My first system was an 80286-16 with 512K memory and a 20Mb hard drive. My, how far we’ve come. Back in the day, I used to build my own PC’s when “super computer swap meets”, 486DX-66’s and 4Mb RAM was the norm. I remember buying a Western Digital 255Mb thinking “Who would ever need that much storage?” Back then you could easily buy better parts and build a system cheaper than a new Dell, Gateway, CompaQ, etc.
As the industry changed and computers became commoditized, the swap shows disappeared and it was no longer economical to build your own. With a busier post-college life and marriage, I fell victim to a bevy of store bought HP and Dell systems over the years.
Most recently, I found myself with an 8-year old Dell Inspiron 530 Q6600 that was stuck on Windows XP and getting tired. It was time for a new system, but this time, I decided to revisit the build your own concept and so I hopped onto Tom’s Hardware to see what the current state of hardware looked like (my, how things have changed). After lots of reading, I decided I was going to take another stab at building my own PC. It seems that if you’re interested in a higher performance machine, it’s once again quite possible to hand pick your components and build a system that’s both better and cheaper than those “out-of-this-world” systems you can buy off the shelf.
My goals were to build a machine that is relevant, powerful, visually pleasing and unique. Since I was going to buy some higher end components, I also wanted to show off my work, so attention to details became important. This system also needs the ability to be upgraded in the future since it will likely be in service for another 8 year stretch like the 530.
I mostly use my machine for normal work tasks like Word and web surfing, but I also have so,e unique, above average needs like working with large Excel files with monster VLOOKUPS, GoPro video editing and light AutoCAD drafting. I also wanted something that could do some decent gaming for when my nephews come to visit.
THEME: I see lots of red and blue themed systems out there and while some look really good, I just wanted something a little more challenging and different. I chose to go with a black and green theme. This system’s theme was somewhat inspired by Linus’ Ultimate Surround Build. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHhMW89R7pY
MOTHERBOARD: I decided to go X99 platform in hopes of keeping this system relevant for a long time. Since there’s no X99 Sabertooth yet, the MSI X99 PLUS SLI’s all black motif fit the bill. Also, this board is priced nicely for X99.
CPU: i7-5820K. 6 cores of overclocking juiciness. I don’t need tons of PCI lanes and I’m sure there will be plenty more 2011-3 CPU’s in a few years when I want to bump this system up a notch. I’m planning to see if I can get 4.5 Ghz out of this chip once I have everything dialed in.
CPU COOLER: Swiftech H240-X. Should be all I need to keep those 6 cores cool at maximum overclock. Swapped out the default blue plate for green to match the build theme. I might go one step further and look for a piece of green cling film to cut out and place over the water level window.
RAM: Needed DDR4 in black. I found 16Gb of Ripjaws4 2800 C16 @ $249.00 and went with it.
STORAGE: Samsung 840 EVO 250 Gb SSD. This is my first SSD and all I can say is “wow”. For now, I am also running 2 x WD 320 Gb’s pulled from my old Dell. I’ll upgrade these to a couple of 1Tb or 2tb WD’s when I need more space.
GRAPHICS: I wanted something strong and sexy, but not crazy $$$. Would have bought a GTX 970 if it were offered with a reference cooler, but that’s not an option as of this build. The 980s are just too much cheese for me at this point. I did manage to pick up an NVIDIA GTX 770 off Ebay for $215. The reference design and green glow of the “GEFORCE GTX” is key to the look of this build.
CASE: Fractal Arc Midi R2. Great case for the money and somewhat of a sleeper. Unassuming, but has it where it counts. NOTE: PCPartpicker shows the H240-X and Arc Midi as incompatible. This is not true. The big Swiftech fits in there with no modifications and even keeps the optical bays in place.
POWER SUPPLY: Bought this SeaSonic on sale for $69.99. Wish it was a little bigger, but the price was right Also, black and unassuming.
CASE FANS: Lastly, I replaced the rear, white blade, case fan with a Bitfenix PWM Green Led to give a little more glow to this green build. It’s plugged into the mobo and the fan profile is set to keep it quiet until the temps head North. There are also 2 stock Fractal fans in the front that I will likely replace with black PWM’s in the future to add a little more breeze control.
WHAT’S NEXT: The only things I have planned for immediate purchase at this point is a new 27” display and one of those Corsair RGB keyboards (so I can get the cool green backlight going to match the rest). I’ve debated sleeving the cables and just can’t decide if it’s worth the effort for me to do this. I guess the extensions are okay, but they seem a little half-arsed to me. We'll see.
Please enjoy and let me know what you think of my build!