The full build

The 2015 Reckoner PC Build

It’s been a long time since I last built a PC. Over 15 years in fact. Things have, needless to say, changed quite a bit since then. SSDs just plain didn’t exist, affordable hard drives barely stored 100GB and if you wanted sound you had to buy a thing called a sound card. Practically the dark ages compared to now right?!

So I thought it was about time that I rolled up my sleeves and built one again. I tried to keep the requirements simple. It had to be quiet. It needed to look good, no beige boxes here. I wanted to explore the latest in what was on offer tech wise. And lastly – being an avid gamer –  it needed to hold its own running today’s latest titles.

A lot of research and a few hours of assembly later this is what I came up with.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t70XBo3EyNE


 

The guts

Define R5 Mid tower

Case – Fractal Design Define R5 Mid Tower Black

Price: From $159 | Product Info | Buy

Choosing a case was probably the hardest part of the entire build. I wanted something simple. No flashy lights or windowed sides to see its innards. Just functional, discreet and above all quiet!

Fractal Design’s Define R5 is all of that and more. I instantly fell in love with its beautiful, sleek black exterior but was even more blown away by the thought put into its hidden internal design.

Amazing cable management hides and secures your leads running to any of the 10 different drive cages (8 x 3.5”, 2 x 2.5”) or 9 unique fan mounts. There’s also plenty of room and options for installing radiators and other smarts such as removable dust trays and vents as well the ability to switch the case’s front door hinges depending on if you’d prefer it to open to the left or the right.

Best of all the R5 is whisper quiet thanks to a thick lining of dampening material and for under $200 an absolute steal!

 

IMG_7814

CPU – Intel Core i7 6700K

Price: From $519 | Product Info | Buy

Intel definitely rules the roost when it comes to CPUs at the moment. For the past couple of years their Haswell line of CPUs with up to eight cores have been the processor of choice for gamers and high end users alike.

This year however Intel released its 6th generation of Core CPUs codenamed Skylake. The new chips offer similar performance to its predecessor but do so with a significantly lower retail price.

Cheaper, newer and an improved architecture meant it a no brainer when deciding on the CPU. The top of the line Core i7 6700K offered the best bang for buck processing power. Quad core with 8MB of cache, hyper threading and running up to 4.2GHz it would suit my needs nicely.

 

Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7

Motherboard – Gigabyte GA-Z170X Gaming 7

Price: From $345 | Product Info | Buy

Choosing a CPU somewhat dictated – or rather narrowed – my options when it came to selecting a motherboard. That, combined with a want to future-proof things down the track meant I ended up choosing Gigabyte’s Gaming 7 motherboard.

The Gaming 7 includes the world’s first certified USB 3.1 controller along with Intel certification for Thunderbolt 3 via USB-C. Neither a requirement to build a PC at all but both very important emerging technologies that are likely to be with us for a very long time. I was happy to spend the extra $80 to cover myself now rather than worrying about it in 6 months time.

The Gaming 7 also includes support for multiple GPUs (SLI/Crossfire), HDMI 2.0, DDR4 and includes Creative’s SoundCore 3D Gaming Audio.

Why any motherboard still has PS/2 on it (which by the way is pretty much every single one) I don’t know. If you want it though you’ll be glad to know the Gaming 7 has it! It also has some more impressive features like optical audio, Killer ethernet ports and the aforementioned USB-C. There are also a couple of USB ports they call USB DAC-UP that are kind of interesting. They run off a different power supply to ensure there are no fluctuations in power that most USB ports experience apparently. This offers cleaner audio if you have USB connected headphones and/or mics.

 

Corsair HX750i

Power supply (PSU) – Corsair HX750i

Price: From $229 | Product Info | Buy

I had no idea power supplies had become such a thing. Different power ratings, different connectors, fan controls with different current draws it’s a whole new world that required a lot of reading!

I ended up choosing the Corsair HX750i for a few reasons. Its 750w with 62.5A over 12V is way more power than I need but again it future proofs me with some buffer should I want to add another video card or more fans and a radiator down the track.

In addition to the extra juice Corsair’s fan tech was highly regarded. In fact the fan doesn’t even need to be on providing the PSU is drawing less than 300W. Even at full power it remains relatively quiet and inside the awesomeness that is the Define R5 almost non-existent.

 

HyperX Predator DDR4 RAM

RAM – Kingston HyperX Fury HX426C15FBK4/32 32GB (4x8GB)

Price: From $369 | Product Info | Buy

DDR4 is where it’s at and what I needed. It’s 40% more power efficient than DDR3 and a hell of a lot faster too with plans for the spec to go above 3200MHz.

Kingston’s HyperX memory range offers a variety of products that vary in price according to nerdy things like CAS Latency (CL) and the speeds they operate at. Essentially it comes down to getting the best you can afford with the lowest CL and the highest speed.

I was very kindly lent 32GB of HyperX Predator 2888MHz CL14 RAM (HX428C14PBK4/32) that absolutely screams along but does so at around $600 for the pack.

Falling in love with them but not having quite that budget I decided to go with HyperX Fury RAM, which at the top end runs at 2666MHz and has a CL of 15, but is almost half the price.

Both the Fury & Predator DDR4 modules come ready out of the box with Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) optimised for my motherboard. The Predators each are equipped with a tall black heatsink that looks mean but also serves an important purpose allowing for more overclocking wiggle room should it be something you want to explore.


Storage

HyperX Predator PCIe SSD

SSD – Kingston HyperX Predator PCIe/M.2 480GB

Price: From $579 | Product Info | Buy

SSDs are so fast now that they can read data faster than the SATA connections talking to them can pass it on. So where do you go from here? You plug them directly into the motherboard of course!

HyperX’s Predator PCIe/M.2 SSD reads data up to a crazy 1400MB/s. That’s over double SATA’s 600MB/s limitation and insanely quick! Remember the first time you used a computer with an SSD instead of spinning drive? Well this is like that again! The module can be installed directly via M.2 (if your motherboard supports it) or into a PCIe slot making it compatible with older systems.

They come with either 280GB or 480GB of storage. I could probably get away with the smaller version but I didn’t want to end up bargaining with what lived on the SSD and what wouldn’t in 6 months time so I opted for the larger.

 

IMG_7817

HDD – Western Digital Black 6TB

Price: From $459 | Product Info | Buy

You can never have enough storage and whilst a large SSD can probably handle the majority of it I’d like a place to store all of my documents & photos as well as having local backups. The key for me here is to have reliable yet fast storage.

In addition to storing the largest amount of data in a single 7200rpm 3.5” drive it also includes a dual core processor (that’s right hard drives have their own processors now) to maximise its performance and make the most of its 128MB of cache.

The best part though, which just blows my mind, is its warranty: 5 years! You can’t beat that. I’ll have 2 thanks: mirrored, RAID, backup and storage more than sorted!


 Graphics & Display

Dell Curved 34 UltraSharp

Monitor – Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved Monitor (U3415W)

Price: RRP $1499 | Product Info | Buy

Curved TVs don’t make a lot of sense to me. As a shared viewing experience someone is always going to be sitting on an angle that just doesn’t work with them. Curved monitors on the other hand, that’s a different story and Dell’s UltraSharp 34” curved monitor is as good as it gets. I really love this thing!

The subtle curve of its large display seemingly wraps around you as you sit in front of it. When I look to my left or my right the screen is the same distance and just as sharp as looking straight ahead. It makes perfect sense.

It may have been released a year ago now but there’s nothing else on the market of the curved variety that comes close to it. It has a native resolution of 3440 x 1440 @ 60Hz which is just shy of true 4K but for the immersive experience the panel’s curved form offers I actually prefer it.

It doesn’t stop there though. The monitor can easily be connected to two computers at once allowing the one set of mouse & keyboard to switch between them when its input is changed. Is there anything it can’t do?!

 

Saphire Radeon R9 Fury X

GPU – Saphire Radeon R9 Fury X 4GB

Price: From $1099 | Product Info | Buy

If there was one item I was happy to spend more on than anything else it was the graphics card. Ultimately I’m building the PC for gaming so it makes sense that it would be the big ticket item on my shopping list.

In the end I decided to go with the Saphire Radeon R9 Fury X. Not only did it offer great performance and the high frame rates you’d expect from a top end video card it does so using less power and remains quieter in peak use.

Its lower noise levels can in part be attributed to its closed loop cooling system that’s pre-mounted to the card and ready to go out of the box. This was a huge selling point for me who was instantly turned off by the numerous cards out there sporting two or even three fans that whir and scream with noise as the cards ramp up.

All of the AMD bells and whistles are here too. AMD LiquidVR, AMD Freesync, 4K support, DirectX 12 and naturally AMD Crossfire which allows me the option of adding a second card and run them in sync should I really want to beef things up.


 Peripherals

Razer Mamba Chroma

Mouse – Razer Mamba

Price: From $139 | Product Info | Buy

I bought the first Razer Mamba and used it with my Mac many years ago. It had an amazing build quality and responsiveness to it that even to this day has been rare to see in other mice.

The latest version has a crazy 16,000 DPI laser along with this cool new ability to adjust click force to your liking. It has 9 programmable buttons, a tilt click-wheel and can run wirelessly for up to 20 hours of continuous use. Far beyond the length of any gaming session I’ll be having!

The Mamba also includes Razer’s Chroma lighting system which is a nice feature for those that enjoy customising their gear and having it pulse or wave with lighting effects that are completely customisable. For me, I was able to choose from its 16.8 million colours and find one that matched the power light on my Define R5 case, keeping everything in line, just the way I like it.

 

Razer DeathStalker Chroma

Keyboard – Razer DeathStalker Chroma

Price: From $149 | Product Info | Buy

Going into this project I can honestly say the Razer DeathStalker wasn’t on my radar. To be honest I didn’t have a clue when it came to keyboards so when I picked up the Mamba and saw it there and thought “Why not, let’s give it a shot”.

First thing about the DeathStalker its Chroma lighting effects – like the Mamba – sync to one another creating a consistent experience which I thought was kinda cool. Again, not my thing, but cool none the less.

The keyboard itself is definitely geared towards gamers. 2mm chiclet keycaps to activate them faster and allow easier movement between keys, blackout options for zones on the keyboard and fully programmable keys all to give that competitive advantage no matter how big or small it may be.

For day to day use it does a great job. Nothing to complain about and its in-built wrist rest is actually something I’ve come to really enjoy. On top of that the keyboard’s lighting system is really nice at night as I tend to be working in a darker room. Now, thankfully, I spend less time hunting for the right key.

 

Sennheiser G4ME ONEs

Headphones – Sennheisser G4ME ONE

Price: From: $179 | Product Info | Buy

My favourite headset for console gaming just happens to work just brilliantly with a PC too. In fact it’s even easier on PC as the G4ME ONE comes with a two 3.5mm jacks, one for input the other for its microphone that to be used on a console requires an extra adaptor to use. On the PC, and specifically on my Define R5 case, these plug straight into the top on the side of the illuminated power buttons, no adaptor required.

Why are they my favourite? They’re the most comfortable over-the-ear headphones I’ve worn. They also remain comfortable when worn over long periods of time, unlike a lot of heavier gaming headsets that slowly can cause strain on the neck.

In addition to that no other headset microphone has provided such clear audio with nearly every person I game with commenting on how crystal clear they can hear me. This is thanks to Senheisser’s noise cancelling technology that dulls background noise and accentuates the tones of human voice.


 The final product

IMG_8170

So it turned out to be a little more expensive than I’d expected at the beginning. In total for everything on the list (and the CPU cooler I forgot to buy initially – Corsair H80i GT) you’re looking at just over A$5k. That’s definitely not cheap but then building a budget PC was never really my intention.

The build itself was a mildly frustrating but highly rewarding experience. It’s been a long time since I’d done something like connected a power supply to a motherboard and things have definitely changed. Thankfully there’s almost no way to stuff this and many other tasks up nowadays and I often told myself to just RTFM.

It’s good to see installing Windows (I went with Windows 10) and all the drives to get things working is just as annoying as ever though. Some thing will never change!

 

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

Founded by James Croft, along with Peter Wells and Anthony Agius they created what would go on to become one of Australia’s most highly regarded and award winning independent tech blogs.

With its uniquely Australian voice Reckoner is committed to offering a “no-holds-barred” approach to its writing. Beholden to no one but its audience. Reckoner’s goal is to remain completely transparent and honour the trust it’s built with its faithful readership.

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