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Hydra One, Budget mATX

by XRDBlade



Date Published

Dec. 22, 2014

Date Built

Nov. 1, 2014

CPU Clock Rate

3.6 GHz

CPU Temperature While Idle

36.0° C

CPU Temperature Under Load

60.0° C

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.06 GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

5 GHz

GPU Temperature While Idle

38.0° C

GPU Temperature Under Load

74.0° C


My Inspiron 14R (N4010) laptop from 4 years ago wasn't cutting it anymore, so I was eventually due for an upgrade. I started researching on the summer of last year but never had the opportunity to build my personal rig until now.

I wanted the build to look aesthetically pleasing while providing the performance I needed today and the performance I wanted in the future. This was the end result.

Philisophical Mumbo-Jumbo: The main goal was to hit the sweet spot in gaming performance, even if I bottlenecked. The R9 290 was dropping in price and the really sweet-looking XFX R9 290 was on sale for $250 after MIR. I considered the GTX 970, but my budget wasn't in range.

While future-proofing is not a word I want to use, I wanted to upgrade into the next generation with the latest hardware. I don't do any massive projects now, but I want to expand from web design and programming to maybe video editing and 3D rendering later on. I decided starting with the i3 with a Z97 board would pave the way for an overclockable i5/i7 Broadwell processor and a free i3 for my brother to use when he builds his own later.

The form-factor was the hardest to decide when trying to form my final build, but with the announcement of the new Fractal Design Core series, I jumped on the mATX train. I initially wanted to go for an mITX build, but there were no elegant solutions for cases. I chose the Core 1500 for the simple-aggressive look and front panel USB 3.0 with fan controller in the back.

I also wanted a high-quality power supply that would last as long as I want it to, so the Seasonic G based XTR 550W with fully-modular cables and black-sleeving was perfect with a 5-year warranty.

Build Process: Having built and taken apart few computers for some friends and family in the past, the build process was not foreign to me. I just took the extra step because it was my first personal build. The only difficult parts were mounting the motherboard without a magnetic screwdriver and the aligning of the GPU bracket not perfectly in line with the hole of the case. Cable management was improvised and took a long time, but it was worth it and I'm happy with my cable management job.

Thoughts: I'm overall very satisfied with the build, and hasn't disappointed me especially in games and Photoshop. While there is small bottlenecks in performance with CPU heavy/heavily modded games, performance is pleasing and its shocking how the change was from a laptop that's losing its wheels that can't run anything if not slowly to a very capable desktop.

Temperatures are decent for the hot climate I live in. The 290 gets insanely hot though during MSI Kombuster though, hitting 90 degrees after several minutes. In more meaningful tasks, it never goes above 75 and stays at ~40 at idle with a more conservative fan-curve with a mediocre overclock. While the build is silent at idle, noise becomes noticeable in intensive games, but not overpowering. For some reason, I hear crazy coil-whine in loading screens of certain games and medium coil-whine in modded Skyrim. It bothers me a little bit, but I don't mind it that much.

Upgrade Path: i5 "5670k" > 240GB+ SSD > 16GB RAM > Aftermarket CPU Cooler >> GPU upgrade

Benchmarks: Soon™ (Still trying to get maximum stable overclock on memory clock while in Unigine Heaven)

Thanks for the support guys! Hope you liked the build.

Comments Sorted by:

Dubben 1 Build 7 points 52 months ago

Hail Hydra

XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 3 points 52 months ago

I love this community, haha.

Tentons01 2 points 52 months ago

me too! xD You guys can add me on steam you ya like. Name is Tentons01

Rashiq 2 points 52 months ago


XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 4 points 52 months ago

Yeah, my GPU needs a bra for support. :)

Tentons01 1 point 52 months ago

PLEASE upload a picture of your GPU in a bra! We will love you forever! I think a C-cup seems like a perfect fit for your 280. Lace is always nice but then again it is more about support and comfort for the card than the enjoyment of others. You don't have a side window on your case so just go with whatever the 280 wants, you know cards can be picky when it comes to clothing (:

XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 2 points 52 months ago

I only wish I had some lingerie to support that DD. She would look fabulous.

Rashiq 1 point 52 months ago

https://www.victoriassecret.com/ "PREMIUM SOLUTION FOR ANY TYPE OF SAG"

Tentons01 1 point 52 months ago

D: if only MY card looked that good without its case.. She even used to stay on all night with me but now she shuts down before I go to bed :C

Rashiq 1 point 52 months ago

I love mine firm, soft and perky with a side of tan seasoned to taste with me on top!!!

Tentons01 1 point 52 months ago

The heck type of computer are you running bro O-O I want one

Rashiq 1 point 52 months ago

It's a little mysterious.... drops around when I dream in a feminine case with eye popping graphics and later haves me running into the bathroom with a fresh pair of pants!! Every heard of 3 dimensional materialization?? Heard that the version 1.0 is scheduled to come 2080.

Tentons01 1 point 52 months ago

not sure if you should lay off the shrooms or I should lay off the whiskey >.>

revolverlover 2 Builds 2 points 52 months ago

nice cable management, just make sure to tuck the CPU auxiliary power under a heatsink or something to get it out of the way.

XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 1 point 52 months ago

That's a good idea, I'll look to see if I can run it under the heatsink tonight.

captainwaffles 1 point 52 months ago

buddy, i think you just bottlenecked your GPU with an i3.

Tentons01 2 points 52 months ago

It is possible but I don't think the performance hit will be that bad. I have seen a few people use 290Xs and 970s with G3258s without taking much of a blow. I looked up a few benchmarks and this i3 is very close to the G3258. I can't say if it will overclock like it though

I'll see if I can find where I found this but in one test they compared a 970 with both a G3258 and a i5 4670k. They tested games like borderlands 2, skyrim with and without ENB mods, Far Cry 3, and others. If I remember, the biggest FPS difference was only a 9-10 FPS loss with the G3258 but on average it was just a 4-5 loss (I THINK, I may be wrong since it was a while back I read it). Newer games will probably have a much more noticeable hit

I always prefer 4 core CPU's but I don't think there is anything wrong with 2 core for a budget. They offer great performance for the price

XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 2 points 52 months ago

The i3 is very capable. There's minimal if not no bottleneck when it comes to GPU-oriented games. Of course, in Planetside 2 or heavily modded Skyrim, framerate isn't as good as an i5 would provide, but still very strong nonetheless. Same goes for a low minimum framerate, but gameplay is still solid.

Tentons01 2 points 52 months ago

I completely agree. Plus if I was on a budget, I would much rather get a weaker CPU and a strong GPU than the other way around. Works quite a bit better (:

[comment deleted]
tabascosauz 3 Builds 1 point 52 months ago

Just popped in to say that you might be better off waiting for Skylake. The details on Broadwell-DT are still pretty murky, and they'd have to be quite killer to outdo Devil's Canyon. Plus, it'd be an excuse to ditch DDR3! (If Intel sticks to the roadmap and releases Skylake with Broadwell)

Nice build, by the way. I know I would've preferred to have a bit more CPU to rely on than a lower end i3, but it's clear that the Haswell i3s are still quite a bit more capable than 2M/4T Steamroller.

XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 1 point 52 months ago

If Skylake were compatible with the Z97 chipset, I would wait until then for sure. Knowing that it's not, I still feel pretty satisfied that I can wait for a K SKU of Broadwell and overclock it to last a long while. If Skylake were compatible, I'd jump off the bus and wait for sure.

I definitely know what you mean by DDR3, haha. Although, I've heard somewhere that Skylake will come in DDR3 and DDR4 motherboard variants, although we should hope DDR4 cuts in price by then. :)

Thanks, it's really cool to see how an i3 stacks up against other processors.

tabascosauz 3 Builds 2 points 52 months ago

I sometimes feel a bit weird for saying that Intel might offer DDR4 to the mainstream/low end while reserving unlocked Broadwell as the Devil's Canyon replacement. In order for there to be DDR3 and DDR4 boards or hybrid boards like the P5QC, there needs to be memory controllers for both DDR3 and DDR4, if I'm not mistaken. With LGA775 this wasn't so hard, but now that the memory controller has since been moved onto the CPU, it might not be happening unless Intel goes the extra mile to include both on its Skylake CPUs.

Long live Haswell.

Zarzuh 1 point 52 months ago

How is the i3 holding up? Are the minimum framerates dropping below 30?

XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 1 point 52 months ago

All the games I've played so far don't dip below 30 except very rarely in Planetside 2 in insanely heavy Hossin engagements where framerate sometimes sutters to 27. Star Citizen never dips under 20 fps in Arena Commander, stays 50+ in Hangar Module. GTAIV, which is known to be inoptimized, stays above 45. TERA and Minecraft 1.7.10 with shaders at far, which are known to lean towards the CPU, are always above 50.

I don't feel the need to mention any other games since everything else at max is always 60+ fps. The most intensive game I have besides the above right now is probably Warframe and that's no sweat at all.

Zarzuh 1 point 52 months ago

How much extra performance do you think an i5 would serve? And is the i3 at %100 usage most of the time?

Tentons01 1 point 52 months ago

If you overclock the i3 it can actually match an i5 in quite a few applications. Without overclocking I would say an i5 gives an average 20% advantage over the i3.

The only bad thing is that the i3 is dual core. In applications that can use more than 2 cores the i5 will beat the i3 every time even if the i3 is overclocked to the max.

Bretto444 1 Build 1 point 52 months ago

Thanks for all of the good info, especially for mentioning that the i3-4160 handles TERA over 50fps. I love the small case builds, (MICRO-ATX, MINI-ITX). The only thing I would add is an SSD. Other than that, it looks sweet. Definitely +1

salazar75 1 Build 1 point 44 months ago

I have the same case, have you thought about removing the top two drive trays as you aren't using them and removing them might allow better airflow?

Nice build

XRDBlade submitter 1 Build 1 point 44 months ago

Yeah, I've actually already done that. My temps didn't change much, maybe like 1°C max within margin of error. My build definitely looks cleaner, however.

Sorry for the late reply, hopefully this is till relevant to you, haha.