Hello everyone- what follows is the culmination of several months of research and about half a decade's worth of saving, with the pieces picked up along the way. I hope you enjoy, and please let me know what you think (and with the Verge video in mind, of any terrible mistakes or errors you see in either the photos or description).
Since last summer my home workstation/gaming PC has been in a steady decline. Store-built in 2012, I have kept it hobbling along, replacing the HDD with an SSD, swapping the CPU and its cooler, and updating the GPU, but it is showing its age. The proprietary motherboard and OS really frustrated me whenever I had to work on the device, so I decided that for my next computer, I wanted to have it built from scratch. After years of saving, planning, preparing, and picking up odds and ends, on Black Friday, 2018, I sprang for the rest of the parts I'd need to build my first PC. My key goals- 1440p, VR Ready, and lots of storage options. Below I explain my reasoning for each of the parts.
Starting out, the only thing I really knew for sure I wanted was a Fractal Design case. I love their minimalist simple-yet-elegant designs, as well as the build quality. I eventually settled on a Micro ATX case, the Define Mini C, as it better fits my desk space and allowed me to show off my work while not being difficult to cable manage (something I have never really done before). This is also pushed me in a different aesthetic direction for the interior: the case would be simple on the outside and RGB rainbow vomit on the inside. My main attraction to an RGB setup is versatility, that I could easily tailor interior lighting on a whim to whatever mood, theme, or trend I wanted to go for to really show off the contrasts of my case.
I was a hard intel fan going into this. My previous build used the legendary I7 2600K, and I was very happy with how it had aged. I initially had settled on the 8600K, but gradually the Ryzen 2700X came out on top. It has great performance and with the included cooler is far more affordable than the 8600K. It simply became more difficult to justify the Intel when the Ryzen accomplished the "nearly as good" for gaming, "better than" for workstation tasks, and for a couple hundred dollars less when you consider the free RGB cooler. Though I was skeptical of Team Red, they have not disappointed, and I would highly recommend it.
I went with the MSI B450M Mortar Titanium. This was the hardest piece to find and the last to arrive, but it was worth it. In my research, people were quite mixed about MSI, but I have had nothing but positive experiences with this motherboard. It is an affordable beast, able to punch well above its weight in terms of its build qualities and allows for very easy casual overclocking, even with the beefy 2700X. It also is compatible with my 3200 RAM, though you have to enable compatibility in the BIOS.
I don't know why this build became so Corsair heavy to be honest. I love the look of their products, but you do pay a hefty price. Their build quality and performance has been good for me in the past, and I thought their Vengeance Pro RGB line was just the coolest looking RAM around. I settled on 16 GB because that covers pretty much every game currently on the market and I have room to upgrade later if need be.
Holy hell, this was a headache. I have had terrible experiences with hard drives failing, then my back ups failing when I attempt to restore the original drives. My toddler erased ten years of photos when she played catch with my portable hard drive. I also wanted physical storage as (exposing my tinfoil hat here) I don't trust digital or web based solutions. I wanted to make sure that I had back-ups on back-ups for storage, and was willing to pay extra for security. My OS drive is a Corsair MP510, built like a tank with stellar endurance ratings. Programs and games are stored on the two 2.5 SSD's. Back-ups, documents, photos and whatever are stored on the two 4TB Western Digital Reds mirrored in RAID 1, which has worked well so far. I also have a portable drive so that I can store backups externally. I tell you, it was a treat getting all these hooked up, but I am very happy with the final solution.
I had intended to get a RTX 2070 for this build, but their obscene prices and their lukewarm reception pushed me elsewhere. I was looking for a cheap 1080 when I saw the Sapphire Vega 64 on sale for 399.99 Canadian, half the cost of most 1080's I was looking at but with comparable specs. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of pairing my AMD CPU with an AMD GPU. The card has outperformed all expectations, but has one major downside- people warned me about how loud blower style GPU's can be, but I underestimated just what a jet engine this card is on full load. With noise cancelling headphones it's not terrible, and the cost/performance ratio is fantastic, especially when overclocked. With MSI Afterburner I have successfully been able to both undervolt and overclock the card with stable results. It easily outperforms Nvidia cards that cost hundreds of dollars more, and is perfectly suited to the 1440p sweet-spot I was aiming for.
A highly rated Corsair CPU that comes with white cabling? I was sold the minute I saw it, and it saved me buying separate white cables from CableMod. I chose the 850 for the extra leg room. Unlike my GPU, this thing is very quiet.
Yes, yes, lay it on. I know. I get it. How dare I. I certainly didn't start out planning an RGB build, but the sheer versatility of the aesthetic sold me, as well as the very cool looking Corsair LL series fans. Between that and the RAM, it was only a small nudge more to lighting strips, the Commander Pro fan hub (makes organizing the software so much easier), the K70 LUX (absolutely amazing keyboard with a real metal frame and beautiful looking and feeling keys) and the M800 mouse pad. Corsair's ICUE RGB ecosystem is very deep, with lots of custom profiles available online, and I've enjoyed tinkering with it. Does the system run faster for it? No. Some will undoubtedly suggest that with cheaper fans and no RGB I could have afforded a more powerful GPU, but I can always replace that as the next year's big thing comes along. On the other hand, the fans and case accents I am pretty much stuck with until I start a new build, and if I am going to have this case for a decade (crosses fingers), I would prefer one that's nice to look at.
The mouse and headphones migrated from the previous build, as did my 1080p ASUS monitor (which I will be replacing with an AOC AGON 31.5 1440p 144hz monitor as soon as the stars align). The wireless adapter was the best I could find in the color I wanted, and I have opted to just not use the external antennae. Lastly, I am sure you see the namesake piece in the center of the window- I teach history and run a small local HEMA club, so the reflective little Knight Hospitaller adds the perfect accent to my build. With the Black Friday deals, all in all I estimate I spent 2500 CAD on the entire set up.
Building the machine took me a solid weekend overall once the parts came in, and barring a few driver issues with my wireless adapter, this machine has impressed the hell out of me. It performs very well- I will never badmouth AMD for their value. It went together rather painlessly. It posted on the first boot, though I did need to migrate the OS on one occasion as my Corsair M2 needed an update to its firmware which I couldn't do while it was the OS drive. That was a surprisingly quick fix however, and I haven't had any other issues saved for a single stripped screw. Cable management was not as easy as I expected- with all my RBG devices, it became quite a rats nest in the back as the above picture shows, but it at least closes flat. Overall I am quite proud of the result- the Hospitaller is certainly the best machine I've ever owned, and building it from scratch was an incredibly rewarding experience. I would take this rig to the Holy Land any day.
Bonus for reading this far: there is an easter egg in the 17th photo. Those two dark stains on the base of the large white MOBO cable? Protip: Swiss army knives might do everything, but they do everything terribly. For example, say, they might slice instead of screw.