This PC will be used almost exclusively for gaming. Having had the (not so) pleasurable experience of gaming on a powerful laptop I found the noise from the fans far too overpowering and so wanted a new machine that was fast and quiet.
I wanted a good looking case and fairly nicely colour coded components. I've settled on a black/grey theme which I think looks neat!
2 years on and everything is still running great!
I got another 500GB SSD to boost my storage (another Samsung EVO but 860 this time).
I swapped out the Strix 1070 for an EVGA 1070 FTW2 (which ended up being cost neutral for me). The FTW2 is slightly shorter and has great cooling but isn't any faster (even when overclocked) compared with the Strix. It does however have less noticeable coil whine under load.
I also bought an excellent AOC Agon AG352UCG6 Ultrawide QHD 120hz G-Sync monitor which I am thoroughly impressed with. VA panel so deep blacks and great colours and a plenty fast enough response time for gaming. No flicker from the G-Sync on this sample. The 1070 just about copes with the 3440 * 1440 resolution so this will be my next upgrade.
Pity the 2080 series are so underwhelming/expensive. The Agon has an all black stand too which compliments the black theme nicely.
Intel Core i5 7600k
I was comfortable foregoing Hyper-threading on the basis that few games benefit from the additional threads the 7700k has and I fully intended to significantly overclock the 7600k anyway. This decision saved me over £100 and I was extremely pleased with the results.
This thing overclocks like crazy!
The stable setting I'll probably leave it on is:
- 4.8 GHz (48*100) on all 4 cores
- Adaptive 1.159v
- Offset 0.001v (min)
- Total adaptive voltage set = 1.16v (!), LLC level 4 (Core Temp / HWMonitor report 1.18-1.2v under steady 100% load so it still jumps around a little. CPU-Z reads 1.152v at same load - not sure which readings are accurate)
- Temperatures are well in check - 66c steady 100% load temperature Prime95 26.6 (small FFT), ambient 19c. Gaming temp is low to mid 50s. These temps are with my minimal noise fan settings too!
- I can easily push 5Ghz with 1.28v adaptive voltage which does push the steady 100% load temps up to a high of 78c on one of the cores (but passes every test I've thrown at it). I'm going to go with the 4.8Ghz clock for daily usage as the temps are a little cooler
These Kaby Lake chips are great fun! I'm sure there's room to push mine to 5.1 or even 5.2Ghz which I'll try once I've confirmed it's fully stable at 5Ghz. Intel's specification requires a voltage lower than 1.52v however at this level you'd quickly hit the thermal max. My goal was to keep my 100% steady load temperatures under 80c following an excellent Intel thermal guide I read in the Tom's Hardware forums, which I can comfortably achieve with the 5Ghz clock but would prefer slightly more relaxed settings for daily use (for now)!
Fractal Design Define Mini C
I wanted a case with a relatively small footprint without compromising airflow and restricting component choices.
I experimented with a few different Fractal Design cases and found the Define S too large / dominant on my desk, the Define Nano had much better dimensions but I didn't like the idea of the graphics card fans being so close to the PSU (which then starts to limit you in other ways e.g. getting a blower style card, building a custom loop, having to increase fan speed etc). I therefore settled on the Define Mini C which has basically identical dimensions to the Nano with only an additional 7cm height, giving the GPU much more clearance from the PSU - perfect! I also think the PSU enclosure looks really neat.
I cannot rate this case highly enough. It's solid, extremely well built, quiet and the inclusion of a magnetic dust filter for if you want to install the radiator at the top is superb. Cable management is a breeze too.
Fantastic looking microATX case!
Asus Strix 1070 8G
I got a good price on this card from Amazon for around £358. It's not the O8G factory overclocked model but this didn't concern me as I intended to push this card to maximum speeds anyway.
The card looks superb and fits nicely with my colour scheme and Strix motherboard, which has the additional benefit of being able to sync the Aura RGB lighting effects.
The card is HUGE and I knew getting this model would restrict me to installing the radiator in the top of the case. There's about an inch clearance to the lower front 140mm intake fan which I've hooked up to the PWM fan controller on the 1070 so it can give itself a blast of fresh air if it needs to.
The card is extremely quiet under normal conditions and I cannot hear it over my other case fans unless I really push the clocks/voltage/power.
Despite some reports that some the '8G' cards cannot achieve the speeds of the 'O8G' model because they are 'binned', I've managed to get excellent results from this card. I could set a boosted speed of around 2,100 Mhz but at these speeds it's clear the limiting factor is the 112% power limit (this being a key difference with the O8G model which allows power to be increased to 120%). GPU boost would lower the frequency to around 2Ghz due to the power limit being constantly hit. I therefore took the plunge and flashed the BIOS to the O8G model since I knew it would handle the O8G speeds. Having the extra 8% power means the core speed can now hold steady at around 2,083Mhz if I crank up the voltage and fan speed.
Memory overclocks very well too (Micron on this card) and can hit 9,000 Mhz with no signs of visual defects or stability issues (a 1,000 Mhz overclock)!
I've settled on a 24/7 boost speed which holds steady at around 2,038 Mhz over a lengthy gaming session with the quiet auto fan curve for the card which gives me plenty of performance for really minimal noise.
Card temperature sticks at 60c if I blast the fans with it at its maximum overclock which is impressive, but approaches 70c with my 24/7 clock and more relaxed fan curve - well within specs.
I have absolutely no regrets for getting this card. I've saved around £200 compared with getting a 1080 and with the overclock it isn't that far behind the 1080 at stock speed.
At some point this year I'm hoping to get a 1440p monitor hence going for this over say a 1060.
My one complaint is with the Strix 1070 PWM fan header not allowing for speeds below 50% (which for a 2,000 rpm 140mm fan is towards the upper limit of tolerable noise for me). In addition I'd prefer to be able to define a manual curve that always runs even when the 1070 isn't in use that then accelerates with GPU temperature (always running would help maintain positive case pressure outside of gaming). As it stands the manual curve doesn't even start spinning up the fans unless the 1070 is under load. Hopefully an update to the GPU Tweak software will address this.
Asus Strix Z270G
Fantastic looking board! I absolutely love the look of the Strix Z270 line.
Overclocking is superb too. My only complaints (and I'm nitpicking here) is the Aura LED location is pretty much fully obscured when you install a graphics card making it sort of pointless (which is a shame because it looks great). It would have been better if they made the top Strix heatsink LED based too.
The other minor niggle is the location of the USB 3 chassis header which means the cable has to run half way along the bottom edge of the motherboard - I'd prefer it if it was down the right hand edge, next to say the 24 pin PSU connector.
Has a slightly gimmicky one-click 5Ghz profile you can load which does do the job, but feeds it around 1.45v on heavy AVX loads which is unnecessarily high and causes temps to go through the roof. Much better to set the voltage manually and enjoy at least 10c less max temp on the cores.
CoolerMaster Vanguard V750 Gold fully modular PSU
I got this PSU at around the same time I was seriously considering the Define Nano S as it's one of the few 140mm gold modular PSUs on the market. One key requirement was low noise output to go with my other quiet component choices (the theory being that getting a larger capacity PSU means it can handle higher load before the fans spin up, despite the output being well above what I need). I could have saved a little money had I known I would end up going for the Mini C however the shorter length is still useful for cable management and could also come in handy in future if I ever decide to build a custom loop. The price has shot up since I bought it so it appears I bought it at a good time. The black cables look good and also fit with the rest of the colour scheme. No complaints - so far it's proved to be quiet, and deliver extremely steady voltages.
Samsung 850 500GB SSD
Blazing fast and plenty of capacity. Perfect colour too - not that you can see it (it's mounded behind the CPU). Shame I ended up getting one after the prices has gone up. Perhaps not the best value purchase but it gives me all the capacity and performance I need for now.
Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000 16 GB
Good value, the right colour and low profile to avoid any issues with a top mounted radiator. Loaded up the correct XMP values without any fuss. Pity prices have gone up so much as this set cost less than £60 at Amazon at one point over the Summer. Got a decent deal from Aria PC who were significantly cheaper than anywhere else I could find (even including the shipping).
Corsair ML120/140 fans
These were an extravagance! I wanted to replace the SP120 fans that come with the H100i V2 with something quieter and more flexible. The ML pro series not only look fantastic but offer a superb RPM range (something like a 2,000 RPM range). The pro versions also have rubber mounts to help reduce vibration.
I went for plain black as I'm not overly fond of LED chassis fans, and these tend to tie you in to one particular colour scheme.
The air pressure within the case is fairly well balanced (although the excellent Fractal Design dust filters shield all but one side of the case so dust isn't likely to be much of an issue).
The case accommodates 2 140mm fans on the front which I have spinning at around 50%/1,000 rpm (with this increasing to around 60% as a precautionary measure for if the CPU hits temps over 75c). If you crank them up to 100% they are insanely loud but shift a huge amount of air. At 50% they are audible but it's a soft hum in the background, plenty quite enough for me (and I'm picky about this sort of thing).
I have one ML 120 as an exhaust at the rear of the case and 2 more pushing against the H100i V2 radiator, exhausting air out the top of the case at around 1,200 rpm - quiet as can be (the photos show the radiator fans incorrectly set as intake giving 4 intake and only 1 exhaust - I realised my error and have since swapped these around).
I'm pleased with these fans as you can basically run them at any speed you want, but most importantly they offer excellent performance and low noise levels.
One thing they are not however is cheap at around £15 each for the 120 and £19 for the 140. If you are prepared to give up the rubber corners you can get twin packs which offer better value. Pity they don't offer the pro version in a twin!
Corsair H100i V2
Very impressed with this. Simple to install, looks great, configurable LED that can be saved to the devices memory and does a great job of keeping the 7600k cool.
Had to mount it at the top due to the long graphics card but I think doing this gives lower case thermals anyway (since the air is exhausted out the top rather than dumped inside and ultimately fed to the graphics card.
The hoses were surprisingly difficult to position but their final resting place is just above the GPU (about an inch clearance). One of the hoses is just about touching the glass panel but there is plenty of give in the hose so it's not put under any pressure because of this.
As mentioned above I've switched the fans out to ML120's which are great fans and do a superb job of cooling whilst minimising noise.
One thing that allows me to run the fans to slowly is the low coolant temp which rarely rises much over 30c. I've found that running the radiator fans an RPM levels much above 1,200 rpm has diminishing returns and feels fairly pointless so far.
I'm less impressed with the Corsair Link software which doesn't detect the Kaby Lake CPU at all (others have this issue too - hopefully Corsair will release an update very soon). This means I cannot control the fan speed based on CPU temp and instead have to do it based on coolant temp, however this is fine and makes sense as pushing more air through a radiator to cool liquid that isn't sitting much above ambient temperature is pretty pointless anyway, and I wouldn't want fans constantly spinning up and down in response to rapidly changing CPU temp based on load when this additional air flow isn't going to do much anyway.
I'm not overly fond of the location of the USB connector (for Corsair Link) being on the bottom of the pump casing which makes it challenging to get looking neat when you're also dealing with the fan connectors on another side. I had to do some creative cable management to hide this one away (running up to the top of the case, then down the back of the motherboard, then back into the front above the PSU cover and into a USB2 header at the bottom edge of the motherboard).
The pump also doesn't like running at lower RPM. If I select quiet mode in the Corsair Link software it makes a faint ticking noise which is much more irritating than the slightly higher noise it makes at full pump speed (at which point the ticking completely stops). I considered an RMA but given that I cannot hear the pump over the other chassis fans anyway (and those are quiet) makes it sort of a non issue.