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The PC Gamer team's personal rigs

Why yes, now that you mention it, the massive GPU is sagging under its own weight.

Say hello to my little M.2 friend; now if only it was a 1TB model….

Jarred Walton’s PC

Specs for Jarred's PC

Tell us about your computer

Wait, you mean I only get to pick one!? It’s like asking a parent to tell you about their favorite child, because I have at present something like six desktop PCs I use regularly (and a laptop I use for writing and travel). But let’s just go for the gusto and talk about my biggest, baddest build right now, shall we? It’s the newest addition to the ‘family,’ and I call him ‘Gargantuar,’ because I’ve played way too much Plants vs. Zombies.

When Intel sent over their new Broadwell-E processors for testing, I knew I was going to be swapping CPUs quite a bit, and that’s frankly a huge pain in the butt. You have to unscrew the heatsink mounts, pop it off the CPU, carefully unlatch the bars that hold the processor in the socket, remove the CPU from the socket...and then reverse all these steps with the next CPU. At the same time, you want to avoid getting thermal paste everywhere, which means cleaning and reapplying paste on each CPU swap. When you’re doing all of that, you want a cooling setup that you can easily remove, and I speak from experience when I say that large air coolers are not a good choice. Instead, you want lots of room with an all-in-one liquid cooling solution, which is why I have Corsair's H100i v2.

Rosewill’s absolutely massive B2-Spirit seemed a good fit; it’s a case my coworker shipped to my home just to clear up space in the office. It’s roomy and made Broadwell-E testing a bit easier, but man is it huge. With all this room, I turned to Zotac’s triple-wide GTX 1080 Amp! Extreme for graphics duties, the first custom GTX 1080 to come my way. Like the case, it’s comically large, and it’s so heavy that even the large metal backplate doesn’t properly support the card. (The case is also partly to blame--you can’t make something this big and have the rigidity of a smaller chassis.) I’ve since added zipties to the card to straighten things up, and it’s still the baddest GPU in the house.

What are you playing?

Mostly, benchmarks. But in all seriousness, I’m still trying to finish up Fallout 4, Doom, Witcher 3, and I’ve got dozens more games in my ‘bucket of shame.’ Doom is usually getting most of my free time for gaming, which obviously isn’t a lot since I haven’t completed it yet. I just spent several days retesting the game with the Vulkan patch that just come out, which isn't nearly as fun as playing the game.

What upgrade are you planning next?

I don’t really need to upgrade anything at this point. Sure, I could add a second GTX 1080 for SLI, but beyond that my system is pretty much maxed out. Though that new Titan X is looking mighty tempting.... There are still things I want to see, though, including Intel’s Optane SSDs (with 3D XPoint technology instead of NAND), and 1TB M.2 NVMe drives are now available. Because you can never have too much fast storage.

The hardware guys have all the fun.

Alex Campbell’s PC

Specs for Alex's PC

CPU: Intel Core i7-5930K (overclocked to 4.0GHz)
CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken X61
Graphics card: 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti SLI
Motherboard: MSI X99S SLI Plus
RAM: 4x8GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4-2666
SSD: 480GB Kingston HyperX Predator M.2 PCIe
HDD: 2x 2TB WD Black
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX
Keyboard: Logitech G410
Mouse: Logitech G900
Mouse mat: Razer Firefly
Speakers: None at the moment
Headset: Logitech G933

Tell us about your computer

As Technology Editor at Maximum PC and, I have the unique pleasure of building lots of PCs. This PC is made from the spare parts of some of those rigs after they’ve been taken apart. My PC is part home gaming and compute machine, and part test rig. 

I have this rig to play games and to test software and hardware in Windows. It’s the only Windows PC I have. I have four desktop PCs in my home office. (One runs Ubuntu 16.04, one server runs Arch, and the other runs FreeNas.) Even my desktop at the office in San Francisco is running Ubuntu 16.04. (Okay, so I have Windows on my Yoga 2 Pro laptop, but it’s dual-booting Arch Linux and has probably booted to Windows less than ten times.)

I’ve built and modified PCs since I was in middle school. I remember installing my first video card: a 3dFx VooDoo3 2000 AGP in an AMD K6-2 desktop. I later built my first PC with an Atlhlon64. This may come as a surprise, but until I worked at Maximum PC, every PC I built had an AMD CPU or APU. I’ve always gone team green for graphics on my personal builds, mostly due to a weird brand loyalty to 3dFx (which was acquired by Nvidia).

What are you playing? 

I actually don’t play that many games, which is surprising. Like I said, this PC is part compute rig, so the power is spent running BOINC at night. BOINC lets me donate my PC’s power to projects like SETI@Home,, and CERN’s ATLAS@Home project for the Large Hadron Collider.

Yep, my PC helps crunch data created by this thing.

Most of the games I have are for benchmarking purposes. A good example is Tomb Raider (2013) that I had on Steam for a good six to eight months before I actually played through it. When I do hop into a game, I’m usually playing Rocket League (I roll with keyboard and mouse), KSP, and dabble in The Division. I also like to play Arma 3 from time to time.

What upgrade are you planning next?

I consider this PC to be pretty obscenely fast as is. Even with the release of the GTX 1070/1080, I’m hesitant to upgrade my video cards because the 980 Tis get along just fine for now.

If there was one upgrade I’d make, it would be to build in a custom loop water cooling system. The Kraken keeps my CPU (overclocked to 4GHz) plenty cool, but a custom loop would be like icing on the cake.

Like a good wine, some things get better with age.

Alan Dexter’s PC

Tell us about your computer

The eagle-eyed among you will note that this isn’t a particularly cutting-edge machine—for instance, the Sandy Bridge-E CPU is officially “End of Life” according to Intel. To be fair, the chip this machine is built around launched not so long ago (2012, for those that care), so it’s not exactly prehistoric. It’s also an “enthusiast” chip, so it’s stood up to the ravages of times well, and can still give newer chips a run for their money.

The newest component inside the roomy chassis is the AMD Radeon R9 390, which replaced an aging Radeon HD 7950 after I realised the machine wasn’t VR ready. Not that it’s used for VR, but you know, I wouldn’t want to feel out of date. In fact the reason that the machine isn’t smack bang up-to-date is a simple one: convenience. All of the components in the machine are old review components, which means that I don’t have to keep taking it apart if the components are needed elsewhere.

What are you playing?

Like many others here, Overwatch is sucking up a surprising amount of my time at the moment, and it’s buttery smooth on this rig. I try and keep on top of my Hearthstone quests as well, along with plenty of games of Magic: The Gathering for a more in-depth challenge. Prior to completing Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara saw plenty of action here too, along with a smattering of Doom, the odd game of Spelunky, and a good amount of surviving in The Long Dark.

What upgrade are you planning next?

While this system is a little long in the tooth, it still handles everything I care to throw at it, so nothing is pressing upgrade-wise right now. The next game I’ve got my eye on is the Legions expansion for WoW (I’ve been playing from the start, so I can’t break free now), but that’s not going to be too demanding either. It’s probably on the peripheral front that I’ll see the most dabbling—my beloved Corsair M65 is getting particularly grubby for instance. A slightly larger SSD wouldn’t hurt either.

PC Gamer

Hey folks, beloved mascot Coconut Monkey here representing the collective PC Gamer editorial team, who worked together to write this article!