Well its been a bit quiet here because I’ve been pretty busy doing .. stuff .. and researching a new PC.

Now my current setup is no slouch but its no good for doing proper high res modelling and sculpting which considering that’s what I do is kind of a flaw in my plans for world domination. While at Ark I never really had the cash to splash out on a big brute of a system and I couldn’t justify it. What I have is good enough upto a point but I can’t get models to a final finished state. It just won’t go that extra mile in any workable fashion.

So when the redundancy and notice pay finally came through I was in a position to improve things. But the question was how?

In the past I’ve always built my own PC’s. I like to have a good idea of what’s going on under the case so I can optimise it, fix it and lets not forget upgrade it. But I’ve not properly done that for a few years and computing has moved on. Not that I couldn’t build one myself now but I’d just much rather spend my time doing work rather than sourcing and building a PC so I started looking round at all the suppliers I know and asking advice. Particularly my dad who seems to know things.

One company that was mentioned by a lot of people was Boxx Technologies. Now Boxx have been around for years and I knew their reputation for build quality and price. There was no doubt they could build me a monster of a machine but even their most basic was beyond my budget and I really didn’t like the idea that there was no information about what exactly was in them. Presumably the mobo and graphics cards are proprietary but even so I like to know what I’m paying for.

And then there’s the question of how much do I need? The answer is actually not as much as people think. I’m primarily a modeller, sculptor and texturer. Massive render jobs are not likely to be my main income and if I have to I can always hire in more processors. I never like going with bleeding edge tech as its always a bad investment so the biggest and best was not an issue. A complete system wasn’t needed as I’ve already got a monitor and storage drives that I know are reliable so I began my usual trick of seeing what components the major players where matching with each other, what reviewers said of each of them and more importantly what users were saying after some long term use. Don’t expect the reasons here to be deep or techy. I’m too lazy a writer to give you all that so as usual I’ll just give a vague reason. Just be assured there’s a lot of time and teeth pulling’s gone on behind the scenes.

So first was the CPU, mobo and memory. These weren’t a difficult choice. Whatever I tailor the machine for a good CPU and a lot of memory will always be of benefit. An Intel i7 950 was the not so obvious choice. A 970 would of given me 50% more cores but at nearly double the price. I couldn’t justify that especially as a 950 was already a massive jump up from what I’ve currently got. If I was just after a games machine then I could even go for an upper 800 series as they can actually perform better in games than the 950 but for general 3D related work the 950 overall has the slight advantage, especially once overclocked. As for the mobo .. well I’ve history with Asus. I’ve always found them very well specced boards, very reliable, robust and very easy to setup. I’m no techhead but I do want to overclock the CPU as I know the 950 can be without issue so the Sabretooth offered everything I needed without me paying extra for more geekiness (tech term for buckets of overclocking features) and while the 1366 sockets days are numbered the board should do me for a couple of years. (With hindsight and info from tech support this may not of been the best choice as theres an issue with that board that can prevent my overclocking the chip to 4Ghz. I’ll probably only get 3.5Ghz). As for memory, well I always go for matched pairs of Corsair or Kingston so I went for 12Gb of triple channel Corsair. Not the fastest but again they can be comfortably overclocked. They’re considered the best and my experience doesn’t disprove that. If 12Gb wasn’t enough and I had to page to the drive then I was also going to use an SSD for that for speed.

The graphics card though was a different matter. The ATi or Nvidia question was easy. I want Cuda and PhysX for a number of different tools so Nvidia it was. But then which one? There’s a lot to chose from, all subtly different and it took me a long time to decide what to go for. Ordinarily I’d go for the best I could but reading round the reviews it wasn’t cut and dried. An SLI 460 was a very favourable setup for the price. The negatives being it’d be double the power draw, take two slots up and still not be as good as the 580. SLI is also of most use in games which sadly isn’t my top priority. The 470 and 480 were ruled out for a whole host of reasons which left the 580. Its not the fastest card on the market, that honour goes to ATI, but its a definite improvement over the 460. Its also true that the graphics card would be a big influence on 70% of my work so the 580 it was. But what make? Again lots more research and I went with Gigabyte partly because its safely overclocked and has a very good cooling system that vents all the heat outside of the case.

Everything else was chosen to make it as silent and cold as possible. The PC sits on my desk (far away from the carpet) so is fairly close to my head. ATM I’m in the habit of wearing headphones just to dampen the noise from the fans and my desk acts as some kind of bass reflex as it amplifies it right around the house. I’m a bit tired of that now so big slow fans and vibration and noise damping everywhere. Water cooling for the CPU to give some extra support to the overclocking. Data drives are all external, cool and near silent. Easy to move, easy to replace, easy to backup.

However the power supply is probably one of the most important choices. Its power determines just how much you can run and its reliability can determine the life of your computer and data. Most shop supplied PSU’s are garbage, lets not beat about the bush. If your PSU goes it can destroy a big chunk of your computer with it. If its unstable it can cause you a whole load of issues from freezes to complete shut downs. From experience and research I think the best are Enermax, Tagan, Corsair, Thermaltake and maybe OCZ (I say maybe as the two PSU’s that I’ve blown have been and old Antec and an OCZ. The OCZ just fizzled and lost power. The Antec took my sound, my mobo and most of a drive). Never EVER scrimp on your PSU. Its the heart of your PC and as such the single most important component.

So who did I go with in the end? Cyber Power Solutions. Who? Exactly. My first choice had been an old favourite, Overclockers, but the amount of negative press about their after sales support was truly dreadful. I’d like to say they were the only ones but I then found the same for Scan, Aria and whole load of others I usually use. There was a lot of positive reviews too but reading many of them really left me feeling they were shill posts (written by themselves) and the nature of the negative reviews really left me appalled. I couldn’t afford to be let down by after sales support. Even though I could probably fix anything that went wrong I’d rather know I’ve got some professional backup to fall back on. Cyber Powers reviews weren’t perfect. I’d be suspicious if they were but the issues people did have had been dealt with professionally and courteously and not least with common sense. Everyone makes mistakes but how they deal with them is very telling.

And yes. Cyber Power was suggested by my dad.

Now the biggest problem is the snow. But thankfully they phoned me up to tell me it was causing delays and that I wouldn’t get my PC as soon as I needed. That is a big problem and may of just cost me some work but at least they went to the trouble of phoning me. That is very rare and very much appreciated.