Friday, November 6, 2015


Back in June I built a new computer, at the time I was interested in getting myself to a point where I could play some video games and get online with something more powerful than an old phone. My original intent was to upgrade that machine, or build a new one and put the "old machine" in a secondary role. Since then circumstances conspired to put me in possession of the parts I needed to build a solid Skylake machine and today, I happily unveil the fruits of that labor, I give you REV2...

This build was a bit of a surprise, I originally didn't expect to build a Skylake machine. I moved some parts from the old machine to this one, the old machine will be going to a buddy of mine who's made the decision that it's about time he moved from a laptop to a desktop. So for the time being I'll be keeping most of my operational software on a single SSD for now, with the old reliable Seagate doing mass storage duty. Later, I plan to add a pair of M.2 drives for even faster access to both the OS and games. The Corsair parts really lend themselves to the color scheme and they also are surprisingly quiet, my experience with Corsair prior to this has really been with their ram exclusively, and I've always found their gear rock solid, if pricey.

I will be adding a second 980 TI down the line, and I'll be doing some custom sleeving on the PSU cables. I'm almost certainly going to be switching the LED strip as well. The NZXT strip is easy to install, and clean enough. But the LEDs themselves are pretty far apart. They work, but it gives a somewhat inconsistent light inside the case. The H440 is the big brother to the S340 that I fell in love with over the summer. I still prefer the sleek, clean look of the S340 in general. But the extra room and sound dampening are welcome in the H440.

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor
CPU Cooler:
Corsair H110i GTX 104.7 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
Motherboard: MSI Z170A GAMING M7 ATX LGA1151 Motherboard 
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2666 Memory
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Video Card:
MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Video Card 
Case: NZXT H440 (Black/Red) ATX Mid Tower Case
PSU: EVGA 850W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply 
OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Professional OEM (64-bit) / Linux Arch Dual Boot 
AIO Fans: Corsair Air Series SP140 Quiet Edition 49.5 CFM 140mm Fan (2)
Case Fans: Corsair Air Series AF120 Quiet Edition 39.9 CFM 120mm Fan (4)
Headphones: Superlux HD668B Headphones
Monitor: AMH A409U
UHD 40" 3840X2160 16:9 4K LED Monitor 60Hz 
Keyboard: Logitech G15 *
Mouse: Logitech G5 *

Speakers: Creative 2.1 *

Keyboard, Mouse, and Speakers are quite old at this point. They "work" but only just. Some keys on the keyboard stick, the LEDs recently died. The mouse is still functional, but considering my new screen it really has become noticeably lacking. I should have a SteelSeries mouse on the way from MSI shortly, failing that I'll probably pick up a Myonix Castor. For the Keyboard, I'm not sure honestly. But almost certainly something using Cherry MX switches. As for the speakers, that's going to be a project for another day entirely...

But enough talk, how does it look?

The 980 TI does an admirable job at 4k, this screen has definitely won me over.

Those green LEDs on the Power, Reset, and Post Code readout are the only real flaw with the M7 board from MSI.

Looking at it now, I think I'll go with cable sleeving to match the Corsair AIO, really slick and it's grown on me.

The lighting on the rear IO is a nice touch NZXT.
But how does it perform?

Using the Heaven Benchmark settings from the GPU Benchmark thread on Tek Syndicate I came up with the following results after Overclocking. For the first result I used the overclocking dial in the MSI Command Center app to crank it up. I managed to get through the Benchmark with these settings, but then had some artifact and crashing issues when I fired up Civ V at 4k.

I imagine with a custom water loop I could pull a bit better than this, not going to complain though.

I decided to load the BIOS and do a simple OC the old fashioned way, I turned on XMP and dialed the Core to 4.6. That's when I noticed that the OC dial actually alters the Base Clock, etc as well. Which explains the instability issues. I then ran the system using the overclock I'd put together for the GPU in Afterburner and got the results below. Frankly, I'm very impressed. Considering I didn't dick around with the Boost clock or anything, those numbers are perfectly acceptable to me.

More stable results after lowering the Core Clock.
The following morning I decided to tinker a little more, and I've now found my final overclock results. Here's how she looks at present with the Benchmark and GPU-Z...

These are the settings I'll be using until I have a second card installed.

So far every single part has performed above and beyond expectations, there have been some minor issues with regards to the memory. However that's apparently par for the course with the z170 chipset and was fixed with a BIOS update. I also had some odd issues with positioning fans with the AIO, and that's not utterly surprising either. Aside from nitpicking a few additional items that just haven't made it into the system yet, I'd call it finished. It went together very smoothly.

Interestingly, my wife has expressed interest in getting her own machine built too. So, looks like I've got at least one project lined up for the new year. So stay tuned for more...


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