My first build is finally complete!
INTRO: So it all started back in December 2013, when my older brother had built his PC, a modest but competent i5 (I forget the rest) gaming build, in the region of £700. I, of course, felt jealous of such a thing, as all the PC power I had experienced prior were 5 year old <£400 PCs built by my Dad, with <£100 graphics cards and the like, which he claimed could "Take anything you can throw at it". And they did, for a time. Anywho, I felt I could do better so I begun researching, and came across Youtube channels such as Linus Tech Tips, Tek Syndicate, Hardware Canucks and the like, all of which I now avidly watch. These guys all helped me develop my parts list, as did the holy grail of PC websites, PC Part Picker (I mean this database is just awesome!), and also probably tempted me to spend more money than I needed to, but ah what the heck. Speaking of money, I would say this project is what drove me to get my first job, I mean how else was I gonna pay for all this? So when parents say gaming is a waste of time with no prospects...
NAME: Little Boy. Referencing the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Why? Well three reasons. Firstly size. This thing is tiny! So the name was rather fitting IMO. Secondly: Power. This thing has an atomic amount of power under the hood, and like the bomb was a shocking revolution from what I had previously known, aka my Dad's PCs. Thirdly: Me. I'm only 17. I guess I was just trying to think of three things for poetic effect.
SFF: I ended up deciding to build small for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my Mum complained about the prospect of me building a PC, saying "There's no room in your bedroom for a huge metal box" (She's right, there isn't) so I decided to defy expectation with this little baby. Secondly, why not? I'm not going to be doing SLI, nor do I need expansion cards, and many ITX cases like this one have adequate cooling, so I went for it. Thirdly (Poetic effect again, justified this time) I wanted to challenge myself, defy the norm, go beyond what had been achieved before, and pack as much punch as I could into this tiny little space.
CPU: It's the latest i7, and has improved thermals compared to 4770K, which was important. Do I need an i7? Not yet. ;) It's more future-proofing. Not for future content, but for what I might be doing in the next 4+ years, at university. Not OC'd but regularly turbos to 4.4GHz, so I could. Plus it's an i7. It's like a badge of honour really :P
COOLER: It's the biggest thing in the system, and it looks bitchin'! Keeps my temps below 60 most of the time under load, and is perfect for this case, drawing in cool air from the top, and blowing it out the side. Although this thing was in fact so large, I had to be inventive as to how to mount my hard drives, since with cables and all, the drive cage wouldn't fit.
MOBO: It's a fully featured Z97 ITX mobo, has all the features I need and more, and it matches the colour scheme. It also crucially had a good CPU placement, unlike MSI boards, so my cooler can fit (Just) with hitting anything importanty.
RAM: 16GB 1866MHz, Black and White. If I were to do this again, I'd have gone for a dual kit of black, since with all the cables and the cooler you can't see it anyway, and might have gotten XMP profiles etc. Still, performs great, haven't had a problem. I went for 16GB so I wouldn't have to upgrade, as that presents its own unique challenges in this case, i.e. it'd be a pain in the balls.
SSD: Got a decent price on it, and 250GB is all I need right now. I'm told it performs well, and I can testify to that. Boots fairly quickly (Although that's only after the motherboard has spent 15 seconds doing its thing, which is annoying.) EDIT - now it's settled in, and I played about in the bios, it boots in around 15 seconds total, from around 30 new.
HDD: A 3TB pit to throw all my crap into. Need I say more?
GPU: The 970. It improved my benchmarks over the Intel HD by 10 times. It's so fast! As Logan from Tek Syndicate might put it: "It's faster than Jesus, on a rocket-ship, eatin' a pizza. And that's pretty damn fast." It regularly turbos to 1.25 GHz in games, and clocks back to 0.3 when not in use. This thing is gorgeous & rare too! I spent the extra on the "Reference" model for a few reasons. Firstly, it's a blower cooler, so no heat contaminating my case. Secondly, protection against coil whine. Thirdly, it looks so damn good! Sometimes I just sit there and look at it, who needs 4K? :P And is it wrong to stroke your graphics card?
CASE: This little guy looks awesome. In my opinion it was the best laid out case for this form factor, and had adequate cooling potential, and looked sweet! That was it really. There's something really nice about having a solid cm thick plate of aluminium on the front of your case for some reason. Also, the power button has a satisfying k-clunk to it when pressed :D My only gripe is the top USB is slightly slanted. Not exactly worth the RMA though.
PSU: Can power supplies be cute? I think this thing qualifies as cute. 600W of power, 80+ Gold, Fully Modular; sells itself really. I needed this size since it came with short cables (Very short for the 24 pin, only just reached) and would allow me a long graphics card, which is why I chose this case over the SG05 anyway. And the fan has a zero RPM mode which I like. Comes with an ATX adapter, although it leaves it hanging in mid-air which is a little concerning. The short & taught 24 pin cable suspends it however.
OPTICAL DRIVE: Most people don't have them, but I like to have it there. I have used it loads, for instance putting old games on like Age of Empires 1 (That thing really taxes my GPU :P ), and also for backing up box-sets onto my hard drive. Slot loading drives just seem so cool.
OS: Win 8.1 Pro. I get a discount as a student. My brother did try to get me a free copy from Uni, but to no avail. I also forgot Win 8 had no start button, so installed Start Is Back, which is great!
KEYBOARD: This thing is lovely! Just feels so nice to type on, and the keys are really nicely finished. I'm ashamed to say I scratched one or two of the keys slightly when carrying it around in my bag, which shows up when back-lit. Maybe I could touch it up with some paint; got a case for it now though.
SPEAKERS: Got them as a Christmas present, and they sound lovely! Especially with the better-than-average on-board sound. The fact that they're bigger than my PC makes me chuckle though.
MONITOR: Unlisted, it's an old, crappy 1600x900 monitor that I found lying around the house. Going to eventually upgrade to a 1440p monitor. I'd go 4K, but I don't think my PC could handle it, and 4K has a number of issues so... yeah.
EDIT Got a new monitor for my birthday. A very nice 1440p monitor. All my games run really well on it >60FPS. A nice pixel density, so plenty of room etc. In terms of the BenQ specifically, it is a very solidly built monitor, has swivel features and Vesa. The colours when set to SRGB mode are very nice. I can't really fault it. Only annoying thing is I bought it for £300 and the price dropped by £30 after I bought it. :P The price is constantly fluctuating. Ah well.
So yes, for the past 6 months I've been draining my bank account on RAM, CPU and GPU expenditures etc, and started work building in December. The SG08 is slightly challenging to build in, but that comes with building this small. The trickiest thing here was cable management, I mean there's nowhere for the cables to hide. I did my best, it's ok. I did have to get a low-profile USB 3.0 adapter though as the standard one is huge (Seriously, why the huge cable gauge?) so didn't fit beneath the cooler. The cooler caused a lot of issues actually. Firstly, the bottom fan only just went in. The clips are just there for the sake of my OCD. The fan is jammed in there, required a firm amount of force, and isn't coming out again... ever. The hard drive cage didn't fit back in either. It so nearly did, but it didn't. I could've messed around with the cooler orientation, but once it was mounted I didn't want to have to take it off, so I went for a ghetto affair, with Velcro. It's just to stop it moving left to right; gravity, and being clamped down by the tight 24 pin cable, does the rest. It serves also to dampen the noise slightly, although it is still audible over my cooler at idle. It also looks nice upside down, being matte black as a pose to ugly silver. It does also get rather warm, which was something I hadn't considered, but since it sits above the PSU and there is no airflow at all... so I've resorted to an external 120mm fan standing adjacent to the case when things get warm; unfortunately there is no room to mount a fan inside, with the PSU cables and all. The rest is shown in the pictures really.
Ice Storm: 165,554
Cloud Gate: 26,974
Sky Diver: 25,304
Firestrike Extreme: 4,798
Firestrike Ultra: 2,414
CONCLUSION: Sorry if that was a bit long, but it was a year's worth of work, so I feel you owe me 10 minutes :P. Overall I'm very happy! It handles everything I can reasonably throw at it (Actually this time Dad ;) ) and keeps fairly cool under load, and considering what is inside, not too shabby for the price. I mean most Apple customers waste that kind of cash on a Mac (Tssst, apply cold water...), so I thought I may as well put it towards a good cause instead. I think I've achieved everything I set out to, and hope this blog helps anyone wanting to use these components, or simply build small. If I were to do this build again however, I'd probably build an ATX system. The expandability and ease to build in, plus the comfort-of-mind for temps and so on, is just nice. And Fractal do some really nice cases. In time, maybe I will. For now though, I have some quests to do. Ciao.