Description

Build started 3 years ago, I was still rocking a Gateway 2.26gHZ P4 with win xp and a 60lb 19" CRT from 2002 for my desktop but it was largely collecting dust as I had moved to a laptop a year before. Keep in mind I never set out to go this far nor did I have a big budget to pick things up all at once. Sit and I will tell you the tale.

I decided to upgrade the Gateway to serve as an HTPC, because parts were dirt cheap, got some more ram, a P4 3.06 GHz w/HT cpu and x800xt AIW vid card (for recording TV and capturing old videos I wanted to digitize. Spent ~75$ on the whole lot for $1000+ worth, (at the time of release circa 2002-4) of stuff. Hurdle one; mobo did not support HT, +$30 for new mobo, hurdle two; I/O did not match back of gateway case, dremel solved that, hurdle three; 150w ps not nearly enough, +$30 for CL earthwatts 380, hurdle four; gateway case with one 80mm fan=not nearly enough air flow, +$40 for rosewill case with cool side fan. End result, spent ~$200 and a couple months upgrading a nice 2002 computer to a nice 2004 computer, doubled passmark score, would have been fine except x800 only captured TV in SD and was very buggy, showed up as two display adapters, win xp and it did not get along and the P4 took forever to trans-code. Still it played the games I remember from that era which was fine as I had move to console games long ago. Also picked up 1TB WD black, back when it was cheaper.

So I decided to built a real HTPC; AMD x3 720BE, unlocked 4th core, 880gm mobo, 5670 vid card, HTPC case and 8GB ram. Worked great, a little too great, blew away my "desktop" and I found myself playing more recent titles on the HTPC and the desktop was again collecting dust, I decided this was not right. Around this time I had put some of my old car audio stuff on CL and got an interesting trade offer....

Traded an amp for a ASUS P5E3 deluxe X38 775 mobo, $400 new, and 9600GT. Quickly picked up a Q6600 G0, $80, corsair H80, had to mount second fan on the back of the case, and the 8gb of G-skill 1600 DDR3 below, back when it was cheap $35, but mobo only supports 2GB modules, bought 4x2GB modules. Huge improvement, worked great, wanted more, bought the rosewill 800w ps in anticipation of overclocking and a bigger vid card. Found a reference XFX HD 6870 for $80, and oc'd the Q6600 to 3.2 GHz had it at 3.6GHz for a bit but it was not 100% stable. Again huge improvement but wanted more, picked up 60GB ssd and stumbled upon Q9550 that I could not pass up, $100, installed and oc'd to 3.8GHz. Side-note: one thing I learned is that it is way easier to push hardware when it had been out a couple of years and everyone else has got everything figured out. With the leftover parts pile I now had I built my son the "Franken-Puter" I found a mobo that supported my q6600, 8xAGP for the x800 AIW and DRR2. It also supports PCI-e and DDR1, weirdest board ever. Works great BTW, running WIN 7.

Last phase. 60GB ssd was not cutting it on space picked up Samsung 840 250GB with free copy of Far Cry 3, quickly wanted more than the 6870 could muster, also the reference cooler sounded like a hairdryer on full blast. Now I was on the hunt for second 6870 and began to realize $40 rosewill case was not going to cut it with two vid cards. Picked up the Phantom, awesome case, because of air flow and ability to mount 240mm radiator. I had seen online modding of an H60 to fit on a vid card I thought it would be much better then reference cooler on the XFX, just so happens my brother had one and was looking for something bigger as his brand new 3930K was too much for it. Traded him my H80 and picked up the H100i. Shortly after found a MSI 6870 HAWK for $120 online. Wanted a nice cooler after the noise with the XFX. All the stars were now aligned, I was going to run the XFX with the H60 and put the Rad in the exhaust of the phantom with the H100i on the top, got it all in, fit great, computer would not boot or would not recognize both cards and a host of other issues, would only boot with MSI card in top slot not where I wanted it. After a lot of troubleshooting figured out MSI card was only running at 2x pcie2.0, and it was that way in two other computers I tried. Called MSI for RMA, sent in card, confirmed broken but the had no more in stock so they sent me a 7850 power edition. Sweet card, ran cool, quiet and faster than my 6870, but not as fast as 2x 6870, had they worked. Sold the 7850 and XFX 6870 for more then it cost me to buy the 7950!, huge upgrade plus got Crysis and Bioshock for Free!. Also started playing BF3 more and now the q9550 was showing it's age, mainly in multiplayer, still a great chip would have kept it had it not been for that and it was tax season. Picked up the 8350 and sabertooth after debating between it, 3820 and 3770k/3570k, decided on sabertooth mobo for whatever platform I was going for.

Here is what made me go for the 8350. 1 cost; again I never have a bunch of money to spend at one time, also have a girlfriend and it's easier to sneak smaller purchases past those goalies without ending up in the doghouse. I think the x79 route was ~$600, 3770k ~$570 and 3570K ~$470 average, picked my combo for $350. 2 upgrade path; Really wanted the x79 route for this because of a 3930K, (my brothers destroys encoding), down the road or IB-E upgrade, but IB-E looks to me like a bust with <10% improvement over SB-E and 2011 will end with IB-E as Haswell-E will have the VRM's on the chip. Much the same for the 3770k/3570k 1155 is dead and not impressed with Haswell. Not saying Haswell is not an awesome chip just not impressed with the incremental improvements Intel is on the path of lately. Having said that it's still up in the air if Steamroller will be AM3 but it has a better chance than 1155 which was confirmed dead long ago.
3 latest round of testing, More and more programs, games included, are able to leverage AMD's layout of 8 threads better then Intel's 8 threads. I know AMD say 8 cores but I like to think of it more as hardware hyper-threading whereas Intel uses software (very mature software I will add and it works great), however in my opinion hardware trumps software anytime and I believe developers will take advantage of this and with time will overtake Intel's solution, especially with games given AMD's role in the nest gen consoles. I also do some encoding and the 8350 is many times up with if not beating the 3770k in tests that can leverage it's resources, and again the platform cost was $200 less.

Sorry about the long winded explanation, I'll sum up the finial build now. Most everything plays really well together the case has great flow, great cable management and I love the fan controls. The Xigmatek 120mm and NZXT 200mm 166.2cfm fans move tons of air on low and insane amounts on high but get very noisy on high. Love the Power supply lights were you plug in the modular cables, sleeving is good but I picked up some white silverstone individually sleeved extensions to finish off the look. Its the start of summer here and we live on the top floor so for now I have the 8350 undervolted to ~1.3v and upped turbo to 4.4GHz. Also the boost edition 7950s come way overpowered so I have the power limit set to -15% and over clocked to 1000core/1300memory, all 24hr stable. The only thing not running optimally is the H100i corsair link, there is an issue with it reading the correct temp of the 8350, it's a known issue and they say they are working on it. That is why the idle and load temps are a bit high, as to maintain a quiet profile the fans are tied to the coolant temp in the h100i and that is not ideal. The mobo's thermal radar and other features are AWESOME!! you can pin case fans 1-3 and fan 4 to two separate temps with profiles! 8350s are power hungry and as a result the VRMs get hot, so I have two ASUS aux fans from my P5E3 placed on the VRM heatsinks to keep things cool, dropped temps by ~10ºC and have them tied to the temp readout in thermal radar so when they get hot the fans spin up, the fan on the bottom of the case is tied to the pci-e temp in thermal radar as well.

Overall very happy with the build. Please feel free to comment.

Thank You

Update- Purchased a second 7950, a Logitech G710+, Steel Series Siberia V2 Frost Blue headphones, and another 8GB of RAM. Also overclocked to 4.6GHz. Loving the additions, crossfire is a bit of a pain to set up but rocks when set up. After living with the set up for about 8 months now I can say I love it, never lets me down and is super fast. The only complaints are the case fan noise when on high, but I prefer cool over quiet and with two 7950's and an overclocked 8350 in there it takes a lot of airflow. I should be done for quite a bit now minus I ordered a Coldtears monitor, sweet as hell it's a 3" usb monitor that you can program to display pretty much any system parameters you could want, temps, usage, fps ect. and only like 35$. I am also keeping an eye on the ever dropping prices of the 1440p IPS monitors, 700$ is a bit too steep at the moment, and a second SSD, I thought the 840 EVO's would drop the prices of the vanilla 840's more.

Thanks for Looking

Comments

  • 79 months ago
  • 4 points

3 years in the making! I don't know if that's patience or what but you came good in the end. Looks lovely, and everything is generally well reasoned.

By the way, I'm not taking the piss but I have to point out how funny it was that I read that whole detailed intricate loving description and then you ended with a spelling mistake in your last line "Please fell free to comment." :)

  • 79 months ago
  • 1 point

Woops! I'm sure there are more, that's what I get for never proofreading and relying on spell check.

  • 79 months ago
  • 1 point

Great build, many years of fun to be had with it. Enjoy!

  • 79 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you for the PC history. I find it interesting the amount of work that goes into building a system over time. Seems like a very good build that should last you for years to come.

How does the LG IPS monitor work for you for games? Most IPS monitors have serious lag that makes them unsuitable, but the colors are impressive. Enjoy it!

  • 79 months ago
  • 1 point

The one I have listed is not actually the one I have because it's not on the list of options. I have a LG IPS 23EA63, very close to the one listed, they both have a 5 ms response time so being a casual gamer I don't notice any lag or ghosting, I'm sure it's not as nice as a 2ms 120Hz monitor but I feel its a good compromise because I do edit pics and vids and the color and viewing angles are excellent. I had the 14ms response version IPS from LG and did notice some ghosting, but I got lucky and my Dad was over and fell in love with it, he takes tons of pics, so I gave it to him for his birthday and upgraded mine.

  • 79 months ago
  • 1 point

I have actually considered an IPS due to the color quality and small bezels, but I was concerned the speed would cause issues. Good to know that there are some that are at least playable. Thanks for the info.

  • 79 months ago
  • 1 point

This is a beautiful build! I have the same CPU, MOBO, and GPU(almost) and I love them :)

Job well done!

  • 78 months ago
  • 1 point

Do the blue lights around the fans and top buttons come out of the box? Also is the front door to the 5,25" bays removable? Thanks!

  • 78 months ago
  • 1 point

No, the lights are not removable, but the lights by the fans are in the fans and NZXT does make fans without LED's. And the front door is removable.

  • 78 months ago
  • 1 point

Sorry, I meant to ask if the lights installed on the case when you open the box. Sorry for the poor wording, but you basically answered my question. Thanks!

[comment deleted]
  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

How did you mount the h100i to the top? I thought the phantom has two 200mm spaces at the top.. Am i right?

  • 77 months ago
  • 2 points

Yes it does. But the case comes with two little brackets to allow the mounting of a 240mm rad below the 2 200mm fans on the top. It's not quite a push/pull set up as there is a gap between the rad and 200mm fans but it's close, and works quite well. So, from the top down it goes; 200mm fans, rad, 120mm fans.

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for answering!