My build started out a few months ago as a workstation and I had no discrete graphics card in it. It is a dual boot system with ArchLinux as primary OS and Windows 10 as secondary OS for running Software not available on Linux and now that I added a graphics also for Gaming.
Finding the right graphic card for this build involved quite some research and that’s how I stumbled over pcpartpicker.com and its build guides on several similar builds to mine. They helped me a lot so I decided to publish a guide of my completed build to help others that are looking to build a system like that.
PRICES: The prices are what I paid in Switzerland (converted to USD).
With no further ado, lets dig through those parts:
Case: I am a huge fan of small cases and as fractal announced the Node 202, I just had to build my new workstation with this. Availability was a bit of problem though. I choose to purchase the one that comes with a bundled PSU, because it has optimized cable length and configuration and the power rating seemed to be enough for me.
CPU: The CPU is a bit exotic, especially when I look at other similar builds published here. Intel was kind of a given, I never even considered putting something else in this build. The question about architecture also was a no-brainer for me. Newer is always better, right? So Skylake it is. Next decision to make: Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7. As this is my primary workstation and I work a lot with tools like vagrant, virtualbox and kvm, so having a lot of threads available to handle various virtual machines running concurrently was the key factor for the decision: Core i7 it is. Then there are basically 3 flavors: The baseline 6700, the faster and unlocked 6700K and the slower but power efficient 6700T. The 6700K does not make much sense when you do not plan to overclock it, what is pretty useless in a case like I planned to run this build in. As 6700 and 6700T are priced about the same, and for me the clock speed of the individual cores was not something I needed, I decided on the 6700T which comes with TDP of only 35W. Perfect for a compact build like this.
Mainboard: Well not too much to say about this one. I need a Mini ITX Board, with preferably Intel network chip, USB 3.1 and DDR4 was my goal. My go to retailer had this one in stock and the price seemed right.
Memory: Capacity wise I decided to go with 32 gigabytes. As already written above, I run a lot of virtual machines so I constantly use around 12 to 15 gigabytes. So having a bit of headroom seemed to make sense. I had good experience with Kingston HyperX in the past so I chose the Fury DDR4-2133 2x16GB Kit.
Storage: As I run a dual boot configuration, having two discrete storage devices makes the life easier. Running the systems on SSDs is a given for me. So I decided to add an 1TB disk for my ArchLinux System and an additional 500GB disk for my Windows system. The Crucial BX100 had decent reviews and they were on sale at my go to retailer.
Graphics Card: As I already wrote above, the system was initially built without a discrete graphics card as I initially planned to use this as workstation only. A few weeks back I started gaming again, and I now needed a decent graphics card. As I did not want to upgrade my PSU if I could avoid it, I was on the lookout for power efficient cards and NVIDIA has just released their pascal-based GTXs. Seemed to be a perfect fit. So which one to get? The 1080 is out of question, too expensive if you do not plan to play in 4K. So 1060 or 1070? Well to be honest the 1060 would have been more than enough, but as I plan to upgrade to a 34inch 1440p monitor I decided to go with a 1070. But which one? A blower-style card seems the logical choice for a small case with no great airflow like this. But the selection is pretty slim here. There is the founder’s edition, the ASUS Turbo and the MSI Aero as far as I could tell. For the ASUS and the MSI there are practically no comprehensive reviews available so I did not want to take a chance. The founder’s edition, not disabling its fans when idling, and running pretty much at the temperature limit of the card when stressed seemed to be a bad investment as-well. So I start looking at other Node 202 builds here on pcpartpicker.com. I stumbled over Node 202: Audio + Gaming MKII and the EVGA card seemed to be the perfect fit for this case.
Cooling / Fans: For the fans I decided to go with Noctua’s as I had been quite happy with them in the past. The CPU cooler was an easy choice, as the selection is pretty slim for case that has a good two inches clearance for a cooler. The NH-9Li is pretty slim. When installing the graphics card, I decided to replace the bundled NF-A9x14 fan, with a NF-A9 for two reasons. First the NF-A9 has higher static pressure and airflow while being only insignificantly louder. Second the one-inch-thick fan will get the fan closer to the exhaust on top of the case which makes the airflow more direct. For the graphics part compartment, I decided to add two intake fans (NF-P12) to press air onto the ACX cooler of the card. From the hard foamed material that the NH-9Li came in, I tinkered a small spacer to put in between the fans and the graphics card (see the build pictures), so the card cannot sag onto the fans. Please note the CPU cooler fan on the pictures is mounted the wrong way, I changed it afterwards. I run it as an exhaust fan. Additionally I had the issue that the intake fans in the graphics card compartment would suck in the dust filter just enough to slightly touch it when they ran at high RPMs. I solved this by sticking the dust filters to the bottom of the case (the thing that you can take off) and not the bottom of the case frame.
A few notes on the build process and the cable management:
As this is a pretty small case the cable management was kind of a challenge. Especially with the ridiculously long USB3.0 front panel cables and the power extension cord for the PSU which seemed to be in the way all the time. I routed the front USB, the front panel connectors for the power switch and LED as-well as the power cable for the graphics card through the hole behind the 2.5inch holding bays. The power supply cord extension, front-audio, SATA and power for the SSDs, as-well as the PWM connectors of the intake fans are routed through the hole in the middle of the case. The power supply power extension cable I removed from the preinstalled location and ran it along the back of the case so it stays clear from the front-panel area.
I am very happy with my new build. It run’s very quiet and still temperatures are well within limits. The CPU will stay below 65°C (that is CPU package, the CPU heat spreader stays below 60°C) even after running the linpack CPU benchmark for 4 hours. The CPU fans spin with 800 to 1000rpm, with peaks at around 1200rpm. The graphics card stays quiet until it reaches 60°C which is important to me, as this is the case when I run my ArchLinux system. So the system is pretty much inaudible then. When under heavy load (i.e. running Unigine heaven or valley benchmark for 4 hours) the card stays below 75°C. It is audible at that performance level, but still really quiet. The intake fans run at around 900rpms.
So this was my very first build guide which turned out to be quite a bit more extensive as I expected. I hope you guys enjoy and feel free to ask if you have any questions.