PCPartPicker

  • Log In
  • Register

Build

Entry-level gaming with a good upgrade path

by Davealey

6
2 Comments

Details

Date Published

July 17, 2016

CPU Clock Rate

3.7GHz

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.12GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

8.4GHz

Description

This is the first machine I've built in over ten years, so it was a bit of a learning experience. I'll likely be doing this again in another year, so any suggestions on the build are appreciated.

I wanted to use a graphics card with the RX480 chipset and a Skylake processor. I ended up with an 8GB Diamond card that should give us plenty of performance, and an I3-6100 that was easy on the budget but still runs a decent clock speed. I put those into a Z170 motherboard that should leave open various upgrade paths, including going to an overclocked processor (and a better-than-stock CPU cooler to go with it) down the road if I need the extra performance, and I paid a few dollars extra for DDR4-2400 memory instead of the -2133 that the processor required in case we overclock in the future.

I decided to splurge a bit and get an M.2 SSD, but I didn't want to spend as much as the NVMe drives cost so I chose a Sandisk SATA M.2 drive - slower, but much more affordable, and still faster than SATA 3.

Most of the other parts are pretty standard - a modular power supply and a decent but not high-end case.

After monitoring temperatures for a few days and not liking the face that both the processor and GPU were topping 50C on moderate workloads, I added two more case fans. Moving the one fan that came with the case to the lower front position would probably have been enough, but two inexpensive fans gives me lots of peace of mind that there aren't any stagnant zones.

Note all that's left is to clean up the wire routing. The case lacks much in the way of routing guides or clips, so I'll add in some sticky pads and zip ties. I write a lot of industrial control enclosures, and I'm in the habit of doing the routing after some test and burn-in time - nothing like having to snip dozens of wire ties because you needed to add one minor thing!

O

Part Reviews

CPU

This processor works well for low- to mid-range games. The included CPU cooler is reasonably nice, although it's letting the processor run just a little hotter than I would have expected (63C, max temp is 72C). I think I can improve my case airflow a bit and get the temperature down, but I may end up with an aftermarket cooler. That would be surprising on a non-overclocked chip.

Still, I'm happy with the processor - it's got great performance at the price point.

Motherboard

I used this motherboard with a Skylake i3-6100 chip. It went together easily, has lots of slots, a decent selection of rear I/O and plenty of sockets for front I/O, and works well.

Pros: Z170 chipset - overclock capable if I change out the chip Four RAM slots * M.2 slot that supports both PCIe and NVMe

Cons: The actual board was shorter than the one shown in the manual, so the line of screws opposite the I/O shield is missing. Not a big deal, but I had to be sure to support the board as I plugged in the power connector and memory. The M.2 slot shares its PCIe lines with the SATA Express plug, so you can use one or the other, but not both at the same time. Not as many rear panel USBs as I'd like - there are plenty of plugs, but make sure your case gives you enough. Installation of the standoff for the M.2 drive was not obvious. It took a little bit of incorrect assembly before I realized that that's where it went. * The instructions were not very clear. Asus supplies a tool for installing the processor, but I couldn't figure out from the diagrams how to use it, and it's easy enough to install the processor without it. It came with a standoff to support the M.2 drive, but there was no mention of that in the instructions (nor any other information beyond "Plug in the M.2 drive"). I wasn't looking for a lot of hand holding, but the instructions were a little thin even for me.

One interesting note is that I was cloning the M.2 SSD to the SATA drive as a ready-to-roll backup, and my utility munched the boot sector on the M.2. Not a big deal, I repaired it with the Windows repair shell, but somehow the BIOS disabled the ability to boot from the M.2. It was not obvious what was wrong, and it took an hour of poking around before I finally found the right option in the BIOS to re-enable booting from the SSD. I find the BIOS layout to be a little odd, although it's very comprehensive and with a little looking seems able to do anything I'd want to do in a BIOS.

Overall I'm happy with it, and if I needed to do another similar build I'd use this one again.

Memory

It plugged in and worked. I paid only a couple of dollars more for 2400 instead of 2133, which gives me a little room to upgrade to a faster processor, so this was mainly bought because it had faster speed at the same price point.

Storage

This drive works well and is very fast, as well it should be with the M.2 interface. I couldn't be happier with my decision to go with a fast SSD, and I'd buy this one again if I built another system tomorrow.

Video Card

I love this card! It has excellent performance for its price point, and it does a good job with the midrange games I've tried it on. It also comes with a good set of utilities that I find useful, particularly the screen recorder that's fairly basic but very easy to use.

Interesting that it has 3 DP connectors and only one HDMI. If I want to add a second monitor, I'll have to add a second card or (presumably) plug it into one of the DP connectors.

Regardless, I'd buy this card again in a heartbeat.

Case

This is a rather nice case for the price point. The metal is not very heavy gauge, but I don't expect that in an inexpensive case. It's a sharp looking case, and has a nice set of features.

The biggest hiccup, and the reason I deducted two stars, is there was a manufacturing error in the build of this case. The plate that sits under the motherboard has not been put fully into place in one corner, and a pop rivet that should have held it in place instead kept it from sitting flat. If I'd tried to assemble the motherboard, the I/O shield would not have fit, and the screws would have pushed the motherboard into a twisted shape. I drilled out the offending rivet and tried to install a nut and screw, but the hole was too close to a corner to get a nut to fit. I ultimately just left it unattached - it's not in any danger of coming loose or shorting the motherboard. Still, I shouldn't have to attack a brand new case with a hand drill, and if I hadn't been in the machine shop at work when I was building the computer it could have been a show stopper.

The motherboard fit in nicely, but I had to spring the back in a little to get the video card support screw to line up. The hard drives sit in nice slides that allow them to be removed without tools (although you'll need a screwdriver to take the slide off the drive). The case came with plenty of screws, including ones for extra case fans and hard drives.

Wire routing assistance was almost nonexistent. I supply of stick-down wire tie pads is handy for working with this case. I used a modular power supply that keeps the cable clutter to a minimum, and that helped a lot.

Overall I'm very satisfied with this case, particularly at this price point, but if I hadn't had a drill I would have had to be creative about removing a rivet, or boxed it up and returned it.

Power Supply

Nice power supply. It came with all the cables I needed (and then some), along with a nice bag to keep them in so they're organized and not just scattered loose in a desk drawer. The jacks are all labeled well, and most of the cables are labeled for where they go. It was straightforward to wire, and like other modular supplies it keeps the cable clutter down. The cables are all wrapped in a mesh sleeve, so they're reasonably attractive when viewed through the case window.

Comments Sorted by:

the_synapps 1 point 7 months ago

I'm looking to build my first PC in the near future. Outside of peripherals, a monitor, and OS, is there anything else I need to get this build going?

DrBiff 1 Build 1 point 7 months ago

No that will cover it as long as you use a USB drive to install os otherwise you would need a disk drive plus I would recommend hdd for mass storage