How to build the ultimate speed PC
20th Apr 2011 | 13:00
Want the fastest desktop PC ever?
This article is brought to you in association withLG Optimus 2X
Want to build the fastest PC ever? Want to know what the best graphics card is to go with the fastest processor? Come with us and we'll tell you how to put together the ultimate performance PC.
Sometimes only the fastest will do and that is especially true with a performance gaming PC. The pinnacle of PC excellence is a machine with only the biggest, quickest and most powerful components known to man, all working in unison to make everything you do with your PC an absolute joy.
But it's the part about them working together that is possibly one of the most important things to consider if you're looking to put together the fastest machine on the face of this earth.
The one thing you absolutely cannot have is a bottleneck in your system.
If you've got a budget processor backing up your £600 graphics card then the throughput of data is going to get backed up with the cheapo component and your expensive GPU will be sitting there twiddling its transistors.
And that way stuttering framerates lie.
So what's first? Well, it's time to get the basis of your monster PC sorted, and that's your motherboard, CPU and memory.
Fastest motherboard, CPU and memory
Choosing the right combination of motherboard and CPU is vital in any PC build. It's at this point where you make the big decisions in the make up of your rig, and how you want it to perform now and in the future.
Here we're looking at building the fastest PC right now, but you might be looking for something you can upgrade at a later date. Therefore looking at what upgrade paths a particular CPU/mobo combination will give you is worth some consideration.
Right now though there is only one option for the ultimate rig and that's to go for an Intel X58 platform.
While it may be the oldest of the Core i7 compatible platforms it's also still the fastest. The key point though is that it's also the only one of the Intel's chipsets that come with support for Gulftown six-core processors.
And we definitely want one of those.
The fastest consumer processor on the planet right now is the Core i7 990X. It's a six-core, twelve-thread, 3.46GHz CPU with a monstrous 12MB of cache.
We also need to think about what graphics setup we want for our machine too - in terms of single or multi-card graphics arrays - and whether we want that to be an AMD or Nvidia based graphical setup.
So our motherboard of choice then is the Gigabyte X58A-UD9. It's a big, expensive board, but it gives us support for the all important Intel Core i7 990X through the LGA 1,366 socket.
The X58 chipset also comes with triple-channel DDR3 memory support, something which subsequent chipsets have not continued support for. To keep things trim though we'd opt for a Corsair Vengeance 12GB kit.
We've looked at the Corsair Vengeance 8GB dual-channel kit and its impressive modules are the same, with the 12GB kit simply giving you another 4GB module for your money.
That Gigabyte motherboard also comes with four 16 lane PCIe 2.0 slots, and we're going to need all of those when it comes to our graphics cards of choice.
Fastest graphics card
The graphics card is the supermodel component of your PC and is the one most likely to give you that feeling of speed.
The best single graphics card around is quite simply the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580. It comes with the fastest Fermi GPU so far; a chip that comes with the full complement of 512 CUDA cores, 48 ROPs and the sort of DirectX 11 chops to make mincemeat out of any game.
And for this ultimate PC we're going to use four of them in SLI.
It would be possible to use a pair of GTX 590s to get on the quad-GPU tip, but while they house essentially the same GF 110 GPUs as the GTX 580 they come at a much lower core clockspeed.
So to get the ultimate performance you'll need the GTX 580 running under its own steam, well four of them running under their own steam anyways...
The Gigabyte X58A-UD9 motherboard allows us to use quad-SLI with the full 16x PCIe lanes. This should give us the fastest possible instance of SLI gaming available.
That said, as soon as you go over two cards in either Nvidia's SLI or AMD's CrossFire tech then you're looking at increasingly diminished returns the more cards you add in.
Currently dual-GPU setups give the best performance for your cash, with the second card often giving you almost twice the performance. Third and fourth cards though will often give you less than 30% and 15% extra respectively.
But this is the ultimate rig, so we want the ultimate graphics setup and that means jamming in four GTX 580s into your setup.
For many years the bottleneck of any system has been the storage drive. Traditional magnetic disk drives haven't really changed in nigh-on thirty years.
You can see for yourself just how much of a bottleneck they can be by finding a system running on a traditional HDD and starting a virus scanning routine. Your CPU will probably be idling away, not having to do much as the HDD slowly filters data through to it.
Drop in a Solid State Drive and suddenly the CPU is having to work overtime just to catch up.
But SSDs are expensive bits of kit.
Often you can compromise with a small capacity SSD as a boot drive with your OS and key apps on it, with a large, traditional HDD backing it up as storage. But that can leave little space for large footprint games, which will then have to go onto the standard drive and, hey-presto, it's bottleneck time again.
If we weren't going for a huge, multi-graphics array we'd opt for the OCZ RevoDrive x2, but that's a PCIe-based card and the four GTX 580s take up all the available space.
But seeing as the Gigabyte X58A-UD9 comes with a pair of SATA 6Gbps ports we'd go for a couple of Intel's 510 series 240GB drives.
That will give you a shade under 500GB of storage, more than enough for a fairly average games library. If you absolutely have to keep your entire media collection to hand too then you'll want a Western Digital 2TB Caviar Black.
Best power source
The only way to get all this working at all though is to spend some cash on a quality power supply.
There are a number of top PSUs to choose from but for our money we'd generally always recommend either Corsair or Coolermaster. For anything up to a three-way SLI or CrossFireX setup we'd go for either the Corsair AX1200 for seriously high-end cards or the Coolermaster Silent Pro Gold 800W.
Those are great power supplies in their own right, but unfortunately not fit for our, rather extreme, purposes. And that's because they both lack the necessary eight PCIe connectors.
One that will do the goods is the slightly more grown up big brother of the Coolermaster 800W and that's the Coolermaster Silent Pro Gold 1200W. As well as having access to more juice than its little brother it's also got the requisite four 8-pin and four 6-pin PCIe connectors we need to get this rig off the ground.
Cos once we power up this uber-rig it's going to fly.
Go on, try it yourself.
Liked this? Then check out Where next for high end graphics?
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