That's no moon.
This is long. But I have been keeping a mental diary. I wanted to be as detailed as I could for others in my position. I learned SO much. I made SO many mistakes. I spent too much. But it does what I need it to do. And my kids think it's cool.
My purpose: I'm not a gamer, but my kids are somewhat. I'm a video and photo editor. So, my needs for this computer are mostly for Adobe Lightroom, Sony Vegas, and Adobe Photoshop. My teenagers like to game on it occasionally (Fortnight) and I wanted something to make them feel proud when their friends came over. So, the "wow" factor mattered a little.
Needs: Photo Processing Video Editing and Rendering Streaming and internet Limited gaming
My story: Two weeks before Christmas, my Dell just died. Black screen on boot. And I know nothing about what's under the hood. I know a little about memory and hard drives, but when it comes to fixing something that's broken, I'm that guy that pops the hood of his car on the side of the road and wiggles cables, hoping that I fixed it. In other words - I was in trouble without professional help. I'm from a small town, so the prospect of taking down to the shop was limited. Eventually made my way to Geek Squad. After 45 minutes with a really lonely tech, I'm now assistant manager of Best Buy. No. He just wanted to impress me with his knowledge and didn't have a clue why my computer wasn't working (I know why now....but I'll save it).
So - after soul searching, I caved and bought a Best Buy gaming computer a week later. I put my memory and hard drive in it. It worked for a week and then <poof> Same problem. I took it back to a different Best Buy (it's my option) and they did the same. Plugged it in and stared at it. Asked me a billion questions before letting me return it. And I probably would have bought an exact replacement if it was in stock.
So - that got me here. Researching parts. Instead of spending $1000 on a system I 30% wanted. I could spend $1200 on the exact things I wanted - and it would look cool. I started putting together a parts list. The day after Christmas, I decided to drive an hour to Fry's Electronics with the promise of low prices and ample inventory. Turns out - neither were correct. Nothing on the shelves. The salesman ignored my request for some time to look and literally started putting things in my card that I needed. He sniffed a rookie. I left, drove to a coffee shop nearby with my laptop and ordered all of it.
Mostly NewEgg and Amazon. Parts started arriving on Friday. The majority on Saturday. A couple things were delayed until Monday.....but not enough to stop my Saturday and Sunday adventure. Here's the build.
Case - Lian-Li - Alpha 330W I saw a YouTube live build using this case and I liked the cable management aspect. I had several others speced. It went over my budget by $15 but since I saw someone build in it, I felt more comfortable about what I bought fitting in to it. When I decided to do white, the thought of a theme first entered the picture.
Processor - Intel i5-9600K Unlocked I struggled for weeks with this processor or an i7. If I was JUST doing gaming, I would have entertained the AMD processors or eliminated the i5. But - It's about Lightroom mostly. And I liked the prospect of overclocking and tweaking. And then, it went on sale and it was a no-brainer. All of the criticism I've gotten from my "mentors" hasn't been warranted yet. I may regret it down the road, but I saved a bunch and it's doing exactly what I expected so far.
CPU Cooler - NZXT Kracken M22 This wasn't the first cooler I ordered. I started with a Cooler Master - MasterAir G100M. It is a big UFO looking RGB fan. I liked it fine. But it was big. And when I started researching overclocking, I figured I should go big. So, I switched to the Kracken. AND - my old computer partly died because of lack of ventilation (I never cleaned it - it was an afterthought). So cooling became a primary thought (correct or not).
Motherboard - Gigabyte - Z390 UD ATX This one was a challenge. First - I just wanted to make sure it was compatable with my processor. The 390 chipset assured that. I THINK I could have done a 370 and been fine - but I just made sure everthing was compatible. I cut budget here because I didn't think I needed some of the bells and whistles. Looking back after the build, I probably would have gone bigger (I need more USB2 ports). Still - I'm happy with the board and the installation was easier than I expected.
Graphics card - ASUS GeForce GTX 1070 8 Dual Fan - It's hard to pick a graphics card if you aren't a gamer. Everybody INSIST you get the top of the line ti cards. And I was, for awhile, budgeting a lot more. But I realized I'd probably never need the extra, but I still wanted good. This one just seemed to fit for the value. And it was white. The price difference between this and what I considered the next step up was the deciding factor.
Power Supply - SeaSonic FOCUS Gold 750 W 80+ This was kind of a no brainer. $20 Rebate made it cheaper than almost anything else. And it's more than enough power. And it's Gold Certified. The "Semi-Modular" was a bit scary for a rookie. But I never wavered from this option.
SSD Storage - Silicon Power S55 480 GB 2.5 SSD I knew I wanted an SSD for Lightroom and Windows. The price on this was too good not to upgrade to a 480 GB.
Hard Drive - Seagate Barracuda 2 TB This one was the choice because it would get here in time. It was $10 over what I could have gotten one for if I had waited. But, I'm familiar with Seagate and at the price I was able to upgrade from 1 to 2 TB.
Wireless Network Adapter - Gigabyte GC-Wb867D This may not have been necessary. But, I didn't want any issues with internet connectivity. I could have saved - but I'm an old man who is done fighting networks.
Case Fans and RGB lighting - Corsair LL120 RGB LED fans (six total) / Corsair Commander Pro / Corsair Fan Controller Pro Now - I love that my case lights up like a Christmas tree and I can control every aspect of how it lights up. My kids love it so that's all good. But if I had to do it over again - I would NOT get sucked down this rabbit hole of lights and fans. It's all high quality and really, when all is said and done, it works exactly how it should. The software is a little cumbersome, but fun to play with. But - it took me FOREVER and cost me a BUNCH more than I was willing to spend to get it working. I started with the three fans and the "Lighting Node Pro". But then I realized I wanted three more fans so I bought those separately because I didn't need two "Lighting Node Pros". But then I decided to get the RGB strips and a fan controller. I was in it too far by then. After hooking all of that up, I realized my cables were a mess. So - I bit the bullet and bought the Commander Node Pro. So, instead of $100, I spent a bunch extra on what I didn't really need to. It's pretty and fun. But while I'm looking at budgets, I hate that I got pulled into it. Corsair could do a much better job with their documentation and explainations on how it works.
Memory - 16GB - DD4 2133 I saved this for last for a reason. I already had this. It was in my old computer. And then it was in my replacement computer that I returned. And now it's in this computer. When I built everything and powered it up, guess what - Black screen of death. Nothing. Same problem as the last two computers. My heart sunk. I was in utter panic. I was over $1000 in and I was having the exact same problems. Was I in over my head? But - I had a checklist of problems it could be. I had to unplug and rewire my meticulous cable management. But - I popped one of my two sticks of memory out and BANG - everything started working. It turns out, one of my memory sticks was "bad" It looks like one was slightly warped and was causing the issues all along. Figuring this out made me feel like a super-hero. I was actually able to get it installed correctly and it's been working like a champ. However - when I get some more money, I'll be upgrading. I don't know if it is necessary - but if I'm going new and my old is what caused the problems in the first place, I figured I should.
When all was said and done - I'm probably $220 over budget. Most of that it wasteful lighting. And I'm o.k. with that. I'm happy with my processor. I figure I can upgrade it when I need to. And I had so much fun doing it, I'll probably build one for one of my kids next year.
Things I learned: Plugging things was WAY more complicated for a rookie than it should be. I had a mess of cables coming out of my power supply and no idea on where they went. Manuals, YouTube, Google got me there - but wow it was dicey. My motherboard is relatively bare-bones and new. So there wasn't a lot of options.
Most computer "experts" (especially online) are pretty snotty. I'm not sure if that's the right word. They aren't exactly rude. They aren't exactly stand-offish. But time and time again, trying to get a simple answer was difficult because the explanations would veer off into tangents about totally unrelated things. A question about a SATA cable turned into a history lesson on MOBI. Tweaking my BIOS turned into a lesson on why Windows sucks and Linus should be more popular. Just things like that. A lot of assumptions are made by people trying to make guides for "beginners". And sorting through a 2 hour youtube video for 15 seconds of what you are looking for (only for it to be glossed over like grandma could do it) became madding at time.
Finally - as I was building this black and white monster, that theme thing kept popping in. My SSD is up on a pedestal like in a trophy case and looked a little lonely. I got a Funko Stormtrooper figurine and stuck it on top. At the time I came up with the idea, it was the most original thing I had ever come up with. I have since learned that it is probably the most unoriginal and cliched thing done. But I don't care. Resist. Use the force. I am not your father. All that stuff applied here.
Price was the deciding factor in purchasing this. I struggled between this an a comparable i7 core. For this rookie, the prospect of overclocking and the increased GHz, combined with the sell price made it almost a no brainer.
I've been pretty satisfied with it to this point. Nothing I've thrown at it has been disappointing. Mostly rendering videos and pictures in Vegas and Lightroom. Some light gaming - and although I don't know any better - I'm thrill with the performance with what I've seen. Especially compared to my last store-bought system.
The most frustrating part of my build. Don't get me wrong - as a cooler it works great. But I would discourage someone from buying this because of the RGB aspect or the Cue software. It has been a waste of time.
I started with an air-cooling fan. It was too big for what I wanted so I changed to this one. It was a decent price and I liked the RGB infinity mirror as a bonus. Easy to install and from what I can tell, it keeps my processor at a good temp always. No issues at all there.
But - The RGB needs to plug into a USB port on my motherboard. Already short on those. (Solved it....but had to spend more). And the Cue software was the most disappointing part of my system. And all I wanted was to change the dang color on the RGB. Now, two weeks later, now that I've got it up and running, I can see how, supported correctly, it would be a useful tool. However, I moved on a long time ago.
Note to NZXT - This was my first build and I like many of the products I've looked at online (cases, coolers, etc). But, I'd avoid it next time because of the limited support with the problems I encountered (reading reviews, etc). That's something you should fix as a company ASAP.
I purchased this 390 system because of the price and the processor (i5-9600k) I picked. As a rookie, I wish now I would have known a little more before purchasing and spent more money for more features. That being said, it works great, was easy to install, software has been easy to navigate, documentation was good. Performance wise I think its doing quite well.
My issue is with the lack of ports for what I needed. One USB2.0 port and I needed 3-4 for the RGB. I ended up spending another $100 on controllers and USB add ons to get it working.
Next time, I'll do more research and spend the money if necessary to make sure I have places to plug things into. And I would honestly probably look at Gigabyte first because of my experience with this one.
For the price (cheapest 480GB available) it has worked like a dream. If there is a better performing one on the market (dollar for dollar) it must be REALLY good.
I guess the test is in how it works over time.
For the price, I couldn't pass up 2 gigs to store my photos and videos on. Seagate has always done me well. Been very happy with it's performance in the first couple weeks of loading and moving.
I purchased this right after Christmas at a price that was too good to pass up. Couldn't quite afford the 1070ti, but this one fit quite nicely into my budget and my case. So far, it's handled everything I've thrown at it without issue. Doing mostly Lightroom, Photoshop, and Sony Vegas rendering. I've started to become a noobie gamer just because I have it and I've been thrilled with what i've played.
My only grips is there is no backplate so it looks "unfinished" in my case. However, I like modding things. I'll be making a custom backplate for my build to match the rest.
As a rookie to building, I struggled the most with what case to buy. I had a relatively cheap budget and had several bargain cases picked out. But - I watched a live-stream of a computer build using this case. I knew I was going to be putting in many RGB fans, and I liked the glass on both sides. Some of the cable management components of this case are what sold me on it.
Building in it has been pretty nice. I keep opening it up and adding and modifying things. The thumbscrews make that worry-free. Plenty of places for my three hard drives and even a little "stage" for my SSD in the front (I know that's not what it's for - but that's what its for NOW).
I like that it has USB 3.0 ports on top. There is one cable I don't use (Type C USB 3.1?) I like that it's there for future issues.
In the end, I went slightly over my budget for safety and looks. Happy that I did.
750 80+ Gold Semi-Modular for $50 all said and done (at the time of purchase)
I wasn't able to choose another case without sacrificing quality, power, or price.
It's performed exactly as advertised. No issues.
Wireless Network Adapter
As an old guy who has battled connection issues for 30+ years, accessing the internet is a primary concern. I could have spent more money and let a motherboard handle it. I could have got an adapter and saved a bunch of money.
But, I went with familiar. It has worked exactly as it should have and I love the bluetooth aspect of my case. Could I have spent less for something that did the same thing? Probably. Am I happy I didn't experiment? You betcha.
My adventure (being a rookie) with RGB.
I went from "business only" when I started to Vegas Slot-Machine when I finished. And it was because of these little bad boys. And they pay off for me. My case looks awesome because of them. And I can change them and play with them and show off my case with a million combinations.
And that's where it falls off the tracks slightly.
I love my Corsair fans. The perform quite well. But - the documentation and the explanation of how these tie into the Lighting Node Pro, and Commander Node Pro, and Pro Pro Pro are confusing at best. I started with the fans. And then realized I had a wiring mess on my hand. I upgraded to some RGB strips to get a new hub. And then I realized that the Commander Pro is what I needed to tie it all together. So, in the end, I blew any chance of keeping my build under budget trying to "bling" out my sytem. The iCue software isn't as user friendly as it should be. It takes some learning. I think if I had a Corsair keyboard or other components, it might make more sense. But setting up lighting profiles isn't as easy as I think it should be. And there isn't a lot of user profiles online yet for the fans (millions for keyboards). I guess that will change as these become more popular.
Had the explanation been a little clearer, I probably wouldn't have dove all the way in to the deep end. I still have a wiring mess in the back of my case because of all the wires going to my fan controller.......
But the front of the house kicks butt.
Not sure I'd do it again. But for bling factor on my first build, I'll swallow the budget.