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Building a Linux gaming PC

"Daddy the Mac is really laggy" will wear any daddy thin. The trusted Mac Mini 1,1 only sports an Intel GMA 950 graphic adapter which is overwhelmed when rendering 1920x1200 for more than eMail and simple browsing. So I will procure a Linux workstation for them. Luckily custom build machines are easy to come by in Singapore, so I can - within a budget - pick the finest components. Of course choice can be bad and a lot of decisions need to be made (that's why Apple basically says: pick your size, off you go). What I know so far:
  • I will aim for an Intel I7 processor or its AMD equivalent
  • It will be a big case to have space for enough hard disks
  • The system will have at least 8 GB (eventually more) RAM since I want to run VMs when the kids are not playing
  • Disks will run RAID1 (no SSD, to expensive for gaming)
  • It will run Ubuntu 11.10 with PlayOnLinux installed. I probably will try KDE, Unity and Gnome shell in different accounts
  • No IBM software required. It's a game machine and the kids school uses Google Docs
Now there are a lot of open questions (which look like having cross dependencies):
  1. Should I use 32Bit Ubuntu or 64Bit Ubuntu? Where would WINE powered applications run best?
  2. Intel or AMD?
  3. What mother board should I use? I suspect a newer EFI board would be better than the good ol' bios. But which one is well supported on Linux? The Asus P9X79 looks good, but even that comes in 4 different models
  4. What graphic card should I use? Which one works best on Ubuntu with PlayOnLinux?
  5. What else is important?
Feedback is very much appreciated!
For your personal amusement: List of mother boards my dealer carries:
  • Gigabyte
    Gigabyte GA-H61M-S2-B3, Gigabyte GA-H61M-D2 / S2V B3, Gigabyte GA-H61M-USB3-B3, Gigabyte GA-H67M-D2 B3, Gigabyte GA-H67MA-USB3 B3, Gigabyte GA-H61-USB3 B3 ITX, Gigabyte GA-H67N-USB3 B3 ITX, Gigabyte GA-P61-USB3-B3, Gigabyte GA-PA65-UD3-B3, Gigabyte GA-P67-DS3 B3, Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3R, Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4 B3, Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD7 B3, Gigabyte GA-Z68MA-D2H B3, Gigabyte GA-Z68P-DS3 B3, Gigabyte GA-Z68A-D3H B3, Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 B3, Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P-B3
  • Asus
    Asus P8H61-M LE/USB3, Asus P8H61-M LE, Asus P8H61-M LX, Asus P8H61-M PRO, Asus P8H61 PRO, Asus P8H61-I, Asus P8H67-M LE, Asus P8H67-M, Asus P8H67, Asus P8H67-V, Asus P8H67-M PRO, Asus P8H67-M EVO, Asus P8H67-1 ITX, Asus P8H67-I DEL ITX, Asus P8Z68-V LE, Asus P8Z68-V LX, Asus P8Z68-M PRO, Asus P8Z68-V, Asus P8Z68-V PRO, Asus P8Z68-DEL, Asus Maximus IV Gene-Z, Asus Maximus IV Extreme-Z, Asus P8P67-M, Asus P8P67-M PRO, Asus P8P67, Asus P8P67 PRO, Asus P8P67 EVO, Asus P8P67 DELUXE, Asus MAXIMUS IV EXTREME
  • Asrock
    Asrock Z68 Extreme3, Asrock Z68 EXTREME4, Asrock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 B3, Asrock Z68 PRO3 B3, Asrock Z68 PRO GEN3 B3, Asrock Z68M-ITX/HT B3, Asrock Z68 PRO3-M B3
  • Biostar
    Biostar H61MLC B3, Biostar TP67B+, Biostar TP67XE Extreme OC, Biostar TZ68K+, Biostar TZ68A+, Biostar TZ68A+

Posted by on 06 December 2011 | Comments (2) | categories: Linux


  1. posted by Ray on Wednesday 07 December 2011 AD:
    Hi Stephan,

    My 2 cents.

    Use Linux Mint 32bit. Very nice and you still get all the Ubuntu goodness. 32bit mean less 32bit clunking libraries and there are no differences in performance. You still have to preload skype to get the video to work.

    Go Intel! Why? Virtualbox. Virtual machines are CPU specific.

    DDR3 Memory is dirt cheap. Go for broke and fill her up to the max.

    Always use Nvidia. It just works. Multiple Monitors is a MUST! I have new cheap Gigabyte video card with VGA and DVI and HDMI! Works very well indeed. Do not underestimate the value of HDMI especially for those tricky MKV files you whant to output to a LCD 3d TV.

    I prefer the Samsung LCD's Check the contrast on double check the resolution. 1080p is a must. Also, having two monitors of different size and resolution is ok but can be painful. I use a KVM switch while working on the laptop and other machine so having a 2nd monitor play flash video files etc is great. Also remember if you use the KVM and switch away you need a locally attached USB keyboard to fast forward or skip media while the primary keyboard is in use.

    You MUST get a Blu-ray Rom at least. A writer is better as it will write DVD and CD.

    SATA3 is fast but your external drives must be SATA3 as well.

    Most of the above motherboards will have 6 SATA connections but no IDE. However, they will only have softraid. Consider buying one PCI express RAID 0/1/10 adapter and connect two extra 2TB drives on them and use the drives for important stuff.

    Get a 500w to 800W (Not just peak)Power supply. This is needed for a good graphics card and to power the drives.

    I would suggest 1 or 2 2TB drives as your work drives. Never use the first few sectors when creating a disk. They ALWAYS fail in the end. Leaves 20 to 50 MB uncarved at the start of the disk. create at least 3 bootable systems each with /boot and / and make sure your swap file on each is 3 X the highest memory you can fit in the box so suspend and hibernate works. 3 systems are nice when it comes to upgrading because you auto upgrade system 2 but if it fails you overwrite it with system 3. You only need 500MB or so to create a system.

    However, due to the floods prices for disks have doubled in two months. So plan for the above but just get 2 2TB's

    Use the rest of the disk for /downloads, /VMs and /Videos etc. If you opt for 2 2TB drives then use LUKS and PAM automounting for the 2nd disk and mount /home there.

    Use Unison to sync important stuff like music, pictures and movies to the raid drives if you have opted for that.

    Good sound is paramount. The Edifier speakers are very good at reasonable prices.

    The Microsoft (ugh) Webcams just work. All of them (new ones).

    I would recommend a Epson TX121 printer. Does everything and you can buy "special" refill cartridges that will save a you a fortune! The Epson is a Piezoelectric printer so the heads never need replacement. Get a Canon if you are rich and want to throw away money.

    I also have a TV card to run some security monitors and input a TV signal. No Digital TV in 18th century Malaysia. Emoticon sad.gif

    Last thing is quality USB hubs with power supplies. You can never have enough USB inputs!

    Have fun!

  2. posted by Ray on Wednesday 07 December 2011 AD:
    Oh yes, get an adequate UPS with USB controls. You only need a few power glitches to completely ruin your day and your precious data.