Description

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This is the upgraded version of my first build, which was started in January of 2016. I initially went the medium-budget route, but continued to upgrade the rig as I went along. This is the state of that PC after a very large recent refresh.

The PC was conceived as a gaming rig primarily. Originally intended for a single monitor at 1080p / 60Hz, it has evolved into a dual monitor 1440p / 144Hz machine. To meet these targets, I recently upgraded the GPU from a GTX970 to a GTX1080Ti. Additionally, I recently tried my hand at streaming (just to my friends). My i5-6600k struggled with this while simultaneously gaming, using Spotify and Discord, so an upgrade to the i7-6700k was the next step.

Cosmetically, my original case was a little more plain than I would have liked (Cooler Master N200), thus an upgrade to the Corsair 350D (windowed) was purchased. Some Red Corsair 140mm fans were hooked up to give me a bit of glow, and some Cablemod sleeved PSU cables were installed to give the whole thing a clean look.

Two Samsung 850 EVO SSDs are used for the OS and most accessed files and programs. A WD Blue 7200rpm HDD is used for General files and content (Pictures, Music, Videos, etc...), while an old Maxtor OneTouch acts as a time capsule for content from older computers.

I love this PC. I love that I built it with a good friend. I love that I learned how to improve it myself. I love that there is such a great community of people who are cheering for you, and there to help. Just like any other hobby, there are people who do everything they can to hate and make others miserable, but the good people involved with PC building make it worth participating in. This is a very cool hobby that I have been lucky enough to play with this year, and have a girlfriend who supports it. I am extremely satisfied with the way this PC has come out.

Part Reviews

CPU

This CPU is a fast and efficient workhorse. I have had multiple videos running, several chrome tabs open, and a game running simultaneously with little to no slowdown (at base clock speed). I have had zero reason to overclock this piece, as it has been more than enough for my usage. It easily handle game physics and benchmarks. My friends and I play Starcraft 2, which is very CPU heavy when many units are active, and this CPU has had absolutely no trouble keeping the frame rate steady. Would definitely buy again.

CPU Cooler

This unit is sleek looking and has excellent performance. My friends and I are using three different coolers with the same CPU, and this unit is within 2 degrees of a Corsair AIO liquid cooler under load. It is very quiet, and really looks damn good in a windowed case. Was considering going with liquid because everyone makes it seem like they are far better, but this unit proves you can still get efficient cooling without the risks of liquid.

Motherboard

This motherboard works fine, but has given me several issues since I have owned it. First, I was having an issue that prevented the PC from powering on after being turned off. After 2 weeks of troubleshooting and frustration, I resolved the issue by changing out the CMOS battery that shipped with the board. The second problem has never been resolved. The mobo crashes whenever any of the peripherals are overclocked. This even happens when using the motheroardb's built-in OC tool. It will "optimize" the peripherals, then fail to power on, with a prompt saying the overclock failed. The third problem (and the whole reason I will never look at ASUS boards again) has to do with the XBOX One controller support. I purchased an XBOX One Elite controller, and used it happily on my XBO with no issues. When I hooked it up to the PC, the computer would freeze/lag/crash after 15 minutes of play. After extensive (and expensive) troubleshooting steps and replacing cables/dongles/controllers, I came to the conclusion that this problem was not fixable. Thorough research into the issue lead me to dozens of other cases of people having the same issue with any XBO controllers on ASUS motherboards. It was a waste of money for me to try to figure this problem out, and I will probably be looking to replace this motherboard at some point in the future.

Memory

This is good Ram. It's red. It works as I expected it to, without failing unexpectedly. I would use this RAM again.

Storage

This SSD is the fastest Drive I've ever used. PC boots up from cold in seconds. Games load instantaneously. Media available at the click of a button. If you can afford this drive, and are looking into it, there is literally no reason I can think of to not get one.

Storage

This SSD is the fastest Drive I've ever used. PC boots up from cold in seconds. Games load instantaneously. Media available at the click of a button. If you can afford this drive, and are looking into it, there is literally no reason I can think of to not get one.

Storage

Great HDD! Very good speeds on transfers and loads. Very low noise and great price. I am very happy with the total package of this unit.

Video Card

Holy Cow! This GPU is absolutely sick. It has beaten the frames off of every last bit of software I have thrown at it. It smokes benchmarks, and makes every single game I play more enjoyable. The card runs hot (84c at full load), but that is normal. The blower design pushes it's heat out through the back of the case, so other components in the case are not exposed to the high temperatures. I wish I could change the color of the GEFORCE GTX logo, but that is a very minor gripe.

Case

I love the look of this case. Great cable management options, and a big beautiful window put it right at the top of my shopping list when I was on the hunt for a good case. My only gripes with this unit come from the lack of a fan grate cover on the top of the case, and the restrictive front panel. Corsair does have a mesh cover for the top of the case, and a 'High-Flow' front grill to remedy both of these concerns, but as I can't imagine a customer not wanting these pieces on the case, I feel they should be included with the case (even if it means raising the price a bit). It just seems they made those cuts to get the retail price down. That minor issue aside, I am extremely satisfied with this case.

Power Supply

EVGA makes a great modular PSU. 'Modular' means you only need to hook up the cables that your build requires, which is a huge help with cable management. The PSU is quiet, with solid, consistent power output. Do not cheap out when choosing your PSU. This is a great, High-Quality option.

Operating System

There are way too many updates, and I have had some compatibility issues (with microsoft hardware) that are just mind boggling. Overall, it's a good OS, but if I had any real options, I may be looking elsewhere. Not really too much anyone can do about it, so fingers crossed that my issues get fixed in a future update (because there will be many).

Sound Card

This unit takes the sound in my PC to a whole new level. Blows the max volume out of the water, and maintains beautiful audio clarity when paired with a suitable driver/speaker. The customization options are pretty robust. My only complaints with using this unit stem from figuring out what everything does. The included software has a ton of optional features, but it doesn't suitably explain what some of these proprietary features can do. I strongly urge any user to familiarize yourself with setting default audio and recording devices in the volume mixer, as well as using stereo mix. These were all things that I did not know about and really caused a collection of headaches when trying to get the most out of this sound card. With all of that behind me, I can strongly recommend this card to anyone looking to enhance their audio experience on PC.

Case Fan

These fans are durable, easy to mount, and very quiet. The LEDs are bright. They are efficient and work well at moving air through the case. No complaints.

Case Fan

These fans are durable, easy to mount, and very quiet. The LEDs are bright. They are efficient and work well at moving air through the case. No complaints.

Case Fan

I used this fan to replace the stock fan included with the 'Be Quiet Dark Rock 3' CPU cooler (on the recommendation of a fellow builder on this page), and am very happy I did. The Cooler keeps the CPU under 76C at full load now. The fan is durable and very quiet. The LEDs are bright. It is efficient and works well at moving air through the heatsink. No complaints.

Monitor

The Dell Monitor is a great 1920x1200 monitor. The colors are gorgeous, and the little extra height allowed me to put the screen in portrait mode and use it like two mini-monitors. Good enough specs for gaming, but it really shines for me being used for webpage viewing and videos. I got a great deal on it when I was on the market for something inexpensive, and think it would be a good deal, even at retail. It was too good a deal to pass up, and I am very happy with it.

Monitor

The BenQ XL2730Z 1440p monitor is flawless. The response time from controller input is really what sold me on switching from consoles to PC, and this monitor has, far and away, the tightest response I have ever experienced. The only complaint I would have is actually against the technology itself, and not the product. TN panels are best viewed from a straight position. There is some fading when you are viewing it from an angle, that has occasionally had me struggling to find the best position. This in no way deters me from recommending this unit to anybody who wants a fast, gorgeous 1440p monitor. This is a damn good monitor.

Keyboard

The best Keyboard for gaming (if you don't need macros). The responsiveness of the keys is insane. It takes some getting used to, but is worth the learning curve. It will make you a better typist, as even light contact with a key will register as a keystroke. There were typos galore when I first started using this unit, but have since become accustomed to using it. I prefer using a console controller for most games, because I feel like they are more immersive. But this keyboard is the middle ground between controllers and traditional keyboards.

Mouse

The Razer Deathadder Chroma is very comfortable for me. I struggled with a couple models before this one, because I have large hands. The Chroma is contoured perfectly to fit my grip, and the side buttons are placed right where they should be. They are not awkward to reach for at all. The cable is high quality and doesn't concern me in terms of getting damaged or torn. The software is a little buggy, and will sometimes shut the lighting in the mouse off. Simply restarting the software clears that up though.

Headphones

The Steelseries Arctis 5 is an amazing wired headset. My play group noticed the improved sound quality coming from my mic within seconds of our first game after I bought it. The sound quality in the headset is very good, but the preset EQs in the software are wonky. I run the headset with the default EQ and I have no complaints. Very comfortable to wear for long play sessions, and the retractable mic allows me to get it away from my face when I am just using the headphones.

Custom

The Yeti is a really nice mic. The different settings make it very friendly to directional noise. It is very sensitive, so it will pick up pretty much any noise that is coming from the chosen direction(s), so make sure you spend some time calibrating. It is a very big mic, so make sure you have the space for it.

Custom

In my opinion this is the best layout for a controller to use. The placement of the analog sticks, start & back buttons, and trigger positions make this controller the most comfortable to hold. It lacks some of the buttery smoothness of current-gen controllers, but makes up for that with it's reliability when using the Windows platform. Very good, reliable controller.

Custom

These speakers are phenomenal. I use them for everything form gaming to music editing. They are crystal clear, and are loud enough to shake a small house.

Custom

This controller takes a little bit of trial and error, and some third-party software to get working on PC, but is very smooth and consistent. I am not a fan of the analog stick placement, but that is mostly because I am a longtime Xbox user. However, the sticks are pretty accurate and move nicely. The face buttons click smoothly, and having a traditional D-Pad is great for certain tasks. The L2 and R2 buttons feel a little flimsy, but, again, this could be because I am partial to the triggers on an Xbox controller. Overall, very good controller to use for most games.

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Comments

  • 34 months ago
  • 3 points

I get the aesthetics and going with red. However, the be quiet fan that comes with the heatsink is better suited for cpu cooling due to better static pressure force. If you wanted to keep it red, the SP version of corsair fans is the one you want.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

You think so? I had done a little bit of research, but couldn't really figure out what the major difference was between the SP fan and the regular one. What kind of difference do you think it would make with the cooler?

EDIT - After reading your comment, I did a little checking. You are absolutely right! The SP version of the fan would definitely be better suited for moving air through the heatsink. I ordered one online and will make that correction in the build once it arrives. Thank you very much for constructive feedback.

  • 34 months ago
  • 2 points

No problem!

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

I replaced that fan today, and saw a couple degrees drop in CPU load temps. Thanks again.

  • 34 months ago
  • 2 points

Why... oh why.. why an adaptive sync/free sync monitor with Nvidia gpu?

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

When I built the first version of this PC, I was very much a noob. I had no idea that G-Sync and Freesync existed. Never even took it into consideration when I bought the monitor. When I found out afterwards... well, you can probably imagine how frustrated I was.

  • 34 months ago
  • 2 points

I would try to sell that monitor and get yourself a dell sg2716dg. I'll be posting my first build very soon :). Just literally waiting for my dell2716dg to arrive (which is any day now this week). Anyway, If you're going to frequently upgrade your gpu, your monitor it should be fine... But if you're sort of looking to future proof a little bit + if you play fast paced games you will want gysnc. Just putting out there. Otherwise, clean build!

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

I look forward to seeing that build. I appreciate your feedback. Even though I can't take advantage of Freesync, I am very happy with the monitor. I have zero issues with screen tearing at 144Hz, and have never wished for a different monitor due to performance. It was an expensive lesson to learn, but those lessons are always the ones that stick.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

Ryzen CPU probably would have been a better a choice if you try stream and game at the same time.

  • 32 months ago
  • 1 point

How easy it is to put different fans on the Dark Rock cooler? The stock fans are mounted half way down the frame. So I assumed that the wires that hold on the fans would fit on a "regular" fan.

  • 32 months ago
  • 1 point

It was super easy to replace the fan. As long as you get the correct size, the clips can pop right into the mounting holes in each corner of the fan.