This blog is long overdue for an update, but I’ve been so busy with college that I’ve barely had enough time to even finish my homework, let alone work on my blog. But here I am, as the semester is winding down, and I found myself with a little spare time (on the weekend no less!). So, I figured I would share my most significant project to date.
I’ve known how to put computers and their parts together for almost 20 years now, but I’ve never built my own computer, let alone my own gaming computer, until a long time ago (in tech industry time).
Toward the end of 2015 and early 2016, I decided I wanted to get in on the new, up-and-coming VR thing, and possibly design some VR apps or games. So I knew I needed a computer that could handle it. I started ordering parts for it in January 2016, and ordered the last of my parts, the 980 Ti in March 2016.
When you’re designing anything, you need something that can test your prototypes fast, because time is the rarest resource of all. So I wanted something that was extremely powerful and (at the time) the latest and greatest.
I wanted the best I could get, so I knew I wanted an intel Core-i7. I chose the newest at the time, the Intel Core i7-6700K 4.0GHz quad-core processor.
As I steadily and methodically chose the best parts that fit my situation, I discovered that some were only available in black or white, so I decided to go with a black and white color theme. For the motherboard, possibly the most important part of all, I had always heard good things about Asus, so I looked at their line. The best motherboards are the ones that let you overclock your CPU, and the entry-level mobo in that category was Asus’s Z170-Pro. TheBigTroll has a good post on Tom’s Hardware on motherboard power quality, “the second thing that you look for is power delivery quality. there are motherboards with analog pwms and digital pwms. digital pwms tend to be better given they can supply a steadier voltage to the CPU. its not necessarily that analog is worse than digital but it tends to be the case. asus and gigabyte use digital pwms on all their newer boards. asrock and msi tend to use the older analog pwms.
id get my boards from asus or gigabyte. not so much asrock and msi” That was when I decided to go Asus.
The reason I chose that one, was because it had everything I needed: overclocking, an insane number of tweaking features in the BIOS which I’ll never use, an M.2 slot for a solid state drive, two PCI-E 16x slots so that I could run the best graphics cards in SLI mode, USB 3.1, a Thunderbolt port, and a DisplayPort.
Unfortunately, it didn’t have a small number of things I DID want, such as a PS/2 port, an RS-232 serial port, and a DB-25 parallel port. Some people give me crap for still wanting ports like that, but they aren’t able to see the benefits of such interfaces. Admittedly, they haven’t been very relevant since the ’90s, but for some electronics projects they’re extremely handy. I happen to like ball mice and the older PS/2 keyboards. They just have a certain feel to them that I love. That matters a lot to me when I’m writing source code for various programs.
In order to get those interfaces, I would have had to spend over a hundred bucks more, and I decided that it just wasn’t worth it. I’ll put up my ol’, antiquated peripherals – for now at least (I’ll never part with them totally).
Well, hardware changes fast in the tech world, and I had a lot of catching up to do, because the last time I was really into computer hardware was last decade, so I went to Tom’s Hardware to read some very technical articles on the latest memory, interfaces, video cards, and storage devices. I wanted to learn what the best was, and to figure out the weird timing numbers on RAM.
I knew I wanted the best, so that was what I focused on. The fastest RAM I could find at the time, which had a decent capacity of memory, were the G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3200 memory modules sold in pairs. I figured for the foreseeable future, I probably wouldn’t use more than 16 GB, so I bought a pair of them. So far, even with games, I haven’t even come close to that. Probably not even half that mark, so I feel OK with 16GB for now.
As for video cards, I read somewhere that using Asus video cards with Asus motherboards worked better, but I didn’t bookmark it, and I’ve been looking for that article ever since. Originally, I wanted to get an EVGA 980, because I thought it looked better through the window. Now I regret not getting one. I’ve hated how the Asus 980 Ti Matrix looks from the second I opened up the box. This is the only regret I have about this build. I love the green LED characters on the EVGA GTX. Anyway, the important thing is it shouldn’t matter what brand you use, since they all use the same industry standards. There were 12GB cards available during build time, but they were over a thousand dollars. I knew that I wanted to go with an SLI configuration someday, so I went with the Asus GeForce GTX 980 Ti Matrix 6GB video card, since it would be cheaper to buy another one of these rather than a second 12GB card, although it would have been super insanely great to have 24GB of video RAM.
Showing off my masterpiece was important to me, so I wanted a computer case that had a window on it. I also wanted a somewhat subtle case that didn’t look like a weapon the Predator would wield. I selected the Corsair 780T ATX Full Tower Case.
Actually, I had wanted the Antec Nine Hundred for years. It just looks so cool, but when I received it, I realized it was too small, and didn’t have a place to install the radiator for a water cooler, which I had decided I was going to use. So, I sent it back to Newegg and went back to my bookmarks and chose the best case I had looked at, which was the Corsair 780T.
When I ordered the water cooler, I inadvertently ordered two of them. The best liquid cooler that was the quietest at the best price with the best reviews was the NZXT Kraken X61. I will admit, I was a little nervous putting liquid into my computer with all the expensive, sensitive electronics, but the Kraken is a closed loop, meaning it’s factory sealed and very unlikely to leak, so I took the plunge. Water has a much higher heat capacity than any metal we civilians have access to, so I chose that as the method of dissipating the heat from the CPU. The water pump has a cool LED light that you have to use Windows to modify the color of. You can customize the color to any RGB value you want.
Last but not least was the power supply unit. The PSU I chose was the SeaSonic SnowSilent 1050W. I chose this one because it was white with black cords, matching my color theme, and because it was a Platinum PSU. Platinum PSUs are very stable and efficient. From what I learned during my research, high quality PSUs can prolong the life of your computer, and they are necessary especially when you plan to overclock your motherboard/CPU, because doing so increases the voltage. It’s a modular unit, so I only plugged in the cords I needed. Non-modular PSUs have all the cords you don’t use hanging down and around, which get in the way, invading your computer like a sentinel from the Matrix.
All in all, I’m extremely happy with the computer. I have no complaints. It’s insanely fast, runs quiet, and runs cool, even with being overclocked. It’s elegant, subtle, and beautiful.