After suffering a severe bout of depression which required crisis intervention, I spent two weeks living with my best friend and his wife. While I was picking the pieces of my life up, my best friend would game in the guest bedroom where I would sleep. And it was then I noticed that his setup .. kind of sucked. He played with a laptop stacked on a box, his left hand perched up on the keys. I told myself that when I got better, I would build a better rig for him as thanks for keeping me alive.
Several months later, I built The Rathalos. Themed after the monster we spent countless times fighting in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Generations, and Generations Ultimate, this build is a massive upgrade from his laptop. This build can run games at 1440p / 144Hz, stays super cool while being super quiet, and fits snugly in the small desk space he has. Other goals for this computer was to have it run reasonably quiet, and have enough RGB so he could flex on his friends but not so much that it would be distracting.
Even though I had built my own PC before, this build was more difficult for me. This stemmed down to two problems:
1: Cooler Clearance
I didn't have many choices for big coolers. Although there is plenty of clearance for such a cooler, this is only an option if the top fan is removed. And I really wanted to have a top fan to showcase the RGB from the Deepcool fan, and to keep the fan number even at 2 intake / 2 exhaust. This fan ended up clashing with nearly every large cooler I chose. And when I tried swapping the coolers, they wound up being too noisy and I was dissatisfied with the thermal performance. Here are all the coolers I tried to work with before fitting the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black:
- Scythe Fuma 2: WAY too big, no clearance for the top fan or back fan
- AMD Wraith Max: A decent option, but it didn't work with the default silent fan curve and ended up being too noisy. Shame, given how cool it looked
- Noctua U12: No clearance on the top fan (plus it was the LTT limited edition, so I just swapped the dinky cooler from my machine with this one. Couldn't let it go to waste!)
- Noctua L9i: I misread the wattage rating, turns out putting a 65W cooler on a 95W processor meant big noise and big temps. 80 degrees on load was just too hot for me
- Arctic Freezer ESports Duo: A fine choice for color coding, but the metal clips would snag on the top fan.
Even the Cooler Master Black is not without compromise, as I had to move the cooler fan to face the exhaust. Otherwise, the metal clips would bang against the top fan otherwise. Only took me 5 installations / uninstall actions of coolers. I definitely have to plan my build more carefully next time. Why didn't I install an AIO instead? Even though an AIO would've fit nicely, I knew having a liquid loop would make my friend uneasy about bumping into it, even though the chances for leaks are very small. Additionally, since I would not be at his house all the time, I didn't want to troubleshoot anything like a noisy pump, so an air cooler was a much more reliable and effective solution.
2. USB Headers
The front USB C port was a pain to activate. The case's headers are as follows:
- 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Header Cable -> Front USB Type A Port
- 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Header Cable -> Front USB Type C Port
After buying all the parts, I discovered that no ITX motherboard from either Intel or AMD at the time of this writing had a USB 3.1 Gen 2 header. The only option was an ASUS Mini-DTX motherboard for $430. Yikes. I ended up having to do the following:
- Purchase a converter that converts the Gen 2 header down to a Gen 1 header
- Then, plug the converter and the Gen 1 header cable into a USB 3.0 header hub
- Finally, plug the hub into the motherboard
The hub fits pretty nicely thanks to its magnetization, so it won't jostle around if the case is moved. However, several reviews on the hub stated not to plug the hub into the power supply or it'll short out the motherboard. But by not doing that, the USB C port can't supply enough power to charge a device. It can be used to transfer data however. So this serves as a cautionary tale for people who want to take advantage of the front USB C port but don't have access to an ITX motherboard with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Header Port.
Despite all these problems, I’m really happy with how it looks, and it performs very well. Boots fast, loads games in a cinch and definitely performs well. I tested the machine with Control, a real monster of a game graphically, and it hit about 120FPS with ray tracing off on ultra settings and 70FPS with it on.
I’m hoping this computer will last my friend a long time. Traditionally, you want to avoid building PCs for people because you become their tech support for every little issue. But I’m prepared for that. After everything he did to support me in my worst times, what's a visit here or there to tinker on the build anyway?