Building a PC in 2013

Posted by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

Hey, guys! I built myself a new PC recently, and I'm loving it. I thought some of you may be interested in hearing about how my building process went, thus this blog was born.

Everything Plus the Case

PartDetail
CaseCorsair Carbide Series 500R
MotherboardASUS MAXIMUS VI HERO
CPUIntel Core i5-4670K Haswell
GPUEVGA SuperClocked w/ ACX Cooling GeForce GTX 770
RAMG.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB @ 1866 MHz
PSUSeaSonic X Series X650
CoolerCORSAIR Hydro Series H100i
SSDSAMSUNG 840 Series
HDDSAMSUNG Spinpoint 1TB 7200 RPM

As you can see, I decided to jump on the 2013 boat and bought Intel's brand new Haswell CPU as well as a freshly released GTX 770 graphics card. The Haswell decision probably wasn't the smartest, as I could have gotten an older Ivybridge chip to pair with a socket 1155 motherboard for a bit cheaper, but that's no fun.

The view from the front.

The point was brought up to me on several occasions that by the time next generation consoles are released, the GTX 770's 2GB of VRAM could be inadequate. This is the most vital piece of any gaming build, so I considered this point pretty carefully. At the end of the day, I gambled that this factor wouldn't be too limiting. I'm only running one monitor at 1080p, so 2GB should suit me just fine. At least that's the hope. Limited stock of the 4GB cards also played a part. If I'd been able to find a 4GB EVGA 770, I may have spent the extra cash. But really, I think it'd have been a waste to do so.

I splurged a bit with the ASUS Maximus VI Hero motherboard. I really don't need all of the features that it provides; however, the biggest plus to the Maximus was the build quality. My goal here was to buy into something that was reliable first and foremost, and would provide me with options when it comes to future expandability. This motherboard, while a tad expensive, fits the bill.

Once I was able to wrap my mind around my chosen components' power draw, as well as the effects of overlocking, choosing the 650W SeaSonic power supply was fairly easy. RAM is almost always an easy buy, as you can't really go wrong sticking to a reliable brand and well-reviewed model. I did opt to bump up to 1866MHz RAM as opposed to the more standard 1600MHz, not that I'll ever notice a difference.

My SSD and hard drive are refugees from my last PC, so no Windows installing was done this time around, which was nice. A fresh install of Windows is always great, but the following setup and reconfiguration of everything ever is something I was glad to avoid.

Picking Up the Pieces (And Subsequently Placing Them Inside the Case)

The view from the side.

This was just the second time I've built a computer—my first build occurring just over a year ago—so the nerves were still present as I was unpacking everything and preparing to throw it all together. I imagine those nerves are something that never completely go away, even for much more experienced builders; we dabble in an expensive hobby, after all.

With butterflies fluttering away in my stomach, I started to unbox and build. I laid out my motherboard, still in the cardboard sheath in which it was packaged. The first thing I did was drop in my CPU. This is a simple procedure, but one that's always super stressful. I didn't have any problems, though, as I lined up the notches and dropped it right into my 1150 socket. I swung the arm down, locked it into place, and let out a little sigh of relief. After that I popped in my RAM. I ran into a bit of trouble with selecting the proper DIMM slots. I consulted my motherboard's instructions, but information seemed to contradict. At the end of the day, I ended up slotting my RAM into the slots the manual suggested, but after examining my BIOS, it seems that my manual may have led me astray. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. And everything RAM-related still worked fine despite any confusion, so I've yet to reconfigure it.

With the CPU and RAM all in place, it was time to seat the motherboard into my case. Now, normally you may place a stock cooler onto your CPU before screwing down the motherboard, but since I decided to go with a liquid cooler, I had to wait and install that after my motherboard was in place and secured. I ran into my second issue in the motherboard securing process. Turns out my case has three built-in standoffs along the top of the case, meaning I didn't need to install any of my own there. But instead of preinstalled metal standoffs, my case just had these strange raised plastic bubbles. Nowhere was this explicitly explained, but I eventually confirmed via the internet that these raised bubbles were indeed built-in standoffs. I installed the rest of the required standoffs and slid my motherboard in and lined it all up. The process of lining everything up and pushing the rear IO ports through the backplate was a bit of a challenge, and I actually ended up scratching the bottom of my motherboard's PCB a bit, as it was rubbing on a metal standoff or two as I struggled with it. Applying a bit of force, I eventually get everything settled and applied screws. The motherboard was set!

Next I installed my graphics card. Oh, my glorious GTX 770. I really love the look of this thing. It's black with gold trim, and if a computer graphics card can be classy, this is one of the classiest looking cards I've ever seen. The card popped into one of my PCIe slots very simply, and I screwed it down.

Secret top fan mounting compartment, housing my dual radiator fans

Next came the most interesting part of my whole build. I say interesting, but what I really mean is plodding and stressful. My biggest hurdle with this build by far was the installation of my liquid cooler. A key consideration to make when installing a liquid cooler with a radiator is whether you want a push, pull, or push/pull setup with your fans. Push meaning pushing air through the radiator, pull meaning pulling it through from the other side, and push/pull obviously being both simultaneously. Only having two fans, I couldn't run a push/pull without buying more, so I opted to push air through from the outside in. My case has a mounting point that's designed for radiators at the top of the case, so this wasn't too difficult to make work. What I did was I installed the radiator more on the inside of my case toward my motherboard, and installed my fans just above in a hidden compartment. The fans push cool air down through the radiator and into the case. This may not sound like the greatest idea to be pushing the heat from the radiator down into the case, but I have a rear exhaust fan sitting directly below the radiator, so in theory that should be catching all of that heat and blowing it right out the back. I have two more fans in the front of my case taking in air, as well as a large 200mm air intake fan on the side of my case. I've created a bit of a wind tunnel with all of the fans being intake other than the one at the back. I'm no expert when it comes to this stuff, but it seems to be working out nicely from what I've seen in my temperature monitoring.

But let's get back to the cooler installation, and my biggest issue of the build. The issue here came with mounting the pump to the CPU. In order to mount this thing, you need to install a special backplate that will allow the pump to be secured to the motherboard. This backplate attaches to the back of the motherboard and provides the screw points to mount the pump on the front. Thing is, the provided Intel backplate is apparently not fully compatible with all motherboards despite claims of the contrary. The mounting points that poke through the motherboard from behind are too long for some motherboards' PCB, resulting in a loose fit of the pump over the CPU, and thus ineffective cooling. I looked through a bunch of conversations online about this, and there seemed to be a fairly large group of people claiming that the looseness is intentional, and that the screw tightening process of installation should take up that slack. Well, just as many people seemed to believe otherwise, and that it was basically a huge fault in the design of the backplate. This mostly affects motherboards with thin PCB, and ASUS seems to make their boards thinner than most. Lucky me, I bought an ASUS board. So I was convinced that I had to find a way to make the backplate a tighter fit. There are a few online tutorials for fixing this involving rubber or metal washers. Basically what you want to do is space out the backplate against the motherboard a bit more so that the mounting points are flush with the front side of the motherboard as opposed to poking up several millimeters higher, as was the case with my situation. I eventually found a sheet of sticky rubber circles that I ended up using as makeshift washers. And hey, it worked. I couldn't get the fit just right; it ended up being a tad too tight in the end, but it was better than things not being held down tight enough. Crisis seemingly averted! After that nail-biting near-fiasco I was happy to finally get the pump seated over the CPU properly. It all seemed a bit ramshackle, and I definitely missed the simplicity of a stock Intel cooler, but I think it was worth the effort.

A portion of my PC's innards

Things were pretty much smooth sailing from there. I threw in my solid state drive and traditional hard drive from my old machine, which was simple enough. Then I threw in my power supply and wired everything up, trying my best to keep my machine from becoming a snake pit of cables—I wasn't completely successful in that particular endeavor. Fans were hooked up, SATA cables were attached, and front panel pins were slid into their proper positions. Everything seemed in place.

I put the side panels back on, hooked it up to my monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and gave it a shot. And yes, I did put the side panels back on prior to testing the thing. I don't know why, but I enjoy having a bit of an arrogance when it comes to this. Like, "of course it'll work." I actually like to think it's more positive thinking than arrogance, but anyway. I'm happy to report that it did indeed work! My new machine was firing on all cylinders, and no problems to report. It booted right into Windows and I was off to the races. It went this way the first time I built a PC, too, which likely just means I'm very lucky.

Results!

I've been very happy with this upgrade thus far. I've been playing through the Witcher 2 lately, and this upgrade has helped tremendously with that. I went from a framerate of ~28-38 on medium settings to a solid 60 on ultra. Couldn't be happier. I can't wait to play Witcher 3 when that hits.

As far as my temperatures, things seem peachy. My CPU idles at around 30 degrees celsius, which seems about right. Under a 100% load stress test, it seems to peak around the low 60s, which seems totally reasonable. My graphics card never spins the fans up too much, which is great. Noise-wise, things are good, but overall could be better. I'm thinking of buying quieter fans for my radiator and other intakes, but for now I can certainly live with these noise levels.

And that's it! I'm tired of writing, and you're likely tired of reading. Just wanted to document a few things here for fun. Perhaps some of you will be able to benefit in your future builds from hearing about the issues I've had. In any case, thanks for reading. And thanks to anyone and everyone who contributed opinions on this build in earlier threads—it was very helpful.

#1 Posted by MonetaryDread (1991 posts) -

That looks like a badass PC. I am jealous.

#2 Posted by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

@monetarydread: It's quite a capable machine! I'm hoping it lasts me a good while.

I forgot to mention my hottest new game that's pushing my system to its limits:

#3 Posted by GaspoweR (2794 posts) -

@jjweatherman: You got the Carbide case when it was on sale on Newegg didn't you? So jealous :3

#4 Posted by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

@gaspower: I think it's dipped lower than what I paid, but yes, 'twas on sale. I really like it, but the LEDs on the front are a little intense. And not the fan LEDs, but the power and HDD activity ones. I'm considering disconnecting those altogether, but I haven't done it yet.

#5 Posted by WasabiCurry (422 posts) -

Very interesting on what happened with the Corsair Hydro series. I may need to avoid that closed loop cooler just to save for the frustration.

Also a quick question, how is the gtx 770 perform? I was thinking about upgrading to either a 760 (to save on costs) or a 770 (waiting longer to save up). What was your previous card and how does that compare to it?

#6 Edited by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

Very interesting on what happened with the Corsair Hydro series. I may need to avoid that closed loop cooler just to save for the frustration.

Also a quick question, how is the gtx 770 perform? I was thinking about upgrading to either a 760 (to save on costs) or a 770 (waiting longer to save up). What was your previous card and how does that compare to it?

Yeah, I'd say especially if you're not planning on overclocking, maybe just stick to the simple-as-can-be stock cooler. I used Intel's stock cooler on my last build and it was 100% fine.

The GTX 770 has been pretty fantastic. It won't hit 60 fps if you try to completely max out a game like Farcry 3 for example, but dial back the Antialiasing and whatnot and it's great. My previous graphics card was a Radeon 6870, and as I mentioned, I've gotten huge performance improvements in games like the Witcher 2. As long as I don't turn ubersampling on, Witcher 2 runs at a solid 60 with everything else maxed. It's a little disappointing that for ~$400 I can't just literally turn every setting to max, but things like ubersampling are pretty ridiculous and aren't needed.

#7 Posted by tourgen (4427 posts) -

that's pretty awesome

#8 Edited by SoldierG654342 (1735 posts) -

That case is fucking huge. I have this case and I feel like it has more than enough room for me and I don't have any temperature issues. Why opt for such a large case?

#9 Posted by Godlyawesomeguy (6385 posts) -

@jjweatherman: Would you mind spilling the total expenditure? I'm in the market for a PC myself so this can give me an idea if I can afford all the parts.

Also, was building it simple?

#10 Posted by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

That case is fucking huge. I have this case and I feel like it has more than enough room for me and I don't have any temperature issues. Why opt for such a large case?

It's fairly standard size, but yeah, it's definitely larger than I need at this point in time. It's nice to have room to expand in the future though. I have more hard drive bays than I know what to do with!

@jjweatherman: Would you mind spilling the total expenditure? I'm in the market for a PC myself so this can give me an idea if I can afford all the parts.

Also, was building it simple?

Well, I only spent ~$1,300 due to the fact that I had a couple of hard drives already that I was able to drop in. Of course Windows was on one of those hard drives, so I didn't have to buy that either. Let's see, the 1TB drive was probably $80, and my 250GB SSD was $155 when I bought it. So around $1,500 for everything in my machine currently. That said, it's possible to cut that cost fairly significantly and lose little to no performance. My motherboard was probably about $60 too much, and the case wasn't too cheap either. I could have opted for a cheaper PSU as well. And if you're not overclocking, you could drop the $100 liquid cooler.

Building was indeed fairly simple. I had a few issues, as I mentioned above (the cooler was by far the hardest part), but nothing too bad.

#11 Posted by zenmastah (874 posts) -

Jumping from a 2GB 670 to a 4GB 770 myself any day now, sold my 670 to a co-worker for 200e so i paid only 220 for the 770.

I sure hope 4GB is going to last till TW3 comes out, ill be getting what ever is the fastest thing then.

#12 Edited by Winternet (8005 posts) -

How does that setup not run Far Cry 3 at max with solid frame rate? Are there that many better video cards than the one you got?

I played Far Cry 3 on high settings with good frame rate and I was playing on a freakin laptop. The normal ones, not that monsters that are out there.

#13 Posted by DexterKid (668 posts) -

@jjweatherman: Hey, this is a bit of an urgent question so please get back to me asap. I'm in the process of getting a new PC cause my old one just stopped dead on me today. You said that you used your old HDD and Windows installation on your PC. I wanted to know if that was as easy as popping in your old harddrive and it just booted up fine, or did you have to do anything special to get it working with the new hardware?

#14 Posted by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

@winternet: There are a lot of graphically intensive settings in Farcry 3 that you may not have explored. Right now there are two levels of graphics card higher than the 770.

@dexterkid: So, you'll have to call a Microsoft robot and read a bunch of numbers to it in order to reactivate your Windows license for your new hardware. It's stupid, but simple enough. Apparently when Windows activates it takes an inventory of your hardware and so when you change pieces, you need to reactivate.

Other than that, you just pop it in and it works.

#15 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

Jealous that I can't justify building a new PC...yet. Just no reason to move away from my 2009 (first gen I think) i5 quad.

I'm glad I didn't put any LED fans in my current one though, I put blu-tac over the power button because even that can feel a bit bright when I'm trying to get to sleep.

Next build I do I'm going modular power supply and focusing on it being quiet!

#16 Edited by VACkillers (1059 posts) -

Interesting, good read, you went pretty indepth about the build there :D ...... Little supprised you went with an i5 instead of an i7, considering you spent so much on it, or what I would call a lot anyway and the GTX 770 was a nice choice, whoever said that 2GB of VRAM would be inadequate when the next gen consoles come out was an idiot no offense.... 2GB is MORE then enough unless you're going to be using 4k monitors/multiple screens or ultra resolution, and the standard 1920x1080 res that will be more then enough at least for a while, and if needed to, you can always plop another one in for SLI anyway. The new consoles (specificly PS4) uses a unified GDDR5 memory buffer which is shared in the system between the system memory and of course the graphics memory, THIS is a work-around solution for basically an SSD at a console level, it saves 100$ or more on build cost by adding an SSD to the consoles... if you have an SSD that will neg-ligate ANY advantage the PS4 type system would have over any PC. You were right to go with what you had... dont sweat it.... trust me on that...

Love the build, wish I could do the same :D

#17 Posted by Winternet (8005 posts) -

@jjweatherman: 2 levels? oki. Have you popped any of the Crysis ames with that setup? I wonder how far you can push it.

#18 Edited by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

@jjweatherman: 2 levels? oki. Have you popped any of the Crysis ames with that setup? I wonder how far you can push it.

Yeah, there's the 780 and the Titan. Haven't tried any of the Crysis games, as I only own the first one, and that's the 360 version.

#19 Edited by zenmastah (874 posts) -

@vackillers:

SLIs wont double the VRAM, if you have two 2GB cards youll still only have 2GB VRAM, not 4GB.

#20 Edited by VACkillers (1059 posts) -

it does because it splits the screen into 2 halfs, the bottom part of the screen is being rendered by 2GB and the top half of the screen is being rendered by the other 2GB VRAM.. it may not be as one whole chunk, but you are still using the 4GB combined... If it didn't, there wouldn't be much performance gain by using multiple GPUs on multiple monitor setups...

#21 Posted by MormonWarrior (2541 posts) -
#22 Posted by VACkillers (1059 posts) -

not quite sure what I'm looking at there Warrior

#23 Edited by Dacnomaniac (439 posts) -

DAMN IT! I didn't know that case had LED fans! I don't know what's better now, my Phantom 410 or your 500r!!

#24 Posted by zenmastah (874 posts) -

@vackillers:
No you are not using 4GB of VRAM the cards mirror each others memory, not double it.
You do get double performance out of two cards though depending on how good profiles there are for games, but not double the memory.

#25 Posted by VACkillers (1059 posts) -

@zenmastah ... you maybe correct there, its funny that you did a pretty much word-for-word verbatum from toms hardware though, did u have to look it up? heh... Its mirrored because each graphics card still has to draw the same image, which is why VRAM isn't doubled I guess... but regardless of that, you still do not need more then 2GB of VRAM for 1920 res, this has been proven over and over again in things like crysis 3, metro last night and battlefield 3, some of the most taxing games on the market right now. ONLY if you are using multiple screens at very very high resolution will you run out of VRAM. Then you will have to turn down AA for example to ease use of that VRAM. Interesting though found something out today I didn't know before lol............. I was always under the impression an image is halved on the screen, which it is, but didn't know each card still has to draw the same image... very interesting indeed, if you think about it, its still baffleing why sli gives more performance in a way, if its just doing the same amount of work as one card instead of splitting the load so to speak.......

#26 Edited by zenmastah (874 posts) -

@vackillers:

I get the my information from the internet, like every other ppl in the world.

I read from the internet that the upcoming Killzone was using less than 2GB when Sony first showed it so there might be something about what you are insisting as facts, then again there might very well be games coming out in the next year that use more than 2GB even at 1080/1200.

In fact id be quite dissapointed if there werent since Crysis 3, while looking awful pretty, aint even proper next gen yet..

Stating so confidently that there is NO way a game comes out in the next year or two that requires more than 2GB VRAM is very much a guess, nothing else.

#27 Posted by MormonWarrior (2541 posts) -

not quite sure what I'm looking at there Warrior

It's an unorganized Amazon list of the PC stuff I'm planning on getting. Sorry if it's confusing. (and I do hope you were talking to me)

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77 LGA 1155
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K (Haswell does seem pointless for now over Ivy Bridge since the upgrade is so minimal)
  • GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX670
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 GHz
  • Storage: WD Blue 1 TB
  • Case: Cooler Master Elite 343 Mini Tower
  • OS: Windows 8 Pro (OEM)
  • Power Supply: Corsair Enthusiast TX650
  • Monitor: Viewsonic VX2450WM-LED 24" 1080p

The rest are accessories or random programs that I'd like to get. I don't currently plan on overclocking but I'm obviously built to do it if I want to. But for now I don't really need a cooler or anything.

#28 Edited by VACkillers (1059 posts) -

ahh thanks for the Warrior... apreciate the listed out components heh....... and yep your machine is very nice indeed and should last ya some time......... Didn't mean to come accross as some arogant asshole there zenmastah, but I am just very confident there wont be any use for more VRAM then 2GB on anything in the near future, you look at the next gen consoles and they only match the current PC hardware in performance anyway, and the X-1 doesn't have unified VRAM/RAM, not sure if they've actually stated anything on how much VRAM their graphics card actually has though but if its anything high end which it would have to be, my guess would be that its only 2GB anyway... Will this change in like 3-4year period, yes I could definitely imagine the VRAM usage being way up there on single cards as thigns like 4k TVs and monitors start becoming more easterly accessible, but in the near future, absolutely not I just dont see it, NOT an engineering expert, but I dont even know if the PS4s unified ram can take full advantage of more then 2GB VRAM anyway, as it needs to share that with the rest of the system. Didn't mean to come off like an ass though if I did, and I'm with ya on making things more advanced then Crysis 3, but bare in mind though, the PC has already been in the next gen for a year and a half already, its just taking the console generation this long to finally catch up, just compare BF3 PC to console, good indication there....

#29 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@mormonwarrior said:

@vackillers said:

not quite sure what I'm looking at there Warrior

It's an unorganized Amazon list of the PC stuff I'm planning on getting. Sorry if it's confusing. (and I do hope you were talking to me)

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77 LGA 1155
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K (Haswell does seem pointless for now over Ivy Bridge since the upgrade is so minimal)
  • GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX670
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 GHz
  • Storage: WD Blue 1 TB
  • Case: Cooler Master Elite 343 Mini Tower
  • OS: Windows 8 Pro (OEM)
  • Power Supply: Corsair Enthusiast TX650
  • Monitor: Viewsonic VX2450WM-LED 24" 1080p

The rest are accessories or random programs that I'd like to get. I don't currently plan on overclocking but I'm obviously built to do it if I want to. But for now I don't really need a cooler or anything.

Are you talking about buying a new computer with Ivy Bridge? If so I wouldn't do that, unless you're saving a helluva amount, I would buy Haswell with a Z87 for overclocking down the line. I fully agree upgrading from Ivy is pointless but for a new set of core components I would definitely go for the latest.

I'm gonna wait until the 2014 or 2015 Intel chipsets I think, by then SURELY my 2009 i5 is going to start lagging behind, because right now there's really no point in me changing, everything is still massively GPU limited. I'll probably buy a 770 next year or whatever the equivalent is.

I also really, really want to move to 2560x1440 but I worry a lot about the graphical impact it'll have. If I do it now my card will not cope and that'd suck, if I get a card and a new monitor then that'll cost a bomb! First world problems.

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