Wireless Network Adapter
BUILD COMPLETED: 9/20/2013
(Psst, the best pics are at the end imo - it's a sort of pictorial build log, so all the glamour shots come after the assembly!)
Hey all, LeMonarque back again! :)
My second build, this time for my brother. I finished my first build a little over a month ago, and ever since then I've been "the computer guy" among my friends and family...
My brother's old HP Pavilion laptop (i5, GTX 260M, 1360x768 I believe) is dying, so he asked me for advice on a new system. He wanted another laptop! My question right away was how much he was willing to spend on a new laptop. He said $1500, so immediately I told him that he'd get way more value out of a $1000 desktop and a basic $500 laptop for school use instead of just a $1500 laptop. So at that, we got to work!
He won't be doing anything more intensive than gaming on his system, so the goal of this build was to enhance the user experience in the most significant areas: SSD, GPU, acoustics.
The AMD FX-6300 is an absolute steal of a deal for gaming systems. It's not quite an i5, but damnit, it's less than HALF the price and performs well enough compared to one that I won't lose any sleep! I was looking for a good processor that wouldn't severely bottleneck the system, and the FX-6300 covers that requirement. A nice thing I found out after building is that it runs extremely cool - 22 C idle and 45 C load at stock clocks. My only previous experience with CPU heat output was the i7-4770K from my personal rig, so I was blown away at how cool the FX-6300 runs. I thought there was a mistake at first, but then I read up online.
For the motherboard I wanted a 990X or 990FX motherboard so that my brother would have the option to SLI in the future. I feel that it gives a massive increase in value for a motherboard. One thing I also looked out for was ASUS boards with Fan Xpert. As long as the price of the motherboard wasn't too out of line with the best overall value motherboard from any manufacturer, I leaned toward Fan Xpert-compatible boards because it removed the need for a fan controller. As it turned out, the ASUS M5A99X EVO R2.0 has Fan Xpert and was the cheapest 990X motherboard at the time of purchase!
RAM was pretty bog standard here; 2x4GB DDR3-1600 CAS 9. Luckily the most inexpensive set at the time of purchase came from G.Skill and was a color that matches perfectly with the blue heatsinks on the ASUS board. It's shade-perfect.
I wanted good power for a good price in the GPU, and after reading a lot of reviews I decided on the GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II by ASUS. Reviews claim that it's a very quiet, very cool card. They weren't kidding. The fan is audible at 100%, but not loud by a longshot. It's an outstandingly designed cooler. I thought my GTX 780 DirectCU II was quiet, but this 660 Ti blows that away. The target display settings here is 1920x1080 @ 60Hz, and the 660 Ti is more than capable of fluid 60 fps in most games maxed at stock clocks. A few weeks ago I would have called the 660 Ti a fool's purchase over the GTX 760, but prices have finally begun to come down, and this particular card was bought on sale.
Chassis. Needed something simple, functional, but with a window at a good price. My brother didn't care about front panel USB 3.0, so we were able to go with the NZXT Source 210 Windowed. It's a great bargain case, but it was a bit of a bear to work with. There is literally no extra clearance once the motherboard is screwed in. The tray and case was designed to fit an ATX board as tightly as possible to save on production costs. As a result the motherboard and PSU are millimeters apart, and the motherboard and top of the case are barely 25mm apart, which is the width of a standard case fan (ie, zero clearance between fan and board).
The case has a cutout on the top left corner for the CPU power connector, but installing the motherboard blocks half the cutout. At that width, the plastic connector on the CPU power cable can't fit through the hole, which meant that I had to unscrew the motherboard, route the CPU power cable, and then reinstall the motherboard. There's not much room for cable management on the back panel. Overall, it was a pain to work with, and if given a chance to do things over again I would have picked a more expensive but less convoluted chassis. That being said, it does offer several fan mounts for its size and I probably expected too much from a case this inexpensive.
Also, the case is barely wide enough to support a Hyper 212 EVO. The copper heat pipes that stick out from the top of the heatsink nearly touch the acrylic window, so if you're interested in the NZXT Source 210 and the Hyper 212 EVO, take this into account. You could easily scratch the window on the heat pipes by flexing the side panel. Given that this chassis is a budget chassis, NZXT really should have designed it slightly larger to safely accommodate one of the most widely used budget computer items: the Hyper 212 EVO/Plus CPU cooler.
Fans: We didn't buy a single fan for this build, but still managed to fill 4/6 case fan mounts and run the Hyper 212 EVO in push-pull.
I had 4 extra fans from my previous computer build: 1x white Cooler Master R-S4S 140mm fan, 1x black Cooler Master R-S2S 120mm fan, and 2x Corsair SP120L. I mounted the 140mm Cooler Master fan, which came with the Storm Stryker I used in my first build, on the rear top mount. The 120mm Cooler Master fan, taken from the extra Trooper HDD cage I ordered (hence being black instead of white) was screwed into the upper front intake mount. The Corsair SP120L's were the stock fans from my H100i, and I used them both on the Hyper 212 EVO because of their higher static pressure and the fact that Cooler Master was nice enough to include a 2nd set of fan mounting brackets with the heatsink. And finally, since I decided to use both SP120L's on the Hyper 212 EVO, I was able to take the stock Hyper 212 EVO fan and mount it as a case fan to the lower front spot as an intake.
I made the conscious decision to mount the H212 EVO fan on the lower front and the Trooper 120mm fan on the upper front to stay true to the same concept I used in my first build: feed the GPU fans as much fresh air as possible. The stock H212 EVO fan is designed to have somewhat higher static pressure than the average case fan, which means that its airflow pattern is more uniform than a case fan's, which is designed to disperse air in a large area. As a result, a static pressure fan can be used to focus a stream of air to a specific spot in the chassis. In this case, the lower front bay fan mount was directly under the GPU, which meant that a static pressure fan there could feed a strong, steady stream of fresh intake air to the GPU fans.
The PSU decision was partly functional, partly aesthetic. The functional side is that it's a modular PSU rated for 80+ Bronze efficiency that is part of the quality NZXT HALE82 line. It's 550W, which is more than enough for the chosen parts at overclocked power draw and leaves room for a second GTX 660 Ti later on (ignore Nvidia's recommended specs folks; unless you've got 20 hard drives and two water cooling pumps). Aesthetically, it's a white PSU that contrasts nicely with the black case.
OS: Simple choice here. For gaming, we went only has high as needed, which meant either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 8. My brother chose Windows 7 HP because he feels more comfortable using it. And really, that's all that matters. All the talk of system resource usage between the two is meaningless. When most users don't take their rigs past gaming loads, and even more users never take their big-box store-bought computers past YouTube or BluRay loads, the only thing that matters in OS choice is how comfortably you can navigate through your computer. If my brother liked the setup of Windows 8 more, he would have chosen it, simple as that.
Monitor: My brother wanted a small 1080p monitor, which basically means a 21.5" screen. I picked the most promising inexpensive IPS matte display I could find. So far the monitor is working without a hitch. The only complaint I have is that the stand is a bit flimsy, but that comes with the territory of buying a low-cost monitor. Went IPS because my brother mostly plays RTS and MOBA games, where refresh rate isn't as important. But even if he was a heavy FPS gamer, I still think I would have recommended an IPS panel for him. Simply because I think the color reproduction of an IPS panel is just too stellar to pass up, especially given that the cost for IPS panels has gone down significantly and is slowly becoming a new standard, whereas high refresh rate monitors are becoming a premium.
Keyboard: Picked the least-crappy basic rubberdome keyboard we could find. It turns out that the Logitech K120 is a pretty nice keyboard actually! It feels great to type on. The rubberdomes are a lot more snappy than most rubberdomes. There isn't any "mushy key" feeling when typing, and overall we were really surprised and impressed given how inexpensive the board is.
Mouse: This GM-FORCE M7 by Gigabyte has to be one of the best laser mice for the money. It has a DPI rocker, two side buttons, and is the exact same form factor as a Razer Deathadder, only it costs just $29.99, much cheaper. I really don't think it can be beat at that price as far as laser gaming mice go.
And that's the build! Once again I've made a wall of text in the opening post. Since this computer is now my brother's, I don't know if/when I can expect any updates on overclocking, which he does plan to get around to sometime. The build was smooth for the most part. The only caveat was the CPU power cable cutout being blocked by the motherboard itself and general frustration with the design mentality of the case.
Again, I'd like to thank Phillip and the crew for their outstanding work on this website. This time around I was more seasoned, but the site was still my go-to place for configuring a build and helped simplify the task of explaining parts to my brother, who doesn't have any experience with custom PC's. The build was a great experience for me, because my previous build had a $2700 budget without peripherals and ended up being $3300. This build had a $1000 budget WITH peripherals. It gave me a new insight into the different options you have available at different price points. I hope my explanations made sense and helped you in some way if you're a new builder. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the pictures!