This is my first build! I don't know how to properly do a complete build write up correctly, so I apologize if I messed up and went completely in the wrong direction. I also don't know the proper terminology for a few things, so I called certain things as what I saw them as (i.e. PSU cord with the holes that plug into the GPU, mobo, etc). I apologize for that if it annoys you or confuses you. I will go through all the parts one by one and talk about why I picked them, how well they run in my build, any problems I have with them now post build, and any difficulties I had while installing them.
I also posted a bunch of pictures to show sizes for my case and the CPU cooler, clearance on the CPU cooler in respect to other things on my motherboard, pics of the RAM, the I/O shield, and lastly a crappy pic of the inside of my case right before I closed it up. I apologize that the cable management terrible. I couldn't be bothered for cable management at the end because I worked on it straight for about 7 hours and I was hungry and tired. I did manage to push a good number of the cords under the motherboard plate after I came back from dinner, but I have no pictures of it. Last but not least, all comments and constructive criticism is appreciated!
Background: I had been looking to buy a new computer on and off for about a year now. At first it was just a hobby to build computers, then it turned into being quite serious about it. And now here I am. And what time would it be better to look for parts than during Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Most of what I bought were on sale, whether it was because of Black Friday/Cyber Monday, or because New Egg had them on sale. My motherboard, graphics card, and the fan cooler were the only things not on sale. I also had a $200 gift card that I used to help purchase my graphics card which helped quite a bit.
Parts and Experiences with them so far/while building
CPU: i5 4690k - I originally was going to get the i5-4590, but since the i5-4690K was on sale for less than the price of the CPU I was looking at, I got the 4690k. Now I can overclock in the future if need be. I feel no differences between this i5-4690k and the i7-3630QM that I have in my laptop. Frankly, on paper the i5 is better than the i7 in my laptop.
CPU Cooler: Silver Stone AR05- I was looking at water cooling for a while because it's better than air cooling, especially if I wanted to over-clock my CPU, but I wanted to keep costs down and had no plans on over-clocking anytime soon, so I got an air cooler instead. I wanted something low profile and quiet, something that the AR05 both had. The fact that it's fan is blue also helped. I know it was a new product with not much about it yet, but I was willing to risk it since it was only $35. So far after using my computer for about a week and letting the thermal past set in, it's performed perfectly. My CPU cores typically stay in the high 20C to low 30C when idle, and don't go too much over 40C when under load. The fan is pretty much silent to me, though it's hard to tell since my 80 mm fans cover up any other sounds coming from this case. The 80 mm fans aren't even that loud either, so i'd like to say the fan on this CPU cooler are as quiet as advertised.
The directions were pretty much straight forward, though the diagrams might be a little hard to see in the directions. I used the one online and blew it up so I could see everything clearly. It cleared up any confusion that I might have had while assembling it.
I was worried about clearance around the cooler on my motherboard, and it does come pretty close to my RAM. If I had gotten anything thicker than the RAM I bought, it could have been a problem, but I can't say since I've never seen any other RAM in person other than my own. I uploaded pics above that show clearance and size.
- Motherboard: ASRock H97M-ITX/AC - After looking at a lot of motherboards, I finally settled on this one. I looked from Asus to Gigabyte at ITX boards, and this one finally had everything I needed while still be fairly cheap. Everything was easy to find and connect on the board. All connections for USB headers, SATA cords, chasis and cpu fan connectors, were all placed in convenient places for the most part.
Though the thing that sold me for sure on the mobo was the Wifi card. The Wifi card works seamlessly and I have no problems with it what so ever. That aside, installing it was difficult. This being my first time building a computer, it scared me to put so much force on my board when installing cards, etc. This chip was so small, it kept slipping out of my grip and slipped to the side when I was trying to install it. Follow the directions for how to put in the 2 screws that secure the card to the a small metal arm piece which then screws into the board to help secure it.
On top of that, the little wires for the antenna you attach it to are even worse to install. I have small fingers being a girl, but those little pieces were the worst to pinch into the little holes on the Wifi card correctly. Took me about 10 mins and sore finger tips to squeeze them in until they snapped in and no longer fell off. You have to hear the snap, or else they WILL fall off. Pics are posted so you can see the Wifi card clearly, alone with the little parts you have to snap in, and the metal bracket you screw to it and to the mother board. The wifi card also comes with little black antennas that stick out the back of the mobo through the I/O shield. Pictures didn't depict this on New Egg, so I was curious as to what antenna the Wifi would work through, but it was clear when assembling it.
Also, be careful when sliding your mobo into the I/O shield. The little metal pieces near the holes of the I/O shield can catch on certain slots. I had one of the metal pieces near the HDMI port slide into my HDMI port because I was careless and didn't look on the outside of the mobo while sliding it into the I/O shield. When I had realized this, I had installed almost everything at that point. I didn't take everything apart to slide the metal piece out, but I bent it out and backward with a lot of patience, a tiny screw driver as a fulcrum to bend it over, and sore finger tips/nails once again. Don't make the mistake I did. It sucked.
Memory: Team Elite 16 GB (2x8 gb) - I chose this RAM simply because they were cheap. I was weary to choose such off brand RAM, but as I read lots of posts in forums and reviews - RAM is RAM. It's hard to mess up. So far, it's held true to those words and everything is working perfectly. I wanted something pretty and low profile, and this fit the bill. It looked kind of gaudy/tacky online in pictures, but when you actually have it yourself in person, it looks quite nice. I'm glad I got it. I also read reviews that the Team brand are really trying to pick up their game and produce their products better, which is another reason why I bought this RAM. Pics are posted above.
Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 500 GB SSD - Samsung, enough said. I have a Samsung SDD in my laptop, and I was very pleased with it. Though it was only 250 GB, and over time it has driven me insane that I only had that much room which was 90% filled up by installed games. I was constantly uninstalling and re-installing games, thus I felt that it was time for an upgrade in terms of storage space so I bumped up to the 500 GB. I saw it on sale during Black Friday and jumped on it so fast. It has been working as well as anticipated thus far, no problems.
Video Card: MSI GTX 970 Twin Frozr V - I wanted a card that I would use for a long time which out worrying about upgrading for a long while. I was originally looking at the GTX 760, but then this beast came out for about $100 more that performs almost as well as the GTX 780 TI, thought not quite. I was sold.
So far it has been performing beautifully. The fans don't turn on often, but when they do (when it hits 60C or higher) they are super quiet. I was fortunate enough to not have a card with coil whine. I can play pretty much everything on the highest settings without a problem. It never really went over 65C, even when gaming on the highest graphics for hours. Though, this could be due to the games I play not being very graphically intensive - League of Legends, MechWarrior, Tera, CSGO, Day Z, etc - so maybe I may not be a good example of testing the limits of this card. Playing all but MechWarrior, the fans typically don't turn on. MechWarrior is the only game that has brought my GPU above 60C so far, and even then it pretty much stays around 60C. The fans will start then stop, depending on how far above 60C it gets. I'll get my real test when I download the free copy of Far Cry 4 that comes along with buying this card.
- Case: Thermaltake Core V1- I choose this case specifically because I wanted a low profile case. I'll be honest, when I first got the case I thought it was huge and way larger than I had anticipated. If I had to go with another case, I probably would get the Cooler Master 130 Elite, but if I did, I wouldn't get the awesome airflow this case has.
The 200 mm fan on this case does wonders for intake, and it's fairly quiet. The loudest fans in this case is my 80 mm fan. Even then, those aren't very loud. I haven't taken the protective plastic off the windowed panel yet in fears of scratching it. I heard it's easy to scratch, and if I scratch it, I know it will drive me insane, so I'm waiting to go to an Office Depot close by and get an iPad protective cover that's on clearance that I saw the other day for about $5, and put it on it. It probably would be fine without the cover, but I'm obsessive like that. The GPU is positioned conveniently against the side panel grate, so it's perfect for air flow to the GPU.
The power and reset button connections to the motherboard were super confusing to me. I tried looking at the case manual and the motherboard manual. Neither really helped in instructing me on which wire plugged where. I tried watching videos and tutorials - no one used my board or case so it was just guess and hope. I don't know what I did, but it ended up working. Neither the motherboard nor the wires from the case tell you which wire is grounded and which one should have power in it (or maybe I'm thinking positive or negative - its been a while) and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out which was which, and neither could my boyfriend. I was scared to guess because I didn't want to blow anything, so I used as much deductive reasoning as I could, and went with it. I ended up not connecting the reset button, only the power button, to lessen my odds of screwing up. The wires and the motherboard neither had any indications of which wires powered/positive or grounded/negative. I have no advice on this one. It was pure luck how I got it functioning. I'm just glad and thankful I didn't royally screw anything up.
- Power Supply: Corsair 650m - I made the mistake of not doing thorough enough research on my power supply. I thought I had looked at enough reviews and figured hey, its Corsair, how could I go wrong? Well, it kind of did. Corsair power supplies have a problem of faulty PSU fans that rattle or make loud noises. Mine unfortunately was one of them, though it's not too terrible because it doesn't do it all the time, only some times/now and then. Some people have it constantly, so watch out for it. Lots of people have RMA'd it and gotten perfectly functioning ones, so chance if it you like. Since mine is only sometimes, I'm just going to deal with it because I'm not going through all the work of re-connecting cords again. Plugging in everything was a huge pain in the butt and I'm not willing to go through with it again since my boyfriend was there to help me when I did it the first time and I won't be seeing him for a long while (long distance). When the PSU fan acts up, it's really loud and annoying, but when it's acting normal it's fairly quiet, and is the 2nd loudest fan in my build - the 80 mm being the loudest. Keep in mind everything is fairly quiet. Noticeable, but soft and quiet.
It was a pain trying to plug in all the power plugs - the main CPU plug to my mobo wouldn't catch on the latch for the life of it no matter how much force we used to push it in. In the end after 10 mins of struggling and debating, it somehow caught, but no click was heard. Trying to plug in the connections for my GPU was also a pain. The first 6 pin was fine and clicked in place. The second 8 pin to connect wouldn't catch on the latch either. Eventually it went in and caught, but without an audible click either.
To plug in the GPU, you have to use the supplementary cords provided with the PSU. One cord will say PCIe and have 4 of the 4-hole connectors pieces ( I apologize for my lack of knowledge of what these are called). You can put 2 of the 4-hole connectors together and make an 8-hole connector which your GPU needs. You can also split the 4-hole connector into 2 x 2-hole connectors. I put 2 of the 4-hole connectors together for the 8-hole connector which was needed, and then took a 4-hole connector, split it into 2, and put it with another 4-hole connector to make it a 6-hole connector which is also needed for the GPU. It took me a while to figure it out, but I found my way.
When I tried plugging in the cords from the GPU and my extra 80 mm fan directly into the PSU, it required quite a bit of elbow grease. The 80mm fans clicked in place, but the GPU one didn't. It looked flush, but no audible click. I read up and learned it's not safe if you don't hear the click, but having it COMPLETELY flush was good enough thankfully. I was really scared I was going to screw something up. Lots of sore fingers for this one too.
- Case Fans: Cooler Master 80mm x2 - So in my pictures, I have 2x 80 mm fans and 1x 120 mm fan. I was originally going to put the 120 mm fan on the side panel grate via black twist ties, but went against it because it had been hours working on this and I couldn't be bothered. I connected the 2x 80 mm fans for out-take directly to the PSU so they are on full speed all the time. I used a supplementary cord that came with the PSU and used the molex connectors that came with the fans to hook them up. Unfortunately, only one of the fans are running. I'm not sure why one of them don't work, it's still yet to be figured out. I'm not sure if it's faulty, or if I did something wrong. They are both connected to the same cord from the PSU via their own molex connectors that they came with since the PSU cord had connections for 2 molex connectors. I didn't use a Y-splitter cable. The fan connected at the very end of the PSU cord isn't working, while the one with the connector closer in is functioning. Not sure if it only has the ability to power 1 fan and the closer connected fan is sapping up all the power, but one doesn't work. I would have thought it was more than capable of powering both. They are both 3 pin connector fans.
The one 80 mm fan that is running has to be the loudest fan in my build - minus the PSU when its acting up. It's quiet, but it's most definitely noticeable in a quiet room. It reminds me a lot of my PS2 when it's on and running a game, about that loud. It doesn't bother me much though, since when I game I have headphones on. Like I said before, noticeable but not annoying. You know its running. I did by LNA cables, so I will see how loud they are when I put those in.
The build runs quiet and seamlessly (when the PSU agrees). Its as good and even better than I had anticipated. It does everything I had hoped it could and more. It did cost quite a bit, but I believe that it is worth it, and I don't intend on spending money on a new computer for a long time. If I were to change anything, I would get a different PSU, but other than that, everything works great. The 80 mm fan was quieter than anticipated, the CPU cooler fan especially. All drivers downloaded off ASRock's website was a breeze. All drivers were straightforward to find, and I had them all pre-downloaded on my other laptop before my motherboard had even came in. The Nvidia drivers were also not a problem to download. As soon as Windows was running, I hooked up my external hard drive to the front USB ports, extracted, and installed all the drivers without a problem. From the point of installing Windows to finishing installing all my drivers took about 20 mins. This being my first time and not knowing any better, I was super impressed.
The system runs very cool, the CPU cores never really reaching over 40 C with a 29C average and the GPU rarely over 60C with a 32C average.
I used an OEM Windows 8.1 at a student discount from Windows online, and it was super easy to install from a flash drive. I downloaded Windows 8.1, downloaded Windows 7 to USB software from Windows (this is also compatible with Windows 8 and higher). The USB software made an .ISO of Windows 8.1 on it, and I simply had to plug the flash drive into a USB 2.0 port specifically, and it was super simple to run. The only confusion was when Windows told me to unplug the D drive aka my flash drive in the middle of installation. I didn't realize that the USB was read as a D drive, but after quick research, all confusion was taken care of, and I pulled out my USB, and Windows finished installing.
Also note that there are only 2 USB 2.0's on this mobo, so I had to plug my mouse into a USB 3.0, the keyboard into the USB 2.0, and the USB flash drive into the 2nd USB 2.0 during Windows installation. The mobo had no problems reading my gaming mouse from the USB 3.0 during the whole installation process, nor did it have any problems reading my gaming keyboard.
The GTX 970 runs as well as it was hyped to be. After much debate between the MSI or the Asus, i'm glad I stuck with the MSI. I didn't realize a part of the GPU glowed on top, so that was nice. The case is a little larger than anticipated, but I don't regret getting it because of superior airflow, and it looks pretty nice. Carry it, it's kind of heavy, but it's manageable. I travel from my apartment to home quite a bit, and I did get this case with the intention of traveling around. I think it will stay at home though since I am home more than often than not.