This build was completed for a friend about a month ago. It's been in the works since June but he only recently acquired the money to buy the parts.
THE CHALLENGE: I talked my friend out of buying the Alienware Alpha on the condition that I could create a similarly small-form-factor machine that was portable. Now, of course we're not going to come close to the size of the Alpha itself (with a mobile GPU and external power brick) but I found a case that was good enough for him, and the build went underway.
THE PARTS: Part B of that challenge was that the build could exceed the performance of the Alpha-with a couple strings attached such as including WiFi. With its 860M+ GPU, and working on a loose ~$800 budget, that wasn't hard-I easily squeezed in a 970 and capable i5.
THE BUILD: The first iteration of the build did not go well-as it developed later that week, we got a defective motherboard which prevented the build from working. We exchanged the motherboard (not even knowing it was defective at the time) and one week later, the build functioned properly. All told I invested ~7 hours in total, 5 for the first build (when I didn't know how the case was laid out and had to start over several times) and 2 for the second build when I was just repeating what I'd already done.
THE PERIPHERALS: Not included in the part list is an ages-old Microsoft mouse (to be changed out for a better one soon), a Samsung 32" 720p TV (my client plans on getting a 1080p within the next few weeks), and a shady Chinese "gaming keyboard" (but it has lights so it must be good rite gaiz??!?1)
THE PHOTOS: First off, I apologize for the not-so-professional photography, which was done with an iPhone 5 camera and not much attention to detail. Hopefully it's enough for you to get a general idea of the PC. SOME HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE
#3, where a Potato 360 is provided for scale. They are about the same in thickness.
#2 and #7, which are close ups of the CPU and GPU fans respectively. The conveniently placed fan vents allow you to admire what's going on, and notice your incredibly ****** cable management thanks to NO PLACE TO STUFF CABLES. Silverstone pls.
#4, #5, and #12, which showcase the PC in its natural habitat as well as giving some bonus shots of peripherals. KB lights up blue when on, and mouse is a lot more awesome than it looks.
#8, the required box shot for karma. YAY BOXES!
And finally #6, a shiny close-up of the case badge. Fun fact: this does NOT ship pre-applied, you actually stick it on yourself based on if you want the PC to be horizontal or vertical. Kudos to Silverstone for thinking of that.
OTHER DISCUSSION ON SPECIFIC PARTS can be found in the review section.
Fantastic CPU, no complaints. MicroCenter (which has been mysteriously removed from PCPP as of late) had this for $159 and I got the motherboard bundled for an additional $20 off, which was a deal I couldn't refuse. In fact, most parts for this build were bought at Micro Center.
The CPU blazes right through gaming, including games that could be classified as reasonably CPU-intensive. I haven't observed any GPU bottlenecks thus far, and of course it handles the everyday tasks such as YouTube and Skype well.
I'm docking a star for the stock cooler, which is a little subpar in my opinion. I understand it's just a stock cooler and not to expect too much of it, but still. I could barely hear any noise at all, while temps shot through the roof-but the fan was already on max speed.
I'm not sure what to say about this. My biggest gripe with this product, by a long shot, was the fact that the first one was defective-costing us an extra week in build time and 1 hour to drive to Micro Center and exchange it. I'm not sure if we just got an odd one or if this is a consistent issue with ASRock QC, but I'm docking a star either way.
Otherwise, it's a 100% perfect board for the ITX factor and I have no problems with it. WiFi/BT works just fine, my client has a BT headset he's currently using without issues and the wireless transmission is excellent (actually faster than the inbuilt Ethernet by about 8mbps). Holds all components great and just does everything you need it to.
RAM is RAM. 2x4GB of 1600MHz CL9 DDR3 that works fine, no complaints.
I haven't done any speed benchmarking on this with CrystalDiskMark or some such, but it's as fast as you would expect an SSD to be. Windows loads up responsively in 10 seconds flat, and my client reports that his games most hated for loading times (TF2 and Warframe) now barely display any loading screens at all after being put on the SSD. So, I'm counting this as a good product.
Micro Center had this for a steal price of $39, and it's widely lauded as one of the most reliable and steady HDD's, so I took it. So far it's lived up to that claim, but I'll need to give it a few years for a true test of duration.
It's pretty fast, loads files decently, and although this is a major complaint with some people I haven't had much noise out of it. So I'm counting that as a plus.
This GPU was perfect for my particular case. I needed something in the $300ish range that had a blower cooling system, because the case is pretty small and I don't think it could take an axial GPU without installing fans (which cost money).
Now, I know that in the comments there is likely to be a whole bunch of 3.5/4.0, DX12 Async, R9 390 and etc. and I'm fully aware of all these things. After looking at careful benchmarks, the 3.5GB doesn't seem to really affect game performance, and the Async issue only came to light a week after we built. There is currently no blower edition of the R9 390 on the market, and no blower 290(X)s that don't sound like turbines. Furthermore an AMD GPU with equivalent performance would require a beefier PSU, which is more money.
Those concerns aside, this performs perfectly-it cools fine without heating up the case, and it performs in games as you would expect a GTX 970 to do. At 768p we're easily getting ~300FPS on all ultra settings (including 8xMSAA and GameWorks where applicable) and I expect 60FPS/2xMSAA/Ultra when the new 1080p monitor comes in.
This case. Holy ****. This case. I both love and hate this thing-I have no idea how they were able to put a full-size PC in this enclosure, but it was an absolute terror to build.
Starting with the good things, SilverStone had great documentation on it, meaning that I was never at a loss for what to do. It looks amazing, both in form factor and build material, and I love that you can stand it vertically. That way it fits perfectly on my client's desk.
And for the bad things, this was a PAIN to build in. You have to install everything in exactly the correct order or else it's impossible, and there are several non-standard special things you have to go through that are very difficult. Cable management is also impossible, but in the end, I'm not docking a star for this because I feel that the small size is a fair tradeoff.
This is a great PSU, so far it's proving to power the build fine and 450W is all we need. 80+G is of course a bonus although not required, but modularity is pretty much a requirement in this case.
I've docked one star because the way that the cables lock into the PSU is confusing-they don't make it clear that you have to bend down the locking tab in order to get the cables to lock. This caused lots of frustration with cables popping out everywhere, and was specified nowhere in the manual (before, I've always worked with self-locking PSUs) so I feel that my rating is justified.
I can't fairly review this because I never figured out how to install it properly. My guess is, some kind of nuts are required, but those didn't come packaged with the fan so I'm at a loss. I'll give it three stars because it functioned fine when plugged in, but the lack of documentation is not good. Any help on this would be appreciated, in fact.