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BUILD YOUr OWN PC 2013
the complete guide to rig building
learn the sk you need to bills u your next boild x
more power for less money! Whatever kind of rig you want, we'll show you how to build it
How to build gaming rigs, mini PCs and console killers!
In-depth advice on the kit you should buy
Packed with clear step-by-step guides
PRINTED IN THE UK
Printed in the UK
the perfect PC
8 The Console Killers Don’t wait for the next-gen consoles, build a power PC now for the same price 16 The Mini Power PC Build a no-compromise, small form factor gaming computer 22 Low Power to the People Can you create a low-power computer that uses only 10W of energy?
46 Serious CPUs We review the best desktop processors and lift the lid on the best choice for you 54 Graphics for every Gamer Discover the finest graphics card for the discerning DIY-er
28 Parts for Penguins Linux-based PCs don’t have to be second-tier machines any more. Build one with all the power you need
62 Massive Monitors We dish the dirt on the bit you’ll spend all your time looking at – the display
36 Reuse, Recycle, Resell Make the most of your old kit to benefit you and your environment
70 Solid State Drives Super-fast and quickly coming down in price, SSD is the way to go
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104 Stay Frosty How to cool your hardware 108 Wall-mount your PC Oh yes, my friends, it can be done 112 Boot Drive Migration The easy way to migrate to an SSD 114 Build an open-source DVR Get the most from free digital television 118 Build a Smart TV Network How to make a tuned DVLA server 122 Create a VPN Server Do it today using Windows 7 126 Master the Windows 8 desktop If you’ve moved to Windows 8, you need our power tips tutorial 130 Manage your Drivers Avoid hardware conflicts and speed up 80 Bargain Upgrades What are the best hardware upgrades if you’re operating on a strict budget? 96 In-ear Headphones We showcase the very best slimline headphones for your aural pleasure 98 Gaming Mice If you’re into gaming, you need to cast your eye over these sublime rodents 100 Mouse Mats A top-of-the-range home for your mouse can make all the difference
134 Expand to Two Monitors Put your desktop on multiple screens 136 Raspberry Pi: Retro Gaming Emulate the golden era of games 140 Calibrate your Monitor See your photos in a whole new light 144
BUILDER Our at-a-glance guide to the gear you need to create three amazing rigs 5
7/23/13 5:23 PM
Build your own PC
Low-Power to t Can we Create a 10w gaming PC? Probably not, We’re supposed to be power conscious these days. Our editor has unplugged his executive vibrating chair – for our mental sanity we’re assuming it’s the chair that’s been vibrating. Our art editor had to swap his 1,000W 7.1 speaker setup for a pair of earbud headphones. While our tech monkey, Jeremy Laird, had to swap out his Intel 6-core Extreme Edition for Intel’s latest Atom. And they’re not even socket compatible people, oh the humanity. We can joke, but power consumption is a real issue. Phones and tablets can idle at sub-watt levels, but even a modest PC gaming rig can happily suck down almost 200 watts of power without trying. If you’re sat there browsing the web or furiously writing complaints about the neighbour’s leylandii to your MP, all that power seems a bit of a waste of energy. But what are the alternatives? You could jump on your laptop, but that’s often still underpowered and you’re left
with an awful keyboard and trackpad to use, while upgrading it always feels a compromise. But then we did what our therapist told us not to do, we got thinking, perhaps we could build a full-desktop system that was capable of 3D gaming but was also built around the idea of ultra-low power consumption? Perhaps even low enough to rival a laptop? At the heart of this project is going to be the new breed of Intel Ivy Bridge processors. They’re built with a 22nm process and, in some ways most importantly of all, Intel’s new generation of integrated HD Graphics, which means we can do away with power hungry third-party graphics cards for our system. Sorry AMD and Nvidia. With so much integrated on to the super-efﬁcient 22nm process, low-power states can be efﬁciently managed. While historically higher-power tasks now require far less juice as well, this is against a background of continued integration and ever more efﬁcient processes; the number of ICs on a motherboard is down, the main chipset uses less power than ever and main storage and memory can be measured in a single watt. So let’s see if we can get near that magical 10W mark…
7/16/13 11:18 AM
Low-power to the People people
o the People
but Neil Mohr gives it a damn good go
7/16/13 11:18 AM
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Build your own PC
GRAPHICS FOR EVERY GAMER THE NEW GENERATION LINEUP IS READY. DAVE JAMES LAYS HIS CARDS ON THE TABLE…
hese things can take time, but at last this generation of graphics cards has been pretty much finalised. AMD did its part early on, having almost its entire lineup sorted before the summer, while Nvidia has been dragging its heels like a schoolboy who’s forgotten his homework. The release of the GTX 650 Ti, though, marks the completion of this generation of cards, and despite the fact it’s taken nearly an entire year to get to this stage, things have never looked so good for the consumer. It’s somewhat inevitable that every generation offers more power for less cash than ever before, but it’s still
surprising that a budget card will be able to deliver more than 30fps on average at full HD resolutions in the latest DX11 titles. It’s strange, then, that people are calling these the end times for the discrete graphics card, what with all the advances in integrated CPU graphics performance. For the end user though, us PC gamers, our rigs have never looked so sprightly. Being able to pick up mid-range cards with the sort of performance the high-end cards of the past few years could only wish for, is making our gaming experience the envy of the slavering console hordes. Just look at the gaming shows of the past year, GamesCom and E3 especially.
All the best-looking titles were being demoed on high-end PCs. Why? Because there’s no way to get the games looking as good on the current generation of consoles. With the next generation of those limited tech bricks not arriving until the tail-end of 2013, the PC has an entire year of even greater gaming dominance. And by then, chances are it’s still going to hold the technological gaming advantage. But what of right now? Who are the winners and losers in the great graphics arms race? We’ve lined up the full range of gaming-capable graphics cards of this generation and we’ll tell you where the smart upgrade money should go.
GEAR REVIEWED eVGA GTX 680 Signature 2
Sapphire HD 7970 Ghz ED Vapor-X
ASUS GTX 670 Direct CU II
ASUS HD 7950 Direct CU II
eVGA GTX 660Ti SuperClocked
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 OC Edition
7/16/13 10:57 AM
eVGA GTX 660 SuperClocked
Sapphire Radeon HD 7850 2GB
Zotac GTX 650Ti AMP!
MSI HD 7850 1GB
MSI HD 7770
PNY GTX 650
Sapphire HD 7750
Zotac GT 640 Zone
7/16/13 10:58 AM
Build your own PC
E T A T S D I L SO E G A R O T S FASTER AND MORE AFFORDABLE THAN EVER, JEREMY LAIRD SAYS SOLID-STATE STORAGE JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER
ow big, how fast and how reliable? Boil the solidstate storage buying procedure right down, and these are the three key questions you need to be asking. It sounds simple enough, but as soon as you pop open Pandora’s SSD box, the complexities come bursting out. How fast, you ask? Do you mean sequential read and write performance? What about random access? And hang on – if you’re wondering about sequential performance, are you talking compressible or incompressible data? Sure, there are nuances when it comes to processor or graphics performance, like single-threaded versus multi-threaded performance on a CPU, but there aren’t quite so many dramatic contrasts. There’s loads to keep track of in terms of technology too, from controller tech to memory types and storage interfaces. All of that makes solid-state storage seem daunting, but it’s still the most exciting thing
happening to the PC. It’s the final frontier of performance – the wild west of components – and the latest wave of SSDs look like the best yet. That exciting edginess is both a bane and a boon. You can’t just fire up any old SSD and expect it deliver indefinitely. It’s more complicated than that. Unlike CPUs, for example, solid-state storage still isn’t a fully mature technology. It’s riskier and more unpredictable. Quite frankly, it’s a bit more fun. If you don’t already have an SSD, it’s likely that an upgrade to solid-state will do more to transform the feel of your PC’s day-to-day performance than anything else. If you have an early SSD, you might be surprised at just how far the game has come in the last couple of years. This month, we’ve brought 10 of the best new SSDs together. There have been some hot developments in terms of capacity and performance in recent months, along with a new contender in the all-important controller market. There’s plenty to ponder.
CORSAIR NEUTRON 240GB £160/$240
CORSAIR NEUTRON GTX 240GB £190/$295
INTEL 330 SERIES 180GB £103/$155
KINGSPEC CHALLENGE E3000 240GB £176/$235
KINGSPEC PCIe MULTICORE 1TB £1,075 / $1,525
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S T E R C E S
KINGSTON HYPERX 120GB £110/$163
OCZ VERTEX 4 256GB £154/$229
PLEXTOR M5 PRO 128GB £128/$190
SAMSUNG 840 250GB £150/$225
SAMSUNG 840 PRO 256GB £209/$279 71
7/16/13 11:03 AM
Build your own PC
Wall-mount your PC Really put your hardware on show – shove it on the wall PROJECT GOAL Vertical ascent
Show of your PC by hanging it on the wall like a beautiful, pulsing work of art – and in doing so not destroy the wall.
REQUIRES Perspex sheet
We’ve gone for a 600 x 500 x 4mm sheet of Perspex that costs around £15. It’s strong enough and doesn’t break the bank. Though as we’ll show, you need to watch your components.
M3 screws and nuts
The easiest way to mount most kit is to grab a bunch of 12mm M3 screws. These are the standard size for motherboards and the rest of your kit – 25 should do.
Not such a challenge for your display cables but you may need to invest in longer power, USB and keyboard cables. All these cables are usually available cheaply from eBay.
ere at PC Building towers we’ve covered all manner of hot mods and crazy cases: from coolers that look like Giger-esque phallus-filled artwork, to lighting that would put the Blackpool illuminations to shame. So when we came across not so much a mod as a new way of life – okay, a way of wall-mounting a PC – we were all on board. We stumbled across the original project when it was posted to Reddit back in 2011 – it simply showed a running PC hung up on a wall. Take a look yourself at: http://bit.ly/I6nLyH.
Components 2x PCIe x16 riser extension cable £8 1x 600 x 500 x 4mm Perspex sheet £15 25x M3 12mm bolts £1 25x M3 washers 50p 100x M3 nuts £2.50 4x angle brackets £1.25 6x ﬂat screws + rawl plugs £1.50 6x large washers 70p 6x spacers 70p 25x 20mm screws £2 25x 10mm screws £2
mechanical rigidity between 95ºC and 120ºC – and starts to melt at 160ºC. As only top-end processors have Sincere flattery thermal output of 135W, with the We felt a strong urge to try and vast majority being 95W or far less, emulate this trick and our slowfor most systems this should be firing neurons took to calculating absolutely fine. We wouldn’t just how we could levitate such a suggest you run overclocked contraption into the air using systems on such a mounted system, pocket money. again simply as a 95W TDP While the original system processor, such as the Core seemed to be mounted on i5 2500K, can have its a metallic-style board, temperatures raised we decided to avoid greatly. Graphic anything metalcards are a KNOW YO based. First for different beast Before you sc UR WALLS rew anything cost, second for but again we’d be wall make su to the re yo weight, and last wary of mounting from the hom u get permission e owner. We because we hear a graphics card demand that al you get the co so computers aren’t with a TDP over rrect type of secu ring wall too keen on 200W, as load your type of plugs for walls. short circuits. temperatures can Having played with start reaching the Perspex/acrylic sheeting 80ºC level. quite a lot, we knew it could be When it comes to the rest cheap enough and rigid enough, but of the components, temperature would it take the temperatures that won’t be an issue. The fact of the PC components throw out? matter is we’re also going to leave A quick scout around showed that clear air between components and Perspex starts to lose its the Perspex, so there’s no chance of
7/15/13 3:55 PM
Wall-mount your PC
IPS TSTOAYPPRT OTECTED
the Perspex me with two The Perspex will co meeting this type of layers on c sti protective pla temperature. But se on until the e av Le e. sid each it’s best to play out finished ely let mp you’ve co the worse case g to xin fi drilling and scenario here. We avoid scratches. shouldn’t also overlook that this is going to be mounted vertically, which we’ve been told is better for cooling as it encourages better convection. Ideally, we’d suggest 5mm Perspex sheeting. You can get away with 4mm, but there’s a little more ﬂex to it with sheets this size. To fit the various components to the sheet we’re going to use 15mm M3 screws and a bunch of suitable bolts. We did consider using the standard brass motherboard stand-off posts. But fi xing these to the Perspex would either be too elaborate, using multiple screws, or not secure enough, such as screwing them directly into the Perspex sheeting.
Just as a towel is essential for hitchhiking around the galaxy, the trusty M3 screw is the standard issue case fi xing for most PC components. These little silver friends are going to be ideal for the hard drive, optical drive and the motherboard. Both the drives provide alternative base fi xing holes. You just add a spacing washer or bolt and these are simple things to attach.
What’s in a screw? It turns out that one size doesn’t ﬁt all. Much can be Starting off this project we had hoped made of these to get away with a single size of M3 screw. A trip to Screwﬁ x saw us return with a pack of 25 20mm M3 screws as well as a bag of nuts and washers. It seems that bigger may be better, as for most components, with a bit of spacing out with extra nuts, these could be made to work in most situations. For the brackets and the PSU, however, it was better to use 10mm M3 screws as this enabled us to hide the brackets out of sight with the screws ending up ﬂush. Using 12mm M3 screws for the screws is helpful. While for the PSU we’d motherboard and drives would fit a lot feel better if we had also opted for the better, but having the ﬂexibility of the larger larger 39mm two-screw hole brackets.
The only curve ball is when you come to fi xing the power supply. Through some oddity of design it’s often the only part that requires the alternative US-based standard 6-32 UTS or Universal Thread Standard screws (you’re not the only ones around here who read Wikipedia you know). These are the case screws with the coarser thread. As these are only used on the power supply unit our plan is to use 90 degree brackets to fi x the PSU in place. If long enough, these could be angled underneath the PSU to hide them from view. The last confusion is the graphics card. You can’t have this hanging out the side of the PCIe slot, it’s just going to snap off. The solution is simple, get a PCIe riser extension ribbon cable. You might be worrying
about latencies, but for a signal travelling near the speed of light a foot of extra cable is just a nanosecond. You’ll find 15cm ones on eBay, but you’ll need two for a long enough strip, otherwise the card would end up being mounted fan-side down. As for fi xing the thing to the wall, this is the only area that concerns us, as Perspex, while resilient to impact, can be brittle under the wrong circumstances, such as twisting and compression. Opting for a thicker, longer screw will help ensure it stays secured on the wall and using a large washer will help spread any load. Alternatively you could use brackets to mount the board onto the wall and hold it in place, which would eliminate any chance of damaging the Perspex.
PART1: I love a plan Check your specific hardware will fit
bit sketchy 1 A Before we started buying anything,
we first decided to see how much room all of our components would need. Grab a bit of graph paper or fire up Excel and plot a quick outline of the components over the area of Perspex you’re thinking about. We used a spreadsheet set with square cells marking 1cm blocks. And remember to leave enough space for the cables.
guy 2 Cable Keep in mind where you’re going to
route cables around the board, coming out of the PSU to the motherboard. Very likely you’ll need at least one to the graphics card and the usually easier-to-route power and data cables to the drives, too. Don’t forget power, monitor, keyboard and other USB cables will need to come from your desk to the board as well.
holes 3 Drilling It’s important to note that we’re not
anchoring screws to the Perspex itself as such – it’s not strong enough in that way. We’re slowly drilling holes through the Perspex and using the M3 screws to fix the components, with the stress spread out, using a washer at the back of the board. When drilling Perspex do make sure you go slowly to avoid potentially shattering it. 109
7/15/13 3:55 PM
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