With AMD surging and the crypto frenzy finally cooled off, I knew it was time to pull the trigger on building a new rig that'll hold me over for a few years. My main focus with this build was to make the case my own through some light modding and painting while my choice of hardware and accessories would mirror that. I initially began with the idea of a rough industrial look and it wasn't long before that plan was inspired by one of my favorite games, RAGE. The only performance goal I had was to make a system that can handle the mix of older and newer titles I occasionally throw at it. High framerates are nice, yes, but I can live with a 75hz panel and a card that pushes those frames with reasonable settings. There are a lot of exciting new architectures coming out in the following years and I did not feel now was the time to go big on a high-end gaming PC. Below I'll cover some of the mods made to this case and a quick overview of each component.
Case, Fractal Design Define Mini C:
I chose this case because I've come to appreciate the Micro and Mini form factors. I've moved so many times and thus the good ol' days of ceiling-high case towers that weigh a ton are no longer an option for me. This Micro offered a perfect balance of flexibility and functionality without compromise; in fact I'd have actually preferred it to be a bit smaller. Case manufacturers have nailed it with these things and Fractal's build quality is beyond impressive for the price. The price, by the way, was only $70 bucks on sale. I grabbed this thing in a hurry when I saw that sale.
Build Thoughts, Paints, & Mods )
As mentioned above, going for a rough look was the primary objective and it ended up being a lot of fun! It's hard to make mistakes when you don't have to worry about somethin' looking clean and pretty, but it's definitely not hard to get carried away. I had to keep myself in check a few times before I started doing some actual damage to it.
The first piece that set the stage for this whole thing to come together was an old Koolance 280mm radiator shroud I've had lying around for years. Mounting it on top of my case allowed my fans to be installed externally and it gave the case a beefy and aggressive appearance. Luckily it was a perfect fit and matched the front and side panels of the case. The next idea was to replace my power button with a momentary key switch - like a motor's ignition switch. I think it suits the theme of the build, especially given all of the vehicular madness in the RAGE wastelands. All of that wasteland inspiration became apparent by the time I had finished painting so I then decided to make a skull which reminds me of the Scorcher Clan. Of course, none of this would be a true nod to the game without adding some iconic wingsticks somewhere so I plan to add them as custom fan stickers. I decided not to be cheap with these like I had on my previous homemade ones so I'm looking to get them professionally cut and printed. I may also add an actual wingstick to the build some day if I'm able to make one or find a reasonably sized one for sale. All of these ideas alone were the driving force behind this computer and, well, the rest is history. Duct tape, Sharpie, fishing line, and a spool of thin gauge copper wire may or may not have been heavily used and abused throughout.
After fully disassembling the case, I sanded then primed each panel/piece with some automotive etching primer. I then base coated a chalked gray, wet sanded it smooth, applied a light mix of blaze/rustic orange, wet sanded again, applied another top coat of my chalked gray, and then finally scuffed and scratched various parts to reveal the coats of orange underneath. This gave it the weathered and rusted look I was going for. Lastly, I touched up some areas by hand with stains and light coats of whatever color needed before sealing it all with some matte clear finish. The painting took me over two weeks and while I am happy with the results, I'm not a professional painter and I will admit my patience ran thin towards the end. Hats off to you painters out there; there's a lot of work involved in these projects. This was no doubt the most time consuming process of the build.
Nothing too crazy, but quite a bit of subtle changes. I'll burn through the gist of 'em. I cut two slots on the top of the case so I'd be able to route the cables from my fans. I then drilled holes to mount the Koolance shroud covering said fans. A cut was also needed at the bottom of the power supply cover so I'd be able to install my bottom intake fan. I attached a brass carrying handle that I mostly use for routing cables at the rear of the case. I made a hole with a stepped drill bit at the bottom of my case so I'd be able to route my sleeved cable directly down. I then lined that hole with rubber u-channel, as I did with the rest of the cuts. I added an orange led strip that's tucked away at the top of the case and replaced the power led with an orange one as well. Then I tinted my acrylic window so it'd be darker and match the rest of the build. I've also applied some copper heatsinks to my board's bare mosfets. Unnecessary, but looks cool and couldn't hurt to drop a few temps here and there. To finish everything off, I painted the trim of my case fans and removed the blades to roughen up a little - and I plan to add some more stickers to the housing. This is why many of my old stickers have since been removed.
Component Overview )
I'll include the price I got each component for at the time of purchase. (Roughly May 2018 through November.) This system was bought and assembled over the course of those 6 months so there was plenty of time to watch sales.
Ryzen 5 2600 ~ $140
- I originally planned on buying a 2600X, but after watching the sales for a few months I ended up getting this for a steal at $140 bucks. The lowest the 2600X ever dropped was $180 and regularly went back up to its $200+ tag. If you all-core overclock a base 2600 near 4 or 4.1, the difference between the two chips becomes almost nonexistent. Getting this 2600 for such a cheap price may be the best deal I have ever gotten on any piece of computer hardware. The value for your money is through the roof. As a side note, manual overclocking is hardly even worth it on these beasts because PBO and XFR are excellent features. I played around with it for a while and I can honestly say this CPU may be at its best right out of the box. Both of these chips are outstanding. Check out some overclocking overviews on it if you're interested.
Dark Rock 4 ~ $70
- More than enough headroom for this chip and likely any other chip I may upgrade to in the future. Looks gorgeous and performs among the best at its price for air coolers. Don't have to tell me more.
RX 590 ~ $170
- Originally purchased a 570, but I switched to a 590 when the prices got slashed during the Navi & 1660 launches. I chose Gigabyte because their Aorus and Gaming edition cards have exposed copper heatsinking with orange accents to match my build's theme. I will say, however, that I avoided their Aorus lineups due to a consistent stream of complaints about their temperatures and fan failures. Shame, really, because I'd have preferred going with one of those. Much like my previous 570, I have bumped this card's core and mem' clocks as far as I could go without touching voltages. It rarely games or benches above 70c with the fans set at a constant 55% rpm. After doing this, I'm seeing roughly 10% better framerates across the titles I play. The 590 sits at a weird spot in the market, but offers decent value given the amount I paid. I'm going to sell the old card to offset some of the cost.
G.Skill Flare X - $125
- With the money saved on my CPU and GPU, I was able to get myself this top-shelf kit because Ryzen likes to get a little flirty with its memory. Cost was inflated at my time of purchase, but I grabbed them for the best price available. This is one area of my build where I wasn't going to cut any corners. These clocked at 3200mhz out of the box and I've been able to push them beyond 3400; although I opted to stay at 3400 with lower latency and tighter timings as not to reach a point of diminishing returns. G.Skill is a reputable brand and the Flare X heatsinks match my theme - or rather don't do anything to harm it.
MSI B450M Mortar ~ $100
- The only frustration I have with the AM4 platform is the lack of variety in good Micro motherboards. This was the best exception I found. Has a great heatsink, decent VRMs, 4 DIMM slots instead of 2, a DisplayPort which is lacking in almost all Micro AM4 boards for some inexcusable reason, and its BIOS Flashback utility are all reasons why I went with this Mortar. It's essentially a smaller version of the ATX Tomahawk which has already gained a great reputation as well.
EVGA 650 SuperNova ~ $80
- Great price, used others in the past, and never had one fail. I used to be terrified of EVGA's more budget oriented units, but these lineups and their predecessors have been trusty and efficient. 650 is enough to handle a potential GPU upgrade in the future.
Crucial MX500 & P1 ~ $110
- Samsung-light performance without Samsung prices and it comes with a longer warranty than many of its competitors. For my uses, I would see practically no benefit getting anything faster than these drives. That said, in hindsight I could have gone with the M.2 drive to cut down on some cable management. I think the M.2 was $20 bucks more expensive at the time of my purchase, regardless. No big deal. 7/19 Update: I've since added the Crucial P1 to my build.
Fans ~ $35
- 4 Corsair Performance Editions and 2 Cougar Vortex Black Editions. I've added the Corsairs to my part list because they are in this rig, but I recycled them from my old builds and only needed to buy the 2 Cougar fans. Both sets of fans are excellent and get the job done. I've used a million Corsair fans over the years and they've never disappointed. The Corsair fans are also great choices for someone looking to quickly make their own color scheme because the rings they come with are removable and can be painted.
Total Cost ~ $1000
That's all there is to it! Thanks for checking it out. Comment if you have any questions.