Description

This is my first PC build and the first computer I've ever given a name (but don't anthropomorphize your inanimate objects - they hate it!). I saved up and bought the initial components during sales over the course of 2015 and completed it on January 5, 2016. I use this as a workstation & gaming PC and an all-around media hub in lieu of a television. In addition to gaming, I watch videos and run various music production and image & video editing software. It is also my main writing tool in conjunction with a mechanical keyboard. This build performs great, with stable overclocks, low temperatures, and very fast, near-silent operation. Since the initial build, I've upgraded & expanded on it and its peripheral devices as I could afford to:

  • 2016: Upgraded the GPU from an AMD Radeon R9 390 to an MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X and doubled the memory to 32GB (Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 RAM at 2666MHz in quad-channel).

  • 2017: Added a Seagate Hybrid 4TB solid state hybrid drive and got a Logitech G430 7.1 channel surround sound headset for gaming and communication. [older photos are from this stage]

  • 2018: Upgraded the wireless Microsoft membrane keyboard & laser mouse set to a Corsair Strafe RGB mechanical keyboard (with Cherry MX Brown switches) and Logitech Proteus Spectrum optical mouse.

  • 2019: Upgraded the GPU to an EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 and the monitor from an Asus 27" 1920x1080 144hz TN Panel to an Asus ROG Swift PG279Q 27” 2560x1440 165hz IPS Panel with G-Sync. Also replaced my broken Logitech headset with a higher-end Corsair Void Pro 7.1 channel wireless set. [more photos coming soon]

The Future: Over the course of the next couple years, I'll be continuing to upgrade my build where significant and as I can afford to; I'll likely get either a 3rd-gen Ryzen CPU (with an X570 motherboard) or Intel's counter to that depending on which has the best value for performance, and I plan to upgrade to an NVMe SSD for my new primary drive. It's also nearing the appropriate time to replace my liquid CPU cooler; I plan on getting something with more cooling space (the NZXT Krakens are very nice) and possibly upgrading the case fans as well (Corsair ML Pro RGBs being my favorites). My case is still very good but quite dated; I'd like something with tempered glass paneling, a drive cage & PSU enclosure, and better cable routing such as the Fractal Design Define C TG.

The Past: To get an idea of my computing experience prior to this, my first PC was a late '90s Intel Pentium desktop with 512MB of memory and a 6GB hard drive. My next one had a quad-core AMD Phenom CPU, 6GB DDR2 memory, a 1TB 5400rpm hard drive, and a Radeon 6750 1GB video card a friend gifted me in 2012 along with some Steam keys; this was my first venture into PC gaming. I am grateful and still a bit awed to now have such an all-around great build and thankful for the friends who've helped me with it along the way.

Part Reviews

CPU

This was probably the best sub-$1000 processor available in 2015. An excellent CPU with outstanding multi-core performance; this is the Haswell-E sweet spot between the slower 5820k and the much pricier 5960x. This is a stunning overclocker, as I can get a stable 4.5GHz on all cores, though for the sake of longevity (temperatures run too high under heavy loads as I'm currently using only a 120mm liquid AIO which lacks the cooling space needed for that clock speed), I tend to keep it at 4GHz max, and even the 3.7GHz turbo clock is capable for most uses. Even today, the 5930k is a very good gaming processor and an outstanding workstation processor.

Motherboard

Not merely a great budget-conscious X99 motherboard (if there is such a thing), but a great motherboard in its own right. Where it lacks in bells & whistles (no built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or I/O shield) it makes up for with its overclocking ability (my i7-5930k holds a stable 4.5GHz on all cores), sleek, solid construction, good BIOS with intuitive presets and in-depth manual control, and a massive amount of inputs (including four PCIe 3.0 x16 inputs and piles of USB ports including USB 3.1). This is a stealth black beast.

Memory

I got these primarily for their low profile, which works great in a tight-fitting setup like mine (two of the four modules are seated behind my rear-mounted 120mm fan and liquid CPU cooler radiator). I have them running in quad-channel at 2666MHz (15 CAS latency), and while a 2800MHz XMP overclock runs stable at 1.35v and a 1.27MHz BCLK, the difference is negligible and raising the CPU base clock runs my system a bit too spicy for my taste. I was lucky enough to get this 4x8GB set in late 2016 before the huge spike in DDR4 RAM prices; today, what I paid for this would only get me half the amount of memory.

Storage

The best 2.5" drive I've ever used. I have Windows 10 Pro (64-bit) and all my programs installed on this, and it's all a bit faster than the average NAND drive. Everything loads & runs remarkably fast with read/write speeds at 540MB/s & 520MB/s, respectively. Though supplanted by the 860 Evo, this has held up very well and is still a top-shelf SSD.

Storage

Even with the 5900rpm spindle speed of its hard disk, this drive has noticeably faster load times over a fully mechanical 7200rpm drive once an application is booted up a couple times and its files are in the solid state cache. Due to this method of operation, it excels at gaming and I use it solely for that purpose. Its roominess is very comfortable as I have over 350 games installed on it (many of which exceed 20GB) and nearly 1TB of storage remaining. With many newer triple-A titles being as large as 100GB or more, the 4TB capacity is great for keeping many games installed, and the drive is an excellent value.

Storage

My secondary drive on which I have my extensive collection of music, cinema, literature, and images as well as my own music recordings, visual artwork, and writing documents. I lost much of my work when my sole drive died in 2011, and I intend to not repeat the same mistake; most of the files on this are backed up to an external drive and the most important ones a second time to flash drives and/or cloud storage. This drive is a winner, with very speedy 7200rpm read/write speeds and a roomy 3TB storage capacity at under $100.

Video Card

The 1080 Ti FTW3 is the GTX crème de la crème. I chose it over an RTX 2080 or 2080 Ti because of the much lower price tag, my lack of interest in being an early Ray Tracing adopter with the very limited support it currently has, and for the 11GB of VRAM which is more future-minded as I can dial graphics settings much higher than I could with 8GB; this has proven beneficial in many of my favorite games and continues to in newer titles. The GTX 1080 Ti is an outstanding value now, and when I upgraded from a 1920x1080 144hz TN Panel to a 2560x1440 165hz IPS Panel with G-Sync, it was the perfect GPU pairing in my price range. It hits similar frame rates at 1440p as a GTX 1070 does at 1080p in the same games with identical or higher settings, and its performance is comparable (in some cases, superior) to a 2080 or dual 1080s in SLI. The FTW3 is an outstanding unit with triple 3000rpm fans that have both intelligent automatic & fully manual control (including temperature-to-speed curve) and a variety of other parameter controls via Precision XOC. It is also, in my opinion, the best looking GPU available, with gorgeous RGB lighting and a very sleek design that manages to fit a lot into a thin 2-slot configuration including a beefy heatsink, 9 thermal sensors embedded on the PCB, and superb overclocking capability. I love it.

Case

Though a bit more compact than other ATX mid-tower cases, the Core V31 has enough space for a large ATX motherboard, five storage drives (three up to 3.5"), two 5.25" optical drives or devices, and a liquid CPU cooler radiator up to 360mm in size. The exterior has an attractive black mesh chassis with a removable hexagonal-patterned front panel and magnetic filters covering the top and bottom which have an open design that promotes good airflow. Though cable routing requires a bit of wrangling, this is a solid, intuitively designed case; simple, stylish, and flexible. One star off due to the acrylic window panel (tempered glass is nicer but more expensive) and lack of a PSU shroud along the bottom.

Power Supply

I've only had this for a few months (upgraded from a Rosewill 80+ Bronze semi-modular PSU), but it's very quiet, compact, and stable, and it managed to fix some weird systemic issues I had that I didn't even know were PSU-related such as unstable Wi-Fi (using a PCIe adapter) and having to reboot my OS every 24-36 hours in order to use my SSHD (something I initially thought was an issue with Seagate's unorthodox hybrid drive configuration). Going full-modular is also really nice; cable management is much cleaner, and the cables - while a little on the stiff side - are very tough and add to my build's Stealth Black + RGB aesthetic (no more "ketchup & mustard"). I'd like to upgrade to CableMod's custom cables & combs at some point to add more flexibility and get my build looking even sleeker, but with the stock EVGA cables being nice and solid, that's a luxury purchase and low priority for me. I'll see how this unit holds up over the next couple years or so, but the generous ten year warranty is the cherry on top of this sundae.

Case Fan

Very nice case fans. These plug into a SATA-powered hub (included in the bundle) which supports up to six of them; I have one in the rear of my ATX mid-tower as an exhaust (mounted to a 120mm CPU cooler radiator) and two mounted vertically in the front of my case as intakes which really brings out the front panel's hexagonal mesh design. In addition to static colors (which is what I always use), the HD120s have an array of psychedelic color shifting patterns to choose from. I'm not a big fan of RGB, but these illuminate the interior of my case very brightly and are aesthetically pleasing without looking excessive or overly flashy. One complaint is that the lighting is adjusted with a physical controller and not the Corsair Utility Engine software and it cannot be tuned to custom colors or turned off without the Commander Pro unit which is sold separately.

Monitor

Everything about this monitor is premium and awe-inspiring. It is by far the best display I have ever used and a massive upgrade from a 1080p TN panel. The native QHD resolution has detail & clarity that makes anything less look & feel cramped by comparison, and the 165hz refresh rate and G-Sync are beautifully fluid and smooth. While most beneficial for gaming, it is also noticeable in other applications - even moving the cursor around is much nicer. The IPS panel is what gives this monitor its premium price tag, and it is absolutely worth it as it has a very pronounced color & contrast improvement over TN panels and the image remains the same from different viewing angles. This is especially useful for viewing and working with images & video. The construction is solid and has a nice aesthetic design, a joystick control allows you to easily adjust parameters on the fly, and height, tilt, swivel, and pivot are all quickly adjustable. I was expecting some buyer's remorse over going with this instead of a less expensive 1440p 144hz TN panel, but it was absent. I cannot imagine ever going back to a lesser display - the PG279Q is the king.

Keyboard

My first mechanical keyboard and an amazing upgrade from a membrane keyboard both for typing and gaming. Once acclimated to using it, my typing speed & accuracy were higher than ever; the keys have a very nice tactile feel and gentle touch to them with a satisfying "click" when depressed, unlike membrane keyboards which feel flat and sticky by comparison. Gaming is also very fluid & precise. Apart from dedicated media keys, this is a full-featured keyboard with individual RGB lighting on each key, a variety of lighting settings (controlled with Corsair Utility Engine), and an on-board USB port. It comes with sets of textured WASD and QWERDF keys for gamers and a very comfortable removable, rubber-gripped wrist rest.

Mouse

This is one of the most highly programmable, precise, fully featured, and comfortable mouses I have ever used. The software is excellent as well; there are three customizable profiles that can be toggled on-the-fly, a dedicated button to switch all other buttons to secondary functions or to use a custom DPI speed when depressed, a scroll wheel that can use incremental "click" scrolling or be unlocked to glide indefinitely, and weights that can be added to tune the heaviness of the mouse (I prefer using all five 3.6 gram weights, giving it a nice amount of heft). The optical sensors adapt to various surfaces, so this mouse operates well on both cloth & hard pads or a desk surface.

Headphones

A very nice mid-range headset with some high-end features and solid build quality; the 7.1 channel surround sound has good spatial clarity across a wide range of frequencies, and the built-in noise-canceling mic sounds fantastic. The mesh fabric ear cups & head padding is durable and comfortable for long periods of wear - I prefer it to the faux leather padding on my Sennheiser HD280 Pro stereo headphones as it is far more resistant to moisture & tearing. The wireless range on this set is superb as well; sound quality remains the same from long distances and through multiple walls, and friends have told me that my voice comes in equally clearly at varying proximity to the adapter. While I prefer my Sennheisers for working with audio and listening to music, I use the Corsair Void Pro for everything else. It excels particularly at surround sound gaming and communicating on apps like Discord.

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