Description

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"

Arthur C. Clarke

Background:

It's been a while... let me put it this way, the last time I built a machine from the ground up all the PCBs were very green, a CPU cooler was unheard of and the IDE ribbon cables were unyielding and grey. Fast forward to 2016 and it's time to ditch the laptop and get some outstanding performance for a fair price.

Goals:

  • gaming goodness - specifically getting to a point that's delicious for 1440p in Witcher 3, Naval Action, WoT and Total War series, not to mention tons of other strategy games. I'd like to dabble in Star Citizen and other stuff that would have been nasty on my laptop, and I'll load up the occasional AAA shooter and want need pwnage. Oh yeah, and my 8 yr old will get the most kick4ss experience in Garry's Mod and Minecraft as he is indoctrinated into the PCMR.

  • VR readiness - the capability to drive the next generation of VR headsets that I will invest in when the technologies mature and the motion sickness is conquered. I did a lot of VR dev in the 90s and the tech was definitely not ready for primetime, and I'm not quite convinced it's there yet either, but close.

  • game and creative computing dev - Unity, Processing, OpenFrameworks/Cinder and a bit of VVVV.

  • video/audio creation/editing - Vegas Pro, Ableton Live, Traktor Pro.

Summary:

The keynote for me is the quality of each item I have used and the ease with which they went together. To say that this GPU and monitor are impressive together would be a gross under statement. The SM961 NVMe M.2 SSD is amazing. It makes the POST look slow, as once the bootloader kicks in Win10 takes about 2 secs to get to the login screen. A hefty list of TSRs all start within the next 10secs after login.

Benchmarks:

With no Overclocking...

Firestrike 1.1 15056

Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0 FPS: 102.4 Score: 4285 Min FPS: 42.6 Max FPS: 155.0

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 FPS: 80.5 Score: 2028 Min FPS: 27.4 Max FPS: 148.1

Edit: I had erroneous SSD stats in here previously but I have now removed them. It turned out I was just measuring the efficiency of my RAM cache. Doh.

Additional Notes:

For mounting 2.5" legacy HDs I will be using Orico 3.5" to 2.5" Hard Drive Mounting Bracket Adapters: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01C6X34GK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Part Reviews

CPU Cooler

Beautiful looking and it works like a dream. These have a reputation for being hard to fit, but this reputation is slightly unwarranted if you fit the hex nuts at step 2 in the instructions straight on to the M3x15 screws, on top of the C spacers. Then the Intel mounting brackets are attached to the radiator and you can dry fit the whole unit easily before tightening the Intel hexagonal nuts progressively. To avoid ever blocking the DIMM_A1 RAM slot I mounted the whole unit 180 degrees out from it's intended orientation and setup the fan to pull air through and direct it straight at my exhaust fan. It's also worth noting that the 160mm height gives ample clearance to the side panel, whereas the Dark Rock Pro 3 would have been very tight, as well as a lot more noisy with two fans instead of one.

Motherboard

Wow. This feels and looks like a seriously thought out piece of kit. What doesn't this mobo have? You could get seriously lost in the plethora of options available here and I intend to. I'll just call out a few things that impressed; BIOS update over the wire from within the BIOS menu (but not to the Kaby Lake compatible BIOS released a couple of days earlier), loads of fan headers and optional auto-sensing of fan capabilities within the BIOS and what seems to be a very deep set of OC'ing options. If you are in two minds about buying this, just do yourself a favour and get it.

Storage

Savage. This will change your life. The official driver is now out, but even the Win10 vanilla driver shows amazing throughput. This drive doesn't get picked up by the Samsung Magician software but hey ho.

Case

Good looking case that's easy to work with. Lots of fan and drive placement options, it's highly unlikely that you would ever use them all but they give a lot of flexibility. 4/5 stars due to a slight QA issue with one stand-off hole that was pre-drilled too big. Be careful with the plexiglass window panel, it is very easy to scratch.

Power Supply

Very solid feel and the Eco mode is a great idea (cuts the fan completely when not required). Comes with loads of connectors and velcro cable ties. It would be nice if it had included some cables with just 1 x SATA power or 2 x SATA power, and a SATA to MOLEX power adaptor, but hey ho, you can't have everything for this money.

Operating System

Best thing Microsoft have ever done. There's now a version of NTLite that supports Win10 64, so you can make up a USB installation with all the drivers and updates slipstreamed in, even including your Win10 licence key, so you can do an unattended install.

Case Fan

Extremely quiet and shifts a serious amount of air. The quietness and efficiency of the minimum fan speed is almost as important to me as the maximum speed capability, and these do the job nicely. They look cool too!

Monitor

What a total revelation! It turns out I've been trying to paint the hallway through the letterbox for years. Do your eyes a favour and get at least a WQHD monitor like this. The 27" size and desktop/game scaling are very comfortable and still immersive at this size.

Two things you need to do to get the best out of this monitor; turn off deep sleep in the on-screen controls so that you can wake the screen from mouse or keyboard input and carefully calibrate in Windows to get the deepest blacks you can with a more saturated look.

I've docked it just one star, because it could be even better with IPS, PLS or AHVA, as long as the response time was kept low.

Log in to rate comments or to post a comment.

Comments

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

That's a very nice (but expensive) treat you have there! +1

One suggestion : Switch the orientation of the Dark Rock 3 so its fan is facing towards the front of the case. You currently have the fan on the DR3 as well as the exhaust fan fighting each other.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks, it is a pure indulgence and a thing of joy.

I actually switched the cooler fan to pull instead of push. While doing that I noticed one side of the heatsink has a scoop out of it. Since I was switching the fan position it just looked right to channel air into the scoop side of the cooler.

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

Oh, ok. That's pretty interesting. I've never seen anyone have a 'pull' setup on an air cooler before.

I think I should add more +1s for creativity...

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

JS i woulda dipped this in water

regardless 10/10

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! You may well be right and if I was a bit braver... part of me thinks that water cooling is strictly for cars.

  • 25 months ago
  • 1 point

Could you provide the clearance of your CPU cooler? And did you have to raise it at all to fit the RAM?

  • 23 months ago
  • 1 point

Clearance is a problem if you orient the cooler and fan as intended. However, mine works fine with the fan on the opposite side as a pull fan. I also have a slimline PWM pushing from the RAM side, and clearance is not a problem with a slimline fan.