I've joined the brave and the few (Upgraded my PC)

Classic.
Classic.

Upgrading PC's is something I generally dislike doing. I've been building computers for years ever since my older brother got me into it. To this day I cringe when thinking of putting together those boxes in 1999 or so, with all the different compatibility errors and incredulous solutions like moving something a dimm slot over to get your whole setup to finally stop spitting out those ear mangling error codes. Those who bemoan Windows 10 should spend a week being forced to build anything under ME or 2000, what a nightmare.

As a child I wasn't a big console gamer because my parents despised video games professing them to be a huge waste of time (and they weren't wrong!), so naturally we never really had any in the house. This is partly why I have absolutely no fondness for Zelda, or Mario or a number of other classics held in high regard that I simply didn't get a chance to sit down with for any serious amount of time. Sure I played some console games in my youth - Contra quite literally changed my life and blew my mind the first time I saw it in action - but it was the PC that opened the doors to gaming for me under the thinly disguised veil of being an educational companion for schoolwork.

No Caption Provided

When people talk about their childhood gaming moments in terms of Metroid or Link to the Past, I think of Stunts or Hexen. Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Rise of the Triad. Adventure titles like Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit the Road or the more esoteric Bureau 13. Playing Prince of Persia at my friends house or collecting jewels in Commander Keen. I recall running a 25 ft long ethernet cable with my brother between our rooms so we could cooperatively stomp out the AI in StarCraft. Those were the golden days of gaming for me. That is when I fell in love with Fallout and Fallout 2, thinking I must be a huge fan of RPG's only to later painfully discover those games to be very unique gems in a vast pool of fantasy driven adventures with Dungeons and Dragons rulesets that confused and irritated me. It's where I spent hours crafting hospitals and dungeons, rollercoasters and flying fortresses in Stratosphere: Conquest of the Skies. Basically, great times that shaped how I think about games today. They were my Gerstmann callbacks, the titles that I think of when I mention "classic" gaming.

Alas with the love of PC Gaming came a price - keeping afloat on the ever changing tides of the hardware curve required capital. You had to steadily dump money into your machine or the tide was going to pull you away from the golden shores of high performance and into the sad, open waters of minimal specs where similar individuals paddled in place, watching those beautiful games back on shore get further and further from your reach. Back then it was a lot more dire to get left behind as many titles didn't just perform poorly, they would quite often refuse to run at all unless you met their lofty requirements. I'm not even sure how I did it as a young kid, but somehow I stayed afloat and continued to enjoy awesome graphics, nuanced gameplay and smooth performance, oftentimes looking down at console offerings with a bewildered ignorance: how could people play that stuff?

Just would not stop crashing..
Just would not stop crashing..

As the years went on a few things came together to form the perfect storm that changed my stance completely. First of all my patience in keeping up with the rat race started waning as college and two jobs began eating away every free moment I had and having to pay for the roof over my head as well as the food I ate cut drastically into my gaming budget. Second, PC games entered the blightful phase of shoddy ports that weren't optimized, had a ton of issues and continued to rob me of my free hours as I spent more time troubleshooting various crashes on Lycos than actually playing the games themselves (damn you Slave Zero!). The third nail in the coffin was that as PC game quality dwindled and innovation came to a standstill, console games started getting pretty darn good. The first console I bought after my Pegasus from the early 90's was a Playstation 1. One of the first games I played on it was Metal Gear Solid. Here was a game that felt every bit as nuanced as the PC titles I was used to, but on it's own terms. Let me show you the power of my mind, snarled Psycho Mantis and proceeded to make me burst out laughing. You know, these consoles are alright..

Fast forward to the 360 and I had all but completely abandoned the PC. The ease of buying a disc and simply playing the game was something I was able to sacrifice a lot of inherent computer fidelity for that I'd grown accustomed to over the years. My first FPS played with a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard - and over the years I had cut my teeth on Counter Strike and Battlefield 1942 with the trusty carpal tunnel inducing WASD setup - was BioShock, possibly the worst choice for such a drastic transition seeing as Rapture might be an incredibly atmospheric world, but the shooting was never the highlight of that franchise. Then came later games that continued to fuel my gaming needs and helping me become a proper console player. Dead Space, one of my favorite franchises to date showed me how great third person shooters could be. Modern Warfare showed me that console shooters had the potential to be fast and frantic. GRID and Dirt games showed me how fun a driving game could be with analog sticks instead of the tried and true clickity clackety turning on a keyboard.

Still pretty good?
Still pretty good?

I've always kept my PC moderately up to date so that when some exclusive came along I'd be able to give it a shot. Lately though, both pricing and ease of play has been shifting back towards computer games. One of the final straws was Hitman for me, a game I've grown to enjoy quite a bit. The load times and performance on the PS4 where I initially bought the Intro Pack played an incredibly detrimental role in my enjoyment of the product. Here is a game where I want to experiment, I want to test the boundaries, and in order to do that I need to load a save quite often - a painfully slow process on my base PS4. Dishonored 2, my favorite game of 2016, ran incredibly poorly at times with a chugging framerate that made me question how the game made it to market at times. The argument that "these games are optimized for the hardware so you have consistent performance" started to really ring hollow. More and more titles started coming out ridden with bugs, with poor performance, and overall issues that sometimes - like in the case of Skyrim on PS3 - simply never got resolved. My whole reason for switching to the console ecosystem started to fall apart, and now with the release of the PS4 PRO it has basically shattered to pieces. A better version of the same generation of consoles? Games that run better on one than the other? And these games have been already performing quite poorly as of late.. so am I to buy for another whole console simply to get back to that baseline performance? I just didn't know anymore.

So here we are!

It was time for another update, and when updating your PC why take half steps - you should always go full Gerstmann.

The Parts.
The Parts.

I combed through some forums, got up to speed on some new-aged terminology, and set out to build a whole new PC from the ground up.

Noise was one of my major complaints as my previous computer would sound like a jet engine when playing any game, thanks to the wonderful Radeon R9 card I had in there. The Noctua fan was overkill for my needs as I wasn't going to overclock to CPU just yet, but it ensures longevity for the time when I would want to crank up those cores. If I had an i6700 the processor choice would be a huge waste of money as the i7 line did little to innovate on their predecessor, but coming from an AMD based bulldozer cpu this was a great leap forward, and one of the best chips out on the market right now (as far as I could tell anyway!) I wanted to get G.Skill Tridents but there was a good deal on the Hyper X so I took the hit and got the slightly slower ram.

The videocard was obviously the most expensive but a good investment for years to come.

No Caption Provided

I had no idea Power Supplies came in swanky pouches like this these days and it really made me laugh when I opened it up. It seemed like something a pimp might carry in the backseat of his cadillac for some reason. I was going to go with a Corsair power supply but Seasonic has a pretty great reputation and it offered both modular cable design and no-fan-spinning when working under load. Sadly it doesn't have the platinum rating as the original Corsair iHX I had chosen out, but Gold will do just as well in a pinch.

No Caption Provided

The Noctua fan is a NH 14 model, and is quite big! Thankfully the chatter online was true in that installation of Austria's finest is incredibly simple, even for someone who hasn't touched modern coolers in years. (My previous build had the cooler already set on the CPU and the motherboard for which I was incredibly thankful)

Not this time though! This time I had to place the CPU into the socket myself and then attach this hunk of metal on top. In all honesty my hands got a little shaky as I fumbled to place the small square into the ASUS easy-snap-on-thing and then heard a rather unhealthy cracking noise as I closed the game firmly shut and bolted it down. If I messed things up it would be quite apparent later on..

I then proceeded to check out the latest and greatest techniques for applying thermal paste, a topic on which there is an endless amount of discussion raging on as we speak. Ultimately I settled on the tried and true 4-5mm bead in the very center. Should work just fine and a lot of people, including the fine folk at Noctua, recommend this method.

Ugh.
Ugh.

What I absolutely did not miss is the mess that comes along with building a PC, and how things can spiral out of control if you don't keep them in check. It's good form to cleanup as you go along, but having been out of the game for quite a while I let the habit slide and ended up with a mountain of parts, screws, boxes and plastic packets strewn all over the place. Also not being the young man I once was, despite taking precautions to work at a desk instead of hunched over the components on the ground, my back was still killing me after all was said and done.

It works!
It works!

But finish I did, and to my overwhelming joy Windows 10 handled the whole process smooth as butter. A quick verification of my installation that simply required me to log into my account and indicate that I had a "serious hardware change" recently and my Digital License smoothly transferred over. I know! I know! You should do a clean install upon changing hardware.. but listen, I'm tired and this works, so hey I'll cut some corners. Also this installation of windows is actually quite fresh, with nary a program on it apart from Steam and Photoshop. If driver conflicts arise I'll deal with them using the good ol' wipe method, but until then, I'm happy to just have things working.

PC is running smooth as silk and I can barely tell it's on when I'm simply surfing the web. Playing Hitman on all things Ultra wasn't honestly the life defining experience I thought it might be, but it's nice to not have to worry about detail settings for the foreseeable future.

Either way thanks for reading. I'm happy to have a fully upgraded and up to date computer once more. I'm ready to join the ranks of the worst PC snobs out there, being disgusted at games running under anything less than 120FPS and loudly proclaiming how I don't even know what a console is much less that I would actually own such a thing. (Of course secretly I'll be continuing to play Titanfall 2 on my PS4 and anticipating Horizon Zero Dawn in a month, because no matter how awesome it is to boast about your killer frames, it's a lot more awesome to simply play great games no matter where they appear..)

31 Comments

32 Comments

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dgtlty

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Nice! Always go full Gerstmann.

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aktivity

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Needs more LED's, com'on join us.

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mak_wikus

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Edited By mak_wikus

Great build!

One thing though: If you look closely at your four RAM slots you'll notice that they are colored in pairs. Two of them are black and the other two are grey. Make sure that both of your RAM sticks are seated in the same colored slots(both in grey or both in black). Your manual recommends grey, so I'd go with those.

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Humanity

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@mak_wikus: Great eye and awesome tip! In the past I've usually filled all four dimm so I never even thought to check the manual for varying configurations. Thanks a bunch!

Also I'm fine with less lights actually, but I found all the ASUS "gaming swag" pretty funny. Like decals and stickers. Republic of Gamers must be one of the corniest possible names they could have come up for branding and boy do they lean into it HARD.

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dgtlty

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I forgot to ask: what monitor are you rocking with this rig and did you feel compelled to upgrade that as well?

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Slag

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welcome back to team PC @humanity! Hope you enjoy it man.

That's a pretty slick setup, I got a Noctua cooler like you did and it's been super quiet for nearly 4 years now. (also did the dot method fwiw . The smear method/lines etc looked easier to screw up to me for unverified minimal gain). I think you'll be glad you've got one.

Kinda funny you went back to PC gaming while I've been mulling getting a console. My GTX 760 is definitely starting to struggle with new stuff (Hitman ran but was a little stuttery, I think that game is just poorly optimized in general. ). But mainly not having access to those PS4 exclusives (especially Horizon: Zero Dawn which looks like my exact kind of jam) is hurtin' me. Grass is always greener I guess.

Don't know if you plan to have a controller hooked up to this bad boy, But I've really enjoyed having a steam link hooked up to mine for that couch style gaming experience. There's a couple huge games it seems to downscale picture quality a little bit, but for the most part it works surprisingly well. I've even found a way to get Origin games to run through it.

Btw one thing to watch out for is Nvidia driver updates of late. For whatever reason their driver support has been pretty suspect this past year, on top having to signup personal details for GeForce Experience etc. Where I used to download their new drivers as soon as they are out, now I wait to hear the word on the street that the driver batch is ok first.

p.s seeing that coffee so close to you components made me nervous just seeing it. haha

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OMGFather

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Great post, giving me the itch to upgrade myself. Hitman looks good but there are better games to showcase for sure. Load up Witcher 3 or Battlefield 1 or something!

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Teddie

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Edited By Teddie

I did my first build late last year and goddamn everything regarding installing the CPU and CPU fan is terrifying. I never want to touch a tube of thermal paste again in my life.

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burncoat

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I've always wondered how well a Noctua manages heat. I wasn't sure if it was a "meme' product or if it actually manages to be a competitor against liquid cooling.

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Gunner

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You have an awesome setup right there and welcome back to the ranks of PC gaming! I just recently got back into it after a 5 year break, building a new system these days is a breath of fresh air compared to how it was in 2008 when i built my first computer. Glad to see I'm not the only one who has gotten back into it!

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Elwood

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Great setup I'm also in the upgrade stage, doing both gaming, Photoshop and video edit the most difficult thing to choose has been the motherboard. But that exact model you have was also the one I have chossen so far, I'm on a Asrock now which have served me and my pc since 2012, but the new models did not appeal to me as Much this time. so I Think I Will try Asus this time.

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isomeri

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@humanity: Now that's a serious machine. If you want some great graphical showcases from the last year, try firing up Abzu, DOOM, Gears 4 or Battlefield 1 with all the knobs turned up.

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Sinusoidal

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Edited By Sinusoidal

Clean. If you still have the budget, that thing deserves a nice mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches of your choice (I recommend blues, though "gamers" supposedly prefer blacks or reds.) And a honking-huge 4K monitor.

I recently plopped a GTX 1060 in my machine to tide me over, but everything else is getting pretty dated. And my case is a clusterfuck of cables, multiple SSDs and HDDs from over a decade and dust, ever-present dust. Starting over with something like the OP's looks very appealing.

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hmoney001

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Note, looking at how you installed your RAM. Make sure they are in dual channel mode.

So the RAM needs to be in slots 1 and 3 or 2 and 4.

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Humanity

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Edited By Humanity

@sinusoidal: I used to have a cluttered mess for years and finally when I was switching cases a while back I made sure it had good cable management options. This way, the tangle of cables is in the back, away from judgmental eyes, and keeping the front open for ventilation!

@slag: I'm pretty satisfied with my classic 360 controller for games. The Elite looks nice but I don't feel like paying that sort of money when what I have works perfectly fine. Something about the Steam controller simply doesn't push my buttons the right way. I just don't see the advantage of it in any way. Thanks for the tip on the drivers, I'll make sure to select manual management!

@elwood: Part of my choice was that my brother works for ASUS, and while I didn't get any discounts (I know what a bummer) he can push my stuff through technical support on an express laneif God forbid something should break.

@teddie: I hear ya! I've been machines in the past but that fear somehow never goes away. Knowing that you can bend something that cost a ton of money with one wrong move is quite harrowing.

@dgtlty: That is the last thing on the list to switch out. Currently I have your basic 1080x1920 monitor, but it would be nice to explore some of the higher res models out there, especially since I also do a lot of graphic design work.

@hmoney001: Thanks someone already pointed this out and I switched them around, awesome to have the community spot this from such a dark photo! What does that actually do? The manual wasn't all that clear..

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hmoney001

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Edited By hmoney001

@humanity: Its all about memory bandwidth. Also if your RAM is faster then 2133mhz, make sure you enable XMP in the bios settings for your memory so they operate at there full speed.

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Zevvion

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Always PC, because why not?

What's a full Gerstmann though?

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zombievac

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@burncoat said:

I've always wondered how well a Noctua manages heat. I wasn't sure if it was a "meme' product or if it actually manages to be a competitor against liquid cooling.

Very well, actually. Their ONLY real downside is the size, and therefore the size of the case, you need. Otherwise, aside from "the best" mega-liquid cooling setups (which take a lot of engineering, maintenance, and patience), they work better than liquid cooling. Certainly equal to the "high-end" consumer CPU liquid cooling systems. And, the fact is, heat is not much of an issue anymore. You hit the TDP and instability long before it's too hot these days, unless you're doing some xtreme OC competitions while pouring LN2 all over your CPU/Mobo to keep it from catching fire!

They're also quieter than all the liquid setups I've heard of or seen (I'm sure quieter ones exist though, but that's a real pro build). Even their pumps are louder than the huge, low-RPM noctua fans in many cases (and they have their own louder fans to cool the coolant anyway).

I'm a huge fan of Noctua products since I started using them! I have an i7-3820 that has been running at 4.66GHz for years (I think it normally turbos to 3.5 GHz without any OC), and I could go higher with more tweaking, but it still beats the newest i7-7700k processors at their default non-OC speeds in many games (since it seems to be really hard for games to properly or fully utilize multi-core processors, so per-core clock speed still is king in many cases, even with a lot of the most recent PC games).

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dafdiego777

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OurSin_360

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Edited By OurSin_360

Air coolers are just too goddamn big for me, and way too hard to install. I find the closed loop water cooling much easier, with how you just mount the radiator to where your case fans would go. No hand cramps or much worry about snapping the cpu from weight lol.

I upgraded my pc recently, gtx 1080, i5 6600k and honestly I play less graphic heavy games these days lol.

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Zevvion

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@dafdiego777: How is that a 'Gerstmann'? You see that sentiment everywhere.

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dafdiego777

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@zevvion: It's a joke in reference to Jeff's build a few months ago. Instead of incremental upgrades, Jeff just decided to go whole hog and build basically a brand new machine. OP did a similar thing here.

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Humanity

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@zombievac: I was actually going to use water cooling until I read that they're actually quite loud, not to mention twice as expensive as fan based cooling. My "modest" Noctua runs very quiet which is exactly what I was looking for.

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MajorMitch

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Nice! I just built my first high-end PC last summer, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. A lot of similar parts to yours too! I've predominantly been a console person most of my life, between lack of budget and know-how on the PC front. But I've always had some form of PC to play the exclusives on, and after realizing I was playing more and more on PC the past 5 or so years, I decided to take the full plunge. I don't regret it one bit :)

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GundamGuru

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@burncoat said:

I've always wondered how well a Noctua manages heat. I wasn't sure if it was a "meme' product or if it actually manages to be a competitor against liquid cooling.

Very well, actually. Their ONLY real downside is the size, and therefore the size of the case, you need. Otherwise, aside from "the best" mega-liquid cooling setups (which take a lot of engineering, maintenance, and patience), they work better than liquid cooling. Certainly equal to the "high-end" consumer CPU liquid cooling systems. And, the fact is, heat is not much of an issue anymore. You hit the TDP and instability long before it's too hot these days, unless you're doing some xtreme OC competitions while pouring LN2 all over your CPU/Mobo to keep it from catching fire!

They're also quieter than all the liquid setups I've heard of or seen (I'm sure quieter ones exist though, but that's a real pro build). Even their pumps are louder than the huge, low-RPM noctua fans in many cases (and they have their own louder fans to cool the coolant anyway).

I'm a huge fan of Noctua products since I started using them! I have an i7-3820 that has been running at 4.66GHz for years (I think it normally turbos to 3.5 GHz without any OC), and I could go higher with more tweaking, but it still beats the newest i7-7700k processors at their default non-OC speeds in many games (since it seems to be really hard for games to properly or fully utilize multi-core processors, so per-core clock speed still is king in many cases, even with a lot of the most recent PC games).

I've gone from having a Zalman, then a Noctua, to just using a Cooler Master 212+. I've got a 2500k at 4.11GHz going on four years now. Like you said, heat just isn't the issue anymore, and while the Noctua stuff is certainly quality, I just don't think it's worth the 2x markup.

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emumford

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Very nice! Great choice of components too. Now all you need to do is take it one step further by installing a series of tubes to circulate a liter or so of fluid within your PC and it will be able to travel time and grant wishes like making sandwiches appear out of thin air. I like to tell folks my system runs on the blood of orphans, usually gets a good reaction out of some people.

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zombievac

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@zombievac said:
@burncoat said:

I've always wondered how well a Noctua manages heat. I wasn't sure if it was a "meme' product or if it actually manages to be a competitor against liquid cooling.

Very well, actually. Their ONLY real downside is the size, and therefore the size of the case, you need. Otherwise, aside from "the best" mega-liquid cooling setups (which take a lot of engineering, maintenance, and patience), they work better than liquid cooling. Certainly equal to the "high-end" consumer CPU liquid cooling systems. And, the fact is, heat is not much of an issue anymore. You hit the TDP and instability long before it's too hot these days, unless you're doing some xtreme OC competitions while pouring LN2 all over your CPU/Mobo to keep it from catching fire!

They're also quieter than all the liquid setups I've heard of or seen (I'm sure quieter ones exist though, but that's a real pro build). Even their pumps are louder than the huge, low-RPM noctua fans in many cases (and they have their own louder fans to cool the coolant anyway).

I'm a huge fan of Noctua products since I started using them! I have an i7-3820 that has been running at 4.66GHz for years (I think it normally turbos to 3.5 GHz without any OC), and I could go higher with more tweaking, but it still beats the newest i7-7700k processors at their default non-OC speeds in many games (since it seems to be really hard for games to properly or fully utilize multi-core processors, so per-core clock speed still is king in many cases, even with a lot of the most recent PC games).

I've gone from having a Zalman, then a Noctua, to just using a Cooler Master 212+. I've got a 2500k at 4.11GHz going on four years now. Like you said, heat just isn't the issue anymore, and while the Noctua stuff is certainly quality, I just don't think it's worth the 2x markup.

Yeah, especially for closer to 4GHz instead of 5GHz and depending on the model and number of cores, but quite often a STOCK cpu cooler is fine for a decent, or even max, OC these days. But I like having a big, quiet case, and Noctua hits all the marks for that setup. Plus you can often use one with future CPU upgrades, as they sell adapters for new socket types sometimes, when reasonable.

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Zevvion

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@zevvion: It's a joke in reference to Jeff's build a few months ago. Instead of incremental upgrades, Jeff just decided to go whole hog and build basically a brand new machine. OP did a similar thing here.

Right, but what I'm saying is many people take that approach. It's not Jeff-specific or unique.

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Slag

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Edited By Slag

@humanity said:

@slag: I'm pretty satisfied with my classic 360 controller for games. The Elite looks nice but I don't feel like paying that sort of money when what I have works perfectly fine. Something about the Steam controller simply doesn't push my buttons the right way. I just don't see the advantage of it in any way. Thanks for the tip on the drivers, I'll make sure to select manual management!

Hey no problem.

oh for sure, I use a 360 controller too myself . I was referring to the Steam Link, which lets you stream your PC to a TV in another room. So you can kick back in a recliner or sit on a couch what have you.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/353380/

http://www.giantbomb.com/valve-corporation/3010-1374/forums/steam-link-controller-initial-impressions-1784505/

360 controllers work just fine with it. :) Sorry if I wasn't clear about it.

fwiw not crazy about the Steam Controller myself either. It's ok-ish for playing adventure game and whatnot that you'd never play on controller otherwise. But the haptic feedback is loud, buttons don't feel great and it's too hard to be accurate to play anything where timing or aiming is involved imo. Or maybe I just have bad thumb motor skills. Either way, not a fan of mine.

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Humanity

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@slag: Ah! Yah I live in a tiny apartment so my TV is literally right next to my PC and is connected directly. I'm actually close to using up every single input on that graphics card!

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Edited By Elwood

@humanity Thanks for the Answer :) I had a Asus one time but then after some years it went dead, I know it can happend with any Board, but I guess it just scared me a bit to try Asus again back then, perhaps now is the time ? we shall see, I really like the features of this Asus Board except all the light, that just needs to be turned of :)