In fall 2015, after spending 5 years playing all my games on a pre-built HP Pavilion PC (the only thing it had going for it was an i7-2600) with an ancient Radeon HD 5700 GPU, my 14-year-old self decided to start saving up for a rig good enough to satisfy my performance and aesthetic needs. Fast forward to March 2017, and here we are! I'm 16 now so I'm around 14.3% older, but I think I achieved my goal.
I went for a clean, minimalist design in line with my taste, although the build ended up with a red & black colour scheme when I decided to grab a Ryzen CPU (for photo editing + productivity). The MSI B350 Tomahawk motherboard I decided to pair with it has red accent LEDs, so I just went with it and configured the Wraith Spire's RGB ring accordingly. Forcing myself to save up for so long was probably the most challenging task :)
CPU - When I read the price tag on AMD's R7 1700 and saw that when overclocked, it would be comparable to an i7-6900k, it was a no-brainer. The stock cooler and fairly cheap OC capable motherboard actually made this setup cheaper than the i7-6700k setup I was originally planning on building, and this CPU's performance in everything from productivity work to heavy load in video games (GTA V, launching rockets in KSP with lots of parts) is all I could ever ask for. Benchmarks are at the bottom if you're interested.
CPU Cooler - Seeing as it came bundled with the Ryzen CPU, the Wraith Spire cooler is pretty impressive. My R7 1700 is overclocked to 3.8GHz @1.275v and temps range from the mid-30s idle to the mid-60s under load in games (low-70s in synthetic CPU benchmarks). Installation was fairly simple and the RGB ring is a nice feature.
Motherboard - I bought this board when the other board I ordered failed to ship for two weeks, and things have played out pretty nicely given the fact that I ended up spending a fair amount less on this board while still being able to achieve a stable overclock. It has a few USB 3.1 type A ports, and the USB 3.1 type C support is also a nice addition.
GPU - Ever since it came out last June, I've been planning on buying the RX 480. After doing some research, I decided to buy the XFX custom card, and although it isn't the Black edition I still managed to get it to 1375MHz @1150mV for benchmarking. For stability reasons, I've lowered the clock speed to 1350MHz during daily use. It runs fairly quiet (worlds quieter than the constant jet engine noise emitted by the old HP Pavilion) and stays cool under load, running my games well at 1440p (in a few games I turned some settings down to achieve a constant 60+ fps).
Monitor - The old 21.5" 1080p LG monitor (60hz TN panel) hooked up to the old PC cannot compare to the beautiful, crisp picture my Acer G257HU displays on my new rig. I have it overclocked to 80hz (using Crimson ReLive display settings) and it is very smooth for gaming, plus the IPS panel is great as it displays vibrant colours in games (with an unnoticeable response time). A major reason why I went for the IPS panel is because I'm also using my rig for photo-editing; the aforementioned features and the added screen real estate make it a great monitor for productivity.
RAM - It's good quality RAM and I love the low profile design, my only issue right now is that it can't run at its rated speeds with the motherboard's current BIOS. I don't see it as a big issue as I've already heard BIOS updates are on the way.
SSD - Coming from a crappy old 5400 RPM HDD, the difference is night and day. Booting up my PC, launching programs and starting up the handful of games I have installed on it is all blazing fast. My mass storage (RAW files from my DSLR, games I don't play as often and the plethora of ReLive recordings I'm building up) is all on the 1TB WD Blue HDD.
Case fans - I added one Fractal X2 GP-12 fan at the front of my case for personal (symmetrical) reasons, it's the exact same model as the two case fans that come with the case and they all run nice and quiet.
Case - I chose the Define C because I wanted all the features of the ATX form factor in a case as compact and sleek as possible. Building in it wasn't too hard, although cable management was a bit challenging with the thick sleeved cables from my PSU and the relatively small space I had to work with at the back of the case. I love the look of the case, and I'm happy that Fractal released it before I finished saving up because I was originally planning on buying the Define S, and the Define C added all the features I wanted that were missing from the Define S (more compact, PSU shroud).
First time build experience
As a first time builder, I was pretty nervous I'd screw up the whole thing, and while it did take me a solid few hours to build the computer, it posted right away without issues. My only real problem was some instability that I faced when I first tried out overclocking my GPU, but I've ironed out those issues and now the system is running nice and stable.
My only problem so far has been the RAM speed, because the current BIOS on the MSI B350 Tomahawk can't run my Corsair Vengeance LPX RAM at its rated speed of 3000MHz. I tried messing with BIOS settings and I did some research, but I can't get it past 2133MHz. Oh well, I'll just wait for BIOS updates.
Although my RAM isn't running at 3000MHz, I thought it would be a good idea to include some benchmarks. With my Ryzen 7 1700 running at 3.8GHz (1.275v) stable on all cores and my RX 480 running at 1375MHz (1.15v), I'm really happy with the results.
Score: 12360 | Graphics score: 14267 | Physics score: 19193 | Combined score: 4873
Single Thread: 2220 | Multi Thread: 19625 | Validation
Score: 1661 cb
FPS: 71.8 | Score: 1808 | Min FPS: 26.8 | Max FPS: 154.9
End note In the future, the first part I plan on upgrading is the GPU, as modern AAA games at Ultra settings can cripple this card at 1440p. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!