It’s been about 9 years since I have gotten a computer. It’s been about 15 since I built one. I was overdue. I started looking around, and was pretty amazed at how complex things had become, particularly around cooling. The last time I built a PC, you bought a couple case fans for cheap, and that was about it. I looked at pre-built computer sites, while catching up on the latest technology. It didn’t take long to figure out that the pre-built sites had a huge markup, and didn’t really offer the parts I was interested in. I decided to at least spec out my dream gaming PC, and see what it looked like.
Before I made any choices, I considered how I was going to use it. I came up with four functions:
- High End PC Gaming - I have been playing video games since there were video games. That will never change. It is probably my favorite solitary past time. My current computer is so old, I can’t even play games that were released within the past 5 years. I want a top end gaming experience. That means high quality graphics, immersive sound experience, and lightning fast response times.
- Overclocking Sandbox - I know next to nothing about overclocking, but it seems to be pretty mainstream these days, and in some cases requisite to attain peak performance of your system. For the past decade I have slowly lost touch with small systems architecture, and I want to get back into it and catch up with the latest trends and technology. Yeah I know....Zzzzzzz....but for a nerd, this is pretty cool ****.
- Development Work - I am always tinkering with something, or building something, and I need a nice robust system that can handle gaming engines, 3d rendering, graphics work, and development tools/platforms with ease. I am not a high end graphic artist, but some of the things I work on can be pretty resource intensive.
- Personal Workbench/Entertainment - It will be used for all my day to day stuff, watching movies, listening to music, home office, blah, blah. What that translates to is FAST file access.
Now that I know what I will be using it for, I can narrow down what it’s capabilities need to be. I came up with the following list:
- 4K Video Required - 4K video is becoming a viable resolution for high end gaming both technically, and monetarily. I decided right off the bat I wanted a 4K gaming experience.
- 60 FPS Steady State - the max FPS for 4K video is 60 FPS, and that is also the generally accepted level of FPS to be considered a premium experience. I do not know if this is totally realistic for all situations, but I am going to reach for it where ever possible.
- Performance Oriented - This thing needs to be fast in all aspects, not just video. I want lightning fast disk access, wide open networking, serious processing power, the whole nine yards. IF premium parts give a SIGNIFICANT performance gain, they will be selected. Overclocking capabilities will be pursued.
- Sexilicious - This thing needs to look good. Real Good. It will be the centerpiece of my office for at least the next five years. I am willing to spend money to make it look good, but I am not willing to compromise performance to make it look good.
- Quiet - I want the computer to be fast and cool, but I don’t want this thing making so much noise it distracts me from what I am doing. I will be using this computer a lot, and I would like it to be as quiet as possible.
- Future Proof - While this is the last priority listed, in this case it is not the least important. In fact it is probably among the most important capabilities. However, future proofing probably won’t compromise any of my other capabilities as usually it just involves a bit of planning, and compromising my wallet today for future savings.
Without further ado, I give you the build. I’ll explain each of my decisions and how they fit into my desired functions and capabilities. I ended up spending more than I expected....which I actually expected....but I am really pleased with what I have come up with. This is the result of about three months of research to find exactly the right PC that will last me well over 5 years.
Corsair Airflow 540 ATX Mid Tower Case - I wanted a case that is easy to build in, has great airflow, and showcases the interior of the system. I got everything I want in the Corsair 540. The cube form allows for incredibly easy cable management, and superior airflow. There is plenty of room for everything and the split case keeps things looking tight and tidy. The side panel window extends across nearly all of the interior, and the case itself can be flipped on it’s ‘side’ so you can look down into the interior of the computer.
Fractal Design HF14-BK 118.2 CFM 140mm Case Fan (x3) - These fans offer the sweet spot between air flow, and noise signature. They are very quiet and very powerful. I would have liked to have LED fans, but all the LED fans give up a great deal of airflow for some reason, and that is unacceptable. I could upgrade them up to Noctua’s, but those are pretty noisy.
EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1200W 80+ Platinum Fully-Modular ATX PSU - EVGA makes the best PSU’s and this one might have been overkill. I could have went with the 1000W Gold, but the computer is already specing out to need around 800 watts of power and that is just an estimate. And there were a few complaints about the 1000W Gold. Basically, this PSU should never need to leave this rig.
Mainframe Customs Premium Sleeved Cable Extensions - I got a full set of premium sleeved cable extensions from Mainframe Customs, and they are BEAUTIFUL. Premium hand made craftsmanship that really ties the rig together....dude. They were hella expensive, but once again, for me...worth it. Barely.
NZXT Hue+ - I wanted to light up my computer and have a lot of flexibility in doing so. After taking a look around, this offers the best capabilities available while still keeping installation and configuration simple.
Intel I7 5930K 3.5 Ghz 6 Core Processor - I wanted the future upgrade-ability of the X99 architecture, and I knew I was going dual SLI and wanted both to run at x16. I could have backed off and picked up one of the lower end processors to save a couple hundred bucks, but there are FPS gains with this processor, and it is not just intended to handle this year’s games. If nothing else...I bought it because REASONS, let’s move on.
EK-XLC Predator 240 AIO CPU Cooler - These are the best AIO CPU coolers out there, it isn’t even up for debate. They are also among the least sexy. But keeping the CPU nice and cool trumps a sweet LED. I wanted the CPU to be as cool as possible without building a custom water loop. This is the solution.
Arctic MX4 Thermal Paste - Not much to say here. Checked out several comparisons, this one won consistently for lowest temps.
ASUS X-99 PRO Motherboard - An ASUS motherboard was requisite because they have high performing custom socket technology no other board maker has. The X-99 PRO got mixed reviews because some of it’s features were set up as either/or capabilities because they share certain buses. For me, the PRO had all the features I wanted like high quality integrated sound, Gbit internet, M2 PCIe interface, dual SLI capabilities, lots of overclocking, and other nice features. About the only thing I don’t really need is the wireless capabilities, but few boards of this caliber DON’T have wireless networking built in. And there was nothing I had to go without. In the end, the Deluxe was too much for no good reason, and this one got better reviews in terms of reliability.
KINGSTON Predator DDR4 3000Mhz 16GB (4x4) RAM - This seems to be the best RAM out there right now. The X-99 PRO can OC memory up to 3300 Mhz and I wanted memory that could handle it. Honestly for a few dollars extra, I decided on getting the best. There just wasn’t enough price difference to matter. Got 4 sticks of 4GB each to maximize my memory channels. If I want I can push it out to 32GB and still keep my current memory.
ACER Predator XB321HK 32” IPS 4ms G-sync Monitor - This is as good as it gets. It has EVERYTHING you need for a premium 4k experience at 32”!!! IPS for the absolute highest quality....4ms and G-sync to deliver the best possible performance at this screen size. And it has a targeting cursor utility, which was actually a mandatory requirement lol. This thing is simply incredible, and is essentially the centerpiece of the system.
ASUS 980ti 6GB Strix Video Cards (Dual SLI) - The only 980ti that performs better than this one is the Zotac, but this one is quieter, cooler, more efficient, and more reliable for only a small performance hit. It is an incredible card, and having two of them in an SLI configuration is a mandatory component to achieve my 60fps steady state at 4k. After looking at dozens of bench marking reports, I am sure of it.
ASUS Republic of Gamers 2-Way SLI Bridge - Just for show, but it sure is sexy. Ties the video cards together nicely, and sets the red components off as a unified subsystem within the overall blue, black, silver color scheme.
Samsung 950 PRO 512GB M.2-SSD - This is one of those ‘maybe this was overkill kind of choices’. I realize that this wont noticeably improve boot speeds over the 850 PRO, but it is significantly faster in file operations than the 850, and I am too old to wait on file operations at this point in my life. If you work with me you have heard hundreds of cusswords and complaints from me as I wait for something to load on my machine. It is also big enough to put all critical files and apps on it. So maybe overkill....but it is VERY fast...and I need it for REASONS.
Samsung 850 Pro Series 1TB 2.5" SSD - Supplemental storage for all non critical files and apps. This thing is still lightning fast, and a TB of data should do me fine for some time. I can add additional drives as needed.
Samsung SH-224DB/RSBS DVD/CD Writer - Standard CD-ROM drive. Considered going without one, decided that was dumb. Twenty dollars for the few occasions on which I need a CD drive...worth it.
Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum RGB Wired Gaming Keyboard - I pretty much prefer Logitech peripherals because they have software to set up profiles for different keyboard configurations that links all their devices together. And I think their peripherals are the most usable and good looking out there. Having said that, I like a standard keyboard setup, mechanical keys, and completely customizable LED. That left this keyboard as my only choice.
Logitech G13 Wired Gameboard - I actually use this game board for most of the games I play. It is a little easier to manipulate with one hand than a keyboard, and in combination with my mouse, I typically have all the hotkeys I need. As mentioned above, ties into the Logitech profile software.
Logitech G600 MMO Wired Laser Gaming Mouse - This thing has three buttons and 12 thumb keys, making it the perfect compliment to the gameboard above. Combined with it, I have all the hotkeys I need. As mentioned above, ties into the Logitech profile software.
Logitech G-Series Really Big Mouse Pad - At approximately 12” by 36” this thing is freaking huge. And I love it. I can’t really explain why I like having a mousepad I can put my keyboard and mouse on....but I do. And the color scheme goes nicely. It just looks right on my desk.
Creative Labs Recon 3D Omega Headset - I break ranks with Logitech when it comes to headphones, but that is OK as headphones don’t really require profile specific settings, especially not this one. These headphones come with an external Omega “audio control system” that can plug into PC’s and consoles. This is cool although not a big selling point for me. Why I like these headphones is because they have a special audio mode that amplifies 3D auditory cues from other players. In other words it makes the people sneaking up on you much louder. And that capability can be given to 5.1 channel speakers as well. Besides that, the audio and mic quality are great, and it has large drivers for an immersive and realistic auditory experience. Also very comfortable, with solid construction. For those times when....you know...you throw your headphones off in disgust. Kind of pricey all
Windows 8.1 - Although I LOVE Windows 7, it is that regrettable moment when you have to move forward with the current Windows trends. Backwards compatibility is not a fun battle for me to deal with so I had to bite the bullet. I pretty much hate the look and feel of Win 8, and Win 10 is actually a little better. However...Win 10 performs AUTOMATIC driver updates, which for someone who has all types of high end hardware playing high end games....can become an inescapable nightmare. Fortunately after a bit of browsing, I found Classic Shell, a shareware program that overlays a Win 7 feel on top of an 8.1 desktop. So I found my compromise.
Computer Desk - I couldn’t put this sweet rig on the crappy desk I have been using for the past five years or so....it wouldn’t fit anyways and it would really take from the look and feel of the system. So I picked up a new full sized corner desk. It has a superman emblem shape to it, and provides a lot of desktop real estate which I like. I do not like keyboard drawers, I want it on the desktop, and I want plenty of space. It is very straight forward, and if I want to add some compartments to the underside later for a sub-woofer or other components, it would be relatively easy.
Printer Stand - This isn’t technically a printer stand, but I am going to use it for that purpose. It will sit next to the desk, and will hold my PC and my Printer/Scanner/Fax AIO unit. It is big enough to allow me to set the PC on it’s ‘side’ so the viewing panel is on the top. And it is low enough that it will be easy to look into the PC from a sitting or standing position. Trying to find a desk that met all my needs and had all the right surfaces for my devices wasn’t working out. Going with two separate but adjacent pieces solved my problems.
Furniture Lighting - I am going to install blue neon lights on the underside of the desk and printer stand to tie the furniture to the computer for a nice consistent look and feel.
Space Airgrid Executive Computer Chair - If you spend the amount of time I do on computers, you know it is possible to emotionally hate chairs. After EXTENSIVE research, I feel like this chair is my best shot at happiness. I went through the reviews thoroughly, and this chair gets consistently high marks. Adjustable arms were requisite as was adjustable relcine, a fixed upright position, and the hydraulic unit that keeps the chair at the proper hight cant start failing in three months. Reviews report it as extremely comfortable.
Printer/Scanner/Fax AIO - I need a new printer unit, but it is outside my budget at this point, and I am tired of researching computer components lol. Next time I have some cash I will be looking for a decent unit. And I already have a place for it on the printer stand. I will update this once I do.
5.1 Surround Speaker System - This is also a nice to have, and just didn’t fit in with this round of purchases. I’ll likely have to buy some movable extension arms for the rear speakers, and mod my desk with a shelf to hold the sub-woofer, and assemble all that and blah blah....so not right now. Already have a headset for when I need 3D audio capabilities. But I will get to this eventually, much to the future chagrin of my other household residents.
Overall I am very happy with what I have selected. I’ll have an attractive, ergonomic, and comfortable workstation to house a high end gaming machine that delivers the best performance and visual/auditory experience available with today’s technology. It is both beautiful, and quiet, and meets or exceeds all my expectations. Because of it’s X99 architecture and a high end motherboard it will be expandable for 5+ YEARS. Originally I wanted to keep everything under $5,000....and excluding furniture I came pretty close. There are several components that could be downgraded or removed to get the rig under $5,000. But deciding on the ASUS Predator 32” as my primary monitor pushed me out of the $5k price point if I didn’t want to make some serious compromises. All things considered, I should get 6 years of active life out of this machine without a significant rebuild, and around that time I can pass it to the kids to meet their needs. Six years of high end gaming for the price of about $3 a day....fine by me.
Building went pretty well, although it took about 5 hours. It was my first time in a LONG time, and things have gotten a lot more complicated. I spent about no time planning wire routing, so that gave me the opportunity to uninstall and reinstall parts a few times. The whole thing was pretty straightforward, and everything was solvable with Google. I did find out I cannot lay it on it's side as my AIO cooler must be suspended, it cannot run on its side. A bit disappointing, but it's a small compromise. I got a successful POST on the first power on, which in my opinion is a huge victory. However now I am struggling with the intricacies of UEFI OS installs. Joy. I'll update once I have moved on.
To Be Continued...