A little over two years ago I built a computer with my six month old son strapped to my chest or back as a means to cope with the changes of becoming a first time father. At the time I was working well over 60h a week and didn't get to spend a lot of time at home and was missing a great deal of time with my beautiful baby boy. My amazing wife saw the strain and stress this was causing and came to me with an idea. She sanctioned a new top end build with no budget limit with the only requirement being I build it with my son. Over the course of time I spent many hours with my son on the table, strapped to my chest or back, or in his high chair helping me build my computer. In the end it became such an engulfing project that it competed with what little time I had with my wife. She never took offense and seeing her husband and son together at every waking moment brought her a great amount of joy. We wound up calling the build THE WIFE CONTENDER as an inside joke and wound up using it here. As personsl builds go, this one has meant more to me than any other. And it was a very sad day when it went down.
Last December I fried one of my two R9 290s during an overclock test. I suspect the second card was damaged as well but it only ever showed issues in crossfire. As a stand alone card it worked great. Sapphire Tech was gracious enough to take both cards in under warranty and replaced both with brand new cards. I sent them in for warranty in January and got them back in March, by that time I had already sold the majority of my computer for family expenses and decided to sell off the cards with the water cooling components for them.
In Jaunuary my side business acquired two used R9 Fury X cards, a PowerColor and a Sapphire Tech, for relatively cheap. The build they were supposed to go into fell through and all parts were redistributed to other purposes leaving the two Fury X cards collecting dust on a shelf. Money started to flow back in our direction in late April and my wife once again suggested I build another system, but this time with my second son! In May I ordered parts for a new build with the Fury X cards at the heart of the build and my second son at the helm. You will notice quite a few 0 dollar amounts. These parts were purchased from an account that originally held the dollar amount earned from selling my old components that I was able to replenish.
I went into this build with a few goals in mind. First I wanted no traditional sata hard drives. We have a beefy FreeNAS system connected to our gigabyte network. Space and access speed is overkill. I was only going to use one m.2 drive but I was able to pick up a 950 pro 512gb stick new for fairly cheap which brought my m.2 drive count to two. I started looking at boards with duel m.2 slots. I ruled out using the x99 chipset and went with a z170 build. I originally purchased an MSI Z170 board with duel m.2 slots but wound up not really liking it. I sold it and purchased the ASUS z170 Sabertooth Mark 1 board. To my surprise the board came with a pcie m.2 card adapfer! Worked out great.
Second I wanted to keep my corsair 600T which had already been heavily modified to accept several radiators. I did some more work to mount the pump/rez to the case itself, completely removed all drive cages, and installed a temperature display that would display temps of the water in two places (this was intentional as I had planned a specific type of water cooling method that needed specific temp readings, but I wound up not going with this solution in this build.). The case came out at a point were hybrid cards were non existent which really made mounting the radiators for the Fury X cards difficult. This was strike one against the Fury cards. To get a good surface for the radiators I had to remove my custom painted imperial logo acrylic cover with a mesh that has 4 areas to mount fans. Strike two against the Fury X cards. This worked out and the radiators fit, but the tubing is not very flexible which made closing the cover very difficult. In the end, Strike three for the Fury x cards.
Other than the video card challenge everything else went smooth. The 950 pro 256gb drive is being used as my os drive and the 950 pro 512gb drive is being used as my steam/GOG drive. System fired up and booted right into Windows 8 install off a USB stick. The install application recognized both M.2 drives without any tweaks to Bios or additional drivers being needed. Windows 8 install and windows 10 update took about 30 to 45 minutes and both drives are operating exactly as advertised. Everything is lightning fast, and game load times are considerably faster than my old HDDs. Boot time from fire up to windows login is about 12 to 15 seconds, which is a few seconds slower than my old system booting off a 256gb SSD.
My other goals related to water cooling the video cards, and using an external system working with both radiators are capable of doing. But my disappointment in the video cards put all that on hold.
I wasn't able to use the fan system that came with the corsair memory due to the temporary tubing path for the water cooling , but eventually I will. I'm not very happy with the duel Fury X cards. They are fast, and they play anything I throw at them in 4k @ ultra settings, but the sudden, brief frame dips I experince in almost every game I play is beyond annoying. Turn crossfire off and the problem goes away along with high frame rates. This was a huge disappointment as I didnt have this issue with my duel R9 290s. The cards stay pretty cool, but the amount of heat put out through the radiator easily raises room temp by 10c and because of the way they are mounted that heat is being directed in my general direction. I also had problems setting up my three 4k displays in eyefinity. I don't know if it was a driver issue, cable issue, or user error but I could not set it up and went back to a single 4k display. Which was mind boggling since I was able to set it up with my duel r9 290s. This has been the first time I've been disappointed with an AMD card since I switched over back in the 7870 GHz edition cards. Individually the cards are quit good, specially at the price I paid. But the crossfire performance just isn't what I was expecting, not like the performance boost I saw going from one R9 290 to crossfire 290s.
After all the benchmarks and the many games I put the system through my son's and I removed the Fury X cards and the business now has them up for sale. Now I'm left in a predicament. I'm not really a fan of either the 1080 or 1070. I've never really been a follower of first gen cards. They are good cards, but it's only going to be a few months until the Ti version hits or its equiv. I have a couple of spare cards lying around I can use for 1440p gaming until HBM2 cards start rolling out. What I do know is I won't be buying a new card until AMD has its RX 4x0 cards and nvidia has its 10x0 cards are fully stocked and all partner cards are available. By Thanksgivng card prices should be showing discounts across the board and more news on HBM2 cards Should be available.
The 6700k is an ok chip. Compared to my old 3770k it's not that much better. My VM's do seem to load a bit faster and run a bit smoother and the chip over clocks just as well as the ivy bridge i7. I did a very quick overclock and achieved a 4.9ghz speed with only a multiplier adjustment. System booted fine, primed for 8h, and ran benchmarks without issue. Max temps hit about 65c. As with the Fury x cards vs the 290s, I didnt see the performance boost with the 6700k I saw with the 3770k with similar OCs. My max Oc with the 3770k was 5ghz @ 82c and I do aim to achieve the same with the 6700k, which at this point doesn't seem very hard. I Think I can go higher. Temps will increase once I have video cards added to the loop.
Overall I had a great time building this system with my family, but in the end the only parts that truly surprised me were the Asus board, the two M.2 drives, and how efficient the water cooling system is. The rest of the hardware is just plain meh. Meh to the point where I'm starting to think it might have been a mistake to completely rule out the x99 system. An 8 or 10 core system would have been fun to play with. Maybe Zen.
I really debated putting this build up, it is an incomplete build that wont see a final polish until I decide on video cards, additional water cooling components, and custom cables. But in the end I decided to share the experiences and the fun I had with my kids!
EDIT: I was asked to include some benchmarks. Uploaded pics of firestrike and firestrike ultra.