So this build has been a long time coming. A very long time coming! For a long time I was gaming on an old ASUS ROG laptop. I was moving around a lot, and it was great. Eventually, though, it began to not be able to keep up. For reference, this was in 2014. =) And so embarked my (nearly completed) journey to build my own gaming machine!
So, the second I start planning a build, my wife gets pregnant. Suddenly, OB bills are a priority, apparently! But that's ok because theres suddenly a little human running around that needs time and attention so who has time to game anyway. And oh, btw, it's time to deploy as well. (I'm in the Navy)
It's all good though, think of the sweet deployment $$$ I can use to buy a super awesome PC when I get back, right? But first, obligatory overseas holiday! (Not that I'm complaining - a month driving around Italy eating mass amounts of cheese, meats and gelato was amazing) And now there's another baby on the way. So let's hold off, yeah? Of course, it's about this time that the old laptop finally gives up, thanks to a toddler tripping over the power and ripping the DC Jack straight off the mainboard...
Cue a return to the XBOX 360 that had been gathering. I also got given a super old Core-Duo machine and a super super old GPU (NFI) to play with to learn building things - and do uni work. But its ok because now there are two little squishys that want your attention so you wouldnt have time anyway. And, luckily I manage to salvage a less-old GPU and PSU from a e-waste bin at the tip when you are finally dumping the old laptop. So yay - Core Duo and HD5850 (which is still going strong) at least allows for some basic gaming once again - and I have a lot of old games that are still fun.
9 months (brings us to early 2017, for those counting along at home) of hiding spare cash in the sock drawer puts aside cash for a new mobo/cpu/cooler/ram combination! Now the proud owner of a new gen Kaby-Lake i5! Still severly bottlenecked by the 5850 but at least the PC is super fast otherwise - and can play some more recent (2010s) games. Yay Borderlands 1 and Just Cause 2! Puting aside money for a new GPU, but the PSU found in the dump starts failing and is immediately replaced, for fear of total destruction of everything.
Now, for that GPU. Oh look, crypto mining has doubled the price of 1080p level cards. FML.
Regular life makes a GPU upgrade a fairly low priority, but by the end of 2017 I want to change it up a little. So a case and some fans are on the wish list for Santa, and he delivers! =) So the week before work begins I transfer everything to the new case and its oh so nice...!
And here we are now. Everything from the old core duo machine is replaced and the only thing left to do is replace the 5850. Luckily, another deployment is coming up soon, so on return there should be a new GPU in there!
I know that nothing I have is 'best of' or even 'best value'. Blame a little impatience, and some knowledge lapses that make me wince in hindsight. Overall, this is supposed to be a midrange build with some emphasis on silence. It sits on my desk (see pictures) and I wanted to avoid annoying noises while I do uni work. I mostly succeeded, though I have tuned fans pretty low, and suffer high idle temps because of it. But it runs well, and looks great.
For the Photos, I've thrown in a few older ones to show the long process, including a shot or two of the old core-duo system. Theres three cable management photos, just to show the crazyness that it started as, the 'stuff it all in' method and the final result. I wish I took more during the actual build process but I got into it and forgot all about it!
It was better value than a 7600 when I bought it. I haven't really tested it in reality anyway so meh. Maybe when I get a new GPU I'll see it bottleneck. But it does what I need it to.
I got a LP cooler because at the time I was looking at small cases that had really low cooler clearances (CORSAIR carbide Air 240, among others). It's not required for the 301 - a tower cooler is probably better due to airflow direction, but it's still a great cooler Easy to attach, good cooling and super quiet. Trade off is that its not quire as efficient as bigger ones, but for what it is it does really well. Only potential issue could be RAM or VRAM for some. I was able to orient mine in a way that I could fit it without covering my RAM and waste the RGB underneath a heatsink, but others may not be able to.
Otherwise, it's a solid board. I was never going to OC or RAID so didn't need anything extra. Ports are in good places and there's enough USB and SATA connections for my wants. I regret that I didnt get the ITX version, but thats on me.
Only issue is that the MSI Mystic Sync is really half-baked. Despite it being software, it turns out that its also hardware limited so all it does on this mobo is 7 predefined basic colours and static, breathe, flash, double flash and off. A little disappointing TBH but not that big of a deal/
Got this for a great price (for Australia) at the time, and it's even a better price now It looks great and the software is pretty solid for the lighting. (It is now - the Beta software earlier on was pretty buggy). Lots of options for colours/programs and it looks sweet.
It was cheap and an early upgrade when I had a core duo. Works fine nothing special
Got it on Greys Online. Works fine. Not a lot on it, just movies and music.
Still works surprisingly well, despite being pulled out of an e-waste bin. Really loud fans, especially at default. The one in my list isn't the one I am using - I have the sapphire variant of the reference card, so a blower design, but I couldn't find it on the site. Its going to be replaced soon, but it plays enough of my games that I'm not in a huge hurry. I'm on a Warframe kick at the moment and that runs on a potato. Also works well with Dark Souls 1, Just Cause 2, Borderlands 1 and AC3/Liberation.
Beautiful, beautiful case. The most compact windowed MATX case I could find. Beware though, building in it was a biatch, especially the cable management. I routed and re-routed cables so many times to get it clean and nice, and had to pull out fans and the GPU several time so make it just right. Worth it though now I have cables sorted - see pictures for end result.
I'm worried that this will be a bit of a hot box once I put a bigger GPU in there, but for now its pretty good. Sits at 40C idle in a non-AC room on a hot Australian summer's day, which is about the same as my last case with the same hardware say at. Could be lower if I blasted the CPU cooler but I don't really want to. =D Not the case for high end hot multi-GPU builds but for a simple rig for normal gaming use it is fine, and looks sweet.
Great PSU. I've never seen the fan switch on which is awesome since one of the priorities for this build is quiet running. Turns out though, that this is a little problematic for me as the 301 uses the PSU as an exhaust - so by having a semi passive cooler, I've robbed the case of an exhaust flow. Meh.
Really quiet, until I put them at high RPM (and then they are really loud) and they move enough air at low RPM that I don't have to! Noise kicks in at about 60%. The rubber push pins that connect them to the case interfere with the dust filter slightly. No big deal though - just have to be careful putting the filter in.
Very nice looking fans. Quiet, too. Don't spin very fast though, which accounts for lots of the quietness... Airflow is adequate, though I wouldnt use them for a radiator.
The daisy chain function was a godsend in the inwin 301, which has very limited space. I chose between three of these or three CM Masterfan fans, which comes with a fan controller. Chose these as I all i needed was one y cable from the RGB and fan header to fan 1, then just daisy chain them along, where as each CM fan needed to be connected to the MB for fan control and the RGB controller for the lighting. I gave up a few lighting options by going with the MSI Mystic Sync control, but I don't regret choosing easier cabling over lighting options. Other downside of the daisy chaining is that all the fans have to run at the same speed so you loose some granular control over that, if you care.
Only other (minor) downside is that the fan sticker on my exhaust fan is off center so every time I look at my PC my eye is drawn to it wobbling around!