Here it is guys, my first full build. Naturally it's not for me, but my good friend Austin, who had too much money burning a hole in his pocket. This was designed mostly for heavy gaming, internet browsing, whatever needs done. This build was set up mainly over Skype one night, and built on a cold winter afternoon. I apologize in advance for the pics, as they were taken on the fly with my POS iPhone.
I will go back and update with some better pics soon, as well as overclocked speeds and some benchmarks. That'll probably be after the snow clears after this winter though... Update at the bottom with overclocks and benchmarks :D
CPU: Intel i5 4690K - This was a point of debate between us (one of many). Should we save some cash and get an FX-8350 and have more cash for the GPU or splurge on an i5K and get access to a few newer techs (M.2, SATA Express, Broadwell in the future). It eventually came down to aesthetics, as a lot of this build did. Austin decided he liked the look of the Z97 boards better than anything available on the 990FX platform. It performs well enough, we didn't really have anything on hand that we could use to really get an idea of the power we have available. We plan to overclock this as far as possible, of course, hence the big-*** radiator.
Cooler: NZXT Kraken X61 - We knew from the start that we would be going for a big liquid cooler. As Austin wanted the best of everything, we originally went with a Swiftech H240X. Of course it was out of stock when we went to buy it (and came back in stock $50 cheaper the next day. I facepalmed...), so we decided on the next best thing, a Cooler Master Nepton 280L, Which was out of stock as well. The Kraken was actually our third choice, as we couldn't get our hands on any Swiftech machinery. It's pretty quiet, the pump is louder than the fans, but the whole system is generally pretty quiet. In most of the pics the block is the default green, but we got CAM installed at the end of the day and managed to get the block blue for a final, rushed "glamour shot". Oddly, this unit will glow, even with the system shut off. It apparently runs off the 5VSB, I don't know?
Motherboard: ASRock Z97 Extreme6 - This was a mainly aesthetic choice. It supports SLI for the future, it's got a solid VRM section, and it fit the color scheme of the rest of the build. The audio is pretty solid, not that it matters as he is running everything through the sound card on his headphones. I was actually unprepared for how big this board was, the biggest I've seen before was mATX, so it was all new to me. Note to self: Watch out for all of the solder points on the back of motherboards, they are sharp, I came away with a few small puncture wounds from various sharp bits on the back of the board. In the end, it works, it looks good, and I didn't bend any pins in the socket (Whew...)
RAM: G.Skill RipjawsZ - G.Skill has never failed any system I've worked on before, and my dad has been using them for years as well without any issues, so when this gorgeous kit came up in the list as we were choosing parts, we just had to have it. I know we should have gone with a 2x8GB kit for expansions sake, but 4x4GB looks better and is easily enough for games for a few years at least. With all four sticks in, the heatspreaders match the color of the mobo heatsinks almost exactly, which gives it an awesome look. I'm not sure if you can see that in the pictures.
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB + SeaGate Barracuda 2TB - The SSD was another last-minute panic-swap that turned out perfectly. We were originally gunning for an OCZ Vertex 460, but that was (you guessed it) out of stock during order time. I got the text notifying me of this and asking for a replacement in the middle of an intense Planetside 2 battle with another friend, so I'm glad my mind was still working. This was just a few days after the 850 EVO launched, so we were one of the earliest adopters of the new drive (I'm sure thousands of people got it before me, don't ruin the moment, mmk?). Having never used an SSD-based system before, this seems blazing fast to me. Austin's old laptop had an SSD already, so it wasn't quite as much of a jump. Windows boot's in just seconds from a cold boot, and programs load incredibly quickly. The HDD was just a simple storage drive that I knew to be reliable and was cheap at the time. The Barracuda actually turns out to be pretty fast as HDD's go, about as fast as a WD Black that's almost twice the price. It was a source of one of the biggest scares in the build, as the system didn't see it in Windows. It turns out I forgot to format it, lol.
GPU: Gigabyte GTX 980 G1 Gaming - Another part that changed several times during the planning of this build. The original design for this build was to use a 290X, then, as prices dropped, a pair of 290Xs with Liquid cooling. The choice of a 290X was a hard one in itself, it took a few hours to convince Austin that, Yes, a 290X is indeed faster than a 770. In the end, we went back to NVidia and decided on the fastest 980 available at the time. This thing... Holy Crap! It's huge, over a foot long, heavy, with an all metal backplate and cooler shroud, and stupidly fast. I've never seen triple digit framerate games before, and it's GLORIOUS. It's also, unfortunately, the loudest thing in the build. Those 80mm fans put up a bit of a racket at full speed. Fortunately, it's only slightly louder than the rest of the system at idle. The blue Windforce logo looks great when the whole system is lit up.
CASE: Cooler Master Storm Trooper - Those of you that I've dealt with on the forums know my policy about cases. If it's not total crap, I'll let you use any case you fancy. I was showing Austin all of the cases available on this site, and it was a case (not a pun) of love at first sight. I must admit, the Storm Trooper looks way better IRL than it does in pictures. It's a solid as all CM Storm products. By that I mean that the whole thing is thick, solid metal, with soft-touch plastic on the top. The case must weigh 20-30 pounds by itself, without any components in it. It's also freaking HUGE! I was expecting big from a full-tower, but this is just excessive. I could put the entire build I've got planned for myself inside that case at least 3-4 times. It does have an air of quality to it. In pics it looks almost tacky/gamer-y, but IRL it just looks incredibly aggressive and dangerous. We swapped the stock fans out for blue ones to fit the color scheme. It's so easy to route cable in this. There's plenty of grommets everywhere, although it was hard to sneak some cables past the radiator on top. The swappable HDD cages are nice, I swapped them to the side orientation to better hide the SATA cables. I still feel that the case is excessive, but Austin thinks otherwise, so as long as he's happy...
PSU: Corsair HX-750i - It's Blue, it's got enough Watts to run SLI in the future, it's got a semi-passive fan, and it's very efficient. What more could you ask for? The cabling is nice, black ribbon cables (although the ribbon 24-pin ATX was tricky to route) look great and stay out of the way for the most part. I have 2 complaints with this. First, why did Corsair make the ventilation holes on the back the same size as the actual mounting holes. We couldn't get the PSU to mount properly the first time because I accidentally mounted it by a ventilation hole. It's a stupid design... The other issues was with the CPU cable. It took a good 10 mins to actually route the cable around the case so that we could get it to reach the CPU power plug. It's just a bit too short to comfortable route around that case.
Optical Drive: LG UH12NS30 - What is there to say? It installed Windows and it plays Blu-Ray movies. That's its only use really.
OS: Windows 8.1 - ya pop it in the drive and hit install, then watch the SSD act bored as it waits for the ODD to read all of the files.
Monitor: ASUS VG248QE - As with many of the parts here, it was my first encounter with a 144Hz monitor. I was considering messing with Austin by leaving it at 60:
"Isn't it so smooth..."
"I don't see a difference?"
But I'm a nice guy, so I didn't. Even though I didn't get to see any games on the first day, it was clearly smoother, even just moving the cursor around on the desktop and dragging around windows. I'm not a fan of the tacky 3D logo, but oh well. I thought it was a sticker, shaddap. I'm definitely getting a 144Hz for myself when I get the chance.
Wireless Adapter: Edimax EW-7811Un - Austin doesn't have hardwired internet, so we had to use wireless. We decided on a tiny USB-based adapter. For $8, it's pretty quick. We originally tried it on the USB port on the motherboard itself, but the case blocked signals. Then we tried it on the back IO, where I accidentally dropped it and it bounced behind the fridge and desk. My bad... After fishing that back out, we just stuck it on the front panel, and it's worked fine there since.
Fans: Cougar Dual-X 120mm + 140mm - Good fans are a crucial part of a quality build. Here we decided on some Cougar Dual-x fans. The fit the criteria for both of us. From me: Quiet, reliable bearings, good performance, available for both fan sizes Him: Blue, looks cool. These fans are great. They are pretty freaking quiet, I can barely hear them with my ear right next to them (only caught my ear in a fan once, thanks), and they do look awesome when activated. My phone camera definitely doesn't do them justice here, they look much better IRL. We'll see how my proper camera fares.
LEDs: NZXT Sleeved LED Strip 2M - We purchased a set of NZXT's Sleeved LED sets for some extra lighting in the case. I had to channel my inner ninja to hide them. They snake all around the outside of the motherboard area, staying hidden as much as possible, even going under the rear fan, as there was nowhere else to put them. I would have prefered a cold-cathode system personally, the individual beams of each LED are still visible, instead of an overall glow.
Peripherals: Not included in the total are the Mouse, a Roccat Kone XTD, the Headset, a Roccat Kave 5.1 XTD, and the Keyboard, a Roccat Ryos MK Pro. He's a total Roccat fanboy. The mouse and headset he already owned before this system, and the keyboard was an early Christmas present. This was my first encounter with mechanical switches, and I'm in love with them, but simultaneously slightly disappointed. The keys feel great, but almost feel low quality at the same time. They seem to wobble a lot more than the chiclet keys on my laptop, and they just don't quite feel right. I suppose going to a mech board is odd the first time. He also purchased a small speaker system just before this build that we carried over, It was my mortal enemy during OS setup, as every time I reached to take off the side panel or to reach for the back IO, I'd knock the right satellite over.
No build is complete without its fair share of mishaps. The part that took the majority of our time was installing the motherboard. Why? Because case standoffs hate me apparently. We had two that weren't screwed in all the way when screwing in the mobo, so when we unscrewed it to tighten the standoff, the standoff got stuck in the board. We had to hold the standoff with pliers while unscrewing the screw to get it off. As if that weren't enough, we had a couple of standoffs get stuck in the motherboard tray. They wouldn't unscrew, and they wouldn't screw in any more, but would still freely spin, making it impossible to mount the motherboard. Pliers came to the rescue again, with one of us pushing the standoff from the back with the pliers while the other tried to get the standoff off.
IDK where it came from, Austin thought the name sounded cool, so that's what he decided on.
Barring the few mishaps we pushed past, I think the build went smoothly and turned out looking great. It should perform excellently in any game out there, and can easily be upgraded later on for even more performance. I really enjoyed building this system, and I can't wait to do my own soon.
Comments, Questions? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below :D
Update: 1/19/15 (Overclocking and Benchmarking)
Hey PartsPickers, I'm back with an update on this system. Today I went and visited Austin for a session of Overclocking. We pushed the GPU to 1.54 Ghz core and 7.4Ghz on the memory (as well as made it quieter with a custom fan profile). I only crashed the display driver about 5-6 times. After locking in and testing the GPU overclock and deeming it stable with a Furmark test, we moved onto the CPU. Note the high overclocked temps. I don't know if this is a case of just a bad chip, or if it's just Prime95, but this chip gets very hot, even at just 1.2V. I managed to get a stable 4.6Ghz out of it at 1.23V with 91C at full load in Prime95. If anyone knows of a synthetic test that would be work better without toasting the CPU, that would be great. Interestingly, the processor drops from 90C to about 35C in less than 2 seconds after the P95 run is stopped. After locking in both overclocks, I decided to do a few benchmark runs on 3D Mark11 (the free one) and a test on UserBenchmark. You can see the results in the new pics above. Most of the new pics didn't turn out that well, but some of them look OK.
Overclocking Update: A quick reseat of the cooler later and we are up and running again. Faster, Cooler, Better. Anyways, 4.7GHz at 1.23V. P95 tops out at 62C :)