This is my first computer build since the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000's I've been using a myriad of gasp Macs, and a beastly MSI Gt780r which I hacked a GTX 970m into. That's been swell, but despite the GPU bump, she's feeling old, getting temperamental, and it's been nearing time to replace her, so the endless days of PCPartPicker surfing began.
I had set myself up with a (soft) budget of about $2000 CAD (< $1600 USD) not including a much needed monitor upgrade for both the wife and I. Quite happily I seem to have stuck to that thanks to catching various sales and MIRs, but it was close/doubtful for a while, especially as my desire for more interesting parts grew. What started as a really small mini ITX mid-range rig (i.e. i5 6500, GTX 970/980/R9 Nano, in something like a Raven RVZ02) morphed into a raging dual AIO cooled bigger (but still pretty small) micro ATX beast. The main culprit: the Fury X.
GPU: Why the Fury X? Well, growing up in Toronto, ATI was always the home-town preference. I've spent countless dollars on ATI cards throughout the 90s, and surely still have at least one All-In-Wonder card in a computer somewhere. There's also a part of me rooting for them to succeed. Nvidia is no slough though, and they've been my mobile GPU for 5+ years now. I was eyeing a GTX 970, then a 980, then briefly considered a 980 Ti, but the price was a but much. Then I caught this Fury X on Amazon for mid-tier 980 money; about $700 CAD ($520 USD). With Amazon's return policy, I had to at least give it a chance. 980 Ti level performance for pretty cheap 980 price? Yes please. Built-in AIO cooler, HBM, and that adorable little GPU tach all just added to the fun. That AIO will later prove challenging...
CASE: I knew from the outset that any computer I was going to build was going to have to pass the wife-approval test, so pretty much any massive tower case was out of the question. That's one reason why I started with mini ITX in mind, with cases like the RVX02, Node 202, and Phanteks Evolv ITX. The Fury X eliminated the super slim cases immediately, so I was left looking at small mini towers and cubes. Interestingly, the cases she approved were the Ncase M1 (which would take me way too long to get, and also would blow the budget), the Phanteks, and the Corsair Air 240. I really liked the versatility of the Corsair; micro ATX or mini ITX, dual chamber design for clean cable management, positionable in different orientations, and available in a wife-approving white!
CPU: In retrospect, considering I came in under budget, I could have gone with the i7 6700k and still been at or near my budget figure. I do use Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere, though not super regularly. The i5 6600k is still a damn capable processor, and for most uses and general gaming, it's more than enough. Figured I could live with a longer render time to save $200. I'll consider upgrading in a year or two to whatever i7 the 1151 socket supports at that time. Overclocking to 4.4 was a breeze; haven't tried pushing any higher but I'm confident it could get to 4.5 or 4.6 easily.
CPU COOLER: Knowing the case and the CPU, I knew what I needed to cool and the limitations of space I had to work within (or so I thought). I figured I could try and get away with a 120mm radiator that was 25mm thick to pair beside the Fury X's much thicker radiator. Quality choices were down to the NZXT Kraken X31, and Corsair H75. Figuring that the only way this would maybe fit is to make the Fury X radiator push-pull I knew I'd need a second static pressure fan anyway, so with the better availability and cheaper price of the H75 it ultimately won out over the NZXT.
MOTHERBOARD: I had some basic requirements: M.2 NVMe support, Z170, good quality components and BIOS, good OC support, and not costing a fortune. This went back and forth with case compatibility for both ITX and mATX. This ultimately came down to price (mATX was considerably cheaper than the ITX version), and upgradability/expandability. I like the look of the Gigabyte board, and it has its connectors generally where I want/expect them to be (unlike the USB 3.0 header on the ITX Gaming 5; has 5 total fan headers spread around the board). The only thing that's a little weird is the sideway orientation of the SATA connectors.
STORAGE: Samsung 950 PRO is pretty awesomely fast. The other drives are upgrades from my laptop that I've harvested out.
PSU: Slight overkill, but I wanted to have headroom in case I went Crossfire instead of having to replace this PSU with another purchase to support it. Also, the general load on the system means the PSU fan basically never runs (I can't even tell if it's running while gaming). Still, it's a solid PSU and I'm pleased with it so far. It was strangely cheaper than both the G2 and Corsair RM850i while being more efficient.
BUILD NOTES: So the Air 240 is a much smaller case than I've ever really worked in. I've never worked with water cooling (was a very very niche thing way back when I built my last tower); was great in theory, but was still a very DIY, nascent segment. AIO coolers seem great; all the benefits with none of the fuss. Dealing with more than one of them in a small case however was challenging. Everything else installed fine and without issue; the Air 240 is pretty well laid out for a clean and tidy build.
I have seen a few Air 240 builds try having dual 120mm radiators up front; some went great, some didn't. Naively I thought where Ra_2 struggled was in the thickness of his two radiators (Fury X is 38mm, H80 is even thicker at like 49mm), and that the Corsair blog solution worked was in stacking a single rad+fan on top of a push-pull configured radiator setup. The 120mm radiator+fan beside the GPU's pull fan fits fine, but then the Fury X radiator block is about 3-4mm too tall to get up against the push fan on the H75. I think the fan might also not line up properly to the radiator mounting holes. Really just need a few more mm of space in the case for this to fit! I considered modding the case frame to give me some more room since there is room between the frame and the outside panels, but that seemed excessive and just forcing this to work. I also considered Ra_2 and the Corsair option of routing the CPU radiator to the rear, but wasn't quite sure how best to get the cooling block through the grommets. I might try this in the future. For now, I just needed/wanted to get the system up and running so went to plan C: try to mount the CPU rad anywhere it would fit.
Thankfully, it fits in single fan configuration at the top right to the front with the radiator against the the frame. Barely. I'm pretty sure a fan mounting screw is either resting on, or a hair above the OC Turbo jumper on the top right of the motherboard, so to be safe, I wrapped that screw in electrical tape. The Fury X radiator is mounted bottom front and as close to the recommended AMD instructions as I could: it's vertical, above the GPU (barely), and has the hoses at the bottom. I decided to leave it in push-pull for hopefully better cooling since these are now the only active exhausting fans in the system.
Right now I am intaking from the top (one included AF120 near the CPU/RAM/VRMs, H75 with single fan in pull) and exhausting out the front via the Fury X fans+radiator in push-pull. There is also an AF120 in the back compartment set to intake (maybe keep the drives cool, hope some air trickles in through the grommets). I might flip the case over to the top becomes the bottom and to orient the window to where I'm sitting.
So far, temperatures seem quite reasonable. I have not run Prime95 or anything, but under normal use and normal gaming load, temperatures seem fine. The GPU temperatures running Heaven for half an hour on Ultra barely broke 60C, and didn't even seem to get back there after I tweaked the fan profile on the pull SP120 to more match what I say the stock Gentle Typhoon doing. Overall it seems OK from a temperature perspective, but I'm still not happy with the general airflow pattern.
If I can move the H75 to the back, I can fit an extra exhaust fan up front plus two at the top, though I'm not sure how well the H75 will do for air in the trunk. Will have to cable manage that area better!
All said and done, it's a nice looking machine, and seems to perform really well. I do hear some whine, though I haven't yet figured if it's coil whine from the Fury X or pump whine from the H75. I think it's pump whine since it's kind of a constant pitchy drone even at idle.
More tests and some reconfigurations to come!