Black/Gold Devil's Canyon 970 - First build
Here starts a long read, beware.
There is also a fair amount of pictures, enjoy!
So it's been 5 years since my brother built me my first own PC. It was for school purposes as I was going to College, but I still wanted something I could game on and would last me a couple years. More than decent rig, I'd say mid-range PC at the time. I never had any major problem in 5 years except for a failing hard drive last March. I was planning to buy a new PC before that, because sometimes weird stuff happens. Plus my GPU sometimes doesn't like my dual monitor and my PC wont boot until I unplug one monitor. All of this, and also because I am starting to be really annoyed when playing some games where I need to lower the graphics to medium or low to have decent fps. Just as a reference for the upgrade I am getting, here are the parts of my last PC:
- Intel Core i5-750 2.67GHz Quad-Core
- Asus P7P55D-E PRO motherboard
- 6 GB of basic 1033MHz Kingston RAM (2x1GB + 2x2GB I added along the way)
- Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM (replaced by a WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM)
- XFX nVidia GeForce GT 240 1GB
- Ultra 550W power supply
- Basic case with 2 120mm fans
This is actually my first build, since I'm not the one who built the PC above. At first I was going for a 800-1000$ build, but I realized that I had to revise my budget to keep all the high-end and quality parts I wanted. All started at Christmas 2014 with all the Holiday sales. I had the chance to get an i7-4790k deal from the Intel Retail Edge Holiday Deal (about 200$ rebate), but I decided to wait until the next sale in May. So I had my Intel CPU planned and was going to buy it from the Summer Deal 2015. I wanted brands that I like and trust, so before I start picking parts I already had in mind an Intel + nVidia build, with Asus MoBo and GPU. Then I did some deep research to be up to date with all the new hardware I missed those past years. As I had to wait for the sale and the CPU to arrive (Intel takes about a month to ship it), I had plenty of time to wait and search for deals on the parts I wanted. Patience is the key. And price alerts too. Here is what I came up with, after multiple iterations and few changes during the prepping/buying process:
Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core. I had it from the Intel Retail Edge Summer Deal 2015, with an overall 200$ rebate (after shipping and customs fees). It’s the best quad-core for 1150 socket out there, so it makes it in my opinion the best processor for the rig I was planning. I don’t need more cores from the 5th Gen Intel CPUs. Z97 and DDR3 are all out and prices are going down, which is the best bang for the buck choice at the moment. Is the 4790K overkill for my actual needs? Yes. But at this price, I just can't go wrong with it. I would probably have gone for the i5 4690K if it wasn’t for this deal. Then, since I have it, I might use it more for some school related programs which are computing power hungry. Anyway, it is still nice to have it in there in case I need it someday.
be quiet! Dark Rock 3. I will admit I don't plan on overclocking just yet. But this is definitely something I want to do in the future, like 2 years from now. As I said, I want my rig to last me long enough, so I will wait before putting any stress on the components from OC. Yes, I could have waited until then to buy a CPU Cooler, but I just thought it would be a shame to leave the Intel stock cooler on that 4790K with the rest of the fancy hardware. Plus, I have to say that the Dark Rock 3 is absolutely gorgeous. Practically speaking, the overall lower temperatures on the CPU and the quieter CPU fan are still worth it IMO, even without overclocking. I also didn't want to use a liquid cooler to have the peace of mind of not worrying about the pump stopping or the tubes leaking after 2-3 years. I find air cooling safer, even more when planning to keep it for about 5 years.
Asus Z97-A. One of the first parts I chose. I was also considering the Z97-AR, which is about the same board, but with silver instead of gold. I could then have swapped the other gold parts to silver pretty easily, but I found out later that the AR was no longer available, and I still think the gold makes it a little more eye catching. I was looking for an Asus motherboard, as I said earlier, and this one had everything I wanted: SATA 3, M.2, Intel LAN Ethernet, USB 3.0, good audio, 2-way SLI support and a great UEFI BIOS. The upper model (WiFi, Pro, RoG) doesn't give much more for the price IMO, especially when I can get a WiFi dongle for a couple bucks. I also like their 5-way optimisation, which is not even part of the RoG MoBo’s. It gives me everything I need and room for future upgrades, at a reasonable price.
Corsair Vengeance Pro 16GB (2x8GB) 2400MHz. I wanted Corsair RAM, so I was going for the Vengeance or Vengeance Pro version (the Dominator being overpriced). I also wanted 16GB, because I was often at 80-90% of use with the 6GB of my last PC. I thought 8GB would not be enough since I like to keep my browser open with sometime lots of tabs. 16GB was the logical choice for me. At first I was looking for 1866MHz CL9 RAM, but then I realized there was no gold version of them to match my color scheme. Also, the gold version has a black PCB, not like every other color with a green one. So I had to choose between 1600MHz CL9 and 2400MHz CL11 and I went with the 2400MHz. Even though the timing is slower, the frequency is more important and they were significantly cheaper. The difference is not really noticeable anyway. No problems with the XPM profile to take them to the right speed-timing at 1.65V.
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB. I was looking for a fast and reliable SSD that would last me years without problem. I wanted 250-256GB to have enough space for the OS, basic programs (browser, Adobe, MS Office) and some games that can benefit from a SSD. I found that Samsung makes some of the best SSDs on the market and their warranty is pretty good. The 850 series is the latest so I had to choose between the PRO or EVO version. The main difference is that the PRO has a 10 years warranty or 150TBW when the EVO is 5 years and 75TBW. At first I was going for the PRO, but I thought that in 5 years if there is a problem I would probably be better buying a new one (faster, bigger) anyway. The EVO is a little bit slower than the PRO, but nothing noticeable and it is still one of the fastest at the time.
Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB. Since I don’t plan to install all my programs and games on the SSD (also there is not a lot of space for everything), I needed a good hard drive. 1TB is what I had in my previous PC, and I knew it would be enough since I do have external HDDs for mass storage. The two best known HDD in this capacity are obviously the Western Digital Caviar Blue and the Seagate Barracuda, both running quietly at 7200RPM. I had the Barracuda in my last PC, which started to fail just before 5 years of use, so I thought I would try the WD this time. Even if 5 years of use is a good run, I want to really compare the two. Both have tons of great reviews, but I have seen higher failure rates on the Seagate side. That’s just another reason why I personally chose the Western Digital.
Asus Strix GeForce GTX 970. As I said earlier, I wanted an nVidia card. So there were not a lot of options. I only play at 1080p for the time being, but I still wanted a card that has the potential to play higher in the future. Maybe something like 1440p and 144Hz, I will see later, since I plan on keeping the card for a couple years. Also, I wanted a card that is able to max out pretty much all games at 1080p and still have sufficient fps. I do play some not-so-demanding games, but I needed something that can handle other games like Witcher 3, Shadow of Mordor, Star Citizen, GTA V and more. The 960, even the 4GB version, seemed too low budget and doesn’t perform enough for the price and for my taste (it wasn’t out yet when I made my choice anyway). The 980 was way out of my budget, so I stopped on the 970 and it felt right (I was already aware of the 3.5 GB at the time and it didn’t change my opinion, neither did it change it performances). For more options, I did look on the AMD side and probably would have taken the 290 or 290X from Sapphire if it wasn’t for the 970. Now for the manufacturer. I have an Asus motherboard, so it seems logical to take the GPU too, but it goes further than this only. I have to admit, I find the look of the Asus Strix really nice and it helped my decision (look at this heat pipe, look at it!). The 0dB mode under 67°C is great too, and adds to the silent build aspect. It’s also great for when I do some light gaming. MSI has it as well (and can be done with every card by changing the fans temps toggles), but I also wanted a card with colors that match my color scheme. EVGA’s FTW ACX 2.0 and Gigabyte’s G1 are some of the best (OC and performance) 970, but the Asus still is not far behind. I am also not a fan of the EVGA’s and Gigabyte’s look. The Strix can fit more easily in my build being all black with little red accents. The G1 also is pretty loud and big, which defeats the purpose of the silent build. I don’t always wear a headset, most of the time I use small earpods, so the sound level matters to me like when I’m working or listening to something. When considering the price, the Strix was one of the lowest without compromise (I compared the prices on sale, because I had the time to wait). The factory base and boost clocks are good, the cooler may not be one of the best (at least when overclocking) but it is one of the quieter and nice looking. Finally, it comes with a great backplate which not every card have, so I picked it up when it went on sale.
Fractal Design Define R4 Pearl Black windowed. When looking for a case, I didn't want to pay more than 100$ but I wanted a lot of features. I found some nice cases, but they always lacked something, like the cutout under and above the motherboard, detachable HDD cages, rubber grommet, dust filters, good airflow but still quiet, nice looking, etc. Of course I ended up finding the Define R4 and R5, meetings all my needs, but there was the price. So I waited. And then the R4 went on sale for 85$, and I instantly bought it. I took the Pearl Black to match my color scheme, and I also wanted a window. I know some people say the R5 is better, but personally I don't find the extra money worth it for the upgrades. Maybe it's just that I don't care about the double-sided front door, the front facing bottom dust filter or the SSD mounts. It's also from this case that I had the idea of painting the white parts gold to match the other accents. I really liked building in this case; easy to work with, lots of room for cable management, whisper quiet, clean look (outside and inside as well) and pretty cheap when on sale. The case in general feels all but cheap. The tough and heavy side panels show the quality and strength of the case.
EVGA SuperNOVA G2 750W 80+ Gold. By far one of the best PSU out there. Irreproachable reliability from tons of 5 stars and 9.8/10 reviews, quality components and 10 year warranty. 750W could be a little overkill, but there is nothing wrong with a bigger PSU and I wanted a really good one. It is THE part in a PC that can’t fail, otherwise it can cause lots of problems with the other parts. It also leaves room for future upgrades. The ECO mode is also a plus, which fit the quiet aspect of the build with the silent Strix, Dark Rock 3 and Define R4. All cables are black and nicely sleeved to match the build and there is also a test-plug to verify if the PSU works without a motherboard or doing a jumper yourself. I have to say, this is one on the best packing I have ever seen. Every little thing in the box really shows the quality that EVGA put in this product. From the practical box with a handle to the cloth bags (for the PSU and the extra cables), everything just feels premium. It even smells like quality, not like cheap plastic/foam. Great job EVGA (and Super Flower)!
Corsair Air Series AF140 Quiet Edition. Since the Define R4 only comes with 2 fans, I decided to add at least one more for better air flow and positive pressure inside the case. I moved the included exhaust fan to the front as intake with the other included one and put the Corsair AF140 at the back as exhaust. I will admit it also helps with the overall look of the inside because of the ring that I painted gold. I could have painted gold the included white fans, but I did not want to risk any problem. I know the paint does not add much weight to the fan, but it could still change its characteristics and lead to lower performance and/or more noise. I can’t really see them when the side panel is on anyway. And who looks there? There is nothing interesting other than the HDD cages.
Black/Gold. Started mainly because of the motherboard color, and then I went for it with the other parts as I explained above, like the matching RAM. I also decided to paint the white part of the case in gold just to fit the overall color scheme (except the included fans as I mentioned above). I know a lot of people don't like the gold color for a build, starting from Asus going all gold to show that they are the kings in the motherboard industry. Even if I was sceptical too at first I really like it because there's not a lot of gold builds around. My last PC had a blue MoBo and blue LED fans, so I wasn't really interested in another blue color build. I think red/black color scheme looks nice, but again, that's pretty much every single build nowadays, and I don't like the fact that gaming is kind of tagged red/black (Asus with the RoG and MSI with their Gaming products). After that, what's left? Not a lot of choice. So I went for Black/Gold, and I personally think it looks awesome, clean and classy, even more with all the black parts to go with it (looking at you R4 and Dark Rock). I did not want to go crazy-everything-gold, I think small gold accents make it subtle and clean, with all of the other parts being black. I also added a 2m (6.6’) warm white LED strip all around the inside of the case. I won’t leave it always ON, but since I have a windowed side panel why not put some light inside to show the nice hardware? I went with warm white and not clear white because it’s more yellow/gold and the blue/purple of the clear LEDs would have changed the whole color inside. As a final result, I am satisfied and I love the look. I think I could have gone with a lighter/paler gold for something more subtle, like the motherboard one instead of the yellowish one like on the RAM, but the eye catching gold still looks really great. Let me know what you think.
Feel free to ask questions or leave constructive comments (hopefully).
Thank you for passing by!
TL;DR: First build, upgraded from a 5 years old i5-750 + GT 240 to an i7-4790k + GTX 970, black/gold color scheme, quiet.
Prices are in Canadian dollars (CAD) and include shipping fees and taxes.
Really great board all around, can't go wrong with Asus quality. Have everything you need for a normal build, and more. The only complain I have is for the I/O shield which is plain silver and feels a bit weak and cheap.
This PSU. By far one of the best PSU out there. Irreproachable reliability from tons of 5 stars and 9.8/10 reviews, quality components and 10 year warranty. I have to say, this is one on the best packing I have ever seen. Every little thing in the box really shows the quality that EVGA put in this product. From the practical box with a handle to the cloth bags (for the PSU and the extra cables), everything just feels premium. It even smells like quality, not like cheap plastic/foam. Great job EVGA (and Super Flower)!