Description

This is still kind of a work in progress, as I intend to upgrade to 32GB (2x16) 3200mHz CL16 RAM in the next few months. Yes, I know, the RAM I have is not particularly fast, but this is what I had available in terms of budget when I put it together 7 months ago. The GPU is obviously among the weakest parts of my build, and I paid way too much for it, but since I mostly play older titles (I have 300 games on GOG and 127 on my Steam account, with only a few of them being current-gen AAA titles) at 1080p, this is more than enough for my current needs; I will upgrade in a couple of years though.

The motherboard is OK, but somehow, I cannot find the option to disable cores, which will be needed to play The Saboteur, since it does not work with more than 4.

The Noctua cooler is OK, after 15 minutes of stress test with RealBench 2.56, I get 73-75°C, which was disappointing to me, but my room temperature is 35-39°C right now (it's the month of July and I live in southern Italy), so buying a decent CPU cooler, however overpriced, was a necessity and it's probably not surprising; with the stock cooler (Wraith Prism), I had peaks of 76°C in a game released in 2007 which probably did not even max out the CPU. I did not get their flagship model, the NH-D15, since, among other things, it would probably not have fit inside the case (which has like 16 cm of depth to work with). Idle temps are around 39-45, sometimes 50°C, with the fans set to maximum (2000-2039 RPM) in the BIOS settings.

With this cooler, I was able to reach a score of 3038 in Cinebench R20.

The case is pretty cheap and somewhat ugly, I might say, but some of the more expensive options were uglier still and went way beyond my budget. For 39 euros, I cannot really complain, it has all the HDD bays I need. Cable management was somewhat of a pain.

The p.o.s. wireless card was always slow and "stuttered" a lot, and after a Windows 10 upgrade just straight out stopped working. It continued to work OK with Ubuntu 18.04, but I got fed up with it and simply bought a 15m ethernet cable and now my internet speed has more than doubled.

I know there is no SSD but due to budget constraints, I was only able to buy a normal mechanical drive. Will add one in the future, though.

P.S. Forgive the lack of a proper cable management, the space behind the motherboard isn't particularly large and not all the cables that came with the PSU are long enough to properly route them. Also, the photos suck, I know.

Part Reviews

CPU

More than enough for my needs. 3038 in Cinebench R20. A bit overpriced compared to the non-X version when I purchased it, and with a decent stock cooler, which, however, I had to retire less than a month ago because with the temperatures we've been having in southern Italy lately it just wasn't able to cope and gave me peaks of 76°C in a 2007 game that probably did not even max out the CPU. Almost always manages to boost to 4.2 GHz.

CPU Cooler

Decent cooler, but a bit overpriced. I own a Ryzen 5 2600X, and with the stock cooler (Wraith Spire), I was getting peaks of 76°C in a 2007 game that probably did not even max it out...Now I get 73-75°C after 15 minutes of stress test with RealBench 2.56, which is disappointing; however, consider that my room temperature is around 35-39°C (I live in southern Italy), so this was probably to be expected. Idle temps fluctuate between 39-50°C degrees with the fans set to maximum, if HWinfo is to be believed.

Motherboard

An OK, solid board, methinks, but I cannot find the option to disable some of the cores, which is needed for an otherwise incompatible game.

Memory

7 months and I haven't had a single issue with them. I should have opted for faster RAM, and this is probably the weakest part of my build (I have a Ryzen 5 2600X CPU, and they are notoriously hungry for fast RAM), but from all the benchmarks I've seen, I'll be losing around 4-5 FPS should I use them to play more demanding AAA titles, and I mostly play older titles, so...

Storage

It's OK. 7 months and still going strong.

Video Card

I paid too much for this, but for what I do (occasional 1080p gaming with few current-gen AAA titles and lots of older ones) this is more than enough. So far, no issues at all, it tends to stay silent most of the time.

Case

Somewhat ugly, but I don't care. It has all the HDD bays I need, and for 39 euros, you won't be able to find a much better one. A few things though: the front panel connector feels a bit too stiff, the LED at the top of the case does not work, and I wasn't able to get the audio port to function, not to mention it's quite flimsy to boot, I tried to use my Sennheiser headphones with it and the screw holding it in place came off, with the panel ending up inside the case. I don't really care though, I use them with my monitor now, the cable is too short anyway. One of the motherboard standoffs came off when I tried to mount the mobo and I had to waste 15-30 minutes to screw it back in, it might be due to my lack of experience (this was my first build), but I would recommend some caution when installing it.

Optical Drive

A lot faster than anything I've seen in a laptop. Wasn't a part I particularly needed, but I still have a few DVDs and CDs lying around. I do not use it often. When the system powers up, it does make a lot of noise and emits a strong vibration though. IT ALMOST SCARED THE **** OUT OF ME when I first installed it and booted into the system. It can be noisy at times.

Wireless Network Adapter

The p.o.s. "died" after a Windows 10 upgrade, after suffering a heavy performance degradation over time (the internet connection used to feel "stuttery" and the entire system seemed to freeze while waiting for a page to load). The drivers have not been updated since 2016, and it's quite unlikely they will be. It works OK with Ubuntu 18.04, but I wouldn't recommend it, the speeds are still way below what I was able to achieve with a simple ethernet (RJ45) cable plugged into my motherboard, and the system will sometimes feel unresponsive with it. A guy on a Microsoft forum said that it was Asus's fault for repackaging Win 7 drivers, but it's still not clear to me why a simple system update should break driver compatibility [insert a laughing emoji here]...Windows 10 is truly an awful system.

Monitor

No problem with it so far, too bad the refresh rate is not a little higher, but it's OK for my needs. The menus are a bit awkward to use and navigate.

Keyboard

Cheap mouse-keyboard combo that does the job. The only issue I have with it is that the mouse does not keep your settings (i.e. the colour of the lighting) between active reboots, while the keyboard does. Which is annoying.

Comments

  • 6 months ago
  • 2 points

seems like a nice build to me. For the core situation i would reach out to asus to see if they can do a bios update. they are good at about responding to stuff like that otherwise i know that asrock boards are able to disable cores (i have had a lot of them) as far as the cpu temps i would throw in a exhaust fan behind the cpu cooler to specifically direct the hot air out of the case. I think you will be pleasently suprised. (looks like its a 120mm fan. it would be a cheap and easy way to improve thermals)

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Update to latest BIOS to get the AMD ABBA clock improvement.

Noctua NH-U12A is an awesome cooler, you just need to install a rear 120 mm fan to improve the temps with an extra 3-5°C.

Oveall - it's an awesome build!

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

The NH-12A does seem a bit disappointing, although I guess 40C over ambient would look a lot better against a 21-22C room temperature. Have you tried re-mounting it just to see if the thermal paste was evenly distributed? or possibly a bit of grit or something from when the Spire was on there?

It's a pleasure to see a good write-up, nice work.

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

Yep, I tried remounting it and reapplying the thermal paste, but it basically produced the same result, so at this point I don't think it's the thermal compound. Before repasting the thing I also properly cleaned the base of the heat sink using isopropyl alcohol.

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

It might be interesting to get in touch with Noctua customer support to see if they think anything is wrong. I guess if you're getting OK performance there's no need to stress over it. (The other possibility that occurs to me is that the motherboard might be over-volting the CPU just a bit, but I'm not familiar enough with MSI BIOS to suggest where to look or what to do about it.)

You say you cleaned the heat sink, you cleaned the CPU as well, right? I assume yes but figured I'd make sure...

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

I really like your build, and because I shoot Nikon, and edit a lot of .NEF files too, what camera and editing software do you use?

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

I have a D5300 and I mostly use their ViewNX-i software for editing and exporting raw files. I know it's not exceptional and probably nowhere near Lightroom, but it works for me, since I usually tend to make minimal edits to my files. The most important issue for me was exporting to jpeg, since I had a dual core Intel system and it struggled with the task, so much that I almost had to give up shooting in raw...and since there was a period when I almost exclusively shot in raw, having a fast computer became a necessity. The final straw was basically when they published the Spectre\Meltdown security fixes, which made my Intel system practically unusable. I sometimes use GIMP and RawTherapee for adjusting other parameters.

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

I've got a D300, and the files in RAW aren't the biggest, but my dual core laptop almost dies exporting edits from lightroom. Anyway nice build!