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A gaming and technology blog by TWHL admins Penguinboy and Ant. A music blog by TWHL users Ant and Hugh.

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avatar Shepard62700FR 3rd March 2016, 22:35 PM

It's time for another "Buying a new PC build journey" at TWHL ^^

Many months has passed since the death of my old desktop PC and I'm stuck with my "development" laptop. It was an already built PC by Medion bought from an ALDI shop. I had a lot of great times with it until the motherboard started to do weird things, we tried everything to save it, but there was nothing we (me and my brothers) could do about it. I couldn't use a PC that had constant BSoDs on clean installations of Windows 7 and even "kernel panics" on any Linux distribution. Here are the specs of it just for reference :

CPU : Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 2,88 Ghz
GPU : NVIDIA GeForce GT 230
RAM : 4 Gb
HDD : 640 Gb

As I said, I'm stuck with a Medion laptop (because Medion is a good brand) which the main usage is for university. But since it's the only PC I have left, kinda everything is on it. Here are the specs of it for anyone :

CPU : Intel Pentium 2020M 2,4 Ghz
GPU : Intel HD Graphics (no dedicated AMD/NVIDIA GPU)
RAM : 4 Gb
HDD : 1 To

To give you an idea about how much pain I have with this laptop for gaming : Killing Floor 2 refuses to launch until I pass the magic "-dx10" in the command line to force DirectX 10.1 instead of DirectX 11. There is no in-door lighting (everything is black) and I run the game at 20-30 FPS on the lowest settings at 800x600. But since Killing Floor 2 is an Unreal Engine 3 game (UDK to be precise), I spent a lot of time tweaking the INI files and disabling everything that consumed a lot of CPU/RAM : texture streaming, lighting, shadows, M.E.A.T. ("Massive Evisceration And Trauma" aka the gore system), FPS cap and I even reduced the "screen percentage" to 50%. With all those tweaks, the game runs at 60-70 FPS max and 30-50 FPS in average. But I think you've guessed it, it looks horrible. If I want to, I can go up to the 110 FPS if I set it up to "Quake Competitive Mode", take a look at this video to see what I mean :
League of Legends run at 60 FPS on Medium which is quite good. Insurgency at 40 FPS in low. PARANOIA set to High with the "hacked opengl32.dll" at 20 FPS and Unreal Tournament 4 at 20 FPS and a screen percentage of 25% aka "very Minecraft style pixelated mode". And the worst for the end : I was chosen to participate in the Closed Technical Test of Battleborn (Gearbox Software's FPS/MOBA) : 10 FPS in the menus and 1 FPS in-game. I also had an access to the beta of Paragon (Epic Games's MOBA) : 30 FPS in the menus, 1 FPS in-game.

So I've said myself that enough is enough, I took my courage and started looking at building and mounting my own PC. I want to step aside from the already built PCs because I don't want my PC to last 5 years or wait that the warranty void to clean the inside of it. I think that already built PCs are good for people who have no experience in PCs and they don't know somebody to guide them if something goes wrong. Furthermore, have you opened the case of an already built PC ? They put stuff in it to annoy the hell of you if you need to do something on it. I'm going to take my girlfriend's Packard Bell as an example : she had a problem with corrupt/damaged RAMs and we had to replace those by fresh ones. When I opened the case for the first time, my heart was close to stop and my anger level was almost reaching the 100%. Her power unit is located at the middle back of the case and there is some kind of "bridge structure" to hold it with the front part, below it, you have all the cables (SATAs, fans, power...) tied by a clamping collar and below, the RAMs. Even worse : her CPU and cooler was behind the power unit, and if you want to remove the power unit, you unscrew the first 2 screws at the top and there are 2 more behind. Either you need a ninja screwdriver or you need to saw the case if we want to access the CPU/cooler and the screws that hold the motherboard. From easy unscrewing to EXTREME HARDCORE IMPOSSIBLE UNSCREWING OF DEATH.

I want my new PC to work for years, I want to play the games released nowadays and the future games that will be released in the next years without any problem. I also want a PC that can be easily upgraded, if I need to change the GPU then I just want to change the GPU not the whole PC, this was one of the issue I had with my dead Medion. If I wanted to change one part, I had to change everything. Without any further addition, here's the build I've found after many weeks of searching :

CPU : Intel Core i7-4790K 4,0 Ghz
GPU : Gigabyte GV-N960IXOC-2GD - GeForce GTX 960 2 Gb
RAM : G.Skill XM Series RipJaws X Series 16 Go (2 x 8 Go) DDR3 1600 Mhz CL9
MB : Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H
DVD : Lite-On iHAS124-14
HDD : Western Digital Red Desktop 1 To SATA 6 Gb/s
SSD : Corsair Force Series LS 60 Gb
Power : Corsair Builder Series VS650 80PLUS
Case : Zalman Z3 Plus Black

For the CPU, I prefer to stay on the 4 cores side for the moment. The amount of applications and games supporting more than 4 cores is very low these days and I think I'll be fine for years with this i7. A lot of people think that i5 is enough for gaming but I think that statement is going to be wrong in the next year(s) because games will demand much more in the future. Why an Intel and not an AMD ? I agree that AMD is way cheaper than Intel, but one of my first PCs had an AMD Duron and this CPU died after 4 years of service. It seems that AMD has fixed this nowadays but I told myself : "better safe than sorry" hence why I'm staying on Intel's side.

The GPU was very hard to find. First of all and to be clear, don't mention AMD/ATI. I had a Radeon 9550SE in the same first PC and it was HORRIBLE. Old drivers = everything runs fine but can't change the brightness in id Tech 3 games (Quake III Arena, Call of Duty 1, 2...). New drivers = drivers crashes, can't run anything, the ATI OpenGL fix for Hammer didn't worked. I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago and he wasn't very happy of his Radeon too, I think you've guessed it, I stay at NVIDIA's side even if they cost more than AMD/ATI. One of the problem I've found out with NVIDIA is that you need to look very closely to the GPU's specs because a lot of people think that 7XX beat a 6XX and they are wrong. Sometimes, a 6XX beat a 7XX for the same (or lower) price. The GTX 960 from Gigabyte is the only GPU that I've found which allow me to avoid this trap, the GTX 960 from other vendors were just a GTX 740 with the name changed.

The RAM was very easy to find unlike the CPU and GPU. 1600 Mhz is a good frequency in my opinion, CL9 because lower latency is better and 16 Gb is enough for my purposes. One friend told me to stay away from Kingston because he had issues with it.

The motherboard was a nightmare to find. Before the Gigabyte, I've found some kind of low cost MSI motherboard but the problem that a friend of mine spotted is that I've chosen the wrong PCI Express version for the GPU. So I changed it for another correct MSI motherboard but when I have chosen the case, there was not enough connectors for the fans. And I've found another MSI motherboard but there was again a problem with it. One client bought it and tried to install the same RAM of this build, and he reported that the space between the CPU and a RAM slot is too short making it "useless" for RAM with a radiator. And after more searches, I've found this Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H which this time seems to be perfect.

The DVD burner is the cheapest I've found and I don't care too much about it because the only time I will use it is to (re)install old games and Windows 7/10. Hooray for the USB boot ! ^^

One friend highly recommended me the Western Digital for the HDD. 1 To is likely enough for my needs and I'm an organised man so I won't come short in terms of disk space. When I saw that the Red versions of Western Digital are more designed for NAS, I was like "WTF ? You want me to use a pro-NAS HDD on my PC ? Are you high or something ?". He reassured me that he's been using it for years and no problems at all, he also told me that previous versions (Green and Blue) weren't good for performance but rather for energy saving, so I'm trusting him on this.

This is gonna be the first time I'll be using a SSD and I'm quite hesitant about it. I've done a lot of research and found out that there are some very important steps to do after Windows installation (like preventing "defrag.exe" to run on it). I'm considering of installing my Windows 10 (and maybe the root partition of an Arch Linux) and all softwares on that SSD (Google Chrome, Steam, Mumble, Visual Studio...) and keep all the games and data on the HDD. Is my "SSD usage strategy" correct or I am going the wrong way ? Anyone here has a SSD and tell me his experience with it ?

I think 650W for the power unit is gonna be enough for this build and for potential future upgrades, this Corsair Builder Series VS650 80PLUS is the only 650W power unit that I've found to do it's job properly for a good price. At first I started looking at 700W power units but I think that's a little bit too much.

And finally the case, this Zalman Z3 Plus Black is the only case I've found that has a dust filter and 3 fans included for a very low price. Many people seems to like it as well.

The price of this build is 995,95 without shipping costs. For french folks here : I'll buy this build if everything is fine and I'm 100% sure about it on LDLC. Concurrents like, GrosBill, CDiscount and Rue du Commerce are way too expensive and their catalog is shorter as well.

And this conclude the first part (or entirely) this "Buying a new PC build journey". Before probably some day buying this build, I would to hear about your opinion. Do you think my build is correct for my needs ? Do you suggest more interesting components ? Feel free to tell me, I appreciate in advance for the comments, suggestions and all.


avatar Penguinboy says: 3rd March 2016, 23:05 PM
It all sounds pretty good, but I'd suggest jumping up to (at least) a 120GB SSD. Even if you're just putting Windows/apps on the SSD, you'll really want to have that extra bit of space available. That goes double if you want to dual-boot linux off the SSD as well. It's not much more expensive, and it's worth it IMO.

Remember that some apps are pretty huge (e.g. Photoshop, multiple versions of Visual Studio, etc) and space can get used up pretty quickly.
avatar Shepard62700FR says: 4th March 2016, 07:37 AM
Thanks for the advice, I'll take a look at it.
avatar Kachito says: 4th March 2016, 08:22 AM
By the sound of it, i imagine that rig is going to be under a lot of pressure most of the time :P, so i wouldn't underestimate the cooling.
See if you can find out how the interior will end up looking like and plan ahead to have a good airflow.
Quick google search says 3 x 120mm fans, which sounds a bit weird. Also, by the look of it, there's really nothing trying to exhaust the gpu heat through the back. Imho, don't leave it at that; i'd add at least another fan at the front (they're really cheap). If you do add the bottom-front fan, try to install all your drives up, near the optical ones.
avatar Shepard62700FR says: 4th March 2016, 11:57 AM
Thanks for the suggestion Kachito, but there is a problem if I want to add another fan to the build : I will need to change the motherboard because the Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H has 1 CPU fan input and 3 system fans inputs. If that extra fan add a lot of value to the build, then I'll try to find another motherboard (again) ^^

Below you will find a very quick and dirty image made in Paint on how I'll consider mounting the build. According to some videos, I will have to be very careful when arranging the cables behind the thing that hold the motherboard because the space there seems tiny but I know that I'll manage. In the worst case scenario, my father has some clamping collars.

User Posted Image

UPDATE : I'm definitely going for a 120 Gb SSD instead of a 60 Gb. I have selected every file and folder on my laptop with the exception of games and personal data (music, pictures...), in other words : softwares and OS only. Windows showed me a result of 44,32 Gb which is roughly 80% if a 60 Gb. Thanks again Penguinboy ^^
avatar Tetsu0 says: 4th March 2016, 13:42 PM
I have 5 fans on my computer. I have 2 very large ones on the top and the side which are on all the time. The biggest is an air intake (mounted on the side) and the smaller of the large fans acts as an exhaust (mounted on top)

I have 2 120mm fans on the front acting as air intakes and 1 120mm fan on the rear acting as an exhaust.

I have cross winds acting on my processor heat sink and everything works like a charm.
avatar Shepard62700FR says: 4th March 2016, 20:42 PM
Then I'll consider getting that extra fan and changing the motherboard, thanks TetsuO.
avatar OmniscientShrub says: 4th March 2016, 23:19 PM
The case you've chosen has an integrated fan controller that supports two fans, you should be able to use five fans across that and the mobo.
avatar potatis_invalid says: 5th March 2016, 15:41 PM
I use Y cables in my PC to connect more fans. You can get them for cheap. The downside is that only one of the fans on the cable can report its speed, and you can't control them individually. But if they're of the same model and you don't need them to run at different speeds, those things won't be issues.
avatar Shepard62700FR says: 5th March 2016, 19:54 PM
Thanks for the advices OmniscentShrub and potatis_invalid, I'll take a look at it ^^

UPDATE : I have added the "Zalman ZM-F3 FDB(SF)" fan, a "2 fans in one" connector and a 2.5" to 3.5" adaptor for the SSD to the build.
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