Archive for October, 2015

PostHeaderIcon Build It: What Gloriousness Really Looks Like



This article was published in the December 2015 issue of Maximum PC. For more trusted reviews and feature stories, subscribe here.

A build based on a poll published by reddit.com/r/PCMasterRace

Length of Time 1 1/2 Hours | Level of Difficulty: Easy

The Mission

There are plenty of places on the web where PC enthusiasts congregate. Countless forums, social media accounts, and blogs abound with folks showing off their PC builds and talking about hardware. You’d better believe www.reddit.com/r/PCMasterRace is one such place.

Even though the words “Master Race” may make some uneasy (and for very good reason), you can rest assured the vast majority of the subreddit’s members are just PC enthusiasts who love to build and use PCs. The subreddit derives the name from the belief that PCs are inherently superior to consoles. In many ways, we can get behind that idea. The forum is full of stories about console users ascending to join the ranks of PC users.

The thing is, the title “Master Race” may suggest that all the members of such a forum have high-end PCs that would warp space-time or have conveyor belts that make bacon grilled cheese sandwiches all day. As it turns out, this isn’t always the case—though if someone has a PC that has a grilled cheese maker built into it, we want to see it yesterday.

We found an infographic posted on the subreddit that was based on a poll of the members of PCMR. The infographic showed the percentage of users who used different kinds of parts, e.g., air versus water cooling, and a host of other specs. We thought it would be interesting to find out what the “master race” rig actually looked like, so we set out to build one based on the most common features, as described by the infographic.

MPC118.rd buildit.beauty

A Master Case for the Master Race

One thing we noticed when we set out to build our PCMR machine was that the common specs are strikingly similar to the recommended specs for Oculus Rift. As a result, we were able to reuse some of the parts Jarred used for his Oculus Rift build in our September issue. We plucked the short Asus GTX 970 and ASRock Z97 mobo out of that build and put together a rig using parts from around our lab.

One of the new impressive pieces of gear that went into the build was Cooler Master’s conveniently named Master Case 5. This midtower case is fully modular, and most elements come off with an easy-to-reach tab or thumb screw. We also have a box full of “extras” for the case, but we decided to stick with the “stock” version. The parts we chose all fit well within the midtower chassis, without overdue effort from us.

For the brains of this build, we went with the Core i5-4590, which is also the recommended CPU for Oculus Rift. For memory, we pulled the two Patriot Viper 3 DDR3 modules from last month’s upgrade build and pressed them back into service.

Ingredients

Part Street Price
CPU Intel Core i5-4590 $200
Motherboard ASRock Z97 $170
GPU Asus GTX 970 DCMOC $355
Memory Patriot Viper 3 8GB DDR3 1600 $50
PSU EVGA Nex750G 80 Plus Gold $105
Case Cooler Master Master Case 5 Midtower $109
HDD WD Black 1TB $71
SSD Samsung 850 EVO M.2 250GB $109
Fan 3x Corsair AF140 White $51
Total $1,220
1. Plus Five Intelligence

When it comes to CPUs, PCMR is pretty damned clear about what the preferred chips are. Eighty percent of PCMR builds use Intel processors. The survey also broke down what the preferred processor lines were. The subreddit chose the Core i5, with 41.1 percent of the vote, over the Core i7 (32.4 percent) and AMD FX (13.1 percent). Only 36.3 percent of ascended members overclocked.

MPC118.rd buildit.1

We chose the Core i5-4590 as our CPU. While it’s not unlocked, this quad-core has plenty of power for most applications. The CPU is also fairly inexpensive, and coupled with a Z97 board, allows for future upgrades.

A quick look at Intel ARK reveals that the 4590 is made with conflict-free materials. That little added bonus means that this CPU, while less beefy than its bigger cousins, can give you the warm fuzzies while you blast your foes to bits with a rocket launcher.

2. Heart of a Warrior

When the PCMR flexes its muscles, it prefers green to red by a wide margin. Nvidia claimed 67.7 percent of the vote while AMD only clutched 28.9 percent. Intel’s integrated graphics made a small showing with 3.4 percent of the vote.

MPC118.rd buildit.2

Most respondents also preferred a “high-end” videocard (one that costs between $300 and $500). The short version of the GTX 970 by Asus that we chose falls squarely in that price range at $355. We left the GPU at stock clocks too, as only 38 percent of the ascended said they overclocked their GPU. Even if we had overclocked the GPU, this little card had plenty of room to breathe in this case. Nvidia’s next step up, the GTX 980, falls into the survey’s “flagship” category at $550.

3. Never Forget

When we looked at what PCMR members used for storage solutions, we found that 55 percent do the same thing we do in most of our builds: use an SSD for the OS and apps and regulate media files and other storage to spinning hard drives.

MPC118.rd buildit.3

For our SSD, we went with an M.2 version of the Samsung 850 EVO. The read and write performance of the M.2 model is about the same as the SATA version, as is the price at a little over $100. This particular motherboard had two M.2 slots to fill, so we figured: hey, why not? For the spinning drive, the 1TB WD Black gives us enough archive space to start out with at a decent price ($71). The flexibility of the Master Case lets us put the drive almost anywhere forward of the motherboard, but we opted to keep it at the bottom of the mounting rail to optimize airflow to the CPU and GPU.

4. Advanced Mental Capacity

Memory is one of those things that can differ greatly depending on the application of the machine. Games tend to not need a whole lot of RAM, but big data-heavy design applications do. When it comes to the ranks of the PCMR, about half (51.3 percent) of users only need 8GB of RAM. Meanwhile, 33.7 percent made the jump to 16GB.

MPC118.rd buildit.4

The overwhelming majority use DDR3. The RAM data gave us another interesting insight: Since only a small minority of respondents (9 percent) are using DDR4, we can derive that not a whole lot of people are sporting X99 Haswell-E systems. We love our Haswell-E systems here in our lab, but in the wild, they’re clearly not as widespread.

5. The Source of Power

To keep things cool, a case needs air flow. With the Master Case, the included single 140mm front case fan just didn’t cut it with us. We replaced the single fan with a trio of Corsair’s AF140 white LED fans.

MPC118.rd buildit.5

We tend to go with closed-loop water cooling to chill out our CPUs for overclocking, but it turns out only 36.3 percent of PCMR overclock their CPUs, and nearly 70 percent use air cooling. That let us justify keeping Intel’s stock CPU fan, while also pushing a bunch of air through the case. The ASRock Z97 Extreme has four PWM case fan pinouts. We stacked the three fans up front to push a wall of air toward the GPU, CPU, memory, and mobo. The stock side panel of the Master Case lacks a window, which means that the three fans won’t create too-big glowy light leaks.

6. Cable Nightmare

Immediately obvious with this case was the utter lack of cable management. In terms of PC cabling, this is the stuff of nightmares. What seems like an obvious route for cables—over the horizontal rail and behind the drive bays—is made impossible by a side panel that has an inward (inward!) bevel. When we tried to keep cabling tucked behind the mobo tray, we felt like the case was making fun of us. “Oh, that’s cute,” it would say. “I bet you’d just love an extra centimeter. Tough luck.”

MPC118.rd buildit.6

Coupled with the woefully insufficient zip ties that came with the PSU, this cable job could have you waking up in cold sweats. We had to stuff the cables behind the drive cage, doing our best to keep them out of the way of the front fan’s air flow. The wiring still looks like a mess.

Gut

  1. Using a Z97 board is a bit overkill for the locked i5-4590 we chose for our CPU. However, using a Z97 board opens the door for future upgrades to K-model CPUs.
  2. The Master Case 5 only has USB 3.0 ports on the front panel, so there was no need to snake USB 2.0 connections to other parts of the board.
  3. Since the Master Case 5’s drive bays are fully modular, we removed the front-facing 5.25-inch cage to improve air flow.
  4. Having cable passthroughs with rubber grommets on the case’s horizontal partition helps keep unsightly cross-motherboard cable reaches to a minimum.

Ascension

When it comes right down to it, gaming PCs come in all calibers. To members and readers of /r/PCMasterRace, the most important thing is to prefer gaming on the PC to gaming on a console. As we found out, that PC doesn’t need to be a Dream Machine.

Even though the average PCMR specs are modest compared to the stuff we usually build and review, the i5-4590 is still a good CPU. While we often use the GTX 980 as the yardstick by which to judge other GPUs, the GTX 970 is still plenty powerful, and offers great performance for the price.

When it comes to the time, single-threaded benchmark tests, the Core i5-4590 wasn’t far behind the Core i7-5960X. Considering that the i5-4590 is only a fifth of the price of the 5960X, its performance is actually quite impressive.

Once we ran our multithreaded x264 benchmark, the octa-core 5960X left the little quad-core 4590 in the dust. While you can cut, slice, and encode video, we’d definitely go for a hexa-core CPU if you have the budget for it. Even if you can’t go that high, the clocks of an i7-4790K Devil’s Canyon will get things done much quicker than the i5 can.

Since we transplanted the GTX 970 from last month’s upgrade build, our video benchmarks remained about the same. A single GTX 970 versus three 980s in SLI isn’t really a fair fight in any sense of the term, but that doesn’t mean that the 970 is a weakling. The GTX 970 performs well at 1440p, and is the recommended GPU for Oculus Rift.

Audiophiles make up a minority of the PCMR, since only about 21 percent of respondents used a sound card (10.7 percent), digital-to-analog converter (8.5 percent), or a digital audio workstation-grade setup (1.8 percent). About 79 percent settled for onboard audio, so we did, too. This time.

Building a PC can be intimidating. Helping others with their first rig is a chance to help spread the joy of building PCs. After all, we’ve all had our moments of peasantry where we break down and play a game or two in the living room, too, console controller in hand. But for PC enthusiasts, a mouse, keyboard, and a wicked-fast and sharp gaming experience will always reign supreme.

Benchmarks

Zero-Point
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec) 806 871 (-8%)
ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec) 1,472 1,554 (-5.6%)
x264 HD 5.0 (fps) 33.8 13.52 (-60%)
Batman: Arkham City 1440p (fps) 204 72 (-64.7%)
Tomb Raider 2160p (fps) 87.5 28.3 (-67.7%)
Shadow of Mordor 2160p (fps) 70.1 30.6 (-56.3%)
3DMark FireStrike Ultra 8,016 2,479 (-69.1%)

Our desktop zero-point PC uses a 5960X CPU, three GTX 980s, and 16GB of RAM. Arkham City tested at 2560×1440 max settings with PhysX off; Tomb Raider tested at Ultimate settings; Shadow of Mordor at Max settings.

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PostHeaderIcon Origin PC Millennium



aT a Glance

Lake Superior: Bold styling; good performance; plenty of storage.

Lake Erie: Overpriced; terrible doors; no custom loop.

For now, Intel’s new, high-end i7-6700K Skylake CPU is still somewhat hard to track down. You can, however, find them in prebuilt OEM machines, and Origin PC proudly sent us its new Millennium Skylake system to test.

The system uses the same chassis, designed by Origin PC, as the Genesis we reviewed back in April. The key difference is that unlike the Genesis, it does not include the bottom bay expansion with radiator and extra fans, and is thus a midtower build to the Genesis’ full-tower setup. You can still orient the motherboard 90 degrees if you want to, or have it reverse-mounted (to face the other door), but ours has a traditional setup. The case comes in a wide variety of colors; ours is black and grey. The Origin PC logo in the front glows red, and to top it off, there are RGB lights inside the chassis that you can tweak through a variety of 16 colors with a wireless remote. The front of the case has a swinging door that opens to reveal the Blu-ray burner and five 5.25-inch front bays, which is pretty cool. Inside our particular configuration was a single 6TB WD Red drive. On top of the case you’ve got a fan controller and four USB 3.0 ports. Inside the chassis, the cable management and wiring is top notch. This isn’t to say the case is perfect, however. While the chassis uses a steel frame, the doors are plastic, feel flimsy, and are a huge pain to take off and put back on. To open the case, you have to lift up a latch on the back of the case, and the doors just fall off without warning. We felt like we were degrading the doors every time we took them off.

Once you’re inside the case, you’ll notice the new star of the show. Intel’s i7-6700K is a 95-watt TDP proc based on the 14nm process. While the CPU carries a base frequency of 4GHz and a turbo speed of 4.2GHz, it’s a heavily overclockable part; Origin PC overclocked our unit to 4.8GHz. While we’ve experienced some over-aggressive overclocking from Origin PC in the past, this time around we encountered no blue screens. For cooling, Origin went with a 360mm closed-loop cooler designed by Asetek. While it keeps the PC cool and quiet, it’s a little disappointing to pay over four grand for a computer and not get a custom loop. Regardless, all of this sits atop an Asus Maximus VIII Hero. With this mobo, we’re getting USB 3.1 and USB Type-C. Filling the RAM slots is 16GB of DDR4 clocked at 2,666MHz in a dual-channel configuration. For speedy storage, Origin PC outfitted our config with a 512GB Samsung SM951 PCIe M.2 SSD. And of course, who could forget the two GeForce GTX 980 Tis in SLI? These cards are overclocked to carry a base GPU clock of 1,195MHz, a memory clock of 1,853MHz, and a boost clock of 1,271MHz. Powering all of this is a 1,000W PSU from Corsair.

Now for the most pressing question: How does the Skylake CPU perform? Quite well, as it turns out. Its aggressive 4.8GHz overclock allowed it to beat our zero-point’s eight-core 5960X CPU by about 21–28 percent in our single-threaded benchmarks. In our multithreaded CPU benchmark, however, the octa-core was able to flex its extra cores to thrash the quad-core part by roughly 30 percent. If you’re wondering how it compares to Devil’s Canyon, we saw roughly a -2 to 12 percent difference in single-threaded tests compared to the Digital Storm Bolt 3’s quad-core part we reviewed recently. Surprisingly, we saw a 14 percent bump in our multithreaded benchmark as well. Overall, it’s certainly not bad. GPU performance was good, too. The two overclocked 980 Tis were able to best our ZP’s three 980s by roughly 3–20 percent in all of our game tests. It did fall behind 5 percent in 3DMark Firestrike, but that’s most likely due to the the test leveraging multiple CPU cores in its physics tests.

So, there’s a lot to like about this Millennium, but there are a few things that keep us from wholeheartedly recommending it. Aside from the absolutely terrible doors, the PC is overpriced for what you’re getting. For $4,370, you’d think you’d get a Haswell-E processor with more physical cores and a custom-loop cooler. As it is, it should be a couple of hundred dollars cheaper, but perhaps that’s just pie-in-the-Skylake wishful thinking.

$4,370, www.originpc.com

Benchmarks
ZP Origin PC
Millennium
Percent
difference
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec) 806 627 28.5%
ProShow Producer 5 (sec) 1,472  1,216 21.1%
x264 HD 5.0 33.8 23 -32%
Batman Arkham City GOTY (fps) 204 214 4.9%
Tomb Raider (fps) 87.5 90.7 3.7%
3DMark Firestrike 8,016 7,566 -5.6%
Shadow of Mordor (fps) 70.1 84.5 20.5%

Our desktop zero-point PC uses a 5960X CPU, three GTX 980s, and 16GBs of RAM. Arkham City tested at 2560×1440 max settings with PhysX off. Tomb Raider at Ultimate settings. Shadow of Mordor at Max settings.

Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-6700K (overclocked to 4.8GHz)
Mobo Maximus VIII Hero
RAM 16GB DDR4/2666
GPU 2x GeForce GTX 980 Ti
Storage 512GB M.2
Optical Blu-ray burner
Case/PSU Origin Millennium

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PostHeaderIcon Preparing Your Killer Content Marketing Pitch



Posted by EricEnge

When you first start in content marketing, you usually have little to no audience of your own for your content. If you’re a major brand, you may be able to develop this quickly, but it’s still extremely helpful to get visibility on third-party sites to grow your reputation and visibility as a producer of fantastic content, and to also net links to your site.

This can come in the form of third parties linking to content on your site, or getting guest posting or columnist opportunities on those sites. A key stage in that process is creating a pitch to the site in question, in order to get them to say “yes” to whatever it is you’re requesting.

The hardest part of writing any pitch isn’t the creation of the pitch itself. It’s the legwork you have to do in advance. Successful pitches are all about preparation, and frankly, there needs to be a lot of it.

To illustrate this, I’m going to walk through the process using a fictitious landscaping business, describing what they might need to do to start successful pitching of the content they plan to create.

Step 1: Competitive research/identify topic areas

You aren’t ready to pitch until you understand what else is out there. You need to visit major sites and see what they’re writing about landscaping and related topics. You also need to see what your competitors are doing in terms of content marketing.

If your competitor has been proactively doing content marketing for two years, it’s a good idea to see what areas they’ve been focusing on. For example, if the competitor has already established themselves as the thought leader in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) landscaping, perhaps your initial focus should be on something else.

Perhaps you can concentrate on specialty areas, such as prepping your yard for a wedding reception, a graduation party, or the integration of an in-ground pool into the yard.

I’d start by pulling raw data from tools such as Open Site Explorer, and getting the Domain Authority data on the links they have. I did this for one landscaping business, and here’s a snapshot of the highest-authority links they have:

For this company, it would be interesting to see what they’re doing with ThisOldHouse.com. That looks like a key relationship for them, as they’ve received 131 links from that site. Ultimately, what you would do next is dig into the details of each of these sites, find out why the competitor got the links, and uncover what it tells you about your opportunities.

Step 2: Identify target sites

Who covers topic areas similar to yours? Have they published third-party contributions before? You can obtain some of this from the competitive research you went through in Step 1. But, to take it further, I did a search on “landscaping ideas”:

This brought up a bunch of high-authority sites to check out. As a next step, I collected data on their Domain Authorities, and then dug into whether or not they accepted guest posts. The search query I used to get information on whether a site accepts guest posts looks something like this:

After doing that, we can assemble the data into a table that looks like this:

This now helps you understand who to potentially pitch. Important note: Don’t limit yourself to guest posts. With very high-authority sites like many of these, you may want to explore becoming a columnist. Pitching a column may be even easier than pitching a guest post, as it suggests that you are interested in a long-term relationship, which may be of greater interest to the target site.

In addition, explore whether or not the sites in question do interviews of experts on different topics. This could be another way to get your foot in the door.

Step 3: Line up your experts

Having a legitimate expert writing for you is a crucial part of any pitch. Successful off-site content marketing requires you to get placement on some of the top sites covering your market. You won’t succeed at this unless you have someone creating content for you that really knows their stuff.

It’s great if the subject matter expert (SME) is you, or someone working for you. This makes pitching your expertise easier. However, if no one inside your business has the time, you can rent (contract) the expertise. Either way, make sure your author is a legit SME.

If you need to rent your SME, there are many ways to go about identifying someone. Here are some potential approaches to use:

  1. Search the sites you identified that accept guest posts, and find out who is writing them. A query such as: “guest post” site:bhg.com is pretty effective for this.
  2. Search related hashtags on Twitter, such as #landscaping and #gardening, to see who’s sharing related content.
  3. Try other Google search queries, such as “landscaping design articles” or “landscaping books,” and identify the authors.
  4. Search Amazon directly for landscaping and gardening books.

You get the idea. Once you have identified a bunch of people, you have to start figuring out who might be a potential author for you. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay them to write on your behalf, and you’ll have to help them line up places to write, as well.

You don’t need the absolute top name in the market, but you want someone who can credibly write unique and valuable content for you (you want what Rand calls 10x Content).

Step 4: Identify the target topic

Once you have your writing team identified, work out with them what types of content they can help you create that meets these three goals:

  1. Fits your competitive strategy per Step 1.
  2. Might be of interest to your target sites.
  3. Matches up with what your SME can write.

The topics you pitch need to be different for each site. Let’s say we’ve decided on BHG.com as one of our sites of interest. As a first step, you can try searching the query “site:bhg.com landscaping” (quotes not required):

This does not yet solve the problem for us, as it shows over 6,000 results. The good news is that this site covers the topic a lot; however, you’re looking to see what gaps there may be in their coverage, and then see if you can pick something that will be supplemental to what they already have published.

Since 6,000+ posts is a lot to look at, let’s see if we can simplify it a bit more. Here’s a follow-up search:

This idea assumes you’re able to create content around the topic of landscaping for colonial homes. Assuming you are, you can go through this and start trying to figure out what type of content you can create that the site hasn’t seen before.

This is an essential part of the process. Your goal is to come up with a topic that comes across to the editor you pitch as offering unique to value to their site. This is what the first four steps have been about. Don’t go past this step until you have the first four steps nailed.

Step 5: Research the people you will pitch

We’re getting close to pitch time, but we have one more research step left. First, figure out who it is at the target site that you are going to pitch. Usually, identifying the editorial staff is pretty simple. In the case of this CountryLiving.com site, they have an About page, which shows us who their editors are:

Next, start researching the various editors. Do they publish on the site? Read what they’ve written. Are they active on social media? Start following them there. Advance points for establishing credibility by having meaningful interactions with them about their articles in their social feeds before ever sending them a pitch. At a minimum, make sure you learn what you can about their likes and dislikes.

Step 6: Craft the pitch

Finally, we get to write our pitch! Steps 1 through 5 are about making this step the easiest of them all. Let’s start with three rules:

  1. Personalize every pitch. No automatic pitch-building whatsoever.
  2. Know what your key value proposition is, and lead with it.
  3. Keep it short. Get right to the point, and don’t waste their time.

Those are the three most important things to remember. To satisfy rule two, start figuring out what the lead of your pitch is. Brought in a well-known expert? Lead with that. Groundbreaking study? Lead with that. Filling a void in the content-published-to-date on the target site? Lead with that.

This is where your pitch is won or lost. The major pitch elements are:

  1. Your lead value proposition up front.
  2. Something that shows you’ve done your homework.
  3. The specific nature of the request.
  4. Additional required background.

Here’s an example of a pitch:

Even though I’ve included some areas that need filling in, don’t confuse this with being a template that you auto-populate. The comments you make on what they’ve already published and the nature of what you’re suggesting to them are all custom.

Also, if your author or your business is really well-known, then that might be the lead value proposition, rather than the content. In that case, lead with those facts, cover the proposed article topic in the second paragraph, and structure the email differently.

Summary

As I noted in the beginning, successful pitches are all about the preparation. Treat each opportunity to pitch someone as special and rare. After all, if you sent them a crappy pitch, and it shows you didn’t put in any special effort, you may have burned that bridge permanently.

That can be very costly, especially as your reputation and visibility continues to grow over time. Do all the upfront work correctly, and the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts will be greatly amplified.

We all like to get an edge on our competition, and one of the best ways to do that in content marketing is to master and perfect your pitching process.

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Article Source: The Only Yard For The Internet Junkie
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.

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