Yes, the imagery sucks - I'm a system builder, not a damn photographer!
Hey y'all! Been awhile since I've been active on this site - I use it often, but I haven't had the fortune to build a machine in quite awhile. Indeed, I still haven't, as my friend did almost all of the grunt work himself this time around (give him a holler at /user/minerman2525). I was the "coach", so-to-speak and I parted out most of the list but building a multi-thousand dollar machine ain't easy nor relaxing, so I'm proud of him.
For the most part this was built to my specifications - the one exception being the GPU. We initially planned upon SLI 1070s, but (shoot me for this) we went to Best Buy to buy said 1070s and had a very earnest conversation with an honestly helpful and friendly sales associate who, after some deliberation, convinced us to go with a single 1080. SLI, after all, is on the way out and even if you want to use it then it's better starting with one more powerful card and expanding to two later on than locking yourself into two moderately powerful cards early on. Furthermore, with a multi-GPU system comes frameskipping & framerate inconsistency, which would necessitate a G-SYNC monitor that we didn't have. We ultimately decided that if he should ever want to SLI, he'll buy a G-SYNC monitor at the same time to alleviate that issue.
In terms of the build itself, it was meant as an upgrade to my/his 2014 build that was starting to get on in age, and was also far too bulky for his increasing portability demands (now that most of our friend group has gotten into PC gaming, LAN parties among us are becoming a thing). It was designed to incorporate new technologies of varying usefulness (e. NVMe SSD, LED RAM) and also old technologies that we recognized as necessary after our experience with the first build (e. watercooling, audiophile headphones & USB mic in place of gaming headset).
The building process itself wasn't what I'd call swimming, but neither of us have done many actual builds so I don't know what we expected. If I had to pinpoint the single most difficult thing, it would have to be the water cooler - we spent a good 45 minutes just trying to affix the damn thing to the front of the case! The hoses are also far thicker IRL than the marketing pictures would have you believe, and do pose a significant threat to cable management in a small case - but with the help of some zipties I got them under control.
As far as overclocking goes, we can do it, plan on doing it and I already did it to some rudimentary degree with the GPU - thanks to Boost 3.0, really all I had to do was increase the power limit and fan curve as my friend is remarkably impervious to fan noise.
All other digressions on specific parts can be found in the reviews section. Please comment or message me or him with any questions!
Got it for $219 at Microcenter, and IMO you can't go better than that for a CPU that will run damn near any current game without breaking a sweat. It's reported as being good for overclocking, but I almost don't need to do that when I'm getting a rock steady 4.5GHz without touching a single setting! Amazing.
In both the performance and aesthetics department, it positively excels (a bit more on that later). The reason I've docked a star is for the hoses - they're massive, stiff, long and overall completely a pain in the *** for any case that's not at least a mid tower or larger. You need to put some significant thought into where you're mounting this and what you're going to do with the hoses, and don't be afraid to apply a little pressure and / or a copious amount of cableties (both of which I did).
In other departments of functionality, it's amazing - it offers three profiles out of the box (Quiet, Balanced, Performance) when using Corsair Link to manage it, but it can also run off the motherboard fan firmware by plugging the pump into the W_PUMP header and the fans into the CPU_FAN and CPU_OPT headers. The pump IS variable speed, goes from 1000RPM to 2500RPM, and IS pretty damn noisy at full tilt - so, I'd advise at least the Balanced profile unless your ears are blown out and / or you wear circumaural headphones full time. It also has full 16.8M RGB lighting and the ability to set a "warning" light color when the temperature breaches a predefined limit, and the lighting does look very cool.
On the "performance" preset, a fifteen-minute Prime95 run fails to breach even 60C, which is duly impressive for a CPU that pulls close to 100W as reported by HWMonitor. However, as previously stated, the Performance preset is pretty noisy and the inbuilt fans are noisy in general even at minimum speed - so if you're a silence nut, you're almost definitely going to want to pitch the boxed fans and replace them with Noctua or some such.
Got it for $180 at Microcenter - fantastic all-rounder motherboard that has just about every damn thing a self-respecting system builder could want (except, perhaps, more fan headers - there are only 2 CHA_FAN headers but that's such a petty complaint I won't dock a star).
The power supply side of things looks good, with more power phases than I can count (fairly sure it's around 10) and very substantial VRM heatsinking. No complaints there.
Expansion slots are all accounted for - six SATA with SATAe (even though SATAe products don't exist), and dual M.2 with M.2 RAID support and up to 22110 size on the back slot. I do wish that they'd lended this board their M.2 heatsink (the one that's present on boards like the Z270i) because our bare-chip 600p is getting up to 55C after just a couple installers, but it's still well within Intel's thermal spec and anyone who's going to be heavily stressing their SSDs will be smart enough to buy heatsinked ones anyway.
Aesthetically, it's fabulous - RGB lighting on the PCH heatsink (out of the box, it cycles through colors smoothly but can be configured with the AURA software), polished aluminum heatsinks, matte PCB and steel reinforced GPU slots. No complaints there.
The BIOS is intuitive and easy to use, but it's just a BIOS - if you know what you're doing, very little differential between manufacturers. The Q-Fan control is very handy though and works well on the DC fans that came with the case, so that's a plus.
Close to the cheapest 2x8 3GHz kit when purchased ($110), but I bought it for lighting effects - white will work in almost any build, and it does indeed look fabulous in person. However, prospective buyers should know that out of the box, the LEDs are NOT in an always-on state - they actually pulse on and off, which I thought was kinda cool but other people may not.
Apart from that, it's just 16GB of 3GHz DDR4, and it works, so it has my recommendation.
With almost every single new build now including SSDs, the "better than mechanical" tagline don't cut it anymore - somebody had to drive a new wedge, and Intel figures that wedge is "better than SATA". For the most part, it works - this didn't cost much more than a good SATA M.2 SSD and is posting about 1150MB/s read under CrystalDiskMark (be honest, nobody but prosumer video editors and renderers give a **** about write). This makes it about 4x faster than the old SATA SSD was (850 EVO), but still a good bit short of what's posted on the box - I suspect it might be thermal throttling because the drive gets up to 55C under barely any duress but the speeds are still very respectable and I don't feel like tinkering with it.
Another build for the legendary Blue. The fastest, the most reliable, and very close to the cheapest too - for 1TB HDDs, there's no beating it.
Somebody up in the NVIDIA ivory tower said "Our reference designs aren't selling unless we make them the only design available for that chip....how's about we add some sharp angles, a backplate and a vapor chamber, call it Founders Edition and charge $100 extra?" - and it worked, at least on us. The card is indeed VERY aesthetically pleasing, and is undoubtedly the best 1080 blower design - so if you're building SLI or in a small case with limited airflow, this should be your go-to.
We got it for a combination of two reasons - my friend has his eyes set on SLI in the near future, and axial GPUs choke themselves in SLI (especially with no spacing between them, as with this case). But honestly, the much bigger motivator was the fact that this card looks ******* sexy! It honestly does feel like you're holding a premium GPU, and it looks insanely good in the completed build - the fact that he loves green LEDs only adds to the appeal. And honestly, what performance differential is there between the FE and the best, best AIB card (Zotac AMP EX, for arguments sake)? Less than 10%? That translates to maybe five FPS at ultra settings.
And don't think that this is a limited GPU at all - the major limiting factor, if there is one, would have to be the radial fan. It's tuned for silence out of the box and it is indeed VERY quiet - certainly far quieter than one would expect for a radially cooled 180W GPU. But, for Boost 3.0 to do its thing, it needs power and thermal headroom, so I downloaded Afterburner and got to work!
Just increasing the power target to 120% got me like 75MHz extra, but I felt like I could get more so I added 200MHz to the core, 400MHz to the memory and set a much more aggressive fan curve, which got me a stable 1900MHz under a FurMark loop and probably more with an actual game. For now I'm satisfied, but I might try to push it even further later - the point I'm trying to make is that neither the 5+1 power system nor the small fan is in any way an obstruction to performance if you just know how to tweak properly.
One of the few cuboid mATX cases, makes very clever usage of a compartmentalization system to add support for a lot of hardware in a little space (just over 30 litres, in fact). Three 3.5" drives and three 2.5" drives - all tool-less - and support for 2.5" in all 3.5" bays, plus full-length ATX PSU and full-length dual GPU support....and on top of all that, up to a 240mm water cooler!
There are 2 main "compartments" which are split widthwise down the case. The first compartment hosts the motherboard, GPU(s) and radiator (if applicable), while the 2nd compartment hosts the excess cabling, the drives and the PSU (in a vertical orientation). This is particularly nice because it forces you to cable manage - you can't just run the cables straight from the PSU to the componentry and bypass the management holes like we did with our first build. It also allows the GPUs to sit very close to the bottom of the case, which in my opinion looks quite nice.
It offers a LOT of fan mount points, and uses a pretty interesting mount system - in areas where fans can be mounted, there aren't simple mount holes but rather continuous mounting "rails" that allow you to mount a fan at any point along the rail. This is convenient because it allows you to precisely adjust your fans to compensate for things like radiators or motherboard bottom-side components. Three of Corsair's AF120L DC fans are included with the case - they're aesthetically quite basic and come in a puke beige color but you can't really notice it through the darkened side window. Based on my observations, they go up to ~1800RPM and are quite noisy at this speed, but thankfully respond well to voltage-based fan control. They do also move a respectable amount of air at this high speed.
One of the main arguments against this case, and a necessary sacrifice of the compartment system, is the fact that in the main componentry compartment, height of parts is severely limited - if you want to air cool you have just 120mm of clearance, and some higher end / taller GPUs also don't fit. Still, this looks more to me like it's designed for water cooling and SLI builds with blower GPUs, so both of those flaws can be forgiven rather easily especially with how accessible water cooling is these days.
The only part recycled from the original build, and still an amazing PSU. According to JonnyGuru, it has very tight voltage regulation and ripple and good build quality - the latter of which is necessary to be reusing it across builds.
It's drastically overrated for our needs, but on the bright side we can overclock and add a second GPU to our hearts' content and not need to worry about power delivery.
On the functionality side of things, it has digital monitoring and interaction via Corsair Link, which I haven't chosen to connect right now because we never used it on the old PC - however, it does give you the freedom to do things like toggle between single- and multi-rail mode and toggle semi-fanless. It does indeed have a semi-fanless mode and it probably operates based off load and not temperature because in the old build, not once in two years did I see the fan spin up.
Pay Microsoft $119 for the right to use your favorite software programs, get spied on, and get used as a P2P update network. It's functional and it's basically your only option for a high end gaming machine, but I maintain that if all the games that people wanted were on Linux, nobody but nobody would find a reason to use Windows - much less invest $119 in it.
The primary monitor from the old build has officially been relegated to secondary-monitor duties, and the old second monitor has been retired. Even when it was the primary monitor, I still didn't like this one - it's extremely expensive for a 1080p 144Hz 24" screen with no framesync, and the colors are very oversaturated out of the box (built-in "Game Mode") which gave me a headache. The other different modes alleviate this to some degree, but it's still just not a good monitor for the money. The inbuilt speakers suck too, almost tin-can-on-a-string tier.
Got it for $400 (woohoo Microcenter) and I'm very satisfied with it - much more than I was with the VG248 initially. The colors look perfectly reproduced out of the box, which I'm extremely happy with for a low-end TN panel, and the inbuilt speakers are surprisingly high quality - in fact, if you're not insanely discerning on audio quality I'd say they'd even be fine to use as your primary audio device.
A slew of inputs are offered, including HDMI2, DP and DVI-D DL. Cables for all of these are in the box.
There is no VESA pattern. The X-shaped stand is cool looking but less stable than, say, just a normal circle or square. I wouldn't nudge or bump your desk too hard with this monitor.
Reused from previous build, mechanical switches certainly ain't got any worse and neither has the keyboard - though, it has acquired a nice layer of PC gamer grime and my friend spilled Coke in the Win key so it kinda doesn't work anymore, but who needs that **** anyway (bonus, permanent Win lock!)
The lighting is rich and bright and can be controlled independently of software, but lighting pulse and individual zone control (there's 3 zones) is the extent of what you get.
For the current prices it's going for, the G502 still holds the competitive-mouse-on-a-budget crown. RGB lighting, incredibly comfortable, lots of macro keys and an unlockable scroll wheel (useless to some people, but a big bonus for scrolling through walls of text). LGS is very handy too, and the sensor is pretty accurate.
Impeccable audio quality, but don't waste it on a low-end inbuilt DAC (looking at you, ALC892). The impedance is only 38? so you can use them without an amp, despite what /r/headphones might tell you. The positional sound for competitive games (CS:GO) is fabulous, and for music and music mixing they're undoubtedly the best I've ever heard (though, I haven't handled a huge amount of audio hardware).
My one complaint, and the reason for docking a star, would have to be the build quality. They're comfortable, but almost entirely plastic - so I don't think they would stand up to being used as street headphones or even being dropped more than a couple times.
If you're looking for a surrogate gaming headset, have cash to drop, and don't want to give yourself a headache with the DAC/AMP market, I feel like you can't go wrong with these.