Custom water loop
The idea of installing a custom loop has been lingering in my mind for quite some time now, and after seeing the temperatures on the Titan X, I decided to go for it. It took me about a week to fully clean, build, bleed and leak test the system (no leaks btw).
The loop cools both the CPU and GPU and the two Black Ice radiators are doing a pretty good job dissipating the heat of both components. Now, due to case limitations, I opted for a 280 and a 240 radiator, where a 240 and a 360 might have been a better choice. Nevertheless, after thoroughly researching the cooling capabilities of the rads and looking at other builds, I decided to stick with the case (which I'm still liking a lot) and tried to fit everything I need in there, which was not an easy task. Half a year ago I though this case was huge, now, ... not so much. It is not the best WC case out there and it's certainly not the easiest one to work with. In fact, the upper (thin) rad just misses the mobo by 1 or 2 mm and if you want to keep the drive cages, you have to choose with a bay reservoir which, combined with a radiator at the top, made the system very difficult to bleed.
But all in all, I'm very pleased with the result. Looking at it now, it was well worth the effort seeing how it performs and how nice it looks.
GPU Upgrades and Overclocking
Okay, a lot has happened in the past few months, but I'll try to keep it short.
First of all, I decided to upgrade my single GTX 970 to a SLI setup, which worked splendidly (besides some games where scaling wasn't all that good, but that's just the name of the game with SLIed cards). In order to cope with the added power consumption in the system, my 650W Seasonic PSU was upgraded to a Corsair AX760. The Seasonic PSU was used in a build for a family member so nothing was wasted.
Not long after this, the whole 970 VRAM thing came to light. After going over this time and time again, I just could not get comfortable with the idea that the cards did not meet their specifications. Besides this, the concerns I had regarding the durability of these cards got me to return them, initially thinking to either upgrade to 2 980s or wait for the 300 series. By the time my refund cleared (after 2 months) NVidia had brought out the Titan X and AMD had postponed the release of their 300 series. Weighing all options, I tossed the idea of SLI 980s out of the window and got me a Titan X. Although the performance of a single Titan X is lower than 2 980s, the possibility of getting SLI Titans in the long run might have played a role in this decision as well.
Next to this, I have been experimenting with some CPU overclocking. Since this was my very first overclock, I decided to take it slow and went for a mild overclock of 4.6GHZ. Being stable at 1.2V Vcore, this overclock gets temperatures somewhere in the mid 60s during AIDA stress testing and mostly in the high 50s during gaming sessions, which is a result I'm very pleased with.
I also updated the part list to match the current configurations and will upload some pictures of the system as it is now. I intend to keep previous pictures in place since it nicely shows the construction/upgrade process (if I get too much confused comments though I might just take the older pictures down).
Fan and Aesthetics Upgrade
After dealing with the h100i stock fans for some time now, I found it was time to upgrade the fans to make the system run both more silent and cooler. I've taken this opportunity as well to experiment with some LED lighting and I like how it turned out.
First of all, I've switched the stock h100 fans out for a pair of SP120 High Performance and I must say that the difference is stunning. Where the system seemed to be taking of during start ups, it now runs a lot more quiet both during boot and while it is running without reducing the cooling capacity.
Next, I took out the front fans that were the stock fans that came with the Stryker case and installed a AF120 blue LED Quiet Edition at the middle and a SP120 LED fan at the bottom. I've also took out the AF120 I had as a back exhaust and installed it (as an intake) at the bottom next to the one I had already down there. The idea here is that the SP intake generates a beam of air which is then curved upward by the 2 bottom intakes, resulting in a stream of fresh air straight into the GPU fans.
Finally, I mounted another AF120 LED Quiet Edition as back exhaust.
To finish everything up, I've installed a blue NZXT sleeved led kit around the side panel (window side obviously) which gives the whole inside of the case a deep blue glow and matches perfectly with the Corsair LED fans. A big plus of the NZXT kit is that you can control the brightness of the LEDs or even turn them off completely, which provides the amount of control I expect from case lighting.
It's a bit of a shame that the power LEDs from the stryker case are red. For now I'm not too bothered with this but if it starts bugging me too much I might consider switching them out someday.
Stable GPU overclock
Due to time limitations I wasn't able to tinker with this built for a while, but I finally found some time to report a successful stable GPU overclock. Being my very first overclock, I was extremely surprised with the capabilities of this card.
To start off, the MSI Gaming 4 version of the GTX970 is already OC'ed a bit. Stock GTX 970 cards are set at a core clock of 1050MHz/1178MHz (base/boost) and a memory clock of 7GHz. The MSI card has by default a 1114MHz/1253MHz clock (and a actual clock up to 1342MHz) with no memory clock increase.
Before overclocking I ran a Heaven 4.0 benchmark (1920x1080; 8xAA; "Ultra" for quality and "Extreme" as tessellation) which came up with the following results:
- Score: 1397
- FPS: 55.4
- Min/Max FPS: 26.3/117.1
I found a stable overclock at core +200 and mem +500, however this turned out to really be at the artefact-limit so I decided to back off to +190 and +500. This results was achieved without any voltage increase. However, the maximum achieved clock speed I've found online is +225 core clock with +50mV. Since there's only 35 MHz difference, I decided to keep the temperatures lower and stick with my overclock without added voltage.
Heaven results for the OC'ed card:
- Score: 1598
- FPS: 63.4
- Min/Max FPS: 28.1/131.4
The final result is thus a clock speed of 1304MHz/1443MHz (actual clock speed = 1541.3MHz) which is an increase of 17%. The memory speed has increased of 7GHz to 8GHz. And the card runs at no more then 67°C under full load.
In short, this card turns out to be a great overclocker!
Initial Post 11/4/2014
This was my very first build. It's mainly being used for heavy gaming, but I needed it to be ready for 3DSMax rendering and Adobe Premiere/After Effects editing.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor||$329.97 @ OutletPC|
|Motherboard||Asus Z97-PRO(Wi-Fi ac) ATX LGA1150 Motherboard||$208.98 @ SuperBiiz|
I've been long doubting whether to pick an i5 or i7 CPU. Obviously an i5-4690K would suffice for gaming purposes, but occasionally I need a lot of processor power to run rendering software. I thus decided to spend the extra bucks on a 4th gen. i7 so that the processor, which is the least easy to be replaced apart from the motherboard, would suffice for a long time.
Note: Up 'till now I haven't OC'd the processor, but this is part of the plan eventually
The first reason I choose the Z97-Pro were (somewhat) the looks. Apart from this aspect, I found it to be a great balance between performance and cost. The built-in wifi has been a big surplus since I needed a wireless internet connection due to current living conditions.
|CPU Cooler||Corsair H100i 77.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler||$89.99 @ Amazon|
After using a laptop for years and being confronted with very high CPU temperatures, I decided not to count every penny when it came to cooling. Water cooling was the way to go and Corsair provides an easy solutions for first-time builders as myself. There are however some remarks I'd like to make on this cooling since they took me a bit by surprise during the build:
The stand-off's on the backplate were initially too long to provide a tight fit between the CPU and the cooling plate. This was solved by adding some nylon washers between the backplate and the mobo (see pictures)
I decided not to use the Corsair Link software due to a lot of mentions of stability issues. Instead, I connected the pump directly to the CPU fan header and the radiator fans each to a fan header on the mobo instead of the cooling block. That's it.
There are some people connecting the radiator fans to the CPU and CPU_OPT headers and just leave the pump header loose (as it only transfer RPM data) but I would not recommend this since the CPU header serves as a fail-safe during POST: if it does not read a spinning fan the computer would not boot. Leaving the pump disconnected might thus lead to the computer booting whilst the pump is not running.
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance Pro 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory||$169.99 @ NCIX US|
For the RAM I choose 2x8GB DDR3-1600 modules. After reading up the Vengeance Pro series showed high reliability and stability. I choose 16Gb since it has become more or less the standard when it comes to desktop PCs and since some games can really eat RAM (e.g. modded Minecraft). Choosing dual channel (so 2x8) instead of four channels, leaves two extra DIMM slots open for upgrading when needed. I went for the 1600 frequency instead of the 1866, mainly due to availability: I couldn't find a local retailer that sold the 1866. And up 'till now I haven't noticed any difference.
|Video Card||MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V Video Card||$349.99 @ Amazon|
As for the GPU it was an easy choice. The GTX 970 just recently came on the market for nearly the same price as the GTX 780 and provides a way better performance. I went for the MSI card mainly because of its great cooling solution (it prooved better then the ASUS and EVGA cards). The Twin Frozr V also does not turn on the fans unless the GPU temparture reaches 60°C and stop spinning again when the GPU has been cooled to 40°C, which reduces the noise of the GPU cooling. For a moment I thought about using SLI, but decided to wing it with one card for a while. So far, this card handles everything I throw at it without a problem, so for now I'll just leave it like that.
|Case||Cooler Master Storm Stryker (White) ATX Full Tower Case||$156.99 @ Best Buy|
I just love this case. There is a lot of room for even the most demanding builds, and it just looks great in white. Did I need such a big case? Most likely not. But I knew choosing another case would have made me regret the decision afterwards.
|Power Supply||SeaSonic 650W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply||$129.99 @ Newegg|
There is a lot of room for discussion when it comes to the PSU. Using only 1 GPU 650W was sufficient to power the system efficiently. My first thought was a Corsair PSU, but after some reading I decided to go with Seasonic since they seemed to use a bit more reliable components.
|Storage||Samsung 840 EVO 500GB 2.5" Solid State Drive||$230.97 @ OutletPC|
|Storage||Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive||$53.98 @ OutletPC|
Well, not much to say here: SSD for OS and programs, HDD for storage. I really don't need more then 1TB storage.
|Case Fan||Corsair Air Series AF120 Performance Edition (2-Pack) 63.5 CFM 120mm Fans||$29.98 @ OutletPC|
For the cooling of the case, I used 2 stock fans that come with the case for the intake on the front and added 2 Corsair AF120. On take cold air in from the bottom and 1 blows hot air out the back.
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8 (OEM) (64-bit)||$97.46 @ OutletPC|
For this build I went with Windows 8.1 after being able to evaluate it on my girlfriend's laptop. Once you remove the app-screen and get used to the somewhat changed lay-out it actually runs smoother then Windows 7. So far I have no complaints at all despite reading some furious reviews by some people.
|Optical Drive||Samsung SH-224DB/BEBE DVD/CD Writer||$14.99 @ Newegg|
Included it mostly for OS and driver installation. In my opinion it is always a good idea to have a DVD drive just in case you need it. It's not expensive and does not take up that much space.
|Keyboard||SteelSeries APEX Wired Gaming Keyboard||$79.99 @ NCIX US|
I wanted a reliable, not too expensive keyboard and this one fitted the bill. Admitted, mechanical keys are just a bit more responsive, but I'm happy with this keyboard. It reacts quickly and includes a wide variety of customisable buttons for a reasonable price (not to forget that it turns some heads with the nice lighting).
|Total||Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available||$1913.29|
That's it! It was not the cheapest build you can find, but I'm very pleased with it. Of course, you might need to take into account the cost of a monitor and mouse, but since I had these laying around, there was no need to buy them new.
All in all, everything went rather smoothly for a first build (apart from the backplate of the H100i, but that was pretty easy to solve). During the build I had this small lingering doubt that I might have forgotten something or a component might fail, but that's probably pretty normal for a first build.
I'll upload more pictures when I have the opportunity to take more. For now, I've put up some pictures taken during the build.
Anyway, thanks to everyone that (knowingly or not) helped me getting this build up and running. And in specific the PCpartpicker community ;)