The PAX Predator

One of the best things about being a  power user is that, basically, you get to  play god when the time comes to build a  new system. Don’t like the case selection  from a boutique builder? Go buy the one  you want. Have an exotic liquid-cooling  setup in mind? Get all the right parts and  put your new system together exactly the  way you want. Every choice is yours, and  you have the satisfaction of bringing your  creation to life. Whether it’s your first or  your fiftieth, custom builds are at least half  the fun of being an power user.
The PAX Predator
With PAX East on the horizon, we had  a perfect excuse to roll up our sleeves and  flex our creative muscles. Although we  don’t have the omnipotence to say “Let  there be gaming rig,” snap our fingers, and  produce a high-end machine out of thin  air, we do have the knowledge necessary to  put together a truly beastly PC for the East  Coast expo. So, we immediately set out to  work on the PAX Predator, a gaming PC at  the top of the evolutionary ladder.
PC Parts Safari The PAX Predator had to have the  DNA of a killer, naturally, so the first  component we targeted in our parts hunt  happens to be one of the most advanced  desktop CPUs money can buy: Intel’s  Core i7-4770K. Formerly codenamed  “Haswell,” the 4770K represents Intel  at the top of its game. Manufactured on  the same 22nm process as its predecessor,  Ivy Bridge, Haswell is a brand-new  microarchitecture. The 4770K has a base  clock of 3.5GHz (and has a Max Turbo  frequency of 3.9GHz) and brings to the  party four physical cores with the ability to handle eight threads simultaneously.
The CPU also features 8MB of L3 cache  and Intel’s new-and-improved HD  Graphics 4600 processor graphics. It’s all  wrapped up in a neat little package that  doesn’t exceed 84W TDP.
Upon Haswell’s arrival, Intel released a  host of Lynx Point chipsets to complement  its new processors. We chose the Z87 chipset, so we tapped GIGABYTE’s GAZ87X-UD5H for our motherboard. The  GA-Z87X-UD5H is part of GIGABYTE’s  legendary Ultra Durable family; specifically,  this is an Ultra Durable 5 Plus motherboard.
The PAX Predator
The board’s solid-state capacitors have a life  span of 10,000 hours and are rated to work  at up to 105 degrees Celsius. It has lots of  features that overclockers look for, too, such as voltage read points, a debug display, and  onboard buttons for power, reset, and clear  CMOS. The GA-Z87X-UD5H supports  up to 32GB of DDR3-3000 and 2-way  SLI/CrossFire. And of course, it doesn’t hurt  one bit that the board has sleek style down  cold, with its tri-color heatsinks in black,  gold, and gray.
By now, you know that we equip  every CPU System Workshop build with  a graphics card capable of playing any  game we want, and the PAX Predator is  no different. NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX  760 has been available for some time  now, but GIGABYTE’s GeForce GTX  760 WINDFORCE OC (model GVN760OC-4GD) isn’t your garden-variety  GTX 760. Sure, this card has everything  you’d expect from any GTX 760, such as  1,152 CUDA cores, 96 texture units, and  32 ROPs, but the GV-N760OC-4GD’s  WINDFORCE 3X cooler lets GIGABYTE  have a little fun with the GPU’s speeds  and feeds. Take note: Stock GTX 760s have base and boost clocks of 980MHz  and 1,033MHz, respectively, but the GTX  760 WINDFORCE OC runs at speeds up to 1,085MHz and 1,150MHz. In  addition to the WINDFORCE 3X cooler  (a monument of heatpipes and aluminum  fins that’s topped with three 92mm PWM  fans), the GTX 760 WINDFORCE OC  uses GIGABYTE’s Ultra Durable VGA  technology, a sweet suite of Japanese solid  caps, ferrite core chokes, and a PCB infused  with 2 ounces of copper. We expect that an  enterprising overclocker will be able to tease  even more power out of this graphics card.
The PAX Predator
This system’s boot drive has a lot of  fight in it. It may even want to fight you.
Lucky for everyone involved, though, we  were able to subdue Kingston’s HyperX 3K  120GB SSD and incorporate it into the  PAX Predator’s genetic makeup. Armed with  an LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller and  Intel’s 25nm NAND, the HyperX 3K SSD  has the muscle to move data at a breakneck  pace. Kingston indicates that the 120GB  HyperX 3K SSD can deliver sequential reads  up to 555MBps and sequential writes up to  510MBps. Our 120GB HyperX 3K SSD offers outstanding random 4K performance,  with reported max random 4K reads/writes  of 24,000/79,000IOPS. This drive injects a  ton of speed into the PAX Predator.
We grabbed a small mountain of memory  to stuff inside the PAX Predator. Thanks to  a 16GB kit of G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-1600 (model F3-12800CL9Q-16GBXL),  multitasking with this rig won’t be a problem.
The PAX Predator
The kit contains four 4GB modules with  timings of 9-9-9-24, so every one of the  GA-Z87X-UD5H’s DIMM slots got a  stick. The 1.5V operating voltage is exactly  what Haswell wants, and those gnarly heat  spreaders look ferocious.
In the CPU System Workshop, we tend  to favor processors with unlocked multipliers,  which lets us overclock our way to some extra  performance for free. Of course, overclocking  means more heat, and more heat means we  needed a CPU cooler that isn’t a slouch.
Enter Thermaltake’s Water 3.0 Pro, a closedloop liquid-cooler. The Water 3.0 Pro might  have “just” a 120mm radiator, but this  radiator has it where it counts: At 49mm  thick, the Water 3.0 Pro’s radiator is one of  the fattest you can bolt to a single fan slot.
Thermaltake includes a pair of 120mm fans  with the Water 3.0, so we had a push-pull  configuration right out of the box.
The power supply that feeds our beast  is LEPA’s MaxBron B1000-MB, a semimodular unit with a whole kilowatt of juice  at its disposal. As its name suggests, the  MaxBron B1000-MB is an 80 PLUS Bronzecertified PSU. It has a single, mighty 12V  rail that dishes out up to 83A of current,  as well as 3.3V and 5V rails that are each  rated for 24A. Another nice thing about  the MaxBron B1000-MB is that we had  connectors to spare. The power supply has  six 6+2-pin PCI-E, 12 SATA, and six 4-pin  Molex connectors, which will let you add  a pile of other components when the time  comes to upgrade the PAX Predator. Finally, we sought out a case for all of  our sweet, sweet loot. What we found was  Cooler Master’s COSMOS SE. Admittedly,  we’ve always been big fans of Cooler Master’s  COSMOS cases. The COSMOS SE brings  the COSMOS’ iconic silhouette down to a  price that’s accessible to a far wider group of  power users. To do this, Cooler Master opted  to use steel, as opposed to aluminum, for the  majority of the COSMOS SE, and replaced  the quick-release side panels with standard  panels you secure with thumbscrews. Just  looking at the case, though, you’ll hardly  notice a difference. Functionally, the  COSMOS SE is just as easy to work with,  thanks to ample cable management holes, a  precut hole to make installing CPU cooler  backplates easier, and support for a wide  variety of radiators.
On The Prowl Assembling the PAX Predator from its  base components was plenty of fun, as it  always is. Our GTX 760’s custom cooler turned out to be slightly longer than the  COSMOS SE allows out of the box (10.9  inches), but Cooler Master was smart enough  to build contingencies into its midtower.
By removing a couple of the case’s 3.5-inch internal drive bays, we had more than  enough room to accommodate our graphics  card, and we gained some breathing room for  a few of our PSU cables, as well.
The pair of 120mm fans included with  the Thermaltake Water 3.0 Pro worked in  our favor as well. We removed the 120mm  rear exhaust fan that’s included with the  COSMOS SE and relocated it to the top  of the chassis. Between the Water 3.0, our  GTX 760’s WINDFORCE 3X cooler, and  the COSMOS SE’s four case fans, the PAX  Predator has cooling handled.
A closer look at the PAX Predator’s parts  follows, with profiles of each component. As  always, we have a full suite of a benchmark  results to wrap up this month’s CPU System  Workshop, so you can see how this animal  performs in its natural habitat.
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