Description

After spending many years daydreaming about building a custom machine, I finally decided to take out the money I needed and DO it. I bought a relatively decent (but certainly not gaming-quality) laptop back in 2011 that really just wasn't cutting it anymore, so I set out to build something that could handle both my workload (large datasets) and my hobbies (DSLR photography, gaming) and run a dual-boot (Windows and Linux Mint) setup.

I originally set out to build something far more modest than this, but as I did more reading, it became clear to me that it was in my best interest to try and 'future-proof' things as much as possible and buy core parts that would play well with future upgrades. That's ultimately the reason why I went with Skylake over Haswell. An ATX motherboard would have been easier to work with inside my case, but thankfully, I have very small hands! Micro Center accidentally refunded me the full price of the case when I went in for a price match, so that's why it's listed as free. Everything else listed as free is stuff I had prior to building this machine. The case fan price was also for a two-pack off of Amazon, not the single fan. I ended up moving the stock case fan to the back as exhaust and putting the two 140mm fans in front. The entire system is crazy quiet! The GPU fans are the most noticeable noise-wise, but they only kick on occasionally. There is a super-bright power LED on the GPU that I need to cover up at some point, though, because it is VERY white and just doesn't mix well with my red/black theme.

It's pretty dark on the inside, so at some point I'd like to add more lighting. May also switch out the fan on the heatsink too for something black or red. I haven't had any need for overclocking yet (other than the GPU, which came factory overclocked), but I like having the option. I was originally going to wait and pick up a G-Sync monitor on Black Friday, but Micro Center had a crazy markdown on the Acer that I just couldn't ignore.

Overall, the computer meets my needs and I really enjoyed putting it together! I don't have many of the quantifiable details in hand but I'll try to remember to add them at some point. (Also, sorry for the lack of cable management photos -- once I managed to wrestle that side panel back on, I was hesitant to take it off again! More room to bind cords together and hide them would have been ideal, but I was able to make it work.)

Finally -- my cats slept through the entire process and didn't bother me once, which was unprecedented. Included photo was not taken the night I put everything together, but that's how they looked.

UPDATE: Added some temperature info and my benchmarks for Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Part Reviews

CPU

Great so far! I may add to this if/when I overclock.

CPU Cooler

Light, pretty, easy to install. I used the thermal paste that came with it... that may change if/when I start overclocking.

Motherboard

Tons of customization options in the BIOS. The only installation problems I ran into were most likely case-related and not related to the motherboard (had a hard time getting it in (that's what she said), haven't figured out the right configuation for the reset button LED). Compatibility-wise, I quickly discovered that the stock kernel for Linux Mint 17.3 has no support for the motherboard audio codec (Realtek ALC1150), but an upgrade to a more recent kernel fixed that problem.

Memory

Looks AMAZING in my case. Haven't overclocked yet.

Storage

Got a great deal on this SSD from Amazon. Thanks, Amazon! I use it in conjunction with an old 500 GB Hitachi storage HDD that I removed from my laptop (which now has its own SSD).

Video Card

Snagged a great deal on this card (the price listed on here doesn't include the rebate, which was either $10 or $20... can't remember). It's handled everything I've thrown at it so far very well and it takes a lot for the fans to kick on. I noticed today that it's been running kind of hot with minimal load (around 67C while just using a few tabs on Google Chrome), but again that's without the fans on. Once I turn those on at 40% it quickly drops to the 30s. It was idling in the upper 40s/lower 50s when I first installed it, so I'm not sure what's going on. Maybe the new monitor?

EDIT: Definitely the dual-monitor setup. Using the Multi Display Power Saver configuration via Nvidia Inspector now, and I've dropped to a cool 47 C with the GPU fans off.

Case

Not a bad case for the price (which was free for me, because Micro Center accidentally gave me a full refund). Motherboard was tough to get in, and cord management was a challenge (would've been much problematic for someone with bigger hands). I also had a heck of a time getting the side panel back on. I do like the minimalist design and the window, though. Overall, I can't say that I recommend it for a first-time builder, but if you pick your parts carefully or if you aren't someone who cares about cable management (get outta here!!), it will probably work fine. Finally, be warned that it only comes with one 120mm case fan.

Power Supply

Semi-modular is a godsend. I can't imagine how a person would even deal with a power supply that wasn't modular. Love the black cords.

Operating System

I bought this from seller L&WTECH on Amazon. I love Win10 but man, it's buggy as hell. Also, I used GPT at first, but wasn't given an option when I had to reinstall it due to a variety of issues (I think because I went through UEFI on accident). This resulted in MBR being used for the second install, which later caused some issues with my Linux Mint install (I had to go in and get rid of the leftover GPT partition that I didn't know was there). I've also lately had issues with updates freezing out and giving me the never-ending spinning circle of death. Get your **** together, Microsoft!

Case Fan

I love these fans (I bought a two-pack for $29.99 total, but there's no part list on here for the two-pack). The LEDs are bright and the fans look pretty sweet on the front of my case.

Monitor

This monitor is great! I managed to match the colors pretty closely with my Dell, and G-Sync means that new games play smoothly even at lower FPS. I find 3D to be a bit gimmicky so I'm not sure I'll ever utilize that technology, and with the 970 GPU I'm content with 1080p for now. It's pretty heavy, though, as monitors go, with a VERY sturdy base.

Comments

  • 40 months ago
  • 3 points

Cats. +1. (Also it's a nice build.)

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice looking build. I love the CRYORIG cooler, it just looks perfect with that black top. You forgot to price the 2 peripherals on your last pic. I'm sure they increase your gaming and working experience. Haha

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

They certainly add to the amount of time I have to spend cleaning cat hair out of my case :)

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

Wow a very origanal build indeed , a build inside a cat

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

clean, pretty, well balanced and with cats. all a good build on the internet needs well done +1

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Gosh, thanks! I'm especially flattered after checking out your Elly 2.0 build. Absolutely beautiful!

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

aw thank you too. just one question about your build: why did you go with a micro atx board for your atx case ? also the advice i give everyone on here with a good looking pc: get some bitfenix alchemy or phanteks sleeved psu extension cables. it'll cost you 25 bucks for a full set and will make your system look way more fancy and premium than the stock black cables

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

That's a good question. I was originally aiming for a case with a smaller form factor than the one I actually ended up getting (and then couldn't bring myself to return, since it was free). Also, I think that at the time, it was cheaper at Micro Center than the Gigabyte ATX boards, and I wanted to get both my board and CPU there to take advantage of their bundle deal/make myself feel less bad about the free case, ha ha. I like the way it looks, though -- goes well with my color scheme, and I don't think the smaller size looks too funky in the ATX case. I also like having more flexibility with case size upgrades if/when I decide to do something different.

Ooooh, I do like the look of those red cables from Bitfenix. Thanks for the suggestion -- wallet is too drained for aesthetic upgrades right now, but that's definitely something I'd like to do once I have a bit of extra cash!

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

very valid reasons haha. just as information, the bitfenix cables have a softer easier to rout sleeving while the phanteks ones are a stiffer sleeving that can be held in clean runs easier so you can decide which seems best for you. and if you want to give your system a more professional look (and since you seem to like mine haha) don't go for led fans inside the case (top or back), they just give off this diffuse light that drowns out component colours. get some nice fans when your budget allows it, either corsair's sp120s or if you wanna spend more get noiseblocker eloops, i have them and they're the best fans i ever used, so quiet with amazing performance. then light up your case with led strips, will look much better than led fans

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

"I have very small hands"

Is your name Donald Trump?

Nice build though.

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

+1 Nice build! Loving the custom parts, they require a little bit more persuasion to get the best out of them, but it's worth the effort. Nice write up, gotta have some colour in there after all.. and did you say ...

FREE STUFF?!

*high fives*

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

This is a nice looking build. :-)

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks! I checked out your build.... looks pretty nice as well! Lots of goodies I wish I had... maybe someday.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! Heh, it took a lot of overtime hours to get everything for my build. :-P

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Can't say one bad thing about this build. Good work. The one recommendation I would make is check out overclock.net's Skylake OC guide. You've got the unlocked chip and motherboard so might as well get another 20-25% FREE performance boost! I'm sure that heatsink of yours can easily do 4.5Ghz with low 60s C under load :)

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the link! I will definitely check it out. I'm running at around 25C right now (all cores 19-21C each) with only Chrome open... will have to check it when I put it under load to see where it falls. My heatsink is a beast so I haven't worried too much about temps haha.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Wow, we have the same case, monitor, and soon I will have the same cooler. +1

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

The Cryorig H7 is great! A lot lighter than I thought it was going to be. I was originally gonna go with the Cooler Master Hyper 212, but it was too big for my case (as you probably discovered).

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

the Cooler Master Hyper 212 evo fits in the case you have.

https://pcpartpicker.com/b/FJr7YJ

EDIT: as lyrisca kindly pointed out below, it actually does NOT fit.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

I have the SPEC-01, not the SPEC-03. Trust me, it doesn't fit. I managed to bring it home and find out the hard way.

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

my bad!!! that's what I get for not actually checking the part numbers...

in any case, the Cryorig coolers look much nicer than the cooler master 212.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

thats so crazy we have the same cpu the same case the same ssd and same gpu

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

We have good taste ;)

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

nice build!

what did you think of the case? I built a pc in the same case recently and I wasn't all that happy with it. Its definitely one of the better low cost cases, but I had an issue with some of the PSU screws cutouts not lining up, along with some other parts not lining up well. I also think they should have allowed for more room on the backside for cable management and routing, it's quite a tight fit and another half an inch would have been a godsend.

I think it's a good option for <50 bucks, but I think if you stretch your budget up into the ~80 dollar range, you get a much better quality product overall.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, hindsight is 20/20. I'd jump for a higher quality case if I could go back and do it again. I didn't have any problems with the PSU, but getting the motherboard properly seated was a struggle. I ended up moving the pre-installed stand-off to the upper left corner of the case because I could not, for the life of me, get that corner screwed into place. Once I did that, everything was fine. My hands did get pretty cut up for my trouble, though. And it is definitely tight up there, probably too tight for a fan (which would be nice to have up on the top).

I also agree that just a tiny bit more room would have made all of the difference. I did a good job of managing my cables but struggled to get the side panel back on due to the tight squeeze.

Finally, I was never able to find the right orientation to light up my front panel's restart button, but that could be either a case issue or a motherboard issue. The button itself works fine.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

And where are the cats in your part list? HMMMMMM??????

  • 40 months ago
  • 3 points

Fixed!

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Oh my god, I'm actually dying right now. This is so funny!!!!!

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Cat! :3~

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Yea I have learned that in this case if you put your fans on the outside of the case its loud AF. I removed my hard drive cage and mounted my hard drive in a 5.25 bay. I then mounted my fans on the inside. The airflow is 2x as much and its WAY QUIETER.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Oh, you mean directly inside the case instead of between the case and the front plate? Interesting... mine's super silent so I wonder what's different!

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

How is the PSU performing?

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

Sorry for the late response! It's working great (but then again, I'm not exactly taxing it right now with this set-up). It was easy to install and having semi-modular cables is a godsend.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

I know this is little late to ask but how is the wifi adapter? I am planning on installing it in my build

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

Sorry, just now seeing this! It works great and I haven't had any problems with it on either Windows or Linux. My only complaint is that it has a blue LED on it despite being red, so it doesn't really go with the rest of my lighting theme.

  • 8 months ago
  • 1 point

I just bought the same PSU as you after more than 2 nights thinking and reading about it. It certainly looks like a very good PSU. I saw your pictures and I noticed that you put the PSU fan against the bottom of the case. Doesn't this overheat your PSU?