After looking through countless of mini itx cases, I simply fell in love with the Node 304 due to the way it looks and the fact that it can accommodate pretty much most full size cpu coolers/PSU/3.5 HDD/GPU while offering fairly decent cooling performance.
This is my main gaming rig which I use to play most games @ 1080p/60fps at mostly high settings whilst remaining relatively cool and quite and if I choose to upgrade to a high refresh-rate monitor in the future or go VR then the i7 7700K has me covered as it shouldn't cause any bottleneck with my next GPU upgrade.
I also spent quite a bit of time on cable management and having an SFX-L PSU definitely helps as it allow you to tuck some of the cables away and out of sight.
I managed to get a good deal on this CPU and when I initially installed it onto my motherboard with the Noctua U12S using Arctic MX-4, I was appalled by the temps I was getting at stock settings - it was hitting between 70-80c in a matter of seconds and this was just browsing. I then spent an hour in the bios undervolting it and finally settle on a stable 4.5ghz on all cores @ 1.088v and temps were much better now at around 65c gaming and 70c full load.
However I wanted to hit that magic 5ghz but it simply wasn't going to happen without delidding due to the toothpaste Intel sticks underneath the IHS.
Anyhow I manage to successfully delid my 7700K using a razor blade without any issues using Thermal Grizzly conductonaut liquid metal and to be honest was expecting maybe lower temps or around 10c but WOW I was getting 20c+ drop in temps lol.
Ambient temperature 22c.
Gaming at 4.5ghz @ 1.088 temps are now around 45c vs 65c.
Gaming at 4.8ghz @ 1.124v are now 55c vs 85c.
Gaming at 5ghz @ 1.344v are now 65c vs 95c.
And the best thing about it is Noiseblocker fan on the Noctua U12S is only running at around 1200rpm which is very quiet!
I'm a big fan of Noctua and Noctua U12S is no different. It offers great cooling performance for the size, however I had to swap the fan out for the Noiseblocker 12mm fan because it offered better cooling performance at the same noise levels and it looks better too!
If it can cool an i7 7700K processor @ 5ghz below 70c then it must be half decent!
I did quite a bit of research before buying this motherboard and after reading through the countless of glowing reviews, I decided it was right one for this build. What a fantastic motherboard! One of the most feature-packed Z270 motherboards out there and with excellent build quality.
Navigating through the BIOS easy and well thought of and overclocking was a breeze.
100% stable and rock solid.
Great solid ram and works as intended without any issues running it at the 3000mhz using XMP profile.
Great value NVMe SSD with lightning fast performance!
Windows 10 boots up from a cold start in around 5 seconds and gettings read/write speeds of around 2700/1600MB/s and during daily use, it has never throttled or reach over 50c.
I managed to grab this during a flash sale on Amazon for £80 and I use it to store the games that I am currently playing while the rest of my collection is stored on my 4TB HDD.
Great performance and reliability from Crucial as always.
The legendary GTX 970!
This card still performs great to this day and is able to play most games @ 1080p/60fps mostly on high settings.
The Strix is overclocked to 1420mhz and has a great cooler. It generally runs pretty cool and quiet but the newest titles do tend to tax it more which pushes the temps/noise up more.
I will probably upgrade to either a GTX 1070 or 1080 when the price drops a bit.
The Node 304 looks fantastic, the build quality is superb and is one of the few mini-itx cases that can accommodate large tower cpu coolers such as the Noctua D15,full-size ATX PSU, long GPUs and up to six 3.5 HDD!
Installing the components inside the 304 was relatively painless but If you plan your build carefully you can manage your cables quite easily.
You do need to choose your PSU carefully otherwise you may have issues installing a long GPU.
What a great modular PSU!
This SFX-L PSU was carried over from a previous mini-itx build and has been running 100% rock solid and even runs quiet under full load (350w).
I picked this up for £65 in 2015 and would highly recommend it!
I have owned fairly decent headphones ranging from HyperX Cloud, Sennheiser HD 598, Beyerdynamic DT 770 and I must the Alphas are among the best I have heard.
Clarity and sound stage is a step from the Clouds which are already great headphones and I was lucky enough to have picked them up during Black Friday for £60, which makes them an absolute steal!
Due to the lack of PCI slots found on mini-itx motherboards , those looking for an upgrade in sound quality from their motherboard would need to purchase a USB sound card.
The Xonar U3 not only offers superb sound compared to the onboard sound from my motherboard but also allows me to select 7.1 sound in games which gives true direction cues which enhances the audio experience.
Paired with a decent pair of cans such as the HyperX Alpha and you will have an amazing sound from movies, games and music!