Embracing Windows 8 With A New PC System Build

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One of the perks of working at a place like HotHardware is that we have access to some of the hottest hardware around. So when I decided to dive into Windows 8 head-first a few months ago, I thought I’d give the OS as much breathing room as possible and install it on a freshly built, ultra high-end rig. Building myself a second system for Windows 8 while tweaking and getting accustomed to the OS’s new interface, and whatever other quirks popped up, would help me remain semi-productive before making the actual transition to the new machine.

Before I show you the hardware I used for the build and discuss some of the issues that I had to contend with along the way, I want to be clear that this is not some sort of build guide or recommended spec sheet. I’m simply posting up some geek porn for all of you hardware lovers out there and outlining my experience so far with the new machine and with Windows 8 in general. Because a particular piece of hardware was a good fit for my build doesn’t mean it’ll suit your needs. Then again, if the hardware I use serves me well—considering the beating I put on my rigs—it’ll likely work out for you all, too. So that has to count for something.

Say Hello To Gigabyte's GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI

I tend to configure my systems around the processor and motherboard and "build outward". I just so happened to have an Intel Core i7-3960X at my disposal, which is still one of the fastest processors Intel has released to date. With high clocks, 6 cores and support for 12 threads with HyperThreading, the Core i7-3960X is plenty powerful for just about any desktop computing task.

Because I was using a 3960X, I obviously needed a Socket 2011 motherboard to go along with it, in addition to a quad-channel memory kit, hefty power supply, etc. To that end, I snagged a GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI from our friends at Gigabyte. The GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI was a perfect fit for my build for a couple of reasons. For one, it is outfitted with an Intel C606 Express chipset, which is essentially a new revision of the original X79 but with all of the SATA and SAS ports which didn’t make it onto the original X79 enabled. The board also sports a host of enthusiast-class features, like support for SLI and CrossFire, Intel and Realtek Gigabit NICs, plenty of USB 3.0 ports, Firewire and more. The board’s got nice beefy heatsinks and includes a PCIe WiFi card, too.

A Pair of Gigabyte GV-N680OC-2GD GTX 680s Pushin' Pixels

I’m lucky enough to have a 30” HP ZR30w with a native resolution of 2560x1600 for personal use and do plenty of gaming (though not as much as I would like!). I also like to crank up the eye candy in-game, so some powerful graphics cards were in order. I ended up with a pair of factory overclocked Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 cards, model GV-N680OC-2GD, running in SLI. These cards are nice and quiet at idle and with six cooling fans, they move plenty of air under load without being overly noisy. The rig I was replacing had a pair of Radeon HD 6970s in it, so the GTX 680s would also be a nice upgrade.

Storage: Dual Intel SSD 520s and a Pair Of Seagate Savvio 10K.5s

As for storage, I opted for pair of 240GB Intel SSD 520 series drives running in a RAID 0 configuration for the OS, apps, and games, along with a pair of Seagate Savvio 10K.5 900GB drives running in a RAID 1 configuration for bulk storage and backup purposes. (I also back up important data to a NAS device). A pair of SSDs running in RAID 0 is a bit of overkill, but when you can move upwards of 1GB per second, file transfers and copies are super-quick, and level load times in games are sped up nicely—so I say, why not? The Savvios are somewhat older drives that I happened to have laying around. Since they were essentially new and could utilize the SAS interface available on the Gigabyte GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI motherboard, I put them to use.

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OOs one year ago


Badelhas one year ago

Great selection of components but why not watercooling, for silence?

Clixxer one year ago

Macro I love this build. Like seriously love this build. Great article and everything but if I sent you my address how would you feel about letting me "barrow" this for awhile? Ive been drooling over the Cosmos II for a long time now.

<3 Clixxer

marco c one year ago

Not a fan of water cooling for daily, mission critical workstations for the reasons I mention in the piece (multiple potential points of failure, etc.) Plus, the rig is surprisingly quiet as is...

Johnny3D one year ago

Well... I, am eminently jealous. That is a spectacular rig. Nice write-up about it as well.

marco c one year ago

How would I get any work done if I let you borrow my rig? :) Sorry brother!

Clixxer one year ago

[quote user="Marco C"]

How would I get any work done if I let you borrow my rig? :) Sorry brother!


!!!! Ill trade ya!


Well it was worth a shot :P 

NeilGeorge one year ago

Machine looks good.. but water coolng makes it more expensive..

inspector one year ago

How dear you!, not nearly enough pics and no video? D:

Awesome build though :D

marco c one year ago

I'll have another build video coming up in a couple weeks, after the current contest ends! Already have the case, CPU, memory, and storage components on hand. This one was built in a jif because I had a ton of software to install to get up and running and working on it as quickly as possible.

CDeeter one year ago

Thanks! Really appreciate the insights on Win8, and that rig is a beauty!

MayhemMatthew one year ago

I dont mind win 8 either. It has issues, certainly. The disconnect between desktop and modern ui is huge, which is why I love stardock. That said, since Vista I havent used the start menu. I hit my win key and just type the name and hit enter. Takes one second and modern ui does the same, but more comprehensive if you ask me and I love that. That feature is what sells me on it. My windows key is a search key.

Mattos one year ago

Some people just hate change and are unwilling to try out new things. I haven't tried Windows 8 but I do believe it is not as bad as a lot of people are claiming it to be. Thanks for sharing your experience. Was a interesting read.

realneil one year ago

That's a great looking PC. (and the workspace is sublime)

I'll bet that it's fun to game with.

marco c one year ago

Sure is. :)

dnw1962 one year ago

I ran out and bought a new Win7 laptop in the days just before Win8 hit the street because my aging XP laptop was way past due for replacement and I was not ready for the challenge of Win8 after my personal experience with the early days of Vista. Now after reading this I am encouraged to build a new desktop. My current desktop has been in semi retirement since the new i7 laptop was faster at most things. It just doesn't have the graphics horsepower and after drooling over this beauty I have a new itch to scratch. Very nice straight forward review of the current state of Win8 and a very sweet build. Thanks for the good read.

marco c one year ago

Thanks! And good luck with the build if you decide to move forward with it.

altereDad one year ago

Nice setup. Read the article. I agree with the Windows 8 review. I think Microsoft had something ideal, but they needed to give it a choice. Sales would be much healthier than they have been.

It takes time to grow into, and if you have a shared system like mine, many don't embrace change as easily. I had to switch from the preview back to Windows 7 due to that. None-the-less I still use Linux as well.

detnight one year ago

Wow PC porn. I agree with Inspector, more pictures and maybe a center fold out

Tjphelan1 one year ago

Great system, but after having Windows 8 for six months the interface is just to annoying. My wife needed to print something and blew a gasket after being so frustrated at trying to figure out how to. The interface is not intuitive enough for users going from 7. I am reinstalling 7 this weekend as I do not want my computer to cause a divorce ha

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