Description

First off: This build evolved over time, spanning about 3 years (2011-2013). That is why some of the purchase prices are so different compared to today's prices. A couple of purchase prices are probably inaccurate as I undoubtedly used as many promotion codes as I could :P

I started off a PC gamer, playing games like Age of Empires 2 & Empire Earth 2 on desktops thrown together with hand-me-down and mismatched parts put together by my father & cousin. When the xbox360 came around, I migrated over to consoles for a couple of years. I still used my PC here and there, but I mostly played Halo & Forza. But in 2011, my interest for PCs sparked again (My hand-me-down power supply blew up XD) and I decided that I wanted to build my own computer, with my own money, with parts I chose and researched, and with my own hands. Long story short, I went for it and haven't look back at consoles since.

I'm going to go over my parts, grouped by year.

2011: During this time I had an Antec 300 case, Seagate 500GB HDD, Gigabyte mobo, and Nvidia GTX 460. Stock intel cooler.

CPU - Intel Core i5-2500K - This fabulous processor was the original foundation that I built my PC around. I've loved it. It's fast, runs cool, and still has a couple of years left to go. I run her at 4.5Ghz 24/7 now. I've followed the release of Ivy & Haswell, and they have been such incremental improvements that I see no reason to upgrade. By the time I retire my 2500k, I'll probably have had it for 4-5 strong years.

RAM - G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600 (2x4GB) - Back when I got these ram was cheap. 8GB for $40? That's a steal nowadays! I've never tried overclocking these, but I doubt they can do much more than 1600. From all I've read, memory has very little effect on Sandy so I don't think I'll be messing with them any time soon.

PSU - Corsair HX650 - This power supply has been rock solid. Semi-modular. I'll probably be using it for quite awhile.

2012: My PC saw a LOT of change this year - I caught the SFF bug.

SSD - Intel 320 series 80GB - In early 2012 I caught I great deal on this SSD. $1/GB was extremely rare at this time. This little guy was $160 with a $80 MIR. Needless to say, I mailed that bad boy in.

Motherboard - Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe - At the time, this was the best 1155 mini-itx board available. Unfortunately, it was also the most expensive, selling for no less than $200 (often more) no matter where I looked. I was just about to give up the idea of going mini-ITX when something caught my eye on newegg - an Open Box P8Z77-I for $150. Out of all of the ITX motherboards out there, and on the very day I was about to quit the idea, the EXACT motherboard I was looking at shows up? Must have been fate :P. Anyway, this is a fantastic ITX motherboard. Brilliant layout and innovative design. I've been able to push my 2500K to 5GHz with it, but at that point I was scared I was going to fry the CPU (or severely shorten its lifespan), so that was a very short run.

Case - My new motherboard needed a new home, and I gave it a Bitfenix Prodigy (I really wanted to keep my ATX PSU). It was white. Unusual and kinda cool looking, definitely unique. After a couple of months, I thought it was one of the ugliest cases I've ever seen! lol

CPU Cooler - I got a Cooler master Hyper 212 Evo and played around with overclocking my 2500k in my Prodigy. Great cooler.

GPU - MSI GTX 660ti - When I went ITX I decided to retire my GTX 460. I bought a 660ti for $310, and it came with Borderlands 2 which I was going to buy anyway, so I considered it a $250 purchase. I ran 3DMark 11 awhile back and compared the scores, and my 660ti effectively doubled what my 460 could do. Unfortunately, I cannot give this card 5 stars - In this specific model, MSI overvolted the PWM controller itself. I never would have bought it had I known that at the time of purchase.

2013 - Things got messy this year. I decided the Prodigy is ugly and things got cramped XD

Case - Cooler Master Elite 120 - After a few months in the Prodigy, I came to dislike it. Its big (micro ATX sized, its too big to be called "Small form factor"), ugly, and the way it wobbles on its plastic feet/stands drove me crazy. I swapped it for a CM Elite 120. In the 3 years I've had my PC, this case was by far the most problematic thing I've ever used. Terrible layout, it took me months to figure out how to properly cool it. (More on this later)

CPU Cooler - Cooler Master Geminii M4 - For my new actually SFF case, I got a low profile cooler. Cooler master even demoed the case with this cooler, so surely they work well together, right? Nope. No matter the configuration, fan speeds, case fans, with/without video card, I couldn't run my CPU with this cooler without underclocking/volting to get reasonable temperatures. To clarify - This is not the fault of the Geminii M4. It is a good, quiet cooler when it can actually breathe. The issue was 100% the fault of the case. Due to the layout, the clearance between the cooler & the PSU was so small that it was starved for air.

CPU Cooler V2 - Zalman LQ-310 - Yeah... Didn't get a good price on this. However, this cooler solved all of my cooling issues with the CM Elite 120. I was again able to overclock care-free once I got things figured out, and I run at 4.5Ghz under this cooler. (I'll update with load temps later today, it's been awhile since I've done any stress testing)

HDD - Toshiba 3TB 7200rpm - The 500GB Seagate I had been using works great, but it was no longer sufficient. (I blame Steam sales :P)

Alright, this last bit is going to be about the configuration it is in today. I've already mentioned above that the Cooler Master Elite 120 is an awful case. The only thing going for it is ATX PSU compatibility. But I made it work.

Originally I tried to run with the case using a low profile air cooler. That was a huge waste of time and effort. To anybody who is considering doing a build in this case - You'll have to underclock or use a low power CPU if you want to run on air (or get creative with pulling air through a passive PSU). Any meaty low profile cooler won't be able to get enough air flow due to the power supply being directly above it. This is what I did - I removed the hard drive cage completely. It was riveted in place too, so it was a bit of a pain to get out but definitely worth it. In its place I put the radiator of my closed loop liquid cooler, with the fan pulling air from inside the case and exhausting out the front. I know, totally unusual but definitely the best way to do it. If the fan is configured as an intake you'll end up creating a massive hotspot around your motherboard & PSU due to the combined exhaust of your CPU & GPU having trouble leaving the case. (This effect is diminished if your GPU is a blower type). When I had my cooler configured that way, my PSU was so warm I'd say it was almost hot to the touch. Very bad.

So I figured out a way to keep my CPU cool, but what about storage? I ripped out the hard drive cage, right? Well I found an adapter that allowed me to put both my HDD & SSD in my 5.25" bay (I don't use CD/DVD drives). It works brilliantly, but the downside is that I had been using the 5.25" bay to stuff all the extra cabling, so things got a lot messier after I installed the adapter. I did the best I could, but its still a bit of a mess. (It was actually quite clean before I put the 5.25" bay to use)

So that's my PC. It's not the best way to do a PC by any stretch of the imagination, but I love mini-ITX haha!

Comments

  • 74 months ago
  • 3 points

Very nice build, how did you like working in that case? Seems like it could be tough to work in, however I love seeing small form factor builds

I can't wait til people start posting builds with the prodigy m or the hadron cases

+1 for the build and upgrading over time

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

When I first built it I was very pleased with it. It was fairly easy to install everything and the cable management was actually not too bad, but I ran into overheating issues, and it got a little frustrating.

Once I figured out a way to keep things nice and cool (unfortunately at the expense of the HDD cage) I was happy with it again, but it has a lot of things that need to be improved. I always like working in compact cases though, I find it challenging :)

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

Ya I really like the look of some of the Bitfenix compact cases that I've seen recently and really want to build in one however I don't need to and don't want to spend that money right now as I've just basically built my current system

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah. I have to say that I do like the look of most Bitfenix cases. What turned me away from the prodigy was the big wobbly feet (If you poke the case it isn't too different from poking a giant block of jello XD) and how it had so much spare room, since I was having fun trying to make it as compact as possible.

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

Ya there is another case though from them that is amazing looking and is very compact : Bitfenix Phenom M in Black and in White

I'm dying to make a build in this...

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

I just took a brief look at that case, very interesting layout. Looks like the motherboard is "upside down" huh? No 5.25" bay - I like that. and the power supply appears to be mounted towards the front of the case - that right there is a good design choice. Get that PSU out of the way so good CPU coolers can be used.

If I could make a revision of the CM Elite 120... I would move the PSU to the front, get rid of the 5.25" bay, and move the HDD cage up to where the 5.25" used to be. If they did that, I could have fit my Hyper 212 no problem.

  • 74 months ago
  • 2 points

Great detailed description you did a wonderful job adapting to Mini ITX cases. I absolutely love the build.

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

Haha thanks! I was worried I wrote such a long description that no one would bother reading it!

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

What tems are you getting for the VC?

Nice build btw!

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

I uploaded a screenshot of what HWMonitor reported after some gaming (GRID 2). Everything looks to be in good shape. (Except CPUTIN, but I've always ignored that one because it is usually way off the mark in my experience)

Edit: I keep my fan profiles at a very conservative setting to keep it as quiet as possible. It could probably run cooler if I turn up the fans.

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

man, that RAM is $84 CAD today, i wish it was that cheap :/ +1

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

Same :/ Everything is so much higher now, like $70+ for any 1600mhz kit.

  • 74 months ago
  • 1 point

I was holding out on RAM.. I should have gotten mine when it was $60. Hopefully it will go down for the holidays. Been doing good myself getting the best prices for the parts.

  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

What frames are you getting for games? Thinking of getting a similar build +1

  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

No different than people with the same hardware in bigger cases ;) Look up reviews for the video card you want and that will be a pretty good representation of how it will run.

My build has changed quite a bit since I wrote this up. I'm using an R9 290 now in a Fractal Design Node 304 (I switched cases for noise reasons - I didn't like the noise my AIO water cooler made and wanted the height for a tower HSF aircooler in a small case).

If you want any advice or would just like to throw your ideas at someone feel free to message me :)