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Memory Express Custom Gaming PC Review

Overall Feeling: 

Memory Express’ second generation custom gaming PC is insanely powerful. So much so, it’s near impossible for us to properly test this thing. Like a super-car that was somehow made street legal you may never get to see its full potential, but it’s got ridiculous bragging rights. If you have the money to spend, you’ll be able to watch people drool over your PC as they leer insides through the case’s side window. 

The Pros: 

+The twin GTX680s mean never having to worry about lacking the graphical juice for a video game until sometime next year.

+Slim black case offers a sleek and sexy design that doesn’t sacrifice function for form, and actually offers more accessibility than the original build.

+Everything here is top of the line. With a PC of this caliber you get to reverse the industry. Games will be made to try and keep up with your system, rather than you worrying about if your system meets the specs for a game.

The Cons: 

-There’s no real good way to carry it, so if you’re a LAN enthusiast, look at investing something to carry it with.

-The cost is right up there, you’re getting the best, but you need to expect to pay for that as well.

ShogunGamer.com Rating : 
9

Anyone familiar with the world of PC Gaming, or just PCs in general knows that technology moves quickly. Keeping up with technology is a full-time gig for the dedicated technophile. In the past I’ve equated PC gaming to car building and collecting. Hopefully our readers won’t begrudge me a few more extended automotive metaphors because our PC Hardware sponsor, Memory Express, has basically just dropped a Rolls-Royce in our lap after six months of running with a Lambo.

No doubt if you’ve been with us over the last couple of months, you’ve seen our PC reviews posting the stats of our Memory Express build and understood why I was spending so much time in the PC world of late. With the keys (literally the previous build had its own lock and keys) to that PC I was having a blast trying hot new games and laughing at their ‘suggested’ specifications. That’s why when Memory Express told me it was time for an upgrade, I quite honestly didn’t know what to say. Well, other than ‘Yes’ of course.

The Velocity Gaming Rig that we had on loan from Memory Express still kills everything, but Memory Express, being the true technophiles that all PC Gamers would like to be, decided they wanted to push the envelope even further. Since ASUS announced the new GTX680s, they set to work building a new gaming PC that would harness the power of the industries newest graphic hardware… times two.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

I’m a gamer first, technophile second, and a writer third. That means I don’t have the technical expertise that a lot of other PC writers might have to be able to break down a PC build piece by piece and give an in-depth break-down of the features and how they compare with XYZ. But because I am a nerd, first and foremost, I have no problem giving a hardware piece like this a thorough runthrough. That’s why, this time around, I extended my period with the PC before deciding to sit down and write about it, which I thank Memory Express for allowing me to do. I know that in the world of a PC reviews like this it’s all about timing, and they went out a limb to let me test the absolute hell out of their machine this time.

The reason I decided to take more time? Last time I wrote about my experience as the build was tweaked and modified and I dealt with Memory Express’ return policies and warranties as a customer. I did this to try and get a feel for what it would be like for someone dropping their bank roll at Memory Express and finding out that something didn’t function in the way that we had hoped. This time there was no problems.

This time around, I let the machine run much longer. Previously I ran the test rig for about two weeks before writing about it, and had plenty of opportunity to talk about the modifications the team made to the build as one or two small problems surfaced… and even after that there were some other small issues like the case fan losing its alignment and starting to hum.

However, after a month with the next generation tech of Memory Express… I’ve found almost nothing to complain about. So the one gripe I do have, I will throw up front for whatever it’s worth:

There’s no real easy way to carry this case. Even though the build is MUCH smaller than the last, everything is closed up and there’s no handle or really anything to get a grasp on when you’re trying to move between Point A and Point B. This can become awkward for those who are interested in regular public LAN events.

That’s it. And this is a desktop… so really, portability isn’t going to be a huge issue for the majority of gamers. I’m just a LAN fanatic and it’s something that caught me personally.

With that out of the way, let’s talk, briefly, about some of the features I did enjoy before we jump into the specs:

As I mentioned above, the build is a lot smaller than the previous one. It’s also a lot less flashy… which makes me feel a little bit better when I take it out. Turns out the novelty of having flashing lights all over your computer can wear off rather quickly. There are plenty of people out there that dig that, and that’s fine, but I rather prefer the reserved nature of the new build. Plus it fits under my desk, which is a nice change.

The other big point for me, of course, is how it plays, which is going to be hard to talk about honestly. It slaughters everything out there currently; the build is made more for video games that are coming out down the road. It is an investment into the future of video games, so it’s a bit hard to talk about how it handles what’s currently out there, other than to say you could probably be running 4 instances of Battlefield 3 on max settings and not have much of an issue (I tried running a few different games all together and tabbing between them and it didn’t seem to hurt the speed of any of the games individually).

 

THE SPECS

Processor :

Intel® Core™ i7 3930K 3.2Ghz Processor

To the layman this is a similar processor that we had in the last build. Intel Core i7 @ 3.2Ghz sounds familiar, right? Well the performance has been ramped up as the comparison chart in our video at the end of this review will show you. The difference between the 2600K we ran in the last build vs. the 3930K is impressive, and I’ve had an opportunity at several trade shows to see what this chip can do as a standalone (run RAGE by itself, for example).

 

CPU Cooler:

Noctua NH-D14 CPU Cooler

This cooling system has won a number of awards, and yet they continue to push to make it better each time around. The displacement of heat is pretty stellar, and honestly speaking from the last build to this one I noticed our newest build has become less of a space-heater thanks to the new cooling system. When combined with the new chassis and numerous case fans that utilize thermodynamics to maximize the cooling via intelligent airflow, this build is cool and quiet all around.

 

Motherboard:

Asus Rampage IV Extreme

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not the tech guy that will know how to sell a mother board. What I do know, from having blown a few on personal builds in the past, is that it needs to be able to keep pace with everything that’s plugged into it. Considering everything in this build is top-of-the-line, it says something that the Rampage IV is able to handle all of that beastly hardware and never once complained about it, or shown any signs of even being taxed by it in the slightest.

 

Graphics:

Dual Asus GeForce 2GB GTX680

This is the real heart of the computer. It was the start of the build order, and it’s what all the gamers will be looking to. These cards are top of the line, just one would crush absolutely any game out there on the market, having two is ridiculous… but in the best possible way that ensures that you’ll be set for gaming well into the next generation.

 

Memory:

Dual G.SKILL S.8GB Sniper 14900CL9 (2 x 4GB kit)

Same make as the previous set, but with more memory. GSKILL has yet to be surpassed in the world of RAM and therefore continues to be the default for Memory Express’ gaming builds. Honestly, the upgrade wasn’t even needed, but it’s one of those things that when you do get it, you really can notice. Even at this tip-top level.

 

Hard Drive:

-Intel 120GB 520 series SSD 6Gb/s OEM (Operating System)

If you have a keen memory (or clicked the link to the original review at the top of the article) you’ll know that the SSD in our original PC was a bit of a problem. We’d had issues with a dead drive and had to swap one of the SSDs out. I’m happy to say things have come a long way in the few short months since our last review and Intel is providing a nice stable drive that we have nothing to worry about. It’s been functioning fine since day one, and it’s quick as lightning.

-Western Digital 1TB SATAIII 64MB 7200RPM Black (Storage)

While it might not be as sexy or fast as the SSD there’s something to be said in the argument of quantity vs. quality. Of course, with a proper gaming computer like this one, we don’t have to make those distinctions… because both were provided. The backup space of the 1TB SATA means that there’s plenty of room for all your movies, music, and other miscellaneous files.

 

Optical Drive:

LG D.12x BluRay Writer SATA L.Scribe

I still remember it being a big deal when CD writers first hit the market. The idea that Blu Ray writers are standard on a PC now is kind of a mind-blower for me personally. But there you have it, write your own damn Blu Rays, and it’s a lot quicker than what I remember of my first ever CD writer growing up. How the times have changed.

 

Case:

Silverstone FT02B-W Unibody ATX Tower

As hinted at earlier, this case is much smaller than our previous build. Everything fits in nicely tight and secure, but we didn’t have to lose that ease of access. You can still slide hard drives in and out with the press of a button, and now the expansion slots (for addition disc trays/whatever) are also click-to-lock and slide-out.

The case is sleek and matte black with a window on the side to give a peak at the beast within. It’s far more reserved and understated and I’m absolutely in love with it. I just wish it was a bit easier to carry.

 

Power Supply:

Corsair CMPSU-1200AX 1200W Gold AX PSU

Seriously, more power than I would have thought anyone would have ever needed.

 

Operating System:

Windows 7 Professional SP1 64bit

Pretty much the only option these days, the 64 bit of Windows 7 is the best option out there currently, and having the Professional edition is a nice little cherry on top.

 

THE PERFORMANCE

And now a little something for you visual types out there and number fetishists. Below I’ve run a series of tests from various performance software suites to give you an idea of how the PC handles your standard benchmarking software. Then, if you’re very good, we’ll get into some real-world examples afterwards with a look at how the system handles some of today’s big games.

3D MARK:

3D Mark - Overview
[Overview]

3D Mark - Detailed Scores[Details]

 

PC MARK:

PC Mark - Overview
[Overview]

[Detailed View]

 

WINDOWS PERFORMANCE:

Windows System Numbers

[Numbers]

 

BENCHMARKING

Batman: Arkham City

When Memory Express first told me that we were getting a pair of Nvidia cards to review, I knew exactly what I was going to do. Ever since Rocksteady showed off their enhanced graphics for the PC version of Batman: Arkham City, I wanted to check out the Nvidia physics enhancements that were made, and I’m happy to say it's every bit as pretty as the gameplay footage they showed. This PC runs it smooth as butter, and the images below show it:

Arkham City - Full Screen

[Arkham City Screen]

Arkham City - Stats

[Arkham City Results]

 

Street Fighter x Tekken

I don’t see fighting games thrown in the mix for many other reviews, but I can’t think of a better example where dropped frames will ruin your day as quickly. Street Fighter x Tekken offers four players on screen at once with Street Fighter’s signature frame-centric gaming. Therefore I wanted to make sure this rig could handle the need for gaming at 60fps+ with and without all the flash and flare of the game’s insanity.

Street Fighter - Default Settings

[Defaults]

Street Fighter - Max Settings

[High Settings]

 

Battlefield 3

It’s the biggest, baddest of the shooters in the new era. Battlefield 3 is not only one of the best looking games out there currently, it’s fast paced and deals with some impressive physics, destructible environments, and massive theaters of war that offer all manner of vehicle; on the land, in the sea and in the air.

After running through a couple of levels and running FRAPS to capture the FPS here were the results:

Single Player Campaign (Two Levels):

Minimum: 26 Maximum: 159 Average: 109.967

Minimum: 27 Maximum: 201 Average: 150.854

Multiplayer Online (Two Matches):

Minimum: 63 Maximum: 200 Average: 97.379

Minimum: 75 Maximum: 200 Average: 124.993

 

The Elderscrolls V: Skyrim

With its massive open world it’s a great example of what a gaming PC can get away with. When I first booted up the new PC and started installing Skyrim, I was pleased to see that sexy recommendation screen suggesting the Ultra settings (something that wasn’t even offered with my last build, though I was able to manually select it after the fact) well… it was the first screen grab I got:

Skyrim - Recommendation

[Recommendation]

VIDEO

As with our last review we wanted to take you on a quick video walkthrough of the rig that Memory Express provided us. So take a break from the wall o’ text, and enjoy the visual run-through of the PC and its parts:

 

Final Thoughts/Verdict

Because I’m a fan of circular writing, I’m going to end where we began, with a car metaphor: When I was provided this computer for review I was overwhelmed. Trying to review a computer that’s made for the future of video games is a daunting task. There’s nothing out there today that can properly test this bad-boy and that means it’s something that’s hard to criticize. When I brought this up with the guys at Memory Express a great analogy came to light, a car metaphor. People buy Ferraris and Lamborghinis because it’s a point of pride to show off what’s under the hood, that doesn’t mean that they’ll ever actually get to open them up and bury the needle.

This build from Memory Express is a test build; it’s an example of what’s possible. It’s great fun to play around with, but we won’t get to see what it’s really capable of for a few months, maybe a year yet. From a reviewers point of view it’s hard to talk about because it can’t truly be tested so far… though I can speak to how much fun it has been showing off the hardware in the last month and a half to watch tech fanatics drool. As a gamer, it’s more of an investment, in the future. As a concept though, the price of the build is pretty high, so it’s intended to be a system for only the most dedicated of the fan-base. It’s more than a thousand dollars higher than our last system coming in at $4,077.21 all said and done.

If you’re going to make a commitment at that level you expect the best, and really this is it. I can’t say enough good things about this computer, and I’m excited to see what happens with it as new PC games continue to roll out to try and test the limits. It’s become a role reversal in gaming now with a PC like this: Rather than games coming out and testing your build, the PC is a challenge to game developers to see if they can utilize the hardware that’s out there.