Been looking forward to this build for nearly a year, and well this turned out a lot better than I thought! As a video game developer in the making (finishing my degree pretty soon), I've ended up hitting a wall with my current high end laptop that I bought nearly three years ago (i7-6700HQ, GTX 960m), and just couldn't get enough power out of it. Considering the ridiculous price I've paid for the little performance it gave me (relatively), I knew another laptop was out of question as a work PC, even though it's extremely convenient to carry around.
So basically this is where this monster comes in. Sure, it's probably slightly overboard and probably very pimped up, but given this is the first PC I've actually built for myself and not for a friend/relative, I wanted to go all out, and I've saved for quite a while for this. I was aiming for a fire theme basically, with tones of red, orange, and yellow, and it came out a lot better than I thought.
CPU: Went with the Ryzen 7 2700X because of my high usage of virtualization, and also to help with accelerated build times, especially C++. When with the X version because I really wanted to get as much OC potential out of it, and it was only 30$ more ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I ended up dialing a semi-stable OC at 4.2GHz and 1.375V. Semi here because for 99% of my use cases, it's completely stable without any issues, but it does crash after a few minutes of Prime95 or two or three Cinebench runs. It only stays perfectly stable with those tests if I push the voltage up to 1.425V, and I'm definitely not comfortable running this voltage in the long run. I doubt I'll push the chip hard enough I'll achieve as much stress as those tests though, and so far it's yet to crash on me, so I'll leave it be for now. Temps are pretty acceptable, hangs in the high 30s on idle and mid 70s peak during stress tests. I tried pushing 4.3GHz, but it would only boot to Windows on auto voltage, wasn't stable under stress, and pushed it all the way to 1.5V with crazy temps.
CPU Cooler: I knew from the start I wanted to go the AIO road, but I was still hesitant until a while ago which one I wanted. I knew getting one would be more silent and keep my chip cooler, but there were a lot of options to consider, and then Corsair came out with a 360mm rad... and I honestly just had to. I ended up putting a red sleeve over the tubes from the block to the rad to match the theme, and replaced the stock thermal paste with Thermal Grizzly's Kryonaut, which was surprisingly hard to apply and a lot thicker than what I'm used to. I also replaced the stock ML fans from some ML120 Pro with red LEDs, which while a litle louder, perform a little better and are illuminated! I was actually looking forward to using iCue, but turns out we're still unable to adjust the fan curves, so I'm sticking to Corsair Link for now.
MOBO: Asus honestly delivers some of the highest quality boards out there, and the Crosshair VII is also quite ridiculous on the power delivery side, plus it offered integrated WiFi, which, while I'm currently on a Cat6 cable, I might need in the near future if I were to move and end up with my PC further away from the router. It's got all the bells and whistles I could dream on and is honestly quite a gorgeous board to look at. A little pricey, but I'm fully satisfied of my choice here. The board also comes with a heatsink/thermal pad for an M.2 drive, which is also pretty nice.
RAM: I knew from the get go I wanted to get some Trident Z RGB, but I hesitated for a while on which kit to get. The 3200CL14 was crazy expansive for a long time and I ended up settling on the 3200CL16 kit, until I saw the CL14 kit on sale for about 30$ less than the CL16 kit, needless to say I jumped on the occasion pretty fast. I also briefly considered the 3466CL16 kit, but it was also a little pricey. I could've gone with a two stick kit, but lets be honest, it's too pretty not to want to fill all those two other slots with more sticks. Right away it booted into it's advertised speed right after selecting the profile in the BIOS. I didn't have much luck pushing it further though. I managed to get it stable at 3333CL14 when I bumped VCore to 1.425V, but since I elected not to keep this voltage, I think it put too much strain on the memory controller at 1.375V. It's already ridiculously fast as is, so that's fine by me. Ended up creating a 1Gb Ramdisk for some cache files, and a dedicated 1Gb cache for my hard drive. Leaves me with 30Gb for my system and any VM I might want to run, which will be plenty. Lighting wise, the integration to Aura is flawless, and I've set each stick to a kind of randomized alternating red/orange/yellow breathing pattern, making it look vaguely like glowing embers or flames.
Storage: Bought a 960 Evo last year to put in my laptop, and turned out my M keyed M.2 port only supported SATA... So instead of returning it, I just kept it knowing I'd be using it for this build eventually. Makes a wonderful and insanely quick boot drive. The 1Tb 860 Evo serves as my game drive, and the 1Tb WD Black HDD serves as mass storage for my work projects. Went with the Black instead of the Blue for the added warranty. I have plans to add a second one in RAID 0 at a later point, but 1Tb should be enough for now.
GPU: I was quite worried about this card up until mid April when it finally came down to a sensible price. It went all the way up to 1600$ here in Canada, and I was used to see it hanging around 1050$ or so. Managed to grab one for 1200, so honestly not that bad, and worth it considering how beastly this card is. It literally eats through any work or game I've thrown at it so far without breaking a sweat, and pulls frames out of thin air like it's nothing. Been running The Witcher 3 at ultra settings with hairworks enabled in 4k and an insane amount of graphical mods at a pretty solid 52-56FPS, which is just utterly ridiculous. It wasn't an enormous overclocker though, and I've only managed a +70 on the core, anything more would just crash any stress test, even with added voltage. Although it is an Asus OC model and is already overclocked compared to even the regular Strix card. Although it's set to 1793MHz in GPU Tweak, I've seen GPU Boost actually shoot it up to 2050MHz, so that's actually not too bad. However, I've managed a +1300 on the memory clock, all the way to 12300MHz, which is kind of insane, and actually benefited me a lot in benchmarks and games. I went specifically for this card because of how pretty it is, and I put some money in a Vertical GPU bracket, which had the advantage of being installed in the usual PCI slots of the case rather than two slots insanely close to the side panel, so temps aren't suffering from it. Getting low 50s at idle and it barely goes into the high 60s even under high load and 70% fan speed.
PSU: I wanted something that would give me plenty of headroom for OC, stay in it's ideal part of it's power delivery curve, and be as efficient as possible, and well the HX850i just delivers on all fronts. Added some replacement custom sleeved EPS, ATX, and PCIE cables from CableMods, and they're looking pretty good. I'm having some issues with the USB connector to get readings from the PSU, but I believe this is the USB header I'm using from the board, and I'll buy a splitter shortly to test my theory. Otherwise it's been staying very quiet and is doing the job quite well so far!
Case: I hesitated a lot on this part for the longest time. I was actually set on the Deepcool Genome II ROG edition for the longest time, as it came included with a 360mm AIO and a vertical GPU bracket/PCIE riser, but I've been worried by the apparent failure rate of the pump on the included AIO. While it also did look very good, it lacked tempered glass which I really wanted. Another choice I juggled with was the Thermaltake Core P3, which also came with a pretty view and included riser/bracket, but I ended up going with the Phanteks Enthoo M Pro SE in the end. The white interior basically takes on any colour shined on it, hence the addition of a CableMod RGB strip. The TG side panel gives an insane view of the interior, with views on the PSU branding and a front slot for a 2.5" SSD, which gives a really classy look and allows me to really showcase my parts. Ended up replacing the two front fans with some ML140 Pros, which still look great with the Phanteks Halos, and I also added a ML140 Pro Red as a back exhaust fan. The front mesh panel gives some great unrestricted breathing space. The case was amazing to work with, extremely great build quality and perfect finish, with dust filters included for the front and top panel, as well on the intake for the PSU on the bottom of the case. My only complaint was how the case was marketed as Aura compliant, but the RGB connections to the Halos are actually proprietary to Phanteks, and while I managed to tape them secured to my strip, the RGB layout did not actually match the one of the board, so the colours were being sent to the wrong diodes. Ended up just using the included RGB controller to send a breathing red signal to the Halos. It's not synchronized to the rest of the lighting, but it does the job.
Monitor: I knew I wanted to go 4k from the start. I'm a sucker for pixels and I just don't play any competitive/multiplayer/Esports titles, so very high framerates, while nice, aren't actually that much of a necessity in my case. I mainly play singleplayer AAA titles so really, getting some ultra settings 4k 60FPS was really my goal here. I actually wasn't going to go for a G-Sync panel as how ridiculously expansive they are, but I ended up finding the 28" Acer Predator on sale at 700$ instead of 1000$, so yeah, I didn't even hesitate. Pretty happy with my choice, the colour fidelity is pretty amazing and I've only experienced some light screen tearing in TW3, but it's known to not behave very well with G-Sync, however turning on fast sync in the NVidia Control Panel fixed this and I'm not noticing any input lag. 4k has also been pretty useful while working as I'm able to put so much on my screen without it feeling cluttered or too small to view correctly. I'm considering getting a second smaller 1440p or 1080p panel at some point to help some more, but that'll wait a while.
The Rest: I got a Windows 10 Pro key for free from my University's affiliation with Microsoft Dreamspark, so that was easy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ For peripherals, the Stix Flare from Asus was just too gorgeous and nice to use to pass. Ended up setting a red to orange wave lighting starting from the middle in ROG Armoury. I was going to link it to Aura, but given I wanted a breathing effect on my parts, that also meant that applied to the keyboard, and given I work in the dark most of the time, I'd rather not have the backlight flash while I work. Somehow the first keyboard I got ended up bricked after a day (???), but the shop I bought it at immediately replaced it and the second one is doping great so far! The GX950 just has a really good feel to it and only has discreet lighting, which I actually really like. Haven't had any luck with the Asus software, but the preset DPI settings are actually working for me and I edited my side buttons with XMouse, so all is good. Finally the mouse mat is both gorgeous and basically fills my entire desk, so that's great too.
Honestly I'm extremely happy with this whole build. Was a blast to put together as well, and I've been getting extremely good performances. The system managed a score of 10,185 in TimeSpy, which puts it in the 95th percentile incredibely enough. I've also relocated my TW3 pop to my case, with Triss sitting inside, in her element (fire). Next step is to get a VR headset to start getting into VR development, but that's likely for next summer!
How is this thing 400CAD$. Goddamnit this basically OCed itself to 4.2GHz on it's own. Two years ago for an 8c/16t chip running at this frequency you needed to buy a 1200$ i7-6900k. And to top it off, AMD includes an actually really decent RGB box cooler? Didn't use it for myself but I ended up giving it to a friend that retired his Hyper 212 and he's getting slightly improved temps, but much better looks. Honestly I could hardly be more satisfied by this.
This AIO is T H I C C. Pretty good price for a 360mm. Box fans are good but are silence oriented, you might want to switch them out if you want better cooling performance.
This literally will S U C C the heat out of your CPU.
******* Asus knows how to make good boards. This literally has all the possible bells and whistles you could possibly dream of, completely ridiculous VRM phases, incredible looks, subtle and not overwhelming RGB, and a crazy unboxing experience. Absolutely loving the inclusion of the QPort connector, waiting on Asus to start shipping USB Key drivers instead of CDs anytime now.
It's expensive, but have you seen how cool it looks?
On a serious note, clocked to box speeds in a click, which is in itself crazy fast. Managed to briefly push my kit to 3333CL14 or 3400CL15 @1.375V, but given my memory controller is already strained from my chip OC, I didn't fight for it too much and went back to base settings. Good news is this is guaranteed to be B-Die since only Samsung makes 3200CL14
Oh, and it does look absolutely gorgeous, but yeah, it comes with the RGB tax. Don't get this if you don't care how it looks, you're throwing money out your windows.
Okay, whoever at Asus who put these things together sold his soul or something because I'm not sure how this is so damn chill. I've managed to add a +70 core OC, which is impressive since this is already an Asus OC binned card, and a +1200 memory OC???? How??? And it has never broken 69-70C even after half an hour of furmark? What sorcery is this.
Been told this can get even better under Liquid Metal, I'll have to check that out at some point.
This case literally checked all my requirements. Good airflow? Check, front panel mesh and side vents work charms, top panel has room for a 360mm. Tempered glass side panel? Check. Show off your parts? Check, has a PSU cutout as well as a front mounted SSD tray, and the main chamber has a TON of room to cram anything in it. Great features? Easy building? Check, radiator tray and plenty of cutouts and rubber grommets everywhere. Good looks? Check, included fan Halos give a nice front facing look, white interior reflects any light you shine on it. Honestly I don't understand how this case was only 150CAD$. Definitely the most underrated case from Phanteks.
Crazy good looking monitor. Very little light bleed on mine, looks solid, base is heavy and the build quality is amazing. The colours are very good, really, I don't have much to say here. Pricey, but this kinda comes hand in hand when you add GSync to a monitor.
This Keyboard has such a premium feel I couldn't even describe it. Asus really knows how to hit it out of the park. I had one issue with the first one I received, where hitting the LED button during post can basically brick the keyboard. Returned to the store and got a new one immediately. Asus corrected the issue through a firmware update on which new KBs should come pre-equiped with, and this shouldn't be a problem anymore. Otherwise, great product. Would have definitely liked to see an MX Blue version however.
Honestly, pretty underrated mouse. It's on the old side, but still looks and feels very premium even by today's standards. I'm happy about the very light and subtle lighting on it. Could not get the software to work, I don't believe it's been updated to Windows 10, but I'm not particularly surprised given this came out over 4 years ago. Still, box settings are plenty good to me.