed on bass, mids, or highs. All three come through as clear as the source material intended.

    The Part: Audioengine D1 Premium 24-Bit DAC / Headphone Amp
    The Price: $169

As an external sound-card primarily used to drive headphones the D1 from Audioengine is brilliant for two reasons – it offers 24-bit high-res audio great for listening to music and the sort of headphone amplification that can take stereo gaming to the next level. The only thing missing is a microphone input, so on that front you might want to check out something like the Sennheiser GSX 1000.

    The Part: Audioengine 5+ Premium Powered Speakers
    The Price: $679

Rich, detailed, and crisp sound is one way to describe this bookshelf offering from Audioengine. As fans of larger speakers, namely in the 8-inch range, we were surprised by just how powerful and room-filling the Audioengine 5+ speakers can be. And all without distorting or providing an artificially enhanced sound. Again, this is rich, detailed, crisp, and impressive sound that will make you a true believer in the power of stereo gaming.

Stay tuned, as Part Three is all about the AusGamers 3000 in action. Benchmarks, running games at maximum settings, and more. In the meantime, enjoy these shots of the completed build.

Prices taken from current Mwave and other online store listings.

Special thanks to our many hardware suppliers and partners including AMD, Nvidia, Cooler Master, Gigabyte, Crucial, Seagate, Logitech, Sennheiser, and Audioengine.