Since I needed a new computer (gave my laptop to my wife), I decided to do my first build ever, as a hobby / challenge to myself. Or was it the other way around?! OK, I’ll rephrase it: I wanted a new computer and also a challenge so I decided to do my first computer build ever and gave my laptop to my wife :)
Had some initial constrains on choosing parts, since I had to respect some self-imposed conditions: a “future proof” computer (hopefully for at least the next 4 years) in the smallest computer case possible (obviously, that I liked).
Started by choosing the case since this influences the motherboard form factor (and vice versa), so after browsing through the major brands and much indecision (contemplated the possibility of an ITX form factor), I ended up choosing the Corsair Air 240 for being able to house a mATX motherboard (gaining additional PCIe availability / flexibility for the future, if needed).
With the computer case decided, choosing the motherboard was a straightforward decision: picked the ASUS Maximus VIII Gene. The remaining parts were also fairly easy to choose (with the valuable help of PCPartPicker!), considering my goals, although I was a bit concerned with the size of EVGA GTX 1080 FTW (to actually install it and also to close the case – more about these below).
Decided to order all parts from Amazon EU (Germany) except what they did not have available as sellers themselves at that time, so the Intel i7 6700K and the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW were ordered on Amazon USA. From personal experience, I can only praise Amazon for their excellent customer service.
With all parts ordered and still some time until they arrive (ordered all on 30 August 2016 and the last parts arrived on 14 September, due to a 3 days holiday pegged with a weekend here in Dubai), I took some time to plan cable management (the sketch shows in red the cables that are routed between the motherboard and the motherboard tray).
The only part that required some extra work was the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW...
To install it, I had to bend the case’s metal lip a bit with pliers (and then easily bend it back to the original form) to allow the card to be in the correct position to place it into the PCIe slot on the motherboard. In 5 minutes the beautiful EVGA GTX 1080 FTW was in its place. Regarding my second concern, closing the case, as soon as the card was installed, it became obvious that I would not be able to close the case. The total clearance from the top of the card to the side panel is not more than 10mm. With the Corsair sleeved power cables plugged in, the space required is around 25mm…
In order to have the side panel installed without having the PCIe power cables pushing against it, I had to do two things: forget the Corsair PCIe sleeved cables and use the PCIe cables that came with the Corsair AX760 since these are more flexible. And I had to modify its plastic male PCIe connectors that plug into the video card.
I un-pined the PCIe male connectors from the Corsair AX760 power cables (a relatively slow process but not that hard – I used staples to release the pins as shown in a tutorial at linustechtips.com) and then cut the top part of new 8 pin male PCIe plastic connectors (I used for guidance the picture of the “special low profile 8 pin” extension cable that moddiy.com has for sale) having them now a total length of 13mm. I then realized that I did not need to cut that much, considering the total length of the metal pins that go inside the connector is 15mm and therefore there was no reason to have the pins partially “exposed” (around 3mm of the metal pins were not “surrounded” by the plastic connector).
So, I cut again new 8 pin male PCIe plastic connectors, only the necessary to have a total length of 16mm (this allows for the 15mm of the metal pins plus 1mm since the metal pins do not start flush with the plastic connector). This way, the metal pins are fully inside the plastic male PCIe connectors. You can see the picture with 2 different lengths of the connectors: one untouched connector and the final two with a total length of 16mm. Of this total length, 9mm are going in the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW itself, so there are 3mm available for the power cables to pass between the end of the plastic male PCIe connector and the side panel.
Although some cables are touching the side panel, the space available is sufficient to not have the side panel being pushed (you can see in the picture the points where it is touching).
With this small modification I was able to close the Corsair Air 240 and consider my build complete! I confess I was a bit concerned. I felt really relieved when I powered on the computer for the first time and no sparkles or smoke came out of it :D
I’m really proud of the final outcome and had a lot of fun going through all the process :)
To improve the airflow, added an additional fan on the top (extract) and another fan on the bottom (intake).
EVGA 1080 FTW temperature on full load stress tests stabilizes at 71C (before it was 81C), and Samsung 950 Pro at 57C (before it was 70C, where it is known to throttle).
Note that with a mATX motherboard in this case, the bottom 120mm fan is not fixed, but its dimension in that position makes it possible to be nicely tucked with no vibrations, between the side panel and the motherboard connectors. But I ended up replacing it for a Be Quiet Pure Wings 2 PWM 92mm since there was no increase in noise.
I also set a custom curve to the EVGA 1080 FTW: 30% fans speed until 50C, 50% fans between 50C and 60C, 60% to 90% for temps above 60C. The fans stabilize at 82% for 71C.
I have now a virtually silent computer for the everyday tasks and the top and bottom fans kick in higher rpm depending on PCH temperature while gaming.