Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Building the Perfect Beast

(NOTE: This is a long post with lots of images, so it may take awhile to load.)

We've had this project in the works for awhile now, saving up our pennies (okay, more than pennies but not enough to buy our own island) for a much needed technology refresh. We had access to some major discounts on some "bleeding" edge tech and we really, really wanted to try it out.

It took months to collect the funds and then all the parts, but the final piece finally arrived Saturday evening. The time had come to build the beast!

First, we needed the case, to put everything in. I hunted for weeks and had almost given up on finding one I liked. On a last moment shopping trip, I finally came across the Enermax Ostrog -- in blue! I love this case. Stick with me and you'll see why. 

See? Lots of space and everything is so easy to work with. Did I mention it was blue? Not as good as purple, but I've yet to see a decent purple tower, so blue is my go to color. You can secure drives with just a twist and the front panels just pop out. Quick and easy!

A case is useless without power. We went with the EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2. It hit the sweet spot for quality, voltage and price. We didn't realize until we opened it up at home how fancy the packaging was. I have to say, I was a little impressed.

Once we were done ogling the pretty packaging, we settled it in place and started running wires. You can see here that we also removed the back panel of the case for access and took out some of the bays to make room for our graphics card, which we will see later.

Whoa, that's a lot of wires!

Next we installed the front panel components. Top is the Kinwin Multi-funcion Fan Controller Panel. It includes temperature monitoring and card readers. 

Under that is the VR panel that came with the graphics card. No, I don't have a VR headset yet, but I hope to get one in the near future. Meanwhile, the extra USB ports will come in handy.

Bottom is my optical drive, the only part of this build that was not purchased new. I pulled it from my old box, since it still works fine and won't see a lot of use. Optical drives aren't often included these days, but I have some software and games that install from disks, so I needed it in there.

Of course, a fan controller isn't much fun without fans to, well, control ... so we added a couple more in the top. Now I can make them spin slower or faster at my whim!

With the front panel bling all wired up, it was time for a power test.

Everything that was supposed to light up, lit. Things that should spin, spun. Good to go!

Now it's time to get down to serious business. 
That means a motherboard, specifically the Gigabyte X99 Designare EX. So pretty!

There was more underneath. I'm sure we can figure out what to do will all that stuff, right? Ooh, stickers!

Um, okay ... back to work. Nine screws and the motherboard was secured in place. Looks good in there, don't you think?

Next up, the first SSD, a 1.0 TB Intel SSD6. OMG, it is so tiny and cute!

Just popped it in place. Easy-peasy.

FYI, the light blue wrap on his wrist is to prevent static discharge that might damage these nifty electronic dowhatsits. (The dark blue one is his Fitbit.)

Once it was covered back up, you could barely even tell it was in there!

This SSD will be my boot drive and primary drive for my non-game software.

Now for the big moment. Drum roll, please!

Yep, there she is. Our lovely CPU. The brain of our beast. An Intel Extreme Core i7 6950X. 10 core, 20 thread, LGA 2011-v3, 4 Channels DDR4, up to 40 Lanes PCIe 3.0. Yeah, I don't know what half of that means either. It's shiny, it's fast and it's ours (at a sweet discount!). Let's put that baby in place!

There it is, all cozy and happy in its new home. Just have to secure it so that it stays put. Perfect!

Now, CPUs get hot and need a thermal solution to keep them cool. We actually had a little surprise here. Last time we bought our CPU from Intel, it came with a thermal solution. Not so much this time, which left us scrambling for one at the last minute. We briefly considered liquid cooling, but I really didn't want to deal with the maintenance. Since I am not planning to overclock, we decided a traditional heat sink would suffice. All those thin metal fins are what helps dissipate all the heat that tiny little brain generates.

A view from the bottom, where it actually contacts the CPU. It looks a bit like an alien spider to me, but as long as it keeps things cool, I'm okay with that. It's also huge.

We quickly figured out that we were going to want to need to install the memory before we put this in place, because it is so big it blocked the RAM slots.

One note about the RAM. When we placed our order, my husband kept saying that I probably wanted to get two packs. Now, somehow here, I got a little confused. I thought he meant two 16 Gb packs, for a total of 32 Gb. Turns out each PACK had 32 Gb, so I ended up with whopping 64 Gb! Seemed like overkill to me, but I'm not complaining.

The memory sticks just snap in place, so they didn't take very long to install. I have to say, having 8 sticks gives it some lovely symmetry. Then we added the framework support for the thermal solution.

I made sure to order the version that was offset to one side, to leave room for the graphics card, which will snug in next to it. Gods, that thing is big!

Once we had the heat sink in place, we had to clip the fan back on to it. This was possibly the most difficult part of the whole build. I had to remove one of the top fans to give me access to the clips to secure it, but after a few failed attempts we got it done.

Finally, we got to put in my beloved Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080. I've actually been test-driving this baby for the past month or so in my old box. I adore it!

I have to say, though, that the card looked a LOT bigger when it wasn't sitting next to that monster of a heat sink.

Last, but certainly not least, our second SSD, an Intel 1.2 TB 750 series. It is larger and faster than the SSD6 we put in earlier. We got the 750 during Intel's Cyber Monday sale, but they limited us to one. This SSD will hold my games, which should benefit nicely from the increased performance and storage space.

Finally, we finished connecting all those wires. It was hard to get pics of that as it was mostly weaving them around to the appropriate connectors and plugging them in. Then it was time to close the case back up.

There she is, all done!

Moved her into her new home, below my desk and spent two days loading the OS (Ugh, Windows 10) then downloading and installing all my software and games. My Intuos Pro plays nice with the new rig, working as a huge touch pad as well as a magnificent drawing tablet. The gaming monitor (which wasn't featured in this build blog because I'd already set it up) is sweet and also serves as the monitor for my PS4 Pro, which sits just to the left of my second monitor. I can switch between the two machines with just a couple presses of a button.

Here is a short video showing the case lights and fans in action. Pretty!

And a closer look at the graphics card bling.
This is why I got a case with a clear side cover.

Ooh, it's shiny!