They always say that it’s what inside that counts, and in the case of Project ZR1, that is absolutely true. Our system is built on the back of Intel’s X299 High End Desktop (HEDT) platform. Short of server hardware, this is the most powerful and advanced chipset architecture Intel currently offers. It allows us to use various levels of chips from low-power quad core CPUs all the way up to the Core i9-7980XE.
We are using Intel’s highest level Core i7 chip for the X299 platform, the i7-7820X.
We went with the upper level i7, as we felt it gave us the greatest range of performance without reaching into pricing territory that is out the range for most consumers. This particular chip is an 8-core, 16-thread CPU that runs at speeds up to 4.3 GHz, all for a price of around $500. With a quad-channel memory configuration, this chip can let us run as much as 128 GB of memory.
Motherboard we are using to house this CPU is MSI’s X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC. We chose the MSI board for its comprehensive list of advanced features. It has a more advanced power delivery system to enhance overclocking performance, comes equipped with support for multiple M.2 drives, features U.2 connections, and sports an upgraded audio solution with 7.1-channel support.
As the AC in the name implies, this motherboard also features a built-in dual band Wireless-AC chip for wireless connectivity. The same chip also supports Bluetooth up to the 4.2 standard. On the gaming front, we have support for up to three GPUs, allowing us to test multiple configurations of graphics cards.
To top it all off, this motherboard also looks amazing with its carbon fiber accents, and customizable RGB lighting.
Filling out the motherboard, we have our memory chips. We are using four sticks of 8GB DDR4 from G.Skill. Specifically, we are using the Trident Z series of memory, running at a speed of 3200 MHz. That brings us to a total of 32 GB. For future testing though, we may look at upgrading to 64GB of 4000 MHz Trident Z RGB. We’ll be sure to keep you updated.
G.Skill holds multiple world records for memory performance, so it was an obvious choice for our test system.
When it came to decide how to manage the storage situation of our test rig, we found ourselves stuck in a bit of a pickle. We wanted the incredible speed that M.2 NVMe drives can provide, but thanks to video editing, game testing and more, we needed a substantial amount more space than a normal M.2 drive is able to provide. So we decided that we would make use of RAID to build our own custom drive out of SSDs to get us all the space and speed we could ever need.
Currently, we are using four 2TB Crucial MX500 SSD drives in RAID0. This essentially combines the drives into one massive drive, and compunds the speed of all the drives in the array. The result is an 8TB SSD drive that is capable of speed in excess of 2GB per second.
All of the speed. All of the capacity. All of the awesome.
If there is any piece of Project ZR1 that can be considered “slow” it would be our GPU. Currently we are making use of an Nvidia GTX 980 Ti graphics card from Gigabyte. With the launch of the new 20-series cards in a few weeks, our card will now be two generations old, so expect to hear news of an upgrade soon.
In the meantime however, the card is still quite a capable piece of hardware. As the fastest iteration of the 900-series Nvidia GPUs, it manages a performance scale that sits in between Nvidia’s 1070 and 1080 GPUs. That means plenty of power for all of today’s most demanding games. With 6GB of video memory on-board, it is also ready for VR and 4K gaming scenarios.
The final piece of the internal hardware puzzle is our power supply. To make sure every component in this rig has the adequate amount of juice flowing through its circuits, we are using an 850W PSU from Thermaltake. The Toughpower model we are using features an 80+ Gold efficiency rating and a fully modular cable design.