Description

EDIT May 26, 2015: 3DMark 11 score is for the Fire Strike v1.1 test

FireStrike score: 4986 with GPU core at 1070MHz and memory at 1315MHz

I built this computer both as a school project and to get a better computer. This build is planned to be used as a dual-boot computer with Widows 8.1 and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, but as of the time of writing (4-2-2014), I hadn't installed Ubuntu.

The components themselves were chosen for their reputation for being powerful, but also reliable and fairly cheap. Also, I should mention that some of the components could be had for less than I have shown here, but I preferred to get everything from either Amazon or Newegg. Also, I had to get the XFX HD 7870 from Amazon instead of Newegg, since Newegg ran out of stock the day before I ordered. I realized afterward I could have gotten a GTX 760 for about $10-20 less than what I paid for the HD 7870. Ah, well, it's something I can deal with.

All in all, I found the build pretty easy to do, though I do suggest installing the processor (and its cooler) and RAM outside the case. Just remember to NOT put the motherboard on its bag while you work on it! Just set it on the box and install your CPU, RAM, and CPU cooler.

I liked the shipping speed of the Amazon dealer I got the Hitachi HDD from. GoHardDrive had the drive up here in less than two full business days, arriving a few hours before the two-business day Newegg shipment. I was a little worried about the drive's integrity, since it was stuck in a flat rate box wrapped up in bubble wrap, but it had no issues when it arrived.

I have no major complaints about the working state of the computer itself, though I will note that the GPU runs at about 80 degrees C during stress testing unless you use MSI Afterburner to change the fan settings. After that, the temps never go above 71 degrees C even while running stress tests. Other than that, the GPU performs admirably, letting me run StarMade on high settings at 70-150 FPS.

The CPU stays under 65 degrees C even when running a Prime95 test (well within the 72 degrees C max safe temp), even with only the stock cooler. Nothing I've done, other than stress testing, has taken up more than 50% of the CPU capacity. For a gaming reference, the processor lets me run Minecraft at anywhere from 80-300 FPS, depending on settings and what you're doing in-game, of course. EDIT 5-26-2015: So, it seems that certain elements of StarMade will, in fact, max out the CPU.

Oh, and for the first-time builders out there: remember to plug your monitor into the graphics card, not the motherboard! I wasted two days trying to get my GPU to work, and finally realized it was only using the integrated graphics because the monitor was plugged into the wrong place xD

The SSD is amazingly fast for my purposes. I get boot times around 7-10 seconds after adjusting some of the boot settings (Google it if you want to do that, too :). I like the HDD too, though it is noisier than I would like. I had a panic attack the first time I heard it writing data to it. Apparently this is normal, as none of the hard drive diagnostics I ran found any issues with the drive itself. Oh, you also don't need to get an adapter for the 2.5" SSD, as the case comes with a single adapter already.

The RAM and power supply all worked with no problems at all. Just remember, because the mobo only comes with two SATA data cables, you'll need to pick up a third data cable if you want to have two hard drives and an optical drive in your build.

EDIT 6-23-2014: It seems that the DVD drive doesn't last long. Less than three months after building, it died on me and refuses to open or read data. Lite-On says to contact the dealer for waqrranty replacement, but since Amazon apparently is not an "authorized dealer", I can't get it replaced...

The motherboard itself was satisfactory, though it is a bit small when fitted in this case. It has USB 3.0 headers that allow me to use my two front USB 3.0 ports, along with two more 3.0 ports on the rear. In short, with this case and mobo combination, you'll have plenty of ports. Also, if you have an old VGA monitor and only want/need integrated graphics, the motherboard does have a VGA port on the rear, though that port isn't mentioned anywhere else that I've found. Oh, and make sure to get the 24-pin cable from your PSU in all the way, as it was a bit tricky to get it to seat all the way in its slot.

So, yes, this computer suits my needs perfectly: a fast, powerful computer for gaming and programming/VM'ing for a reasonable price. The case is a bit wider than I expected, but unless you have a really small desk like me, it won't be a problem. On the plus side, the case is surprisingly light considering its size. All in all, it works quite well for my needs and I would recommend these components to others.

Edit 9-6-2014: I've edited this build to reflect what is actually in it now. I've added some side fans, gotten a new monitor, replaced the DVD drive (since the Lite-On one died on me after only three months, and they don't give you a warranty if you got it from Amazon...), and now have it hooked up via a wired connection.

Part Reviews

CPU

A solid entry to the Intel quad-core market, though the newer i5-4460 is a better choice for a non-overclocking build. Even so, this still can play any game out there without any trouble at all, and looks to continue to do so for several years, since it maxes out at 50-75% utilization in even very intense games.

Motherboard

A decent board for a low price. More fan headers would have been nice, but as long as you don't go crazy with case fans like I do, you'll be fine. Has a pretty good aesthetic in my opinion as well.

Memory

Well, its RAM. This particular set looks decent, has had zero issues, and has generally been a great buy. I only wish I had more of it!

Storage

Great for speed, but I dock a star for the low capacity (admittedly my fault for not thinking it through enough). You can make do with this drive for just your OS and programs, but don't expect to install many games to it.

Storage

Massive capacity for a good price. Hitachi is renowned for being reliable, and this drive has taken things very well. I've actually dropped the computer while it was packaged for transport (it fell out of the back of an SUV), and this thing never even had a single problem. Only con is that it's kind of loud when writing data.

Video Card

Performance-wise? Excellent card. Thermals-wise? You'll want to steer clear. This thing maxes out at 85 degrees C with a mild overclock, with no less than five case fans to aid in the ventilation. Please note that I have a slightly different model than shown here, the HD 7870 LE/XT, which is based on the same Tahiti core used in the R9 280/280x, just at a lower clock.

Case

A great case if you're on a budget and want something with a bit of flash to it. Supports up to five 120mm case fans, with plenty of drive bays and support for most bigger GPU's. Build quality is pretty good for the price, with the only real con being the amount of plastic used on the front panel.

Power Supply

To be fair to this unit, its a great part for someone making a low/mid range rig with no plans to upgrade to anything high-end later on. Its semi-modular, which is very nice, and I haven't had any issues with mine. That said, if you're building something where you want better quality, the CS550M regularly goes on sale for less than this, has a higher efficiency, and is generally built better. And if you're going for a system that needs more than 550 watts, do yourself a favor and get a good unit, preferably Tier 1 or 2 on the Newegg PSU Tier list.

Optical Drive

Not much to say about this, really. It replaced a Lite-On drive that I thought had died, is pretty quiet, and seems to be reasonably fast. Recommended for a basic DVD drive.

Operating System

For all the hate Windows 8 gets, 8.1 is a big improvement. Go install Classic Shell, do a quick registry tweak to remove the "swipe to unlock" picture (make a backup first!), and you have Windows 7 with a speed boost. For power users, the Task Manager and the file transfer progress indicator are MUCH better than on Windows 7. Plus, since this is a retail copy, you can reinstall Windows whenever you need/want to with no issues.

Monitor

An impressively good cheap IPS monitor. Viewing angles and color are excellent (though some calibration with the Windows monitor calibration tool is welcome), and I personally have never felt like the monitor is slowing me down while gaming. Short of getting the Acer Predator XB27HU with its no-compromises panel, this is the best monitor out there for those who don't need high refresh rates.

Keyboard

Oh my goodness, this thing is amazing. Yes, the keyboard costs more than my monitor, but the mechanical switches feel amazing, and the RGB backlighting, despite the software issues Corsair's had with it, is incredible. When I type, there's a rainbow of lights that ripple across the entire keyboard.

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Man, that looked amazing :)

Mouse

Okay, so this thing is also amazing. I got it to go with the Corsair K70 RGB keyboard, and they look great together. The mouse itself is built great (the aluminum core makes it feel very solid), comfortable for pretty much any grip (even for my freakishly large hands), and sensor-wise, I can't find a flaw with it. Yes, its laser, but I cannot for the life of me detect any acceleration issues at all.

Headphones

Very good headset if you need an integrated mic. I've noticed that longevity might be an issue, though, as there seems to be an issue with the in-line volume and mic controls that emerged after several months of use that results in the right earpiece cutting out if you handle the in-line controls wrong. Overall, still a good buy if you catch them at a good price (under $65, preferably).

Comments

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Great Build Man! Great description and in-depth opinions on why you chose the parts! It may not be great in terms of cable management but there's something about that GPU that just brings back memories :D

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks man! I've actually improved on the cable management since I posted this, I just haven't gotten around to actually taking pictures of it yet :P I'm hoping by next spring to have redone some/most of this build, depending on how my budget looks. All of my friends are starting to look into building their own computers, so I need to keep my title of having the most powerful rig!

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice to hear man and I look forward to your upgrades :D

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