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Hardware Review Feature: PC Gaming in the Home Theater – ASUS STRIX GTX 780 OC Review

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Dave Upton, Oct 23, 2014.

  1. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    PC Gaming in the Home Theater – ASUS STRIX GTX 780 OC Review
    Some of us have reluctantly admitted that gaming in the home theater is something best done on consoles, and despite the best efforts of Sony and Microsoft to bring state of the art visuals to the new generation PS4 and Xbox One respectively, the quality and native resolution of games leaves much to be desired in the home theater. For a price, PC gamers have always been able to enjoy an advantage in visual quality over consoles, but until now gaming in the home theater has been difficult if not impossible to achieve.

    Steam’s big picture mode has for the first time made it possible to game in the home theater almost entirely without cumbersome PC peripherals like keyboards or mice. Even so, top tier graphics cards have generally been impractical for those without equipment closets due to the high levels of noise generated by the cooling assembly under load.

    ASUS has been one of the leading OEM’s to take note of this challenge and innovate cooling solutions that are able to run top of the line graphics cards under full load with minimal noise. The subject of this review is the ASUS GTX780 STRIX OC, a slightly overclocked version of the GTX780 with 6GB of video memory and a custom DirectCU II cooling solution that enables the card to run at near silence when at low load and increase noise slowly once GPU temperature exceeds 65c.

    Technical Details

    We are not a PC hardware site, so I’ll spare you the gory details that our more talented peers in the PC hardware scene would provide, however I will highlight some basics about the card. ASUS ships the STRIX GTX 780 OC with a factory overclock of about 50MHz and the 6GB of video memory which doubles the reference design, extremely useful for games with Ultra or Super resolution textures. The net result of these changes is that the STRIX GTX 780 OC is one of the fastest video cards available for its generation at stock clocks and is extremely well future proofed by the extra video memory.

    In Use

    My personal gaming rig is based on a Fractal Design Define R2 case with tons of large 120mm Scythe Gentle Typhoon fans, carefully optimized to run near silent. The PC itself is a Sabertooth Z87 with an i7-4770K CPU and Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler. I installed the STRIX into my machine, installed the latest video drivers and proceeded to browse HTF for about 15 minutes. During web browsing and typical desktop use, the PC was actually inaudible from 12 feet away, and as the fan of the STRIX wasn’t even running, all was as it should be.

    I began my noise testing with Furmark, which generally stresses a GPU very seriously. After about 15 minutes of Furmark the fan RPM was measuring a consistent 2500RPM yet I couldn’t hear only minimal perceptible noise from my PC, despite the room being dead quiet.

    Pleased by my findings, I proceeded to play Wolfenstein, Metro Last Light, Dead Space 3 and several other games in my collection at extremely high settings (1080p) all the while waiting for leaf blower fan noise to suck me out of the experience.
    Suffice to say, this never happened. For completeness’ sake I even compared the noise of my PC to the PS3 and PS4, and found the PS3 was actually louder at times than my PC.

    Conclusion

    If you had asked me five years ago if I thought PC gaming could be brought to the home theater with few to no compromises, I would have laughed. Today, I stand truly impressed by what the industry has done. Valve has continued to innovate with Steam and has arguably the best gaming store/platform in the world for the PC, while also addressing the needs of those who want to use a controller in Windows. Likewise, Microsoft and game developers have widely adopted the Xbox 360 controller into their default control schemes even for games that are not console ports. This has led to a world in which all the peripheral and interface nightmares of the past can be easily worked around. The last domino to fall in his equation is the graphics card. The Radeon 6970 that was in my previous PC was able to drone out even a hair dryer with its terrible stock cooling solution. The ASUS STRIX GTX 780 OC on the other hand delivers stellar performance at noise levels that are perfectly acceptable in any home theater.

    For those of us spending thousands on speakers, amps, receivers, projectors and TV’s, I can’t think of many reasons why spending an extra thousand dollars to achieve a vastly superior gaming experience would be a bad idea. The average new game on Steam sells for $49, with many sales and events dropping prices even lower. For the mid-level or hardcore gamer, the savings on game purchases alone should shortly justify the cost of a gaming PC.

    I’m sure this is a topic that will be hotly debated among our members, and I encourage and welcome that discussion. In the interim, if you can’t find me, I’ll probably be in the home theater, gaming on my PC and eagerly awaiting a chance to try the new STRIX GTX 980 from ASUS.
    This post has been promoted to an article
     
  2. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Lead Actor
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    While gaming consoles have improved greatly since the first ones hit the market decades ago they still are not up to the task. The only way to play video games in a home theater environment is a mid to high end custom pc.
     
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  3. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I categorically disagree with Dave's M's statement. Cool review DaveU. Always been a fan of Asus gear and silent PCs, so good combo. My last gaming PC was a full Alienware and it certainly pumps out pixels, but even modest action sequences send the fans screaming.
     
  4. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Sam, while only might be a strong word, I have to challenge you slightly. If you look at any game on console and then on PC, particularly on a screen the size we use, it is blatantly obvious that the PC is a much higher quality image and 1080p all the time vs only some of the time. Would you game on a PC in the home theater given the choice?
     
  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    No. I have had an Alienware hooked up to my projector and the experience was not pleasant for me, with or without exclusively using Big Picture. Now I should note that my Gaming PCs are hooked up better than what most people call their home theater. I have 2 seperate 5.1 sound systems running simultaneously in my office and I game on both at the same time, often in different games, sometimes on an Xbox One next to my main PC playing Everquest or games from Steam.For ease of use and especially font issues the consoles are geared much better for HT use than PCs. Also, sorry for wrong attributions above, fixing that.
     
  6. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Lead Actor
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    IMG_1551.JPG

    I have had no problem gaming with my gaming pc and have never had issues with fans running up even when playing 1080p content. It doesn't take any more processor power between the PC hooked up a small monitor or a projector the PC basically doesn't know the difference. Sure the OS is going to use a different driver but there should be no difference unless the pc is an older pc that would struggle with hd video.

    3.1 GHz AMD 8 core CPU
    16 GB of 1600 Corsair Memory
    160 GB Corsair [SIZE=14.3999996185303px]SATA 3[/SIZE]SSD
    Dual 60 GB Corsair [SIZE=14.3999996185303px]SATA 3[/SIZE]SSD's
    Seagate 2 TB SATA 3 Hard Drive
    Noctua CPU Cooler
    Windows 7 Pro 64 Bit
    Lite On Bluray Drive
     
  7. Chuck Anstey

    Chuck Anstey Screenwriter

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    And that would be your issue. You paid someone else to build what they call a "gaming PC" and Alienware is notoriously overpriced. If you want high performance and lower noise, you need to build it yourself or end up paying about 3X more to a specialty company than it would cost to build it yourself. You can then choose your video card among all the manufacturers for the one with the lowest noise when running hard as their is quite a range for the same GPU.

    Dave,
    Dual 460s? Time for an upgrade to a 970 :) I'm still running my 580 after 3 years but those 970s at those low prices are really looking good.
     
  8. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Most Alienware PC's sound like leafblowers when gaming, so I can understand your issue :)
     
  9. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Dave - I guess it depends how you like to play. I want the noise floor in my HT to be almost silent. When I used my 6970 or any previous gen cards, they made too much noise to game the way I like to. Now? Much better!
     
  10. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    You guys are jumping to conclusions. Wrong Alienware model, total silence, sound is not the issue at all. The experience at 120" is not fun on a pic for me, it works at desktop range not from the couch because of inputs and fonts more than anything else.
     
  11. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    When it comes to a movie, you want the best video and sound quality available in order to judge the film for what it is. With games, how it plays is more important than how it looks.

    In other words, there's more to games than 1080p and surround sound. I'd rather play the best console game in 720p than a so-so PC game in 4K.
     
  12. Dave Moritz

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    Yes I know I was pushing my budget when I built this pc and so far this is the closest thing to a high end pc I have ever owned. But I agree I would love to have a updated pair of graphics cards but I am currently out of work. Also I would like to have a set of video cards that have 4gb of memory each. Not that it will double the memory but the 4gb in general would be better than 1gb in my current cards. And besides this AMD card picture bellow IMHO was horrible. It was a pile to be honest. Every time I try a AMD based card it ends up not being so great but I also understand that others have achieved great results from the AMD based video cards.

    IMG_2061.JPG
    And I can understand that completely. There are older games that look horrible when compared to newer games but that doesn't change the fact that they are still fun to play. With newer games it is about resolution and frame rates for many while playing but a good game is a good game. With listening to music and watching a surround sound movie great sound and the best possible picture does come into play more for many.

    IMG_1521.JPG
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    20130506_125252.
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  13. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    I guess I'm confused. A wireless controller + big picture mode is as easy as PS4 or Xbox One any day. What is it that doesn't work?
     
  14. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    The whole "getting to Big Picture" ordeal. Had it been able to boot to BP when I had it in there it might be different, but juggling mouse and keyboard to do anything on screen gave me a headache. Probably different today but even still, once outside of BP I'd be nauseated. Not everything works in BP, EA stuff for example.
     
  15. Adam Gregorich

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    Wow.
     
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