After about 6 months of switching gear in and out, and being the recipient of some insanely high levels of bad luck , I finally have a stable running Kaby Lake build - and I'm chuffed!
My aim for this build was threefold:
- I wanted a system with a minor level of maintenance;
- I want an elegant aesthetic;
- I wanted a straight forward build process
To help achieve the first goal I went back to air cooling (I had a Dark Rock 3 back in the day, and since then have been through Corsair and NZXT AIO's - both of which had to be returned for faults), which was a first step towards a calmer life. I find the inherent nature of a heatsink much more straight forward; apply the thermal paste, install the device on the motherboard, plug into the CPU fan header, fin. One less app to install and keep an eye on. As long as the fan is working, we're fine!
To achieve the second goal I made a seemingly 'backwards' decision by going with both an older case, and no RGB. Yes - aesthetics are subjective. So, with this in mind, I should clarify: my idea of 'elegance' is something which blends into the room, but not completely. It sits there, matches the surrounding environment in tone and presence, but doesn't draw too much attention. The white Define R5 hits the mark for me and my office environment.
And again, regarding the third goal, the Define R5 satisfied. It's a larger case, which instantly means I'm not too cramped when I'm screwing in the motherboard, or routing pesky CPU or fan cables through small. The selection of the Noctua also comes into play here. I had a good experience with my Dark Rock 3 back in the day, but it's no secret that Be Quiet's mounting methodology is infuriating. The NH-U14S has that straight forward 'position and screw down' mentality - which was an absolute pleasure to work with.
A quick note on new parts vs existing, as well as pricing; I sourced a lot of parts through eBay stores who were running sales at the time, so the total was no where near what PC Part Picker quotes. Also - I had several things before this build, that I've included on the list anyway (like the monitor, HS8's and things like that - which I've mentioned below)
P.S. added some bonus pics of the case feat. Marceline the cat for funsies :)
My previous build had a Kaby Lake chip. I was semi-impressed with it’s overclocking ability, but I must admit I don’t think I stuck lucky in the Silicon lottery. Hitting 5GHz wasn’t possible, even with my Kraken X62, and a pair of Noctua NF-A14 Industrial PPC 2000RPM fans up agains the radiator. Sure, other things were probably involved with it’s downfall, but the one lesson was clear; these guys run hot. My plan with this build isn’t to go after a hardcore OC approach, but rather give the chip a bit of a boost, and then stop there.
I was debating between all sorts of CPU coolers; the Be Quiet Dark Rock Pro 3, the Noctua NH-D15, NH-D14, NH-C14S and so on. I decided on the U14S as I figured it was a nice middle ground between cooling ability (a lot of folks with experience of Noctua CPU coolers stated that the U14S showcases a cooling performance not far from a NH-D14, but with a much smaller heatsink) For now it’s doing a stellar job, keeping the CPU within a very acceptable temperature range. I’ll consider putting a second fan on it if I need to, but for now it’s doing a great job.
When it comes to cooling, having had some negative experiences with bad chips and CPU AIO coolers in the past, I chose to avoid shortcuts. Forking out a little bit extra for a thermal paste which comes up quite a lot in stress and heat testing turned out to be worth it. This stuff keeps the CPU running cool, and was easy to apply.
It may not be the highest Gigabyte Z270 board available but for my needs it was perfect. It came packaged really well, and the bulk adapter for case electronics (Power LED, Reset etc) make getting that particular (often painful) task in the setup phase a real breeze. I love the smart fan headers, and the BIOS is easy to navigate and change around.
Super solid. No complaining here. It’s the Vengeance series. There’s a reason, despite their age, the demand for this model continues to grow as time goes on.
It's fast. It's real fast. The M.2 SSD was a lot smaller than what I expected but that's more a passing comment than anything else. It's just bloody fast. That's all there is to say :)
Nothing to report that hasn’t been said before. I didn’t have the capital for a 1080ti model, and the online shop where I sourced the majority of these parts had. A few regular 1080’s for a reduced price. I’ve had an ASUS Strix 1080 in the past, but unfortunately that model was still a bit too much so this MSI choice seemed to fit the bill. No complaints here. It powers buttery smooth gameplay on my 1440p display at 144Hz. I would have liked to have seen a backplate on the unit, however.
I had one build in this for about 2 weeks but the majority of the parts, for no explanation, were just faulty. As mentioned above, it’s a joy to work in. I removed the mechanical drive bays which allows for a better airflow, as well as the CD drive bay. The build quality of the case is great (nothing feels flimsy or cheap), and the sound dampening material on each side is just enough to keep acoustic down low without causing overheating issues.
I was taken back at the quality of the SuperNOVA. The PSU unit comes in a nice bag, and all the modular cables are sleeved which really brings the internal aesthetic of the PC to a higher place. If I had a tempered glass or windowed case I’d go out and get a CableMod kit, but in this instance the cables that came packaged up were perfect. 750w easily covers my system requirements. There's a bit of coil whine which I'll have to keep my eye on. I imagine getting a replacement isn't too hard when such issues are present.
Wireless Network Adapter
I need the most help I can get when it comes to wifi signal in my current residence. The PCE-AC88 is blistering strong/fast, and if you aren't too worried about the large antennas on the unit, then I'd say absolutely check this PCIe unit out.
Noctua make downright amazing fans. I’ve used some of their NF-A14 fans in the past, and they blew a gale (with an great decibel rating) so the decision to remove the stock case fans and replace them with Noctua’s was a no brainer. The Redux model is slightly cheaper than the AF model, but the different is minor. The 1200RPM models I got is have just the right level of air flow, RPM’s, and acoustic readings to fit the criteria. I thought PWM would be handy in the event I want to go in and change the fan curve, but even at their maximum RPM the noise levels are extremely quiet.
I’ve had this monitor for just under two years. Once you go 144Hz you never, ever want to go back. This thing is a dream.
My only other experiences with mechanical keyboards have been with a Corsair Strafe RGB and a Razer Blackwidow X TE. The switches in the Strafe weren’t to my liking (despite being made as ‘silenced’ switches, they felt really unresponsive), whereas the Blackwidow was okay but sadly had to be returned as half of the board stopped working. I took the chance to try something else. The folks over at /r/mechanicalkeyboards, whilst being hardcore DIY enthusiasts, maintain that the Masterkeys series are worthwhile. I can now fully back them on that. Going from the custom switches of the Strafe and Blackwide (Razer’s trademark ‘green’ switches, which are similar in nature to blue switches) to standard MX brown’s is unreal. The keys have. A great tactile feel, and the finish is a nice brushed plastic which gives off a rubbery-feel
I’m happy with the mouse. I’ve had Logitech mice throughout the years, only having just had a brief stint with a Razer Deathadder (which I rather fancied), so using this was like returning home after a long while. The battery charge on this thing is really impressive, and the included sleeved USB cable is a nice touch as, even when it’s plugged in and chords are going along the desk, it has a really nice look. Bundled with my headphones, controlling everything through Logitech’s gaming software app, is a nice bonus.
The voice quality on the G933 is quite impressive. I’m not too thrilled with the sound quality, but I chose to pay a tad extra for the convenience of wireless so I can be up and about when I’m on web call with work or friends.
Not really PC related, but I thought I’d comment anyway. I’ve had these studio monitors for years, as I do a bit of music on the side of PC stuff/work. I run them through a Scarlett 2i4 audio interface, which is a reliable little unit handy for small jam sessions. I tend to keep these monitors plugged in even when gaming (mostly because getting up to switch them on and off all the time is annoying, but hey - they’re active monitors - so it’s required!) - which is fine if you’re use to a flat EQ.