Description

This all started with a friend giving me a great deal on a slightly used MSI Radeon R9 390 graphics card. I took him up on the offer (it was a great offer), then considered using it in my existing "game" system.

Once I took a look at the specs of the "game" system I had, I realized that this would have been a complete insult to the R9 390 to use it in that system.

So as not to insult my awesome new great deal video card, I started building lists of what a "dream" system would be, then toned it down a bit to the list I came up with. I also took the chance to fully involve my children and my wife, as this would be their system also. Fortunately, we're a family of geeks, so this worked well.

We then saved up for several months and purchased the parts in waves. Once the final batch of parts arrived on 3/11/16, we started building.

First...the case. The HAF XB EVO case from Cooler Master is a seriously beefy case. It's about the size of a milk crate with nice sturdy handles on the sides. It also comes almost completely apart allowing for ease of working in the case and assembling parts. Cable management is also a breeze with so much room to work with. Just make sure you plan out where to run what cables before bolting things down and you should be fine. Simply put, I love this case. We did max out the fans in the case for maximum cooling, but that was a relatively inexpensive upgrade and well worth it (especially the 200mm fan that's mounted in the top).

Next...the "guts". After much examining and comparing of reviews, looking at our budget and several hours of Youtube videos about processors, motherboards, and CPU coolers, we landed on using the Intel Core i7-6700K (unlocked for overclocking) mounted in an MSI Z710A Gaming M5 motherboard using a Termaltake Water 3.0 Extreme for CPU cooling. I'm glad we did. The CPU was on the upper end of our budget, but it was worth the extra cost, as was the MSI motherboard (more on that in a moment). I'd never used a liquid cooling system, but after watching many Youtube video reviews of the systems, we elected to go with the Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme. It fit easily and superbly in the HAF XB case (mounted in the front grille). Sitting at idle the system easily keeps the processor at a cool 25C. We've not completely pushed it yet, so I don't know how it will behave under full load (but I'm looking forward to finding out). It was worth the extra expense to go with the liquid cooling system.

The video card (which stated this whole thing) is a dream. I'm normally an nVidia fan, but this AMD card from MSI truly rocks. Graphics are smooth and steady, even with game settings at high (again, though...I've not fully pushed it to the max yet). Even if I hadn't gotten a deal on this card from my friend, I would have been comfortable paying the current price of about $340 for this card. Very very solid graphics card.

For storage, we elected to use a 240GB SSD drive from PNY and a Toshiba 7200 RPM 1TB hard drive. The SSD drive, as expected, is blazing fast as the boot drive and the 1TB storage drive is large. I don't expect to have problems from either of these any time soon.

I had initially planned to use a blu-ray optical drive, but after doing some research found that a lot of users were disappointed with how PCs interface with commercial blu-ray disks without expensive software...and even this things still weren't great. As a result, I elected to stick with the tried-and-true DVD-RW drive. No regrets there, and also no surprises. Nothing to see there...move along.

We elected to get a decent power supply and went with the EVGA 850W ATX12V. This will leave us plenty of ability of add another of the awesome MSI R9 390 (or comparable) cards in the future for utilizing Crossfire. Since Crossfire configurations with the AMD graphics chipset allows you to use cards within the same generation together (rather than requiring the exact same card), I felt that this would allow ample opportunity for "bang for the buck" upgrades in a year or so. (Note that things in this area change a lot, so the nVidia may not require the same cards for linking them together by the time you read this). We just wanted to make sure that when we wanted to add a second video card for Crossfire that we wouldn't have to add another power supply. It is a semi-modular power supply, so this also made using it extremely easy and fast during installation. We also only used the modular cables we had to have, keeping the guts of the system relatively clean of useless clutter cables.

Once it was together, it booted on the first try. Windows 10 installed from scratch super easily (I'd done upgrades, but not a from-scratch install up until this point). The system was up and running in just a few short minutes. The MSI utilities for the motherboard made installing the system board drivers extremely easy, and the utilities for the MSI graphics card were just as simple to install and use. They all come with update utilities also, which makes downloading and installing the drivers simple as can be (which is expected in today's market, but it's still nice to have the utilities work so well as these). I have to say that I'm now fully an MSI fanboy. The documentation did leave a bit to be desired, but it's not difficult to figure out the parts that the documentation doesn't cover well.

Notes on assembly: I'd never used a liquid cooler before (as I mentioned before) and the assembly did take a bit longer than other types of coolers. However, after assembling it and putting it in place, I can say that its doing its job excellently. Being new to liquid cooling makes me a bit nervous, but going the "all in one" approach made it a snap to do.

I was also very surprised how quiet the system is overall. With eight total fans in the system, I expected it to sound like a Harrier Jump Jet taking off or landing, but with only slight exception, the fans run amazingly quiet. They do kick in when things start to get busy, but it's much quieter than I expected it to be. I'm glad I splurged a bit on the Cooler Master brand fans. The noisiest fans in the build are the Thermaltake fans that are part of the liquid cooler. Not a complaint there, but just stating how it is.

Overall, this is the best computer I've ever used. It was a pleasure to build and configure and I don't regret the investment a all. It was a great learning experience for my kids to spec out and build the system together and I expect we will get a long life from this system.

The Kraken Lives! Release The Kraken!

-HitmanHart

Part Reviews

CPU

Excellent processor. It's easily overclockable, but runs extremely fast and very solid even at base speeds. Using this processor will definitely aid in "future proofing" you system for the foreseeable future. I spent $379 on this processor at the time of my build and feel it was a good investment.

CPU Cooler

Took a bit of time and careful reading to assemble (the bracketry is designed to fit many different slot types base on how it's assembled), but it seems to be a very nicely and solidly built liquid cooler. Very much worth the extra expense.

Motherboard

Excellent excellent motherboard. Nice utilities (especially the MSI Commander, which allows you to monitor and tweak BIOS settings from withing the OS). Very much worth the price of $180 I spent on it at the time of my build.

Memory

Fast, a snap (literally) to install, and a great deal at the price. You can't go wrong with Corsair RAM.

Storage

Blazing fast drive. Makes an excellent boot drive...my system restarts in 35 seconds with this drive installed.

Video Card

Amazing video card. Easy to install and configure. It chews up my games, then asks for more. I expect I will be using this card for a while before needing to upgrade. I can't rate this card highly enough.

Case

Best case I've ever used. Easy to work in with plenty of room to assemble the components. All the sides come off and the motherboard mounting tray comes out, which makes installation a breeze. I elected to add more fans, but they were easy to install.

Power Supply

Very solid power supply. The semi-modular cables were easy to install and use, were nice and long, and it came with plenty of cables...more than enough for what I needed in my build.

Case Fan

Nice large and quiet fan. I was surprised by how quietly and smoothly it runs.

Comments

  • 38 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice build :). im 11 doing my first build in one month. Should i use an r9 390 for my build or would that be overkill? Im going to run off of a g4400 @4.4 ghz bclk OC.

  • 38 months ago
  • 2 points

22bo01,

Thanks! "Overkill" isn't really a word you can use when building a gaming system, but allow me to explain that. Budget comes in to play in a big way. In my particular case, I got an amazing deal on the graphics card from a friend, but I would have probably gotten this one anyway (or one very much like it). The HDMI works fantastically smooth and transmits both video and sound, which allows for easy hookup to my existing surround sound system. This card would only be overkill if you're not planning on running the newest games (within the last two or three years, even). A good thing to consider is that you can get a decent video card ($150 range or even a bit less) and upgrading the video card is a very straightforward upgrade later. For me, I plan on adding another of the R9 390 cards in a couple of years when they drop in price to the $150 range (which they will eventually). I'm looking forward to trying out Crossfire mode to see how well it works. My advice would be to decide your build budget first, then get the best balance of components you can in that budget. You'll have plenty of time to upgrade in the coming years (which is the best part about doing your own builds). Best of luck. Try to find a friend to build it with... it helps the building go a lot faster and more fun when you're sharing the experience with others. -HitmanHart

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks, HitmanHart. I will get a gpu around 150-180. Then i'll upgrade it. As for the friend to help me, I learned from watching vids every day and taking out /putting in parts on an old pc that still works. I know no one that can build a pc. The smartest person with pc's besides me in my family is my mom, who can't even put in a gpu or ram. None of my friends know anything too. I will have to teach them.

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

my budget is $500

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

22bpo01,

Check this parts list out (I called this one "The Chimera"): http://pcpartpicker.com/p/3qMpZL

I worked up a few different lists at different price points, but maybe this will give you some ideas to try.

Since none of your friends know how to build a system, maybe you can find one that wants to learn. You always learn more yourself when you're teaching someone how to do something.

Best of luck! HitmanHart

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  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

no i have a square one to deal with till X-mas when i get a 1440p widescreen

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  • 38 months ago
  • 2 points

olafroest.

Thanks! Yes...I did make sure to use the good HDMI. No bottlenecks there. I also did plug the HDMI into the R9 390 and not the motherboard. It was much easier to configure than I expected, also...the newest drivers for the R9 390 made it a snap to set up and configure (as in almost nothing fancy was needed). I did make sure to get the high quality HDMI cable...it was worth the extra expense when all was said and done. As to the processor: I wrestled with that very thing for quite a while when we were designing the system. For us, we had a tiny bit more in our budget than we originally thought and elected to go with the i7 rather than the i5 for the hyperthreading that the i7 brought to the table. I don't regret it one bit, but if I hadn't had the extra budget, I also would have been very okay with the i5-6600k. Take a look here to see the difference on the multi-threaded and memory intensive application performance: http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/576/Intel_Core_i5_i5-6600K_vs_Intel_Core_i7_i7-6700K.html

Thanks! HitmanHart

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  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

olafroest,

Thanks. I've found that the folks here on PCPP are all very knowledgeable and helpful and this forum was invaluable to helping me make sure I had a successful system build.

Your system looks to be very nice and I think it will be a definite "beast" when it comes to running games. Based on my experience so far, the R9 390 is a fantastic video card.

Best of luck!

-HitmanHart

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  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

its actually $58 :D

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

+1 nicely done

  • 38 months ago
  • 3 points

Thanks, hawkeye1. It was fun to build and works like a champ.

I'm just getting rolling with my games. I've installed Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void and then cranked every setting I could up to maximum. The CPU temp never got over 30C and the graphics never stuttered a single time.

Thanks! HitmanHart

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

A Kraken without a Kraken very nice xD

  • 38 months ago
  • 2 points

Vennom,

Thanks! It's been a fantastic experience designing the specs with my kids. Assembling it was a family project and took about 2-1/2 hours (being an educational build, we stopped and talked about the components as we put them all in).

So far, it's performed very well...I'm watching the CPU temps carefully, but the liquid cooling system keeps the CPU core temp easily around 30C.

Thanks!

-HitmanHart

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

I love the build...Especially the price! ;)

  • 38 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks!

I noticed that the price didn't show because I used my parts list as my "checklist" as I ordered the parts in batches. As I received them, I put them into my "inventory" section on my account and assigned them to the build, but that caused the prices to show as "0".

It truly was handy, though, as it was a quick way to see how much I had left to spend on the parts as I went along. I also elected to save the processor and motherboard for last, as they would probably be the two component that were most likely to drop in price right before time to purchase (and they did drop about 5% as I was purchasing the parts).

As I mentioned in the write up, I got a very good deal on the graphics card (gently used), but if I had paid full price for everything it would have come out to about $1400. A bit above my original budget, but since we spread it out over several months, it was worth it.

Thanks again!

-HitmanHart

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

Great Build! I liked that you used the r9 390 in this build I think it fit in very well with all your other parts but it is a power consumer. I bought an r9 380 and it can consume 250+ watts on load. They are powerful cards but come with a bit of a price.

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

Bluepheonix58,

Thanks! We're one week in and the system is running great. I've not overclocked it yet, but I'm looking forward to "revving" it up some to see what it can do. However, right now, I've not run much that can push it to the limit, so overclocking it now won't do much since everything already runs great.

You are 100% right about the power consumption on the video card. I plan to add a second one for Crossfire at some point in the future (maybe a year or two out), so I had to make sure to get the 850W power supply to have enough juice to run it. PCPP made that easy for me to calculate since it tracks wattages of all the components. "Back in the day" I had to do all that math manually.

Thanks again! -HitmanHart

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

I'm sure that will be one great system after you overclock it. It's already a great system but an overclock will push it even further. Also I think you got a great PSU to do that. Hope everything works out.

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

Good stuff! How's the SSD? Not seen that one before x

  • 38 months ago
  • 1 point

Mayuss,

Thanks! The SSD works great...very very fast. I loaded a couple of games onto it just to see how quickly things would load. The first one I tested was XCOM: Enemy Unknown (from 2013, maybe?). I cranked up all the settings to full and the game loads so quickly that the loading animations between game screens barely have time to start before the cutscenes or missions are ready to run.

The system boots up from cold in less than 15 seconds and does a full restart in 32 seconds (yeah...I timed it).

I'd never used an SSD before (I was originally thinking about using a hybrid). I'm glad I got this one and it was pretty cheap off of Amazon (<$70).

-HitmanHart

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

+1 Nice build!

How is the cpu cooler holding up?

Also, why did you not enable xmp profile for your ram?

  • 37 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks! Everything is holding up really well. The cooler does it's job extremely well. Even under load I've not seen it get very hot. I've only heard the fans ramp up once, and that's when I was running 3D Mark and it was hitting it pretty hard.

I didn't enable xmp because I wasn't sure if it was needed. This is the first new system build I've done from scratch in a long time. I must say, though, that even without xmp the system completely rocks. It's the fastest system I've ever used and having built it myself is just a bonus.

Thanks, -HitmanHart

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

Great build man!

Did you use the 80mm fans for intake or exhaust?

  • 15 months ago
  • 2 points

Thank you for the compliment...it's been a fantastic system so far.

Good question (sorry it took me so long to respond).

Intake. I went against the grain a little bit on my build and set up everything to exhaust the heat out the top.

I have to say, though, that it's worked like a champ. My system is in an open-faced entertainment center, but it's a tight fit...the design has stayed very cool and I've had no overheating problems at all (so far).

  • 7 months ago
  • 1 point

My dad built his home server, streaming, and gaming computer in this exact case!

He used dual GeForce GTX 970s in SLI and an FX-8350 (or 8530, I don't know the exact model name, I don't pay attention to any CPUs over 4 cores that well), with 32GB of RAM, dual 1TB hard drives, and a 250GB SSD for some games and for boot.

PC looking good +1