What's it for:
I started this project with small form factor in mind. I wanted a gaming PC using a mITX motherboard. I was originally going to go AMD A8-7600, but I was able to raise my budget at the last minute. My last build was AMD, so I wanted to make this one Intel.
CPU: I chose the i5 4690k because it's pretty much the standard for a gaming PC currently. i7 is more than I need right now. I'm not going to overclock this this round, as the air cooling I chose probably won't handle it. But when I upgrade next year I will be ready.
CPU Cooler: I had originally planned on going AMD APU, so I got this instead of an All-in-One cooler or tower air cooler. Also with the APU, the case I chose sort of dictated that I use low profile CPU cooler.
Case: I chose the Nebula mainly because of it's unique, minimalistic design. I didn't plan on using a powerful chip to begin with, so I felt this was adequate for my needs at the time.
Motherboard: I really wanted the MSI Z97I Gaming ACK, but it was a little out of budget. I thought the Gigabyte would be a decent 2nd choice, for aesthetics and features. The reviews for it's audio features were good so I wouldn't have to use a USB port for an external soundcard.
Memory: I just got the cheapest at the time.
Storage: I just got the cheapest 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD at the time. SSD for OS, programs and GTA V; HDD for data and the rest of Steam games.
Videocard: I wanted a GTX 970, so it was between ASUS, Gigabyte and Zotac, all able to fit in the Nebula. In the end, I chose the Zotac because a price drop during the part-picking process made it the least expensive. Note that although Xigmatek's website lists the case to limit the videocard to 200mm, the Nebula case that I received from NCIXUS has a revised LED shroud adopted from the Nebula-C that allows for cards up to 230mm. Also the shroud can be removed completely by two screws, without affecting anything in the case.
PSU: I wanted modular or semi-modular because cable management in this case would be tricky. The Corsair had a price drop with a rebate making it a 600W, semi-modular, 80 Plus Bronze PSU for under $48.
How it went:
This was a fun build because of it's size and challenge. Almost everything except the motherboard and RAM was found during a price drop/sale. The Xigmatek Nebula retails for around $100 and Deepcool Gabriel's price hardly ever drops. And too bad I don't live near a Microcenter to get the 4690k for under $200, but $220 was close enough. I couldn't wait for Black Friday, so buying these piece by piece as they dropped was excruciating, but exciting at the same time.
Installation was pretty straight forward. Installed the CPU, then the RAM, then the CPU Cooler outside of the case. Placed it in the Nebula. Then installed the PSU. Next the videocard. Cables, cables, cables... Then the storage. More cables. Darn thing posted on the first try, that's a good thing. I took the optical drive from another computer to install the OS, as this case has no place for an optical drive.
This PC looks awesome on my desk. With a 10" by 10" footprint, it's tiny. It's also very quiet. Much quieter than my first system, it's like night and day. The loudest thing at idle is the videocard, but I'm talking a whisper. The case fan, CPU fan and PSU fan are all practically silent.
Playing GTA V on maxed settings, I get around 45 to 55 fps. Reducing MSAA to 4x and Anisotropic filtering to 4x gives a steady 60 fps average except toward the end of the benchmark where it dips around the 40s fps, what with all the explosions and carnage.
As expected with a closed case like this, it gets hot. Not dangerously hot, but hot none the less. I don't run Prime 95 as I don't expect my computer to work that hard. But real world use, playing Far Cry 3 or GTA V on max settings (the most demanding things I've played thus far), the hottest the CPU package has gone is 71C and the hottest the GPU has gone is 81C. Granted my room was around 82F(28C), since its a west facing room in Arizona. Cranking the AC does help, keeping the CPU around 65C and the GPU around 76C.
Also, the sound is not what I was expecting. At idle, everything sounds fine. But as the GPU starts cranking up, the speaker buzz gets louder. I thought the audio is supposed to be isolated? Actually, when I plug in headphones to the rear output, the sound is phenomenal. Could be the speakers, but who knows.
And there are some issues with the Corsair K70 RGB keyboard that I have plugged in. At times, the computer won't recognize that it's plugged in, so it either defaults to the red backlight or not light up at all. This is a rare occurance, and usually when I restart rather than cold start. I think it's an issue with the motherboard as it worked fine in the old system. May need to switch the mobo out.
In the end, I may end up just switching the case to something with more airflow like the Thermaltake Core V1 or Corsair 250D. It would be unfortunate, as if I had gone with one of those in the beginning, I would have gotten a bigger GTX 970. I may also end up switching the mobo, either straight exchange or go for a different one. Cable management was actually good. The Corsair PSU being semi-modular and having flat cables was easy to get everything out of the way. Right now I'm satisfied, but it just needs a little extra work to be close to perfect.