I made plans to build my own PC as a graduation gift to myself. Then, as my MacBook Pro started to slow down and show problems, and with AppleCare expiring in June 2016, I pushed the build date a year earlier.
But when I bought my SSD when it went on offer, I figured I might as well just start buying parts. The only part that I wanted to wait for was AMD’s Polaris GPUs, but seeing the news that it was coming in Aug-Sep, and they were releasing only the top-end and low-end cards, I decided to just go for it.
CPU: Intel Core i5 6600K
Motherboard: ASRock Z170 Extreme4
My pick for the CPU was easy. Initially I was gunning for a non-overclockable i5 6500, but I figured I might as well go for broke, and increased my budget to allow for an overclockable chip. I needed a 6700K even less than I needed the 6600K, so I naturally went with the cheaper option.
The motherboard was a much tougher proposition. I wanted many things of my motherboard, including M.2 support for future NVMe PCIe SSD upgrades, an I/O cover (because those are cool), a decent colour scheme, good I/O options, USB3.1 with Type-C support, and so on.
The purchase of my CPU cooler shifted my buying decision from mATX to a full ATX board, along with my case choice. Then it was quite easily the Extreme4 that became my first choice, with the ASUS Z170-A a second choice for its lesser I/O and higher price. The Extreme4 also had a black and orange/bronze colour that I thought would match the Noctua better.
RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury DDR4-2400 2x8GB
RAM was one of the easier decisions. In Singapore, it was either Kingston, Corsair or G.Skill. Kingston was easily the cheapest of the lot, and since they all had lifetime warranties, it didn’t really matter too much. Furthermore, I like the look of the HyperX Fury more.
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D15
Yea, so I wanted a Noctua because of the great warranty, the proven quality, and the fact that big air coolers can match all-in-one water coolers that have more moving parts that can fail. When I was considering the mATX board, I wanted a NH-D15S for compatibility. But my dad knew a shop in Sim Lim that could get the NH-D15 for a bit less than retail, and that solidified my decision to go ATX.
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB; Seagate Barracuda 2x3TB
The buy that started it all. The 850 EVO was going on offer by S$30, and I could get it further discounted online. I initially wanted to pair it up with a Western Digital Blue 1TB drive, but on the day I received the 850 EVO delivery, I chatted with my dad about the build and he brought out the two 3TB drives he had lying around from his part-time work, saving me money and tripling my drive capacity. Thanks dad!
Graphics Card: Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8G D5
This was the card I wanted from the get-go, because I wanted to be able to do 1440p gaming in the future. But there was a tinge of regret that I didn’t wait a few days, because the distributor for Sapphire here restocked their R9 390X and the online price was only $30 more. But that would necessitate a bigger power supply, so I consoled myself that I saved more money and I really didn’t need it.
Case: Fractal Design Define R5 + Silent Series R3 140mm Fan
My initial desire for a smaller form factor meant I was gunning for a Fractal Design Arc Mini R2. But then Phanteks released their Eclipse p400S, and I was instantly intrigued and salivating over it. mATX boards look funny in mid towers IMO, so I decided the extra bit of cash to go ATX would be justified.
Then the reviews came out on the Eclipse P400S, and not all of them were favourable. There was also the issue of probably having to ship the thing from Malaysia. Then the distributor for Fractal Design ran a promotion for the Define R5, adding one of their Silent Series R3 fans. Given I could buy it on Lazada.sg on Fridays for 12% off, it was a no brainer.
Power Supply: Seasonic G-Series 650W 80+ Gold
I really, really wanted a Super Flower Leadex Gold 650W, which was rated 80+ Gold, had glowing reviews, LED connectors, fully modular, a Tier 1 PSU, and was cheaper than all the competition for the specs to boot.
But they were out of stock until late March, and I really wanted to build my PC during this recess week. So Seasonic it was. I went with the G-Series rather than the S12G because it was semi-modular.
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-224FB
Got it when I was buying my power supply, since the Define R5 could fit one.
OS: Windows 10 Home 64bit
Sigh. I’ll explain later.
LED: NZXT Hue+
I haven’t gotten it yet (out of stock until end March too), but I will. Looking forward to all the interesting modes like temperature or audio.
It was an easy start to the build. The CPU went in easily, and the RAM did too (although I had to readjust because I didn’t push it in fully).
Given the size of the NH-D15, I opted to just add the mounting stuff onto the motherboard first and leave the cooler to later. It was a ridiculously simple mounting process, as reviews have stated. Kudos to Noctua.
I installed the fan and removed the 5-tray bracket for the case, and the motherboard standoffs went in easily too. Fractal’s standoff install tool was pretty easy to use. Past this point though, I stopped taking as many photos because the build was getting harder…
Motherboard in. The trouble came between here and the end.
What the? Suddenly it’s the PSU and cooler in already?
The internal headers for the case I/O was a bitch and a half, especially the USB3.0. Trying to get the cable to look neat was an exercise in futility for me. I also hooked up the case fans to the fan controller rather than the motherboard; it gives me less flexibility, but I wasn’t going to obsess over fan curves.
The PSU itself was easy to mount. The cabling was another matter, with the CPU EPS cable terribly difficult to squeeze through the top grommet.
Thankfully the NH-D15 was easy to mount, although my fingers were tender from poking the fins constantly. The cabling for the fans was a bit messy too, and I left out the low-noise adaptors.
I thought it was almost over with the installation of the GPU. I was wrong. Cabling for the 8pin connector was a pain in the butt, especially when I got confused by the extra modular CPU cable, which meant I spent ages removing the properly installed CPU EPS cable through the tiny grommet, then realising I was fine the first time and I had to do it all over again. With the NH-D15 in the way by then, it was just a sweaty, painful hell.
The drives were easy enough to install. Cable management wasn’t high on my priorities list, particularly since the SATA power cables were painful to install nicely, with a lot of planning of which cable to use for what.
That red SATA cable belongs to the optical drive. The SATA cable for the SSD was not installed properly, which you can see in the photo but escaped my scrutiny until I turned on the PC and it couldn’t read the drive.
Doesn’t look half bad. No one will notice the cable mess…
IT’S ALIVE! After 3+ hours of sweaty work, it was finally done, and with relatively few screw-ups than I had expected.
I managed to get the SATA cable for the SSD right, and went ahead to install Windows. Then I hit a problem that other people have also encountered with Build 1511. Network protocols missing. My internet doesn’t work. It’s been a whole day of troubleshooting since that night, but no fix has been found.
But still, it’s been a really fun and fulfilling experience building my own PC. Just didn’t expect the software side to let me down rather than my own first-time-builder inexperience.