Purpose and Concept
The primary goal of this project was to design and build a computer to replace my old gaming PC built in 2008. It served me well through seven years of college and grad school, but it was beginning to show its age. I wanted to replace it with a new cutting edge machine that would perform great for both gaming and work for years to come. As such, the machine needed to be powerful and able to take advantage of emerging technologies, so that I can upgrade it well into the future. I used benchmarks of GTA V at 1440p as well as third party product reviews and tech blog posts to guide my decisions, as I am not a computer expert by trade.
This project is entitled after a Simpson's reference available here. The name also reflects the intended budget of this machine. I meant for it to be in the $3000 range before adding the monitor. Now that the monitor has been added, the final price including shipping came to just over $4000. I included EVERYTHING I purchased in the parts list (sans mouse pad, old printer, and old monitor), so that others may duplicate this build if they wish.
I wanted to avoid the stereotypical "gamer PC" look in my design. I wanted the computer to look ordinary when turned off; however when on, I wanted it to make a statement with customizable LED lighting and color-coordinated components. I eventually settled on a black, red, and grey color scheme with accents of red and white lighting.
Reasoning Behind Part Choices
-CPU and Cooler: I wanted to take advantage of the new Intel Skylake processor, because it is cutting edge and allows me the ability to utilize DDR4 memory. I chose the unlocked i7 for its hyperthreading capability, higher base speed, and ability to be overclocked. I chose a closed circuit watercooler in order to raise my cooling performance. I also enjoy the look of a watercooler over a heatsink.
-Motherboard and Memory: I was originally torn between the Asus Maximus VIII Hero and the MSI Gaming M7, but I chose the former for its more conservative design and audio features. I chose the TridentZ RAM for G.Skill's proven track record as well as the design of the sticks. 16GB is all I need for now, so I stuck with two 8GB DIMMS. This allows me the space to upgrade to 32GB in the future. I chose the 3200MHz RAM because I wanted to take advantage of the overclocking capabilities of my motherboard, and I read that 3200MHz is the highest speed of RAM which is still practical and worth purchasing. The price for performance ratio plunges as you go higher.
-Storage: I wanted to avoid HDDs in my build, so I chose to run two SSDs in a RAID 0 array. I chose the two Samsung 512GB 850 Pros for their reliability and performance.
-GPU: My research into 1440p gaming led me to the GTX 980ti card. I wasn't quite satisfied with the reference card's performance in GTA V, but I noticed the higher clocked aftermarket cards added the extra power I needed. I chose the EVGA Classified because I trust this brand with my life, and the Classified had the features I was looking for in a more conservative design than the ASUS STRIX card.
-Power: I wanted a power supply with enough wattage to allow me to SLI connect another graphics card in the future. The Corsair AX series functions well, looks great, and is reliable. I chose the 860i primarily for its compatibility with the Cablemod cables I wanted. The Corsair Link compatibility was a side benefit to me.
-Case and Fans: I chose the Fractal Define R5 Blackout edition for its aesthetics, features, quality, and ease of use. Since I have a silent case, I might as well jack it up with fans right? I bought a series of colored and LED lit fans to compliment my design... and of course cool the PC.
-Peripherals: I wanted gaming peripherals that didn't look too "gamer-y". I am also left handed but can use standard right-handed mice okay. I chose the Corsair Sabre mouse for its features as well as its simple (left-handed friendly enough) design and customizable LEDs. I bought the K70 RGB keyboard for its customizable LEDs as well. I play using the arrow keys instead of WASD, so I wanted to set the lighting to match my needs. I chose the Cherry MX Red version after researching which mechanical keyboard would be best for me. Seeing as I type a lot for work and hate clicky keyboards, the red key switches were the right choice. I kept my old Logitech speakers from my previous PC because they still work great. They are a little too round shaped considering my design, but I wanted to save at least a little bit of money. Lastly for my gaming headset, I splurged on the Sennheiser PC 363D. It is said by many product reviewers to be the best gaming headset out there. Also it didn't look too "gamer-y".
-Monitor: The Asus ROG Swift PG279Q is currently the absolute best 16:9 gaming monitor out there. The refresh rate, panel type, and G-Sync made it a must-buy. Luckily mine has no issues (as quite a few of the earliest models had significant quality control problems). This monitor looks beautiful and fits in great with my overall design.
-LED Lighting: I wanted lighting on the outside of my case as well. I chose two red LED strips to line the bottom, and I mounted a remote controlled RGB light system inside the front of my case. I mostly wanted it to be white and/or red, but the other features (such as cycling through all 16 colors) adds a cool factor to it and allows me to further customize my lighting setup in the future.
-Other: I wanted a blu-ray drive, so I got one. I added custom ALT keys to my keyboard in a reference to the game Portal because why not, it looks neat. I got Windows 10 because that is the best choice in an OS for me. Lastly I bought custom red and black power supply cables to round out the color scheme inside my case.
Notes on Building
I realized early on that the physical dimensions of my case as well as the side of the I/O port protector on my motherboard made it impossible to mount my radiator as a top exhaust. Therefore I chose to mount it behind the intake fans on the front of the case. It performs better there anyways. I replaced the stock 140mm Corsair fans with the white LED ones and added two more red LED fans on the opposite side of the radiator block to boost airflow through the radiator. I took one of my included case fans and suck it on the bottom intake; and through the clever use of two fan splitters and some extra screws and washers, I have them all controlled through the case's included fan controller switch. I placed three colored 140mm fans on the top and rear for exhaust. They are connected to the motherboard and are controlled using the fan settings program that came with it.
I took apart the case to mount the front LEDs behind the dust filter. The Fractal Define R5 has a door that swings open to expose it, but the lights still shine out through the vents on the sides when the door is shut. I ran the infrared sensor through the top of my case, so that I can hit it with the remote.
Because of my extensive use of Corsair Link, I did not have enough internal USB 2.0 headers on my motherboard to run everything I wanted. I bought an internal USB expansion to remedy this as well as provide ports for the exterior lighting on the bottom of my case. In the future, I may have to play with its positioning in order to add a second graphics card, but for now its placement is fine.
I did the best I could with cable management considering the sheer amount of wire I needed to hide. Everything looks clean through the window, and the back is organized enough that I can find everything.
Lastly I created a custom keyboard profile to match my lighting scheme as well as highlight my custom Portal keys. You can see a video of it in action here.
-A second GTX 980ti card sometime in the future after Pascal comes out.
-Another 16GB or RAM because why not?
-A third 1TB or greater SSD separate of my RAID array to use as backup for work related files as well as mass storage. I may take advantage of my motherboard's PCIe M.2 SSD compatibility also, but I am not sure yet.
All in all, I am very pleased with this build. It looks great, works great, and makes my friends jealous. What more can you ask for? If you have any comments about this build, let me know. I love feedback! Questions are welcome as well.
P.S. Check out the companion post on imgur