Building the ultimate warrior

Last year, the WinLabs crew worked overtime to construct Dream PC 07 and judging by the response from you, our loyal readers, the feature and machine itself was a rip-roaring success. Therefore, we’ve brought back the feature this year and, once again, the WinLabs team was drafted into action.

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  October 27, 2008

Last year, the WinLabs crew worked overtime to construct Dream PC 07 and judging by the response from you, our loyal readers, the feature and machine itself was a rip-roaring success. Therefore, we've brought back the feature this year and, once again, the WinLabs team was drafted into action.

Like last year the team was tasked with building a supercharged performance PC that could tackle heavy duty application work, fast and furious gaming and just about anything else you can think of. If you're curious about what the team concocted this time around flip the page and prepare to be impressed...

Processing power

The choice of what processor our rig should have was something of a no brainer because Intel is currently the undisputed king of the consumer CPU market. With multi-threaded software becoming more and more widespread, logic dictated that we could settle on nothing less than a quad-core super-chip for Dream PC 08.

In the end we zeroed in on Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX9770 processor, which is the equivalent of a super car in the consumer CPU industry. Like an exotic super car, the QX9770 boasts drool-worthy specifications; four cores running at 3.2GHz each, a massive 12Mbytes of L2 cache and a 400MHz standard Front Side Bus (FSB).

Despite its top specifications the QX9770 doesn't run the risk of spontaneous combustion because Intel manufactures it using a 45nm fabrication process. As a result, it's as cool as a cucumber, as proved by our full load temperature of just 49-degrees Celsius when running at standard frequency.

Knowing this, the team decided on pushing this beast of a chip to the limit and, after hours of testing, finally settled on an absolutely stable 4GHz clock speed; an 800MHz improvement over standard.

To attain this frequency we simply took advantage of th e Extreme CPU's unlocked multiplier, raising it from x8 to x10, which when multiplied by the 400MHz FSB resulted in a clock frequency of 4GHz.

To maintain stability at its new operating frequency, we supplied only an extra 0.5-volts of juice and this shows just how much headroom Intel's processors have in terms of overclocking potential.

With the added muscle, the CPU turned out to be an absolute monster and helped the rig post some of the highest benchmark scores we've seen to date.

Big mama

A motherboard is what makes or breaks a PC; there is no other component that's more important to a machine than this. So, selecting exactly which motherboard we wanted for this year's Dream Machine took some time, as there were a number of stunning releases. Eventually, we settled on Foxconn's amazing Blackops.

The Backops uses Intel's current high-end Northbridge chip, the X48, and Foxconn has cleverly paired it with the feature-laden ICH9 Southbridge. This affords the motherboard some serious capabilities including support for every LGA775 CPU socket on the market, dual-channel DDR3 memory, and also PCI-E 2.0 support.

The X48 Northbridge and two PCI-E x16 slots also mean this board offers support for AMD's CrossfireX multi-GPU technology (a good thing considering we went with an AMD GPU).

Other features include dual Gigabit ethernet controllers, three standard PCI slots, RAID support and, perhaps its biggest party piece, some serious overclocking abilities.

The Foxconn's BIOS is insanely tweakable offering vast voltage ranges for pretty much everything connected to the board's PCB. It obviously also features multiplier adjustments, 1MHz FSB increments and much, much more.

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