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I had been mulling a new PC build for a while, when I saw Tom's Hardware review the HAF XB. I saw it and immediately wanted the case, not for LAN parties or as a test bench but a gaming, programming, rendering case for myself. I did try to look at alternatives like the Corsair Air 540 (even on its side) and the R4 Black Pearl and they were very tempting. But what won me over was that it was a true horizontal case - much easier to fiddle around in, something I do frequently. The second factor was that the intake fans were blowing right against the graphics card. One pet annoyance for me in other cases has always been that a hard drive cage often gets in the way of an intake fan from the actual PC components where cooling is more needed. I've never been a fan (heh) of this arrangement but always accepted it as a 'standard', which is why this feels new and different and I am willing to experiment.
The case being decided, the parts were a simpler matter;
GTX 780 Ti - The graphics card needed to last a few years and play and render anything. The GTX 780Ti wasn't that much more expensive compared to the alternatives, so I decided to just go for it.
Asus Sabertooth Z97 - As for the motherboard, I've used Sabertooths in the past and I like the TUF armor combined with assist fans. There are debates regarding whether the TUF armor helps or not, in my experience it does lower temperatures as long as you use the assist fans. And further, it looks nice. It's the main thing I see when looking through the top mesh. It also comes with
buttdust plugs for all the unused parts of the motherboard, even some RAM slots.
Intel i7 4790K - My development and VMs will be requiring/using an i7 quite heavily, and the 4790K had just come out.
The rest of the listed parts (H100i, 16GB RAM, SSD, PSU) I selected purely on popularity on PCPartPicker, I'm not even going to pretend to justify them. And, I've been watching PCPartPicker builds for a while and completely trust everyone here. Noctuas, though, are a force of habit - I like quiet.
As for the unlisted parts (more hard drives, operating systems, monitors) I already have them from previous builds so didn't add them here (should I have?). OS: Ubuntu 14.04 and Windows 8.1. No optical drive as I haven't used them in years. Monitor: A Dell U2412M + HannsG, with possibly another U2412M on the way.
On a side note, I paid for quite a few of these parts using Bitcoins, it's great to see so many retailers now accepting cryptocurrencies!
The HAF XB Evo is the next incarnation of the HAF XB and is quite utilitarian and functional (rather than beautiful), though it's beautiful in its own way. It was a real joy working with it and having to think about wiring and layout, it's unlike any case I've ever worked with and getting the wiring right felt rewarding. I also noticed how flexible the case was; I removed the SSD cage at the bottom and decided to let the SSD hang. It was easy to move the motherboard in and out of the way when needed. Watching a few videos definitely helped. Splaying the cables out along the sides was quite important and doing a few 'mock' placements of the motherboard to see where the wires would go was useful. There are plenty of 'hooks' in the case to tie bundles of wires to, and I also got some rolls of velcro to bundle them together.
A few (possibly) unconventional things I've done: The rear bottom fans (2x80mm), I made them intake fans; the cool air coming in could help and there's nothing generating heat down there. The front of the case has the H100i radiator on it but is still an intake. The air it blows even under load is lukewarm though, and has not had a negative effect on the rest of the parts. I'll also be getting another 2 fans to make it a push-pull configuration. Just to be safe, there is a top 200mm fan blowing the hot air out; the 200mm isn't connected to any fan headers, it's going straight to the PSU as I want it on full all the time. If needed, I could have put it on the motherboard as the Z97 Sabertooth has plenty of fan headers.
The assist fans that come with the motherboard can get noisy. I have used Asus' AI Suite III software to only turn them on when the CPU gets hot. However, there is presently no
pwmconfig on Linux, so the fans whir on and off a bit. Not too bad but I wish I could control it programmatically. Perhaps in a few months...
The Corsair H100i fans were noisy, although they performed well, I didn't like that they sounded like jet engines. The Noctuas that have replaced them are nice and quiet and work just as well.
The case does allow for a top fan and although I do not like the Megaflow 200mm fan (I don't like LEDs on fans), I couldn't find anything else, nor do I know if other fans will fit up there. I can't 'cut' the LEDs either as they form part of the circuitry, so the fan simply won't work. I saw a video of a Bitfenix 200mm on the top panel, but with only 2 screws. I'm not prepared to do that just yet.
I am liking the concept of a horizontal cuboid case, and for now, I am very happy with the flexibility and accessibility of it. I am hoping to stick to similar configurations in the future, or until the next innovation occurs. I also hope that other manufacturers start doing this.
Games are smooth, programming is smooth, rendering works brilliantly. Let's see how the rest of the year pans out.
Added more photos and preowned parts to the list
Replaced the graphics card with an EVGA 980 Ti Hybrid. Removed the rear fan, since the two hottest components (CPU/GPU) were now under closed loop coolers. Added photos.