Description

After my iMac died and in response to the frustration that I couldn't just replace components, I finally decided to build my own PC. I started in early 2018 with a cheap Pavilion to upgrade slowly, so I wasn't investing in the build all at once.

I'm a college student, so I use the machine for school work in addition to gaming and streaming. I generally play MMOs (BDO, GW2) with the occasional RPG (The Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, Far Cry 5) thrown in. My prior machines have struggled to keep up, and with the release of BDO the performance bottleneck became very apparent.

I started my buld with the EVGA GeForce GTX 1070, just before prices inflated due to cryptominers, and realized it wouldn't fit in my case so I purchased the Phanteks Eclipse along with a new Power Supply, SSD, and cooler. I was primarily playing Black Desert Online and at that point, the remaining performance bottleneck was my processor - an AMD A10-6700 attached to an old MSI Orchid MoBo that came with my original purchase. However, this stage of the build was functional enough, so I kept putting further upgrades on the back burner, until I finally bought a new processor, the intel i5-8600K. I was initially going to go with an i7-7600 but realized that the Motherboard I wanted wasn't an option unless I switched to Coffee Lake instead of Kaby Lake. I settled on the Asus Prime Z370-A after considering the reviews, aesthetics, and performance. Admittedly, I don't know that much about motherboards and processors, so I relied quite a bit on both PCPartPicker's compatibility function, as well as feedback from other users. And what looked pretty.

I initially purchased a Cryorig H7 fan, but didn't like how cramped it made the interior feel, so I opted for the NZXT Kraken M22 liquid cooler instead. I especially loved the infinity mirror element, and wanted to experiment with liquid cooling. I'm happy with its performance and it keeps my CPU at around 34 degrees when idle. I might eventually upgrade to the X62 for the larger radiator, but the M22 works for current use.

I wasn't intending on building an RGB machine, and initially wanted something really clean, white, and minimal (because I did love my mac) but then Aurora happened - with the few accents on the case and the GPU, as well as my peripherals (keyboard, mouse) I wound up just committing to it with some LED strips, the ASUS board with LED accents, NZXT RGB fans, and the G.Skill Trident RGB RAM. I like the Cam software, but use NZXT Hue+ as well to control my fans.

The machine keeps up with performance, and it isn't too noisy for me (even when I push the GPU), but then, I always have a room fan running anyway. This was my first build, and installation of each component was much easier than I expected it to be - thanks in part to the Phanteks case. I turned to reddit for help with my cable management, as there were some elements that were hard to hide and threw off the overall aesthetic.

Part Reviews

CPU

Purchased because my old CPU was the performance bottleneck on my system, and I'm really happy with it. I was initially going to go with an i7-7600 but realized that the Motherboard I wanted wasn't an option unless I switched to Coffee Lake from Kaby Lake. Idles around 30 degrees, and I haven't messed with overclocking, but it carries demand without exceeding 55-60 degrees.

CPU Cooler

I wanted to add liquid cooling without fully committing to the X62. The single fan/smaller radiator works fine, and the infinity mirror feature is gorgeous. Keeps my CPU cool under heavy loads, and I can't really ask for more than that. Doesn't make any offensive noises, but I always have a fan running in my room anyway. Installation was pretty straight-forward, although this being my first build I did have to pause a moment and make sure I was installing it the right way for radiator placement.

The only downside to having RGB elements from different makers is having to use a variety of softwares to manage it all - I currently have to use CAM (Hue+) and Asus Aura, which leaves out my RAM, but I do appreciate all of the other features CAM includes - including system specs at a glance, overclocking utility, and gaming overlays.

Motherboard

Picked this up for my first custom build and didn't have any issues with installation. Beautiful design, great lighting, and syncs up well with all of my other RGB elements (except the NZXT stuff) with ASUS Aura. Plenty of connections for all of my fans as well as my RGB lighting.

Memory

Let's be honest - I didn't pick these up for performance, I bought them because they're pretty. And they are. I haven't managed to change the current settings on them from the spectrum colorwave, because it's so vibrant and gorgeous that I don't want to. Easy to install, no performance issues, compatible with ASUS aura, and basically everything I expected/wanted them to be.

Video Card

Great card, keeps up with everything I want it to while maintaining consistently high fps (The Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, Black Desert Online, Guild Wars 2, etc.). I appreciate the EVGA Precision utility for managing performance - I haven't messed with the "K-boost" or overclocking but I haven't needed to.

Case

Chose this case for my first custom build and I'm glad I did. Was so easy to work with - both side panels remove quickly and easily, and the front panel pops off easily as well.Great ventilation (I have 5x120mm fans including the unit on my water cooler) and I appreciate that the fan vents on the front and top of the machine come with magnetic dust screen/filters. The case makes cable management super easy with plenty of openings to snake wires through, and built-in velcro strips. The SSD mounts were really useful and easy to work with as well. Plenty of USB hookups, including two on the top-front of the case, in addition to audio inputs - which is nice as I was previously having to hookup at the back of my old tower.

I also love the RGB color of the case elements, which I blame for turning my build into a light show, and the fact that I can control the color from the front of the machine. It's a well-made case at a good price point, and I don't have any complaints.

Power Supply

Great performance, and easy to install.

Case Fan

These are pretty, but I made the mistake of buying the fans individually - they have to be used with the NZXT Hue+ hub in order to utilize the RGB lighting features, which meant that I had to buy a kit with the hub because I couldn't but the hub alone, for whatever reason. The fans are quiet and the lighting is beautiful - full spectrum, great saturation - but it wasn't a necessary addition to the build. As others have said, the only challenging element is getting the fans linked together without making a mess of wires.

Monitor

Great monitor design, good performance. It was difficult finding a modern, white/silver monitor that wasn't ugly or super expensive. The Pavillion 23xw has interesting design elements and great functionality and utility. I appreciate the ease of switching between color settings, which include pre-programmed options like Technicolor, low blue light, gaming and "HP Enhance+" as well as the option for customization. I have two of these, side-by-side, and they look great together, as the monitors are somewhat thin/have a low-profile frame. Little details, from the stand to the backing to the power light, were appreciated as well.

Good quality option for the price, and they actually look nice on my desk - which was hard to find, especially coming from a mac.

Keyboard

A cheap board, without the full range of RGB options one might otherwise be accustomed to. But it works. I couldn't justify investing in a Razer keyboard, and just needed a replacement for my old mac 10-key keyboard.

Having an RGB machine, it kind of sucks that it doesn't have a decent color range and that it doesn't interface with Cam or Hue+ , so I just leave it white as the other options are a revolving spectrrm, or a three-color split across the board (very underwhelming).

Mouse

No complaints, and works well for what it is. Purchased to replace my 7 year old Naga, as the center wheel click functionality stopped working. Solid mouse with full spectrum RGB color that interfaces well with my light/color management software. The upgraded Razer synapse software is an improvement over the original as well. I primarily use the option with the full number pad, but I imagine if I give up gaming the other options might be suitable as well.

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Comments

  • 12 months ago
  • 1 point

How did you control your nzxt are fans? Did you buy a hue to go with it?

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, I bought the HUE. I was able to power them without it, but there wasn't much point in the fans without the LED controls. I didn't know that when I first bought the fans, so I bought a refurbished HUE unit and a set of cables to hook it up.