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Build

Mini Colossus meets Mega Cooler

by thrax_of_order

29
26 Comments

Details

Date Published

Dec. 19, 2014

Date Built

Dec. 13, 2014

CPU Clock Rate

4 GHz

CPU Temperature While Idle

27.0° C

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.176 GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

5.4 GHz

Description

So this is my first pc build. I did console gaming for quite a while but wanted a decent gaming rig along with all of the other features I need for everyday use (web, Word, Excel, and VMs). I focused on having a fairly quiet and power efficient build while trying to keep the price fairly reasonable. My performance needs were to be able to play Borderlands, Borderlands 2 and other similar games at 1080p 60 fps at maximum quality settings. Fortunately for me, my friend has built four other machines before and helped guide me in the part selection and building process. It was a combined effort but I have to give major kudos to him for helping me with the build (including the delicate cable installation on the motherboard after the CPU cooler was mounted). It’s nice to have friends do a collaborative build process.

CPU: The i7 4790k was on sale at a pretty decent price. Most people say it's overkill but I like the extra performance and should keep me from having to replace the CPU for a long time. I also wanted to run it at stock speeds and the newer chip comes in at 4.0 Ghz for the base clock, so no overclocking needed.

CPU Cooler: The Noctua NH-D14 is a beast in both performance, weight, and size. I picked it over the newer D15 because it offered roughly the same performance but was 30% cheaper. I checked Noctua compatibility charts on their website and my motherboard and RAM had no issues. Performance wise, it’s really quiet and keeps my CPU below 40 degrees while gaming with FPSs. Be sure to check your case for clearance before you buy it. My case fit fine but I had to move the center fan down to get it inside and then raised it back up once the motherboard and cooler were mounted to the motherboard tray.

Motherboard: The Z97I-PLUS has a great layout the allowed me to fit a giant CPU cooler even with tall RAM. The bios (UEFI) is pretty straight forward and allowed for the XMP overclocking profile for my RAM with one click. Any changes that you make are detailed before you save and exit, so that is a big plus to verify you didn’t accidentally change something while you were in there. The built-in WiFi is also very fast, has excellent range, and a great antenna that can be magnetically attached to your case (It’s on the top of my case in the photos). I do have a few minor cons for the board. The wifi connections to the board when you install it are a bit of a pain to snap down and you have to punch out two holes to screw the antenna connectors (did it with a small pair of pliers). The IO shield is also padded, which you think would be a plus but is a pain because the board would not fit completely flush with the case. I managed to get it to fit and the connections are solid but they should have not padded the shield. Last con is that it did not come with motherboard mounting screws (luckily my friend who helped me build it had some in his toolkit).

Memory: The Ripjaws X were on sale and I picked this version because I liked the overclocked 2400 Mhz memory. When I first installed it, the bios had it at 1600 Mhz but I just used the XMP setting and in one click and a reboot it changed over to 2400 Mhz. It’s tall RAM but it fit even underneath my huge cooler.

Storage: The 730 Intel was on sale for the same price or cheaper than Crucial or Samsung SSDs so I purchased it for my primary drive. I also like that they added capacitors to help prevent write errors during a sudden power loss. I also threw in my old 120 GB Intel 520 series SSD to store my music and some videos (goodbye mechanical hard drives).

Video Card: I realize that the 750Ti is on the low end of GPUs but its power efficient, quiet, doesn’t produce a lot of heat, and does not need a 6 pin power connector (one less cable in the case). The most important thing for me is that it meets my performance needs to be able to play Borderlands, Borderlands 2 and other similar games at 1080p 60 fps at maximum quality settings. I would have bought the MSI 750Ti Twin Frozr card, but the EVGA Super Clock had higher clock speeds and was $30 cheaper. This will meet my needs for now and allow me to bump up to a 960 or equivalent in the next couple years.

Case: The Colossus is a great case (and was a steal at $30). I think it’s a good looking case and one fancy light is enough for me plus I didn’t need to see the inside of my case (I’m using the ugly but awesome Noctua CPU Cooler and a case fan). Plenty of clearance for all of my parts but it’s also pretty tall for a mini itx. The light on the outside of the case is really nice and can be switched to a variety of colors or just plain off (for when the wife is using it). I removed the optical drive cage and the top hdd cage for better airflow and that was super easy. I kept the bottom hdd cage to mount the SSDs. You can mount the SSDs directly to the case but I didn’t have the right “flat” sata cables and using the hdd cage was much simpler.

Power Supply: The Cosair was on sale, was 80+ gold rated for effiency, met my power supply requirements, and had good editor reviews. The semi modular cabling was also a nice plus. It still leaves plenty of room to step up to a GTX 960, 970, or similar card in the future (I’m assuming the 960 will be below the 970’s 140ish watt TDP).

Operating System: I refused to purchase Windows 8 and Windows 10 SP1 won’t be out for probably two years. Therefore, I went with the trusty Windows 7.

Monitor: It’s my previous monitor but 1080p 60hz and an IPS panel is exactly what I wanted for my build.

Case Fan: I swapped out my factory front case fan for the NF-F12. I probably didn’t need it but already ordered it to use with a different cooler, so I thought it would be a good front fan replacement. Super ugly and super quiet.

Keyboard: I wanted Cherry MX blue switches and the G710 was on sale. Very solid keyboard and the lights are easily dimmable with several levels. The mouse usb pass-through was also a plus for cable management.

Mouse: The mouse is great and the color scheme also matches the keyboard (which is a side bonus). The software also works for the keyboard as well (only a single software install needed for both devices).

Speakers: The T20 speakers provide decent bass without needing a subwoofer. I don’t have the space for a subwoofer where the computer is located, so these fit the bill for gaming speakers.

Optical Drive: I rarely use an optical drive and didn’t want it in my case. This Asus external DVD burner was $12.24 and works just fine. I put it away in a cabinet when not in use, so no issues on it taking up any space or getting in the way.

Comments Sorted by:

Reconmidget 2 points 50 months ago

Noctua is a great brand, love them. Would get but my painting skills aren't very good and i won't be sticking with the brown

g98765g 3 points 50 months ago

Noctua is coming out with black fans too as well as yellow. If we all wait we get what we want :-)))))

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 3 points 50 months ago

I totally agree on the not painting the fans comment. I would assume that painting would probably mess with the air resistance and reduce the fans' performance. But again for my build the case is windowless so I don't care what the colors look like inside (only that it is semi-clean and has good airflow). g98765g was right in saying Noctua does have different color fans now, but they're new and I decided to stick with the long standing pedigree of the classic brown series of coolers/fans.

NicoMan2240 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

So... beautiful. +1

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

Thank you. I liked the aesthetics of the case and the built in lighting, so I thought it worked.

NicoMan2240 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

It really does

g98765g 1 point 50 months ago

Was it easy to cram all the hardware in there?

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

It was fairly easy, although I had my friend helping me so it made it much easier having a second pair of hands when passing cables through each side of the case and holding the CPU cooler firm while the other person tightened the screws. Probably took more time passing audio, wifi, and other connectors inside the case after the CPU cooler was mounted but seemed like the most logical approach. I would strongly recommend having a pair of tweezers, a short philips head screwdriver, and a small led flashlight when working on these mini itx cases. ASUS' Q connector that comes with its motherboard helped when we connected the front headers to the motherboard. Everything fit fine but there was no extra space around the motherboard. Just look at the photos for 24 pin power connector and usb 3.0 front connector near the front of the cpu cooler. If the fan was any lower it would probably damage the cables with the bend over time. It would have been a beast if we tried to complete the build without having both side panels off. You really need the extra working space.

SirSnugzAlot 1 point 50 months ago

How do you like the 750ti?

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

It's really good. If you want to play with most couple year old games at 1080p 60 fps at max settings you're in good shape. I've heard that the newer games will need you to bump down to medium quality settings. If you need something better right now I would go with the MSI 760 TF or wait for the 960 to come out in the next couple of months. But both of those cards would be $100+ more and the 750ti works great for me. The EVGA 750ti SC that I have in right now is factory overclocked at pretty decent rate, is fairly quiet, and super tiny. If you can get it cheap, it's a great holdover for next couple years and GPUs are the easiest things to swap out when you want to upgrade.

Brandino312 2 Builds 1 point 50 months ago

Whatcha think about the picture quality of those monitors? Do you like them?

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

The monitor is good. I use it for gaming and for everyday stuff and it has worked out. The angles and colors are good due to it being an IPS panel. I picked it based on the reviews on Newegg and have not been disappointed. Don't use the VGA or other analog cables though or you might get some lines on the screen while using it. I switched back over to a DVI cable which was supplied in the box and had no problems with it afterwards. I would recommend buying this monitor if you get a decent deal on it.

Brandino312 2 Builds 1 point 50 months ago

how much did you pay for yours?

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 48 months ago

I paid $169.99 - $20 rebate for a total of $149.99 plus tax. They should be cheaper now. Sorry about the delay on my response.

impostine 1 point 48 months ago

How did you get the BitFenix case for $29.99? :[

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 48 months ago

Case was originally $109.99 but TigerDirect had it on sale for $59.99 with a $20 rebate from them and a $10 instant off signing up for their text message promo texts (can cancel any time) .... which made it $29.99 with free shipping and no tax. I think that was my best deal when purchasing all of the these parts.

impostine 1 point 48 months ago

Dang. Thanks for the reply! Unfortunately the lowest I've seen is about 90 or so from ncix :( nice job on that deal! I guess I'll keep waiting c:

patryk270301 1 point 41 months ago

Hey bro i have the same case, and I can't seem to get the LEDs going. Help pls

Fomrbyman 2 Builds 1 point 40 months ago

I have this case too, and I'm guessing if you can't get the LEDs going then you've got a faulty case (because you wouldn't have forgotten to connect it to the PSU, would you?).

patryk270301 1 point 38 months ago

yup it was faulty, i cant be bothered sorting it out but thanks

jamesmason 5 Builds 0 points 50 months ago

Kinda unbalanced build. Your CPU is insanely powerful and by comparison the 750ti lags behind it really far, even though it's a good card.

The sad thing is your CPU will go mostly unused, and the other problem is it won't be compatible with future motherboards either. (well "new" motherboards) And the i7 series as a whole is overkill for gaming.

I like the look of the case, and it was one I considered getting, but it's too "fat" for me.

eopest 9 Builds 1 point 50 months ago

Well, when he upgrades the video card, he won't need to upgrade the CPU. And maybe the 4790k is OP for gaming now, but betcha it won't be by the time he does move to a 960 or 970.

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 0 points 50 months ago

Yep. You highlighted exactly one of the reasons I used in buying the 4790k. Plus it pairs well with the Z97 motherboard and the 2400 Mhz RAM.

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

I appreciate your feedback and I agree with you that the CPU is way overbalanced compared to the GPU for a gaming rig. However I did it for a couple of reasons:

  1. The sale price put it within $40 - $60 of most of the core i5s that I was seeing at the time. $269 out the door is decent considering the normal price was $299 - $340 plus tax before the Pre-Black Friday week deals came along.
  2. The CPU gave me a base clock of 4.0 Ghz and a 8 MB cache (as opposed to roughly a 3.5 Ghz base clock and a 6 MB cache on most i5s). I like the little extra performance/head room and keeps me from having to overclock anytime soon.
  3. I do other non-gaming functions on the machine as well from time to time (video encoding, running VMs), so the i7 will get some use out of the hyperthreading.
  4. Now that next-gen consoles are using multiple cores (AMD 8 cores I think) albeit with low clock speeds, I think pc games will start to follow suit (the new Wolfenstein game uses 4 cores on PC right now). We'll just get the better performance since PCs have higher clock speeds.
  5. That CPU cooler and motherboard combo would probably be a pain to remove and reapply thermal paste so I wanted a CPU that could compete with future CPUs for the next couple of years. Heck, the Sandy Bridge i7 CPUs are still good for gaming with the right GPUs.

As far as the GPU goes, I'll probably upgrade to a GTX 960 or better when Borderlands 3 comes out. For now this GPU suits all my gaming needs.

Yep, it's a fat case but I think all mini itx cases have to be that wide because the motherboard is mounted horizontally. The positive side of the width is that it makes mounting a behemoth of cooler like the NH-D14 relatively easy and I'm not worried about the cooler bending the motherboard since it sits on a horizontal motherboard tray.

eopest 9 Builds 1 point 50 months ago

Yeah, ok, right. I think you got the Noctua cooler because it looks like an engine out of a Y-wing. :)

thrax_of_order submitter 1 Build 1 point 50 months ago

Well with the new Star Wars film coming out next year they had to do something with those old surplus bomber parts. :)