And finally we are at the end of my series about building a custom computer system using an Antec 1200. In this final posting, I’m going to throw numbers your way. I ran some gaming and performance benchmarks. But first, I must tell you that I am not a professional reviewer. One of those guys stuck in labs, running test after test on computers and then kicking your ass with the logic. Sometimes it’s better to hear it from the random guy on the street. Here I am.
System specs refresher
You don’t need to scan through the other postings to see my specs. I’ll list them right here:
- Antec 1200 computer case, 5 120mm fans, 1 200mm fan
- ASUS P6T motherboard with Intel X58 chipset, 3-way SLI and Quad-Crossfire ready, onboard Realtek HD Audio, onboard Gigabit LAN
- EVGA GTX 275 1792MB GDDR3
- 6GB Corsair Dominator PC3 12800 @1600, triple channel
- Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA (3.0Gpbs) HDD, 32MB cache @7200rpm
- Corsair TX750, 750W power supply
- Samsung SATA DVD-RW drive
- Windows 7 Home Premium
How does it run?
It runs well, but I am not surprised. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Dreamweaver start up fast. Games load maps fast. I had a really good experience using Windows 7 Ultimate RC, both on this laptop and on my gaming system. It was almost stable with few problems. I have removed RC from this laptop and have gone back to Vista. Man, I really don’t like Vista.
If you have clicked on the picture to the right, then you have noticed that the Windows Experience Index is only 5.9. For those that do not know, the Windows Experience Index, introduced to us in Vista, is Windows’ benchmarking tool. While it’s not as telling as PC Vantage or 3D Mark, you get the general idea of how well Windows 7 will work on your system.
Here is a snapshot of the Windows Experience Index screen and you can see how my system measures up according to Windows 7. My system gets mid 7s in all categories except the HDD transfer rate. For me, this was not unexpected. My hard drive is very large and only 7200rpm. It takes the system longer to search for files on this drive. Maybe an SSD would be good for this system. However, I want large capacity and SSDs are expensive the bigger they get. So the HDD will remain the part that – sort of – holds this system back.
The Intel Core i7 quad-core CPU is the engine that keeps my rig running fast. To the right, you can see the Windows Task Manager. Windows 7 has detected all four cores plus Hyper-Threading for each core. Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology virtually duplicates parts of each core. This is why Windows Task Manager shows eight CPUs instead of four. However, as you can see, not all eight “cores” are being used. This will probably remain the case until someone comes out with a OS, software or game which can use all four/eight at the same time.
For now I am happy with my choice of CPU. As a test, I timed Any Video Converter as it converted a 730MB AVI video file into a MP4 video for my iPod in 25 minutes. It takes my HP dv9000 series laptop a couple of hours to complete this task. The video looked good and the audio was on track.
PC Vantage and 3D Mark 2006
Since I am cheap and poor, I only used the trial versions of these programs. Both made by the same company, PC Vantage tests the performance of computers running Windows Vista and higher. 3D Mark is the standard in graphics performance testing for the masses. Because I only used the trial versions, I was severely limited in settings and how hard I pushed my system. So, these are the results:
- PC Vantage: 8401 PC Marks
- 3D Mark 2006 (Res. 1280×1024, no AA): 16911 3DMARKS
SM 2.0 Score: 6822
SM 3.0 Score: 7634
CPU Score: 4962
When I play games, I created a gaming theme which switches to Windows Basic and removes the wallpaper from the desktop. In my experience, turning off Windows Aero does have some impact when playing a game. I ran my gaming theme while running these benchmarks. These are the games that I have and tested: Crysis, Far Cry 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2 Demo, S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat.
Note: My monitor’s native resolution is 1920×1080
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (зов припяти) Benchmarking Tool
Yes, this game has not been released yet but GSC Game World has released a benchmarking tool for us to use. This tool runs the test four times by testing different configurations. Each loop tests the same sequence in different weather environments: Day, Night (with Lightning), Rain and heavy sunshine with sun rays the demo calls SunShafts. The results:
High preset. Enhanced, full dynamic lighting DX10
Left 4 Dead
Unlike other games, Valve’s Left 4 Dead relies more on the processor than the video card. Not that a video card doesn’t help!!! For this, I recorded a demo of me playing the single player in The Woods, the 1st map of Blood Harvest. I fought my way from the first to the second picnic table.
Max settings. The timings are: 1)No AA, Anisotropic filter 2x 2) 8x MSAA AA, Anisotropic filter 16x.
- 1920×1080 – 130fps
- 1920×1080 – 77fps
- 1600×900 – 150fps
- 1600×900 – 102fps
Left 4 Dead 2 Demo
Just like the first L4D, L4D 2 also relies on the CPU. Just in case you didn’t play the demo, the demo takes place on The Waterfront map. The 1st map of The Parish campaign. I recorded a demo of me playing from the riverfront to the backdoor to the restaurant kitchen.
Max settings. The timings are: 1) No AA, Anisotropic filter 2x 2) 8x MSAA AA, Anisotropic filter 16x.
- 1920×1080 – 148fps
- 1920×1080 – 105fps
- 1600×900 – 163fps
- 1600×900 – 133fps
Did you notice that the numbers for L4D 2 are higher than L4D? This is because The Woods is more graphically intense than The Waterfront.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Unlike the other games that I tested, GTA IV has a benchmarking tool within the GUI of the game. Just click on “Graphics” then click on “Benchmark” near the bottom of the submenu. The preset demo shows a race on mopeds through the lighted streets of Liberty City. The submenu also shows you how much graphics memory you are using.
All settings are high and draw distance is mid-range.
- 1920×1080 – 60fps
- 1680×1050 – 61fps
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 comes with a benchmarking tool. You just have to find it! At first, I found it on the DVD but it would not work. Finally, I found that it had been copied onto the computer during the installation. I found it in this directory C:\ProgramFiles(x86)\Ubisoft\Far Cry 2\bin. I used the demo Ranch – small.
My current game settings, DX10 All settings VERY HIGH.
- 1920×1080 – 57fps
DX10 All settings ULTRA HIGH
- 1920×1080 – 50fps
DX10 All settings VERY HIGH
- 1680×1050 – 59fps
DX10 All settings ULTRA HIGH
- 1680×1050 – 53fps
Crysis is pretty much the current king of all benchmarked games and internet memes (“Yeah, but can it play Crysis?”). Crytek pulled out all of the stops when they made this game. It’s taxes, even, the most powerful gaming rigs and mine was no exception. I just recently bought this on Steam for 10€. I downloaded a benchmarking tool and the demo was a bird’s eye view of the island.
All tests were done in DX10, 32-bit. The timings are: 1) No AA, High quality 2) 8x AA, High Quality 3) No AA, Very High Quality
- 1920×1080 – 43fps
- 1920×1080 – 38fps
- 1920×1080 – 28fps
- 1680×1050 – 46fps
- 1680×1050 – 38fps
- 1680×1050 – 32fps
There is one lingering problem that I have had since Windows 7 RC. I make it a habit to put my computers into Hibernation instead of completely shutting them off for the night. My system tends to bring itself out of hibernation. I have set the sleep timer to 10 minutes and it goes to sleep. This happens every night. I turned “Hybrid Sleep” off so I could actually use Hibernation. I also disabled “Wake-on LAN” and “Magic Packets”.
I really enjoy building systems and this was no exception. What made it even more special was that my rig has quality parts and it is a high-end rig. Maybe it could use a Creative sound card and a LCD temperature gage and fan control. But this works just fine and it really didn’t break the bank. And if you look at the last picture just above, you can see that after playing Crysis, the EVGA card is only 76C. I have never seen that temperature reading above 79C. Plus, the area where my computer sits really is not any hotter than it normally is when the computer is off. So, it’s getting sufficient cooling thanks to the airflow provided by the fans, cable management and space of the Antec 1200. Good luck in building your gaming rigs!