Description

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.

Rationale:

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.

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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.

Afterthoughts:

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.

Comments

  • 57 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice build apart from the PSU. My CX started ticking like mad a couple of days ago which is what I'm sure is surge protection. Only had it a month before it started to die.

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

Sounds more like the voltage regulator is failing, if it's ticking. Not 100% though. Just my thoughts!

  • 57 months ago
  • 2 points

Either way it's crap and it's out of the case before it can do any damage. I've learnt my lesson.

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

I have the RM550 and it's good. Seems to get a little warm but I think it's ok... Maybe I'll replace it soon haha.

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks. I'll keep an eye (or rather an ear) on it.

  • 57 months ago
  • 2 points

nice build man , to do with the keyboard make sure you have installed the mobos latest drivers as well as the latest keyboard drivers and plug it in to a usb 2 port not usb 3 as its a keyboard it doesnt make any difference with speed. The one thing i would say is get a new monitor. You play games on max setting, but i don't realy see the point if your playing on a monitor like this. The PSU is good i have had mine a while and there is no problem with it. Good build anyway.

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you. You're right about a monitor, I just have to save a month or two for one. I'm thinking ultrawide 21:9 since I'm handicapped on space.

  • 57 months ago
  • 2 points

Love that case. M-ITX all the way!

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

I agree. I love the small form factor. Something about having so much power in such a small space.

  • 57 months ago
  • 2 points

I had to return my cx psu after 3 month Of use. It was slowly dying and then never turned on. I received a refund for it so I wasn't too mad. Nicebuild btw!

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! Yeah someone else had warned me about the PSU. I'll keep tabs on it.

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

Can't wait for you to RMA that mobo. Built 5 PC's with it and each time I've RMA'd

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

Hi, I have the same case only I got the ITX GTX970 by Gigabyte (17cm long) and Corsair H75 AIO cooler for the cpu ( 1 fan inside push, Rad on back with other fan pull) I used my Dremel to remove the steel mesh on the back so it would improve airflow & less noise & to fit the cooler tubes through. Mobo is Asus Z97i-plus. I was worried about the temps as when I fire up WOT or Shadow of Mordor it gets very warm. While gaming I usually pop off the GPU side & front panels as the SSD & HDD get toasty (trying to figure if I could move them to a cooler spot). Fantastic looking case but once you put a 970 in there it fills it with heat & I have more room at the end of my graphics card, larger ones may have trouble breathing.
I'd like to water cool the GPU but where does the radiator go?? ;-)

Thanks - any tips on getting temperature down would be great as I'd rather not keep popping the panels off.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

I know what you mean about the heat. My GPU would register around 80C and the CPU is reading around 65C during gaming, according to HWMonitor. Both are within tolerance though. But as for the temps on the storage, I don't know if 50C is a high temp for them.

Honestly I don't think there is any other way to displace the heat effectively. The only way would be to completely mod the case so that the PSU and storage is on the bottom and Mobo is above that. I would have love the gap between the top and metal sides to have been open so that air would be able to circulate. I added a picture of a model I made in Blender of what I would like to do with the case when I have time. I added it to the Project Sigma build page.

But as far as what you can do now, I'm afraid I don't have any tips for you. You already have the fans on the radiator pulling air out and I'm assuming the PSU is also pulling air out as well. If there was a way to a put a small 40mm or 60mm fan at the bottom, even if it's just placed on the case floor, maybe that could help pull a little more air in, but fans that size are usually loud.