I needed something very quiet to replace my recording studio PC which is 8 years old.
But I also needed a machine which was quick and powerful enough to run multiple virtual machines (I work in IT) and run Visual studio.
My previous PC I'd built filled with audio foam to supress sound, its hard disk was encased inside the PC in another sound proof case, and the entire PC was placed inside a sound proofed, carpeted cupboard with doors covered in audio tiles (I could still hear it).
So I wanted something to replace this, that was going to be quiet enough so that my condenser mikes would still not pick anything up when recording acoustic instruments.
Well my first choice was the CPU. I wanted to stick with intel for maximum compatibility, and I wanted multiple cores so that virtual machines and audio plugins could spread their loads.
The best price point for this seemed to be the i7-6800k a hex core. I only purchased this after months of deliberation, and my next parts came in dribs and drabs as I settled on my choices over about 4 or 5 weeks.
The case was next. Wanted it to be quiet, but didn't want to fill it with foam (the foam in the old PC case, had liquefied into a sticky gloop over many years and was a nightmare to get into).
The R5 case had the word silent in the title, was a good price, good reviews and seemed to do the job. I got the version without the window as I imagined my PC would still need to hide in the cupboard to avoid noise.
Next I settled on the CPU cooler. Theres some very nerdy people out there with the time and inclination to measure the volumes of every cooler - and the Noctua NH-D15 seemed to always shock reviewers at how well it did at low revs. I didn't want to go water cooled, as that seemed a game for clockers, and I knew that to keep things quiet I would have to stick close to stock and that the 6800k was not a easy processor to push anyway. I was more than happy to get 3.8Ghz out of the 3.4Ghz stock or 4 if I pushed it.
Luckily just as I ordered the NH-D15 I spotted that there was two versions. The S is needed if you expect to be able to fit anything into the first PCIe slot (very weird, because who wouldn't!).
Graphics card was the Asus 1070 - a sort of midrange. I have a console, so only really want Arma III and Battlefield on the PC. The Asus seemed to be one of the lowest noise graphics cards and with three fans manages to keep the revs down.
The motherboard was the hardest choice. I kept reading that unless I was going SLI (which I wasn't) that I may as well select the cheapest X99 motherboard. However I kept coming back to the all singing all dancing features of the Gigabyte Designare. It was the PXE chip it had, which meant that my 6800k processors limitation of 28 lanes was not going to be a problem on this particular motherboard. I also liked the Thunderbolt 3 chip which would give me choices for upgraded audio interfaces down the road. I also liked the 3.0 and 3.1 USB which would give me lots of future proofing - so the designare was it.
The only downside seemed to be that it had all these flashy lights which I wouldn't be able to see in my all black case and PC in the cupboard and some people said earlier BIOS editions had problems.
After the motherboard was purchased, memory was easy and I went for fast but not bleeding edge DDR4-3000 and 32GB for the virtual machines to share.
Disks I wanted quiet and fast. For the C drive I got the Samsung 960 EVO M2 256GB (It has half the life expectancy and warranty of my D drive, but I imagined there would be less writing to the C). The D drive is the 256 Samsung 850 Pro. So both blindingly fast and I would use external drives for greater capacity.
The PSU - I'd heard the Seasonic Snow silent has almost never had a fan go round - which sounded good.
Monitors are really for working - I couldn't justify G-Sync and 4k, curved screens I'm not a fan of because as a developer I like 2 monitors and hate youtube jumping to full screen on a widescreen monitor. So 2 Dell IPS 27 inch monitors with a tiny bevel was perfect. I also got some Amazon basic arms for them - which really free up the desk space and let me position them anywhere.
Building the PC was pretty straight forward although the first build failed to start. I nearly returned the PSU before discovering that shorting two pins could be used as a test and proved it was OK. Once I reattached everything the second time it all worked.= - so I think the pins for the case to the MB just weren't sat deep enough.
Windows 10 installed in minutes.
I did add an additional Noctua fan to the front of the case for positive air pressure - it was a lot less noise than the other stock R5 fans. However I have all the fans running only at about 300 revs and my overclocked CPU is at about 38 typically.
Adding the fans made me realise how silent the PC is. I don't think Ive seen the PSU fan move, the Asus fans hardly move and I can hear my cat upstairs purring through the floor louder than the PC. So I then regretted not getting a glass side panel and throwing away the LED lights that came with the case. But quick look on Ebay and I got a glass side panel for £9 and some LED multi lights 5050 for about £7 which ended up being a good deal brighter. PC is moved from the dusty floor to pride of place behind the monitors and looks great.
I added an external SATA III dock to take all of my old disks - only £20 and these are great and run really fast.
My recording software shows the usage in each core - and it barely moves. I don't think my PC gets stressed about anything, and its all silky smooth.
I leave my PC on 24/7 and I think that's only costing me about £15 a year from the wattage I'm seeing. So I can now remote control my desktop from anywhere, including my phone or my small atom based Surface in order to run compilers and things.
All in all, its been a fun build and I went from being nervous about my choices to being bowled over at how quick and quiet you can make your own PC.
OK so it hits a brick wall pretty quickly in terms of overclocking, but then that's not what this processor is good for. For me - I wanted a whisper quiet PC, which generated hardly any heat - but could handle dozens of audio tracks, processor intensive effects - and also turn round and run three or four virtual machines with a core or two each and not break a sweat. For that purpose this processor was ideal.
Fantastic cooler - Keeps my i7 processor hex core ticking along below 30 degrees and that's with the fan almost idling. This D15S (the one with the S) shifts the fins over to one side slightly compared to the NH-D15 (which apparently blocks the first PCI-E slot (the main graphics one). So I'm not sure I understand why anyone would want to do that - But anyway fit perfectly in my build and installation was a snap. Several people have suggested (and I followed suit) to get a slightly better paste. Noctua seem to be kings of the air cooling, and several Youtube videos show how surprised reviewers are by this little coolers capabilities. My build has never been above 50 yet.
There were some negative comments about the BIOS of this board and a few DOAs - but perhaps those have all been solved, because this motherboard as of mid-2017 worked like a dream out of the box. I was in two minds about this board and a cheaper X99, but in the end all the bells and whistles in this beautiful piece of kit sold me. There are USB 2, 3 and 3.1 ports - there's wifi, dual linked Intel network, there's a thunderbolt 3, as well as a PXE chip to help chips like the 6800k overcome their 28 PCI lane limitations. The board is rugged and while I initially wasn't a fan of lights - I have now been suckered in, and purchased additional LED strips, a glass side to the case - and my entire PC now pulses coloured lights as music plays. Knocking one star off for still being an expensive board.
Works as expected and flawlessly
Half the life expectancy of the pro - but I think you'd have to be using something like a server farm for that to be an issue. Samsung seem to have this technology sewn up at the moment. It really does make other disks seem positively Victorian in their speeds. Sometimes my PC starts so fast, I have to check that it didn't just come out of standby.
Fantastic speed - and the Pro has twice the warranty and life expectancy of the standard model, so is a better buy for disks which may receive a higher number of writes. I record music and virtual machines so this disk is ideal as my second drive, with the EVO M2 as my primary OS drive.
So so quiet. The fans on this card barely make any noise at all - In my recent build I can hear the cat upstairs purring through the floorboards louder than the entire PC which is two feet from my head.
A great low noise case which has exactly the right amount of bells and whistles for a new build.
Knocking one star off only because a light somewhere/anywhere would of been nice, to let you know the thing is actually working. In my first build I almost sent it back because the PC wouldn't power up, I had to google the fact that two pins on this power supply can be shorted to make the fan spin - so that should really have been made easier. However none of the impact the quality of the PSU itself - which is superb, the fans have not come on in weeks of use, so my PC is ultra quiet.
Great monitors and especially handy if you can get two of them because the bezel is very small. Paired with Amazon basics monitor arms, you can really position these things anywhere. Colours are perfect and zero bleed or pixel issues. Still a bit pricey considering the quality of some other g-sync/4k monitors but these are really business class devices and real work horses.
These keyboards are ancient now, but still have not been surpassed by any other keyboard manufacturer including other Logitech models. They cost a lot of money at the time, so if you can get them 'used' you'd have a bargain. The keyboard sits upright in its dock for a short period to charge but then lasts many many weeks.
Only part of the keyboard is backlit (function keys / shortcuts / volume) but that would of decreased the fantastic battery life and I'm not typing in the dark.
This keyboard is a real work horse and feels slick and polished
A fantastic mouse - if like me you have pretty large hands. Charged the battery lasts months and can be charged very quickly while still in use.
The only niggle is the back/forward buttons which are set back a bit from a very useful horizontal scroll wheel, so it takes a little getting used to but 3 or 4 weeks later it feels natural. Knocking off a star for the price and the back button but would not buy another mouse.