I've been talking about building a PC for years now, ever since my last pre-built one broke in 2012. A lack of time, money and motivation meant that I wasn't able to really look into it until late last year but a tour of the Falklands put me into early 2018 and into the middle of component price madness. But I've finally done it.
I was initially going to get the BitFenix Phenom (I like understated design I guess) but some
'orrible helpful person on Reddit pointed the NCase out to me and so I entered into the world of SFF builds. Despite the cost ending up at £200 with the customs and handling charges, which I could have put towards a i7-8700K I suppose, I am really glad I got this case as it is stunning and I love the finish.
Gigabyte GTX 1080 Ti AORUS
This is where the build initially started. I knew I wanted a 1080 Ti, perhaps not for a specific game or goal in mind, maybe because of the memory of my old PC struggling with high-end games towards the end of it's life. Either way, I was getting one.
So which one to get? Well the cheapest one at the time without compromising noise/thermals too much (I'm looking at you Zotac Mini). This got turned on it's head when I chose my case. There are solid options out there that will fit in the case: They were just more expensive. So I did my research and someone out there had got the PCB measurements for the card which suggested it would fit. I did some dodgy calculations and concluded that the PCB and heatsink would fit, and maybe the fan shroud too with a bit of modification. In the end only the heatsink would fit, in a similar vein to the ASUS Strix.
AMD Ryzen 7 2700
The i7 8700K was the CPU to go for in a gaming build. However after spending a lot of time reading and watching reviews I came to the conclusion that the extra ~£200 I would have to spend compared to a Ryzen based system would not be worth it for the performance gains. As I understand it too, the AM4 chipset will be around for a while whereas Intel bring out new chipsets all the time (right?). I want to give overclocking a go, even though I haven't a clue what I am doing, and I think 4.0 GHz looks achievable.
So what did I learn and what will come next?
I don't thinking building in a small case is actually that difficult. I was certainly nervous before starting and I definitely made mistakes along the way but I think part of this was due to it being my first PC build. Mounting the SSD in the front was the only issue. Pictures suggest placing it in the middle is the way to go but I've got it offset to the left and with only three screws in. It isn't going anywhere but what I did wrong was to not put it in before everything else. I'm still nervous about thermal paste (I went for the too much approach...) and cleaning it off components, especially on the GPU but it'll be fine....right?
Could have done a better job picking some of the components I guess. Is the M.2 drive necessary? Should I have gone for 3200 MHz RAM for only a little more cash? Maybe the RTX 2080 would have been a better choice, had I waited a month to see how prices developed. But all lessons learnt. Comes down to research and your goal I suppose. I just wanted a decent PC.
Next for me is PWM to GPU Fan Header cables. The CPU fans are set to intake and the bottom fans to exhaust. I did a brief stress test (another thing I know nothing about...) and the GPU ramped up to 84 degrees almost immediately, because all the fans were sat below 1000 RPM. I have changed the exhaust fans to sit on 1500 RPM all the time for the moment which has helped but it is only a short-term solution. I think ordering some custom feet for the case would help with the airflow too. There are speaker feet out there that would do the job but they spoil the aesthetics of the case for me.
Also on the list are more dust filters, maybe some more fans (120x15mm Noctua fans in the gap below the GPU?). All the stress testing and overclocking too but at the moment I'm just happy to be playing games again! Later in 2019 I think I'd like to try making my own custom cables and then adding a glass panel down the side.
Oh and for information, the Arctic Accelero Xtreme III does not fit on this card. The HDMI ports get in the way unfortunately.
I was pretty impressed with the way this came packaged, keeping everything in a fabric bag. It was reasonably easy to work with, the only difficulty coming with the SATA cable which allows for four drives to be connected. I have only used one and the excess cable is a bit of a pain to manage with all the SATA ports.
I've not heard a peep from the PSU in any tests or gaming sessions and it has handled everything thus far.
One annoying thing? The stupid sticker on the back of the PSU that refused to come off cleanly, leaving horrible residue behind. I can't remember what the sticker said but it was something clearly aimed for it being sat on a shelf, advertising its power rating. Pointless for an online purchase.
Excellent sound quality, both from the microphone and headphones. The sound is bright and clear and it handles the bass notes very well. Compared the sound to my Arctis 3 headset and it miles better. It was easy to setup and it has been easy to customise the RGB effects and sound balance using the GameDAC.
My only criticsm would be the metal headband which has a fair degree of tension that pushes the bottom of the cans inwards. This has resulted in the odd occasion of discomfort round the bottom of my ears which was easily remedied by just taking off the headset for a few seconds.