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PC

My laptop is getting up there in the years, so I decided to build a PC.

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My specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
  • Motherboard: ASRock Z97 EXTREME4 ATX LGA1150
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866
  • Storage: Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB 2.5″ SSD and Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM HDD
  • Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon R9 290 4GB WINDFORCE
  • Case: Corsair 400R ATX Mid Tower Case
  • Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA NEX 650W 80+ Gold

Some brief notes:

  • CPU: The i5-4690K is basically the classic budget overclocking CPU. I did drop it almost immediately upon opening.
  • CPU Cooler: The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO almost gave me a nervous breakdown. The instructions manual is perhaps the worst I have ever seen in my life. The hardware is also terribly difficult to install on the motherboard or fit over the CPU. I ended up with thermal paste almost everywhere. It does work very well though.
  • Motherboard: The power and reset buttons built on the motherboard made breadboarding (see below) much easier than having to connect some circuits. I also really liked Dr. Debug, which is this tiny LED that displays error codes. Very helpful. The motherboard is also fairly future-proof, but I’m not really thinking that far ahead.
  • Memory: I do like the heatsinks on the G.Skill Ripjaws RAM, but they did intefere with the placement of the CPU cooler. I ended up moving the RAM from slots 1 and 3 to  slots 2 and 4, and positioning the fan underneath the heat sink rather than next to it. I imagine the performance difference is minimal.
  • Video Card: If I was a wealthier man, I would have liked to get the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB Superclocked ACX. But the Radeon R9 is more than sufficient, particularly if I overclock it correctly.
  • Storage: I can’t wait until SSD are the standard and completely replace HDDs. You can’t go back from booting Windows 8.1 in under five seconds.
  • Case: I really like the Corsair 400R. It’s really roomy, and the screws on the side panels make accessing the case so convenient. There’s also room for something like six fans, which is ridiculous.
  • Power Supply: 650W is on the relatively low end, but the 80+ Gold efficiency makes up for it, I suppose.

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I wish I took a photo of the bare motherboard, but in the picture above, the CPU, CPU fan (the Intel fan that came with the CPU, though I later replaced it with the Cooler Master one), RAM, and video card are plugged into the motherboard, and the power supply is connected to the various parts. This is called breadboarding: building a computer without a case just to make sure everything is working, because it is much harder to diagnose and fix a problem once it is inside a case.

It took me about an hour longer than it should have to get the breadboard running primarily because:

1) I did not insert the RAM all the way in. I only figured this out after having checked and replaced all the other parts multiple times. I felt very dumb when I finally realized what the problem was.

2) Despite the graphics card claiming to have a HDMI port, it really didn’t, and I had to go out and buy a DVI cable to hook it up to the monitor.

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This is my empty 400R case with the side panel taken off. The breadboard essentially has to be screwed in, and the various case wires connected correctly. The lower right shelves are for the drives.

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Here’s everything plugged in. The shiny silver-grey box in the middle is the Cooler Master heat sink, which replaced the Intel fan from the first picture. My cable management could probably do with a little work.

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So this is what my computer workspace now looks like. Just to be comprehensive, here’s my other hardware:

  • Monitor: E2442TC-BN 23.6IN Widescreen LED Backlit LCD Monitor 1920×1080
  • Keyboard: SteelSeries Sensei
  • Mouse: Das Keyboard Professional S
  • Sound system: Harman Kardon SoundSticks III

I will likely update this post at some point just to record my overclocking efforts and stats.

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