First build - for home-office, family vids & gaming.
- Current tech -
- Small case -
- Understated power -
- Low noise -
- Low temps -
- Aesthetic tidiness -
- Wide expandability options -
- Overclockable -
- Long term reliability and durability -
- Relative portability -
So glad I did this - I guess it's as close to my ideal "Dog's Bollocks in a Little Case" PC solution - a compact , no-compromise form with customisable longevity and colossal storage expansion options. And while it is technically portable I wouldn't say it's easy - it weighs like a lead brick - but by golly it's a functional joy to use !
THE STORY SO FAR :
Initial Build - 24.12.17 - "BIG B IN LITTLE C"
- Idea to incorporate as many high-end "bells and whistles" into a small box for home-office use, family holiday videos & gaming - so did some research and went for it ! Never particularly drawn to RGB - I prefer understated power but do like aesthetic tidiness. Equally I wanted to achieve low operating noise and temperature.
- A few frayed nerves putting it together : First the CPU lever went slack so manually forced the socket cover down. Then totally forgot about the CPU cooler base-plate until after I'd installed the motherboard - so a full rebuild ensued. HDD resited as wouldn't fit by the CPU cooler .
- Swapped fans so Noctua is exhausting hotter air at rear and Fractal delivering cooler air to circulate front void - Large cables routed outside the case via a hole in metal front wall - sitting freely behind the front panel to create a clearer internal air space.
- Finally ; convinced I'd dropped a tiny screw inside, I upended the case only to find the damn thing elsewhere !
- Anyway it sprung to life and temps recording low - 20-30 C even with long durational use.
- No OC yet - First will replace noisier 3pin Fractal fan (intake) with another 4pin Noctua - may add SSD later too.
- Optane was reasonably easy to set up - boot time is good & mediocre launch times for large folders & files.
- Cheers Barclaycard for 0% interest 12 month credit card.
Revision of Build - 06.04.18 - "ALL B IN LITTLE C"
- Replaced 3-pin Fractal fan with 4-pin Noctua Chromax & also installed Noctua Chromax Heatsink Covers to enhance "Black" effect .
- Reintroduced the Core 500's 5.25" tray with view to add a Blu-Ray drive - adjusted cable management - minor reduction in airflow space having negligible effect on thermals.
Monitor Upgrade and Personal Lightbulb Moment -13.08.18 - "4K B IN LITTLE C"
- First by succumbing to my niggling desire to maximise my GPU's potential for the best display I could afford without further delay.
- Second – by accepting reality that I'm no seasoned gamer so unlikely to benefit from high refresh rates be they similarly priced 2560x1440 monitors or the hugely expensive 4K Asus-PG27UQ.
- I remain loyal to AOC so purchased their AG271UG model a 4K/27”/60Hz/G-Sync monitor to pair with my 1080ti.
Added Blu-Ray Drive (sadly not black) - 21.08.18 - "FB IN LITTLE C"
- The top Noctua intake fan (25mm deep) blocked the 5.25" drive . Resolved this by replacing it with two Prolimatech 140mm Sleek (15mm) fans connected together by a Silverstone PWM fan splitter. They run as quiet as the Noctua while surprisingly intaking more air.
- December 2018 bonus - Thanks again to Barclaycard who very generously extended my 0% credit terms by an extra 2 months - unexpected and very welcome goodwill gesture.
CPU Overclock & Parts Upgrade -15.01.19 - "4.8GB IN LITTLE C"
- Finally decided to utilise the overclocking capabilities of my CPU. Cautiously, I followed TechDeals guidance using my manufacturers' custom settings for a suggested 4.7 GHz overclock : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B08IsXhsmo
- In reality,this translated to just 4.5 GHz and while this "free" performance improvement was undeniably welcome, having now taken the overclock road, I felt I ought maximise the CPU's potential still within "considered" safe & sensible limits by way of manual overclock. I benefitted hugely from the "lesson" given by seasoned overclock expert Ian "8-Pack" Parry to Briony of KitGuruTech to achieve this : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZarDT8myvvE
- Instead I'm fielding 4.8 GHz all cores 1.26V. Max temps 74C with Asus RealBench (15 mins) & 66C Prime 95 Blender (30 mins) - both seemingly stable. I suspect these decent temps are assisted by my hefty Noctua D15S cooler.
- Anticipating a delid, I bought a De8auer Kit + Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut. Yet my thermals negate any outright urgency, so that stage can be governed by enthusiastic choice.
- Added new hardware: Patriot Viper V770 RGB Keyboard, Logitech 203 RGB Mouse, 500GB Crucial MX500 SSD,EVGA Powerlink Adapter and XL "World Map" mouse mat.
GPU Overclock - 01.02.19 - "BLACK SILENCE MINI ITX POWER"
- Along with my CPU overclock - I've now set up tested stable overclock profiles for the GPU - the maximal going from stock boost of 1582MHz to 1857MHz overclocked (+275MHz on GPU Clock/+346MHz on Memory Clock) at 100%TDP. Using MSI Kompressor Furmark as my stress tester I've noted a "not to be sneezed at" FPSmax improvement from 85FPS to 91FPS.
- I am fully aware that my set-up with its 4K 60Hz monitor won't benefit from my discovery - I never built it solely for this purpose, however I enjoy the science in trying to maximise my settings and should I ever opt for an additional high refresh rate monitor, I know my system can deliver.
Delid of CPU and Additional Components - 19.04.19 - "DB IN LITTLE C"
- Finally got round to decapitating my CPU to replace the universally condemned Intel gunk with something ressembling physics lab mercury liquid - hopefully without the carcinogenic effects.
- I employed clinical care cleaning the processor, IHS and cooler plate of both the ceramic conductor paste and the IHS glue before applying the stuff.
- Lo and behold I've seen a drop in CPU temps by about 12 degrees in Asus Realbench and 10 degrees in Prime 95 torture test - (albeit unceremoniously bluescreening soon after).
- I'd kind of hoped for a 15-20 degree drop in temps given that I will now need to periodically rip my system apart & rebuild it just to reapply the stuff as well as mutilating my remaining warranty. That said - the delid has elicited positive benefits and I may even be able to stretch my overclock at some point.
- Owing to a significant price-drop notification I've added a 2TB Samsung Evo SSD into my build.
- I'm now sitting very comfortably in a Vertegear Triigger 350 ergonomic gaming? chair partnered with its respective head support and together with an Amazon basics footrest I hope will preserve pain-free posture through long sessions at my PC.
Decided to rename the build - for ability to fit so many sweet components into a seemingly impossible small box :
" The Black Magic Tardis "
For the unfamiliar : "Black Magic" is a selection box of high quality UK chocolates & "The Tardis" is a tiny police box used by time traveller Dr.Who as his vehicle, which is noted for being impossibly larger internally than its exterior allows. (from the 1960's to present day BBC TV programme Dr.Who.)
Great best-selling CPU - Originally running in out-of-the-box clock speeds - should last years.
6 year warranty - incredible air cooling on par with water coolers but less fuss - it's the maximum size that could conceivably fit inside Fractal Core 500 case - designed specifically to not interfere with the RAM sticks - Runs either totally silent or very quiet (20-25dB) & keeps the i7-8700K at low temps.
Has every feature I could wish for - Thunderbolt 3 (albeit half-speed) is a boon in an itx board which also enables decent overclocking. It could benefit from a second M.2 with a heatsink and perhaps a 4th fan header like its Z270 predecessor - yet has 6 SATA ports so could enable a full complement of 3xHDD's, 3xSSD's & a 5.25" drive bay which my Fractal Core 500 case can take.
The sticks appear to be good quality & run as stated. They were recognised immediately by the ASRock UEFI as 2 x 16GB DDR4 G-Skill RAM and they easily clock from the pre-set motherboard frequency of 2400MHz to the 3200MHz of the actual sticks.
3TB for £68 - paired up with my 32GB Optane caching module gives a formidable mix of quick boot/access/storage at low cost.
A luxury (£624) I'm pleased I stretched for. Higher clock versions with multiple fans exist but my main concern was to keep temperatures in my 19 litre case as low as possible and I was sold on the idea that a blower (supposedly noisier) would push 90% plus of hot air out the back of the case rather than into it. The noise is easily tolerable maybe even over-exaggerated. The incredible quality in performance of the card for games alone is unquestionable.
Amazing little shoebox - so versatile, adaptable yet compact. Sure it takes a degree of care and patience to build inside - but it's oh so worth it ! I don't believe there's another case that'll accommodate such vast array of power components in as tiny a space while maintaining low temperatures and decibels and at such an affordable cost. Even the dust-filters are easily vacuumed without the need to remove the case cover.
My only mild drawback has been with regards to a general lack of cable-management space , always likely to be an issue for a case of this size - yet even there ; with literally "outside the box" (pic 4) routing ideas ; reasonable solutions have been achievable.
This was a degree of overkill for my build, but I picked it up for under £100 - it's got a 10 year warranty & is likely to last me well beyond then - so what a deal !
Looks neat enough in the front panel enclosure - however, it occupies a relatively large space in my mini itx set-up that previously was space used for circulating air that helped to keep resting temps low at approx 20 degrees - now they're up by around 5-10 degrees. That said, it detracts nothing from the fact that this is an efficient and versatile Blu-ray device - but as with all disc players there is always noise during sector searches and this is most prominent and protracted during malware security scans.
I replaced my original brown CPU fan in favour of an "all black" look - great quiet fan
I installed this to replace a 3pin Fractal fan at the rear of my case - partly to gain 4-pin control and partly for aesthetics as I wanted an "all black" look. I previously had a second identical fan sat atop of my case for cool air intake and it looked and performed great, but it blocked insertion of a later added 5.25" Bluray drive being too thick at 25mm so I replaced it with thinner form fans.
I bought two Prolimatech Ultra Sleek Vortex 140mm (15mm thin) fans after discovering I couldn't get my 5.25" BluRay player to fit beneath the existing 25mm thick Noctua NF-A14 fan that sat in the top of my case. The Prolimatechs are connected to a 4-pin PWM port by a Silverstone splitter cable - and are sited alongside one another in the bracket at the top of the Fractal Core 500 case to draw in external cool air. I was worried the significant reduction in circulatory air space might have a hazardous effect on thermals. The advantage of these fans being a FULL CENTIMETRE SLIMMER than the Noctua has meant I've been able to install an additional one directly above my Noctua D-15S cooler stack. These slimmer Prolimatech fans run silently or incredibly quietly yet amazingly shift a bigger air volume than even the thicker Noctua - Better still my temperatures don't appear to have altered too detrimentally (generally between 23-33 degrees at rest)
Lovely 4K screen which has enabled me to get the most out of my 1080ti GPU. I checked for dead pixels - and thankfully there don't appear to be any, however I have had issues with Display Port connection temperamentality - the screen will sometimes blackout especially if I adjust the monitor positioning. By either disconnecting the monitor's power cable or the display port cable will get it to come back on - I don't know whether it's my monitor at fault - (the packaging looked pre-opened as if already returned by another customer) - Looking into the issue I found that it can happen and especially when the PC only goes into sleep mode.
March 2019 Update - I can happily report that my DP connectivity issue must have resolved by itself as I've experienced no problems in over 6 months.
This was a gamble that I believe has paid off for me. I was unsure as to whether I was doing the right thing in going for Optane memory - particularly reading the poor reviews that hardened gamers were giving it - yet my uses are wider than solely gaming and I find the PC boots up quickly, accesses and opens files with little delay and has enabled me to get the most from my stored contents without having cost the earth. Granted it took some time to copy my data to the paired HDD first but I've had barely an issue since.
Purely to satisfy my OCD nature for "all-black" aesthetics inside the case - the covers certainly haven't been detrimental to the CPU's thermals and might even have marginally improved them.