So, after much waiting and many requests for this build, it's finally here, my gaming build over 2 years in the making. I didn't end up with what I planned to do in the first place, but I may have created something that almost no-one has ever done before. I have created a monstrosity of a laptop, a true Frankenstein's monster of a gaming rig. My dream, ever since finding PCPartPicker, was to build an amazing gaming computer for myself. Even when I knew nothing about anything in a computer, I desired to learn and to make my system, and systems for others, as good as they could possibly be. My first idea for a system wasn't great, I didn't know what an SSD was, I didn't know the intricate details of Power Supplies... Hell, I didn't even know AMD existed, while using an AMD Phenom-powered computer. This system is the culmination of those learnings, a system designed to be truly great at a few things. One of those things is gaming, obviously, given the powerful hardware in play. The other big goal was simply to do something no-one has ever done before. Who in their right mind would take a perfectly good MSI laptop and create something that isn't practical, isn't cheap, isn't portable, and isn't even particularly quiet just for the sake of doing it.
Enough with the theatricality though, lets talk background and parts.
My original idea for this build was just to replace the GPU, since the stock 840M had become supremely unreliable, constantly crashing even during everyday use. My main candidate at the time was an R7 360, just enough power to consider the upgrade worth the money. Since the GPU/Adapter could only power external monitors, those had to be added as well. I decided on three since I had gotten used to a wierd 3-screen setup with my old laptop setup (using the laptop's tiny 1080p screen, a 32" 720p TV that had to be run at 1080p to avoid overscan issues, and an old square AOC that actually could do 75Hz). The GPU was slowly upgraded in the plans over time, with the system increasing to a 370, then a 380, and finally a 390. Unfortunately, I chose the ASUS Strix version that overheats like crazy, and I ended up sending it back a few days later. After that, I decided to just go for broke with a full-fledged R9 Fury, and end the GPU debate once and for all. The XFX is nice, with the ability to run normal tasks completely fanlessly, and will run a cool 65C at 20% fan speed in games.
After the GPU was settled, I decided on the other upgrades, including replacing the far too small stock HDD with a big SSD and external 1TB drive, replacing the hairdryer of a cooler with a cheap AIO cooler and a custom 3D printed mount.
Since things like the GPU and liquid cooler need power, I added a cheap but reliable EVGA 500W PSU to sustain them. The first unit I got had terrible coil whine issues, so I sent it in for RMA (including a packet of gummi bears for good luck) and received a properly working one a few weeks later.
One of the crucial parts of the system is the EXP GPU adapter, which connects to a mini-PCIe port on the laptop (like where the WLAN chip connects) and expands it out to a full-size PCI-e slot. I was surprised how quickly it shipped, considering it had to ship from China, as it beat some of the domestically ordered parts here.
The fans are nice and quiet, at least at 600rpm. I ended up swapping out the fan in the PSU for one of the NB's, since the stock EVGA fans are annoyingly loud. Fun fact: if directly connected to the wires that normally drive the fan in the PSU, the fan will not spin and the unit will massively overheat. I connected it to an external fan controller after that.
Lets look at the parts one by one:
CPU: It's an i5 that is actually a low-end i3. It's got 2 cores with hyperthreading, a turbo boost to 3.4GHz, and apparently produces the heat of a small sun, if the fan speeds of the stock cooler are to be believed. It's definitely the weak point of the system, given the other beefy hardware, but I can't easily replace it since it's a BGA chip. For the most part it runs well in games, and only the more thread-heavy tasks overwhelm it.
Cooler: The stock cooler is terrible on this laptop, and the AIO is so much better. An air cooler wouldn't really work due to the limited clearance below the laptop, so an AIO was really the only choice. The CM 120V was the cheapest option at the time, and it works pretty well actually. Despite having to be mounted with a spare chunk of aluminum (to clear the power delivery chokes) and a self-made mount, this thing stays under 50C at all times, even on minimum fan speed.
MB/RAM: Not much to say about the motherboard, other than there's no UEFI-style BIOS but I'm glad there's a mPCI-e slot. The laptop originally came with one 8GB stick of RAM, but I upgraded it to 16GB with another stick, which is why the price on the RAM is so low.
Storage: The stock 750GB Hitachi drive was far too loud (combined with the stock cooler, I couldn't sleep at night if it was on), far too slow, and far too small. The replacement 850 EVO is crazy fast, to the point that it boots faster than my monitors can warm up, and the Seagate drive is big, quiet, and pretty fast for a mech drive. Beats my dad's WD Black to open large files 9 times out of 10.
GPU: Wow, it's a beast. The Fury cards are technically the most advanced cards in the world, being the ones with the most transistors on a single die and with the most advanced memory type. That kind of technology shows up really nicely in games too. Even at 5760x1080p, games run buttery smooth, never dropping below 60fps at max settings. 4GB of RAM is never a bottleneck, since the HBM memory seems to be able to swap data around fast enough that stuttering and frame drops never become an issue.
Case: So it's not really a case... It's a laptop on a stand designed for a 13" Macbook sitting on a shelf screwed lopsidedly (Thanks Dad, great handyman-ship) into a wall. At least it's different right :D
PSU: It runs well, especially with the new fan in it. It's got the power to run the fans, pump and GPU, while the 150W laptop charger powers the laptop itself. Technically it's a dual-PSU system. That's something you don't see often.
OS: Got this from DreamSpark again, free Windows is nice :)
Fan Controller: It's nice to have a controller that isn't some fancy touchsreen, temp sensing, fan failure-alarmed pile of crap. The Mix 2 has everything I want, it's got enough fan headers for future expansion and has rheostats that work. I do wish I could turn the fans down a bit more though.
Monitors: You know how people love to parade around the "Fact" that IPS screens look soooooooooooooooooo much better than TN screens? Here's blatant proof that that's total BS. The GN246, even in 60Hz mode feels faster and more responsive, as well as looking great (even off-angle) even in direct comparison to the two H236s. In fact, the GN246 actually looks better than the H236's off angle, because the damn things start glowing blue once you go past about 30 degrees off center. Due to buying the GN246 when I bought the original 390, which has a DVI port, I'm limited to 60Hz on it, because the Fury does not have a DVI port and there aren't any adapters that can do DP to dual-link DVI for less than $100 that actually work (*grumble* Monoprice... *grumble*).
Peripherals: This is pretty much the amalgamation of all my favorite parts. I've got my favorite mouse, my favorite keyboard with my favorite switches, and my favorite headset, all attached to my system. It's just lovely to have deliciously clacky and tactile MX Blue switches under your fingers, with an extra comfy mouse under your other hand. Headphones sound great, but still press on your ears pretty hard even after an M50x pad swap and a full 9 months of wear.
So, there we have it, my finally completed gaming system. Hope you enjoyed the preceding wall-o-text and I look forward to the next build :D