when it comes to gaming, pc gaming is my first love. i’ve owned two playstation 3s (my first one was stolen, but that’s another story for another day) and i have an original nes complete with the light gun and a copy of legend of zelda. i have some games on my phone and i play those now and again, but i always end up back on the pc eventually. i even plan on buying the ps4 when it comes out, but that will not be a replacement for my pc gaming rig; merely a companion.
being the typical hardware enthusiast, i’ve always upgraded my computers instead of buying new ones. my closets are literally overflowing with old spare parts and leftovers from previous upgrades. there are a lot of people out there like me who love hardware and love games and are willing to put their wallets and sanity on the line to risk getting the best experience possible out of their games. for those people, i write this post to warn you against trying new brands without thoroughly exhausting every research opportunity first.
i’ve been accused of being a brand whore. it doesn’t bother me too much because the people doing it probably don’t have the amount of experience i do when it comes to trying different brands and watching them fail miserably. so when i tell you about the experience i had trying to get bioshock infinite to run on a pair of evga gtx 660s in sli mode on evga’s z68 sli micro (a gaming centric micro atx motherboard that doesn’t seem to exist on their site anymore), rest assured i’m only sharing my personal experience and not working a case study in product placement.
evga makes a damned fine series of nvidia based graphics cards. one day not too many moons ago, i decided that maybe they make a damned fine motherboard too. for around $90 on tiger, it wasn’t too bad of a deal. i threw one in my cart and added a core i5 to go into it and some corsair vengeance ram. this was supposed to finish my home theater/gaming rig. it wasn’t supposed to usher in months of doom and despair as i try to figure out why bioshock wouldn’t stay running for more than 15 minutes without the blue screen of memory dump appearing.
at first i blamed 2k games. obviously they had released a total peice of shit package and had exploited my steam account in order to infect my machine with it. after all, i had been building my own computers for almost 20 years and knew what was what. there was nothing wrong with my hardware. i read reviews. i checked the specs. i caught the sale, and i got a good deal on solid kit. it had to be 2k’s fault.
but even 2k probably wouldn’t take down my whole machine. shortly after the first bioshock crash, i began to notice i had the same damned windows updates appearing. that was when i realized my machine wasn’t staying up all night to install them and reboot properly. obviously 2k was using bioshock to mess up my computer because they hate me personally. after all, i gave them money. what’s worse than that? no, it wasn’t them.
with all the memory dumps and freezes and incredibly long load times, i thought maybe its the sli. multiple people and some internet research led me to believe that sli was one of those things that looked great on paper but usually ended up screwing things for you. i usually dismiss those kinds of neglect-conspiricy theories because i pathologically believe that there are in fact engineers out there trying to make things work properly together and they all work for the manufacturers of my favorite brands. but it was hard to ignore the fact that i’ve never run more than one video card in my rigs before (shit’s expensive) and that maybe there was something to this idea of sli fail. my shit wasn’t working, and that’s as good a reason as any.
i removed the second card and dropped all the graphics settings in bioshock, but the in-game crashes continued, as did the out-of-game windows crashes. maybe its the hard drive. maybe this 6 year old 500 gb 7200 rpm seagate drive is the problem. i refused to believe that on principal. seagate is the toyota of hard drives, and i drive toyotas to prove it. i have an 87 toyota pickup that will require a bullet in the engine block to stop running. no less can be said about seagate hard disks. i have ancient drives in my closet that i know will still fire up. they take a beating, and they take it for a very, very long time. and if for some reason they stop taking those beatings within five years, seagate will replace it for the cost of shipping. they don’t even care if its your drive or that you tried to boot it while submersed in ocean water. seriously, they don’t fail.
i then decided to stop ignoring the giant evga shaped elephant in the room. i have never had this particular kind of problem before, and i also have never bought anything but asus motherboards before. sure i tried a tyan or two back in the late 90s and at one point bought a supermicro for a pizza box server, but workstations and gaming rigs? asus all the way. i decided to go back to tiger.
asus boards aren’t cheap. you can spend an assload of money on them, so make sure you actually need all the features on what you’re getting. i ended up getting the maximus v gene from their rog line. they aren’t the biggest baddies and they are a premium, but when that box comes in the mail and you open it for the first time, you’ll see why. the packaging is a lot like apple’s. it feels high end and expensive. it comes with a manual a half inch thick that tells you everything you’ll ever need to know. it comes with sata cables, sli cables, a door hanger that says “keep out i’m gaming.” there’s a red light path that winds around my two pcie x16 slots that make it look like its powered by fucking earth rage lava. it has a damned telemetry port so you can tweak the bios while the damned thing’s running. not to mention it just works. flawlessly, on default settings, with a noticeable improvement in performance. with both graphics cards, in sli, bioshock was running absolutely gorgeously in ultra mode at 1920 x 1080. no screen tearing, no artifacts.
the problem wasn’t bioshock or the hard drive or 2k’s attempts to personally harass me and me alone with malware disguised as a game. the problem was that damned evga motherboard. they’re still kind of new at this, so i can’t seriously recommend them to anyone. just pay a couple hundred on an asus board and rest well knowing that you’ll have it for 10 fucking years and it will still be operational when its in your closet because you upgraded out of want and not need.