* Mail-In Rebates:
Hey guys, this build was done for my uncle. He needed a computer that would be future proofed for a while. He'll be running some photo editing, basic home use, and streaming HD videos. He'll be streaming a max of 2 simultaneous streams so the i5 should be more than powerful enough to encode those streams. Some of the part selection is because of the future proofing and based off his budget. We could have easily gone with 8GB or RAM instead of 16GB, but he is the kind of guy that just wants it done so he doesn't have to worry about it later. We never know how hungry Chrome will get, am I right?
This is my first Skylake build. I was originally going to go with Haswell Refresh due to the inflated price of Skylake and DDR4. However, when I started shopping around I managed to find some pretty good deals. And I mean realistic deals that you guys should be able to find really easily. Not some of these ridiculous 50% off deals I've been seeing people post on PCPP lately. MicroCenter has the Skylake i5 and Haswell Refresh i5 at the same price. So with a little extra cost for the z170 chipset and DDR4, it was a no brainier, especially considering we're trying to make a future proof build.
The name of this build was inspired by the new i series. I hope to carry this name as a sort of product line for future Skylake builds. So you could consider this a prototype of sorts. Obviously the computer is not centered around gaming, but could just as easily be converted for multiple types of use.
I wanted my uncle to be able to easily add more SSDs and HDDs down the road. So when I made the custom cables, I put multiple connectors on the same run for the HDD cage. Where they line up perfectly to plug into a new drive. If you look on the back on the computer you can see I did this for the empty SSD slot as well.
I went a little over the top as far as build quality goes. I'm trying to build up my enthusiast level builds for my portfolio. I mainly build office machines. But I enjoy personal builds a lot more. I did all the custom metal work and cable sleeving. All the main system cables were sleeved in paracord and the rest were sleeved in PET plastic. If you are interested in sleeving and are just intimidated by it, don't worry, you can do it. The learning curve is not as steep as it might seem and the results or worth it. Once you have the few basic tools it is not that expensive for the sleeving material, especially if you sleeve your existing system cables. (Assuming you have modular cables, but you can just as well sleeve none modular cables.) Below are links to some great products to get you started:
I've recently fallen in love with Fractal Designs, their cases are just awesome. However, they lack a feature that I like to see in cases, a PSU cover. I personally don't care to see the power supply. And I see quite frequently a lot of people will choose their power supply based on its aesthetics, which is fine, but you might find yourself spending more money or buying a bad power supply just to fit your theme. Again in my opinion, I feel a PSU should be purchased based off efficiency rating, wattage needed with 25 to 35% overhead, and reliability. So as the Define R5 does not have a PSU cover, I decided to make my own!
If you are a DIY kind of guy/gal, then you could just as easily do what I did for this build. In order to make the PSU and drive bay covers, I built a metal brake for a total of $35 in materials at Home Depot. You could do it for even less if you already have a table to secure some hinges to. If you would like me to draw up some plans so you can build your own, just drop a comment. This was a lot of fun and it really improved the aesthetics of this build. It just makes it so much cleaner. I'm not trying to take away from those of you who like to see the PSU, it's just not my cup of tea.
As I could not seem to find the ASUS z170-AR on the part list, I'll list its review here. I was not very thrilled with this board at first. It could have a few more USB ports on the back and I'm not a big fan of the copperish brown color of the pathways on the board. Makes it look dated to me. I really like the boards that look almost flat black or all black PCB. But that is purely aesthetic. I do however like the white cover for the I/O ports, that is a nice touch and hope to see that carried forward from ASUS. White is a good neutral color as it will reflect most colors from LEDs to match someones theme.
One thing I was disappointed to see was the cheap all metal I/O shield. Asus has some really good ones with padding on the back and its painted. I wouldn't even mind to see a slight increase in price to ensure this feature made it with the board. At this point I don't see why any mobo manufactures are still using those crappy I/O shields.
Over all though the board functions very well for its price range. It handle my overclocks just fine. Probably don't want to go to crazy with it but for moderate overclocking its great. Very easy to use BIOS.
This CPU is great. I'm extremely impressed with the temperatures I'm getting. It overclocks very easily as well. Especially in combination with the ASUS z170. I had my doubts at first but so far this CPU as proved me wrong against all my expectations. So far I like it more than the Haswell architecture chips. Add to all of that the price from MicroCenter and this thing is a very good buy.
I'm running 4Ghz OC at an idle temperature of 24C! 37C under load. Very surprised at those results. Note my ambient temperature is currently 22C. Might have something to do with it. In any case this i5 is not messing around. I havn't done any gaming with it, but I cant see it being an issue. No matter what you throw at it.
I gave this 3 stars for a few reasons. First I would like to say that this thing performs very well. Especially considering its price range and it being a single 120 x 120 mm radiator. However, it's pump is very loud. It is literally the only thing I can hear coming from the case. It has got a little better after running, (air not being circulated through the pump). The second thing would be that the pump top does not include the LED feature, which apparently only comes with the other Kraken models. Overall it is not a bad buy as it does perform well, but as I was going for a silent build, so it will not receive high marks from me. So if you don't care about noise it is a good purchase.
Hey its RAM! I do have to say, I really like DDR4. This is the first module of DDR4 I've worked with so I can't really give it a good comparison. But its fast, good price, and it works. I've heard nothing but good things about the hyperx fury black line, so my expectations are high.
This has got to be the best buy for an SSD in its range. For price per Gigabyte and overall performance, this thing kicks some serious butt. This is the 10th or so build I've used this SSD for and the boot and reboot times are incredible. After post its like 3 seconds or less. Add to that the reliability of the 850 Evo line and you have yourself a winner.
Not much to say about this drive. I use them for general store in my builds. Fast enough and reliable. As well as a great price.
These 900 series from NVIDA are great. Obviously its no 980 but it can handle 1080p gaming no problem. Very quiet opperation with its silent fan technology. Idle temp is around 40c (fans off) with a load at about 49c (fans on). With the backplate, this card also looks great. EVGA has a pretty good stock cooler for this series.
This is a great case for any level of builder. After working on my White Widow build in the NZXT s340, this thing was like working in a basketball court compared to a closet. Plenty of room for water cooling if you want. Great cable management routes and tie points. The fans that come with the case work really well and they are surprisingly very quiet. In case you are curious they are 140mm fans, which I think is a nice touch considering the price point of this case.
It comes with air filters on the front and full length of the bottom of the case. Both easily accessible. The bottom filter is accessible from the front of the case so you don't have to access it from the back. Great job fractal.
It will fit anything you can throw at it. Plenty of room for even the largest of graphics cards. However you might have to remove the center drive bay cage if your card is too long. 12" of clearance with the drive bays installed. 18" without the drive bays installed.
Its modular design is great. You can remove both hard drive cages and the 5.25" drive bays. But at that point you might as well go with the Define S. The top covers are also removable in sections so can remove what you need.
I've seen a large number of builds lately on this site using this case, and for good reason. Buy it.
This is a really good modular power supply. Gold + rated which is good enough for most builds. The RM series is designed for quiet use. The fan only spins up once a curtain load level is reached, making it great for silent builds with low power draw. It also has good capacitors that are designed to reduce coil wine.
There is hardly ever a quiet optical drive, but this one isn't too bad. I personally try to avoid optical drives as they are hardly ever used. But overall this is a good price for a decent Blu-Ray drive. Its front fascia is also really nice.