Yes that's a Mass Effect 3 reference.

For reference, this isn't my first build. my first build was an AMD Athlon XP 1.33Ghz on a socket A mobo by mainboard, circa 2001. I had that paired to an ATi Radeon DDR, the first Radeon, before it was rebranded a 7000, which i replaced later with a 9000pro. Its nice to see AMD back in the game. I wouldn't call myself a fanboy, I'll be the first to say AMD hasn't always been competitive, i just don't build PCs for myself when they're not. This is probably my 10th build. I'd put my own tech level to be moderate. This machine is replacing a 3.2 GHz phenom II x6, r9 280x in a node 605 that i was using for gaming primarily on my 42" TV.

TheDarkness is primarily a gaming machine. I'm building for StarCitizen, X4, and State of Decay 2. My wife does a fair amount of digital art when i'm not playing games.

The listed prices are mostly higher than what i actually paid. RAM for example I got for 190 before the prices spiked. I managed to get Vega for MSRP, the nano S for 55, and the SSHD for 65 on Blackfriday, the monitor for ~350 on a newegg sale. The SSD win10 key, spare fans, and peripherals I had on hand from the node 605 build I recently decommissioned. I'd say this machine cost me 1500$, all from, not including the parts i already had.

AIRFLOW: RAM heat spreaders and the USB 3.0 case plug are too tall to mount the radiator to the top, so I mounted it at the front, with an added benefit that all my vents are protected by dust filters. I added the fan that came with the case to the radiator in a pull position, the fans the AIO came with are still in a push configuration. I used 2 older fractal fans I had lying around to replace the exhaust and provide a floor intake to feed Vega. The exhaust fan is plugged into the mobo header, the pull fan on the radiator and the floor intake fan are powered by adapter to molex. Since there are really no vents without fans its difficult to tell what pressures really are with the smoke test, though I suspect that pressure is positive when system is idle, and equal or slightly negative when Vega is maxed out.

SOUND: not a problem most of the time, this case is well constructed and the fans silent, except Vega's blower under gaming load, that sounds like a turbine because I opened up the RPMs all the way. I game with headphones so It doesn't really matter. The blower positions the intake away from the PSU and directly above the floor fan, providing better airflow than an aftermarket multi fan cooler, concurrently relieving heat load on the case, so i'll deal with the noise for now, and consider a custom loop later.

CHALLENGES: cable routing; this mobo puts the 24 pin at the top, weird, but doable. the cpu power is next to the IO panel, also weird. The 2.5" mounts are hidden behind the mobo and all the other wiring can be done over the top and behind the back plate. I build mITX machines because I enjoy the challenge. I recommend taking time to map out this kind of build rather than just start plugging stuff in. often the easiest way is to place the small cables first.

USB 3.0; A noteworthy additional challenge is the usb 3.0 header for the front of the case... that thing is stupidly tall. as far as I've seen they're all the same across the industry, but that alone would've prevented me from using the top mount for the radiator on this build because gigabyte put the header at the top of the board and the plug is stupidly tall. I actually emailed fractal's support about it. there's only one header extender cable I know of online and people that've used it have reported trouble because its not shielded. its a problem unique to this case/mobo combination most likely, unless other mobos put that header at the top too.

NO 5.25 DRIVE: not a problem, used media creation tool with USB for windows, downloaded drivers directly after that.

OVERCLOCKING: CPU; So far I've only experimented a little, the 1600x was perfectly stable at 3.85 ghz on all cores even on this board, and as others have noted, the heatsink on the 6 phase VRM is rather weak sauce, unless you're using a top down cooler. After building, i read and watched a dozen reviews, most of which agreed that the heatsink on the VRM is insufficient for the cooling job, and I've measured it to be <11mm taller than the capacitors it hovers over. I have an FM2 mITX mobo on my other machine with a 6 phase vrm and a cooler >3x taller, which i might try swapping. If anyone can suggest a cooling replacement for the VRM i'd love to hear it.

GPU; It seems I won the silicone lottery when It comes to Vega. Using Wattman, all I've done is max the wattage and fan speed, and the card regularly clocks to 1560 without touching voltage or manually increasing frequency. I'm going to try undervolting since I hear this card responds well to it. Oddly when I install/update drivers it has underclocked the HBM to 700 which results in artifacts on games, I almost panicked and called sapphire when I saw them the first time. its odd because stock settings are 800mhz.

Let me know what you think of this build either way.

UPDATE: added phanteks halos for the visible fans. LEDs are denser/brighter than I expected but definitely worth the price. I flipped the radiator so the pipes are vertical instead of obscuring the radeon logo on Vega. I reseated the waterblock with Arctic Silver 5 and saw sizeable improvement on my CPU Tmax. i tried a new method for application; I used an X and added a dot in between the arms of the X for total coverage. apparently its working. all cores on prime95 and temps took 10 mins to even hit 40 without dust filters. So I stand by my earlier assessment, the compound helped but the biggest thermal barrier remains the filters.

Part Reviews


I utilize primarily AMD cpus when building but i'm not willing to sacrifice performance for brand loyalty, so when Ryzen 5 launched I knew the time had come to frame my phenom II x6 and build a new machine. Ryzen has not disappointed. it is stable, delivers unparalleled multithreaded performance, and solid per core performance, and in today's ecosystem, the shift toward multi-threaded everything is well underway. I've begun my foray into overclocking and Ryzen has proven to be pliable. For gaming: Framerates in excess of 144 are useless to me but becoming common. I'm happy with Ryzen and AMD's performance to dollar ratio.


after your compensate for unorthodox placement of power plugs, this is a solid motherboard. built in wifi works great, B350 lets me OC, M.2 socket on the back, reinforced PCIe 3.0 slot for my GPU. Gigabyte's sturdy construction quality is always appreciated, and their BIOS is mostly user friendly. software setup is a little convoluted, but @bios makes flashing easy, and I was able to plug my RAM in and enable XMP for 3200 speed with timings of 14 without trouble. Oh yeah, Bios LED control is nice so I don't have to use an OS based App.

My only gripe is that the board was clearly designed for top down coolers rather than waterblocks, the VRM heatsink is tiny. I'll probably have to come up with a custom fan layout to cool it directly since my AIO doesn't do it, and the thing gets HOT. I even contacted gigabyte about this, I have an FM2 board on my other machine with a much taller heatsink on a 6 phase I suggested they send me to replace the stock sink but they declined. I might do it anyway.


My 4th build using G.skill ram, works like a charm, hits its timings, never had any defects. love their work, if not the current pricing.


my 3rd Hybrid drive, all still in use. I'm not sure why more people don't use these. This particular model spins at 5600 like a laptop drive and it takes forever to write to, but it has a 32mb SSD which will load my games plenty fast, so as long as I spend more time playing than downloading it should be ok. got it cheap on black Friday and since my case mounts 3 2.5" drives I went with it rather than a 3.5".

Video Card

After watching this beautiful creature sell out at absurd prices repeatedly, there was a lull in the storm, I guess I have Nvidia of all things to thank for pricing. the 1070 ti launched and this card was suddenly in stock at MSRP! jumped on that like a dude on a shark. I seem to have won the silicon lottery because without real overclocking and minor tweaks in wattman I get 1560 MHz constantly. even on a 1440 display I get framerates much higher than most of the reviews posted.

Admittedly as a new architecture there have been challenges but this has been a huge improvement over the R9 280X in the majority of games I play.


Big fan of Fractal Design. I've worked on cases from cooler master, Asus, and others but since I built in the node 605 back in 2011, I've only worked with fractal. the sound dampening, airflow friendly layout, minimalistic style, and quality of construction at fair price points cant be beat. The Define Nano S is no exception. Excellent water cooling support for a mini-ITX system, breathing space, cable routing were all aspects I needed for this build and this case delivered all of them for half the cost of most competing cases.

Power Supply

seasonic is legendary for their quality, what more can I say? they've been doing this since the 80s.


Too many buttons on the thumb for my needs. they're so long I rarely find myself using more than 2. I recommend getting the mouse with 4 at the thumb, placement looked better. also the two smaller buttons at the front right are problematic, the long one is at the edge of my reach, and I don't have small hands. if you have small hands this mouse would be impossible. the variable DPI is pleasant, I really notice the precision in StarCitizen.


paid 20$ for this forever ago. solid construction, way better than the cheaper lp pair I bought at the same price. lacks a little base but good for price and someone who moves a lot.


  • 12 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey man, nice build. Would like to know how's the acoustics of the blower style Vega 56, still having second thoughts if I should get the Vega 56 Strix which would make me spends more by buying an sfx power supply or just get the blower one, both are similarly priced that's why I'm in a predicament.

  • 12 months ago
  • 2 points

the blower is loud. I keep the case on the bottom shelf of my desk and I can hear it when I take my headphones off pretty easily but its also a nice even sound, no high pitched shrieking or grinding or anything so its really not that bad. but yeah in this case if you're not going blower style I recommend the SFX PSU, there's only 5mm ish clearance for the first half of the 2 slot board, and some of those AIB coolers are even thicker.