So... where to start... I've had my Alienware M17x (2009) laptop for 6 years and it does most tasks, but when it comes to newer games it really struggles to produce the FPS. I decided it wasn't worth upgrading the laptop anymore (had gotten the QX9300, new optical drive and 8GB RAM) to have an SSD since eventually I would come to a point where the motherboard would be the limiting factor.
Then came the idea of building a desktop, the last time I had built one was about when I was 8, with a Pentium II if I remember correctly(!), so this was a big step up. Initially I was going to just slap in a Swiftech H240-X which, with some research should be the best AIO watercooling unit for the CPU, but then I thought "go hard or go home right?" and opted for a custom watercooling loop.
The build was delayed by a day or so due to delivery and stock problems with certain companies, so the build time (before installing programs etc.) was around 2-3 days. A more experienced person could probably have got it done a little faster but then again there is a first for everything. With regards to where I sourced my parts (the prices listed are pretty much exact give or take delivery for some), it was a combination between Amazon, More Computers, eBay, OverclockersUK and Scan Computers. Windows 10 Pro was a Windows 7 Pro refurbished key, then upgrade and then clean install. The CPU and 1TB SSD were bought in Hong Kong for what I would consider a decent price whilst I was over there. What took long was to find the right parts for the watercooling - but gladly they all fit and I didn't need any exchanges!
I already had the keyboard (edit: recently purchased the Corsair) and mouse before the build, my Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250Ohm headphones broke so I got the ATH-M70xs after some research (Now have Sennheiser HD650). Also I originally ordered the ASUS VG248QE 144Hz monitor to be my second screen, but I wasn't happy with colours and viewing angle of the TN panel. Not to mention having a different screen size, pixel number and also pixel density made it feel awkward as well as having the mouse be stuck on the area of the screen, between e.g. pixel 1081 and 1440 if I'm trying to move across from one monitor to another. The BenQ (much cheaper) monitor is arriving tomorrow but it is only 60Hz, however I won't be gaming on it so it shouldn't matter too much. I will definitely notice the difference in windows (the saying is right: Once you go 120/144Hz there is no going back!) and hopefully the bezel size, I believe slightly wider than the MG279Q, won't bug me too much...
Sadly, there were issues with the BenQ monitor. E.g. if I had a video in full screen running on it, it would make things that were running on the MG279Q feel like 60Hz, especially those in windowed/borderless mode such as CS:GO. It also felt sluggish when both monitors were running together, not just because it is 60Hz, but because there seemed to be a little bit of incompatibility with running both on different refresh rates, even though theoretically it shouldn't make a difference - maybe it's a Windows setting, perhaps aero. Anyways, I took the plunge and bought another MG279Q so the parts list has been updated, and so far it's worked perfectly fine, if you ignore having to get a replacement for dead pixels... something that shouldn't be required to do for a £450 "QC Passed" monitor.
The build began with installing the water blocks on the Titan Xs which was fairly straightforward despite one seemingly stripped screw; the thermal pads were pre-cut for the memory modules with the EK Blocks and I just had to cut the ones for the VRMs. With the EK Supremacy EVO CPU block I changed the jet plate and the insert to match the "optimal configuration" as shown in their manual for LGA-2011-V3 before installing it onto the motherboard. What I did notice was that the mounting thumb screws never seemed to be tight enough after the CPU is locked into place with the thumb nuts (unscrewing the thumb nuts seems to also unscrew the thumb screws underneath). I'll go ahead and highlight some problems / adjustments below:
To mount the pump and reservoir, I had to drill two 4mm holes in the case (this was the only drilling needed throughout the whole build).
The tubing was fairly tight, so I needed to use a hair dryer and some needle nose pliers to help fit the tubing onto the fittings.
Because the PSU was slightly bigger than the average PSU, I had to mount the 240mm radiatior at the front instead of at the bottom of the case as I had initially planned which meant removing a bunch of the modular hard drive cages which would have supported 6 more drives. Just as well, they would have needed to move to install the pump/res. This made the 240mm radiator work in a push/pull config with 2 x 120mm Noctua fans pulling and the 200mm NZXT case (default) fan pushing.
The EATX motherboard is supported by the Phantom 530 BUT it isn't ideal, the holes for cable management are cut off half way because the motherboard is so large, so routing the cables is a little tight. There was very little space near the PSU area so it took a long time to wire the cables well to ensure minimal overlap / bend. However this meant that everything seemed to fit quite well and there wasn't a huge gap in the case - a reason for not buying a super large full tower case.
I could only mount the top 360mm radiator with the tubes coming near the drives as they would not fit the other way round, so the first drive slot had to be blank. Even still, the cables are ever so slightly bent/kinked near the top.
The 3 x 120mm fans on the top radiator are pushing air into the case through the radiator, perhaps these can be adjusted to pull, so that there is more than one exhaust fan (currently 120mm NZXT case rear fan).
There was no "speaker" that came with the motherboard or the case for the header pins.
First bootup: Error 53 - Reseated all RAM slots - error fixed. There was another error which I think was because the Sata cable was only partially connected, probably because it was nudged loose putting the case back panel on. Finally into the BIOS: Enabling XMP Profile for 3000MHz memory OC -> will not post. A few resets will make it post but then the same problem will happen later. Reset CMOS on the back of the case proved very useful later on. Did a lot of forum searching, had to change System Agent Voltage from ~0.85 to 1.0V. Here are the settings I currently have in the BIOS (to achieve the overclocks I've listed), after many BSODs and non-successful posting due to not having enough voltage etc. (UPDATED as of 13/05/2016)
- Enable M2 in PCIe config
- CPU Ratio 44x
- Cache Min Auto
- Cache Max Auto
- Vcore Auto
- Vcache Auto
- Vinput Auto *Vsa Auto
DRAM Voltages Auto
GFX Card 110% power (MSI Afterburner)
- Core +200MHz
- Memory +500MHz
- (No overvolting used)
CPU only gets to ~75C under benchmarking, normal use/gaming usually maxes out at <60C.
Meaningful/less game benchmarks :D
- Assassin's Creed Unity: 4x AA / 2560x1440 / 144Hz / Ultra High: 40 - 90 FPS
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: 2560x1440 High: 400 - 1,100 FPS
- League of Legends: 2560x1440 Very High: 300 - 950 FPS (capped on 144 because of skipping issues)
Note: Yes I did notice that the parallel blank had the screws in the wrong way on the pic with just both graphics cards hehe :D