After having to suffer a poorly purchased 2011 MacBook Pro, I decided it was time to upgrade. The original motive was super-cheap, gaming PC. But surely enough only after 6 months of use my priority shifted to a mid-range, rendering machine. My philosophy of buying super-cheap went out the window after my first PC ever was poorly built, with sub-par components that were not able to keep up with my After Effects use. After researching, and expanding my knowledge of computers, summer 2014 came. Z97 was still hot and new, with Devil's Canyon (Haswell refresh) on the corner (which I didn't know at the time). I sprung for a Asus Z97-A and i5-4670k. Upon arriving home from school I was greeted with a Amazon Prime box, I was extremely excited and couldn't wait to unpack what was my new computer. Hoping that nothing was DOA (dead-on-arrival), I proceeded to dismantle my current computer. Plopping in the new i5 into the motherboard felt like something else, unearthly, I was absolutely filled with joy. After a fresh install of Windows I loaded up After Effects and was blown away by the improvement of rendering times; over a 70% increase! I thought I was set for a while, but multiple events which occurred gave me the opportunity to farther build up my computer. Black Friday 2014 I was able to pick up a second 270X, an incredible power supply, and a solid SSD. Shortly after in late December 2014 I was faced with the challenge of a possibly dead CPU, without any other PC to test my CPU with I drove out to Microcenter and picked up a i5-4690k; only to discover that my cables were trolling me. As of 1/11/15 my computer has cost over $2000 in upgrades, peripherals, and maintenance. Thank you for checking out my story, and I hope you enjoy my build!
[Pictures] (I apologize for the low-quality images, I do not have access to a professional studio) (I will be going from left to right) The first photo is my original build, AMD 750K | 270X. It excelled at what it was designed to do, play 1080p games cranked up. But what it failed at was video rendering, something it was not built for. The second picture is when I was putting in my new i5-4670k | Z97-A. The last three shots are of my current desktop. I have multiple spray-painted cardboard pieces that I use to cover-up some unsightly things. They look awfully mis-colored between the cardboard and duck-tape, but I digress.
[CPU] - [Outdated] This was an easy choice, the i5-4670k at time time was the perfect mid-range cpu. It rivaled the FX8350, but ran much cooler. I have mine overclocked to 4.5ghz at 1.24v.
[CPU] One day I powered on my PC only to be greeted by a "dead" CPU (which wasn't really dead). After disassembling the computer, and putting it back together it then still proceeded to show the error. Frantic and worried, I drove out to Microcenter and purchased the 4690k. After putting it in I was again suffering from a cpu error. Very distressed and confused, I then rebuilt the computer again, this time with it working. Seeing that it might have been a cabling problem, I assumed the 4670k still worked and slowly began weeping as I just wasted $230 on a new cpu. On the bright side, I did manage to push this 4690k to 4.8ghz at 1.35v; 30c idle 90c load. The new TIM (Thermal Interface Material) in the refresh was really working, but was it worth the accidental upgrade? Probably not.
[CPU Cooler] Before the H110, I was running a Hyper 212 EVO but because of my slightly higher ambient it didn't work so well. That's were the H110 comes in. It is a 280mm rad, which allows for a larger cooling area compared to the H100i. I originally wanted to do a custom loop, but until money permits, I'll stick with this fantastic AIO.
[Motherboard] I bought the Z97-A the moment it came out, this was my first experience with Asus but the risk was worth it. It comes with 6 SATA3 ports, or 4 SATA3 + 1 SATA-Express. As well as an M.2 slot. 3 x16 slots allow you to do three-way crossfire, but bandwidth suffers as it is wired in 8/4/4. In two-way crossfire the slots run in 8/8. The board has on-board troubling shooting LEDs which tells you what component was failing, it has saved my bacon a couple of times. The Z97-A is a well-built, mid-range motherboard which I would recommend to almost any Z97 build; though the only downside is the gold color (which is actually very pleasant).
[Memory] Since I was going Corsair other things, why not? The heatsink is quite tall, not being able to fit under a Hyper 212 EVO. But, it is a solid black which will match almost any build. I don't know if it is just my kit, but my RAM refuses to overclocked, only running at 1600mhz. I bought this ram before I had much more extensive knowledge. The only thing regret is that I could have gotten faster speeds, for the same price.
[Storage] I went with the SSD+HDD combo for speed, and storage. Both drives are very reliable, and I got the SSD for only $40 (Black Friday sale)! I wouldn't recommend it though, as there are numerous other SSDs that delivers much better performance.
[Graphics Cards] I started the build off with a single MSI R9 270X, and I was content with it until a fantastic deal (thanks NexusRawr!) for the Sapphire Toxic R9 270X came along. I have the two cards in Crossfire, and they both run very cool. Scaling in 3Dmark is about 90% which puts it slightly above the 280X. I would recommend both cards to anyone, but the MSI card would probably fit in more cases due to its size.
[Case] After having to suffer a extreme-budget case, I decided to head out to Frys and pick up a new case. Sadly, if was before I had my superior knowledge, so all I looked for was something with an air filter. I wouldn't recommend this case, due to its lack of options. If I could change, I would have either gone with the Air 540 or Phantek Ethoo Pro.
[Power Supply] Before upgrading to Crossfire, I had a CX500. It was a solid PSU, but my model lacked modularity. If you were to get it, spring for the modular version. Upon ordering my Sapphire card, I realized that I made a grave mistake and forgot to account for the increase in power consumption. I decided to go with the EVGA Supernova 750W G2 as it was a VERY capable and EXTREMELY solid PSU.
[Monitor] This really was a simple choice, I needed something 1440p, with excellent quality. I do a lot of content-creation, and consumption, so 1440p expanded upon my workspace. I didn't really care for 120/144hz because a) it's too expensive, and b) it doesn't benefit my productivity. The color reproduction was spot on, and much better than my old TN panel. If you're looking for a solid 1440p monitor, the PB278Q would be a top contender.
[Headphones] - [Sennheiser HD518] This was my first true experience with audiophile-grade headphones, and WOW were my ears happy! The sound stage is massive, and feels very natural. The highs and mids are clear, and are easily recognizable. The bass is tight, punchy, and isn't overwhelming. The comfort is great, but require some getting use to if you have never worn headphones. The HD518s are an amazing pair for their price (~$80)! They are a perfect portal to the realm of high-quality headphones, I just wished I spend the extra money on the HD558s.