Hello, folks! This is a gaming build I made for myself a few months back around the Black Friday. I'm uploading it again, because of the few parts that I added and to also write a few things about my experience with these parts. Took some better pictures this time around as well.
CPU: It has been doing really great. Any one of its cores has never reached more than 80% during gaming and the overall load across the CPU usually hovers around 50-60% in games like Euro Truck Simulator Multiplayer and Far Cry 4. I think this CPU packs a very good degree of future proof in it. Especially, if I install an aftermarket cooler on it.
CPU cooler: The Intel stock cooler is very quiet and rather efficient I have to say. Not something I would recommend replacing unless you want to overclock.
Motherboard: It really has it all that I could ask for. Z97 chipset to allow for future overclocking and an option to SLI the 970. It comes with front 3.0 USB and 2x3pin fan connectors and 1x4pin. The UEFI is very friendly and offers overall good control over your PC. I have not yet tried overclocking, but just from exploring the options it has, it seems pretty user-friendly.
The only issue, I've had so far, is that I was not able to meaningfully control the 3-pin case fan, which I connected to the 4-pin slot on the motherboard.
RAM: It's 1600 MHz 9cas memory for a great price. Thanks to its big heat spreaders it should overclock really well, but I have not attempted that yet either. However those heat spreaders come with their downside as well - I am second guessing whether I could fit a Cooler Master Hyper EVO 212 with them. I might have to move one of the chips to the slot, which is not dual channeled with the farthest away slot. I do not think this will slow down my system by a noticeable amount though.
SSD: My initial plan was to only have 256 GB of storage, as I didn't have that many games. However because of Christmas and all those nice family, friends and girlfriend, who decided that it would be very appropriate to get me games to play on my new PC, I was forced to buy a second storage device. Horribly inconsiderate folk altogether. (j/k)
I was debating whether to get a 1TB Barracuda or a second SSD for about a week. The Barracuda sells for around £43 here and the 240-256GB SSD for around £73-75. I do not store great amounts of music or any films at all and I am quite the noise freak, so the dilemma was rather difficult. But then the Kingston went on sale for 80% of its usual price and was delivered to my door a few days later. I expect this SSD to last me at least until Christmas 2016.
I use the Crucial as a boot drive and have the majority of my games and applications on it. The rest of my games are stored on my Kingston. I really do not notice a difference between the two. They are both very responsive and quick. The Crucial boots my PC to a usable Windows from a cold boot in less than 10 seconds. My monitor takes about 5 to boot so if I click the PC button first, they boot pretty much simultaneously.
GPU: This section will be long, so for those, who can't be bothered: Good GPU, but has its flaws 3.4 out of 5 stars. The VRAM issue does not concern me personally, but it's an enraging thing to do by Nvidia nonetheless.
Back, when I was ordering the parts for this PC, the 970 was a pure nobrainer. The question was, which 970, do you go for? I decided that I was going to follow the logic of the build guidelines posted on the website and just go for the cheapest 970 there is. This Zotac in particular is by far not a bad GPU, however there are a few issues that I feel customers should be aware of before purchasing it.
The temperature on this GPU are rather high for a single GTX 970. Before I purchased the case fans I would consistently get 80c or even 81-82C on the GPU with GPU fans as high as 58%. The good thing is that the GPU stays quiet even at heavy loads and 82C is not really a dangerous temperature. However for those like me, who would prefer their electronics running cooler - don't look at this GPU or if you do, pack 2-3 140mm case fans to go with it or be ready to change the fan curve (which you can fairly easily due through Zotac's Firestorm or MSI's Afterburner) and experience a slightly noisier GPU.
Overclocking. I have been trying for 3-4 days to get a meaningful overclock out of this GPU. And I do, with decent temps. But unstable. Even if it passes 3 Unigine Heaven benchmarks, it crashes after 15 minutes of Far Cry 4 at just a 180Mhz clock. Actually what I think has been causing the crashes is the VRAM. It's not stable even at 300MHz overclock over the stock 3.5 GHz. Therefore I have kind of resigned of trying to overclock the GPU. The only game that I need to overclock it for is Far Cry 4. And I get 70-80 FPS on Ultra anyway. However with Nvidia settings without an overclock I get 25-45 FPS. They do look pretty good though. When Ubisoft said they're going to make their games for 30 FPS, they meant it. Truly did. I have been considering a second GTX 970 simply to get that 60 FPS on Nvidia settings. With a good overclock though I think that a single 970 can give you very playable 40-60 FPS, with very rare 35 FPS dips. That is why I wish I had gotten a different 970, which would overclock better. Also a different case, which would allow for 140mm/200mm fans and bottom/side mounted fans. With unstable clocks of around +190 core and 300 memory clock I have been able to play Far Cry 4 on Nvidia settings with around 40-50 FPS, with occasional dips to the low 30s.
Another reason, why I wish I had gotten a different 970 is the fact that given it's already not amazing cooling I would think twice before putting it in SLI. That would completely kill the potential for any overclock. Also it would cause the top GPU to run rather noisy and warm, even if you have a very good airflow in your case.
Those cables connecting the GPU to the PSU look horrific though.
All that said, from what I've seen from other Zotac 970s, I think I just got a bad one. Maybe this model (not to be compared with other 970s by Zotac) is not as bad, but I just got a bad draw. Roll of the dice.
I did have quite a bit of coil whine as well, however it disappears, when I get less than 1k FPS or when I overclock.
I will probably look to sell this one and Crossfire an AMD 3x series card or two 290x. Or just keep it and play future games on High instead of Ultra. After all is that difference really worth the amount of £ that it requires?
As for the GTX 970 VRAM issue, I game at 60Hz 1080p and I will probably upgrade to another GPU before having 3.5GB instead of 4 becomes an issue, but I still feel cheated by Nvidia. If I could, I would return the GPU just to make a statement. And also to get a r9 290x/3xxx, which now sells for about the same price as a decent 970 in the UK and about 15% cheaper than a 970 in the US.
Case: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Only because of the low price and front panel.
It has dust filters on the PSU and at the front intake fans. There is a huge wide metal mesh on the top, on which there are no fan bays and no dust filter. Cat hair, nails and dust pour in through that like (insert non-politically correct joke here, but I realised this is a PC website so I removed it) bullets through an AK-47. I am really looking to get some kind of custom mesh to put on that, as I think this is where 80-90% of the dust/filth comes into the case.
If you desire to install front fans, get a friend to help you. The front panel on my case is so hard to take off, because the top loft bolt is faulty, I think. I have to push behind it with a pair of pliers to get it to come off.
Also, there is another issue with the front panel. There is a second mesh at the front. So it's easier for air to enter from the top and bottom of the front panel, where there are no meshes. However the top end leads straight into the case. So what my fans were doing was draw 40% of the air from inside the case. They were acting not like intake fans, but as circulation fans. I fixed that quickly by adding a piece of carton to the top, which prevents air from being drawn from inside the case. I left the bottom one open to draw air from the outside. Now I can also feel it draw air through the mesh on the front panel.
Definitely a case I would recommend for a budget build, but not for dual GPU setups or overclocking setups. It's ok. We learn through our mistakes.
The cables that connect the front panel and the case fan that comes with the case are quite ok. The fan itself is rather quiet and efficient. Probably sufficient for a normal Intel/Nvidia setup, which does not involve overclocking. However the HDD Led, Power and reset button cable has a separate pin for each light/function so that took me a few trials and errors to get set up properly.
Also there is no room to route the exhaust fan/CPU cables above the motherboard. I think there would be space there if I had used an mATX board, but currently I can't squeeze them through there, so I've routed them on the top mesh. Otherwise there's a fairly good space behind the motherboard to store cables. Also the external bays provide plenty of room for cables to be stored away.
PSU: I don't know what to say about the PSU really. The only thing that kind of bugs me is that the 24-pin cable has the colours of the rainbow at its end. It also caused coil whine in combination with my GPU, but I'm not sure whether to blame this on the PSU or GPU. Probably on both, but more so on the GPU. Mostly on my foolishness of combining them, I guess.
Case fans: Very quiet, but rather inefficient. The silent/performance cable converter is rather handy. I don't think there's anything more powerful that I would be able to bear though. I will look for 140mm/200mm fan bay support in a case, when I upgrade. I think I'm just a noise freak.
Keyboard: Rather happy with this keyboard. Comfortable to work on, plenty of extra keys, and also comes with 8 optional rubber keys (WASD+arrow keys, which I've put on QWER+ASDF(FC4/COD MW2+LoL being my main games)). Comes at a good price as well.
The name of the PC comes from the cat. He always tries to take our cookies and is madly in love with all sorts of computers. He sits on my chair or in front of the keyboard to moment I get up. And googles 666 and all sorts of demonic stuff on my girlfriend's laptop. So yeah. And cats get a lot of upvotes on the Internet, that's why I uploaded pictures of him. If my build is bad, maybe I'll get upvotes just because of the cat.