rAge 2015 was a lot of fun out on the show floor, but it was even more fun behind the gates where the NAG LAN took place. There, over 2,000 gamers gathered together in one place to play games, meet online friends, socialise, play more games, sleep on the floor, and have fun. I ventured into the LAN to check things out and see if I could find any interesting cases or rigs – mostly cases, because I’m a sucker for finding rare or unique ones. As it happens this year, several fantastic designs came out of hiding for the weekend, but I spotted some other interesting things as well, along with general trends that I always try to track every year. Lets hit that button, shall we?
The NAG LAN played host to more ATX desktop computers, less laptops, more consoles, and less ITX systems compared to rAge 2014. I was surprised to see less gaming laptops being used, although there were still more than a handful to be found. Many of these weren’t powerful setups either, and I could count all of the Alienware and MSI Gaming systems on two hands. Seeing more consoles was super-weird. There were at least 25-30 people who brought along their console, and most of them were seen playing the Star Wars Battlefront beta. Nice!
I also saw less ITX systems than I expected. It seems that people aren’t really interested in smaller form factors for an event like this, even if it would mean more desk space for them, and less stuff to lug around. I’m still of the opinion that a rear-mounted system would be much less of a hassle than the desktops that dominated everything, but perhaps I’d need to actually build one here, on NAG Online, to show people that it can be done.
In terms of hardware, there were less complex builds this year. I counted less than 20 dual-GPU systems. I didn’t find anything crazy like a dual-socket server (there was one last year, hiding underneath a desk). Most of the stuff was really tame – quad-core CPUs, 16GB-ish memory, one graphics cards, but I did see that just over half of the systems I looked at had an SSD in them. Software-wise, less people were running Windows 10 than I had expected, and one, just one, PC was spotted running Ubuntu 15.04. Its a bit of a mish-mash of systems, really, but the overall trend this year seems to be to stick with what works – which includes using monitors that are very old by modern standards.
But enough of that. On to the highlights!
This was one of the first unique systems I spotted, encased in a wooden chassis. The motherboard is mounted more inwards inside the chassis, and all the cables come out through a hole lower down. Decorated with the Killroy meme, it looks very different, though there doesn’t seem to be a power button on the outside of the chassis, and there aren’t USB ports on the front panel. Still, quite neat. I’d like to see a plexi panel on the side next year.
This system was really impressive. Built from the ground-up (it used to be a different chassis that was hacked up), it has a basic cube frame that everything bolts on to, as well as custom partitions for the power supply and hard drives, as well as a hidden partition for the 360mm radiator mounted on the bottom of the chassis. There is a X79 system in there, with what I recall is 28GB of DDR3 memory, and a water-cooled NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970. What’s particularly cool is that the owner had access to a CNC mill and a waterjet cutter, enabling him to make the backplate on the GPU himself. Awesome!
And then, the rarest of rare cases, certainly in the few years I’ve been checking out the LAN. This, dear readers, is a Voodoo Computers chassis. These were sold in the United States by Voodoo Computers, a boutique PC retailer that custom-made these amazing hunks of metal. Founded in 1991 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the company made specialist chassis for fifteen years until Hewlett-Packard snapped them up, using the company’s patents and design to help spur on their own gaming efforts. What remains of the original company is now dispersed inside HP’s gaming division, and brands previously associated with the infamous tribal mask logo were turned into HP’s ENVY and OMEN line of products, which also include a backpack and a gaming mouse.
And then there was this guy. I unfortunately forgot his name by the time I wrote this, but I do remember that he said it was always his dream to be in the army, and that it was a family thing that he dreamed to be a part of. Walking around in full army regalia and carrying a replica Mauser MG42 with a barrel clip. Its plastic, so it’s not as heavy as a real one, but it looks really sweet.
One single, solitary, computer running Linux. I’m still amazed that this was there at all, despite the dusty appearance inside the chassis. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Linux-based machine at the LAN, and I hope that more turn up as things heat up on the open source front when it comes to gaming. Will I see a few SteamOS machines next year, or at rAge Cape Town? I certainly hope so.
What always happens in the NAG LAN? Emergency repairs. Always happens. I’ve never seen it not happen. Don’t be a victim – bring a tooklit!
This was one of ten systems that I saw with a boot error on the screen. I really, really, really, wanted to fix all of them…
The award of the craziest chassis goes to this one, the AeroCool Strike-X. Really weird-looking and kind of insane all at the same time. How did the owner deal with the heat being vented out over the keyboard area? How do you even keep that thing clean?!