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After Hours

ZaReason Gamerbox 9400: The ultimate Linux gaming PC

Most gamers use consoles or high-end Windows PCs, but for Linux gamers, there's now a powerhouse contender to rival these proprietary computers: The ZaReason Gamerbox 9400.
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A few years back, Gabe Newell, Valve's CEO, said, "Linux is the future of gaming." Well, that didn't happen, but Valve, creator of the Steam game engine and network, is renewing its push for Linux games. So, it makes good sense that ZaReason, a Linux computer manufacturer, has released a top-of-the-line gaming PC: The ZaReason Gamerbox 9400.

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ZaReason CEO Cathy Malmrose said the GameBox 9400 was only the start. "Our current team is mostly gamers so, not surprisingly, that is the direction we are going. We have a full line of gaming machines in R&D," Malmrose said.

The base Gamerbox runs Ubuntu 18.04 Linux. It comes with a 64-bit Pentium 3.8Ghz G5500 Coffee Lake processor. For RAM, it comes with 8GB of DDR4 memory. It's built on top of the Gigabyte Z370P D3 motherboard.

This tower PC comes with a boot 120GB solid-state drive (SSD)  and a 1TB 7,200 RPM hard drive. That's more than fast enough for today's games.

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If you need more interior storage, ZaReason has you covered. It comes with six Gigabits per second (Gbps) SATA ports, three PCI-Express 3.0/2.0 ports, and a single NVMe M.2 Slot

For a net connection, it uses Gigabit Ethernet. The Gamerbox also comes with a pair of USB 2 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and four USB 3.1 ports with a maximum data transfer rate of 10Gbps.

For graphics, the base level Gamerbox 940 has a NVIDIA GTX 1050. This budget Pascal-generation graphics card is still more than fast enough to run any game you'd care to play. With the new NVIDIA 418.30 driver, FreeSync is finally enabled on Linux. With it, the video card can your DisplayPort monitor's refresh rate. The result is a tear-free, gaming-focused display that's finally supported on Linux.

This is plenty of machine at an affordable price of $799. But that's not what I reviewed.

No, I got "Take no prisoners" ZaReason Gamerbox 9400.


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This model came with a water-cooled 3.7GHz Intel i7-8700K, which I overclocked to 4.7GHz. Why overclock it? Well, wouldn't you? I mean the water cooling was just sitting there begging to be used.

Intel, when the chip first released, called it its best gaming chip ever. Now, that was a year and a half ago. Today, I'd say it's a toss up between the Intel Core i9-9900K and the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX. That said, the i7-8700K is still a great gaming chip. It's got more than enough processing power for even the most demanding games.

The powerhouse processor is backed up by 64GB of DDR4 RAM. It also comes with lots of room for games on its 2TB, 7,200RPM hard drive.

Of course, the real gaming goodness comes from its NVIDIA RTX 2080 graphics card. There's been a lot of talk about how it's not as fast as it should be and it costs too much. All I can say is with its 256-bit, 944 CUDA cores Turing GPU architecture, a 1,515MHz GPU base clock frequency, and 8GB of GDDR6 video memory, it was more than fast enough for me.

Using the Phoronix Test Suite and focusing on games, I found the amped-up GamerBox averaged over 60fps with 4K displays on such games as WarHammer II, the Steam-basedRise of the Tomb Raider, and the WINE-based Dawn of War. Those are great numbers.

Just for fun, I really enjoyed playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the classic zombie gameLeft 4 Dead 2, and Bioshock: Infinite. I was also to play the much-hated Fallout 76. Let me be honest, all the reviews you've read about Fallout 76 being a bad game? Well, they're right. But I'm from West Virginia, where Fallout 76 is set, and for me, it was an entertaining visit to my post-apocalypse home state. If you really want to try Fallout 76 on Linux, check out Chris Titus Tech's excellent YouTube guide and review of Fallout 76.

Now, I'm not a big gamer, but the maxed-out Gamerbox 9400 was the best gaming PC -- Windows or Linux -- I ever used. For $2,205, it's what any hardcore Linux gamer would want for their playing pleasure.

Photos: Retro computer games that Eastern Europe played as Iron Curtain fell

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