Gamescom = computer games?
If E3 is primary a console show, like everybody says, then Gamescom 2018 is the vanguard for PC gaming. Powerful computers and wild PC hardware filled every one of Koelnmesse's 10 halls, far outnumbering the consoles once you strayed away from the PlayStation and Nintendo booths. My enthusiast heart yelped with joy.
Here's some of the most interesting hardware I happened upon, from gorgeous case mods to a slew of custom GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards to some truly wild stuff. Strap in.
GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Let's start easy. Nvidia wouldn't let us touch any GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards at its reveal event on Monday, but I found one sitting on a table at HP's section of the Windows booth. So here's what it looks like when it's not trapped inside a glass cage!
HP Omen Mindframe
Also spotted at the booth: HP's Omen Mindframe, one of the PC innovations I'm most excited about personally in 2018. This gaming headset uses active thermoelectric cooling to keep a metal surface inside the ear cups very cold, which in turn keeps your ears cool during extended gaming sessions. And it really works!
Omen Mindframe, inside
If you look closely at this picture of the the Omen Mindframe's inner cup, you'll see "sweat" left behind from where I touched the speaker with my thumb -- that's how cold it gets. Sound quality didn't seem the best, but that's hard to judge on a show floor.
Corsair RGB fan wall
Sticking with circles, Corsair’s famous “gigantic wall of RGB fans” reappeared at Gamescom—my first time witnessing it in person. It’s as impressive as it looks.
All in the family
This gorgeous blue rig in Corsair's booth shows what's possible when you stay within the company's family of products. Shame that they chose a graphics card with red accents though.
The Samsung CHG90 isn't new anymore, but seeing it again drove home just how breathtaking an ultra-ultrawide FreeSync 2 panel with HDR support can be. This beast basically replaces two desktop monitors, and looks great doing it.
Razer, on the other hand, lugged a gigantic-ass BlackWidow keyboard replica to Gamescom, and all I can think about is how much I want to hop on it like Tom Hanks in Big. But I don't want my press badge revoked? Maybe on the final day.
Badass modded PCs abound at Gamescom. One of my favorites? "L3p Spectre" by Peter Brands. It was on display, dual RTX 2080 Ti cards and all, at Nvidia's reveal event.
One of the coolest parts of attending Gamescom is seeing custom PCs from European boutique builders that don't get any attention Stateside. Here's a nice water-cooled rig by Erazer, in Microsoft's Windows booth.
Also spotted in Microsoft's Windows booth: ALIENS! And not just any aliens, aliens playing with dragons.
I have a soft spot for glorious, immersive "simstations" built for simulation games, and this Simgtag-built rig scratched that itch. It was at Nvidia's RTX reveal, playing Assetto Corsa Competizione, one of the first games to support real-time ray tracing.
Battlefield V is another game that supports real-time ray tracing. EA was running massive 64-player multiplayer matches at its booth.
Okay, sure, BFV looks great, but look at the rays coming off this wall-mounted PC showing off Corsair's CUE software platform.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider mod
Nvidia had gorgeous mods galore at its RTX event. Ron Lee Christianson's mod dedicated to Shadow of the Tomb Raider was big, lovingly detailed, and powered by a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, natch.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider mod, continued
The other side looked just as pretty!
Lee Harrington created this Battlefield V mod for Nvidia's event.
Every time I see Deepcool's radical, over-the-top Quadstellar case, I take a picture of it. It's that simple.
Mad Catz Rat(z?)
Mad Catz is coming back with its signature Rat mice, and intrepid games reporter Hayden Dingman scrounged up more details. There will be seven different mice total, with sensors ranging from the PWM3325 on the low end to the PWM3389 on the high end, which previously appeared in the Razer Hyperflux. Mad Catz expects to ship these in September or October but isn't commited to any release dates.
This huge guardian welcomed gamers to the Aorus booth, hands seemingly captured mid-"bring it, sucka."
VR sim racing
Multi-monitor simstations are sweet, but VR simstations are even more immersive. These folks were trying their luck on virtual asphalt at the Aorus booth, which also featured live, shoutcasted League of Legends matches.
Caseking, a European PC system and component seller, had a huge number of badass PCs on hand. Perhaps most interesting was the rear corner of the booth, which was dedicated to awe-striking case mods. First up: This beautiful beast by Ali 'The Crea8or' Abbas.
Ripping and tearing
Gears of War fans will appreciate this mod dedicated to the series' iconic half-assault rifle, half-chain saw Lancer.
The Dark Knight
"I AM BATMAN" screams Caseking's The Dark Knight mod.
The final Caseking mod showcase, Spartacus by Ali Abbas, goes with a violent Roman Thracian theme instead. You can find many, many more pictures of it in Abbas’s Spartacus photo gallery.
Catch a cougar
Elsewhere in Caseking's booth, PNY was holding a giveaway contest for this aggressive-looking $1,500 custom PC built inside Cougar's distinctive Conquer case.
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti XC Ultra
Finally, PNY's booth also served as the showcase for EVGA's new GeForce RTX 2080 Ti XC Ultra graphics card. We don't know the final clock speeds yet, but at three slots thick, this monster should have plenty of cooling capacity.
Gaming X Trio
We actually found several custom GeForce RTX 2080 Ti cards around Gamescom, just one day after the GPU's reveal. Microsoft's booth held MSI's GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio...
...and MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Duke.
Palit Gaming Pro
The Captiva booth debuted Palit's GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming Pro...
...and our first in-the-flesh sighting of a custom GeForce RTX 2080 design, the Gainward Phoenix.
The Asus ROG booth had the ROG Strix RTX 2080 Ti on display, I've been told, but I didn't see it anywhere. Here's a picture of a huge statue of the ROG logo made out of robot parts instead. Apologies.
Samsung had a majestic Emperor workspace set up to accentuate the immersiveness of the ultra-ultrawide CHG90 display. It was powered by the custom PC you see here.
Yep, that's a tank. Tanks are hardware, right?
HP Omen Obelisk
HP was showing off its new Omen Obelisk tower at the Microsoft booth. Tempered glass panels might be the norm at events like Gamescom, but it's fairly unique to see in desktops from the big OEM builders.
Here's a Maingear PC powering Metro Exodus real-time ray tracing demos at Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080 Ti launch event. The Fractal Design Meshify C won our Full Nerd podcast's pick as the best new case last year, and it's getting put to solid use here.
What are you doing up there?
At Gamescom there are PCs everywhere you look, even at the top of a wall.
Some people forget about Heroes of the Storm between League of Legends and Dota 2, but Blizzard's booth was packed.
Erazer's booth had over half a dozen custom rigs sitting high and mighty over their associated stations, each totally different from the others, and all gorgeous in their own way. Too bad it's a European system builder.
Captiva, another European PC supplier, also had numerous jaw-dropping mods on display, like this gorgeous Star Destroyer PC...
...which was right next to a build crafted to look like a Stargate SG1 Goa'uld bomber, by modder Cap-ten.
Captiva's booth also housed this unique Hellblade PC mod by Eddy's Customizing.
Blast from the past
Let's wrap things up with some Amigas brought in by Amiga Future!
Gamescom dedicated half of the second story of hall 10 to retro gaming, and it's utterly wonderful. Despite all the flashy new gear on display elsewhere I enjoyed my time here the most, amongst the arcade cabinets and Atari Jaguars of the world. You think I can make a tempered glass case mod for one of these?