With the recent launch of Intel's new Z270 chipset and new "Kaby Lake Series of CPUs I decided to do an update to my previous Z170 gaming build. This offers a clean stylized white aesthetic but with nice contrast offered by the RGB lighting ( which will generally be blue or rainbow ). The mix of color or blue really pop off the white panels internally. Furthermore, the consistent contrast of some of the black on the board as well as others components helps to add further visual distinction to the build. For those that are interested in the build process I took photos generally in a sequenced order and of key steps so you can go through the entire photo stream and see how it came together along with indivdual pictures of almost all the components.
Pricing wise this build has a lot of wiggle room if you are looking at doing a similar build. You could easily drop the memory to something more basic along with Deepcool's more basic AIO. You could also go with a hybrid SSD ( although I personally feel any gaming system should have an SSD for the performance and response & fluidity it provides in games ). With those price reductions in play you could easily be looking at around 1200. You could also go down further with a single 120mm Deepcool AIO and an Kabylake i3 ( which is also unlocked ) and further reduce the price point while still having very good performance.
Ultimately the goal was to have a nice white themed build that had some layers of contrast but allowed for a great gaming experience regardless of what I was going to play and furthermore also offered up a lot of overclocking headroom. With this system, I had no issues easily exceeding 5GHz plus on all cores. More impressive using the per core tuning options I was able to have even high single and dual thread frequencies like 5.2GHz. In this respect, this system seriously offers up some impressive performance headroom regardless of the game or application.
The foundation of the build is a brand new ASUS Intel Z270 board which offers up all the current specification support you could ask for, these include RAID, M.2 (PCIe, NVMe), PCIe Gen 3.0, USB 3.0/USB 3.1 as well as overclocking support. Additionally, we have future support for Intel Optane. With leveraging a Kaby Lake CPU there is also some under the hood improvements which when paired with Windows 10 and a quality SSD allows for some really nice responsiveness improvements. This falls under Intel ready shift tech which is outside of IPC improvements that a lot of users look at.
As I have also previously noted the Z series chipset offers a more feature rich platform when it comes to motherboards as the best features & functions are found on performance chipset motherboards. Many builders do not realize that subtle but important areas can be considerably improved upon when compared to B or H series boards. This is especially true when it comes to areas like Fan Controls, UEFI options, board VRM design and much more. We will get to that soon enough though. Ultimately the choice to go with a Z270 motherboard is a given especially if you are looking to fully realize the potential of unlocked CPUs and XMP enabled memory. As such the choice was easy to make for this build.
Overall Aesthetic -
The goal here was to have white be the first and foremost prominent color. Therefore, the motherboard, chassis and fans and even GPU were all selected due to offering this visual design aesthetic (outside of respective design benefits that they offer as well). At the same time, I was looking to have a bit of contrast with black. With that in mind there is a mix of some components that help to create that contrast. Adding one more layer of aesthetics I want to have a bit of a third layer this is where the RGB comes in along with fans and memory which introduced either blue, white or a rainbow mix of color which pops nicely when reflected on the white interior.
Breaking down the components that are white or include white Deepcool Dukase V2 ( white edition ) Deepcool Captain 240 EX ( white edition ) Deepcool TF120 fans ( white edition ) Avexir Raiden DDR4 ( white with blue Plasma Tubes ) ASUS PRIME Z270-A, ASUS DUAL GTX 1070 ( with shroud being white ), & CableMods Extension Cables in white.
About the only area that would have been nice to potentially integrate more white would have been getting a custom back plate for the DUAL 1070. If you want to get really into in you could heatshrink white tubing on some of the black cabling but I like the contrast it creates.
CPU - I decided to go with the 7600K. The 7600K is going to pretty ensure great and the best performance the vast majority of games and applications. Only a handful of heavily threaded game engines like TOTAL WAR benefit from the additional cores. Even then performance is still outstanding. While cores are important frequency is still king. In this respect, Kaby and this quad core part really allow for some impressive CPU frequencies. At the same time, this is also a very power efficient CPU and has very reasonable temperatures even when overclocked. This is especially the case with the 7600K compared to the 7700K. Ultimately the 6600K not only offers great temps but also offers great FPS performance for all current titles as well as those that are coming down the pipe. As a side benefit the latest generation Intel CPUs have a lot of flexibility when it comes to what type of voltages can be applied and in this respect, we can leverage an adaptive offset voltage to maximize overclocking but also help to improve power efficiency and reduce heat buildup and eliminate the need to supply a constant voltage being driven to the CPU which can cause voltage degradation.
CPU Cooler - Deepcool Captain 240 EX- This is a solid all in one closed loop water cooling solution. It offers more than enough thermal dissipation capabilities especially for the 7600K even when overclocked. While it offers great cooling performance it also offers up a unique design aesthetic. The pump design is visually interesting. The pump also has some nice advantageous compared to many closed loop water cooling solutions. It features a closed impeller which helps to reduce vibration and overall noise. While not used in the build the inclusion of high quality PWM fan splitter hub is a really nice addition not offer on any other 240 dual fan AIO.
The included fans are also quite nice from a design perspective as the fan blades themselves carry through the white color theme. The fans also feature FDB bearings and a true PWM IC for super low RPM and overall quiet operation. The frame of the fans incorporate a TPE layer which helps to reduce vibration and overall noise. If needed you can also detach the fan impeller so you can apply lubrication or clean the fan hub assembly. By default, though the fans feature a sealed design that maximizes long term lifespan and reliable operation (dust from getting in and from internal oil leaking out)
Installation was easier than many closed loop coolers due to some nice touches such a retention clips that can be placed on the mounting bracket. Overall it was a smooth and straight forward installation process.
Motherboard - There are a lot of great choices out there, especially when it comes to ASUS boards. That being noted I wanted I a board that beyond its features & functions and build quality offered up a distinctive white design aesthetic. Additionally, it had to be reliable and stable when it came to overclocking. The PRIME Z270 series from ASUS is a great choice in this respect and as such I went with the Prime Z270-A.
Some of the key benefits include
onboard RGB lighting - with an AURA RGB header for easy RGB LED strip connectivity and control
Auto Tuning - An included suite which offers realtime and CPU specific and system specific auto overclocking. You can define your target options like temperature, frequency or voltage. You can also define whether you want per core tuning for the highest OC potential or if you all core tuning which will overclock all the cores to the same maximum frequency. This along with extensive customization on how you can stree test the system between intervals along with defining the length of the stress test really allows you to maximize the investment you make in having an unlocked CPU and a good CPU cooler.
Getting into some of the specific onboard benefits, this board was built for users who want a lot of fans and high degree of control and flexibility when it comes to those fans.
The Z270-A offers outstanding fan controls and connectivity. With 5 total fan headers and 1 dedicated AIO power header you have all the connectivity you need for a standard highperformance cooling setup. Additionally you can connect 3 more fans via the optionall fan extension card which connects to the motherboard. More impressive is all CPU & CHA fan headers can provide true DC & PWM output / control. This means they fully support 3 pin or 4 pin fans. Each header supports fan calibration and profiling to find out the exact operating curve of each connected fan. This allows you to easily control all your connected fans via calibrated profiles. Along with the calibrated profile you can quickly apply a range of presets. These range from silent operation to varying cooling levels. You can also of course go in and fully define custom fan curves including ramping speed.
Where things get really interesting is in the ability to have different temperature input sources that even include the GPU not just the CPU. This allows for extensive control in how each fan header and its connected fan respond. Traditionally fans respond only to CPU temperature. This actually does not make alot of sense especially for intake fans. This is due to the CPU generally being cooler and under far less load than the GPU. You can now assign your front intake fans to respond to the GPU temp helping to draw more airflow in when needed.Ultimately this allows for targeted cooling response.
Users of watercooling solution or groups of fans will also appreciate the ability to have a PWM fan splitter cable connected to the CHA fan headers and output a PWM signal to a group of fans. This works great for front intakes or top mounted group fans due to the trend of wanting these fans to respond in unison. Additionally, for those wanting to connect even more fans or have even more temperature input sources can attach the optional fan extension card which offers an additional 3 fan headers which can operate to same level of functionality as the motherboard fan headers. The card also offers 3 additional temperature input headers where you can connect a thermistor in the same way you can connect a thermistor to the 3 temp headers on the motherboard. Overall if you want the best fan controls with the most flexibility & functionality Fan Xpert 4 has you covered.
As for build quality, the board is great. The PRIME Z270-A features a high quality digital PWM and advanced VRM assembly that ensures stable, reliable and efficient operation whether you are stock or overclocked. Being that the board has a digital PWM for the CPU & MEMORY you can easily define all the operating parameters. This is great if you really want to dial in maximum efficiency for your defined operating parameters.
Taking build quality even further and enhancing the overall durability & reliability of the board you have ESDs spread throughout the entire board which much higher performance ratings than traditional ESD implementations. This is great as it helps to protect from ESD discharge across all ports ( USB, LAN etc )
For those that are looking for help when troubleshooting you will appreciate the onboard quick debug LEDS (for CPU, DRAM, GPU and BOOT DEVICE).
Finally, you have an improved audio design with a separate audio section and op amp for improved volume and dynamic range. The board also comes with DTS X for headphones and stereo speakers. It is a pretty impressive option if you are looking to have more spacial dimension and positioning in your music, movies or games.
For this generation the audio codec is also upgraded to the 1220 which has been specially sourced and implemented by ASUS to offer further improved line level input. This is great for gamers who use analog headsets ( microphones )
Some of other quick plus points include - An Intel Gigabit NIC with packet priority software M.2 with optimal placement (away from the CPU and GPU) U.2 support via the Hyperkit adapter USB 3.0 & USB 3.1 with Type C support Thunderbolt 3 support via an add in card
RAM – I Went with Avexir, specifically their Raiden line. These DIMMS looks awesome and have been binned for outstanding quality, reliability and overclocking. More importantly, these modules have solid profiles (SPD & XMP) to help ensure stability and reliability however you decided to operate them. Furthermore, their white DIMMS match perfectly with the overall look and feel of our build. The unique plasma tub design also really sets a nice contrast in the white and black and adds more visual interest. When aligning the blue from these DIMMS with the blue RGB cable mods lighting it really adds another level of pop to the system.
Witht great DRAM overclocking of the Kaby Lake CPU and the Z270-A Prime the pre screened ICs also help to really allow for some additional frequency scaling.
Storage - The goal was to have a native SSD array offering up enough room for the OS, games, day to day files. While also offering a really high level of performance when it came to all types of file types, installation of patches and games as well as really helping to align with the updates Microsoft has made with Intel for responsiveness inside the OS.The RD400 is a great bang for the buck drive. It has outstanding performance which is considerably faster than standard or RAIDED SSD's while also supporting NVMe. it has a 5 year warranty and a great software management suite which is important for monitoring and firmware management. On a side note if you use one make sure to leverage the driver as it helps to ensure the best performance.
For long term backup and primary OS back, I also have a Western Digital 1TB Blue HDD. It is a proven quality solution that offers up more than enough secondary storage space for non frequently access applications or files while also offering enough room to allow for a full image backup of the primary SSD.
GPU – This is always a tough choice. I was looking for a card that offered up enough performance to be able to run any game out there and offer the flexibility of high refresh rate gaming at 1080 or focusing on fluid & responsive gaming with high quality settings at 2560x1440. Last but not least was ensuring a quality VR experience and having support for GSYNC. With all this in mind I settled on the DUAL GTX 1070. Outside of the performance that a GTX 1070 offers the DUAL was selected as it matches the look of build perfectly with a clean looking white shroud. It is out of the box overclocked, has a full non-reference design from the PCB to power components. Everything has been upgraded for superior performance, lower temperatures, and improved reliability. It has a high performance direct contact copper heat-sink assembly to keep the GPU nice and cool even when overclocked. Equally as important is that it is also quieter than the reference design. The two fans are of course fully tune-able and they have a special dust proof design which double seals the internal hub assembly. This helps to block dust, debris and dander from affecting the fan overtime. Overall the card checks off all the boxes when it comes to picking a quality card that is cool, quiet, reliable and fast.
Additionally, as an overall plus point for the card it is built on the ASUS Auto Extreme production process. This means it is built fully via robotic assembly for the PCB and onboard component placement. This ensures superior accuracy and precision producing an outstanding card.
Case - Went with Deepcool's Dukase V2. A new midrange budget offering. One of the nice aspects is while it is very aggressively priced it still offers up a clean modern design. Additionally, it not only has a white exterior (with black contrast for the front panel) but also features a white interior. This of course complements and aligns with the overall look and feel of the build. If you are looking for onboard fan control it has you covered with up to 3 fans being able to be controlled directly from the chassis. I opted to use onboard fan headers to have complete fan control via ASUS’s Fan Xpert software but the choice is there if you want it. You have a long internal chamber allowing for large graphics card that also gives the chassis an open feel. As the component going inside look great I appreciate the side panel window. The window is also ideally placed centering in on the primary area where the motherboard is installed and cuts visibility as you move to the front area which includes a 5.25 bay.
Mounting options are solid with support for front 120 or 140mm fans. Rear 120 fans and top 120 or 140mm fans. For airflow, there are a lot of venting points built in at the top and front panel. When opening the front panel, you have extensive venting built into to allow for additional airflow. For the rear of the chassis there is also extensive honeycomb venting present. For users looking for ease of use and cable routing, the Dukase V2 has you covered with a lot of well-placed openings to route cables including cable routing holes that are present within the PSU shroud. This makes cable management simpler and easier especially for the graphics card and the SSDs that can be mounted on the PSU shroud. Speaking of the shroud this is also a nice touch especially at this price point.
A nice touch would have been for rubber grommets but these would not have been in white and taken away from the internal white interior. As for filters, there are some very basic filters. For those looking for more I would recommend an upgrade in this respect. As it is an area that could be improved upon.
Finally, there are a lot of choices for storage mounting whether it be directly visible on top of the PSU shroud, inside the inner chamber covered by the PSU shroud or on the rear of the frame. You can also move the 5.25 brackets to the front bay which is nice for those who still may want to have hot swap drives or an ODD. Finally, is a subtle touch is there is a dedicated LED strip lane. This allows for easy routing and aligns perfectly with the side panel to block visibility of the strip but still allow for illumination.
Overall the case for its price point is a solid value and easy to work with including a big cut out for the CPU mounting as well as side panel which has been extruded outwards to allow for room for bundled cables. About the only immediate area that I would have like to seen improved was two front USB 3.0 ports for the front of the chassis as opposed to one. Additionally, as is the case with many side panel windows be cautious with it as it can be prone to scuffing / scratches.
PSU - Finally you have the PSU. I went with Deepcool's series ( the DQ750 ). First and foremost, the price is very good for a PSU that features 80+ gold certification. Internal component topology is solid and DQ750 ** features a proven DC to DC topology and single 12v rail design. Furthermore, it is quiet in regards to its operation. The fan is a high quality FDB which ensures long term operation and along with a well-balanced fan curve quiet operation. While note being a fully modular PSU, I am ok with that as the cables are all black with no secondary colors or low quality sheathing. The cables are also flat as opposed to round; this works well as they can be laid flat on each other and folded to make cable routing easier.
Cable Mods LED Strips and White Cable Extension - This was a no brainer the quality of light output by the Cablemods widebeam RGB LED strips is awesome and they are AURA certified meaning and I can connect them and full control. The white cable extension and cable combs helped to just add that additional layer of white to the build and really give it a more premium look.