Are you interested in reading about a successful build where everything went smoothly? Then this build is not for you. But, if you are interested in learning from my mistakes, please read on. I hope this will prevent some people from running into problems.
The Need: The office needed a computer for the boss. The laptop being used can only support one additional monitor, and the work requires more real estate. It was also becoming tiresome to plug all the cales in each morning. The boss wanted for three monitors with adjustable height, Windows 7, fast, and try to keep the cost down. As usual, it needed to be ordered, built, and running by Monday. It was Tuesday. I had previously built two other computers for the office under similar circumstances. I was going to clone the specs for the other two computers, but NewEgg did not have the ASUS motherboard in I wanted in stock, Skylake came out, and this was another rushed build. I decided to try a Skylake build. What could possibly go wrong?
MB - Gigabyte H170 MB Mini-ITX with m.2 support, 2 HDMI and one DVI output. (I had a personal bias against Gigabyte from a previous build, but NewEgg had them in stock, it met the needs. I hope this will work out)
CPU - Skylake I5-6500 - 4 cores, with integrated graphics, no graphics card this time.
CPU Cooler - Stock Intel because its fairly quiet.
Case - The Node 304
Memory - 16GB Corsair DDR4-2133 since that's what the MB supports
Storage - M.2 Samsung 250GB, I had good results in the past.
GPU - Intel P4600 integrated graphics
Monitors - Good sale on ASUS 23.8" monitors. VESA mount with integrated speakers.
PSU - 600W Silverstone modular. This was a lot bigger than the SFX silverstone PSU's I used before but $20 cheaper.
Monitors - These are nice! VESA mountable, nearly 24", and really wide. They have inputs for HDMI, DVI, and VGA for versatility. A steal at this price.
Monitor Mount - - Monmount triple from Amazon with Prime shipping.
OS - Win7 Professional, since the premium is not sold anymore.
The Good: All the parts arrived on Thursday. I cleared the kitchen table and got to work. The physical build was farily painless. There was the usual difficulty plugging in the power switches that needed needlenose pliers and 10" long fingers, but all the parts went together nicely. It was turning into the cleanest cabling job I had done inside a Node. Bios screen showed no issues, and it was recognizing the SSD, memory, and USB drives. It was time to go to the office, hook up the Blu-ray Drive, and install the software.
The Bad: The windows DVD asked for me to install a DVD driver. Huh?!? I never saw this before. Why would it need a driver if it was reading from the DVD? I went online to find a driver for it, but there was none. After researching the issue, I found out it was "hard" to install win7 on a skylake build because the installer didn't support the new USB 3.0 protocols. For more information about this issue, read the story in this link:
No problem, I'll install it using a USB thumb drive. -No Luck. It would not recognize the USB ports once the install started. I started trolling through the Gigabyte support site for answers. They had a detailed write up on creating the thmb drive with the ISO and adding the USB drivers to it. Ran the utility, but it said cannot add drivers. I tried this with three different thumb drive to no avail. It didn't seem likley that three thumb drives were bad, so I figured it was a fault in the utility. I downloaded it severeal more times trying to get a different result. No luck.
Well, I'm a clever guy. I used another computer to write the drivers on a 1TB SATA drive and temporarily plugged it in to get things going. I even retreived an old PS2 Keyboard and mouse. During the windows install, I was getting a few BSOD's, but I kept plugging away. After several failed attempts, I finally had Windows 7 installed on the m.2 drive. I'm ready for for Easy street now!
The Ugly: But there were more problems!! As I started methodically loading drivers, I was getting more frequest random BSOD's. Sometimes they happened just opening up a folder. The computer would crash-dump often, sometimes in the middle of driver updates. I reinstalled windows again thinking this may solve it. I slowly worked through most of the driver issues. Then a requirement - the LAN drivers - would not be recognized. Try as I might, I could not get the LAN to work or even recognize it existed. I tried to contact Gigabyte, but there was no response during the weekend. I tried every trick in the book, but between non-working LAN drivers, and frequent BSOD's, and three days of frustration, I finally gave up. Usually BSOD's are operating system or RAM issues. The non-working LAN is either a MB issue, or a driver issue.
I decided to RMA the MB and the Memory back to NewEgg. There was an Asus H97 MB that became available at Superbiiz. I also ordered DDR3 memory and a 1150 CPU from NewEgg. The CPU was not able to be RMA'd, and now I'm stuck with it. Any takers for $200?
The computer was not running by Monday, and there was an upset boss.
Followup - Gigabyte did finally respond to the problem on Thursday, but they quoted the same procedure I already followed. Not a help really, and my personal bias against Gigabyte deepens even more.
I elected not to review the CPU or memory since I could not get the box to run stable enough to test them out properly.
The board had the connections I needed, had 2080 m.2 support, and enough video outputs.
Don't use for Windows 7! See my build for details on windows 7 and Skylake issues. I believe I also had a bad LAN port, but I'll never know for sure.
Its Samsung, its compact, and it saved me 20 minutes of cable cleaning. M.2 forever!
The case is just as I remember it from my last build. Nice looking, good air flow, and reasonably compact. I will continue to use this as my "go-to" case until something better pops up.
It works, and is quiet.
I'm happy with Windows 7, but not happy with the price. However, I'd rather pay $143 for old software than $89 for win8 or 10.
Large, clear, and very reasonable price! Thanks, Asus.