Finally I have put together the final part of my personal build, I call the:
Core Essence. I have been slowly gathering its parts in over 3 years now and that's the reason for the potential release date disparity between them. Every part I have hand-picked, from the CPU to the screws, led and even zip ties. I wanted to go for an elegant, powerful, solidly structured and most importantly, whisper silent red/black build and I am pleased to say the end result has met and exceeded my expectations. This is by no means a budget or even middle of the road build and thus the amount of time it took me to purchase all the parts I wanted. There is a particular reasoning behind each part purchase of the rig and I am always open to suggestions or helping out anyone looking to build anything similar. Most of my part purchases and train of thought, I try to elaborate on the review section at the bottom and I will try to sum up the rest here so you get a better understanding of what I was going for as well as replacements I had to do in the process. Aesthetics, material quality and performance are a major factor in most of my builds and subjective as these factors are, leaves no room for value/budget oriented system.
Pc case is one of the hardest and most basic decisions one makes for housing a system. I have been through 4 itx cases on this particular build, all of which I loved for different reasons and will briefly mention here as well as the reasoning to why I replaced them. I always had my mind set on mini itx form factor and that fortunately hasn't change over time. I love the awesomeness that the compact form factor brings and I was sure I wasn't missing out any features after seeing the Maximus VII Impact motherboard. 2 RAM slots are more than enough for me and sli/crossfire has always been returning sub par performance when it works. The extra dead wasted space is nothing I regret not having to deal with.
So I started by getting this motherboard and a 4790K along with the Gskill 16GB DDR3 memory (couple more details on those and their selection on the reviews section). As I was already a little late to the 4th gen at the time, the platform had matured and managed to get probably the best itx board and the undisputed champion of the socket's cpu. First case I got to put everything in was a red Bitfenix Prodigy that ticked all compatibility boxes, price, aesthetics but unfortunately not build quality as it was an all plastic build. Here is where I tried a Triton 240 AIO water cooler that I have unregretfully replaced and never looked back with my NH-D15. I had to let this case go, due to plane space limitations and short story, I got the Raijintek Metis a case I also adore. What a tiny little beast this one is. Love the size, the fake brushed aluminum finish, the minimal design, the full size psu and cpu cooler design (both my current PSU and NH-D15! where happily fitted in there) and also the price.
Here is when I got the Gigabyte 1070 OC mini as it was the only form factor gpu it could fit. Surprisingly the temps both on cpu and gpu where great but the coil whine was from another planet. Of course I tried different cables, psus, motherboards, burn-in and even different systems, only to solidify that the noise was purely a gpu issue (and one that Gigabyte support doesn't deem worthy of refunding on a brand new card, learned the hard way). Later when I purchased my current monitor and the gpu had to work 100% on all games 2 things became painfully apparent: 1. the gpu noise from the coil whine while having to work at 100% was a one way ticket to sanitarium and 2. the 1070 horsepower wasn't enough to drive 1440p 165hz (monitor purchase detailed at reviews section). As 1070 mini was the single fastest card in the market in this form factor at the time, my dreams of tiny cases started to fade and lead me to my next case.
After extensive itx case research, I found a lesser known manufacturer (at least to me), that designs and builds cases and mostly sells them to other well known companies that rebrand them. So I got the not particularly budget friendly Jonsbo VR-1 and it was a case of unique beauty. This was also the point where I actually discovered the single best looking case I have personally ever laid eyes on, and is my current one, but at the time decided to not spend as much (as if...). Elegant, well built, totally unique and able to house all parts I owned plus a full size GPU. The issue with this one is the same that plagues all new cases of similar design. Gpu fans are up against the tampered glass. No case airflow can ever compensate for this placement and gpu was throttling as well as raising the whole temperature inside the case to uncomfortable levels. Which eventually lead me to get my current and final case.
This is the nectar of the gods for me and a part of me knew that I would eventually get this no matter what after laying eyes on it. The Jonsbo MOD1-Mini red. As a main physics principal no case airflow can ever reach the temperatures of an open case scenario and this one for me has all the benefits of being a semi-open case design. This is actually built for showcase and not for consumer use and it shows on the price tag. The whole case is a meticulously crafted curved solid brushed steel only united with aluminum for the top panel. The attention in detail shows from the red accent screws and even usb at the front panel and is surrounded by three layers of fat and uneven shaped tampered glass. To sum up the pros of the case it is the best looking pc case I have seen in the color accent i was going for, with the build quality I needed and the semi-open air approach. The cons would be the of course the price, the size for a mini-itx if you're going small, the almost non existing cable management and the weight. The monstrous ASUS Strix 1080ti sits comfortably in the case with fresh intake from the case's bottom vents and the end result is inredible thermal results at low to no noise levels as in a case like this, fans for extra airflow are made redundant due to the open air approach and the already top quality fans of the components themselves.
As a side note and not mentioned before, the nvme drive installation does indeed cut the 16x total PCIE lanes of the motherboard to 8x for the gpu, but I can absolutely confirm after extensive testing of both scenarios, that this introduces no limitation or frame loss on my card's performance, as the bandwidth is still plenty enough to handle all traffic at 8 lanes on PCIE 3.0. The recent release of Noctua chromax black fans and cpu cooler covers for my NH-D15 was my finishing touch to the looks of the build and thus its completion, until the next part...
Regarding the build details specs, those are my current 24/7 settings. My CPU runs @4600mhz at 1.256v and reaches 4800 at about 1.32v which is somewhat average for this model in the silicon lottery we all have to play. I always prefer running CPU voltage at adaptive mode with all C states enabled (up to 7 if you use the CPU's IGPU) and EIST enabled and always strongly advise everyone having those settings to use them, unless you hit instabilities with OC (best route is to go the other way around - find your sweet spot on manual and then adjust it for adaptive). The >4600mhz+ on Devil's Canyon/Haswell, I set to manual to avoid the potential AVX high voltage spike and since 4th gen motherboard support doesn't include the AVX offset settings that was later introduced to newer generations, I keep this as my current daily driver. This helps reduce CPU degradation over time as a constant voltage isn't pushed at all times and lowers temp on idle as well as general consumption and with no stability issues, at least in my case. The OC is on all cores and hyper-threading enabled. I managed to get to 4900 by keeping my "good" cores but just for the fun of it. Max temp is with AVX stress benchmarks only, otherwise hovers at around 72-74C @full load. I will be delidding it soon as I get my hands on the tool and hopefully yield better thermal results that will let me confidently push a couple of more hundred Mhz to the clock for everyday use. My GPU's sweet spot for performance/ease of mind and seamless operation is the 2025Mhz and +650(effective ~12300Mhz) on the memory. It can get at 2050 and 700+Mhz mem but keeping it on the safe side and for no artifacts or lows drop (yes this is a thing on GPU OC :D). I manually flashed the cards bios to the OC model just for the extra wattage headroom it provides and strongly recommend anyone with this model doing so, as it is relatively easy and revertible in case of failure.
Obvious conclusion when looking at the comparisons, is that my older 4th gen CPU is the current system's bottleneck. Increase on the CPU's clock increases performance across the board (graphics only tests included) and reveals itself as the culprit for somewhat hindering the GPU's full potential and thus the system overall
If you are still on Intel's 1150, this is by far the best released cpu implementation and on par and trading blows with the top i7 of recent generations, steadily on the top 5 consumer grade cpu performance benchmarks to this day. This was the Devil's Canyon refresh of i7 Haswell that addressed some of the overheating issues of the latter. Great overclocker especially once you delid and amazing single and multi threaded performance. I have it running at 4600mhz at around 1.25v which is a respectable +600mhz on the stock clock with little to no effort. Silicon lottery winners and delidders report clocks reaching 4.9 to 5.1mhz on this chip. It is kinda sad that Intel is still crippling the CPUs true OC potential since 2nd gen (even up to the recently released 8th gen), with non soldered ihs, but overall an amazing performer.
The undeniable king of all air cpu coolers. Unsurpassed air cooling performance due to the massive and well thought out cooler but also because of the insane engineering that went in the top of the line noctua fans, delivering not only top performance but silence that no AIO can deliver (pump noise, water noise, mostly sub par fans used). Memory compatibility is amazing as unlike its predecessor (NH-D14), it has large cutouts for high profile memory modules and doesn't block any of the surrounding PCI slots, as well as leaving precisely enough space for an exhaust fan in contact with the case. Well thought out through and through. Performance vs water AIOs is superior within the same or much less budget (which is a welcome surreal paradox), and noise (top of the line fans practically silent at low rpm, no water and pump noise, massive aluminum heatsink for natural heat dissipation) and reliability with no points of failure (pump fails, water leaks, dual fans for literally always seamless cooling) make this a no brainer for any system on air that can accommodate the size. This cooler in conjuction with my semi-open air case (gpu/psu fans are completely off at idle) make up for the totally silent experience I was after. I even placed a third af15 fan behind the cooler and the case, though not making huge difference to actual cpu cooling (~2C), it helps with overall flow outside the case and keeps all of them running at even lower rpms, further lowering the emitted noise (no other case fans are used in my setup).
If you are looking for the absolute best performing non conductive thermal paste on the market even just by a couple of degrees from the next competitor this is it at the moment of writing.
If you are looking for the absolute best performing conductive liquid metal on the market this is it at the moment of writing. Ideal for delidding and placing between the IHS and die and much better thermal transfer factor than CLU or other similar liquid metal compounds.
Best 1150 socket mini itx motherboard ever released. Asus patended m.2 combo (NVME, Bluetooth, WiFi) allows for use of the not widely at the time of implementation, NVME M.2 slot on mini itx motherboards. It acieves this by clever usage of the 16x in total available PCIE lanes. Supreme FX sound chip, massive raised cap area for better cooling and voltage regulation for no compromise overclocking, error/info indicator led screen, the list goes on. If you need(ed) the absolute best and no compromises mini-itx 1150 socket motherboard compared to full sized ones this is the best option.
Fast and reliable GSkill DDR3 memory. One of the best value choices at the time of purchase for 2 sticks of fast 16gb ram that also look edgy (assuming you go for a red build). The high profile kits have no compatibility issues with the NH-D15 and the 1.65v xmp has a no hassle plug and play experience. Overclocking on this kit is on the below average side and the end result as with most memory oc and tighter timings, is not worth the overall potential instability or gains (AMD or APUs usually have more tangible returns on everyday overall performance scenarios, not just synthetics tests). 2500 is feasible with relaxed timings and 1.7+ voltage but 2600 gives out a strict refusal to boot regardless. Still a pretty solid plug and play memory kit that still works flawless for me.
So blazingly fast that it is not recommended for all! Speed is still not fully utilized by most current apps on consumer scenarios and shines on specific workloads. If anything screams some future-proofing on the speed side of things this is it, or if you have a specific heavy data load workflow that takes advantage of this little beast's potential you cannot go wrong with it. Pro version is even faster but the price to performance ratio is even less compelling (further lower value/money ratio). Temperatures are cool enough even on my setup that has this 3/4 put inside a non cooled m.2 combo slot and semi-open case with limited fans/flow scenario and no throttling whatsoever. The drive starts throttling at 70C and with the preinstalled heatspreader (the sticker), you'll have to have serious air starving problems in the case to reach more than 65 on full load. That said not recommended for average users/non enthusiasts as you will get diminishing returns for a steep purchase.
Nice drive supposedly the most reliable version of WD as it is designed for NAS always on use. Noisy but satisfactory speed for SATA mechanical drive (I hate all mechanical drives)
Cheaper than the OC version in most markets and indentical in every way other than bios voltage limitation (cannot prove/disprove binning-cherry picking on OC models). First day bios reflashed with the OC bios for unlocking the +60 voltage limit (270 -> 330) and silicon lottery is on the average/good side, nothing too exceptional and achievable by most ti's with adequate cooling, @~2030mhz clock and 12300mhz memory (+650 at current OC bios). There is quality engineering on the PCB and components used and the card has a neutral color with RGB accents to match any build. Solid card with great cooling but enormous (height 2.5 slots and quite lengthy) and hard to fit in all builds. Make sure your psu and case can handle before purchase. Coil whine is unfortunately present as usual with all high fps scenarios (card pushing a constant 165 fps, no time for chilling on gaming sessions) but not driving owners mental as a Gigabyte I replaced and same/slightly more audible as on an MSI Gaming X I also owned (also a beastly overengineered card, slightly better cooler material construction). Coil whine plague boils down mostly to quality components used by manufacturer, psu power delivery of course, luck of the draw, rma, rma and rma. I strongly advise you flash the OC bios version if you have basic knowledge of what you are doing as the extra few watts can be your clock's limiting factor for the last few hz oc. Don't interrupt the flash procedure and the process is reversible, provided you have already backed up your original firmware (or get the original from techpowerup). For those wondering here are the links of the non OC and OC bios, you will notice while the clock increase is highly irrelevant on manual overclocking, the extra wattage limit can help you push it to the absolute limit.
Unlike previous RM versions and criticism, RMx and RMi PSU have used higher quality japanese caps and components and the voltage regulation with the new type 4 cables on the rails is on par with EVGA Supernovas of the same budget. Also when the fan is on on heavy load much quieter than the latter. I initially picked the platinum rated Supernova PSU but later went on to return it for this one. Nothing wrong with the Supernova but the fan noise when on was going against my quest for building this whisper silent system and a bit too audible for my preference (fan competition is fierce as the only fan noise emitted from my system are the noctua af15). The 650 watt that might seem a lot for my build's requirements, was an intentional purchase. As my overclocked system draws ~400w @100% load from the wall, the normal everyday heavy sessions (cpu/gpu load) would average at around 350w or lower and around the 50% load mark on the PSU. This also prevents the fan from kicking in for total silence and this is the load percentage at which you would want to keep your PSU for optimal performance and longevity. Also take note that PSU max performance deteriorates with usage and time, so make sure to take these parameters into consideration for your system requirements when deciding a PSU wattage.
The best performance/noise pc fan now available in pure black variation to differentiate from the established Noctua baby poo color scheme.
If you need higher resolution, higher refresh rate, solid build quality and gsync your options are limited but gnarly. I chose this over the competing monitors because of the design and color matching aspect but mostly the incredible solid metal built stand and understated screen tones. Also opted for the TN instead of the IPS model for the 1ms response time but mostly to avoid the luck of the draw process of getting an IPS panel with no/low IPS glow. Most panels used on similar models are purchased from the same manufacturer, so went for the best quality build/subjective appearance one. Also got lucky enough to have zero burned pixels and no backlight bleed so your mileage may vary.
If you don't need rgb backlighting and love mechanical keyboards but also want great clean design and build materials this is one to consider. Keyboard base is made of a single sturdy solid base of processed aluminium instead of cheap plastic, switches are the widely used cherry mx and generally an extremely well built no nonsense reliable keyboard. Also this version has the logo imprinted on top instead of the cheap stickers they later opted out for cutting corners.
A love/hate mouse choice. I belong to the first category after using it for many reasons. Even though the design is too bold choice for most people, I love the industrial looks and striking color, the mouse is metal at the bottom instead of the widely used cheap plastic on most mice in the market, the sensor is great as most are these days and has the most satisfying clicks I've tried on a mouse. The customizability aspect of mouse is still one of the best as the height/width/weight/interchangeable parts guarantees you can adjust it exactly as you want. Since purchase almost three years now, I have custom Hotline feet fitted that i bought dirt cheap via ebay and works even better than the original.
Not much more to add than what it has already been said on every review for this headset, other than there is indeed a reason that this is the most widely recommended headset at this price range. Best value headset of its budget on acoustics/features and solid (none of that cheap plastic) build quality. I opted for this over the Cloud 2 as I have no interest for USB cheap cards transformers when you have a relatively good integrated or discreet sound chipset and no interest in the software based 7.1 emulation. Microphone quality is on the average side and can easily be replaced with the one from Cloud 2 or similar. If any of those three points is something you want then you should pay the small premium for the Cloud 2. You can't go wrong with either one.
Tiny, pretty, large capacity, totally silent, transfer speed as expected from usb 3.0 external drive. Will update with reliability over time (I hate all mechanical drives).