About 5 years ago I came back stateside from Japan, and that winter I received a nice little chunk of change from the tax and pension refunds I’d claimed from my years of working over there. I put some of that money to use in building my first home-and-hand-assembled PC. It’s served me well throughout the years and still does a serviceable job where it counts, but with all the crazy graphics-intensive games coming out these days and the prospect of marriage and family-building in the not too distant future, I figured now’s probably a good time to make me a new system. Also 5 years is a decent life for many computer parts, and who wants to wait for something to crap out?
I started planning my build a couple months ago and was pleased to see that Providence or God had ordained for major new graphics card releases this summer. Not just new graphics cards, but big jumps. nVidia’s 10 series has been especially impressive – with the Gtx 1070 leading the pack in terms of popularity and cost for value. AMD’s new RX 480 also attracted my eye for a time, but the power draw problems that were reported early and briefly, along with my keen eye on Newegg’s Twitter feed prompted me to go for the 1070. All the new cards have been selling out quickly as demand has far outstripped supply thus far, but I was able to snag a Gigabyte Gtx 1070 G1 Gaming GPU a few minutes after Newegg tweeted out that they had just gotten some supply in. As of this posting it’s sold out, and has been for a while.
$430 was more than I had initially wanted to spend on a video card, but dang. Look at that thing.
They say you get what you pay for, so. We’ll see. My displays are only 1080p, so this is really more power than I need, but I’m future proofed and I expect for some time now I’ll be able to make all games my…subservient wenches…with maxed out graphics and performance settings.
I didn’t take a ton of pictures as I was building it (or after the fact), but I did have a few takeaways. First, here are the major parts I used:
Case: NZXT S340 Black Steel
Chipset: ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming
GPU: Gigabyte GTX 1070 G1 Gaming
CPU: Intel Core i5-6600K
CPU Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Storage: Seagate 2TB SSHD 7200 RPM
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4 PC4-24000 16GB (8GBx2)
Optical: N/A (LG External DVD R/RW)
OS: Windows 7 license > Windows 10
Having built that one system in the past, and having tinkered a little bit inside it and others subsequently, I have a working familiarity with computer innards. But one thing this build taught me is that there are a variety of parts that interact and connect with each other in different ways. As the tech changes, some parts morph in form and function. So if you haven’t worked with a particular component before, even if you know the basics, you still need to read the instructions and learn.
- For instance, I thought it would be easiest to install the CPU and cooler on the motherboard before mounting it inside the case. That’s what I remember doing last time. But the aftermarket Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO was difficult to attach to the motherboard without having it mounted. I was showing my girlfriend the parts and wound up using her here for extra hands.
- On that note, I found myself applying the thermal compound to the top of the CPU and getting ready to plop down the cooler, and wasn’t sure which way to orient it and the fan. I just picked a random orientation and lucked out; the fan should be pushing air to the top of the case, which can then exit out a vent. But there was no indication in the spartan directions as to how to determine the best way to point the thing.
- It’s also apparently the norm for this cooler to block one slot of RAM. So if you’re planning on using it, you may not have the option of employing four sticks of memory.
- Some of the case cables threw me for a little bit of a loop. There was a black cable with a blue connector that was labeled something like “GLAN 30V.” This is the USB 3.0 cable, that plugs into the corresponding pins on the mobo. The two preinstalled case fans also both connected to a molex adapter. Unfortunately it was kind of shoddy, and when I tried to plug it into one of the PSU’s molex connectors, one pin corresponding to one of the fans would connect and the other, slightly misaligned, would push itself backwards and a little out of the molex adapter, rendering it useless. Luckily I was able to just unattach the fans from the adapter and plug them directly into the motherboard’s “Case fan 1” and “Case fan 2” slots.
- Note, you need to connect the PSU cables before you install it into this case; there’s not enough maneuvering room inside the cavity to plug the stuff in afterwards. So that had to be pulled out and reinstalled.
- Likewise that little metallic frame that serves as a metallic barrier between the back of the case and the piece of the mobo with all the ports (is there an official name for that thing?) – that needs to be pressed in from inside the case. So if you’ve mounted your motherboard already…you have to unmount, install, and remount. Was kind of a pain and made me anxious about handling the motherboard so much.
- After everything was connected, I had indicator lights on the chipset lighting up, so it was getting power. But pressed the power button and…no post, no nothing. That is always frustrating! I attached a speaker, but wasn’t getting any beeps, so that stressed me out for a couple of minutes. Fortunately I had a suspicion that payed off:
- There are two connectors on the motherboard that need PSU cable hookups. One is a large connector labeled something like EATX Power or EATX 24 or something like that. (I think it’s 24 pins) Then there’s a smaller connector above the CPU called EATX 12V. I had plugged in a regular VGA connector (I think they used to be labeled PCIe?) from the PSU, which had a 6-pin piece and a 2-pin piece. It was a pain in the ass to manipulate into position and plug in. My research indicated that some motherboards (in the past or different models) would include a CPU Power slot, labeled as such. So I guessed this may be the same thing here, and exchanged the VGA connector for the PSU connector labeled CPU, which was a similar deal except it had two 4-pin pieces to plug in. This, too, was a pain in the ass to connect. But did it, replugged and pushed power, and bam, it posted.
Putting these things together is quite satisfying, but unless I get a job that includes a lot more hardware assembly, I don’t anticipate ever being able to blow through a build without indecision or uncertainty. For the time being, I have had enough of slots and connectorz.