The Real Skinny on Super Rigs

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The Pros and Cons – David Genovese, aka “Exempt”

It’s about time to clarify things for the guys/gals that tend to look up at us when it comes to the “Super Rigs”. When I say “Super Rigs”, I’m referring to the ones out there with the “cream-of-the-crop-up-to-date” computer components. Were the ones that pre-order the newest, top of the line equipment, only to mod it or tweak it to make it even better…then post the results and update our sigs.

Most of you know me by “Exempt” here at Overclockers.com, and I frequent a lot of the hardcore forums. If you have seen my sig, you’d know my specs; for those of you that don’t, here it is:

  • 3.2ee @ 4.2 GHz
  • Vapochill LS (fan swapped, new PCB fan controller installed)
  • Chaintech 9cjs Zenith
  • 1 GB Corsair DDR550 XMS pro
  • WD 74 GB SATA Raptors x2 in RAID 0
  • 120 GB WD x2 in RAID 0
  • 9800xt @ 445/779

It’s definitely not the highest day to day use computer out there, but it’s right up there. Now, a lot of the times I see that only the good things come to light in a conversation concerning our rigs, so I figured its time that I drop the skinny on what goes on behind the digital void called your monitor.

First off: Purchasing the Components

New components hot off the assembly line are definitely NOT cheap.

You pay extra to be one of the first to get that new graphics card or new CPU. So it raises the question, “WTF do you do for a living?”.

For some of us, it’s grinding the 9 to 5 work schedule, sweating our a** off, convincing the wife that the baby can re-use the disposable diapers, and that the car can drive on the spare for another 35 miles. Maybe you’re the young face at the local grocery store, working part time while you finish high school, listening to the morons over at CompUSA brag about there stock computers and pre-bought modded case, and how they think there a modder cause they added a CCL.

Your parents can’t fathom why you spend all your money on computers, but figure it’s better than drugs. For some others, it’s just dropping some extra dollars into something that we expected to do anyways, or you can just be a lotto winner. Regardless of which one you are, were all spending a lot of cash on these new components, just to be “King of the Hill” for just a very short while.

Why we do it…

It can be for several reasons…basically, it comes down to what drives you to the point where you feel you actually NEED the extra speed. If you’ve got a 2.8, 512 RAM and a 128 MB video card, you’re pretty much up to date for day to night, night to day gaming. And we all know you don’t need anything above a 1.8 GHz Northwood (IF even that) for Microsoft Word and Office programs to run at top notch. So it really comes down to what motivates you as an individual.

Watching Macci, Digitaljesus, or Bowman score upwards of 20k-30k +/- on 3d Mark2001se, an insane Futuremark score, can be very disappointing if our rig is scoring only a quarter of that. Maybe you’re like me and just want to squeeze that extra juice for a boost to framerates, you’re a generation made hardcore gamer that’s played Loadrunner back in the day… on a green monotone monitor, and actually have used 5.25 floppies to save games that you wrote yourself.

Maybe you’re a newly found hardcore closet gamer and want to play the newest games with the max details. Or maybe you just want that extra speed just to know its there… to run Futuremark, then sit back and smile at your achievement – your behemoth rig.

The Pros:

Well, there are certainly some definite good things that come to light from having the newest components, and overclocking the *poop* outta’ them.

For one thing, you do get some really nice FPS (frames per second) when playing 99% of current games, your load times are faster and that extra FPS gives you an edge when fraggin’ your friends or enemies online. Not only that, the new components just seem to look awesome through your case window (if you have one : ).

You’re in that 20-30k 3d Mark2001se “elite” club, benchmarks are great, and even better to add it to your signature in the forums.

If you’re a graphic animator, CAD operator or Photoshop junkie, you’re saving tons of time – your processing times are cut in half and you’re getting work done faster than expected. Time = Money – you just saved yourself $20.00.

You actually learn a lot in the whole path to get to the completion of the construction of your mega rig.

Plain and simple, you have the ultimate bragging rights (for a week, maybe two or three weeks), your rig is fast and people know it.
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Cons: The Real Skinny…

Here is where I break down the negative things about having Monster rigs…this is the real skinny.

I know there is 3d Mark2001se, and futuremark, and kribench, and Sisoftsandra, etc; I could go on and on with programs that can stress and test different parts of the super rig, but plain and simple it comes down to these main things: Speed, Stability, Lifetime Expectancy.

Speed in the benchmarks may show awesome numbers, but how well it plays actual games is what matters the most to me. Even though I’m scoring 26k-28k in 3d Mark2001se, I always like to test out Morrowind: The elder scrolls, full details, at 1600×1200.

I’m not sure if your familiar with this game, but the CPU/Memory/Hard drive load is INTENSE. Even with this super rig, I still have FPS slow-downs in this game with the settings I just listed. So, par to par, I’ll most likely run it at 1024 x 768 x 32, what most of the other people would play it at, where it becomes more CPU intensive, not even taking advantage of that nice, new video card I put in there.

Farcry is another game I recently bought, and like to use to stress my system. With full details, AA all the way to max, at 1600 x 1200, this game can stutter my system in parts of the game. So I end up playing at 1280 x 960.

My point here is that even though I dished out all that cash for all the goodies, I’m playing my games very similar to a majority of you all. Is it worth it? Honestly, I say no it’s not – I’m playing the same games as all of you and yet receiving the same satisfaction that someone with a 2.0 GHz setup and a budget video card is having, and yet I’ve spent around 4x’s as much.

Stability. Without this, my rig might as well be a doorstop.

Just overclocking one component now adds yet another variable that you have to ask yourself when your computer malfunctions – “Is it the overclock on the video card, or is it the CPU..e.t.c.” It takes time and effort to find that “sweet spot” where ambient temps can rise, and your system integrity is not compromised – this can take hours, even days and weeks.

Now if my rig was stock, then already I can just go straight to basic troubleshooting and I have less variables to work with. All in all, a stock system is more simplistic. Now I’m not saying these systems we run are NOT stable – I’m just saying that with a little too much on the Vcore, or maybe the memory runs to hot after 6 hours of Desert Combat, your stability may be compromised, although, most of us with these rigs know exactly what were doing, and we maintain that 100% stability.

Life expectancy. With rigs overclocked to extreme speeds and used 24/7, this takes a harder toll on the components.

So either you gotta’ upgrade consistently and end up swapping out components, or eventually (I’d say at insane speeds – more than a 1000 MHz increase), you’ve got about an 8-10 month lifespan on your CPU and memory. These are the ones that fail first, then your mobo (capacitors run hot, then die), and lastly your hard drive.

Using extreme cooling, such as the Mach I, Mach II, Vapochills, cool the CPU, but the other components are not calculated into that equation of safety and life expectancy. Plain and simple, my equipment will break before a “stock” PC would, without and outside variables. Now someone like me, I upgrade almost bi-monthly, so this is not a concern to me, but it’s a part of this we accept, and just cross our fingers that something doesn’t break before we swap/upgrade.

The water boils down to this: I remember when I used to look at those insane overclocked rigs and thought it was all cake and icing. I’ve been doing this now for about 7 years now (overclocking) and been working on computers for about 13 years. It’s a matter of risk versus reward – if you’re willing to take that risk then you *might* get the reward of a killer rig.

It may seem all nice and peachy at times, but sometimes, honestly, when I fry a CPU, or kill a video card, or toast a mobo, I sit back and wish I was in the “stock” guy’s shoes.

And that’s the skinny.

David Genovese – aka “Exempt”

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