This is the build I joined PC Part Picker to make. Thank you PCPP, staff and community, for helping me with my 5th build: Rey.
Yes, conceived in the height of Star Wars hype, I felt it was only fitting as a life-long fan to continue my tradition of naming PC's after sci fi heroines. I started rudimentary planning last Fall, and shortly discovered and made an account here to aid in my research. Rey was designed with a few key things in mind, some practical, some because "I always wanted to do X". This list has been sitting in the description more or less since the beginning:
Essentially I had never OC'ed anything before, or used watercooling. I had never set fan curves, or had a real focus on making a quiet machine. Then I just thought it would be cool to run dual GPUs and jump up to 2K, as it is finally practical (my last build was in 2009).
As you can see, during my research I realized there's really not a good reason to "plan" an SLI build. Not if you're trying to stay within a reasonable budget, anyways; you're virtually always better off with a single good card vs two weak cards. So I dropped that and decided I would just get one GPU, which would end up being a GTX 970, GTX 980, or R9 Nano, depending on which one I found a good deal on when the build was almost finished. I've always used Nvidia cards ever since my first build, so I have an inclination to look towards those first. However, I have been very impressed with the Nano and would have happily jumped to Red team for it.
This build also started as a very "gamer" build: lots of flashy LEDs and "extreme" components, etc. Then I realized that if I wanted to play my budget smart I was going to have to drop that and rethink my approach. I decided performance was more important than flash; I wanted a solid performing machine that I could also run reasonably quiet, and not break the bank. So I went back to the drawing board. I started looking for more demure components that still fit my requirements, so that I could trim excess in the budget; I found Fractal Design and fell in love with their silent-focused cases; I revisited my old friend Arctic Cooling and discovered they had just launched their first liquid CPU coolers, at aggressive prices. I agonized over the 6600K and 6700K for weeks. I stalked Razer, G.Skill, SteelSeries and other peripheral manufacturers looking for deals, before deciding that they just weren't worth it to me at all.
Signing up for the site in October, I didn't purchase my first parts until January. I set myself a monthly rolling budget so as not to torpedo my finances. I didn't have a final budget target in mind, but instead a "pay as little as possible for the parts I know I want" strategy. This also helped in allowing me to hunt for discounts on my components over time. The downside is, had anything been DOA(thankfully nothing was), I wouldn't have known it for months. I likely would not have been able to get any refunds. I recognize it now as a risky move, but one that paid off.
The build would not have been truly finished until May or June, although I had planned to finish it this month and add a discrete GPU later. However, a larger than anticipated tax refund enabled me to accelerate the purchase of my GPU. This timed with an exceptional deal on a GTX 980, and I had everything I wanted.
CPU - Intel Core i7-6700K
This purchase was an agonizing one for me, as I debated with myself whether the 6600K would be enough. I work as a software developer during the day, and on the side I work on game development. On my 2012 Alienware laptop with an i7, I already see some performance issues in certain scenarios. I decided this was enough to convince me to stick with the i7. Also, this is the first time I've ever had a "flagship" CPU of sorts, which is fun. I went up to 4.6GHz at one point, but I've left it at a fairly modest 10% OC instead. I don't need the extra MHz, I just wanted to do it for me. The temperatures are more than acceptable under load.
CPU Cooler - Arctic Liquid Freezer 240
I used an Arctic CPU cooler in my 4th build, Zoe, and enjoyed it and the brand. Some kind of weird brand loyalty drove me to check them out while researching this build, and I discovered that quite positive reviews were just trickling out for their brand new CPU coolers. Considering the price and that you're getting a push-pull config out of the box, it's a great deal. I decided to gamble on it, and I've been pretty pleased. At stock speed under load it kept my CPU at a nice cool 54C.
Motherboard - Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI
The EasyTune and SIV software make OCing and Fan adjustments a breeze. This was almost an Asus Z170-A board. I've used Gigabyte boards in the past and they've always been good to me, however, I heard a lot of good things about Asus and had thought I'd give them a go. A misleading sale/glitch with NCIX turned me off; the Z170-A was listed at a discounted price, but when I went into my cart it would show as full price. I tried deleting and re-adding it, clearing my cache, restarting the browser, etc. Somehow I missed a good sale of the board. In an annoyed state, I decided to revisit Gigabyte and found that the Z170XP-SLI both:
A.) fit all of my requirements and
B.) was already listed at the sale price of the Asus board. So I switched and am glad I did.
RAM - G.Skill Ripjaws V Series
I hate it when people say "RAM is RAM", but it's mostly true. I went off the deep end researching CAS frequencies for a few days before deciding it wasn't worth the time investment I was giving it. I wanted a fairly high-clocked RAM though so I spent a little more than I needed to here. I've used G.Skill in my last two builds and it's never failed me, and their RAM is mostly attractive. I actually think their old DDR3 sticks that I used in Zoe had better looks to them though.
SSD - Samsung 850 EVO-Series
When it came to dependable OS drives, there seemed to be all signs pointing to the Samsung PRO and EVO drives. Clearly, the cost difference made the PRO unattractive. I got mine on a pretty good deal, too. This is the first time I've had an SSD boot drive; it's night and day from a HDD.
GPU - EVGA GTX 980 FTW ACX 2.0
This amazing discount is courtesy of EVGA B-Stock. I did a lot of homework on this one because the idea of buying a used card troubled me. Everything I've read points to B-Stock cards being quite dependable. They also come with a 1 year warranty and can be RMA'ed just like normal cards. As for the card itself, it came with a superficial crack in the plastic on top of the card (the part that says the full name of the card in white LED). It's a hairline crack, affects nothing, and can't even be seen without opening the case up and scrutinizing every inch of the card (which is what I did when I got it, lol). I have no regrets.
Case - Fractal Design Define S
This COULD be my favorite part of the build. I love that it's not a full-tower yet still is very spacious. The sound dampening materials and modu-vents were huge motivating factors for me. Cable management options are excellent. AIO placement options are quite good. One of my desires for the case was to have one that didn't weigh a lot, as moving my old build Zoe (case was a full-tower and weighed 25 lbs empty) up and down stairs was never pleasant. This was one factor that drove me to the Define S vs the Define R5. Another factor was that I didn't want drive cages. Aesthetically, the case looks mature and understated, which fit with the renewed goals for my components.
PSU - EVGA 850W B2
I will never go back to non-modular PSU's if I can avoid it. Holy hell, what a difference it makes for cable management. This PSU gives me ample headroom for SLI and overclocking. It's well reviewed as well. No complaints.
WiFi Adapter - Asus USB-AC56
One thing I learned from Zoe is that I don't much like having an antenna sticking out of the back of my IO panel. This drove me to research USB options, which have come a long way since the last time I used them. I knew I wanted a USB 3.0 device, and one that supported 802.11ac even though I'm using 802.11n at home with 100/100 Mb/s down/up. I found a roundup review and this one came out on top. It also looks nice.
Monitor - Acer G257HU smidpx
This was bought before any of this build began, and was paid for with Amazon gift card money. I only included it in the build so that I could review it. It IS my monitor that I am using with the build though, and it's awesome for the price. 1440p is my second favorite upgrade behind the SSD boot speeds.
Keyboard & Mouse - Cooler Master OCTANE
After becoming thoroughly demoralized by the high costs of "premium" peripherals, I sat back and reconsidered. Although my last mouse was a SteelSeries and I enjoyed it, before that I was gaming on a Microsoft mouse and it was fantastic. I started browsing the affordable options, and when I found this pair and went through the reviews, I couldn't pass it up. So far they are going great.
-While inserting the IO shield, I accidentally broke a couple of the prongs off. It's a pretty bare-bones IO shield, gets the job done and nothing more.
-The front of the case has long slots for your fan mounts, so you can adjust the positioning to your needs/liking. This is great, but it made installing the fans and radiator in the front one of the most time-consuming parts of the build.
-IDK if it's really the Define S who is to blame though. Assembling the Arctic Liquid Freezer 240 in general was a small challenge for me.
-Had I waited on the RAM, CPU Cooler and PSU purchases, I could have saved $30+. They've seen significant discounts since I bought them.
-I am still waiting on my Gigabyte MIR mailed out in March; if/when I get it, I'll update the cost here to reflect the $10 return.
-I hate the cliche, but installing Windows gave me some trouble. Here's how it went: I have an ISO copy of Windows 8.1 I got for free from Microsoft Dreamspark. The plan was always to install and use the free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. Well, my PC doesn't have a disc drive. So no problem, I downloaded the Media Creation Tool. Except, the Media Creation Tool only works on devices it detects to be "removable media". So it wouldn't install on my USB external, as originally planned. That's fine, I ran to Target and bought a $10 thumbdrive. Well it also turns out, a couple years ago SanDisk modified their thumb drives so that Windows will see them as Local Disks instead of Removable Media... SO, scouring forums of troubled users having my exact problem, I found a solution: a tool called WinUSB Maker would allow me to manually target any drive to make a bootable device. I used this to finally make my bootable Windows 8.1 drive. Then it was just a matter of finding the license key and I was finally able to install. Yay! Done! EXCEPT... Windows 8.1 installed with almost 0 drivers. I couldn't get online with my new build to download drivers, so I had to go bouncing back and forth from my laptop using the thumbdrive. The saving grace of all this is that Windows 10 installed flawlessly and without hiccups of any kind. It was just everything leading up to that part that was a nightmare.
-Speaking of drivers, Gigabyte hosts them terribly. You can't just download all your drivers at once for your board; they make you download each driver piecemeal. Worse, the drivers wouldn't work when I tried to run them. So I used my laptop to burn an ISO of the driver CD that came with the motherboard, then ported that over to Windows 8.1, mounted it, and installed.
-I had some difficulty with overclocking and temperatures. Specifically, I was having weird temperatures that seemed like they'd climbed unnaturally, even at stock speeds. As it turns out, I was using the small FFTs test in Prime95. This is widely known to be a problem for Skylake, but somehow I missed this. Props to TheOfficialCzex for pointing me to this info and suggesting AIDA 64 instead. Once I started benchmarking using AIDA 64 and FireStrike instead, I saw the temperatures I was originally seeing when I finished my build, and I could begin overclocking in earnest.
FireStrike - 12,726
Fallout4 @2560x1440p, Max AA, Max AF, Ultra Preset - 58.4 FPS (average of 2 benchmarks)
Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0 @2560x1440p, 4xAA, DirectX 11, High Quality - FPS 59.5, Score 2489, MinFPS 8.5, MaxFPS 112.5
Thanks for taking the time to read my build. I had a lot of fun and learned tons since my last machine. You can see in the last three photos that I re-did my cable management. I'm really pleased with how the machine turned out, and it's a blast to use!
UPDATE - 7-1-2016
Added a second SSD, the A-Data Premier SP550 960GB. I filled up my first one way too rapidly via games and recording Battlefront footage, lol. I've moved all my games onto the new drive so now I'm good to go for a long while. Perhaps I'll add a second GTX 980 one day in SLI, but for now I have no new updates planned.
This is more or less the flagship CPU for Skylake, and it shows. The performance is great. The OEM/tray SKU can often save some money, and comes with no extra frills; just a clear plastic container. No complaints.
This is an aggressively priced 240mm AIO CPU cooler. As of right now you can pick one up for about $80. It comes with 4 fans intended for push-pull config, the ARCTIC F12 PWMs, which can be daisy-chained so they only require a single 4-pin fan socket. I knocked off one star because anywhere above 40% RPM and they're louder than I would have preferred. Not jet-engine loud, just noticeable. They're still quieter than the GPU when it revs up, and at 20% they're practically inaudible in the average home. I've seen a couple of review sites knock it for it's minimal packaging; this is actually intentional. ARCTIC is a carbon-neutral company and part of that was strategically reducing excessive packaging. Just wanted to clarify this because I think it's an ignorant complaint.
This is a fantastic budget board and I almost hate to give it 3 stars. SLI support, an m.2 PCIe port, USB 3.1, 3 system fan headers, decent BIOS, the EasyTune and System Info Viewer software work nicely. Setting fan profiles and OCing the CPU are easily accomplished right inside Windows. It really is a good board, and I don't regret my purchase at all. I feel like a bunch of nitpicks pile up to make me knock it down a couple pegs though.
The board itself feels slightly weak, and when I was plugging in some cables I noticed it bending. No permanent damage, it moved right back into place when I relented, but it was small cause for concern. The included IO shield is also very weak and bare minimum. There is a very slight audio feedback using the 3.5mm jacks with my earbuds, that isn't present using USB. Additionally, the SATA ports are horizontal off the edge of the board, which might make certain builds difficult. Finally the included G Connector almost seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I accidentally inserted a cable upside down, and needed tweezers to get it out again.
This is fast RAM and the price just keeps getting lower. The design is very understated, for builds that don't want to be flashy. G.Skill is a well known entity and dependable.
The ubiquitous Samsung 850 EVO. It lives up to its reputation with stellar performance. No complaints. Tempted to knock off a star because you can always get good SSDs for a little cheaper than these, but the drive itself really is flawless, and sexy.
Let me start by saying this card performs fantastically. I'm running 2K Fallout 4 on Ultra with max AA, and @60fps. But I've knocked the rating down to a 3 because it's so heavily overpriced that you can often get a 980 Ti for close to the price of this card. I only got it because of an extreme discount, and if you find it significantly discounted then I'd recommend it. But otherwise, spend your money wisely.
This case is fantastic. It looks good, it feels good. It has tons of space to work in, and still manages 5 drive locations. It comes with cable ties and has an abundance of spots to tie down additional ones. Rubber grommets. The modu-vents can be tough to remove in my experience but they're a fantastic idea. The sound dampening efforts really pay off too. Also it's so large you can fit a massive radiator up front, with push-pull, and have room to spare. My ONLY complaint is that I wish it were slightly lighter, yet it's still lighter than tons of its competition.
This PSU is at a great price point for the provided wattage. You can Crossfire or SLI with this no problem, and it's efficient without getting into the excessively overpriced efficiency ranges. Semi-modular PSUs rock.
Wireless Network Adapter
Anyone looking for a USB 3.0 WiFi adapter need look no further. It comes with tons of options for use, and supports the latest WiFi standard. It's effective too, I can stream 4K video without fail.
4/11/17 - After living with this for about a year, I knocked a star off due to the shortness of the cable for the base/stand. It is rigid and quite short, which limits your ability to position it. Still a very good unit.
This is a really good budget 2560x1440p monitor. The display is gorgeous and arrived without any dead pixels. The downside is the base is not the most sturdy (make sure you hold it down when plugging cables in or you'll push it right off the desk). Also, the base has some rough edges that can scratch your furniture. This happened to my coffee table.
DO THE MAIL IN REBATE.
This combo seems to constantly have a MIR offer running, often for $15. It took 3 months for mine to arrive, but it DID arrive. I effectively paid $17.50 each for my keyboard and mouse. Speaking of which, they're quite good quality. Very plastic, the key caps are ever so slightly soft which takes a moment of adjusting to. The mouse also is very lightweight, so if you need something heavy it won't work for you. But for the price they're exceptional products and I'd buy them again. The mouse has good DPI settings.
4/11/17 - after living with it for about a year, I've amended my review and knocked a star off. This is because the mousewheel has begun squeeking slightly when I scroll down. It's still a great deal if you can find it, but this is annoying so I felt a revision was necessary.