I'm a physics graduate student and needed a PC for my office that can keep up with my research work and make my life as easy as possible. I use it for stuff like coding, data analysis, running virtual machines, reading/writing, and staying late to play an occasional game or two (please don't tell my girlfriend).
My main build at home is big, black, and riddled with RGB. I decided to keep things more or less the same, by going with something small, white, and with minimal RGB.
I'm always hunting for deals and tried to save as much as possible without compromising on quality or performance. Every part was either purchased on sale or used, thanks largely to r/buildapcsales and r/hardwareswap. Without them, I'm sure I would have been way more than just 60% over budget.
I wanted something small, but not necessarily SFF. My main build at home uses the Corsair ecosystem, but Corsair has a notable lack of ITX options. I considered the 280x, but ultimately found it's footprint too large and felt pressured to use LL120 fans, which was more RGB than I wanted. I have always liked the modern look of NZXT cases and the H200 fit my needs. I swapped in some NZXT AF120 case fans with white trim (why don't more builds use these?) which better match my desired aesthetic. I paired it with a black/white Cablemod Pro cable kit, which I think really ties
the room together in well with the black/white case.
I wanted two M.2 slots, built-in WiFi, and a "normal" layout, which doesn't leave a lot of options for ITX. I originally planned on using integrated graphics, which put me on Team Blue. With these constraints, it was really a no-brainer going with the ASUS Strix Z370-i, which turned out to be a great little board.
Even though my average workload would have benefited more from the increased core count from a Ryzen CPU, I didn't originally plan on having a discrete GPU. I planned on using an i5-8400, but I found a solid deal on an i5-8600k which pairs better with the Z370 chipset, anyway. I haven't had much time to overclock yet, but it's currently running at 4.8GHz at 1.3V, which is just okay for now. The delidded i7-8700k in my main build will eventually trickle down here once I can find an i9-9900k for a decent price, so I'm not sure it's really worth the effort to overclock this CPU much further.
I was very reluctant to use the NZXT CAM software, but I thought an NZXT case ought to get an NZXT cooler, so I went with the Kraken X52. I learned later that the X62 actually fits, so I will forever mildly regret not getting that, instead. The CAM software is actually pretty okay -- I block it with my firewall and run it in guest mode. It's nothing special but it runs quietly in the background and does its job.
In terms of performance, it's quiet and keeps my CPU cool enough (sub-80°C in consecutive Cinebench runs). I decided to pick up two more NZXT P120 fans and run it in push/pull with XSPC gaskets -- mostly for the extra cooling power but it also fills the space well (but not as well as an X62 would have...).
Aesthetically, it looks great, but the pump block was so huge that the tubing interfered with the RAM and I had to rotate it 180°, which put the cables in a weird place that, quite frankly, I don't much care for. It will technically fit in the correct orientation, but it pushes on the RAM a bit and I didn't want to have to re-paste my CPU every time I remove that DIMM. I picked up a white Cablemod AIO sleeving kit but it makes the tubing HUGE and I didn't really like the look of the woven material, so I took it off and used it to wrap my keyboard/mouse cables, instead.
I didn't actually intend to get a GPU, but I thought I might like to play games sometimes (I can do that at home, but then my girlfriend always wants to do boring stuff like watch movies or talk). It also looked really weird to not have a GPU and I needed more white components, anyway. So, I found a white ASUS Dual RX 480 on eBay for $100 and figured why not?. But the RX 480 was mega gross (stained yellow and full of cat hair), so I sent it back and found the same model card but as a GTX 1070 for only $200. The white shroud looked good but the PCB did not, so I got a matte white backplate from jmmods. Its thermals have been fine in this case, but it's considerably louder than the three-fan Strix at home.
This was one of the components I wanted to have RGB. I have Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB at home, but thought the sharp edges of the Trident Z RGB fit this build better. I originally had a 2x8GB 3200MHz CL14 kit, but I needed to up the capacity for simulation work, so I swapped it for a 2x16GB 3200MHz CL16 kit.
I knew I wanted multiple monitors -- it really does substantially increase productivity. Based on my setup at home, I knew I wanted a 27" 1440p main with two 21.5" 1080p in portrait (mostly because the pixel densities are only 6% different for these sizes/resolutions). I have the same Acer XB271HU IPS at home and never actually intended to get one for work, but I found such a good deal that it was actually cheaper than buying a standard 27" 1440p IPS display. The red feet looked atrocious, so I used plasti-dip to make them white. It actually turned out better than expected, but I regret not also painting the red/silver Predator badge. Mimicking my home setup, I added two Dell P2219H monitors to match the bezel-less look of the XB271HU.
I have a Corsair K95 Platinum at home and wanted something with a similar feel, so my fingers wouldn't get confused. I snagged a deal for a renewed K70 on Amazon and honestly like it better (no macro keys to accidentally hit, no poorly diffused RGB lightbar, still has the volume scroll wheel). It looks great with a set of PBT white pudding keycaps (and a white PBT replacement bottom row to accommodate the non-standard bottom row. It lacks the pudding effect, but it closely matches the font and feel).
I'm used to my Corsair Scimitar at home and figured it would be easiest to get the same for work. It fits my hand well and the macro keys make life so easy, once you get used to them (I bind things like cut/copy/paste, open File Explorer/Chrome/calculator, etc). The PC is too far for my mouse USB to reach, so I plugged it into the keyboard's USB pass-through. But having two cables didn't look great, so I decided to wrap them in the Cablemod sleeving I removed from my AIO -- I think it looks pretty snazzy.
Also, the extra large mousepad is great. It's nice and big and a great place to rest my head for a while when I'm tired.
Conclusion and Future Plans
Overall, I'm very happy with the way the build came out. I get a lot of compliments on my setup whenever someone comes into my office. But if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.
The biggest change I'd like to make is to outfit my GPU with a Kraken G12 adapter and move the Kraken X52 AIO to the GPU, leaving the radiator where it is. Then, I'd like to throw a white Chromax Noctua D15 cooler on the CPU. I think this would look super sweet by using up basically almost all of the available space and also make things a bit quieter.