Wireless Network Adapter
Finally had the time, money, and need(?) to upgrade from my previous and first ITX build. With much faster processors and graphics available for similar or lower TDP's, it made sense to move on from my old parts, most of which were transferred over from an ATX mid-tower case. My choice in parts followed much the same train of thought as before: silence until reaching gaming loads.
Case: The Node 202 is one of the few parts carried over from last time, so this will be more of a mid-term review. I still love the way it looks, and barring the Ncase M1, which doesn't sit horizontally like I prefer, is in my opinion the best-looking compact ITX case so far. I can see how temps might get pretty high with higher-end components than mine, such as an overclocked i7 or a GTX 1080, but it's not an issue for my needs. Now that I've had it for a little while, I do wish there was more in the way of GPU exhaust vents (there's plenty of intake), and I wouldn't mind the entire case being just 15mm taller. The Scythe cooler just barely fits with its slim fan, and I'd love to have more full-width fan options to replace it. Overall very satisfied with the case and no plans to replace it anytime soon.
Fans: As before, I removed the GPU support brace in lieu of having two fans underneath to act as both airflow and support. This did wonders for my graphics temps, and I'm happily seeing this setup help loads of people doing builds in the same case here. I did a little research and am currently trying out some NoiseBlockers to replace my old Noctuas. I really appreciate that the BlackSilentPro's also have the option for rubber frame covers to sit between the GPU and the fan frame. They do a great job in silently helping the GPU keep its fans off during idle and low-load situations. I'm not sure if they're that much of an upgrade over the Noctuas at the low speeds I keep them at (40% PWM) but at least they match the all-black theme? Fantastic quality though, would definitely recommend if budget allows.
PSU: Corsair's new SF600 has been making some waves, and while my old Silverstone SX600-G was fine, it would start up its fans a little earlier than I'd prefer, and would rarely turn off again while idle. During CPU-intensive tasks such as audio production, and for a few moments after closing a game, it would easily be the loudest component in the system. I took a gamble in "side-grading" to the SF600 and I can happily say it's everything I wanted and expected the SX600-G to be. Silent until absolutely necessary, and even under gaming load the PSU fan is never audible over the rest of the system.
CPU: As my music projects became more and more complex, I finally reached the point where I needed an upgrade over my previous i5-4670k. This time around, I went for a locked i7. I'm no longer interested in overclocking, and the lower TDP was a big factor. All my previous issues with CPU performance are resolved, and I love that I get this speed boost at a lower TDP than my old i5.
CPU Cooler: I picked the largest heatsink I could find, preferably using a 120mm fan, that would fit inside the case. This particular cooler just barely fits inside with the included slim fan, and does a very decent job keeping everything within reasonable temperatures. I have the fan at a constant 50% PWM (very very quiet), and I've never seen the CPU reach higher than 65C.
Motherboard: I really loved the EVGA Z97 Stinger from my previous build, so even though I didn't go with an overclockable CPU this time, I went with the Z170 Stinger out of pure loyalty. The UEFI is easy to navigate and has all the options I need. Component placement on the board is flawless for a mini-ITX model.
Memory: Upgraded to 16GB of DDR4. RAM isn't something that ever bothered me before, and I'll probably never notice the upgrade. But it makes me happy. I've also grown to strongly dislike the look of heat spreaders on RAM modules (weird, I used to love them so much), so plain black PCB's were the way to go.
Storage: I kept the 250GB SSD for the boot drive, but I changed my file organization system a little bit. Instead of a 2TB laptop HDD keeping everything, I now have a 1TB SSD holding games, music projects, and other immediate media. All my movies, shows, and my music archive have been moved to external storage. I like this system a lot more, and I'm definitely enjoying MUCH faster load times on projects and games.
GPU: Okay, so I didn't really NEED to upgrade from a 970, as I could already max out almost all of my game library at 1080p. But a huge benefit of the power "headroom" of the 1070 at the same TDP as the 970 is the heat and fan noise. I have my games capped at 60fps, and the new GPU works a lot less hard to keep that framerate. Load temps are the same, due to how GPU power/temp targets work, but the fans spin less often and more slowly when they do. I had a few choices of vendor despite the moderate lack of availability at the time of purchase, but ended up with EVGA because I valued HSF quality over factory overclocks. Matching the motherboard also played a tiny part in the decision.
Overall extremely pleased with the system-wide upgrades. Looking forward to taking this build with me between home and school.