This is the classic "work hard, play hard" setup. It's mainly an office computer intended to do graphics intensive presentations, sales sheets, photo and video editing and of course lots of spreadsheets and email accounts.
During downtime, it transforms into a capable gaming system. Two birds. One stone.
Here's the breakdown and comments on parts used:
CPU - I really wanted to do a Ryzen build. The limited number of motherboards, especially Mini ITX, put an end to that idea and the default choice (and a darn good one) is Intel. I went with i5 because i7 wasn't needed.
GPU - I like the look of this reference card. Plus, I believe it's the best bang for the buck on the market today. Hands down. Runs great, albeit a little hot. It's an excellent graphics card.
MOBO - First, this thing looks fantastic and sports the latest Intel chipset. It has all the features I wanted, including WiFi and Bluetooth, plus more. Please note, while you get USB 3.1 header you don't get USB 2.0 header that most AIO systems require. There is a dedicated AIO pump header. I haven't used it as I went with Air.
CPU Cooler - Yeah, so I took a leap of faith here. The specs say it's not compatible with 166mm height on the stated 160mm clearance of the case. I did a little digging and looks like the measurement for the case stops with the frame, not the outside enclosure. Manta has a rounded enclosure. I eye-balled it and figured it would clear the extra 6mm. I was right. But the rear fan has to be removed in order to accommodate this monstrous cooler. It performs very well.
Memory - Excellent quality and speeds. Good performance to price ration. Even with the larger heat sink, there is no interference with the CPU cooler although it's tight.
Storage - I went with single 1TB M.2 SSD. Two reasons. One, I can always add more storage later but cannot add more speed to a slower SSD or HDD. 1TB is plenty for now. Two, no SATA cables make it an even easier and cleaner build.
Case - I absolutely love this case. It's amazing looking and easy to build with due to it's size. The only con? It's size. If you are going for the smallest Mini ITX build, this isn't for you. Build quality and materials used are fantastic. Well worth the price paid.
PS - It's modular. It's good. Enough said.
I'll update the parts review below as time goes on.
4/19/17 Update - I've added new cables and two drives. The hard drives are standard 5400 spindles and were de-badged for a better looking system. New cables are just an esthetically better option. Last two images show the updated system.
There are many reviews describing how difficult it is to install this cooler. They must be talking about installing it inside the case. It's actually very easy if you install it on the motherboard outside of the case. Took five minutes max. This is a very impressive cooler that looks great and performs well.
- Cooling performance is excellent. There are many reviews online suggesting subpar performance when compared to similarly priced air coolers. I experience quite the opposite. I am running it with i5 7600K overclocked to 4.5Ghz and the processor stays nice and cool. No complaints.
- Looks fantastic
- Low noise
- Good RAM clearance
- Well designed dimensions despite size. I have it mounted on Mini ITX inside the NZXT Manta. Fits perfectly well, but the rear fan had to be removed.
- Fan wires well managed and bound together in a sleeve for a cleaner look.
- Size (in some cases)
- Large "Warranty Void if Removed" sticker on the cable. I was able to hide it well, but it could be very unsightly in some cases.
The MX300 1TB M.2-2280 SSD option is the least expensive per GB M.2 storage option in the 1TB size as of right now. The obvious question is how does the low price point relates to performance.
In my experience, this drive is quick and the performance is very solid. I am getting sequential reads of 530 MB/s and writes of 463 MB/s. While it may not be as fast as the top performing Samsung models, I believe it delivers a superior value. Heat is also well controlled. Crucial uses what they call "adaptive thermal protection" technology. Whatever it does, it does it well. It's durability is rated at 220TB written which is pretty good.
I would recommend this drive to anyone looking for lots of storage at a good price.
I won't be reviewing Windows here, but this is the first Windows desktop that I'll own since the late 1990's. I've been an Apple user since then. Just wanted to let other macOS/OS X users know that Windows 10 is great.
It's a vastly improved experience and is only getting better. Once you get used to it there really isn't much you'll miss from the Apple's OS. Sure, there are many things that are done differently. You have to start thinking about drivers, shortcuts are different, window controls are on the opposite side of the window and closing a window exists the application. You get used to it and in some instances Windows seems to be the more logical solution.
We are quickly moving toward OS parity where both macOS and Windows 10 offer the same outstanding features, reliability and stability. I have become "OS agnostic" and really see no functional difference between the two.
To those on the fence waiting for a new Mac Pro or an iMac, I would recommend that you consider building a Windows PC that will outperform the Mac at half the cost and will leave you with the ability to upgrade freely at a later date.