My inspirations came from Building the Ultimate mATX SLI PC with Intel's 5960X and Nvidia's GTX 980 and Ecoboost's Scout Trooper Dark Side Build. The first time I laid my eyes on their builds, I was hooked. I wanted something small, yet powerful, and within the budget. Having built my first PC over a decade ago, and since being a long-term laptop user, I felt it was time for a master desktop PC build. My main use for this build will be for high end gaming and HD video rendering.
THEME: I have always liked the dark themes, especially with black and red. My other option was to go with orange instead of red, but parts with this color scheme is hard to come by, unless I do a custom paint job.
CASE: This was the first item to check off the build list. The idea of squeezing extreme performance parts in a standard ATX box into a micro ATX box fascinated me. The Corsair Air 240 caught my attention because I really liked what Corsair did with the case. The case is split into two compartment sides: the front side houses the motherboard, CPU, GPU, and all the necessary fans to cool it down; the window view on this side was a nice touch because you can see into the rig; the back side holds the PSU, hard drives, SSDs, and is an essential area to hide all your wires. I didn't need a disk ROM drive, so this was not an issue for me. I can always use a portable USB disk drive for this matter.
POWER SUPPLY: It is all about the deals. I bought the EVGA 750W 80+ Gold power supply on a good deal. 750W is more than enough for this setup, unless I add more hard drives and go with SLI. Until then, this will suffice.
MOTHERBOARD: I chose the X99 platform because of what it has to offer, such as Haswell-E, DDR4 support, SLI, etc. Plus, the EVGA X99 Micro just looks amazingly built by itself. I knew going into this platform would force me to shell out more cash, but it is worth it.
CPU: From reading, the i7-5820K is the best bang-for-the-buck CPU for the X99 platform at this time of my build. Fair enough, it is the cheapest and lowest CPU I can get for the motherboard. I can opt-in for the i7-5830K, which benefits from more lanes, but at the cost of roughly $200 more. The i7-5960X would be too extreme for my system and at the cost of over $1K. Perhaps, one day. The 5820K is more than what I need.
CPU COOLER: I chose the Corsair H100i because it fits the chassis perfectly vertical and has the perfect cooling power. Combine it with quad-fans, it just looks beastly. Another viable option I had in mind was the Corsair H80i, which might be a better setup as it yields similar cooling temperatures (from reviews) and leaves more open space for airflow on the bottom side. The Corsair H100i GTX would have been a nice upgrade to the H100i, but at the extra cost, it is paying just for the extra looks and features.
VIDEO CARD: It was a hard decision between two GTX 970 vs. a single GTX 980 for me. After reading countless reviews from enthusiasts, I got the impression that the GTX 980 was the way to go. The whole GTX 970 with 3.5GB useful memory did not throw me off, but the thought of two GTX 980 excites me. After all, I do plan to SLI this setup in the near future. The GTX Titan X is another viable option, but at a bigger cost. I went with the EVGA GTX 980 SC w/ ACX 2.0 design because I got a decent deal for it. The reference cards, at a slightly higher cost, would be better suitable for this build because the hot air are exhausted to the rear instead of inside the case. However, I believe my setup has more than enough airflow to keep it cool, even with SLI.
RAM/MEMORY: CAS, latency, timing, frequency, clock speed, etc. All these terms were confusing for me at first. After reading, I learned that having lower CAS latency and timing is better, while having higher clock speed is better. In real benchmarks, there is a difference, but in the real world, maybe a difference 1-2 FPS. The G.Skill Ripjaws 4 DDR4-3000 with CAS 15 for the price I got was hard to beat.
STORAGE: I had a spare 500GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD laying around, so I decided to just use it for my build. Perhaps I can do RAID0 with two of these or two 850 EVOs in the near future. I might look into the M.2 SSD as well since the motherboard supports this. I do plan to add a few TB hard drives in the 3.5" bays for some long-term storage for my multimedia and games.
CASE FANS: My setup contains four 120mm fans on the radiator, one 120mm fan on the top (needs mounting), and two 80mm fans on the rear. I went with the Corsair SP120 instead of the AF120 on the radiator because of the push/pull setup. SP fans are better for passing air through these constrictive spaces, while AF fans are better for open space airflow. The quiet editions kept the flow extra quiet. Mounting them on the radiator was simple, using the screws from the H100i kit--eight short screws for the inner two fans (must insert screws into the pockets instead of the outside); eight long screws through the chassis for the outer fans. The Masscool 80mm fans were cheap and effective. However, they are quite loud as most of the sound either comes from these fans or the PSU. I also removed the stickers from the fans visible in the chassis for a cleaner stealth black look.
WIRE TUCKING: As an import tuner and enthusiast, I love the idea of wire tucking for a very clean and minimal look under the hood. I try to apply this same concept to my PC build. All wires were routed to the back side as much as possible. Where possible, I ran the wires around the sides of the case, leaving the middle motherboard area clean from obstruction. The back side was intentionally left un-tucked in case I need to do some future upgrades.
Update 06.04.2015: Added Umbrella Corporation branding stickers. Update 06.28.2015: Upgraded to 500GB 850 EVO SSD.
- SLI setup
- Corsair individually sleeved cable kits (red): CP-8920049 & CP-8920057