To begin: this is my first build; I've been dying to get into PC gaming for a few years since the 'next gen' consoles didn't appeal, so finally here it is from the ground up. I wanted to build something that could equally handle gaming and breeze through the processing demands of my degree, so for the CPU I chose the i7-4790k. This is a fantastic, overclockable processor which is arguably overkill for gaming, but easily hits 100% when running some of the heavy tasks my degree project throws at it. Though I haven't overclocked it myself yet, I am looking to do that very soon.
Moving on to the ASRock Z97 Anniversary Motherboard, chosen for its bare necessities features, relatively cheap price tag, blue accents (which nicely fit the build theme) and overclocking capabilities. When it comes to motherboards this thing does the job, with simple Overclocking via the UEFI (BIOS), though it does leave something to be desired in the Audio department.
The build features one 8GB Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz RAM stick, which again fits the build theme and meets my memory needs, however I will be looking at purchasing an identical stick in the future for 16GB of RAM. For storage I opted for one 250GB Crucial SSD, in a convenient blue colour, and one Seagate Barracuda 1TB HDD. This allowed me to install the Windows 10 Operating System and most-used programs on the SSD for snappy loading and interaction, and the HDD for bulk storage.
As a gaming rig, this PC simply wouldn't do without a graphics card, and this was one of the toughest decisions I made when planning the build. It came down to the AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB card or the famous Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 4GB card, both of which are fantastic and will work interchangeably in this build if you prefer one or the other. I opted for the R9 390, mainly due to better pricing at the time of purchase and better performance at 1440p if I wish to go down that route in the future. The Sapphire Nitro R9 390 is a triple fan card which is super long at 308mm, but comes in with a slight factory overclock at 1040MHz and has even more overclocking potential. Once again I haven't got around to that yet, but will do very soon; it's reported that the card can reach a core overclock at 1120MHz and memory overclock at 1600MHz safely. The card is black and gunmetal grey, but also comes with a cheeky blue LED UEFI button light when switched on, a nice touch for my colour scheme. Also, this is the backplated version which looks incredible and feels so nice to hold when unboxing.
For cooling, I chose the critically acclaimed Swiftech H220X all-in-one watercooler, which came highly recommended from a number of reviewers, websites and owners. I had issues with my first component which made an irritating rattling noise, but thanks to Amazon's fantastic returns policy I was able to get a perfectly working replacement within a week. It comes with a fantastic PWM splitter for the radiator fans and pump itself, which can be attached to the CPU Fan header on the motherboard for modulated pump and radiator fan speeds, which is excellent for noise reduction, especially when idle. The pump runs near silently when idle, bumping up to an audible humming sound under full load, however I believe this is mainly down to the radiator fans included with the product, which work fine but are easily the noisiest components in the build.
For the case I chose the NZXT Noctis 450, a stylish, angular case in white and blue to complete my build aesthetic. Initially I was looking at the NZXT H440 due to its beautiful and minimalist design, but was put off by the lack of ventilation which I worried might choke the intake fans. The Noctis 450 was an excellent compromise, with blue LEDs, built in LED control, phenomenal cable management options, 6 hard drive bays, 2 SSD mounts, a built in case fan PWM splitter, a nicely angled and windowed side panel for vanity purposes, and stealth covers for the hard drive bays and power supply, which maintains the clean look of the build. In addition to the provided case fans, I bought 3 extra fans, all of which were Fluid Dynamic Bearing fans for minimal noise and blue LEDs to add to the blue/white glow of the build. These fans were 2x LEPA 120mm fans for the intake, and one BitFenix Spectre Pro 140mm for the output fan. The LEPA fans in particular are extraordinarily silent and the airflow they create is out of this world, I cannot recommend them enough. The BitFenix fan is less effective in terms of noise cancellation and air throughput considering its size, I also had an issue with one of the LEDs flickering out, meaning I had to return and replace another part, but overall it is a decent component.
Keeping everything powered I went for the ludicrously cheap and well-reviewed XFX Pro Black Edition 850w Gold Certified PSU. This thing is fully modular, comes with a crazy number of sockets and more than enough cables of all varieties. The expandability it provides in terms of spare wattage and power sockets means almost any upgrades and additions will be possible further down the line. No complaints here.
Finally, for my I/O I opted for the BenQ XL2411 24'' 144Hz display, with an astonishing 1ms response time. The colours out of the box were very poor, but a little adjustment with some help from a couple of youtube videos and everything was perfect. The pictures online really don't do this monitor any justice; it looks gorgeous in the flesh. Then for my keyboard: none other than the Corsair K70 RGB. This was a major area I wanted to scrimp on, but I heard so much about this keyboard I was eventually swayed, and I am delighted with the decision I made. Cherry MX Red Switches, although much noisier than what I'm used to, are a joy to use, game, and type on. The RGB lighting is fun to play with, and personally I ended up going with a white and mixed blue theme, but the options make the price well worth it.
To round of my build guide, I'd like to discuss performance. I used real-world tests of five games when measuring the performance: GTA V, The Elder Scrolls Online, League of Legends, Total War: Rome 2 and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. During all of these tests, CPU core temps did not exceed 60C compared to 28C idle, and GPU temps also did not exceed 60C compared to 42C idle, with an MSI afterburner custom fan curve. FPS for each game are as follows: GTA V at 65-100, ESO at 45-80, League at 144 constant, Rome 2 at 45-100 and Skyrim at 60 constant (limited due to weird physics).
Future improvements? As mentioned I would probably opt for a better motherboard with more features, such as better audio and audio ports, I'd include another stick of RAM for 16GB (however this is entirely due to circumstance and gaming is absolutely fine at 8GB), I'd buy another LEPA 120mm fan and I would also replace the BitFenix fan with a better alternative.
Thanks for reading!
Beautiful, sexy, quiet.
Works perfectly; my i7-4790k rests at 22-28C idle, hits a maximum of 60C under 100% load, which is very good for such a hot CPU and beats the competitors( Corsair H100i) by a good 2-3C margin. Expandability options are a nice bonus.
Plenty of accessories to justify the price too, lovely LED on the CPU block with swappable colour panels (green, blue, red, white), a PWM fan splitter and an awesome windowed reservoir with white LED.
The absolute complete package, at the top of its class.
Side note: had a weird rattling noise issue with the first product, thanks to amazon's return policy I had a perfectly working, near-silent replacement in less than a week.
Very good component, does its job. Plenty of USB and Sata ports for expansion and I/O. The UEFI is amazing for fan control and overclocking.
Only complaint is the audio is a slightly lacking.
Perfect. No complaints. Love the colour.
Looks good, works perfectly, now have a snappy OS and decent space for storing frequently accessed files/programs.
Amazing card, handles all games I throw at it over 60fps and that's without any overclocking. It is a big card due to triple fans, but that just makes is seem more awesome to me! With a custom fan curve this thing won't reach temps higher than 60C, though admittedly the fans can be pretty loud under load.
Easily the best price to performance card around right now.
Oh my this case is a delight! Initially wanted to go down the H440 route due to minimalist design and sound dampening, but the lack of air intake and output vents really put me off. This case found the perfect balance between functionality and aesthetic, looking like a hybrid H440/Phantom.
Internally this case is just a H440 minus the sound dampening on the panels, but comes with the outstanding cable management options, stealth drive bays and PSU cover, PWM splitter, plus some sexy built in LEDs. Built in fans are a nice touch. Everything about this case with well thought out, with much improved ventilation over the H440 and a clean look.
Absolute gem of a PSU, at the time of purchase it was the cheapest 850w Gold power supply on the market. Does it's job perfectly, fully modular to avoid cluttering obsolete cables, very quiet, stays cool, feeds the rest of my components with all the juice they need with some headroom for expansion.
Comes complete with plenty of cables, and more rear sockets than I could ever see anybody truly needing. Full marks!
Not the greatest product ever. The soldering on the LEDs is poor, it feels flimsy, and as a result of poor soldering one of the LEDs blacked out, had to get the fan replaced.
It looks pretty good in the flesh, and the LEDs are a nice royal blue colour (when they work). Other than that I'd say the airflow isn't brilliant for a fan of this size, and it's noisier than other fans I'v bought before. All in all it does the job, but there are better competing products.
Best fans I've ever bought. They look beautiful, feel sturdy, and their semi-translucent curved fan blades mean the LEDs reflect in an awesome pattern.
The airflow is high enough to compete with most 140mm fans, and you can feel how focused the airflow is in a nice column all the way to the back of the case. Comes with a nice 4pin cable for modulating fan speed, and very premium feel embroidered cabling.
To top it off they come with very effective 'rubber screws'. They are almost completely silent, which is kind of eerie, but I couldn't be happier. Will be buying more of these in the future, a pleasantly surprising phenomenal product.
Awesome monitor, worth every penny. Out of the box the colours are grim but a quick search for a simple online guide will help you adjust that in no time, afterwards the colours will be outstanding.
Looks nice and sharp at 1080p, but the real standout feature is the 144Hz refresh rate, it blows my mind playing games with such smooth visuals, everything feels fluid and coherent, and much more life-like.
Another thing to mention is how nice the monitor itself looks in the flesh, the images really don't do this product any justice; it looks very premium and minimalist.
The only complaint is that the stand sticks out pretty far behind the monitor, so if you're planning on standing this thing on your desk against a wall, make sure you will have enough work space left over.