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Clarity in Hindsight: A Build Log for the Common Man (TL;DRs NEED NOT COME BY)

post #1 of 5
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Let me start this off by saying that I researched extensively about each computer component before buying. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all due diligence; I got interested in computers while chillin' on my 7 year old laptop circa beg. 2012. Sandy Bridge was the current gen chip and Ivy Bridge was a blip on the radar.

Of course I had no idea what Intel was all about. I knew the 5-note jingle and "Pentium 3 Processor Inside." People on the forums were talking about Sandy Bridge chips in comparison to Ivy Bridge ones. I didn't know Ivy Bridge hadn't even come out yet, I just heard a lot of assumptions that Ivy Bridge wasn't that much better than Sandy (or maybe they didn't say that and I just liked the name Sandy better than Ivy; an assumption on my part that seriously dialed in the course of my build when it happened). I didn't know Intel worked in generations and don't even get me started on their tick-tock model, die shrinking, or any other technical term past "CPU."

So that was that. My life took a bad turn and I got sidetracked in other obsessions and addictions, good and bad. I got back into computers circa August 2013. I did REAL research this time and realized I had no idea what I was talking about during my previous spell of PC obsession. I researched for hours in my free time. It wasn't an organized process, though. I started out with CPUs and GPUs and 10 links later, I'd gotten an overview of an entire system. That's the thing I love about building things, and PCs are no exception: one part can't work without another.

So it went on like that for a couple months. I was paying my mother rent and saved up a little each paycheck. I wasn't satisfied with the savings, though, so when I saw Amazon's finance option with their Store Card, I jumped on it. I'm knocking on wood as I type this, but I've never had a single problem with that card. In fact, it's the only reason I've been able to build this PC and upgrade it so quickly.

I bought my first set of parts in late-September 2013 when my laptop broke. This computer went from a well-planned high-tier, sub-enthusiast grade treat for myself, to a necessity. Gaming wasn't even really a thing i'd planned on--I just wanted to make a computer GOOD enough to game. That's still how I am, though. PC hardware takes priority over games and gaming. The initial need for this computer was producing music.

This was my first rig via Newegg Wishlist. Even after researching for months my conception about each company's generations and respective technologies were muddy, likely due to my familiarity with SB and 600-Series nVidia cards from my last go at PC knowledge. But mainly, they were cheaper. Also, there were just some concepts I wouldn't understand until AFTER buying hardware--I had to go through specific problems to troubleshoot them. That's how unrealized concepts came to light. Anyway here it is...my proposed music production build:
CPU: 2700K (for some reason Sandy Bridge always stuck even after knowing Intel inside and out. It sounded cooler to me and I didn't realize Haswell was coming out so soon. First and foremost, these chips were cheaper, and I knew SB OCd like a MF)

GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 670 (again, a cheaper option to the 700-series Kepler cards)

RAM: Corsair Vengeance 1600mHz CL8 32GB (more RAM=good for loading sound libraries into programs)

MB: Asus P8Z68-V PRO/GEN 3 (chipsets were still kind of unclear to me. I did understand that compatibility was a factor, I just didn't realize they came out. I read an article that stated only the Z68 chipset and Z77 chipset could OC on the LGA1155 socket. It was an older read with no mention of Haswell yet, that didn't explain that Z68 didn't support USB 3.0 or PCIe 3.0. That was all I needed to know about chipsets at the time--which ones can overclock--so I didn't look into it anymore. It'd bite my ass later on. Little did I know, my perspective board was a newer Z68 board with USB 3.0, non-native, and PCIe 3.0 on it as well. I didn't realize what i'd give up by buying the first generation one.)

Boot Drive: Samsung 830 128GB

Storage Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1TB or Western Digital Caviar Black (didn't know the difference between the colors at the time)

PSU: Corsair CX600 80+ Bronze

Case: Cooler Master HAF X (ooooh, red LEDs...hahaha)

Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 (didn't know much about cooling, but one thing was for sure: this thing was at least tied for the top spot on air)

So when my laptop broke, I was forced to make budget cuts. I didn't have enough saved and even the Amazon finance option didn't give me free reign since it started me with only a $700 credit limit. I made hasty decisions and have come to regret some. Most of them worked out fine, though:
CPU: 2500K (this thing was a beast)

GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked (wasn't aware what a factory OC was but it sounded cool and was $2 cheaper than reference on Amazon at the time so I got it)

RAM: Corsair Vengeance 1600mHz CL10 8GB (1x8) (I figured 8 was a lot for now and I could just add some later. The CL10 model was so cheap as well. 1600mHZ at CL10 usually runs that way, huh?)

MB: Asus P8Z68-V PRO (this is the one I f'd up on. I mean, I don't really have USB 3.0 hardware and PCIe 3.0 x16 isn't really utilized to its full potential, but still...I was stuck not only with an old chipset, but with entirely old tech. It was an RMA product from a seller through Amazon, though, so the $75 price tag had me clicking the buttons faster than I should've. My fault)

Boot Drive: Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB (Not mad at this purchase. Cheapest reliable SSD and it does its job. Definitely getting a Samsung when I finish this build, but this will do for now)

Storage Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1TB (One of the only things on the actual build that I had planned on getting. Reliable and cheap)

PSU: Corsair CX430 80+ Bronze (I didn't know what modular was at the time, and frankly, I didn't need it. This thing was extremely reliable and I'm not mad at the pick. Honestly, I debated for a bit while on its Amazon page. I had the choices by the picture; the models with different watts. I started at the CX600 or 650 or whatever and made my way down to the 430. I didn't really need more than that according to the eXtreme PSU calculator and it was dirt cheap. I bought it and never looked back)

Case: Cooler Master HAF XB (It was cheaper than the other CM HAF cases and it looked pretty roomy. I liked it at the time and continue to now. I can't imagine building and working with a case that doesn't have a horizontal mounted motherboard, and I don't think I ever will. In the future, I'm getting a SFF for a LAN case, the Wet Bench for a test bench or permanent build, and modding a desk split into a gaming and WS side. I think it's more natural and I can't think of a con of it lying horizontally. No need to list them, though, I understand there probably are cons)

Cooler: None to begin with. I didn't deem it necessary to OC in the beginning so I didn't. But when I came across the Hyper 212 EVO I couldn't resist. I got it for ~$30 and it was one of the best purchases on the build. I got such low temps on the 2500K at 4.5 that it's safe to say my custom loop doesn't do TOO much better. I usually have the AC on in my room with my case in test bench mode (I love that I can leave the panels off) so it's pretty much idling at ambient anyway.

Audio: Asus Xonar DG (despite its cheap price tag, I really loved having this. Its far better than the SupremeFX on the Maximus VI Formula IMO and was sad to let it go when I upgraded to no PCI slots)

I was satisfied with the build overall to say the least. But my nature came into play very quickly. When i'm obsessed with something, I have to go all out. Once I built it, I wanted to upgrade it immediately. I still had to pay off the finance, though, so I couldn't quite upgrade as fast as I wanted. I overclocked the chip to 4.4 on stock vCore. When I went up to 4.5, however, I had to play with the vCore quite a bit to get it stable. I ended up with an average 1.35vCore at 4.5GHz and left it like that.

(BTW, I suggest everyone in remote places to buy from Amazon. I live in Hawaii and the free shipping saves me more than buying from somewhere cheaper and paying shipping. Also, I had to RMA my GTX 660 because it was DOA. The process was so simple--1 minute form, hardly any questions, no hassle AT ALL, and I had time to receive the second 660, forget about sending the first one back for a week, send it in hastily, and still have it be a week early. Thanks Amazon!)

PC V.jpg



1110131316.jpg
PC IV.jpg
PC V.jpg
1110131316.jpg
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 video card benchmark result - Intel Core i5-2500K Processor,ASUSTeK Computer INC. P8Z68-V PRO.png
PC III.jpg
PC I.jpg
31XSJjKOWNL.jpg

I threw that paper inside because I was using it as a mouse pad for 2 months before I cleared the mountain of **** off my desk. I got my keyboard off my lap and haven't been happier.

Fast forward two months and I can't take it anymore. While water cooling was never an interest of mine, my nature made it more appealing the more I thought about it. I saw it as a way to upgrade my build. I put together a sub-$300 CPU-only loop and convinced myself that it was cheap enough to do. By then, I'd cleared my debt with Amazon (paying off my 6-month finance in under 2 months, upping my credit limit to $1000).

By this time, I knew my way around a PC, inside and out. My WC level going into this was better than what my general PC level was going into my first PC purchase, but I still had to go through the trials and tribulations of getting the loop to run to even realize what I didn't know. This venture turned out to be a costly one.

With the space constraints in mind, this was my loop:
Alphacool Cape Corp Coolplex 10L PRO res (velcro'd onto the top of 240 rad)-->Swiftech Apogee Drive II (Apogee HD block/MCP35X combo; this thing is great, but my mortal enemy at the same time...you'll see)-->Hardware Labs Black Ice GT Stealth XFLOW 120mm w/Scythe AP-15 in Push (again, a downgrade due to price from a GTX 360)-->GT Stealth XFLOW 240mm-->back to res

I used PrimoChill PrimoFlex Advanced LRT 3/8" ID 5/8" OD "Elegant White" tubing, Bitspower 90-degree rotary compressions and XSPC compressions, with a Phobya fillport plug as a drain port. The drain was inline with between the rads, on the CPU side, using a T-fitting-->4 in. of tubing facing down the side panel, hanging over the motherboard tray about an inch.

I liked the XFLOW design because the inlet and outlet ports didn't clutter in one spot like rads commonly do, with the two port on one side or sometimes even right next to each other. With the crammed space I need to space the runs out.
First off, I knew how to jump my power to runt he loop only. I knew that it was imperative I did so because I didn't want to get live circuits wet when I inevitably leak. I placed paper towels EVERYWHERE and leak tested overnight. So far, so good.

I tested the drain port and whaddaya know...not low enough. What transpired after that is kind of hazy, but in the end, I had to recut and waste a bunch of tubing, so I cut the 120 out until I had need for it (when other blocks get added into loop later). The new loop went as follows:
Res (switched sides onto 120 rad)-->Pump/CPU-->240 rad-->inline drain port on opposite side by graphics card-->looped over the GTX 660 and back into the res.

Everything was fine until one day, my res--which apparently didn't come tightened enough--started leaking under heavy load. Luckily I had a cautionary paper towel underneath it and it caught most of it in the time I took to realize what was going on. This is where I messed up. I switched the PSU off (so far so good) and unscrewed the rad and block free. I carefully lifted the loop out of the case to put into a large bowl so I could drain it. It was kind of unorthodox but I couldn't drain it properly with the res leaking above the VRM, etc. Long story short, the res DID leak a little but apparently the board still had power in it. I put the stock fan back in while I operated on the loop and it didn't boot. After troubleshooting for days, I realized my board had shorted. It was already an RMA without a transferable warranty so I was stuck without a PC for a couple weeks (mid-December--late-December). Luckily my grandma let me choose a laptop for school and it was on its way (damn i'm spoiled).

Anyway, I had to fix the PC situation. My balance at Amazon was zero now so on a whim, I decided 3 months wait long enough. It was time for an upgrade. This time, I knew exactly what I was doing. The only dilemma: wait for Maxwell and SLI my 660 or splurge on the 780 Ti and be paying it off still when Maxwell comes out. I actually initially bought the 780 Ti (my credit limit went up to $1600 since my last check but idk why..not complaining though!) for a couple hours. Well, long enough for them to send me codes for AC:BF and the new Splinter Cell. I didn't mean to time it like that, but I canceled a little while after receiving the codes, and bought the second (third overall) GTX 660. My overall upgrade was as follows:

2500K-->4770K (WOOOO)
P8Z68-V PRO-->Maximus VI Formula (good riddance)
CX430-->AX760i (see how I went all out?)
1xGTX660-->SLI GTX 660
Asus Xonar DG-->Asus Xonar DGX (I think I still like the DG better for some reason)

This is only part one of the upgrade; the full one is to yet be realized because of my Amazon debt.

So the 660 came in last and I was super excited about trying SLI for the first time. I dropped it into my system and whaddaya know again? No, not DOA...the old 660 broke! It would boot and everything. It'd run internet and movies fine. I even got 10 minutes of State of Decay in just to test out the game. When I tried to bench it on 3DMark11, the PC crashed to a black screen, sending my pump into overdrive and just killing my mood. I did it over and over, changing settings, etc. I even went as far as to install the stock fan (that's saying a lot to a WC guy...taking apart my loop is just a *****). Same thing with the stock fan--ramp up to 100% and black screen.

EVGA was very professional about it. The customer service team is spot on! He said it was a hardware failure (as you can tell I don't mind writing exactly what happened in detail) and to start the RMA process. Well, the page was broken so he started it for me (what a nice guy!). Needless to say, EVGA got docked another point but this guy got all my praise.

So my FOURTH OVERALL GTX 660 came in just last week. I dropped it in and have been enjoying the bliss of SLI since then. BF4 runs a lot smoother and all of my games run on max settings very smoothly...well maybe not Metro: Last Light, and thank God I don't have Crysis 3. I'd love to have it, don't get me wrong...it'd just be another reason to upgrade AGAIN so I don't want that to happen.

Everything was going fine until my Apogee Drive II started ****ting on me. Long story VERY short, it stopped working on me 3 times (like full on running but no water movement), and just last night, on the third incident, the thing f'n started SMOKING on me. I had just rebled the thing, leak tested for the 248035802854 time and was playing games all night fine. I start watching a movie (it's always the movie, isn't it), and I look down to a burning pump. Smoke and burnt ass filled the air and I unplugged the thing before my brand new 4770K got permanently damaged. I'm awaiting word as of right now from Sidewinder Computers (who I hear has excellent service) through Amazon RMA.

I'll have upgraded pics up soon and will update the loop situation as I hear more.

Thanks to the one person (if that) who read to the very end. I applaud you because I wouldn't have.
Edited by djayarr808 - 1/24/14 at 3:22pm
   
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post #2 of 5
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post #3 of 5
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This is from the update I did circa late-December. My core components were still Sandy-Bridge. The only real reason I upgraded from this was because I totally ****ed up and fried something on my motherboard.
































As you can see, I changed my mind about loop order, loop content, and mounting options a couple times. In the end, I was pretty satisfied...then it broke.
   
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post #4 of 5
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This is my latest upgrade before my Apogee Drive II died. Upgraded to Haswell and the last couple have my 2nd GTX 660 SC in SLI (well, 4th total received counting the 1st and 3rd broken ones). I'm using my stock fan now; will probably put back my Hyper 212 EVO while I wait to upgrade WC loop. Gonna go all out and be patient this time. Adding two 240 rads, RAM, MB, and dedicated CPU blocks, a couple D5 pumps and a whole lot of modding and fittings and rigid tubing to fit it all in. Probably gonna break the cardinal WC rule and use coolant but i'll take on the responsibilites. Anyway, this is the last batch of pics for at least a couple months (not that anyone's looking).







   
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post #5 of 5
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For some reason these pics didn't make it on the last post. This is supposed to become in between my last two sets of pics.

























   
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