Description

After years of fiddling with PCs to make them game and never being in more than one place for more than 18 months to allow for a big rig, I thought it was time to build my first new build.

The idea was to build a powerful FPS/Action game PC capable of 4K or VR at a later stage without too much upgrading while staying within the realms of reasonable price (sub £2k).

As this rig was for pure gaming, I tried to select parts that were fit for purpose, reasonably priced and I could get shipped to myself easily.

After receiving the parts and case within a week, I built and managed to get the machine running in an evening with basic tools. The case itself is bulky and heavy with the sound deadening materials inside the panels but if you're not going to move the rig much, this isn't an issue. The inside of the case though is a pleasure to work in. Fitting the motherboard, CPU and CPU radiator wasn't too tricky if you have a willing volunteer to hold parts in place while securing them to the case. The CPU cooler was the hardest component to install inside the case as it needs to attached to the Mobo before securing the CPU cooler Radiator and it's two 120mm fans to the top of case. It is a real fiddle if you haven't installed an AIO liquid cooler before. The rest of the parts didn't need much persuasion to install and all fitted with ample room for excellent airflow front to back.

Once I managed to install all components (plus a spare DVD drive I had), I could boot and install Windows 10 from a USB without any hiccups. The GPU drivers installed from the disc and the GPU was displaying on the monitor with no problems. I was running Chrome and installing various auxiliary OC programs within 30 minutes of installing Windows 10.

Having been using the rig almost daily for 4 months I have to say it has met and exceeded my expectations. The GTX1070 and i& 6700k combination is magnificent foundation to any high tier gaming rig at the moment. I can play new games at 1080p on Ultra or Extreme with 70+ FPS across the board. If you like to play FPS/Action games, you'll not have an issue booting them up and playing them on this machine. My only limitation is the small SSD but as I have a second SSD used as an external for my ultrabook, I can keep 5 or 6 games installed at all times depending on size of course.

The mild overclocking does help alot and the motherboard does seem to handle the extra power well. It took me about a month to get a reasonable performance gain without instability. I will not go into too much detail here but you'll need to update the BIOS to V5 or higher to get the full potential from the CPU and using the BIOS to OC the CPU. I am currently running 4.6GHz on Turbo and 4.0GHz idle with no change to the cache speed. The GPU on the other hand is a doddle to overclock using the Gigabyte tools. Currently have the GPU clocked 100 MHz over base clock and memory clocked 150 MHz over base. This modest OC works very well and I have no stability problems at these clocks. I did experiment with 4.6Ghxz for the CPU but found that the temps started to climb up to 67C which I didn't want to sustain for long periods of time. The GPU crashed with anything over +160 MHz GPU clock and 200 MHz and reached a quite toasty 98C after a 20 minute benchmark run with +140 MHZ core clock. I did attempt to use RAM timing changes and frequency increases but found it too unstable to be usable.

Overall this is a great build for those that want a powerful PC in an understated black box monolith.

Benchmark Results Intel Extreme Tuning Utility Base clocks (4.0 GHz idle, 4.2 GHz Turbo) 1176 Current Settings (4.0 GHz idle, 4.6 GHz Turbo) 1324

Part Reviews

CPU

After being an AMD fanboy for many years, I decided to jump ship and plump for quite possibly the best all round processor you can get for less than £300. I would have gone for a Ryzen but they hadn't been released when I started my build.

Installation was easy and worked straight out of the box.

I married it to a Liquid AIO cooler to allow for some mild overclocking with a Z170 board. It took some time to get agreeable settings with this combination where the CPU doesn't go over 60C and the performance increase is acceptable. I managed to get a stable turbo boost of 4.6GHz using Intel Extreme Utility with a core clock of 4.0Ghz through the BIOS.

Benchmark Results Intel Extreme Tuning Utility Base clocks (4.0 GHz idle, 4.2 GHz Turbo) 1176 Current Settings (4.0 GHz idle, 4.6 GHz Turbo) 1324

Motherboard

Not my first Gigabyte mobo but one of the better boards I've worked with. The PCB is of good quality with little chance of breaking unless you're heavy handed and/or overtighten the holding screws. I absolutely love the features on this board, the Creative Xi-Fi sound chip, the OC or ECO profile buttons make testing settings easy and App Centre software is a nice touch (even though most of them are useless).

The reason this does not get 5 stars is the BIOS it is shipped with. They arrive with V1 BIOS installed which limits certain aspects of the OC potential such as RAM timing and XML. I spent a week trying to work out why I couldn't enable XML or the 3000 MHz frequency for the RAM when I found through a trawl of Tom's Hardware forum that it was the BIOS firmware. At least updating the BIOS is easy with Q-Flash. If you want to use with a Skylake chip, use BIOS V5, with a Kraby Lake chip (i7 7700 etc.) use BIOS V20.

Overall this Z170 board is a very good foundation for a mid to high tier build without breaking the bank.

Memory

Excellent value, easy to install and very happy to use in future builds. Be sure your motherboard can handle 3000 MHz and BIOS is updated to enable XML profiles.

Storage

An excellent SSD drive for fast booting of 5 to 6 AAA games. Currently use as the OS boot drive with Windows 10 booting to Desktop in 8 seconds. It is also reasonably priced for a mid capacity SSD drive if you can live with 525Gb (520GB usable).

Video Card

As my first choice of graphics card was out of stock just before purchasing with no reorder in sight, I opted for this card to match my Gigabyte motherboard.

All I can say is this card is AMAZING!

It seems to be able to handle anything I throw at it with no drama. 6 hours of BF1 on Ultra at 1080p showing temps in the high 70s and 60+ FPS is excellent for me. I would be willing to upgrade to 1440p monitor to really test this cards potential.

I could imagine this card filling a smaller mid tower or a mATX mobo pretty easily as it's long with the triple fans. Be sure the motherboard has the RAM slots above the PCIe slots as this card could cover 2 slots.

It is barely audible at full speed and readily overclockable. Currently set at +100MHz core and +150MHz memory clock using the G1 OC utility.

Overall well worth the high price and I can see it lasting 5 years before 4K graphics become the norm.

Case

From previous experience of bad case design from cheap tower cases supplied with my old gaming rig, I decided to splash out on this Fractal Design beauty based on the glowing reviews I've read.

I was not disappointed.

This case is BIG and very black. I love it's understated design and looking like a server case. The thought that went into designing this case is astounding and clearly implemented to a high standard.

To start with, it's heavy. I wouldn't want to move this case often being over 20 Kg once filled with components. Heavy as the panels are not thin and are lined with sound deadening fabric. The front door is lined too and effectively silence the fans behind them, even with a the inch deep intakes on either side of the frame. The placement of the front ports is good and the satisfyingly big black metallic looking plastic power button in the centre really finishes the aesthetics of the case.

The build in side is a breeze (I'll get to case cooling later) with the movable drive bays and HDD chassis inside the case. The instructions show the combinations possible as well as fitting the case fans and inter-coolers if needed. The motherboard mounting frame is by far the best I've seen. It has nice cable inlets/holes to allow for lovely cable management for behind the motherboard and you can mount 2 SSD drives there too. You make your internal wiring disappear very easily to show off your hardware. My only regret is not buying the windowed versions!

If I ever make a tower build again, I wouldn't hesitate to purchase another one of these cases! I would also like more colour options as a red case would like mega.

Power Supply

The "go to" brand for reliable and well built PSUs. This is my first modular PSU and I would say I would get another for the purpose of cable management. I never need Molex or a thousand SATA power connectors but this PSU allows me to have only the power cables I require.

Easy to install, quiet when running, keeps all my components supplied and with ample wattage to SLI in the future. Would recommend to anyone.

Case Fan

Quiet, easy to install, keeps my hardware cool and well priced. Nothing more to say.

Monitor

As a temporary stop gap monitor, I would say it is a competent 1080p gaming monitor.

The setup for the best picture quality is a matter of preference but I have been unable to get the settings just right for myself be it using the montior's, graphics card's or Window's settings. I can live with what I have but it's not ideal.

The control buttons and menu are awful. It's all or nothing and all based on picture mode and no true custom mode. It is frustrating when you can't change the gamma in normal mode but can in cinema mode but then can't change black levels!

Keyboard

Nothing but praise for this keyboard. This is my first gaming specific keyboard but not my first mechanical keyboard.

I love the RGB colour scheme and how it changes based on the games I play (Mass Effect Andromeda is a good example of how this works) and picking up the keybindings is cool.

The keys themselves are nice to use and sensitive to even a little tap. It's tricky to type with (like I am now) but for gaming it is superb. I never knew how much a keyboard can affect your gaming experience. I now feel I can play to the best of my ability and not feel cheated as my key press wasn't registered fast enough.

The lack of programmable keys isn't a problem for me as I don't play MMOs or games that require loadout changes on the fly but that would be something to consider if you did play those games.

If you want a reasonably priced mechanical keyboard for just gaming, I can't recommend this enough.

Mouse

A good optical gaming mouse with a wide range of DPI settings and a good reaction speed.

The shape is OK is you're used to Dell or Apple mice but the lack of weight and no programmable buttons does limit this mouse's appeal.

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