When we were kids, our parents often reminded us that we would probably never make a living playing video games. Maybe that was true back when platforms like YouTube and Twitch didn't exist, but their arrival has opened the market for viewing and live-streaming games. Nowadays, anyone can broadcast what they're playing or upload their gameplay videos and make a profit. It's not too late to jump in to earn some extra money in your spare time or attempt to turn gaming into a full-time job.
The system we're building today is adept at recording gameplay and broadcasting live streams. If you're not interested in an audience, it's also a no-nonsense gaming PC capable of running AAA titles with maximum visual fidelity at the 2560 x 1440 resolution.
Getting into the build
The processor largely dictates the overall performance of the system. For that reason, we're equipping an Intel Core i7-7700K quad-core CPU that operates at a base clock of 4.2GHz and a Turbo frequency of 4.5GHz. We choose this chip to eliminate the CPU as a bottleneck for gaming performance. Additionally, the 7700K's Hyper-Threading technology comes in handy when the system is executing more demanding tasks like streaming games on Twitch or performing video post-production for YouTube uploads.
Adequate cooling ensures proper processor function. The Core i7-7700K doesn't come with a stock heatsink, but that's OK. Punishing the chip with prolonged gaming sessions and video production requires a capable aftermarket solution anyway. We're using a 140-mm AIO liquid cooling system to dissipate heat. Specifically, we're going with the NZXT Kraken x42, since it offers a good balance between cooling performance and silence. Installation is easy and won't present a problem for even novice PC builders. Also, the Kraken is undeniably one of the best-looking AIO units on the market right, so it blends quite nicely into our gaming PC.
We're pairing the CPU and cooler with ROG's Maximus IX Formula, the epitome of Z270 gaming motherboards. The Formula comes with a plethora of high-end features, like premium VRMs that deliver clean power to maximize overclocking potential, a hybrid CrossChill EK II VRM block that allows for future custom water-cooling endeavors, a fortifying backplate that resists flex, ROG Armor that prevents dust accumulation, a pre-mounted I/O shield for easy motherboard installation, and onboard 802.11ac Wi-Fi that lets you say goodbye to cables — just to mention a few. On the software side, AI Suite III not only supports real-time monitoring of system vitals, but also includes a 5-Way Optimization feature that overclocks the system automatically, without much effort. Sonic Studio III is also useful for tailoring the audio to our tastes.
We all know that aesthetics are a crucial aspect of any gaming PC. The Maximus IX Formula doesn't disappoint; its gorgeous exterior is complemented flawlessly by just the right amount of customizable Aura RGB lighting to make our gaming system really shine — literally. Furthermore, the side-panel window on the build's NZXT S340 Elite chassis lets us show off the RGB-lit motherboard and internals, but more on that point later.
Nowadays, graphically demanding games can require lots of memory, and that's unlikely to change. Creating great content for YouTube can involve hours of video editing that also consumes a lot of memory. It makes perfect sense to have an abundant amount of RAM for the tasks that we're planning for our system. So, we're outfitting it with 32GB of high-performance Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory operating at 3000MHz. The memory payload can boost our general productivity while providing a better multitasking experience.
For the graphics card, we consider the ROG Strix GTX 1080 to be the ideal pick for gaming at 2560 x 1440. As shown in my gaming performance guides for Ghost Recon: Wildlands and For Honor, the Strix GTX 1080 unquestionably possesses the necessary firepower to deliver decent frame rates at the highest image quality possible in modern games. Let's not forget that the chip's generous 2560 CUDA cores are also highly beneficial in video editing programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. With the recent price drop caused by the introduction of the GTX 1080 Ti, we can get the Strix GTX 1080 for a great price. The card also supports Aura Sync, which means we can synchronize the integrated RGB lighting with our Maximus IX Formula to create awesome effects.
Although storage isn't always at the top of the list when it comes to a gaming PC, we don't want to skimp out on it either. We're choosing a PNY CS1311 960GB SATA SDD because it provides enough performance to reduce loading times in games, as well as enough capacity to house our Steam, Origin, and Uplay libraries. In case we require additional storage for backing up old games and storing space-consuming videos projects, we're also adding a conventional 1TB Western Digital hard drive to the mix.
As gamers and enthusiasts, we want our systems to perform at their utter best always, with no downtime. Therefore, we're using a Seasonic Prime 750W 80 Plus Titanium power supply to deliver stable and reliable power to our components. At first sight, a 750W unit screams overkill for a system of this caliber, but we like having headroom to add another Strix GTX 1080 in SLI or upgrade to a more powerful graphics card down the line. The Prime's fully modular design facilitates easy cable management to not only improve airflow, but also contribute to our system's tidiness. The unit is backed by a generous 12-year warranty, meaning our investment is well protected.
Despite what many people may think, cases aren't simply eye candy; they're an important part of any PC. There are many reasons why we're opting for the NZXT S340 Elite for our build. It's compact enough to not leave a huge footprint on our desk but at the same time large enough to house our components with extra space to grow if needed. It's not short of cable management features and options for storage and cooling, either. We particularly love the black-and-red model because it looks sleek and fits right into the ROG theme we're aiming for. The full tempered glass side panel is perfect for showing off our awesome gaming system to guests. We also like S340 Elite's inclusion of an HDMI port in the top IO panel. We connected this port directly to the VR-friendly secondary HDMI port on our Strix GTX 1080, so headsets can plug in without having to reach around the back of the case. The case also includes a magnetic puck for holding your VR or audio headset.
You know what they say: it wouldn't be a gaming PC without RGB lighting. We agree so much with that statement that we're adding the NZXT Hue+ LED controller to complement the Aura Sync lighting on our motherboard and graphics card. The included LED strips have magnets, so attaching them to the S340 Elite's metal chassis is extremely easy. The strips are then connected to the controller, giving us complete control over them. Hue+ brings some cool lighting effects to the table to really spice up our build. Additionally, the Maximus IX Formula has dual RGB strip headers of its own, if you fancy matching your case lighting with the motherboard and graphics card.
Don't forget to have a look at the time-lapse video of the entire build process before jumping to the benchmarks:
These tests were conducted with the maximum graphics preset in each game at a resolution of 2560 x 1440. For the sake of simplicity, I've used the graphic preset as it is, without any modifications. The only option I've disabled is V-Sync, for obvious reasons. I used Fraps to capture individual frame times during a custom sequence and then converted the data to FPS for easy interpretation. The following graphs show FPS over time; higher performance produces more frames, which is why some of the plots are longer than others.
Testing was done with and without streaming via Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). I streamed at 720p30 using the software x264 encoder and default bitrates of 2500kbps for video and 160kbps for audio. Also note that the system was restarted before each benchmark run.
As part of NVIDIA's Prepare For Battle bundle, we get to pick between For Honor and Ghost Recon: Wildlands games upon acquiring the Strix GTX 1080.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands, as reviewed in our graphics performance guide, is a very demanding title across all resolutions. With a combination of an Intel Core i7-7700K CPU and a Strix GTX 1080 graphics card, we're able to enjoy the game with frame rates largely over 40 FPS, except in a few instances where the action gets out of control and performance dips below that mark. Given the nature of the game, these are very playable frame rates. While gaming and streaming simultaneously, we experience a slight decrease in the average frame rate, from 49.4 FPS to 46.6 FPS. That doesn't have a noticeable impact on our gaming experience.
We analyzed graphics performance in For Honor not so long ago, so we knew this game wouldn't challenge our system. We're getting excellent frame rates here, with performance consistently above 60 FPS, which far exceeds the game's 30-FPS requirement for online play. To be exact, we're averaging 98.5 FPS while gaming alone and 95.8 FPS when we're streaming online. Interestingly, there's much more frame-to-frame variance while streaming, even though the average remains high.
The results show that the Strix GTX 1080 possess more than enough graphics power to run Watch Dogs 2 above 60 FPS on our build. The frame rates occasionally drop below 60 FPS when there are explosions involved in the scene. The average frame rates are 73.6 FPS during pure gaming and 70.8 FPS with streaming involved.
Just like with Watch Dogs 2, we're getting a similar above-60-FPS experience in Mafia 3. Running the game with average frame rate of 79.4 FPS is amazing. While streaming, this number drops to 70.1 FPS, registering the most significant performance hit of the games we've tested.
Playing games at the highest graphics preset available is what belonging to the PC Master Race is all about. With this system, we are able to do just that and stream gameplay over the Internet simultaneously, without having a major impact on our gaming experience. But we didn't just set out to build an insanely powerful PC for 1440p gaming; we also want to make it beautiful. All the components were chosen carefully to harmonize with each other. The Maximus IX Formula's lighting is in perfect sync with the Strix GTX 1080, and the S340 Elite allows the interior to be seen while also offering a front HDMI port that can connect to the VR-ready HDMI port on the graphics card. The NZXT Hue+ provides additional lighting and synchronizes with the Kraken X42 CPU cooler. The end result is a kick-ass gaming system in every sense of the word.
When SkyLake first came out I built a very similar system for my son, Z-170 Formula, 6700K, GTX 1080, same case with Razor theme so his is set all green, 3 2560x1440 monitors, he games on one while monitoring chats and streaming on the other 2 monitors, he loves his setup, he's made a few bucks but noting to speak of
I think the idea of the colors is you can create a theme of your own with lights and change it anytime you want
Menthol wrote: When SkyLake first came out I built a very similar system for my son, Z-170 Formula, 6700K, GTX 1080, same case with Razor theme so his is set all green, 3 2560x1440 monitors, he games on one while monitoring chats and streaming on the other 2 monitors, he loves his setup, he's made a few bucks but noting to speak of
I think the idea of the colors is you can create a theme of your own with lights and change it anytime you want
Absolutely! It keeps the system from looking boring.
Zka17 wrote: Yeah... keyword: change it any time... for me it is just distracting... - but hey, I can accept that other people like it! 😉
Again, the build itself is really good!
Yeah, RGB lighting has that effect on some people. 😛