Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gearing Up, Redux.

Holynub demands I update, so here I am.

Actually, I've been fighting a case of the blahs and just thinking about typing a blog made my head hurt. I'm back now, with quite a few updates so enjoy the chain postings.

Part one of this two-part series discussed the core components that I decided on for my new gaming machine. Those were the meat-and-potatoes pieces, the rest here is gravy.

Power Supply: Thermaltake W0319RU 850W Modular Power Supply
Alright, so the power supply is actually a meat-and-potatoes part. Making sure that you're going to have enough power on the rails for your graphics card(s) and that there is enough wattage being sent out in general is very important. With my plans to upgrade with a second card in Crossfire in the future, I knew I needed a power supply with enough oomph to handle the both of them in addition to all of the other pieces in my box. I also wanted to get rid of the unsightly and airflow-interfering cable mess that was so common in PCs I'd built in the past so I knew I wanted modular. The problem with modular power supplies is that there is certainly an extra cost for the ability to only utilize what you need. If it weren't for my plans to add in the second card, I could likely have gotten by with only a 650W power supply. Better to pay a little extra up-front than to replace the entire thing later.

Case: Cooler Master CM690 II Advanced Mid-Tower Case
Alright, this case is sexy. It was also significantly more than I planned to pay for a computer case, but Anakha gave me his blessing to spend the extra on it. I was actually eying its little sister, the CM690 II Basic, but it hadn't released yet and I'm impatient. What I learned after having received this case is that it's the big brother to Anakha's. There's plenty of space for long graphics cards, the width is more than enough for my over-sized CPU cooler to clear, and the number of fan options is just sexy. Luckily it comes with filters that rest on the inside of all of the mesh of the case or it'd be one huge furball. My only actual complaint with my case is that LCDs in the front fan do not seem to be working. I could have mis-wired something, but I actually prefer it without that light.

Monitor: Hanns-G HH-251HPB 24.6" 1080p
Anakha's combined Birthday/Christmas present two years ago was a 1080p monitor for his computer. He was, of course, in love with it. Thus when it was my turn for a monitor, he was insistent that I pick up a 1080p myself. I'm not generally a fan of more window space; I prefer to have everything in one small area that is easy to maneuver around. However, I'm a sucker for sales as well and when I found this beauty for $180 I was sold. No dead pixels and HDMI make me a happy camper. It does have an annoying syncing problem whenever there is a resolution change of some sort; I've been told it's probably my cable and have yet to test it, just be aware. Turning the monitor off and on again causes it to resync and I can continue on from there.

Headset: Sennheiser PC161
I'm not an audiophile, not even close. I actually have pretty terrible hearing overall and wouldn't notice the difference between 28kbps and 192kbps unless you told me there was a difference. I do, however, want to be able to hear my instructions on Vent clearly, without popping and crackling, and I wanted the music in-game to sound nice, even if at horrible bit-rates. With three hour raids, plus usually 5/10-man Vent discussions going for however long, I needed something comfortable as well. I noticed that the Sennheiser headsets were performing quite well in reviews, specifically the PC 350, but a $200+ price tag was more than I really wanted when, quite frankly, I'd never really notice the difference. A guildmate asked for a headset suggestion as well, and the PC161 was one of those mentioned. I love these things. They're extremely comfortable, lightweight, and sound great. I have had no complaints that folks can hear me over Vent and when I hear myself loopback, it sounds crystal clear.

Mouse: Microsoft Sidewinder X5 Mouse
I owned a Logitech laser mouse once upon a time, the kind with the weights that you could manipulate for different feels. It was certainly aimed more at an FPSer and I never changed the weights after distributing some through it the first time. This time, I decided I wanted a mouse with more buttons. It was while the mouse was enroute that I discovered how much easier talking on Vent was when my push-to-talk button was on the side of my mouse rather than my 'z' key (what I normally use for Vent) so it must have been some sort of foresight that caused me to buy this one.

Biggest issue for me was that it was advertised as being a 9-button mouse; three of those buttons are actually triggers for DPI settings, so it's more a 6-button mouse, with one button being highly non-useful since it's under the heel of your hand most of the time. Having two thumb buttons is great, however; the top one is my Vent push-to-talk and the bottom is mapped to be my 'Alt' key for macros. This mouse has significantly helped my playing just by not having to stretch my hand across the keyboard for macros. I still occasionally realize I'm pressing the alt-button rather than the push-to-talk button and haven't actually told anyone that my Rebirth is available again.

Keyboard: Saitek Eclipse II
Alright, this one I didn't buy. Anakha was actually using it but had complained he didn't like it, so I planned to take it back so he could buy some Microsoft keyboard or whatever he wanted. Ends up he liked this keyboard after all and is now using a cheap big-box-store keyboard until he chooses one he really wants.

First of all, this thing glows in the dark. I don't type home-row; never have, never will (if you care, I learned to type while playing MUDs and thus learned to type kill orc as quickly as possible). While in general my WPM and accuracy are pretty good, sometimes I will find myself 'lost' because I don't have a place that I return to by default. At those times, I have to take a quick second to glance down at the keyboard and re-orientate myself. And, of course, as a geek I hate light and revere the dark, making it hard to see where I'm supposed to be going on the keyboard when there is no light. The back-lighting on this thing has helped significantly in that aspect. That and it has purple as a color option. What's not to love?

The keys are nice and crisp and have a good feel to them; they spring right back up and don't 'clack' so noisily it's distracting. The layout is normal for a keyboard and all of the media-control keys are grouped up nicely in the top-right corner. With black and silver colouring, it's simple and elegant with that added bling. I'm in love with this keyboard and I'm happy to say that many seem to prefer the Eclipse II to its big brother, the Eclipse III.

Game Pad: Belkin n52te (Nostromo Tournament Edition)
How people layout their keybindings has always interested me. With my layout, I had found that there just did not seem to be enough keys within easy reach for all of the abilities that I needed or wanted to use. I originally thought about snagging one of those Logitech G15/19 keyboards but I'm so in love with my Eclipse II that I just couldn't give it up (again). I'd been reading through the Resto4Life blog and had seen the review and configuration tutorial for the Belkin n52te and thought, "Wow... that's exactly what I'm looking for!" So, added to cart (on sale for bonus points) and when it arrived I was disappointed to find that it was most certainly created with larger hands in mind. Even altering the angle of the hand-wrest just could not provide me with a comfortable position where I could actually reach all of the keys without having to stretch or move my entire hand (which is what I bought this thing to avoid in the first place). Controlling movement with the thumbstick (or D-pad since the thumbstick could be removed) was awkward at best and after a couple of days of trying to get used to it (after a few hours of configuring the damned thing), I gave up. This accessory is not for the feint of heart. If you have larger hands and are great at fine-tuned movement with your thumbs (all of you XBox 360 and PS3 FPS players), you'll love this thing. For me, it wasn't such a great buy.

If you're interested, I have one new in box that I'm willing to sell or trade.

For a bit more information, I'm running windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit and the ATI Catalyst drivers are a huge load of suck. I've been crashing with vertical bars at least once ever two days. Rolling back to a previous driver seemed to solve the vertical bar problem but caused many of my games to glitch graphically. Seems ATI is 'aware of the problem' and is working on it.

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