PCPartPicker

  • Log In
  • Register

Build

The Dragon

by cornellouis

Description

Why "The Dragon" - well, we always want "one more upgrade" - "chasing the dragon." This is the first PC I've built. Watched YT videos on how to build a PC for 2 years until Intel released Skylake and Nvidia released Pascal.

I wanted to build a powerful gaming PC w/ a single graphics card. I do some h264 / h265 encoding, so I wanted a hyperthreading CPU. Quiet, so I went with a water cooler and noctua fans. This wasn't a budget or value build - I'd been waiting a few years for the next process shrink - but appearance was not a high priority for me, so I tried to spend money on gaming performance in a reasonably small package with good cooling.

I chose the Core V21 case b/c it has a vertical GPU configuration, and I've seen enough saggy / mobo cracking GPUs that I didn't want to mess with it. I also liked the cooling and low profile of the cube style case. I think I paid $50 after price matching at Frys... not bad. The build was pretty easy b/c of how open the case gets when you remove all the side panels. My cable management skills sucks, but luckily I just DGAF.

CPU overclocked to 4.4GHz. I bought the normal Strix GPU and then flashed the OC BIOS onto it so it behaves like the overclocked version. I've stress tested both and they're stable. Interesting note: I bought the OC Strix GPU from Amazon, and when I stress tested it, it failed! So the regular card from Frys was actually a better OC card than the one w/ packaging marked that way.

For the most part, I play not-very-taxing games like Alien Isolation, Skyrim, and Fallout 4, so the GPU is a bit overkill. But I enjoy the IDEA that I have a badass GPU. It plays everything at 1440P super smooth, and it makes me feel like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dJolYw8tnk

I only had a cheap 1080P monitor. I considered getting a GSync display, but instead I ended up finding a lightly used Apple LED cinema display (the Thunderbolt displays aren't compatible w/ windows). This display is only 60hz, but has good colors and some extras features that are very practical for me that I use a lot (the built in speakers, USB, webcam). Getting the bootcamp divers to work was a pain in the ***, but I made it happen. Then Windows updated and disabled sound control from the keyboard (UGH). I haven't bothered to fix it yet. The Apple display can only do 720P and 1440P resolutions. Kind of an odd bird, but since the 1440P gsync displays are so much more expensive, I'm happy with it. I can even charge my work laptop on work-from-home days w/ the built in magsafe cable.

I purchased a very solid wood desk for $40 on craigslist so I could clamp down the reticulating arms. My previous computer was a 27 inch iMac from 2009. I could have used the monitor from it in "target display" mode, but I decided against that b/c the power draw is excessive (it turns on the power hungry iMac in order to use the display). I also purchased a used Aeron chair for $300. I use one at work, so I knew I liked the chair.

My 1 bedroom apartment is small but my living room is an amazing movie theater. I have a 135 inch projector with 7.1 surround sound on the other side of the room. Next to the desk, an Ikea Vittsjo shelf has the receiver, game systems, and NAS device w/ Plex. Very convenient that the Thermal Take Core V21 easily fits onto the shelf. There isn't much square footage, so I wanted to keep the computer off the floor (also, dust and cat hair).

This setup allows me to game on the computer or to turn on my projector and game from the couch. I have a 10 ft micro usb cable I can use when I'm on the couch for minimum lag. The computer is very quiet, and I've been very happy with it overall.

Future upgrades could be w/ an M2 drive, or maybe an H115i cooler, which I would pick if I could redo this build.

You can see that I played with the fan placement around the graphics card over time. They connect to the graphics card and only turn on under heavy load. The side provides better cooling, but the top window configuration is useless b/c of the shelf. I like watching the fans spin up on the card though, so I went with the less optimal top configuration. Given that I'm not playing Witcher 3 most of the time, the couple of degrees of temperature difference aren't a big deal.

I also got a 7 port USB3 hub I connect to the USB-c port on the motherboard. This lets me plug in a ton of wireless dongles for my accumulated controllers. I've been a console gamer for the most part, so I like leaning back and using a controller rather than a mouse and keyboard. My play style is to rush in, watch everything explode, and then die, so it's not like the precision of a keyboard and mouse would do me much good anyway.

Part Reviews

CPU

Very fast. Encoding performance for H265 video is what I care about most (and gaming). This is okay at H265 encoding, but it's software encoding so it's still slow. The GTX 1080 hardware encoding is super fast, but then there is some audio processing that slows that process down some. Overall, no regrets, no complaints. I didn't want to wait for Kaby Lake, and as it turns out, Kaby Lake really isn't that much better and has crappy internal thermal compound, so I still feel great about my CPU.

CPU Cooler

This does the job, but I didn't realize in the beginning that the case would've taken an H115i, and I wish I'd gotten that instead. I guess I watched too many YT videos feature the H100i. Maybe if I switch to a smaller case someday, this will be perfect.

Motherboard

I got this mobo b/c it was micro atx and in stock at Frys and seemed to have the features I wanted. It's been great so far. If I had to do it again, I might go w/ Asus just b/c it could LED coordinate / the graphics card, but maybe some people say the Intel networking is better than what's used on the Gigabyte board. Shrug. Everything has worked and nothing has been too annoying, so I count this as a win.

Memory

I got this b/c it was on sale for $80 at Frys. No problems so far!

Storage

I wanted the 1TB capacity more than I wanted the speed of an M2 drive. Very happy with the boot times. They've upgrade the M2 drives, so eventually I'll move my boot drive to NVME, but for now this is great. Skyrim and Fallout 4 seem to load instantly.

Storage

This was my original media drive before I got a Synology DS1815+ NAS. I couldn't use it in the NAS b/c it was the drive I was transferring stuff from, and I had set the NAS up w/ 6TB drives and SHR, so you can't install < 6TB drives later. It sat around for a few months until I built this machine, and now it's a great place for steam games to live.

Video Card

This card is great so far. I hope I don't have problems in the future b/c it doesn't have ball bearing fans.

Case

Very practical case. The foam in the front to filter the 200mm fan intake... it doesn't seem easy to remove / clean, and is filled with some dust now. I also which the side panels were more customizable, e.g. if I could have a filter on only half the panel when I'm using that part of the panel for exhaust. I try to buy things I can reuse in the future, and so the plastic side panels and the front foam seem like the parts on this case that will get the most wear / dirt over time. Overall I'm happy with the form factor and cooling performance of this case.

Power Supply

This is actually the second power supply in my build. At first I got a Thermaltake tough power 750W, in case I wanted to do SLI in the future. But it started making a noise after less than a month, so I returned it and bought the EVGA model from Amazon. I think it will still do SLI (I've tested total system power draw from the wall, and it's generally < 250W even under heavy load). The EVGA power supply seems to be of much higher quality at least in terms of the external workmanship and cable appearance. Overall, I was so impressed with that I'd buy an EVGA power supply again, even if I spent more. I feel like this is a part I should be able to use if I upgrade in 5 years.

Case Fan

I don't know jack about fans, but these are hella quiet.

Case Fan

When I bought this, I didn't realize it wasn't PWM, but it's an exhaust fan and it's silent, so no real complaints.

Case Fan

I've attached two of these to my graphics card's fan headers. They exhaust air from above the graphics card out of the case when there's a heavy load. Does this make much of a difference? Maybe 2-4 degrees for a card that's already < 80, so not much. But I like the IDEA of a well cooled case, and they're very quiet, so I'm happy.

Keyboard

Look mom, no key labels! I like this keyboard okay. It's definitely super loud, and sometimes the lack of key labels annoys me, but I pretend it makes me stronger.

Mouse

I like this mouse, but the rubber on the side is already unsticking, so I feel like they have some QC issues.

Headphones

These are amazing for the price.

Comments Sorted by:

koolkk 2 points 24 months ago

Nice build! I've always loved Noctua fans, can't get better fans for both silence and performance, even though the color scheme is a bit strange.

+1

cornellouis submitter 1 Build 1 point 24 months ago

Yeah, maybe if I go for like a 1975 chic build, they will be ideal.

koolkk 1 point 24 months ago

xD

[comment deleted by staff]
cornellouis submitter 1 Build 1 point 24 months ago

Implying a nerd's computer overheats is like... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7-roiI5Vqc