5.5. Final Words
This system went together easily. Actual construction took about 90 minutes, spread out over several days (as usual in our case) as we photographed each step. If this is the first time you've built a system, leave yourself a full weekend to build it, install software, and so on.
We're quite pleased with the performance of this system. It's noticeably faster than our old LAN party PC, which used a Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4 GHz processor. Our new gaming PC is small enough and light enough to make it easy to transport.
The system is a bit louder than we hoped, but is still much quieter than typical gaming systems with similar performance. Nearly all of the noise is produced by the stock AMD CPU cooler and the fan on the nVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra video adapter.
We could make this system nearly inaudible with only two changes, one minor and one major. Replacing the stock AMD CPU cooler with a Zalman or Thermalright cooler would cost $30 to $75, and would greatly reduce or eliminate CPU cooler fan noise. Replacing the noisy, actively cooled GeForce 6800 Ultra video adapter with a modern fanless video adapter (or two) would eliminate the high-pitched drone of the video card fan while maintaining or increasing video performance. With both of these upgrades, the gaming PC would be quiet enough to use even in the den or living rooma mild-mannered general purpose PC by day, and a kick-ass gaming PC by night.
Robert was thinking about putting the gaming PC in his office as his new primary system. Unfortunately, while he was thinking about it, Barbara grabbed the gaming PC. It now sits in her office as her primary desktop system. Oh, well.
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Lugging All This Stuff
The gaming PC is easily luggable, but that raises the question, "What about all my other stuff?" You need a lot of accessories when you attend a LAN party, and it makes sense to organize them in one place. The best solution we know ofalbeit an expensive oneis to use a deep, oversize aluminum case with cut-to-fit foam liners, such as those available from Zero Halliburton. You can arrange the interior so that every accessory has its own place, making it evident at a glance if something is missing. Such cases are expensive, particularly in large sizes, so those on a budget may have to compromise on a large nylon backpack, such as those available from L.L. Bean and Lands' End. (You can also buy purpose-built LAN Party accessory cases from many online vendors. Google for "LAN party accessories" and you'll turn up a bunch of hits. We have no experience with any of those, so we can't comment.)
As to what to carry, here's our list:
Flat-panel display (wrapped in foam unless you use a rigid case)
Display cable (and a spare)
Keyboard and mouse (with spare batteries, if applicable)
Wrist rest, mouse pad, and any other ergonomic accessories you use
Headphones and/or speakers
Category 6 Ethernet drop cable, 10-foot (and a spare)
Extra USB cables (standard, 4-pin mini, and 5-pin mini) and FireWire cables
Power cables for the PC and display (and spares). An outlet-strip surge protector is also handy. There are seldom enough electrical receptacles.
Cable ties to keep everything neat. The last thing you want is someone tripping over your power cable.
Copies of all the games you plan to play, including any that you haven't installed on the hard drive. The best way to carry CDs and DVDs is in a zippered nylon audio CD case, available at Best Buy and similar retailers. Make sure you also have patches, cheat sheets, and similar items, either on the hard drive or on CD.
A minimal toolkit. Include at least a #2 Phillips screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, a flashlight with batteries, and spare screws and other small connectors. It's also a good idea to include a small first-aid kit, with adhesive bandages, disinfectant, and so on.
Spare glasses or contact lenses, medications, etc.
Emergency stock of munchies and caffeinated beverages.
That's a lot of stuff, including some things you may never need, but Murphy's Law says whatever you leave at home will turn out to be what you need at the LAN party.