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Breakhazard's $1500 Red/Black Pragmatism (1st Build)

by breakhazard

3
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Details

Date Published

March 11, 2017

Date Built

March 15, 2017

CPU Clock Rate

3.8 GHz

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.12 GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

7.1 GHz

Description

My initial budget was $700-800 for this build, but after doing some research and hoping to design something that will require fewer upgrades down the road and handle any potential increase in gaming / VR interests, I ended up finding parts that to me, was a perfect combination of build quality and priced value.

I started researching for this build (my first!) on 10Jan2017 and ordered the first part (FD Define R5) a bit impulsively a month later (10Feb2017) since it was on sale. I can proudly say that majority if not all of my items were either price matched locally (Canada Computers), had fantastic prices online with free shipping, or offered a free local pick up option -- this totally blew my perception of having to wait for Cyber Monday or Boxing Day just to get a decent discount / sale on the items I wanted out of the water (after some digging, a forum user made the very valid point that even if you did wait for those days, there would be no guarantee that your specific make/model would be on sale). I made the final purchase on 08Mar2017 (my birthday :D), which happened to be the Samsung 850 EVO that was stubbornly resisting price drops (the gods ended up blessing me with a $6 price drop from the already discounted average at the time, so I took it without hesitation -- although I wanted to get it for $200, oh well).

Over the next week I will be receiving the final part, and hopefully finding time to put it together. For now, I wanted to get a running thread going with my thoughts and considerations made into deciding the components of the build... so any constructive critiques or comments will gladly be welcomed! I also aim to follow up with a general review of how the build runs a month into using it, so suggestions on what kind of things are expected for a good review will be appreciated as well!

PS: pictures will come later

Decision Tree:

CPU: Intel vs AMD (Intel Core i5-7600K 3.8GHz Quad-Core)

I'd like to start off with a disclaimer that since this is my first build, I don't really have a bias towards Intel or AMD. That being said, this was a pretty simple decision for me, as the general consensus (and benchmarks) had Intel CPUs pushing out better performance overall, compared to the AMD equivalents which admittedly had much lower price points (at the time, the Ryzen had yet to be released -- but either way, I'd rather stick with a tried and true chip, than being one of the first users to go through the potential bugs of a new release).

Also! I noticed just now that PCPP doesnt list any AMD chips for comparison... so I may have been unknowingly biased towards Intel chips after all (oops).

I started out with the i5 6500, but later decided to invest in the i5 6600K in case I have the interest to overclock down the road (which I currently don't... but I were to buy two separate ~$300 chips, I might as well shell out the ~$25 difference now and save down the road). That being said, I ended up getting lucky and found the i5 7600K on sale for the same price as the i5 6600K, so it was a no brainer upgrade for me. Grabbed that real fast.

PS: one thing to look out for is that the z170 motherboard requires a BIOS update to support the newer generation KabyLake chip... I will update on the relative ease of this when I build my computer!

PSU: Non Modular, Semi Modular, or Fully Modular (EVGA 750W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX)

Coming into this build, I had gone through two gaming laptops that ran into overheating problems and ended up being super slow and prone to auto-shut downs. If there is a singular theme to this build, then the theme would be "Pragmatism" -- that is, I don't care for looks as much as I care for getting the job done with minimal headaches down the road... it just happened that all my parts ended up being black or red -- free bonus!

That being said, Non-Modular is a clear no, since improper wire management is the devil of bad airflow. I decided on semi-modular PSUs since this is my first build, and decided on 80+ bronze quality parts because gold quality tended to be fully modular, much more expensive, and unnecessarily powerful for my current needs.

EVGA seemed to be the consistent no-nonsense go-to brand for PSUs, but I quickly found this to be much less intuitive to find a good quality model, since there were multiple different manufacturers that built within a series, and in between series (e.g. one manufacturer would build 650W and 750W for one series, but another would handle 850W and above... and then for a different series, it would be another different set of manufacturers... very confusing!) EVGA doesn't make it any more easier to pick (the paradox of choice) since they have multiple series out there... (SUPERNOVA NEX, B1, B2, BQ, G1, G2, GS, GQ, etc) and the frustrating part is there isn't many reviews (if any) for all of them (I'm lookin at you BQ Series). The only real breakdown of the different series was this comment by a reddit user (thanks kiwiandapple!) "The EVGA G2 > B2 > GS > GQ are great alternatives. In that order." In a thread that specifically called out the SUPERNOVA NEXB 750W for being terrible build quality (which also happened to be so discounted at the time that I was tempted to buy it... glad I did a little research!)

Anyways, it ended being a tie between the 650W BQ (which had zero reviews), the 650W GS (fully modular at a reasonable price point), and the 750W B2 (which had a better capacity than I needed, but had the most consistent reviews overall). I simply waited for the first one to meet the price alert I set and ended up pouncing on the 750W B2 when it dropped $20 from its current average.

RAM: Dual Channel or Single Channel (Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-2133)

RAM was also one of the easier decisions to make. The Kingston HyperX Fury Black seemed to be the most popular choice that reflected my theme of Pragmatism... simple, clean, and gets the job done. Now the question was whether I wanted to opt for dual channel (2x4GB), or single channel (1X8GB). To be honest, its not a huge difference for my needs, and the dual channel version ended up being much cheaper at the time... so it was an easy choice. Theoretically speaking, the main difference would be that dual channel has slightly better performance since both sticks are accessed simultaneously, while the single stick allows for an easier upgrade path down the road.

Motherboard: H110 vs B150 vs H170 vs Z170 x Brand (Gigabyte GA-Z170MX-Gaming 5 Micro ATX LGA1151)

Mobo research was one of the most gruelling things to do. I knew right off the bat that I didn't want the Mini-ITX form factor, so it was a toss up between the MicroATX and the full ATX (I leaned more towards the mATX and it also happened to be cheaper than the ATX equivalent at the time). It took me a long time to come to terms with spending more money now and pay for overclocking capabilities, so when that decision was made, the H110, B150 and H170 were easily taken out of the picture (though the potential jump back from Z170 to H170 lingered at the back of my mind -- the H170 was more than enough for my current need, but it lacked overclock capabilities).

Anyways, after I decided on the Z170, the next question was which brand to go with? The top contenders for me, ended up being between ASUS and Gigabyte. I'm typically a very unlucky person, so I'm coming into this build with the expectation that something might go wrong (e.g. defective parts, or parts shipped DOA)... ASUS has the general consensus of having fantastic build quality, but severely lacks in its RMA and customer service department (its price point is also quite expensive). Gigabyte's build quality is nothing to scoff at (UltraDurable seems to be highly praised) and seemed to have stellar appraisals for their customer service department (with very reasonable price points)... so I was sold on getting a Gigabyte motherboard.

I'm well aware that the "Gaming" title is largely a marketing gimmick, but the specific model I picked had the most consistent reviews, had a wonderful price drop, and my sister offered to buy an early birthday present around the same time... Score!

OS: (Microsoft Windows 10 Education 64-bit)

Windows 10 and 64 bit was a simple choice, if you want to run DX12 titles (windows 10 drivers) and need to access greater than 4GB of RAM (64-bit). My friend hooked me up with an extra "Education" version of Windows 10, so I saved ~$100 here (thanks Bilaal!)

Storage: SSD vs HDD (Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500GB 2.5" SSD)

Whats not to love about superior boot speeds? SSD was an obvious choice, but the main question was whether I needed the extra capacity in the form of an HDD (Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB). Over the years I've largely lost interest in collecting a media library (I don't really have a habit of rewatching things, I collected mainly for the sake of having it), and with the advent of faster and faster internet speeds, re-downloading and even streaming media is much simpler. As it stands, I don't currently need the extra space, so I opted to spend the money I saved from not buying an HDD, and put it into a higher capacity SSD (250 vs 500GB). The Samsung 850 EVO series fit the bill of superior quality, reasonable pricing, and no nonsense performance... so it was an easy pick from the start! The only bump in the road was finding out about the m.2 form factor equivalent, which ended up being $10 cheaper than the SATA version... but as soon as I heard about potential overheating with the smaller form factor, I decided to play it safe and stick to the tried and true SATA version.

Graphics Card: Nvidia GTX 1060 vs AMD RX 480 (MSI Radeon RX 480 4GB GAMING X)

I was initially leaning towards the GTX 1060 since initial benchmark research seemed to give it a higher performance compared to the RX 480. What I didnt account for was the jump between its 3GB model and its 6GB model in terms of price and performance. I was set on spending ~$300 for my graphics card, so the 6GB version was much more expensive, while the 3GB version really did not match up to the 6GB in terms of performance. With the 6GB model out of the picture, the RX 480 was a simple choice, since it tends to have better performance with DX12 and Vulcan game titles (although there is a huge debate whether or not this is the case). Driver support also seems to be better with AMD, so in the end I settled with the RX 480 (with the caveat that the RX 480 GPUs may run hotter on average).

Next was picking the brand. Initially it was actually a toss up between the Sapphire Nitro+ and the XFX GTR. I eventually settled on the XFX GTR, since it had decent reviews and didn't run "loud and hot" like the Nitro+ does. I realized later that the model I picked on PCPP was the reference model (which generally runs louder and hotter than non-reference models), and that the non-reference model didn't have many ratings on PCPP... so instead of going back towards choosing the Nitro+, I did a little more research and decided on the MSI Gaming X, which seemed to have better consistency in regards to its heat output. Funny story is that it went on sale locally, so I bought it... but two days later over the weekend it went on an even bigger price drop (an extra ~$20-30) online. I brought it back to ask for a price match after the fact, but they denied it... so I refunded the item and re-ordered it online (which had free shipping... nice!)

PS: the Gaming X also has two HDMI slots compared to the XFX which had one, so it allows for easier VR upgrade down the road for me.

Case: mATX vs Mid ATX vs Full ATX Towers (Fractal Design Define R5 w/Window (Black) ATX Mid Tower)

For some reason mATX towers are just as expensive as ATX towers, but offers you less space. More space offers better airflow so I decided on a Mid ATX tower, for both airflow purposes and easier upgrade paths down the road if it was required. The choice was between the Corsair 350D (mATX), FD Define R4, FD Define R5, and NZXT S340. I actually ended up settling with the R4, since reviews seemed to recommend it in spite of the R5 (which offered some extra features compared to the R4, but sacrificed other features which were already good)... However, NCIX had the R5 on sale for a great price, so I went with the "cheaper" one.

CPU Cooler: (Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing)

From the get-go, there were only two options that appealed to me. I didn't need a $100+ cooler, and at the $35-40 price point, the choice was between the CM Hyper 212 EVO (tried and true, but runs hotter) vs the Cryorig H7 (relatively new release, gaining in popularity as a substitute against the Hyper 212 EVO). I decided on the Cryorig unanimously after looking at performance reviews, but unfortunately its not an item that is available in Canada. The shipping costs to get it from America really made it an unattractive buy, so in the end I settled for the Hyper 212 EVO (which is by no means a bad choice, just that the Cryorig was a much better one in my eyes).

Monitor: (Asus VG245H 24.0" 1920x1080 75Hz)

In order to take advantage of the AMD Graphics Card, I hunted for a freesync compatible monitor (which was another feature that swayed me towards picking AMD over Nvidia -- G-Sync monitors are comparatively much more expensive). By this point I was tired of sifting through a bazillion choices, and was relatively pleased that there were only a few monitors that matched my criteria. I decided on the ASUS for its superior quality at a reasonable price (I aimed for a $200 monitor).

Wireless Adapter: (Gigabyte GC-WB867D-I PCI-Express x1 802.11a/b/g/n/ac)

I needed a wireless adapter since I won't be sitting anywhere near the modem/router. It was a toss up between the TP-Link TL-WDN4800 and the Gigabyte I picked (which has additional bluetooth capability). Both had worrying reviews, but the TP-Link had one that said it had bad driver support for Windows 10... so that kicked it out of the picture. I settled on the Gigabyte one after messaging a few other PCPP users who had it in their build, and their comments reassured me that it was a good pick.

This is it for now, I'll be back with updates as they come along... thanks for stopping by! - Breakhazard

Part Reviews

CPU

originally wanted to go for the i5-6500, and then the i5-6600k for overclock... but with a next gen kabylake core like this for a near similar price as the previous gen, there wasn't really much to consider! it demolishes everyday tasks such as web browsing, office apps and audio/video playback.

CPU Cooler

this guy is a monster... to be honest i wanted the cryorig h7 which seems to have similar if not better performance at the same price point, while maintaining a nice aesthetic look to it, but it is not being offered in canada.... so i went with the tried and true cooler. a few reviews say that it is loud, but i can barely hear a thing!

Motherboard

this is my first gaming pc build, and also my first time working with a motherboard. i gotta say, i was terrified of using too much strength and potentially damaging parts... but it can definitely tolerate a healthy amount of abuse, ultradurable lives up to its name and is a testament to solid build quality! one complaint is the difficulty with creating a bootable usb to install os software with gigabyte motherboards in general... apparently they are notoriously bad with this! the workaround for me was to format the usb to hold an os in partitioned space as an ISO virtual disk, everything was smooth sailing from there!

Memory

two great, no-nonsense sticks of ram! 8gb is enough RAM for me to run a healthy amount of games at respectable settings... gets the job done!

Storage

i am currently sitting at 76 gb out of a total 465 gb used off this ssd. gets an awesome < 10 sec boot speed. i'm glad i opted for the 500 gb model instead of the 250 gb one. don't have a huge need for maintaining large volumes of data, and if i do down the road, i can easily add in a standard western digital terabyte hdd!

Video Card

this graphics card is huge and bulky! takes up an insane amount of space on my mATX motherboard, and makes it hard to install computer cables around. on the other hand, the size ensures that the fans are able to keep the card cool and running quietly... i'll sacrifice space for insurance against overheating components any day! solid build quality, vibrantly simple aesthetics in terms of color. i was going to rate this card 4 stars, but AMD has great driver support for the RX 480 series... made a huge difference between out-of-box performance and post-driver installation performance!!

Case

this case is such a solid investment into this build!! i am pretty big on wire management and keeping things neat and tidy... so when this case came with all the cable ties, twist ties, and velcro wraps i needed to keep the internal wires set in their place, it just makes your day that much more better. i initially opted for the define r4, but this r5 was going cheaper than the r4 at the time, so i grabbed it without blinking! no regrets whatsoever.

Power Supply

i did a lot of research on EVGA's long list of PSUs and their various different manufacturers and finally decided on setting my eyes on this specific power supply. love the semi modular build, and the packaging kept everything set where it was easily accessible for future use. highly recommend the jump from 650W to 750W just for this PSU! word of advice... don't mistake this PSU for EVGA's SUPERNOVA NEX series, cause those ones seem to have significantly worse build quality!

Wireless Network Adapter

solid wireless network adapter! dual-band capability allows me to access 5G speeds that would rival ethernet cable connections! absolutely no need for driver updates, and encountered zero bluetooth connectivity issues thus far.

Monitor

great asus quality monitor build with freesync support capabilities. out of the other freesync monitors, this one was an easy choice standing at a solid price point of low-mid 200s. got it on sale, but i doubt i would regret it if i bought it at regular price! i think the best part about it is the stand which has full height/tilt/swivel/pivot adjustments... it can even be viewed vertically! love it!!

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