Description

This project is more or less an accident.

I wanted to replace our ageing late 2011 i7 mac mini and 30" Apple Cinema display with a more up to date set-up and was looking at an almost £2500 iMac configuration, when colleagues at work suggested that I save money and build a PC. The rest as they say, is history.

Highlights from the build:

  • CPU: Most challenging part of the build. I spent ages debating between the Ryzen 3700X and the i7-9700K. The 3700X made the most sense as it was more than 50% cheaper with similar performance. I could also use a cheaper B450 motherboards and on top, it comes with a cooler built-in. A no brainer really... apart from the fact that the state of BIOS support (or lack thereof) and the amount of complaints around high idle temperature put me off. To be honest, it's expected as it's is a new platform and I'm sure things will get sorted in a few months time. In the end I settled for the safe option as I was too impatient to wait...
  • CPU Cooler: I initially ordered the the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition, but quickly realised that it won't be suitable for the 9700K which by all indications can run very hot if overclocked. I didn't want to faff around with a water cooler so settled for the Dark Rock 4, which just about fits into the case. Phew!
  • Motherboard: The Z390 Aorus is arguably the best ITX motherboard right now. Nuff said.
  • Storage: Wow NVMe SSD's are fast... It's surreal to see Windows boot in 3 seconds or less!
  • Case: Since my build was going to sit on a white IKEA desk, it made sense to buy a white case that also reflects IKEA's design philosophy! Kidding aside, the NZXT is a fantastic case. The only thing I'd say is that it could've been a bit smaller. Also, if you're not fussed about support for USB-C, save some money and buy the H200 instead.
  • Power Supply: I opted for SeaSonic as it's smaller than comparable ATX PSUs - the idea being that I could easily fit a 3.5" HDD in the lower recess of the NZXT case as I've seen folks complain elsewhere that a standard sized ATX PSU and wires can eat into the space. I'll note another thing, I appreciate SeaSonic might be known for durability and build quality of their PSU, but the included motherboard cable is atrocious - very hard to bend and work with. I did eventually get there with a lot of effort! Finally, I would say that a fully modular PSU was likely an overkill with a case like H210/H200. Save some money and go semi modular if you're contemplating a new build.
  • Monitor: Perhaps the weakest link in the whole build. You'd imagine that a fairly expensive 4K monitor from 2019 would easily outclass a 1440p monitor from 2011, right? Wrong. The LG 27UL650 surprisingly isn't any better at light bleed compared to the 8 year old Apple display. The Apple Cinema Display also edges out with an aspect ratio of 16:10, so all in all a bit of a meh...

In summary I'm very impressed with the end result, at least performance wise. Clearly this build isn't price optimized as going the AMD route would've made a huge difference. Plus I've noted that the second-hand/pre-owned market for PC parts (e.g. Facebook marketplace, eBay, Shpock etc.) is thriving and I could've saved even more by using used parts...

Eagle eyed readers would've noticed that there's isn't a dedicated graphics card in my build. Ahem... I decided to wait a bit longer to either pick up an RX-580 or even better, a Vega 56 if I can.

Apart from graphics, there are a couple of things I might change going forwards. For example the built-in NZXT case fans are audible in a quiet room, so I may go with quieter options, but for now I've adjusted the voltage curve to keep them at low RPM.

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