Description

Feel free to comment/ask questions below.

This is a budget-ish gaming/everyday usage/Lightroom build. Actual cost was lower than pcpartpicker's quote because some parts are no longer current. For many of those parts, I'd certainly choose a different option right now based on price.

Performance:

Used for medium gaming, Solidworks,& Lightroom (+45,000 photos). Not ideal for Solidworks - you'd be better off with a faster dual core, since SW only utilizes one core. BF4 and Dying Light play very well on it. I originally built this with an R7 260x, but that GPU struggled with Dying Light and higher resolutions on BF4, hence the upgrade to the 960. I need to do some data logging and see if the dated CPU is bottlenecking in gaming.

Thermaltake Core v1 Case:

I think the case is well designed and well built. It's considerably smaller than the Corsair 250d, but the Corsair has much nicer HD bays, an optical drive slot, better liquid cooling mounting options, and dust filters on all windows. The Thermaltake only has a foam filter on the main 200mm intake fan (where it matters most) and a screen for the PSU intake, so if you run an open panel on the GPU side, the GPU pulls in dust, and if you run the window panel on the GPU side, you're choking the GPU's access to cool air.

When using the H55 with the Core V1, you can't quite fit it high up on the rails near the top of the case such that the air blowing out of it blows across the mobo instead of into the cavity below the mobo. The H55 is about 1mm too high. I used a small file to enlarge the slots in the mounting rails on the case to lower the radiator about 1mm, which is just low enough so that the top panel of the case can still slide into place.

The mobo:

  1. CPU placement: If you're using an air cooler, note that the CPU is 90 degrees off of other mobos. When I ran an air cooler that could only be mounted at one angle, it pointed the hot air at the GPU. This was not ideal.

  2. Fan control: I don't think this mobo can voltage control fans on the SYS fan header, so the case's original front fan (200mm non-PWM 3 pin) will run full speed (800 rpm) all the time. Maybe this is the norm with ITX mobos, but it seems kind of cheap on Gigabyte's part, since lots of cases run big fans now, and bigger fans are always 3 pin voltage controlled. I ended up having to ditch the 200mm Thermaltake, and also ditch the 3 pin 120mm Corsair fan that came on the H55, which will also run full speed all of the time on this mobo. I swapped in a 120mm Corsair SP120 PWM on the radiator, which doubles as the case's only intake fan. Note that I had to specify the PWM version of that fan, as a normal 3 pin SP120 would also be full speed. An unfortunate consequence of ditching the 200mm case fan is that the H55 radiator does not cover much of the front face of the case. Consequently, it is easier for the radiator fan to draw in warm/dirty air recirculating in from the case than it is for it to pull cool/clean air through the resistance of the front panel filter. I ended up using masking tape to cover up all of the gaps in the front of the case to force the SP120 to draw in air through the filter. I've noticed that other 120mm radiator/Core V1 users aren't accounting for this. I noticed a 5-10 C difference after masking off the gaps, which makes sense, considering that the easiest path for the air to take before masking the gaps was to exit the radiator and go right back in. Also note that depending on your fan curves, 80mm exhaust fans are probably sucking more air out of the case than a 120mm intake fan will be pushing in. Consequently, you have a negative pressure case, which draws dust in through the unfiltered openings.

  3. Fan headers: The SP120 radiator fan runs off of the CPU fan header. The single sys fan header runs the daisy chained 80mm exhaust fans, so there isn't a connection left for the water pump on the H55. I probably could have split off of the sys fan header to power the water pump, but didn't want to risk overloading it. I ended up splicing the water pump directly to a 12V 4 pin power connector coming off of the PSU. Also, a PWM splitter cable is used as an extension from the mobo to the cable management cavity to keep the 80mm daisy chain mess neatly tucked away.

Heat:

I originally ran an Arctic Cooling air cooler and frankly, that worked just fine. I upgraded to the Corsair H55 as a lark; I wasn't having any heat issues with the air cooler. I did separate data logging runs for both coolers while running Prime95, and while the air cooler worked fine, the H55 does an outstanding job. Because of the larger thermal mass of the liquid in the H55, it takes much longer for temps to rise to equilibrium with 100% CPU use, and the H55/SP120 combo won't let the CPU go beyond 45 degrees C of headroom, which was about a ten degree improvement on the air cooler. In other words, the H55 is already way more cooling than is needed for this CPU, and larger water cooler (H100, etc) would be complete overkill.

CPU:

I'd have preferred the 860k, but was unaware of it when I ordered the 760k. The 760k seems well up to the task, and handles BF4 on medium settings well. At 70$ it does most of what a 230$ CPU does. Hopefully the 880k comes out sooner or later, otherwise, it's probably Intel for me next time. AMD, I'm really tryna show you love over here.

I OC'd the 760k up to about 4.1ghz using AMD's overdrive.

GPU:

I originally used a R7 260x to play Skyrim and Fallout 3, and it did that well. It also handled BF4, but met its match with Dying Light. Low settings netted you 25-30 FPS; playable, but nothing glamorous. A friend was upgrading from a GTX 960 to a 970 so I nabbed his 960. I was fond of the 260x, but with today's games, you kinda need something with more punch if you want a level of graphics that's 'immersive' for games like Dying Light, where graphic quality really adds to the experience. Also, big bonus points to EVGA for a fan solution where the fans are off when you're not gaming, this reduces both noise and dust issues. I added the EVGA back panel to the GPU just for aesthetics.

SSD & HD:

Running your OS and programs off of an SSD is pretty much required these days; it's just such a huge improvement. This older Intel SSD I'm using is quoting a really high price on pcpartpicker, and I don't think I paid anything close to that. I figure any 100-120$ range SSD would fit the bill. I'm using a secondary SSD (a cheap PNY 240gb) for Lightroom previews and game isntalls, and there's also 2 spinning 1tb hd's for files and backup. Large file transfers across the mobo seem very fast. Having ~500gb of SSD and 2TB of HD is really, really nice.

RAM:

I initially had 2x8=16GB of this 1600 Crucial ram but sold a stick to a friend, now running 1x8. Haven't hit any issues running 8gb, I'd recommend just 8 unless you have a special need. I like these low profile sticks instead of some big gaudy colored things, and they keep cooler options open if you're air cooling.

PSU:

Cheap/works.

Future:

  1. I bought an NZXT Grid+ fan controller and using it to control the 3 pin 200mm case fan in order to return the case to positive pressure. This will create a nice push-pull combo for the radiator; the 200mm will always be moving some air across the radiator, and the SP120 will pick up the slack under load. Luckily this mobo has an extra USB header (the case uses the 3.0 header) to run the Grid+.
  2. I plan on laser cutting some acrylic air filter frames for the side panels, an intake duct for the 960 that discourages it from drawing in warm case air, and laser cutting another panel that blocks off all of the extra air gaps around the 200mm fan.
  3. I'm planning on rigging up an Arduino that will do some temp and pressure measurements and control some RGB LED strips to give a visual of what's going on in the case. If I feel like tackling PWM frequency with the Arduino, I might switch the fan control over to that.

Part Reviews

Motherboard

  1. I've had a few random blackout shutdowns even though my wattage should be well below 450, using different power supplies. I suspect the mobo.

  2. I don't think this mobo can run voltage controlled fans, so the front fan in the thermaltake v1 (200mm 3 pin) is running full speed (800 rpm) all the time. :( Total bummer, this this could be pretty silent.

  3. This mobo only has 1 sys fan out and 1 cpu fan out, so running additional case fans right off the mobo isn't going to happen.

  4. I bought this mobo instead of the a88x Asrock because the Asrock's fm2 socket is pointing 90 degrees from normal, and I wanted the CPU cooler to point to the back of the case to carry airflow through the case. However the Arctic CPU cooler I bought, mounted on this mobo, points 90 degrees from what I expected, hence it points the heat right at the GPU. Also it should be noted that this mobo has the CPU situated very close to the GPU/PCI slot, which limits you to ~92mm fan CPU coolers (about 120mm total width possible).

Case

The thermaltake case is great looking and well built; handles my medium sized r7 260x and 4 hard drives (2x 3.5 and 2x 2.5 well. It's considerably smaller than the Corsair 250d and I prefer the finish of the thermaltake, but the Corsair has much nicer HD bays, better liquid cooling options, and dust filters on all windows. The thermaltake only has a foam one on the main 200mm fan and a screen for the PSU, so the GPU is probably pulling in some dust unless you rig up a filter out of pantyhose or whatever.

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Comments

  • 61 months ago
  • 2 points

+1 for pulling off a small form factor AMD build!

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks!

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I gotta ask - why did you spend so much on the SSD? That alone costed more than your CPU, cooler, motherboard, and RAM combined...

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey! It came out of another computer. I bought that a couple years ago and would have bought whatever the cheap and popular option at the moment was, I'm not the type to buy the pricey option unless I really need it. If I were buying a 240-256 gb ssd right now I'd totally go for the 100$ range. I can't remember what I paid at the time though.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

That works for me! =) Thanks for clearing that up.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I have been trying to find out about the case fan as well running at 800rpm all the time, the stock thermaltake one is noisy at 29db, cooler master and aerocool have 18/19db fans. Apparently you do need a 4th pin for speed control, I don't think many motherboards can dynamically adjust the voltage. Have you tried speedfan?

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey Leon. So yup, tried speedfan, tried bios options, tried the easytune6 software gigabyte provides, tried the options in AMD overdrive.

As you said, some motherboards can control a non-pwm 3 pin fan (even off the 4 pin sys fan headers), some can't. It's not the kind of detail that gets noted in the specs. Of the motherboards that can control a 3 pin fan off of a 4 pin header, some you have to change the fan type in bios, some do it automatically. I don't think my particular motherboard can do either; it just can't control 3 pin fans.

Speaking with a couple friends who build custom pcs for customers, they suggested wiring up a potentiometer and just turning up the fan speed with a knob when gaming. That seems a bit crude to me. When I have the time, I'm going to figure out a circuit to step up the PWM signal coming off that 4th pin to 12v and convert the PWM into a steady voltage for that big thermaltake fan to use. Kind of blows my mind that motherboard manufacturers wouldn't incorporate the simple circuit required to run an adjustable, non-PWM steady voltage at the fan headers; from an engineering perspective, that seems like a really lazy corner to cut.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I think I am going to try the Zalman Fan Mate 2 as it doesn't use a PCI slot, even though I don't have a gpu I'd like to keep the 2 slots clear. I agree it is very crude. Asrock motherboards seem to be able to control the fan speeds, I might consider them next time.

I think you could also try the cooler master megaflow fan, its rated at 19db, nearly 10 db less than the stock at 28.3 db. Because db is logartihmic, 10 db less is 10 times quieter so you can keep the same airflow but it's much quieter despite running at max speed.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the heads up about cpu orientation and cpu fan selection. Also can you help figure out these temps?? I have the 7850k. HW monitor says the cpu is at 50 ish and the APU which I have OC'd jumps over 85c under full load. I only have the crappy stock cooler, The one I bought will not fit on the mobo. Its a budget build so I don't want to spend $50+ on a cooler. My mobo is the same orientation as yours.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I'm no pro at it, but my general impression is that if you're OC'ing, it's best to have better cooling capabilities. The cooler I bought seems to work well enough, even with the less than ideal airflow in my case, and it was under 30$. A bigger cooler is a bigger heatsink, which is just more mass to heat up (slows down chip temp spikes) and more surface area to dissipate the heat (lower overall temperatures).

Also, be wary of reading heat temperatures for AMD chips with HWmonitor; AMD chips and mobos don't report temperature the same way intel chips do. My understanding is that it's better to monitor AMD with 'thermal margin', i.e. how much headroom you have before the chip is too hot. AMD's Overdrive software seems to accurately report thermal margin, but HWmonitor numbers are quite wrong with my setup. (ex. HWmonitor reports zero degrees at idle? That's breaking one or two of the laws of thermodynamics).

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

thx. I downloaded AMD overdrive and feel a LOT better about my temps now. I never came close to overheating at stock and well within reason OC'ing the GPU part of the chip. OC'ing the processor part drove the temps way up due to the mobo auto setting the voltage. I am posting my build in a few minutes.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I was wondering, is the althon weaker than the i5 2520m? I'm struggling to edit raw pictures (24mp from my D7100) everytime I turn to the next picture, it takes a few seconds to load it up...is that normal?

  • 60 months ago
  • 1 point

At 24mp (I'm guessing RAW files), not surprised. This CPU definitely takes a moment to render a jpg preview for a large RAW file like that. If you're using lightroom, there's lots of tricks to make everything run faster - namely having it create the JPG previews in bulk when you import so that you don't have to sit through that rendering moment when you're working with a set of pictures. You wouldn't want JPG previews of every single image, though. Running all the original on an SSD would help but isn't really cost-possible for the amount of files I have (nearly a terabyte), but I keep all of the previews and the library itself on SSD, and you can tinker with which files to pre-render the previews for to avoid some of those waits. You can definitely improve lightroom speed with settings instead of hardware upgrades!

  • 60 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the reply, I'll look into changing the settings! :D

  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

+1 for the awesome build. I'm planning a build almost identical to yours, but using an APU instead of the 760K. What are your thoughts on the multitasking performance of your CPU? I'm currently running a Pentium G850 which is fine for domestic tasks, but kinda sucks when it comes to multitasking and video encoding, and was hoping a quad core Kaveri to have almost twice as much power when running threaded apps.

  • 55 months ago
  • 2 points

I can't speak to video encoding, as I haven't done that on this machine, but generally the CPU doesn't seem to be a bottleneck in normal usage. The only time I've had this little CPU be a problem is with Solidworks, which currently only uses 1 core, and is a rather heavy program. Otherwise, it just chugs along.

I recently went through the process of designing another bang-for-the-buck build based on what's available right now, and other than buying the 860k CPU, I would still build this same rig. When at 4690K and gtx960 cost about ~100$ each, I might build another PC, but this thing still seems great for the money.

  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

Thx for replying. I guess I'll go with an Athlon and dedicated GPU, but will wait till the launch of the 880K. I like Intel's power efficiency and performance per core, but the most basic motherboards don't allow you to tweak many settings, so I guess there's no fun in the long run. Hope I have a good time overclocking and undervolting my future CPU :)

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice, I got the same case wrapped in carbon fiber vinyl !

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Really nice looking build mate. I am wondering how are your 80 mm case fans performing, I am thinking of the same case with the same fans. How are the fans noise and how did you connect your fans in the system? Thanks in advance.