My Hardware Journey With PC Gaming – My First New PC in Seven Years, Coming Soon (TM)

I have had my current computer for 7 years. What a long time for me to own (roughly) the same system.

Now, granted, it is not just any computer.

Initially, when I got the parts to build it, I named it Skynet (yes, very original) because it was, to date, and likely for the remainder of my life, the most expensive and originally powerful system I had built.

I was the beneficiary of a windfall at that time, and so I ended up going pie-in-the-sky with my PC at that point.

How pie-in-the-sky?

Well, I started with the EVGA Classified SR-2 motherboard. What is that? Well, it is a custom server board that supports two processors and a lot of gamer features, and was (is still) absolutely massive. Here is a photo for reference:

I loaded that thing up with two 6-core, 12-thread processors, 24 GB of RAM, and a weird smattering of storage divided between SSDs and a variety of mechanical hard drives, including one laptop-sized hybrid drive. Then I put in 3 video cards to start, and slapped it all into a massive, custom-machined case, paired with 3 27″ 2560×1440 monitors.

This was back in Cataclysm, so the machine was so powerful that WoW could not match it. My gameplay experience was excellent.

However, this huge thing is becoming a bit long in the tooth.

I still consider it a triumph that I managed to build a PC that has lasted this long. I used to be a chronic upgrader, moving between new PCs every two years on average, with the inbetween years usually dedicated to some major upgrade (graphics card, adding an SSD) but once I considered this system, I did want to build in a longer usable life.

And on this solid foundation, I got a great gaming PC that has lasted me – until now.

Well, what changed?

I’ve had a variety of small issues – nothing a tech-savvy nerd with Google can’t figure their way around. I had watercooling in the system kill my second graphics card for it – a Geforce GTX 680, so I was able to diagnose and replace the video card back in 2015 – the last major upgrade I’ve made, going to a GTX 970. I also got new CPU coolers, one of which broke late last year, requiring me to go to one of the two CPUs (a blessing to have a dual socket system in this edge case!). Then I got random bluescreens when playing games and found out it was because Windows sometimes tried to talk to the CPU I pulled out, so a few minutes inside to set the jumper to stop that (yep, old school jumper switching, how amazing!) and that stopped.

But, as of late, while the system works, it is clearly on last days. The thermal performance sucks, even with NINE fans intaking cool air on the side, blowing all of that directly over the hot stuff, and 2 fans up front doing the same. The GTX 970 was an awesome upgrade that gave me a lot of usable life in the system, but it’s clearly also long in the tooth. At 1440p resolutions, the performance isn’t amazing, even in WoW – I have to turn view distance down a bit, and then ground clutter density and draw distance have to likewise be set lower. When I stream, I can sometimes induce 1 second stutters where the system soft locks, and even when just recording Overwatch at 30 FPS on a training map, I can get the same lockups frequently.

But mostly, it is just that having such a long-lived system has taken me out of the hobby of computer news and keeping up with all the stuff going on there. I missed reading benchmarks, watching reviews, and knowing the progression of power in the Radeon lineup. I miss building a PC with all the rough-edges and cuts, the scrapes, and the things that don’t quite work until you work through the trouble and make it work.

So, all of that, coupled with an improvement in my economic situation, means that it is new PC time, at long last. I’ve started buying the components and already have some stuff in-house, but it won’t be done until April.

I am working on this primarily for YouTube (I won’t blog about it much unless you are interested and share that via comments *hint hint*) but I am also doing some cool stuff with modding. This last weekend, I started painting the case I have, to suit the theme of my new build – named Contrast.

It is the contrast to my old build in every way. I’m going from a massive, back-breaking chassis to a svelte micro-ATX little box. I’m going from a server chipset motherboard to a more gamer-minded micro-ATX one. I’m going from Intel to AMD on CPUs (hooray for Ryzen!) and two daisy-chained power supplies to one. I am going from a disjointed, messy storage setup (two SSDs, two big regular mechanical hard drives, one laptop hybrid drive) to a streamlined, better setup, with a single NVMe SSD as my boot drive and WoW/FFXIV drive, a SATA SSD for competitive games I do play outside of those two, and a 10 TB RAID 0 (2x5TB drives!) for mass storage and video performance. The colors I’m painting are a pearl white interior with an awesome color called “Metallic Galaxy” for the outside of the case, and a lot of the components I am buying are on white PCBs or have white trim to compliment the theme, and all of that will be coupled with the modern LED accoutrements (white where I could get the clean white look, RGB LEDs programmed to white the best I can manage where that doesn’t exist).

Further, I’m going to look at doing some WoW and FF XIV benchmarks on the new system to illustrate some upgrade paths, definitely on storage (load times on NVMe/SATA SSD/RAID 0/regular mechanical hard drive), and perhaps even on graphics (comparing WoW performance on my GTX 970 in the new system vs. a GTX 1080 Ti).

The sad part of this news is this – I am going on a streaming-only hiatus until the new system shows up, since the rampant problems I have trying to stream even with 30 FPS locks and the like are just the worst. But, I will keep writing (and more of my regular WoW stuff at that!) and YouTube videos should be back on track this week, once I can sit down and edit the pile of footage I’ve got on hand.

Mostly though, I just wanted to write this because I am super-excited to finally be building a new PC again and to absorb all of the information I can find about the stuff I legit didn’t know about, like NVMe SSDs.

Also, I have pictures and video of some of the modding I’ve already done to the case, and sooner or later I will do a write up on that process. Painting a case, especially with different interior and exterior color, it turns out, is rather difficult!

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