While I was writing this, I continued to write more and more and before I realized it, my post has turned into a massive chronicle, essay thing. You have been warned.
Also before I continue, do note that this post is considerably delayed, and the original build date was back in 2012. I didn't know about PCPartPicker back then, and once I did find out, I never felt all that compelled to write this up until now.
As with seemingly most builds that are posted on this site, this was my first personal PC. Also similar to many of the other builds: I decided that "high-end" wasn't quite good enough - it had to be XTREEEME. I was young... and foolish at the time, with a surprisingly large sum of money saved up as well, so it was my first chance to truly geek out and go after everything I wanted. Enter: Ramiko, the white and blue, triple-680, mid-tower gaming demon.
The Core Components
When I think of personal PC building, I think of two main ways you can go about it: you either do very big, very expensive, over-the-top builds with gaps of several years in between, or you could do slightly more modest builds but with frequent core component updates. Some people are a mix of the two. I obviously fall under the former category. It's expensive, and there are some challenges, but the benefit is that you'll get to enjoy supercomputer powers for the first year or two of the build.
So I went with a 3770K - the extra threads help with video encoding and other tasks, while the single core performance was the best you could get for gaming. And because my primary focus was on the graphics, I decided that I would get no less than three GTX 680's. Why three? The original plan was to go for two of nVIDIA's top offerings for the 600-series. This was based off of the then-recent GTX 580 and 480. Despite being less tech savvy when the 680 launched back then, I did at least figure out that comparatively, it had lower power consumption, and was a tad bit smaller. Just a little.
It was way smaller. Because of this, I quickly realized that two 680's wasn't quite going to have the firepower I was once imagining. And thus, two became three.
Now, for some reason, I tend to have this obsession with "min-maxing", or optimization. The idea that you can get the greatest benefit of one aspect, while paying the minimum cost of the associated drawback - this really appealed to me. My obsession ended up manifesting itself as the case I chose - the mid-tower Phantom 410. I basically wanted to fit the most graphics power in the smallest practically feasible package. Which is ironic because the P410 isn't exactly a small case... but, it looks cool and I like it, so whatever.
This has some obvious drawbacks. While the P410 has excellent cooling and was a case widely loved by gamers, it still wasn't going to magically solve 600W of GPUs all packed together like sardines in a can. With the upper two graphics cards ramping up to 80-85 degrees on most sustained full loads (and I actually run my fans all the way up to 100%), this is definitely one of the biggest prevailing issues with the rig - it was my first build after all. Because of this, I have to settle with the stock factory overclock on my EVGA cards for day to day use.
There was another restriction that the case entailed: I had to somehow find a Z77 motherboard that supported 3-way SLI (ie. PLX/PEX)... in ATX form factor. Back then, I didn't know this site existed, so things were a little tough - there exists only four of these boards that I know of to date. In the end, I managed to find the ASUS P8Z77 WS, which is a workstation board. It's got a 20 power phase design, so that is quite nice indeed.
What getting the Phantom 410 did give me, however, was a chance to play around with a colour theme. Now, I know themed builds are incredibly common around here, even amongst first builds, but I've seen a fair share of horribly un-colour-coordinated computers (cough anything with Noctuas cough); plus, it was a fun twist for me at the time. I think I managed to do alright,
especially with virtually zero modding.
EDIT: I finally did it, the cables are sleeved! And I did them all by myself... There were three main intentions with this:
- Extensions are unoptimal because they don't sleeve the whole cable, and you can't shorten cables with them
- The HALE90 is a semi-modular PSU, so if I want my 24-pin and 8-pin EPS to be sleeved, I'll have to crack open the PSU myself. I also don't think there are any pre-sleeved solutions available directly for the HALE90's actual pin-outs
- It seemed fun and I wanted to try it out - with the experience, I might do it again in the future.
Although, with the amount of time and effort it took, I don't think I'll be doing this again. Ever. The results came out pretty good though - I'm no expert sleever, so it's a long way from perfect as you can tell, but I still think it looks really nice, somehow. It definitely brings the aesthetic of the whole build together. You can find some progress pictures here.
Prior to the cable sleeving, I bought a GTX 680 backplate for the top GPU, and I removed the fixed drive cage by drilling out the rivets holding it in to the bottom-front of the case. I figured I'd put my 5.25" bays to use instead (with adapters), and gain back some of the airflow that was being blocked by the drive cage. For comparison, here are the old pictures of the case before I did my cables and the drive cage - it's quite a big difference!
Back in 2012, the mainstream gamer resolutions were 1680x1050 and 1920x1080. Actually, I think the most popular resolution in the world was 1366x768. Back then, I had recently acquired a 15" laptop with a 1080p display; motivated by superior pixel density and desktop real estate, I once again pushed for a display that was bigger and better than everyone else's. The only problem was that ordinary 1440p screens were really expensive. Fortunately, I found out about the Korean
knockoff A- IPS panels, and got a pixel-perfect one for less than half of what Dell's 27-incher cost. It looks amazing for what it cost, as I then proceeded to be superior to all the lowly 1080p peasants.
Unfortunately, in recent times, I've been running into a rather stupid problem regarding my first-rate resolution: games are becoming more and more resource intensive and I am beginning to lose to ability to max these games due to a lack of video memory (seriously?). When I originally started, I've always felt that video memory was just a massive marketing gimmick - this was especially true for laptops, which were the only computers I've had to that date. Little had I known that 2GB was not nearly enough to push all 3.7 megapixels in glorious 1440p with the latest high-res textures. The moral of the story here is to not skimp out on VRAM, especially with high resolution or beefy multi-GPU setups!
Oh boy, overclocking, my favourite. Everyone loves overclocking. How did I manage to overclock this beast when it could barely manage the factory OC's? Using the power of the mighty Canadian winters, that's how. That's right, I'm talking about enthusiast overclocking. With the air temperature near the case at around 4°C (39°F) and both side panels removed, I managed to keep the CPU and all GPUs at or under 60 degrees under full load and max overclocks. Just take a look at these 3DMark scores.
- Firestrike: http://www.3dmark.com/fs/7318681
- Firestrike XTREME: http://www.3dmark.com/fs/7382303
- 3DMark 11: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm11/10818588
This is the true power of the triple-680's.
... It does look a little tepid compared to the 1080's and TITAN XP's of today doesn't it. nVIDIA's come a long way in these 4 short years; I won't know if you'll remember and understand how things were, but I'll always be proud of my rig... sniffle
So what am I even supposed to write for the conclusion of what has now turned into some absurd IT history essay? I enjoy using this computer. I've done quite a bit of gaming on it, as well as a lot of not-gaming on it. I had my fair share of issues with it, from my room overheating whenever it's not winter, to my back breaking every time I have to move it around. But when it works, it's freaking amazing, damnit. This build is pretty old by now, so it doesn't seem like I'll be using it for much longer.
I don't even know if I'll get around to adding the visual touches I've had in mind. But no matter what happens now, I can move forward having learned so much from building this PC and my time with it. It's sparked an immense passion for PC-building in me, and I'm sure I'll remember it for many years to come.
- You may be wondering what "Ramiko" is even supposed to mean. It doesn't really mean anything. I'm just a weeb. I have names for all of my computers. All of which don't have any meaning.
- Some people may have noticed the EVGA GTX 680 SC Signature 2 GPU model. This was EVGA's dual-fan card from before the days of ACX/iCX. I am a bit hip and early-adopter like that.
- I couldn't quite fit this in anywhere, but I have delidded my 3770K. I've also switched to rubber fan mounts for all but one case fan, but it's still loud as hell.
- I use Cherry MX Red's in my Shine II.
- Despite what I mentioned about long-term vs upgrade-oriented builds, I have still upgraded/added a few components. Specifically, they are the RAM (formerly 8 GB 1600MHz CL9), the SSD, Windows 10, and the headphones (formerly another Tritton 5.1 headset).
- As with most other builds on this site, I've left out taxes and shipping from my purchase prices. They are also in CAD. The thing that was awesome about 2012 was that CAD was more or less the same as USD, occasionally creeping up ahead. For those of you on the US site who can't see the total, it is $4063.54 with a 1:1 conversion.
- I will be completely and genuinely amazed if anyone has read this entire post.
TL;DR I write pages upon pages about what I was thinking when I built this PC.
- The good: three GTX 680's are super fast. Also, 1440p is super good
- The bad: they run super hot when crammed next to each other
- The ugly: I didn't realize 2GB wasn't enough for 1440p. Also, the fans get super loud