This is an updated re-post of my current build, which I decided to do after a third round of mods made it confusing as to what was really inside the box. Most recent mods were an upgraded video card to drive a pair of new 27” (2K) WQHD monitors. Previous mods included an Intel 750 NVME PCI-E SSD, additional RAM, more fans, and software updates. The initial build started in June 2014, with mods done in Aug & Dec 2015, and again in Dec 2016, each with photo updates. This is my forth build in ten years, and this rig is primarily for home productivity, internet, some work related programs, and as a hobby. While my previous rig (socket 775) is 8 yrs old, there have been several upgrades along the way (SSD, HDDs, Video Cards, RAM, PSU). My 8 yr old grandson is now enjoying it. After watching the trends, and researching parts and prices for about a year, once I finally had some time off, I started ordering the parts and preparing the initial build.
MOBO, CPU, & Cooler -- I chose the ASUS Z97-Deluxe motherboard (debuted in May 2014) for its features and to be somewhat future proof (as much as you can be in the personal computer world these days), and purchased the Intel i7-4770K (about 3 weeks before the release of the 4790K – figures). This was my first time using water cooling, even though I took the easy route by installing a Closed Loop Cooler, the Corsair H90 (painless). I installed the fan on top of the radiator to pull air through it, which makes it easier to clean the radiator with canned-air by just blowing the dust off the bottom instead of having to take the fan off to clean it. I later changed out the stock Corsair 140mm cooler fan for a BitFenix 140mm fan. The stock fan would occasionally make a small noise, so I chose the same fan that I was already using as the side intake fan as a replacement. It’s very quiet and LED as well.
SSD & HDD – The Intel 750 Series 400GB SSD (NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4) is my OS and primary programs drive. I had planned to install the new Samsung 950 Pro M.2 SSD, but a sweet promo code coupled with a nice price drop on Black Friday evening sealed the deal (THANX Newegg!). The install was painless and the drive is F A S T ! Very pleased with it. A Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSD is now be used for data files that are accessed often, while a pair of Western Digital 1TB Blacks in RAID0 will handle a majority of the storage. I went this route vs a single 2TB HDD for the faster throughput of the RAID0. I know, if you lose one HDD you lose all data, but if you lose a 2TB HDD, well, same result. The WD Black series comes with a 5yr warranty, and I have them backing up daily to a NAS unit attached to my router. An excellent program called “Second Copy” http://www.secondcopy.com/ does the job, and saves the files in their native format, making the files usable directly from the NAS by other computers.
GPU -- I’m not a gamer, so after talking to tech support reps from 3 different companies about my needs, I initially chose a reasonably capable newer model graphics card to power a pair of ASUS 23” LCD monitors. The EVGA GTX 750 Ti 2GB FTW had no trouble handling Mahjong at its max frame rate. ;) Fast Forward a couple of years, and I’m tired of having multiple open windows always on top of each other…. I want/need bigger monitors, and they are going to have a lot more pixels. Perfect excuse to upgrade the video card, especially since the GTX 1000 series cards are now on the market. I was planning on the EVGA GTX1070 FTW, but they were out of stock (everywhere) for a few weeks so I went with the EVGA GTX 1060 SSC, which has proved to be a great card and more than $100 cheaper. Since I’m not gaming, average temps are < 30°C with a load of 20% or less, so the fans don’t even run which makes for a very quiet (silent) video card.
MONITORS -- After some research, I purchased a pair of 27” ViewSonic 2560x1440 (2K) WQHD monitors. The screen resolution of 2560x1440 is 1/3 wider and 1/3 taller than the typical 1920x1080 monitor, and yields approx. 70% more screen real estate, which is quite noticeable during daily use (see picture near the end). The clarity and colors are very good on what is a Samsung PLS (very similar to IPS) panel. They have a thin-frame (~1/4”) and easily mount on a Vivo V002P Dual Monitor Stand, which is very adjustable and solid (no wobble). They are only 5” (total) wider than the 23” monitors they replaced. Bottom line, lots more screen real estate and only a little more desk real estate.
RAM -- Corsair Vengeance Pro 32GB (4 x 8GB) 1866 CL9. I felt this was a good compromise between speed (1866), latency (CL9), and price. It was also on the mobo Qualified Vendor List (QVL). When installing, first, one stick – no problem, swap sticks – no problem, then two sticks – only one visible in the UEFI - ????, swap sticks – both visible, problem solved. I later added another 16GB of identical RAM on a big price drop. I pulled the original sticks, threw in the new sticks and powered on, where I got a Memory error. Power down, pull the sticks, put them back in, get a distinctive “click” this time (noob error), power on to the Bios, all good, power down, toss in the original sticks, power on, and all 4 sticks show good in the Bios. Next, I set the XMP profile to get the rated 1866 speed. It is normal for mobos to default to 1333 when you first install the RAM, so don’t worry, just tweak it. I am also using 4GB for a Radeon RAMDisk. Nightly (64bit FireFox) and Quicken really fly now.
PSU -- While researching, I discovered the PSU is often overlooked and not given the credit it’s due. I mean, power is power, right? WRONG. A cheap power supply can be the root of many seemingly unrelated problems, and none of them obvious. Do yourself a favor, spend the extra $50 or so and buy a good quality PSU to protect your investment. There’s plenty of good info out there.
CASE, FANS and FILTERS -- The NZXT Phantom 410 case is the best case I have worked on. It’s very well laid out / engineered, plenty of cable tie-down hooks behind the mobo tray, removable HHD cage for extra-long graphics cards, a beautiful paint job (inside and out), and the list goes on. It came with 3 preinstalled fans (2x 120mm & 1x 140mm, 1-input & 2-output). I added one more matching NZXT 120mm input fan. After the build started and even more research (it never ends….) I decided to set up my case for over-pressure (as I live in a dusty area) https://www.demcifilter.com/performance-2 I added additional 2x 120mm and 1x 140mm fans. One 120mm is internal and helps pull air through the HDD cage and the other two fans are input. I went for good specs on the fans; the fact that most were LED fans was a bonus. Even with all those fans, believe it or not, the case is actually pretty quiet. With all that air being sucked into the case, it had to be filtered somehow. Luckily I found some high quality custom filters specifically designed for this particular case: DEMCiflex Magnetic Fan Dust Filter - Custom 6 Piece Set for NZXT Phantom 410. They attach magnetically to the outside of the case and are easily removed for cleaning. The company makes custom filters for many other cases as well.
CABLE MANAGEMENT -- Probably the biggest challenge of the build. Several options here: (1) Get a case with no windows and forget about it. Well, not really, as you do need to worry about airflow inside the case. Forget option 1. (2) Get a case that you can remove the side panel behind the motherboard tray (makes the build so much easier). (3) Get a Modular or Semi-modular Power Supply. This way you only hook up the power cables that you need for your particular build instead of having to find a place to store that massive bundle of wires (that you don’t need) inside your case, where they will be in view and more importantly disrupting airflow. NOTE: If you ever plan to use custom power cables, get a Fully Modular power supply; with a Semi-modular power supply you’re stuck with the 24-pin and CPU power cables that are permanently attached. Kind of ruins the color coordinated look that you’re going for (lesson learned). (4) Buy a bag of 4” zip ties, color of your choice. Get a bag of 100 – you’ll need’em. Can’t tell you how many times I changed my mind on how to run a wire from point A to B, no, make that C, nope, G….. And there are a lot of wires.
PART ORDERING -- Prices include discounts, rebates, and S/H. Almost all parts were purchased from Newegg; I have never had any problems with them in over 10 yrs. Their website is first rate, and I did a great deal of research for my parts based on their Overview, Spec, Reviews, and Customer Q&A tabs. Several items also had embedded videos as well (i.e., a how-to-install video from Linus of Tech Tips on the Corsair H90 installation – most helpful). Newegg has outstanding customer service, and very fast (and usually free) shipping. Other websites used for research were: PCPartPicker (most helpful in tracking the various parts, both purchased and those being considered, and their price changes), Tom’s Hardware, Tech Tips, and various YouTube videos.
OVERCLOCKING -- Using the ASUS AI Suite 3 (several YouTube “how-to” videos available), I was able to OC to 4.4GHz painlessly. CPU temps are ~ 28°C at Idle, with transitory spikes to the upper 40°C / low 50°C range under load (according to CPUID HWMonitor and NZXT’s CAM software). During a CPU stress test, 100% load on 8 Threads, 4.4GHz, yielded 60°C max. I manually set the fans a little higher than the AI Suite had them as I wanted to maintain a positive-pressure airflow in the case, which does keep the dust level down from what I have seen in the past. Even so, there is just a very quiet, soothing hum from the rig. I haven’t OC’d the GPU, but since I’m not gaming I didn’t see the need.
I hope you like what I did with this rig and hope it will help other builders with their parts selection and construction ideas. Feel free to post questions and comments. Cheers.