X99 Desktop

It’s been a couple of years since the last time I built a computer, a hexacare at that. Back in 2013 I built one off the X79 platform. I didn’t want to build off the X99 platform until price on DDR4 has gotten better. But after the holidays, I came upon a few extra bucks so I decided to build one. You can check out my X79 build here. Here are the parts I used for the 2015 X99 build. You can visit my PC Part Picker page. Below I break down the parts I used.

CPU

I was torn between the Z97 and the X99 platform. More particularly, it was between the Intel i7-4790K and the Intel i7-5820K. It was a tough decision since Microcenter is selling the 4790K for $250 while for $50 more, you can get the 5820K. Sounds like a great deal but where the price difference gets offset is the price between DDR3 and DDR4. DDR4 ram is outrageously priced at the moment. Fortunately, there were a few deals going on during this build. So what are the differences between the two processors? Well, below are the differences I considered.

Intel i7-4790K
(1150 Devil’s Canyon)
Intel i7-5820K
(2011-3 Haswell-E)
Base Speed 4GHz 3.3GHz
# of cores 4 6
Cache 8MB 15
TDP 88W 140W
PCIE Lanes 16 28
Memory Channel 2 4

What I listed above are not all the differences, but the ones I considered. You can view the comparison chart from Intel at http://ark.intel.com/compare/80807,82932.

The price difference, number of cores, number of PCIE lanes pretty much solidified my decision to go with the 5820K.

Motherboard

The next part is the motherboard. I originally wanted my next build to be a smaller form factor so I looked into MATX (Micro ATX). Out off all the available motherboards in MATX, ASROCK was the only one (as of January 2015) that has the most features. Asrock has 2 boards – X99M Extreme4 and the Fatal1ty X99M Killer. Compared to the motherboards from other manufacturers, these two from Asrock come with dual gigabit ethernet ports, 10 SATA3 6Gbps ports, and M.2 port.

I chose to go with the Fatal1ty X99M Killer motherboard for two reasons:

  • The Killer NIC is suppose to reduce network latency when gaming. I haven’t experience much lag when gaming so this should improve what I’m already getting from good to better, in theory.
  • I like the color scheme of the motherboard.
Asrock X99M Fatal1ty

Asrock X99M Fatal1ty

Power Supply

Next was the power supply. I wanted to get a larger power supply than what I’ve used in the past. I wanted to get around 1000W just in case I wanted overclock and add more hardware. I had my eye on Corsair. I’ve used many in the past. Not only have they been realible, but they are quiet. I almost settled for the Corsair RM1000 with Gold certification and fully modular. What made me go with the EVGA SuperNOVA 1000W G2 instead is it uses Japanese caps. Surprisingly, the Corsair didn’t. The length of the power supply is longer than the average, so be aware of this when using it in a smaller case.

Memory

I would have loved to go with 32GB quad-channel for the ram but it’s so expensive. I settled with 16GB. I also looked for 2400MHz that can be overclocked a little bit if I wanted to. Originally, I went with the Node 804 case so I had to consider the space between ram with heatsink and the CPU heatsink. I ended up looking for ram without a heatsink. So the ram I went with is the G.Skill F4-2400C15Q-16GNT (4x4GB). I’ve used G.Skill ram often in the past and it works flawlessly.

Heatsink

Ever since I started using closed loop water cooling, I’ve always used Corsair. This time was no exception. I went with the H100i. My previous X79 build I used the H80i. It’s a bit louder for my taste but I’m thinking it may have something to do with the stock fans. This time I swapped out the stock fans with the Noctua NF-S12B. It is an improvement from the stock fans and runs at 1200RPM.

Video Card

I didn’t buy a new video card since my last one still works great. I have an EVGA 03G-P4-3788-KR GTX780 Classified. I took it from my X79 computer and replaced it with a MSI GTX 660 Ti Twin Frozr. This was the upgrade from my old EVGA 470SC. Then I upgrade from the 660 to the 780. Great card overall. Handles all the games I play at ultra settings without any issues. I may skip the 900 series from nVidia and see what AMD will come out for their 300 series cards. I’m also curious about FreeSync. G-Sync is a bit expensive right now. Either way, I’m due for a monitor upgrade soon.

Case

Because I went with a MATX form factor, I also wanted to use a MATX case. I went with the Fractal Design Node 804. This is a cube design case that uses two compartments to separate components. One compartment is where the motherboard sits. You can also mount up to two hard drives on the bottom of the case, below the motherboard. The other side is where the power supply, two drive bays (up to eight 3.5” hard drives), and the cable management. After building inside this case, I ran into some quality control issues. A few screw holes got stripped and the wiring for the power button didn’t work in a consistent matter. I also felt cramped while doing my build so rather than RMA and get the same case, I just returned it for a refund.

Fractal Design Node 804 - Motherboard Side

Fractal Design Node 804 – Motherboard Side

All my components fit. The video card I used is an EVGA GTX780 Classified. As you can see from the picture above that it fits. The Corsair H100i also fits.

I still went with Fractal Design but this time I went with the Define R5. My X79 uses the Define R4 and I loved it. Why not build another one with the newer version of the case. I will post more once I get the R5 and move in.

New PC built

I’m beginning to feel limited while using Apple products. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great platform. But as I start introducing non-Apple devices, I have to go out of my way to get it to work. I started looking into building a PC after 8 years of exclusively using Macs. At first I had my eyes set on an i7 Sandy Bridge but after doing more research and talking with experts, I decided to go with the last generation i7 (LGA1366, Bloomfield). Why?

  • More motherboards available
  • Supports faster memory – DDR31600
  • If I ever want to switch out CPU to the hexacore, I don’t have to switch out motherboards
  • X58 is a great platform and more stable

It’s been almost a week and I’ve been impressed by some of the tests I’m running. I will go part by part and tell you what I liked and disliked (if applicable).

Corsair Graphite 600T: I decided to spend the extra money getting this tower for several reasons.

  • I can run the cables in the back side of the tower. There’s plenty of room there.
  • It is truly tool-less.
  • Can hold 7 hard drives. It can be reconfigured and move around depending on how you want your airflow to work.
  • Removable dust filters.
  • Great quality and durable.
  • Bottom mounted PSU for liquid cooling solution.

So far, the only thing I don’t like is it doesn’t have a 3.5” slot. I don’t use a floppy drive but most internal memory card readers use this slot. Now I have not only buy the memory card reader but an adapter to make it fit in the 5.25” slot.

Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3: I was going to get the ASUS Sabertooth but the Gigabyte has dual bios where if one were to fail to load, I can use the other and fix the issue.

  • 3 different raid controllers. 6 Intel (SATAII 3Gbps), 2 Gigabyte (SATAII 3Gbps), and 2 Marvell (SATAIII 6Gbps)
  • Supports triple channel ram up to 24GB
  • Software to OC is easy to use

One thing I don’t like is it doesn’t have an internal USB port. The front of my tower has a USB3.0 and uses the standard cable. In order for me to use it, I’d have to run the cable to the back of the tower and plug it in.

Intel i7 960 3.2GHz: Currently the fastest processor before going into the extreme hexacore CPU. I have seen people OC this over 4.0GHz so it has great potential. This is a quad core CPU and with Hyper Threading, it becomes 8 cores. I was considering the AMD Phenom II 1100T Black Edition but the benchmarks I’ve seen online were not impressive. Based on those benchmarks, it runs against the Intel i5 Sandy Bridge – not the i7.

Corsair Vengeance 12GB DDR31600: I was going to get a 6GB set but decided to go with the 12GB so that I can max it out in the future. It has XMP and all I needed to do in the BIOS is to set it to Profile 1. Comes with a heat spreader as well. It has a CAS Latency of 9 but seen it run at 8 when OC.

Seagate ST3500641AS: Seagate makes great drives and since I’ve started to use them, I haven’t had one go bad yet (knock on wood). Drives that have died on me are usually Maxtors and Western Digitals. These drives have a 16MB cache and runs at 7200RPM. I bought 4 of these 500GB hard drives and set them up as a RAID10. They run great and my Windows gives it a score of 6.1.

Corsair CMPSU-850TX: I figured 850W should give me enough for current any future mods. Supports SLI and Crossfire. It’s rated at 80Bronze. The only thing I don’t like is it doesn’t support the new ATX v2.3. Corsair just came out with the second version of the PSU. I could’ve waited but I didn’t want to. I figured the changes were not important for my set up and use.

Corsair CWCH70: I could’ve use the stock heatsink that came with my i7 but would need an aftermarket one if I decide to OC it. Rather than figure this out later, I bought it so it’s ready for OC. The install was not as easy as the videos I’ve seen on Youtube. Once installed, I get around 40-52 C on idle or normal use. When doing transcoding (high CPU usage) I don’t go over 65 C. Spending the extra $80 (after rebate) is worth it. It’s compact unlike the first versions of liquid cooling solutions.

EVGA nVidia GTX470SC: It’s not the high end video card in the series but works great. It has CUDA and works great with Adobe software. I have already used Adobe Premiere Elements 9 and exported an HD video to 1080i, 25fps. At the same time, I played Starcraft 2 on ultra settings. The computer remained stable and responsive. I was very impressed. All 8 cores were at 100% and ran around 52-65 C and the video card ran at around 84 C. Starcraft 2 was running at about 52-58FPS. I was able to ALT+Tab between applications, play HD videos off Youtube and watch an HD video off my hard drive.

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OEM: One of the best, if not the best OS Windows has “created”. I find the 64-bit to be more stable than 32-bit and with 12GB of ram, it’s necessary. I still miss things on OS X but there are things on Windows that don’t exist in my Apple. I love Live Writer. I can blog from my desktop. I wish Apple would create something that works similarly. The built-in Backup/Restore is still unreliable. I’ve had failed backups and failed restores. I decided to keep my iMac and run it side by side. My iMac will contain all of my important documents and use Time Machine to back up. Hopefully one day there will be a back up software/workflow as easy as Time Machine for Windows.

Whoever says using Windows is cheaper than a Mac is wrong. I have spent about the same price building this PC rather than purchasing a new Mac. I have already spent close to $300 on just software, where similar software is unnecessary or already included with a Mac. The hardware cost is about $1500. Unlike my Apple products though, I can switch out parts. To make this possible with Apple hardware, you’d have to purchase a Mac Pro which starts at $2400 and you are still limited to hardware that’s compatible. Regardless, I would have to use both in order to do everything I need to do. I just wish software licenses are easily transferable for both platforms.

Shout out to Jeff of JB Tech Enterprises and his brother Eric for helping me build this machine.

Edit: Here’s a video I posted on Youtube.