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May
22
2012

Evolution of Custom Gaming PCs: What Really Made the Difference

For as long as there have been PCs, there have been PC gamers. Of course, things have changed a lot since back when people were trying to break their high score on a Commodore 64 playing Dig Dug. Even 10 or 15 years ago, the market for a dedicated gaming computer was still just coming into its own. Even then, all we had were basic white box computers for playing solitaire and minesweeper.

The market began to open up for custom gaming PCs after a number of innovations that really started to make it a unique and special product segment. Suddenly a serious PC gamer had a whole range of new options to build a high-performance computer that featured upgrades allowing them to get ahead and dominate the competition. And now, custom PCs have moved beyond just being competitive, they're focused on creating an incredible gaming experience with multiple video cards, three monitors, and mainstream liquid cooling options.

An Evolving Experience

Today, we gamers, take it as a mark of pride when our rigs can run the latest next-gen games at the highest resolution with maximum visual settings without experiencing any lag or. Today's next-gen PC gaming titles being run on a panoramic triple display setup would make a mere off-the-shelf computer whimper in fear. In order to meet the demands of these games (and gamers) the gaming experience has evolved significantly over the last decade or so, propelled by some important innovations.

Graphics Cards

Inevitably, the visual graphics are the first thing people want to know about when you talk about a gaming PC. Detailed high-resolution graphics and killer frame rates can make the difference between an immersive, satisfying experience and one that leads to frustration and you hurling your keyboard against the wall.

One of the first innovations in graphics card technology came with the GPU (graphics processing unit), which relieved the graphic processing burden off the CPU and took over the massive algorithms for parallel processing 3D graphics. That alone wasn't enough to keep up with today's cutting edge games, though, which is why NVIDIA developed its SLI technology that allows users to connect multiple cards together to render scan lines separately.

Processors

For years, CPU manufacturers pushed to deliver higher and higher clock speeds. One innovation gradually led to another until, in the early 2000s, the Pentium 4 made a huge leap forward and doubled its speed from an average of 1.5GHz to just over 3.06GHz. In recent years, though, we've hit a plateau near 4GHz (not overclocked stock speeds). It's becoming more difficult to increase clock rates while shrinking the die size of the CPU. This is not a bad thing, though, because it just means the focus has changed from clock speed to the number of cores you can fit in a machine. Now we have six core desktop processors and even eight core Xeon server CPUs.

Cooling Systems

When Crysis or Battlefield 3 started to bottleneck the CPU with multiple video card configurations, a lot of gamers started overclocking their CPUs to boost performance. With the CPU running hotter due to overclocking, gamers began to focus more on the CPU cooling system. When you're pushing the processor to its limits on these games, a simple fan and heat-sink just isn't going to cut it. The first major innovation came with liquid cooling options, which were a lot quieter and far more effective. At Digital Storm, we've taken it a step further with our Cryo-TEC cooling system which uses a thermoelectric cold plate and control system to pump below 0C fluid to the processor to unlock even higher overclock speeds reliably.

Large Scale Customization

In the end, what really affected the evolution of the gaming PC market was the ability to customize the experience on a grand scale. Simply offering a single, ultra-high-performance configuration would be fine for the hardcore players, but it wouldn't meet the needs of all those gamers looking for a special and unique personalized product compared to an off-the-shelf model.

Some gamers might want a Solid State Drive (SSD) for an overall smoother experience while others would prefer saving their money for a better graphics card. Whatever the situation is, the ability to deliver customized PCs to anyone based on their specific needs has really changed the way we look at computer gaming.

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