This build isn't exactly what I was originally looking for, and is (so far) about twice as expensive as my original target price. That said, I'm thrilled with the system, and was relieved to find that it worked perfectly on the first startup attempt. Boot times are ridiculously awesome - this is something that I didn't realize I was missing out on even after hearing about it numerous times. To any out there that have not taken the plunge to upgrade to a boot SSD - this is not something to be underestimated - just wow.
I have two planned purchases to finalize this build (a discrete GPU, and a gaming mouse). Let's call that $250 to bring my total build cost to approximately $1500.
GPU: I'm really confused by GPU figures - even after reading your GPU dictionary. I find myself stuck between a 6870 (which seems to be the most reasonably priced bang for your buck out there), and the fact that my motherboard has PCIe 3.0 capability. I feel like I should be trying to utilize the 3.0, but when I look at 3.0 cards I have trouble comparing them to the 6870 --- prices are all over the place, and too many of the numbers may as well be Greek to me. Fortunately there are an awful lot of resources on the web - surely I will figure it out eventually, but I'd love to hear your thoughts if you think you can help me understand. I'll give your GPU dictionary a fresh read, too.
Gaming mouse: The Logitech G9X recommended by mikagmann2 in a post a while back appeals to me a lot. I think that or something similar is what I will shoot for. It looks powerful yet benign (I don't think it will transform into something and try to kill me)
OK - so to follow, I took a ton of pictures and have some insight to share on my build experience. I loaded the OS last Sunday, but still have some work to do - burn-in, benchmarking, file transfers, user account setups/migrations, etc... and I don't have a lot of time right now for the tweaking, so bear with me, and I will follow up with additional posts.
Thanks again to you guys for your help - I couldn't have done it without you.
Your GPU dictionary is more relevant to exactly what I wrote than I remembered. You directly addressed exactly my concern regarding PCIe 3.0 vs. something like a 6870. I still have a bit of difficulty with some of the terminology and numbers, but that was the heart of my dilemma.
I think I will be keeping my eyes open for the best deal on a 6870 I can spot. I spotted an XFX 6870 on Newegg's 4th of July sale for $129 after mail-in rebate. Doesn't seem to get much better than that.
While I haven't had an opportunity to benchtest the integrated HD 4000 graphics, and have hardly even attempted to experience them in-game, I think I will be disappointed with the results. Patience. The answers will come. I'll try to remain optimistic.
Hey, sorry about the huge delay on this. Lots of chaos IRL lately.
To address your questions: The 6870 is definitely a great card, but in no way is it close to using PCI-e 3.0's bandwidth, so don't worry about that.
I would recommend benchmarking the HD 4000 on StarCraft 2 or something - maybe on low settings using Heaven. It should actually run Skyrim quite admirably as well. Definitely give it a shot - it's not going to be beautiful, but the fact is that a tiny IGP (integrated graphics processor) in a CPU can run Skyrim is game changing for laptops and small PCs.
Hopefully that addresses some concerns...
Any specific questions about GPUs that you'd like me to answer? Or about PCI-e 3 vs. 2?
Oh, and post some pics of your shoebox! I'd love to see it.
No apologies necessary - I have a lot of chaos right now, too. I hope yours is more fun than mine.
OK - here we go. Pardon me, upon closer review of my images it became blindingly apparent that I am an absolutely terrible photographer.
I puzzled over several parts for quite some time, but eventually settled on everything - usually erring on the impulsive side. The case, motherboard, and cpu (hmm.. not in the picture.. oops) were easy, as they were the basis for the build. Speakers and keyboard/mouse were inconsequential, but I'm enjoying them.
The three drives were essential, but flexible on size/type. I was going to reuse an HDD from my existing system, but opted to run it in parallel for a while instead - 2.5TB for $132 sounded very reasonable, and I'm glad to have a little more wiggle room in there. The ODD was going to be an external one, but I was surprised to find my spouse had an opinion on the matter - we debated a bit, but I quickly came to my senses and acknowledged her wisdom - no harm in a $23 internal - maybe I'll pick up an external down the road. The SSD - yeah - that was one of the impulsive buys, but it was a great deal at $199 - I'm glad it comes with an "Editor's Choice Award" moniker - it makes me less concerned about reading/comprehending the detailed stats.
That leaves memory and cooler. My specific memory wasn't on Asus' Qualified Vendor List, and I was kind of crossing my fingers that it would work. I decided 1.35 volts was a good idea, since this system doesn't have much cooling versatility - works fine. The cooler .. well .. heat pipes are just cool. I didn't even know what a vapor chamber was before this process - I thought heat pipes were just empty pieces of copper, but they actually have a natural circulation cooling component to them - how cool is that?! And it looks neat, too. Totally impulsive buy. **edit** my motherboard has good overclocking capability, and combined with my impulsive cooler buy, I have no excuse now not to at least learn a bit about overclocking (no attempt yet).
So, enjoy the pics. These six take me from parts through finished cable routing (hours of fun). The most versatile tool in my box is featured in one of the pictures holding wires out of my way.
The last image shows the two parts of the cable routing I kind of messed up.
I mistakenly thought I could snug the 24-pin power cable up against the back of the power supply, but the clearance for the motherboard just wasn't enough, so I had to rethink that one. The other was the reset switch twisted pair coming from the back of the case ... there was plenty of slack, and my routing choice was not as clean as it could have been ... but by the time I realized, it was more work than I was willing to do for the benefit.
Next up: Motherboard, CPU, Cooler, and RAM.
CPU and bracket installed:
I was a little nervous with the tension required to secure the CPU, but committed to the motion and pretended not to be concerned ... no worries /whew.
Cooler and RAM installed:
Amazing how many opinions about thermal paste there are on the intertubez.
The rest of the pictures attached below show various angles for your viewing pleasure. I chose this orientation because the airflow should naturally want to go toward the vents on the side of the case ... but for more than a few moments I considered breaking out the dremel, knocking out the panel on the rear and installing a couple of small fans or maybe a tangential fan to help encourage airflow through the cooler. I puzzled over what orientations could work, and if this cooler could even work at all. For any interested, I found this forum post on overclock.net to be very helpful - mad props to the poster both for taking so much care to capture all orientations and for taking such amazing photographs. He/She also conveniently posted it the day I hit buy on most of my parts.
And now for the install:
Wow! Those clearances were tighter than I realized! I had to rethink my cable routing at this point, and moved the 24-pin power cable to snug up against the side of the drive cage (there is a convenient "shelf" here where the power supply extends maybe 1.5" wider than the drive cage). I had the motherboard and cooler wedged at one point and pushing pretty hard on the I/O shield before disappointedly coming to the realization that it just wouldn't work.
Here you can see actual impact between the power for the HDD and the cooler:
That radiator fin is actually slightly flexed by the power cable. Also of note here is that I didn't realize the motherboard came with one 90 degree SATA-III cable and one straight one. I needed to use the 90 degree one on the SSD because there is insufficient clearance to the chassis to comfortably fit the straight one. So I had to use the straight one for the HDD, which forced me to run that cable over the cooler and back under - not ideal, but no harm. For the record, a 90 degree one should fit (albeit snugly) in this location.
Finally, a piece of signature flair - a character totem, if you will:
And the DVD installed (and evidence of the only post-breaking-ground purchase I had to make):
Why would Silverstone build a case (with incorporated PSU) that can only fit a slim DVD drive, and not include an appropriate power adapter/cable for the DVD drive?!
That's pretty much it. Everything installed - final connections - a few more pictures as I put it back together:
Here's a shot of the I/O panel:
And a final perspective shot of the complete system:
So, let me know if you have any questions. The system is up and running, but I haven't had much time to do much with it. I've been going nuts on the Steam summer sale, and have tried a couple of games, but not much past the intros. Skyrim runs ok, but not very well at 1920 X 1200 even on low settings. I still plan to run some numbers/benchmarks, and will post here when I do.
Thanks again for all the help, and sorry I'm such a bad photographer .
I started trying to do a little benchmarking ... maybe I'll do a little more this weekend.
For starters - here is the Windows Experience Index:
It was at 6.6, but said it was missing some hardware, so I refreshed it and it went to 6.5.
and the CPU-Z snapshot:
Here are some SSD/HDD stats - I tried following your guide and didn't really change any settings. I'm not really sure what I'm looking at here. Could be the rum, but more likely it's that I just don't know what the frack I'm doing. Still - it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the difference between the SSD and HDD.
I should be impressed with the graphics capability ... I really should. That's what I keep telling myself. I mean ... I can run pretty much anything without a video card at all, right? That really is impressive; however, the quality of graphics performance is pretty abysmal, at least that's the opinion I have so far. Fortunately, I fully anticipated adding a discrete card sooner rather than later. I just thought it would perform a little better in the interim. Here are the few benchmark tests I have run - graphics wise.
and monitored performance during the 3DMark run:
I updated the video driver and extraneous programs that were running the first time ... the score dropped curious:
It says my system could perform better ... does anything standout as unusual to you guys?
I also tried running Heaven - neat program. I jimmied around with a bunch of settings, and eventually brought it down to 960 x 720 (or something like that) and turned all extras off. Just going to 2X Anti-aliasing from there brought me down to about 20-23 FPS for most scenes.
This run shows some pretty good performance at reasonable resolution and pretty much all features turned off:
Here are the temps etc.. over the course of several heaven iterations:
Hopefully these benchmarks provide some sense of the capabilities of my system. I'm not very familiar with a lot of the numbers, so let me know if you see anything unusual. And if you would like to see results of any additional tests, please ask and I will try to accommodate.