* Mail-In Rebates:
This is Apollo, named after the god of light. Of course where there is light there is shadow, thus the black and white theme. Originally inspired by StimmerUT's White Knight build, this is my first time building a computer. Having spent the last several years with laptops I was ready for a brand new, powerful desktop. Used primarily for gaming and multitasking, what I really wanted was a computer that would be fast and be able to play the latest games at 1080p. This computer does all that and more. I mostly play strategy games like Total War and Civilization. I also play a lot of Skyrim and have been getting into The Witcher. And, of course, Minecraft. I've been able to run all these without any kind of noticeable frame rate stutter or slow down. So far every game has been settings maxed out and still getting 60 fps and my last startup took 8 seconds. Everything I do takes mere seconds. Whether it's multiple file transfers (thank Hermes for USB 3.0), downloading video games, or just having ten programs open all at the same time. This computer takes it all in stride and keeps asking for more. The build went super easy, no problems, just took a lot of time. Between assembly, cable management, and setting up the software I think I spent four evenings working on this. The end result is totally worth it though.
I finally did the light overclock I've been wanting to do. I didn't want to do anything too extreme so I didn't bother messing with any voltages. I settled on a modest, but stable, 4.4 GHz for my CPU. For my GPU I was actually able to get it up to 1450 MHz for the core clock and almost doubled the memory speed at 4100 MHz. Everything has been running smoothly for the last couple days. I've been playing a lot of ARK during that time and even though my GPU has been running at 98-99% for up to ten hours straight my temps have hardly increased at all with the overclock. Just a few degrees to a comfortable 74 degrees. My goal was to get a 10% increase from my overclock and based on my Firestrike score I got a 12.5% increase in system performance.
GPU MOD UPDATE
I painted the red parts of the GPU shroud to make it match the color scheme, as well as painted the cables that connect to my SSD's. While I was putting everything back together I was able to optimize my power cables and remove a couple extra ones. You can't really see much of a difference, but I'm much happier with the cable management. This is also the first time I cleaned my computer, figured I should since it's been a month, and that was surprisingly easy. The air filters kept almost all of the dust out of the case. If I could I would give the case another star just for being that good.
The sleeve extensions were to add that extra bit of white in the case. I love the way they look and I think they really tie everything together. They are very good quality and if you are looking for some extensions, I highly recommend these.
My case didn't come with any external 5.25" drive bays, which I actually like. I prefer the smooth front and always thought swinging doors were a little tacky. So I picked up this external optical drive from Samsung. It's worked like a dream. I used it to install all the drivers plus a few miscellaneous programs. Now that I'm done using it for the time being it's sitting in a drawer ready for when I need it again.
Stumbled across my mouse pad by accident. From the reviews it sounded exactly like the kind of mouse pad I was looking for. I wanted one that was soft and a little squishy but not necessarily cloth. It has a really nice textured surface that feels great to the touch and my mouse glides easily across. The reverse side is a rubber texture that grips the surface just fine. I haven't had to worry about any kind of slippage at all. Plus I like the look of it with the MSI dragon in the corner.
As I'm sure you've gathered, I absolutely love my new computer. It has far exceeded my expectations and is everything I dreamed it would be. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. I will say though, that anyone who is thinking of building their own PC should definitely do it. It has been a really fun experience and I've learned a lot. The sense of accomplishment from building your own rig is phenomenal. Plus you have a real sense of investment in your computer, versus something you just bought off of a shelf. Like I've been telling all my friends, you can build a really good gaming computer for $600. And if even that is beyond your budget, you can start small and gradually build up. So for anyone who is on the fence about whether they should take the plunge or not, I say do it. You won't regret it.
*A note on the numbers: I got all of my numbers from my NZXT CAM software which I use to monitor my system. I pulled the under load temps while my computer was running the Fire Strike benchmark. The total out of pocket cost for me was approximately $2000. Mostly it was waiting for the right component to come on sale for the right price. I ended up buying all of my pieces over a series of about 3 months. If you're patient you can end up saving a lot of money. In my case, if I bought everything right now at the time of publishing this, it would have cost $2500.
Technically, I could have gotten away with the i5 4690k for the gaming I wanted to do, but I really wanted an i7 and I really enjoy being able to multitask without having to deal with slowdown. So, I bit the bullet and went with the i7 4790k. I was able to overclock this to 4.4 GHz with no problem with my case/cooling setup. I'm really happy with my choice, glad I went with the upgrade. The power that this guy has is ridiculous and I love it.
I originally wanted one of the Fractal Design Kelvin coolers, but they weren't released when I was buying my parts. So instead I went with the NZXT Kraken. I was looking for a solid 140mm cooler and this one ended up fitting the bill. Besides matching the case, this one came with variable pump speed and a cool LED (bonus!). It has been working fantastic, keeping my i7 nice and cool. This cooler was well worth the money.
I love this motherboard. Originally, it was chosen since it is one of the only Z97 mobos to have a well done black/white color scheme, but then I really started to love its simplistic no frills look. I was a little leery due to the lack of reviews, but when I pulled it out of the box I fell in love and haven't had any reason to change my mind since. It has space for all my components and installation was super easy.
I was originally planning to go with a pair of the Kingston's Hyper X in white (holy sexy, Batman!) and only go with 8 gigs of ram. But then Newegg Flash had a really good deal on these. I hadn't heard of Avexir before, but after doing some research about them I was really excited and decided to pick them up. These also have a little LED in them that fades on and off with a blue color. They are slightly offset with their timing which makes for a really neat effect inside the case. And they came in 16 gigs, so you know. There's that. Definitely worth it.
I wanted SSDs for my operating system and my favorite video games, but then I couldn't decide on which games I wanted to put on the SSD and which ones wouldn't get the special treatment. So I got one SSD for the OS and one for the games. Problem solved. Unless you like spending money I don't think there is any reason to go with anything else besides the 850 EVO. Almost nothing else performs as well (not even the 850 pro) and anything that does has a dumb price tag. So 850 EVOs for me. The 120GB for the OS and 250GB for games, in case you were wondering.
For the video games.
I wanted extra storage for music, pictures, movies, books, etc. That's what the WD Green is for. Inexpensive and big, perfect for mass storage. The WD Blue is for everything else. I admit, four drives might be a little overdoing it, but each fulfills a certain role and they have been working out fantastically well for me.
For everything else.
I wanted amazing graphics power, but I also didn't want to pay through the nose for it. For me the GTX 970 is the perfect combination of performance and value. I've enjoyed the MSI gaming edition, the twin frozr has been great. I love that the fans don't turn on unless it reaches a certain temperature. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to do solid 1080p gaming. The 970 is perfect for that. So far all my games have performed above my expectations. It's also been staying pretty cool, relatively speaking. Even after putting a decent overclock on it it still never goes above 74 degrees after 10+ hours of prolonged gaming. MSI did an amazing job with their cooler on this card. After having both overclocked and modded this graphics card I love it even more. Seriously this thing has been everything I wanted and more.
This is one of the parts I spent the most time deciding on and I changed my mind the most about. I finally decided on the H440 because it looks absolutely gorgeous, people have had nothing but incredible things to say about it, and it comes with four amazing fans. It was an absolute joy to build in with plenty of space for everything. It also made cable management easy, and it's super quiet. Even at max speed for all my fans, it never gets above a pleasant hum.
I think a lot of people tend to overlook the power supply because it isn't that glamorous, but I think it's one of the most important parts. So I wanted to get a very high quality one that I knew I could rely on. After looking into it I found that the new Corsair AX series was based on the Seagate KM3 platform which is a solid improvement over their old KM2, which was already pretty good to start with. That plus the modular design and platinum efficiency rating made it my top pick. I was going to go with the 760 since that would have provided me with more than enough power, even if I was going to run a second GPU but the 860 came up on sale so I got it instead.
I know a lot of people aren't a fan of Windows 8, but from what I've read it seems like most of what they don't like is all cosmetic based. There isn't anything wrong with the operating system itself. Plus Windows 8 runs more efficiently than WIndows 7. After I found a fantastic article on Lifehacker about how to make Windows 8 look like Windows 7, I didn't see any reason not to go with it. I haven't had any problems or annoyances with it yet.
Originally I wasn't even going to bother with one of these but then I did some research on my headset and found out that it was unlikely my mobo had enough juice to power it properly. So I grabbed this since it was inexpensive and had good reviews. So far, it's been great and everything sounds amazing through it.
I grabbed both of these off of Newegg during a shell shocker sale and got an incredible deal on them. I love the way they look. They've been great for gaming and everything looks gorgeous on them. I don't use their speakers so I don't know about that, but the visuals are outstanding. I wanted a 1080p IPS with good response time and these fit the bill perfectly.
At first I wasn't going to get a mechanical keyboard because I found the rather loud switches to be annoying, but after a friend showed me how easy it was to quiet them, I was sold. I love this keyboard for the sleek look, the great feel of the keys and the super comfortable arm rest. And because I think black/red is way overdone, I went out of my way to find the blue backlit version.
I had a Logitech MX Revolution back in the day and it was the best mouse by far I have ever used. Until I got my hands on the MX Master. This mouse is amazing. I know it's not a "gamer" mouse, but I love the way it feels, how responsive it is and it looks sexy. I don't play a lot of games that need perfect twitch responses or accuracy, so I don't know how it performs in that regard. What I do use it for, it does perfectly. I love this mouse. The gesture function, while awkward at first, now that I've gotten used to it, is second nature. It makes actions really intuitive now and I think it's a brilliant move. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
I looked into a lot of different head sets and this one ended up being my perfect fit. It might seem weird to spend 2k on a computer but not want to spend over $100 on a headset but everyone has their line. These are super comfortable and sound great, especially with the aforementioned video card.
Just looking for a good pair of speakers for around $50. These were under budget and had super amazing reviews. I've loved them so far. Sound great and look stylish. Surprisingly, I've really enjoyed the volume control "pod" that sits on my desk. The volume is controlled by a rotating top, that really is fun to use. I'm surprised I didn't end up with a Logitech sound system, but this ended up being a great fit.