The God Rig


5 Aug 2011
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We SLI’ed three factory-overclocked GTX 280s on the X58 platform in
a quest to get the highest ever scores yet!

The ever-increasing complexity of game engines and the endeavor of the game developers to get as close as possible to reality are the biggest reasons as to why graphics processors keep becoming more and more powerful. With a high-end graphics card installed, you can enjoy gaming in high-definition with visual effects set to high. The level of details and game physics at such settings is so intense that it is difficult to express it in words—it’s a visual treat and you have to see it with your own eyes! However, throwing in the most powerful graphics card in your PC won’t make it the most powerful gaming machine. Even two such cards would stutter to deliver playable frame rates at ultra-high settings in some of today’s games, one such game being Crysis Warhead. To experience nirvana, err, we mean the ultimate level of eye candy, we put together the meanest (and the most insane) gaming machine we could.

Can you beat this?

At the time of preparing the list of the components that would go into the rig, the only things we were very sure of using were the Intel Core i7-965 and Gigabyte EX58-UD5. We chose this board because it’s one of the best X58 boards supporting SLI. Next were three 1 GB DDR3 sticks of Kingston HyperX DDR3-1375 which were configured to run at full speed in triple-channel. The most interesting pieces of hardware that made us drool were the three overclocked GeForce GTX 280 (Amp Edition) sent to us by Zotac. We used the Tagan TG 1300 BZ to power this rig and ran the operating system off an 80 GB solid state hard drive. Our display was the 24-inch LG L246W.

Any guesses about the price of the entire setup? First hint: You could buy 10 mainstream PCs for the price. Second hint: You could buy 5 motorbikes or even a car for the price. If you’re too shocked and cannot guess, you would have to shell out a whopping Rs 2,40,000 to own this rig! Add to this the price of a high-end gaming cabinet which wouldn’t cost less than Rs 10,000 and a set of high-end multi-channel speakers which would be another Rs 20,000.

We didn’t put this rig in a case because it looked simply awesome in an open setup and caging it would defeat the purpose of freaking out onlookers! Besides, the three GTX 280s in SLI demand serious cooling.

Putting it together

Though setting up an open rig is much simpler than fitting it in the case, it was a challenge to keep a check on cable clutter. Thankfully the Tagan TG 1300 BZ has a modular design which allowed us to use only as many cables required to power up the rig.

We also thought that fitting three colossal graphics cards would be a little tedious, but the layout of the Gigabyte EX58-UD5 made installation a breeze. The only quirk was that there was absolutely no breathing space below the first two cards. We didn’t have to worry about them overheating because the reference design of the GTX 280 allows for air intake from the passage at the end of the card if the area in front of the fan is blocked. The last piece of hardware to go into place was the 3-way SLI bridge that shipped with the motherboard. After we were finally done, the God rig looked like some sort of an alien spacecraft with colorful tentacles going into the graphics card and motherboard. The sight was even more majestic with the colored LEDs on the motherboard and power supply lit up when we fired up the machine. We kept our fingers crossed that everything would go fine at the first shot and it did! It took under 25 minutes to install Windows Vista with the necessary device drivers.

The tests

It would be a shame to run any benchmark below 1680x1050 with the visual effects maxed out. Our aim was to stress the 3-way SLI setup to find out how well they performed at 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 with the highest settings at which the games were playable. We also ran the benchmarks with a single card and two cards in SLI to assess the performance scaling in games and 3DMark Vantage. The entire rig (except the monitor) was powered via a Watt meter to log the power consumption in idle state as well as under load. Each test was run three times and the average frame rate was logged for more accurate results.

Our experience

Until we got our hands dirty with this rig, we were used to seeing game benchmarks run with medium settings and 3DMark Vantage report scores under 10000 points. With three factory-overclocked GTX 280 graphics cards configured in SLI, we were eager to see Crysis Warhead running at 1920x1200 with effects set to ‘Enthusiast’ and AA set to ‘Quality 16x’. We discovered that the game is so graphics intensive that it made our God rig stutter, delivering a barely playable frame rate of 25 fps. However, the visual effects combined with game physics looked extremely realistic—it actually looked like a high definition action movie! The reflection of the moonlight on water, highly detailed texture on all objects both near and far, dust clouds, debris flying in all directions when an explosion took place—simply spectacular! Most of these effects vanished when we lowered the settings by one level, to ‘Gamer’. If you really want to enjoy Race Driver: Grid, you should play it at High settings with AA set to at least 8x. Surprisingly even the GeForce 9800 GTX+ handles Grid quite well. At over 100 frames per second, driving the Lamborghini Murciélago was one hell of a ride! Finally, killing zombies couldn’t get eerier with Left 4 Dead looking the best it could. To make it even more frightful, we set up a multi-channel speaker system and switched off the lights!

Final words

After spending a couple of days gaming on the God rig, it’s was indeed very difficult to get back to a mainstream gaming PC. If you plan to build such an insane machine, think twice before spending a fortune on graphics cards and other expensive hardware. Also be warned that while gaming, the PC would hog as much power required by twelve 60 Watt light bulbs! On a lighter note, you should be able to play at high-definition with fairly high settings with at least a GeForce GTX 285 or higher. At the end of the day, it’s all about the money!

Source : Chip Magazine
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