Description

This is my current home desktop PC. It was my 3rd "from ground-up" build, hence the name. The original build of Echellon3 was started in fall 2011, but it has seen many upgrades and add-ons throughout the years. Its primary use is FPS gaming, but I also enjoy watching high-quality movies from time to time. The hardware is still relevant today, as I can continue to play modern games on ultra-high and maximum settings.

The Core i5 2500K has possibly been the best chip I have ever owned. I have been running this chip at 4.4GHz (without overvolting) on air cooling since day-1 and it's never had a hiccup. My idle temps are around 28C, and my extreme burn-in temps peak under 60C thanks to the Cooler Master V8 with an upgraded Delta Electronics high performance 120mm PWM fan, and a delicately applied layer of Arctic Silver 5.

The 2x4GB G.Skill DDR3 1333MHz memory has also been wonderful on this build. Although I wasn't able to push a stable overclock without overvolting, I did manage to tighten up the timings to a respectable 8-8-8-21. I've recently added an additional 8GB of G.Skill Ripjaw 1600MHz memory to bring the system up to 16GB total utilizing all four DIMMs.

The ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 has also been wonderful. This board has allowed me to thoroughly experiment with the DRAM and CPU settings with little heartache. There are plenty of fan headers, including two 4-pin PWM CPU fan headers. It has PCIe 3.0, and six SATA ports including two for SATA3. I am genuinely happy with ASRock, and will probably go with them again in the future.

My storage configuration is often a mess. I am constantly trying new configurations with different makes and models, looking for the right combination of performance, reliability, and cost effectiveness. For the OS, I originally started with an OCZ Vertex3 60GB SSD on AHCI mode and attached to a SATA3 port. I then upgraded that last year to a PNY XLR8 120GB SSD, which gave a small performance boost and plenty of storage breathing room for the OS and day-to-day programs. (I threw the old OCZ SSD into my HP Mini-110, which gave new life to the little Atom powered netbook. )

Recently, I decided to experiment with the Intel RAID on the motherboard. I am currently testing RAID0 (simple striped performance) with a triplet set of 80GB drives that were salvaged from some older machines. They are WD800JD Blue 3.5” 7200rpm disks with 8mb of cache, which I attached to SATA2 ports. So far, performance has been pretty decent at about half the read/write of a typical SSD – about 150-180MB/s on most file transfers. Windows 7 boots in about 20-25 seconds, which is bearable. The PNY is being unused and still contains my previous Windows 7 installation in case I decide to revert back to AHCI storage mode.

I have a Samsung 840 EVO 250GB alongside a new Samsung 850 EVO 250GB running RAID0, both connected to SATA3 ports. This configuration gave me 465GB of ultra-performance storage for my games. I have broken the 1000MB/s read/write barrier with these SSDs!

My primary storage drive is a WD4003FZEX. It’s a 4TB Black Series with 64MB cache and SATA3 support. I use this drive for everything minus OS and games; pictures, music, documents, video/movies, OS backups, game backups, and program installation file backups. I also use this drive to backup other PCs in my home across the network. Current storage use is in the 1.5TB ballpark.

For graphics, I started with a single MSI N460GTX Hawk (GTX 460 1GB) video card in 2011. I then added a 2nd EVGA GTX 460 reference design card after about 6 months, which was roughly a 95% performance bump on 1080P gaming. From there, I upgraded to a single EVGA GTX 660Ti 3GB. I attempted to add a 2nd of the same GPU a few months later, but it was a discontinued item and nearly impossible to find at a reasonable price. So, I sold the 3GB version and purchased two of the same GPU in the 2GB flavor resulting in a SLI EVGA GTX 660Ti 2GB configuration. After about a year, I decided to start gaming on a new level - I purchased a single EVGA GTX 780 Classified 3GB card, alongside a new monitor (detailed later.) That is my current configuration and I plan to keep it through the remainder of 2015.

Included in the original build was a Cooler Master Storm Scout ATX mid-tower case. It was a very good case for the price (roughly $70). Probably the best part was the very sturdy top handle. But, when I decided to upgrade my video card to the monstrous GTX 780 Classified, I ran into clearance issues inside the case. So, naturally I decided to stick with what I knew worked well, and that was Cooler Master. I purchased the Storm Scout 2 Advanced in black, and it has been one of the best purchases I've made to date. This case has water cooling support, dual top and front 140mm fans, dual 120mm side fan mounts, UPS3.0 front ports, lots of cable management, a modular 2.5"/3.5" HDD drive cage, and of course a sturdy top handle. It even turned out that the GTX 780 Classified could fit into the case without having to remove the HDD cage. That left the potential for future expansion into my current six disk storage configuration.

I found the Thermaltake 850W TR2-RX during a rebate period and saved $30, which turned out to be a good decision. I've had no issues with this PSU even under massive SLI-GPU power loads (600-700W). Even though it is a semi-modular design, I needed all of the permanently attached cables for my build anyway. I then used an additional SATA strand, and a PCIe 8-pin strand to complete power delivery to all the internal components.

As for my peripherals, the Corsair K70 Gaming keyboard is top notch. I really like the black brushed aluminum frame and per-key LED backlighting. As an example of how customizable the software is, I've set up the lighting effects to give a rapid 3-burst white strobe during each keystroke, which is mesmerizing as hell. Somehow, I got hooked on trackball style mice years ago, thus why I have the M570 from Logitech. It's obviously not an enthusiast's gaming mouse, or a gaming mouse at all, but it gets the job done and leaves me pain-free after hours of gaming.

The monitor is a budget Korean housed Samsung PLS with WQHD resolution (1440P) at 60Hz and matte finish screen. I picked it up from Newegg when I purchased the GTX 780 for a decent $300 shipped.

I am a contracted Newegg Eggxpert product reviewer, so many internal components were provided free of charge from the various manufacturers which is why you’ll see them purchased for $0.0 on my build list.

More/better images to come...

Comments/questions welcome. Thanks for looking.

Oh, almost forgot. There's no optical drive in the build list, but during the initial build, I was using a LG Blu-ray ROM, DVD-RW combo. I concluded that it took way too much extra cabling and used up a precious SATA port for a device that gets used maybe twice a year, so I removed it. I have a Buffalo USB2.0 DVD/RW drive that I can use if needed.

Update I've reverted back to a single OS drive - PNY XLR8 120GB. The RAID-0 WD 80GB configuration is back into the box of spare computer parts. My boot speed has been cut in half, and file searching is a fraction of before. :-)

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Comments

  • 61 months ago
  • 2 points

Although the latest and greatest will usually have some type of an advantage to prior generation components it is great to see builds like this that last through a bit of time with some modification.

It would be nice to see more internal photos but this is very nice !!

  • 61 months ago
  • 3 points

When I built this PC, I was expecting 2, maybe 3 years of use. But It's now going on 4 years old and still going hard. I've been blown away by the performance of the 2500K chip!

More photos to come soon. Thanks!

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Wow, thanks for the extra images. It looks like somebody enjoys photography as well. Is there much clearance for the V8? I always liked the look but was concerned regarding its size.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I like your build, but you may want to eventually swap out the drives, and perhaps not even use RAID. The Samsung SSD is a solid choice, but you could have used Crucial SSD's they offer much greater value. WD drives are always top notch hope they're serving you well. If you're in a need in a high performance drive the WD Black edition is the best you can get.

  • 61 months ago
  • 2 points

After doubling the read/write performance of my storage with the RAID0 configuration, I probably won't go back to straight AHCI on SATA. However, I do want to eventually grab some more SSD's to run Windows on RAID0 and ditch the old WD 80GB disks.

And yes, you're right. The WD Black series is definitely my favorite for mechanical disks. As you can see from the 4TB Black Series benchmark image, it's hard to beat those numbers with any other desktop mechanical disk except maybe a Velociraptor.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I had the same chip 2500k and the r9 290, with 16 gigs of ram and just a small 120 gig ssd on win 8.1. and the same mobo as you the z68 extreme g3. Although I just oc the chip to 4 not 4.4 ..it ran bf4 game like a champ. Miss the computer but had to sell the rig due to some last minute unforeseen medical bills. I chose the corsair h60 to cool the cpu and the corsair carbide 500r case. I want to see a 2500k vs. a newer haswell i5 with the sameGPU (970 to be specific) video playing multilayer games. I bet there is not much fps difference. nice build!!!

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Amazing build I must say! The CM Storm Scout 2 has been a favorite of mine for awhile now, such a good case but so hard to find nowadays, always sold out :( I'm happy your build is going four years strong. Looks super nice. Congrats :)