A Powerful Gaming\Workstation Build
A Machine I have built for my personal gaming and professional use. This article\Pictures are for my own records as well as anyone out there who may find it useful. I have been meaning to do this build since a long time now. Even before I heard about the NCase M1, the smallest case to allow for a full size gpu. I kept doing my research while working at a day job. I finally found time to build it when I took a break. Most of the parts were ordered from Amazon US. Some came from Japan through a friend 🙂 (Quite tempting prices there!) and some were bought locally here in Mumbai, India. At the time of making, I’m the only one in my country who has ordered, customized and built an NCase M1 PC. Feels proud thats why the vain title. 😉
My first priority is portability. I mean International portability, one where I can carry this through the airport. (I’m done with laptops. No matter how powerful my Alienware M17x R2 is). Secondly, a powerful gaming machine. This also serves my 3d work needs as I’m into animation. I need the power to develop heavy assets in Maya and other packages. Third and not the least, my machine needs to be quiet. I don’t mind a little bit of noise, I’m used to it frankly. But as this is my Best built Machine yet, I want quiet. No compromises.
I will start with listing the components first, giving a bit of my word/thoughts on each. I will also post some alternatives I looked at.
I believe everything starts with the case. Before even thinking of hardware, decide on the case first according to your space requirements and comfort.
I wanted the smallest case I could find with the capability to have a full-length graphics card. And possibility of above-average cooling.
I decided on the NCase M1 due to its customizability inspite of its size and because it would be a real challenge to build a PC like this. (I love challenges) The smallest case yet which can accommodate the components I needed. Brilliantly engineered. Believe me, this case IS the smallest you can find unless you want to be restricted in hardware. This case started as a crowd-funding campaign by two moderators from hardforum.com who thought their idea of a truly compact gaming case wasn’t available in the market yet. This campaign ran successfully and we are at the third revision now. Know that this case is only available till stocks last. I’m sure they would do another run, but it would be months or even years so get it if its available.
NCase M1 – http://www.ncases.com
25.1 x 33.3 x 16.0 cm
Corsair Carbide Series® Air 240
397mm x 260mm x 320mm
If portability is not a priority, you should check out this case. Lovely looks and functional aesthetics. The two-partition layout of the case makes sure your wires are hidden from view from the transparent side-panel window. Make sure you get some good looking colour matched components. Some led-lighting may work wonders too.
Graphite Series™ 380T Portable Mini ITX Case
If your priority is style with no compromises, you may want to look for this. Components may need to be carefully chosen for this case but there would be a smile on your face at the end. And make your friends awe-struck.
Corsair Obsidian 250D Mini ITX
Silverstone SG10 (or any of the Sugo series)
THE PROCESSOR (CPU):
The only decision I had to make was between i7-4790 and i5-4690. The simple reason I went for an i7 was my work. 3d animation packages (rendering specifically) can make use of multi-threading (or hyperthreading) and I personally use Maya extensively at home. The i7 has hyper-threading, the i5 does not. So if you aren’t in this field, go for an i5 as its the best option for a Gaming build. It will be cheaper and the i5 would never be a bottleneck.
Intel Core i7-4790K CPU Processor
Intel Core i5-4690K CPU Processor
The meat of the system. Yes this was a long and often changing journey for me. Simply because the options were more and the feature lists and comparison took a long time. Price and availability too a defining factor. The M1 only supports mini-itx boards. In the end, I narrowed it out to two motherboards: the Asus Maximus VII Impact and the Asus Z97I-Plus.
Asus has always had good bios, its one of the reason I wanted to buy it. Their UEFI bios and cooling control on bios is really good.Between the two Asus’s, I would have gone for the MI7 were it not that I’d had already purchased the Kingston M.2 Sata-based SSD drive which is incompatible with it. MI7 only supports the high-end M.2 PCie SSD. Those ssds have exorbitant prices not to mention the price of the MI7 itself is on the high side. I would like to mention the Z97I has a very nice M.2 slot on its back which is awesome design.
Other things to note:
- MI7 beats the Z97I i on its sound capabilities though. Z97I has average sound output.
- Z97I-Plus has some last-gen support like vga-out, PS-2 mouse ports etc. The MI7 chucks those out in favor of more hdmi and usb slots. I kinda like the Z97I-plus for that.
Special note on MSI motherboards: I didn’t go for the MSI ones because their power/fan headers are not on the edges but in positions where it would create overlapping wires and look like a mess. The NCase M1 has no wire-management at all due to its small size and I didn’t want to complicate it any further.
You can try ASRock or even Gigabyte (Their support in my country is pathetic.) But they didn’t have M.2 at the time.
ASUS Z97I-Plus Mini-ITX
Asus Maximus VII Impact
Note: If going for MAtx boards, look at the Asus Maximus Gene series.
THE GRAPHICS CARD (GPU):
Another Big decision. This is the first thing I bought. Nvidia 9xx series is THE card to go for as AMD has yet to catch nvidia here. 9xx series has a new maxwell architecture providing low power consumption among other advantages. If you are a little deeply inclined, you can read about it on the web as I did.
Just a quick bit of history: a decade ago, getting a high-end gpu was impossible on my wallet. Before I started working and even after that. I used to lap up reviews in all the magazines and the web, forging tech dreams. Further on, when I actually could afford getting one of those monster GPUs, I found myself in another country working on a job I liked but where having a pc was inconvenient. A high-end laptop was my only option and I spent my relocation house money on getting one, a Alienware M17x R2. 🙂 Wasn’t that great! Haha. That lasted 4 years and I yearned for a desktop.
So, coming back to GPU decision making, obviously I wanted the 9xx series as I had recently heard about it. GTX980 went out as an option when I found the GTX970 had a great performance comparing performance and the cost was almost amazingly half of the 980.
There are three options I considered for the 970(model details below). Between the Gigabyte, Asus & MSI, I went for the MSI as I’d done my homework, read good things about it. Specifically, in my personal opinion it was better that the Strix. Some will argue Gigabyte being a better option, though it was out of question as the length of the card would be an hindrance inside my small case.
Other advantages of the MSI are:
- Best for overclocking
- Even with heavy benchmarks & full overclock (I haven’t done), the temp never goes crazy
- Its really quiet. You can’t hear it unless you are running heavy benchmarks
- It is way shorter than the gigabyte, so it helped fit in the case. (In my case barely but comfortably)
MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G
Gigabyte Windforce GV-N970G1
Asus Strix GTX970 (Does not fit in the NCase without case modifications)
THE POWER SUPPLY (PSU):
PSU was a no-brainer as it was the highest powered PSU in a small form factor made by only one brand, Silverstone. The other option was a lower 450W PSU from the same brand. My choice is obvious.
Silverstone SX-600G – 600W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular SFX Power Supply
Silverstone 450W ST45SF-G
Note: I also got the Silverstone Short cable set just in case. It has some shorter cables than the ones that come with the PSU. Also this contains the Slimline SATA to SATA power adapter for the Bluray Drive which is not included with the PSU.
I plan to upgrade the ram in some time. I had these lying around from my earlier build.
G.Skill Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
The best part about my selected motherboard above is the fact that on the back side is a M.2 slot for an SSD. Hell, I don’t need to mount drives on drives in this case for my storage needs. Every bit of space saved in this small a case is important. The M.2 SSD is tiny, it mounts effortlessly, my OS is loaded on it and it’s so out of the way, its genius! Check the pictures.
(First saw this on silentpcreview – http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1431-page3.html )
Kingston SSDNow 240GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive
Crucial M4 512GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive
Additionally got these super-cool ultra-thin cables to save space in my precious box.
THE BLU-RAY WRITER:
Wanted a Bluray Drive. Read good things about this. No more thinking. Its working great!
Panasonic UJ-265 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer
THE CPU COOLER:
Never in my life I had used or even thought about water-cooling. When i was a kid (I still am but i’m talking age-wise here) water-cooling was something I’d only read and dreamt about. It was out of reach. It didn’t help that I was living in a country where getting experimental, non-mass-market components was impossible.
When I started to look into cpu-gpu cooling solutions, I found out about the AIO(All in One) Water cooling systems which are now consumer-grade products and not limited to enthusiasts or extreme geeks anymore. Technically they are like the middle-men. Awesome and second only to full water-cooling solution blocks. Of course there are similar efficient Air-coolers e.g Noctuas. Do your research on what you prefer.
Corsair H100i Liquid Water CPU Cooler
Corsair H80i Liquid Water CPU Cooler
I’ll admit: I splurged money on this. This product soothed my geeky inner demon. Noctua, PWN, industrial, 2000rpm, one of the few non-brown product from noctua, sleek. I mean what more do you want? Go for it if you have the monies.
I got a Noctua 92mm for the back of the case to install as exhaust but sadly couldn’t fit it due to the radiator of the H100i cpu cooler and the fact that I have two ssds installed on the front of the case.
Noctua NF-F12 industrial PPC-2000 PWM 71.7 CFM 120mm Fan
Noctua NF-A9 PWM 46.4 CFM 92mm Fan
I had these parts from my earlier pc, so I saved some money. Maybe, later on I will put some cash on 16 or 32 gigabytes of ram.
Logitech Wave Pro Desktop Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard w/Laser Mouse
WORK IN PROGRESS
Here are some work in progress photos while I was building the machine. My whole work area was a mess (That means “clean” for a geek like me). Loved it.
FINAL ASSEMBLY BUILD SHOTS
“It’s a beauty, ain’t it?“
Check out the whole gallery on Flickr:
A Full parts list to view and download is also available on PcPartPicker:
If you like my pc build, the pictures, the useful links or my sense of humour. :), please leave your comments here. And on Flickr, if you like a picture too much.
Appreciate your time reading, have a good day to you, friend.