This build was what I would consider my dream build of 2016. I set out to build something that was different, small but had zero compromises. The result was this amazing system that I am just so pleased with. I feel this system has so much character I decided to name her Catherine after my niece. They are both small, smart and little power houses :)
I dont really know where to start with my commentary on this system. I have built many systems for other people the past 2 years that I wanted to do something that just was unlike any of them. I will go down the list of categories and describe what was in my head when choosing that part.
Case: This was probably the area I spent the most time trying to figure out. I wanted to go ITX and pack it full of everything anyone could want. I wanted this system to be special and unlike the common great selection of ITX cases available. I was so close to making this a Lian Li Q10 till one of my friends on Instagram mentioned if I looked into Caselabs. DuH!! Why didnt I think of that. I remember seeing Mattmodspc's ATX Caselabs Bullet chassis and that was my lead. I checked out the their selection and knew this was the case at first sight! I was so glad they had an ITX version!! This case has all the options which includes the side windows, handles and the LED light bar mounts. Once this case arrived I was even more pleased with the quality. It was so sturdy I literally thought to myself "I thought this was aluminum" so I got my magnet and confirmed all panels were aluminum. This thing feels WAY tougher than some steel chassis I have worked with! I also love the thought that Caselabs put into this as they have a rubber bump stop right where the PCI-E slot is on the motherboard area in order to support the weight of a GPU. I later added another one near the end of the GPU so that when this thing leaves my home it will be fully supported.
CPU/Motherboard: I am a huge fan of x99 but on this one I really wanted to go z170 and the 6700k so that I had a hope to overclock the CPU with the limited space I had for an air cooler. Next step was deciding on a motherboard. I have always loved Asus and while I wish I could have gone with the Asus ROG Impact motherboard, I needed a m.2 slot so I got the next best one which was the Asus z170i PRO GAMER. I have been very pleased with the layout of everything on this motherboard and it has worked perfectly. I have become a huge fan of how Asus lets you shut fans off with an auto profile. It is something I use with the front intake fans, they shut off with CPU temps below 35C.
RAM: I wanted to max out the amount I could use, technically I knew I only needed 16GB but went 32GB since there are only two slots and didnt want to regred it later. I choose the HyperX Fury line because I have had good success with them on many x99 builds, their heatsinks are low profile and the timings are good with the 2400mhz I went with. I was tempted to go 3000mhz but I didnt want that to potentially limit my CPU overclock potential.
GPU: I knew this system needed....ok I just wanted a GTX1080. I was limited to 11" and thankfully the EVGA FTW fit right in with 10.5". I really love using EVGA cards for the companies customer service and excellent quality. The FTW card was choosen over the SC primarily for the larger diameter fans to help cool the card in this tight space. I did not want a Founders Edition either just because I wanted as quiet a system as possible and I knew the fan pitch noise at higher RPM on that card can be annoying when trying to prevent the card from throttling (I live in California where it gets hot). The EVGA 1080FTW did not disappoint. At stock fan profile the card does hit 82c (8)F Ambient) but it is quiet and still holds a boost clock of 1890mhz. AT BEST the FE card would do this. When I crank up the fan speed to 80% it is not annoying or high pitched at all and will sit at 1920-1960mhz depending on the game with temps at 69-71C in 80F ambient.
Fans: This was another area that I wanted to do something different. I thought about this a bit and then remembered the Noiseblocker fans I used a while ago on another build. Their build quality is amazing and their looks were perfect for this build! I went with the 1500rpm pwm version because I knew I didnt want anything loud so I avoided the 2000rpm model. I can crank these to 100% without any annoying sound profiles, all I really hear is air move. At about 600rpm in this case as a pull fan they did have a hum sound I wanted to eliminate so I added some spacers to pull it away from the grill and that solved my problem. Besides that they are off at CPU temps below 35c and when they do come on I cant hear them at normal to moderate work loads. The only time I can hear the fans really is when I crank them up to 100% for gaming at low temps. It is not necessary to run them at 100% but since I cant hear them over game volume why not. Cooler parts live longer.
CPU Cooler: I originally wanted to run a Corsair H100i v2 but I did not feel comfortable with the amount of pressure on the CPU socket since the hoses are so stiff. For someone wanting to do an AIO I recommend using a cooler with the older small soft tubes....the ones on the NZXT x61 to be exact but this case only accepts 240mm rads. So thanks to Overclock3d's recent air cooler mega test I decided on the Noctua U9S. I decided to not use the pooh brown colored fan and installed two Noctua Redux 92mm fans in push/pull. This cooler really keeps temps on check. At stock speeds it can be run at super low rpm and keep things cool but even with 4.6ghz, I can spin the fans to 100% and with the 4.6ghz overclock it keeps it in the 55-62c range; its not even loud enough to hear over the GPU anyways and overall the system is still not heard over game volume.
Storage: I wanted the best so I got the Samsung 950 PRO 512GB for OS and applications and paired it with the Samsung 850 evo 500GB for data. I may later add more SSD storage but for now I am good with this amount.
Power Supply: I went with the Corsair SF600 because of how well it did with Jonny Guru, its small size, watt output and gold rating. The included cables on the 24pin mobo harness were long enough to reach the motherboard during initial testing but I dont think the 3.5" hard drive cage would have fit because of the path the harness needed to run from being too short. With the system mocked up I measured the cable lengths I wanted in order to bypass the drive cages and placed the order with Cablemod. I have to say the cables came out great and arrived quickly.
Length of cables I ordered:
24pin Length: 450mm 4+4 EPS Length: 450mm 6+2 PCI-E Length: 550mm
Lighting: The NZXT Hue+ was a no brainer! I ordered this directly from the NZXT store and it arrived SUPER fast. I knew this lighting option was amazing from reviews but man, seeing the software options first hand really blew me away. During the photo shoot I had it set to run in the spectrum mode so I could capture the different lighting for people to see. This thing does it all though. AMAZING! I ended up using 2 of the 4 LED strips included. The challenging part was finding a place to mount it. Ultimately I placed this between the chassis and the 3.5" drive cage and secured it with Velcro.
Operating System: Windows 10 PRO because what choice do I have as a gamer. I do like windows 10 though, it has been buggy on several builds from time to time but I do actually like it overall. I also hope that Vulkan will allow for AAA games to make it over to Linux in hopes of one day not needing Windows to play any game I want on my PC.
Well I think that sums it up. If you made it this far I especially want to thank you as it took some time to write this all. I like the community here and I hope this build inspires others to build their dream build!