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.
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.
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.
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.