In Spring 2016 I decided it was time to build a new system. This is the result.
System Goals: I game a bit, so wanted to future proof this while not breaking the bank. I sometimes screen capture, and play with streaming occasionally, so wanted to be well situated for this, too.
I also dabble in photography, which was the initial catalyst for looking at the 5820K/x99 platform. More on this in CPU review.
I poached whatever I could from my previous rig, but replaced most main components. Old system still works great, should I succeed in talking SO into gaming with me :) I "zeroed-out" the cost of any parts I carried over in the part list.
I use Lightroom which led me to going for more than 4 cores, whereas I understand a pure gaming rig doesn't really need more than 4 with today's threading. I also tend to have 10 programs going in tandem with 30 Chrome tabs and the like. Along with screen capturing and potentially streaming, I think this was the natural course without going crazy. Other prospects were Devil's Canyon 4790K and Skylake 6700K. Passmark benchmarks also helped my decision: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html#cpuvalue. As of this writing, 5820K, 4790K and 6700K are ranked 53, 69, and 70, respectively.
OC'd from 3.3 to 4.4 with little effort. Core running at < 1.2v. Could probably go lower, or push CPU further, but don't feel the need. Very happy so far. Coupled with Noctua NH-D15.
Did my own passmark test: http://www.passmark.com/baselines/V8/display.php?id=62073047920
Started out building with a Corsair H100i AiO water cooler, but integrated fan cables didn't work. Lucky I didn't fry my CPU messing around with it. I RMA'd initially for a replacement, but after doing more research decided to go with a Noctua. VERY glad I made this switch. It's a monster, but quiet with amazing performance. Installation instructions were very clear. No issues.
Cheers to Newegg for the painless and free RMA process with H100i. I also contacted Corsair for RMA, but would have had to pay for return shipping myself going that route.
Got lots of deals/rebates on parts, principally the 5820K CPU and ASRock Extreme4 motherboard from Micro Center. Extreme4 in particular was phenomenal deal when compared to the cost of many other boards for x99 chipset. So many people spending $400 for Asus Deluxe--I felt compelled to do the same, but luckily kept researching and landed on ASRock. WHY the draw to ridiculously priced boards, people??? Extreme4 does everything I need. No, it doesn't have 2 Ethernet ports, or built in bluetooth/wifi, but is that really worth $200+?? Some of the pricier boards have 10+ USB, but I have that many, too, once coupled with case. Me thinks Asus and others have good marketing or zombie consumers.
This is my first full tower case and it was a dream having so much room to work with. Tucking cabling behind the mobo is such a smart idea; kudos to whoever came up with that. I don't make my case the room centerpiece and invite people over to witness it's magnificent radiance, but it feels good looking into a sharp, uncluttered case. On that note, there is no purposeful theme here. The case came with red fans, and I had a blue one in storage so that's where I ended up. Had adult beverages been flowing during this write up, I might have feigned intention and called this my Elmo and Cookie Monster Dinner Party rig or some such.
HDD bays by default come oriented so fans pull air perpendicularly in from left, across and out the right side of the case. This can be adjusted to the more usual arrangement of fans pulling in from front, out the back into the main cavity of the case. I considered going with the typical arrangement, but ultimately liked the idea of keeping any HDD heat completely separated from the main chassis. I only did this after learning I could install additional fans in the base of the case, to push air up toward the cpu heatsink intake, top and rear fans. I removed the SDD tray/rack (SSD's can still be installed along with other HDD's in the usual bays) from the inside case floor to clear the way. My hope is that this is creating good air flow, in from bottom, drawing across motherboard and out the top/rear of the case. The bottom "hidden drawer" completely covers the second fan I installed, so ultimately am not using it. Great flexibility here, ++ would buy again.
One of the main things I was looking for in a new case was a handle. I'm not a big LANer anymore, but even the once or twice a year I want to move my computer around, it's going to be so nice having a handle instead of having to pick it up from the bottom with two hands. That said, this rig is HEAVY with everything in it, I was surprised. Very nearly too much to even use the handle, which is hilarious.
Decided to make the jump to Windows 10 with this build. After a few days, I find it surprisingly great. Maybe it's partly the new rig and the expected speed of a fresh OS install, but 10 is peppy, slick and intuitive so far. Love using Windows key for quick searching/running apps. Seems much smarter/accurate than Win 7. I quite enjoy the start menu "tiles" or whatever they're called, too.
The OS will annoy you by default with tons of safety popups, but figure out how to turn off all that stuff if you're comfortable and you'll be happy. I can live with MS's "better safe than sorry" default settings.
First the good. This keyboard feels amazing. Pretty confident I made the right personal choice going with Cherry MX Brown switches. No loud click, but has tactile "bump." Actually, they were still louder than I expected/wanted (can't imagine what blue switches sound like), so I added o-rings. It's been so long I don't remember what the original felt like, but I suppose this is better since I kept the rings on :) Subjective.
This keyboard is small, sharp looking, and feels very solid. Very little if any wear after a year, looks pretty much new. I'm not writing Atlas Shrugged-length novels on this, but I use it a lot. Unfortunately the light under my "5" key dimmed probably 6 months after getting it, and is very noticeable in the dark. Almost looks completely dead sometimes. I removed the key cap and compared to an adjacent key; it's just not as bright as the others anymore for some reason. Anyway, if this format is what you're looking for, this might be a good choice.
But about the format! This is a TK keyboard. "Tenkeyless." This keyboard combines the number pad and arrows with the control keys (ins/delete/home/end), so they share keys. Numlock toggles. It's surprisingly annoying having to switch between the two modes. Further, the key backlighting and media keys are combined with the "F" keys, and toggled with a function (FN) key. Again, annoying. I use these keys all the time and want them available at.. well, the push of a SINGLE key.
I knew all of this when I bought the keyboard, but figured I'd give it a try. Lesson learned. Now, it's not just the toggling alone that's aggravating, but the nuance of how it was implemented. The number pad is toggled immediately when hitting numlock--so one quick click and you're toggled until you hit numlock again. This is fine I guess--I got pretty used to toggling on the numpad, doing whatever I needed to do, and toggling off when finished. 2 extra keystrokes. However, the FN doesn't operate the same way. This key operates like a modifier key (like Shift or Ctrl--I'll call this a "quick click"), unless you hold it down for about 2 seconds, at which point it toggles on like numlock until another "long press." This is generally nice, with one big exception: a quick click does not get you the expected reversed behavior if the FN key has been toggled on. Meaning if I want to quick save a game using F5, while FN is toggled on, I actually can't unless I take 2 seconds to long press the FN key to untoggle. Why can't a FN quick click give me default function keys when FN is toggled on? This probably sounds a bit picky, but the annoyance factor builds over time. I use volume media keys more than standard function keys, but I'm forced to leave FN toggled off, otherwise I have no function keys without having to wait the 2 seconds. If you're adjusting volume by holding the FN key briefly, and don't intend to toggle FN on, you need to be careful not to hold it too long, otherwise it will toggle, then you need to hold it again to un-toggle. It's just not a great system and gets super frustrating after awhile.
I'm now looking for a keyboard that has all of these keys dedicated. Considering Logitech G910 Orion Spark or Corsair K95. Pricey, but for something I use every day, often for extended periods of time, it's worth it. Maybe I'll take this TK to work.
I'm rating this 3/5 stars, -1 for the backlight issue so early on in ownership, and -1 for the FN key driving me crazy. If they had included "reverse FN" while FN is toggled on, I think I could handle this keyboard better. With that said, it's truly a solid device, that feels amazing to type on. If you don't care about media functionality and want a smaller footprint, this is a great choice. I would rate it 3.5/5 if I could.
Edit 5/31/16: I picked up the LG G910 Orion Spark to replace this. Dedicated keys for everything do not disappoint, although typing itself is not as smooth/fun. Hopefully I only need to get accustom to it.
I picked up this keyboard to replace my CM Storm QuickFire TK. I absolutely love the feel of that keyboard, but I was continually annoyed by sharing keys and needing to toggle back and forth to get the functions I wanted. I know, this is a part of the design, but even so it could have been designed a bit better. So I started looking for a new mechanical keyboard that had all dedicated keys. Figured I'd also get something with cool lighting effects while I was at it. Landed on the G910.
First the good. As expected, not needing to toggle between functions & media keys, or numeric & control keys is SO NICE. I had mostly gotten used to the latter, so now I need to unlearn having to check what mode I'm in. Having media and function keys at all times is HUGE for me. I've really felt crippled this whole time I was on the QuickFire. Of particular note is the volume "wheel." It super sensitive and feels great to use. It doesn't have a "click" like many mouse wheels, but rather is completely smooth. I can go from 0 to 100 in 3 rolls, which means in practice I can pretty much go from any initial volume up or down to whatever I need in a single roll. I was excited to have a volume wheel, but it's even better than I thought it would be.
The RGB lighting effects are a lot of fun to play with, if a bit of a gag and not exactly granting additional utility to the keyboard. I am surprised there aren't a few different intensity levels, but there seems to just be the one. Also a little strange that the media key backlighting does not change along with the rest of the keys, but honestly it's not a huge deal to me.
I haven't used the programmable G keys for much yet, although I do have a couple things set up for bringing up calculator and calendar apps. The former is built into the software, so that one you can just select. Getting calendar assigned to a key was a little harder, and came down to recording a multi-key macro that hits the Windows key, waits 0.01 seconds for it to load, then types "calendar" and hits enter. I actually just made a "weather" macro, too. It's pretty neat. I don't see myself setting up profiles for different games, or even using the separate M2/M3 button profiles, but I dig having the option.
Now the bad/annoying. I'm not completely sold on the Romer-G keys, which are LG's attempt at mechanical switches. To be fair, maybe I just need to get acclimated to them. I've been using my QuickFire for a while now, which has Cherry MX Brown, so naturally I'm used to it. I'm really hoping with time I come to prefer the Romer-Gs, but since I still use my old keyboard (now set up for my work computer) I am going back and forth a lot these days, giving lots of opportunity to compare. The Cherry MX Browns just feel sharper and smoother. The Romer-Gs, while no where near feeling like membrane keys, actually do feel like they are a small step in that direction. They are just a little "squishy" when compared to my Browns. I should note that I added o-rings to my Browns, so they are not stock. They are a bit more shallow, and you'd almost think the added rings would make them feel a bit squishier and indeed bring them closer to the Romer-Gs, which are designed with a more shallow actuation point. But no, the Browns still feel sharper and nicer.
I'm also having trouble typing on the G910, it's strange. I'm not sure if it's the wrist guard (I'm using the bigger one, more on this later) or the angled key caps or what. So far my typing is just a mess, while switching back to my QuickFire for work is a delight. I've read that the G910 keys are actually a little closer together, too. If that's true (I haven't measured or anything) then surely that's part of it. Again, I hope this will abate with time.
About the wrist guards. There are two, small and big. I'm not really happy with either. And because of the keyboard design, it's not really possible to use neither and have a separate wristguard that will nicely butt up to the edge of the keyboard. It's hard to describe, but their is a fixed outer frame that the wristguards click into. I also feel like this keyboard isn't angled toward me enough. With the feet underneath extended the keyboard still feels like it's completely level with my desk. I really wish there was a second longer extension I could use. Pretty sure I'm going to rig something for that, because my hands feel fatigued.
This keyboard retails at $180, which is very steep. I picked mine up for $135, and it's very recently dropped to $116 on Amazon. It was $90 Black Friday week, so you can (and should) get this for way less than $180. I think it's well priced in the $115-$140 range.
Oh I almost forgot to mention the ARX Dock. That's because I don't use it at all. I appreciate LG's approach in that they opted to not include a proprietary screen, which would have been limited in capability and raised costs further. Instead they let customers use their smart phone, which of course they have. This was a good idea. A lot of people are also mad that the ARX Dock doesn't have a place for your phone to charge, but ports change every couple years and I already have 18 cables at various key locations ready to charge my phone. I think LG did everything right here. I did download/use the app just out of curiosity, but I just don't need a screen on my keyboard.
After typing and thinking about everything I've written here, I certainly can't rate the keyboard anything more than 4/5, and I think there's an argument for 3/5. Some of my objections are admittedly preference based, but things like the wrist guards, crunched keys (if that is indeed the case), and keyboard angle make using the keyboard feel less enjoyable than other keyboards. It's fair to consider the price, too. If this were a $100 keyboard, it would get a strong 4/5 rating from me. However, it's high retail cost elevates the Orion to the ranks of elite gaming keyboards, with harsher judgement.
For now I'm leaving the rating a 4/5, driven by optimism that I will grow to enjoy the keyboard more as I use it, and the fact that given everything I've said, it's still a great keyboard with tons of features I was looking for.