Thanks for the feature PCPP :)
The Pinnacle, named mostly after the case’s extreme height is a HTPC build / gaming rig to go into a in progress games room. The build was not really needed as I could have just upgraded the GPU in my other HTPC build “White Fusion”, but as many know, the itch is real and upon seeing the Shift X and Shift revealed a while back, got my imagination going, so relegated “White Fusion” to my living room.
The main approach to this build is broadly similar to my other’s, I wanted a neutral base color scheme, which in turn meant I can add in RGB to mix up the flavor of the build on a whim without there being any clash’s. I enjoy building custom loops, so that was another element that was to be baked into the build. Anyways onto the main parts and reasons:
Case - Phanteks Shift X
I really like different or unique cases, so when I saw this one I knew I wanted it straight away. The case itself is stunning, but tall would be an understatement! To be honest right now it looks overly tall in my game’s room, but as I will be upgrading the audio with floor standing speakers, the case should look fine next to them and balance things out.
The case itself looks stunning in real life and phantek’s put in real nice elements with the silver metal panel’s creating a nice contrast to the two glass panels. The glass panels themselves have black borders around the edge, this works great to hide the frame, but also you can and I did, use the hidden spots to run cable’s and LED strips, to help avoid the visibility of the individual LEDs themselves. The other two main elements, the crossbar running along the middle and the PSU shroud work well to allow you to hide away all the cables.
Anyways in terms of actually working with the case, its a mixed bag. For my build at least it was a challenge as things had to fit in a certain order thanks to the loop and lighting, but that is thanks to my part choice. As an example, bottom radiator with thermo sensor had to go in before the PSU went in to have cables run hidden, the LED lighting had to go in before PSU, PSU shroud had to go in after lighting, so the LED strip end’s terminate under the shroud, said but before the custom loop which runs above the shroud and so on. It became a bit of a puzzle in the end, but ended up how I wanted. The rear of the case where the bulk of the cables go is also tight, made somewhat worse by my commander Pro unit, I actually ended up snapping one of the pegs so got a replacement panel.
One area where it does fall down a bit is airflow and temps. The primary inlets and outlets are fairly restrictive in this case, so temps are a fair bit warmer then other slightly more open ITX case. It's not overly terrible thanks to the custom loop, but temps do get fairly warm and pulling off the side panels can see a 5-6 degree drop in water temps pretty quickly. Frustratingly in my case, the middle phanetk’s Logo was partially damaged upon delivery, a small thing but annoying, but credit is due as Phantek’s have sent a replacement, abit taking a month to get here apparently!
CPU - 8700k Delidded
As this was only going to be a gaming rig for most the part, the 8700k was the go to choice, not that for hitting 60 FPS, the limit of the TV would be an issue for most other CPU’s but this means I am unlikely to need to change the parts for a while.
The 8700k temps out the box are awful to be honest, this is the worst CPU I have had temp wise, so I delidded the CPU which saw a 20 degree drop. This is important, as the flow rate to the CPU is hampered by design with my custom loop’s parallel design flow, combine that with the absolute crap Intel use’s and it was not good for temps until the delid. Anyways, my sample can hit 5.3 GHz on all 6 core’s for benchmarking with Cache at 51, but for daily use 5.2 GHz with the Cache at 50 is what I have settled for.
In all, the 6 cores, solid IPC and relatively nice clockspeed I can hit mean’s the CPU has no real issues chewing threw game’s I throw at it with the limitation being mostly on the GPU.
Motherboard - Strix z370i
The ASUS Strix z370i was another straightforward choice, in part to synergise most of the lighting with ASUS aura, but also I am well used to ASUS’s BIOS’s at this point. In terms of feature set the board board overclock’s well and the monochrome finish ticked all the box’s for me.
Few issues with it is the lack of a USB 2.0 header, which is frustrating with so many device’s using such a header these days, my commander pro being an example. To get around this I had to use a USB 3.0 internal header to USB 2.0, which means the external USB 3.0 header’s can’t be used, but thankfully the case’s top lid just opens and closes so in this build its largely irrelevant to have outside USB 3.0 ports. Another oversight I think is the move to a single addressable RGB header from the normal 12v on the z270i strix or in addition too. It's a small thing I know, but so many peripheral’s use normal 12v header, that one of each would have been ideal to be honest.
RAM - Trident Z RGB
I had this kit on hand and it was well suited for this build. It has a two tone brushed aluminium finish so aesthetically worked great. The RGB strip up top looks neat, works with Aura sync and the specs on the kit I had at hand worked perfectly fine for this build. I am limited somewhat with there being only two slots on this board, but 16GB kit works perfectly fine for a gaming machine, so doubt I will have any issues there even for the foreseeable future.
The Kit itself is 3600 MHz 16-16-16-36 2T out the box, however manually tweaking I have it running at 3866 MHz 16-16-16-36 1T so a small bump over out the box XMP specs. I did get the Kit running at 4000 MHz with slightly looser timings 17-17-17-37 and worked fine, but did not fully check stability, so for daily use 3866 MHz @ 16-16-16-36 1T is my in use profile which is nice enough.
In all, combined with the CPU running at 5.2 GHz and the RAM at the above speeds means usually the performance limitation is on the 1080Ti.
GPU - Strix GTX 1080Ti OC
The GPU was a pretty straightforward pick to be honest. For 4k gaming the 1080Ti was the ideal choice and the Strix was the best choice in part due to the aforementioned reason of it having a RGB header to manage the other 12v RGB part’s. The other reason, and a bit sad, is I love the backplate when combined with the Phantek’s block, it looks pretty amazing to be honest.
Anyways, in terms of performance, it's pretty much how a 1080TI is expected to perform. Running under water means it can boost slightly higher with the GPU peaking at around 2.1 GHz on the core and a bit over 12.1 Gbps on the memory.
In terms of actual game performance, the 1080Ti is solid, but I think right now it straddles the line. Some AAA game’s can give the 1080Ti a tough time at 4k while maintaining 60hz, but for most the part, even in AAA games, tweak some harsh settings and it does a solid job.
Custom loop and lighting
For this build a custom loop was planned from the onset. I decided to go for a 120 mm and 240 mm radiator which offered a 10% increase in surface area over a single 280mm other’s usually go with, but this setup bring’s in air through two directions. Will not make a massive difference, but every little helps!
From the onset I wanted this build loop in parallel rather then running it in serial. I wanted couple of runs in parallel, so designed the loop around that and after spending various hours over the route, got it to work in the end and personally thing it looks great with some nice parallel runs which work to keep the main visual elements like GPU block / backplate and pump / res easily visible.
I was 50/50 in regards to my choice of tube with either acrylic or chrome plated tubing being the two options, but settled on the chrome plated tubing to offset some of the black in the build and use chrome fittings to complete the look keeping it similar to the looks from my main build. I elected to go for the Phatnek’s block rather then EK as I think they look great and to try something different having mostly stuck to EK. Additionally the Phantek’s GPU block allows you to reuse the Strix back plate which I think looks great in this build as the ROG logo clear's the crossbar and ends up in the bottom chamber. The RGB element’s look great and with Aura can sync with all the other Aura components.
The fan’s themselves go into the Corsair Commander Pro unit which takes reading’s from the two thermo sensors into the loop measuring water temp and adjusts the fan profiles accordingly.
The Corsair commander pro also doubles up to manage the temp sensor and lighting in the rig, well most of it. Around the perimeter of the case is 8 addressable RGB strips which I have hidden in the crevices so the strip’s can’t be easily seen from outside. Great think about this kit, is there is only 2 actual inputs, so 4 strips running on either side of the case, but each strip can be addressed individually so strip 2 and 3 on input 1 can be turned off leaving only the first and last strip illuminated.
The Lighting on the GPU backplate, GPU block, CPU block and external case lighting however are standard 12v lighting. Annoyingly as I mentioned, the z370i does not have a 12v header, only a 5v addressable, but the 1080Ti strix model does, so those bits are actually wired into the GPU amusingly. In effect, it means there is two software to control lighting, with the RAM, block’s GPU, external case lighting and motherboard lighting via ASUS aura, while the primary internal case lighting via corsair Link. Not a pain as both would be needed either way, and in use, the Corsair main lighting is set to a clean white while the ASUS aura cycles all the other parts through in tandem or set to reflect the water temperature.
It was mostly a jigsaw getting the loop and lighting done with little thing’s like having the RGB strips not visible, soldering the ends of each strip and so on adding to the complexity but end result being worth it.
I did have two issues here though, the biggest issue was the initial 240mm radiator’s end tank hand popped a leak. As soon as water was forced through it when the pump came on, the water poured straight out out! That was a pain as I had to undo the loop, get a replacement radiator and then put it all back together with the replacement thankfully being fine.
Another issue I have come across is the Corsair Commander Pro does not play ball with EK’s EVO vardar fans, but there non EVO fan’s work fine. To get around this, I used a Non-EVO fan as the primary fan on the PWM sense line and the other Vardar fan’s branching off it, annoying but does the job okay.
For the power supply the silverstone 700w unit SFX-L platinum unit was picked. More than enough capacity for the build and I have a plethora of silverstone sleeved cable kits which I initially planned to use. For this build I went with a pretty neat silver wire cable’s (which meant that plethora of kits I already had were pointless!) which I had to order in for this. Took a month to get as I had to order the 24 Pin ATX and 8 Pin CPU cable twice. Both of those runs are actually pretty long, with the 8 Pin run from PSU to the CPU power connector needing to be 75 CM. Anyways, the PSU does the job fine and usually the fan does not spin at light loads.
For Storage there is a 1TB 960 EVO on the rear of the motherboard and a pair of 500GB Samsung 850 EVO’s. In all the 2 TB capacity between them is more the sufficient for gaming with most my content being able to be streamed from a NAS anyways. Truthfully I did not need a M.2 drive as for game’s it makes no difference, but I wanted to just stick too two sata cables as the other 2 locations on the board would have meant cables transversing the board.
Overall fairly happy with the build. Performance is solid and I can game fine at 4k with few tweaks made. The case is stunning and hopefully once Phanteks send a replacement crossbar logo, I can replace this one.
Temp wise, the case is on the warm side, but with the 8700k delidded, temps on both the CPU and GPU stay reasonable, even during prolonged use so it's not a massive issue, even with an overclock on the parts.
Looks wise, hits most of the points I was trying to do, a base monochrome look so I can mix RGB in as when I feel like it. Only annoying bit is one of the two runs from the CPU block to the GPU is not quite parallel, but annoyingly, not all that easy to remedy in such a tight spot.