Hello, and welcome to my first-ever PC build!
After changing locations and moving into a home office, I decided it was time to build a workstation that would allow me to be productive while providing a superior experience for gaming and entertainment in my leisure. However, when I began researching parts back in December 2017, I discovered just how dreadful a time it was to be a consumer in the PC parts market. I turned my sights to refurbished pre-built computers, but I wasn't happy with the choices I had.
My saving grace came in the form of an RX 580 reference card (yes, reference RX 580… I’ve heard people say that there is no reference PCB for this card? Of course there is.) that was destined for life in a Dell computer. A friend of mine in the Alienware division intercepted the card somewhere between the test bench and the production line, and it made its way into my hands. With the most expensive component of the PC taken care of, building a system around it now seemed much more feasible (so long as I could swallow the price of DDR4!). With that, I spent the months that followed acquiring parts; I'll walk through my thoughts and impressions of each component below.
Case: InWin 301. I originally planned to build a SFF Mini-ITX system and tuck it away under the desk somewhere. As weeks turned into months of time spent carefully selecting components, I had a change of heart. The ITX mobo had already been purchased, but I decided I wanted it in a chassis I would enjoy looking at and had room for future upgrades. The InWin 301 was the result. With a small footprint, mATX mobo and full-size power supply compatibility, and less volume than a Fractal Design Nano S, this is a true mATX case; however, I believe it is also well-suited to ITX. The case has ITX standoffs pre-installed, and the components fit snugly while feeling neither cramped nor leaving large vacancies of open space.
The chassis is of rugged construction, made entirely of thick 1.2mm steel. It features a snap-on/snap-off tempered glass panel (which reminds me of an oven; hence the name, desktop rotisserie oven), and a gorgeous matte finish. I've seen complaints about the top-mounted power supply, but I actually quite like this design choice: the GPU receives a constant supply of cool air from the bottom intake, and the power supply evacuates any pockets of warm air that accumulate at the top of the case. While I'm very satisfied with my choice overall, the case is not without its drawbacks. Some may be nit-picky about the PCI-E slots, as they must be unscrewed and removed. I understand that this is not a desirable feature. Storage space is limited to one HDD and one SSD, and I had a hell of a difficult time mounting the SSD and keeping the SATA cables from coming loose. With those items aside, the biggest drawback by far is the cable management (or rather, complete lack of cable management!). I knew the cable management would be challenging before I bought the case, and indeed I was correct. Provisions for cable management are simply non-existent. I spent hours routing and tying up cables, then undid the whole thing and started over, but the mess you see in the pictures was unavoidable. The back panel fits, but it’s not as flush as I would like it to be.
CPU: Ryzen 5 1600. The Ryzen 5 1600 is a fantastic value CPU, and I'm sure everyone here knows about it at this point. I run a full-time mild overclock of 3.8GHz at 1.3v. The chip will handle 3.9GHZ at 1.39v, but it’s warmer and slightly less stable.
Cooler: Dark Rock Pro 3. This cooler is a pleasure to own. It's totally overkill for my system, but it looks stunning, performs exceedingly well, and operation is whisper quiet. During 23 hours of prime95 stress testing, max CPU temp was 67°C with the side panel on and 62°C with the side panel removed. Although InWin specifies a maximum CPU cooler height for this case of 160mm on their website, there are a few mm of overhead. The DRP3 fits without contacting the side glass, but this is the absolute maximum height cooler that will clear.
If you're interested in this cooler and you have an AM4 mobo, contact Be Quiet! on their website and they will send you an AM4 mounting kit. Installing the DRP3 is a challenge, even when doing it the "correct" way, as it involves blindly maneuvering the bulky cooler mounting bracket from the front until it aligns with standoffs on the mounting plate, and fastening them down from the back of the case. It will take more time and patience than practically any other air cooler, but the result is worth it.
With my ITX mobo, there was just barely too little clearance between the heat sink and the rear of the case to fit a 25mm thickness exhaust fan. It was off by barely a millimeter. A mATX mobo that positions the CPU socket further to the right, or a low-profile fan would remedy this issue; however, I find that my temps are fine without a rear exhaust fan, thanks in part to the PSU mounted right above the CPU cooler.
Motherboard: ASRock AB350 Gaming-ITX/ac. I chose this motherboard because my original plan was to build a SFF compact computer. I'm very pleased with it, and I don't feel that I'm making a sacrifice keeping the ITX mobo instead of moving to a mATX mobo instead. I have no current need for more than 32GB of RAM or multiple M.2 drives (it has a single M.2 mount on the back). The version I received came with the updated VRM heatsinks from the Z-series mobo. The connector layout allows for easy cable routing, and everything works the way it's supposed to. It has onboard WiFi and Bluetooth, and the audio is excellent. The BIOS is very easy to use, and the overclocking settings were clear and intuitive. This is one of the best ITX mobos for the price.
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB 3200mhz. Awesome, lightning fast memory. I will note that this memory has a default CAS latency of 16, and therefore I do not think that it’s Samsung B-die; however, I loaded up the default 3200 XMP profile, and it runs at 3200mhz without issues. This is probably more closely related to the BIOS than the memory die itself, but in the past, there have been anecdotes that B-die is required to achieve speeds over 3000mhz on Ryzen systems and that is simply not true in my case.
SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB. Samsung SSDs are top-notch. This is a 250GB 850 EVO series SATA drive that I installed the OS and most program files onto. Boot time is very fast, and the overall experience with Windows is snappy and smooth. This is the first time I've had a PC with an SSD, and I can’t understate what an incredible difference it makes in the overall experience. If you are somebody that transfers a large volume/large files between drives frequently, a PCI-E M.2 is worth considering. For a boot drive however, the SATA SSD works well.
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 2TB. This is an older Seagate Barracuda, with the white label instead of the white/green/black label. The 7200 rpm platter is noisy (actually, when the GPU fan isn’t screaming, the HDD is the only audible component in the system) but the read/write speed is very fast, and I believe I paid a good price for 2TB of storage. I'd definitely purchase another one, but 2TB is adequate for my needs.
GPU: RX 580 8GB. This is not an MSI partner card, but rather an AMD RX 580 reference card. It has a stock clock speed of 1340mhz, but I repasted with Arctic Silver 5 and was able to overclock it to 1400mhz with Afterburner without touching the voltage or power limit settings. It will achieve a max stable overclock of 1420mhz with increased voltage and power, but it runs too hot under load at max voltage for this to be viable for long sessions.
The card crushes everything I play on 1080p, often easily maxing out the refresh rate of my 144hz display, ultra settings on shooters that are less GPU intensive like DOOM and Borderlands 2 (which I’m playing a lot of recently because I’m hyped for BL3!). It is a blower-style card though, and while the heat containment is great for my relatively small case, it runs hot and sounds like the tarmac at LAX. Given that I got the card free of charge and how well it performs on my 1080p display, watercooling it in the future is not out of the question. "Blarghh", you might say, "but you shouldn't watercool a mid-range card! Just buy a 1070" etc. etc. I am duly aware of the price/performance metrics at play here, and would happily disregard them. Watercooling this card would drop core temps in half, draw much less power, and make the rig nearly inaudible at all workloads. It's certainly a consideration for an upgrade path down the road.
If you can find an RX 580 in 2018 for a good price, I would recommend it. Preferably not a blower-style card, though, unless you're building in a SFF case and need the closed-loop heat containment.
Power Supply: Corsair RMx 650W 80+ Gold. The Corsair RMx PSU is beautiful and silent. It's fully modular, comes with high quality all-black sleeved cables, sips on power, and seriously I can't hear it at all.
Case Fans: SilentWings 3 120mm PWM. In maintaining the Be Quiet! theme, I chose four SilentWings 3 120mm PWM fans to populate my case: 2x intake and 2x exhaust, connected to a SilverStone PWM fan hub. The intake fans draw air in through a dust filter on the bottom and feed cool air to the GPU; the exhaust fans push air out the side where the cables are. Though the cables appear to impede air flow, there is enough free space that I can feel air pouring out of the slots. The ASRock BIOS allows for fine tuning of PWM fan curves, which I found to be a very useful feature. I have slight positive pressure in my case, which is great for keeping out dust. My mobo reads a max temp of 45°C during stress testing.
An argument can be made that spending money on SilentWings fans is pointless when the GPU is so loud; however, the PC is very quiet during any work that does not put the GPU under stress. With all four case fans manually set to maximum, plus the two fans in the CPU cooler, it's still remarkably silent. There is no coil whine. The only noise is a (not altogether unpleasant) gentle woosh of air. If I were to watercool the GPU using the SilentWings fans on the radiator, the HDD would essentially be the loudest source of audible sound. These fans are outstanding quality, they look great, and I would not budge on exchanging them for something else as a cost-saving measure.
Monitor: Asus VG248QE 144Hz. Wow, what a difference 144hz makes! I continue to be shocked by how smooth the overall user experience is, not only in gaming but in general desktop use as well. The colors are clear and brilliant, and the response time is instant. My video card does not have a DVI-D port, so I used a display port cable instead. It works just fine for 144hz. It has ports for HDMI, but HDMI is capped at 60 fps, so keep this in mind if you're considering a monitor with a refresh rate above 60hz.
Keyboard: EagleTec KG011. It's mechanical, it's full-sized, it's pretty, it's cheap. I love the brushed aluminum. The LEDs are blue-only, but I don't particularly care for RGB anyway. I wish it had a palm rest, but for the price, I can't complain. The switches feel comparable to cherry blues, but they're somehow even more clicky. It's the loudest keyboard I've ever heard when bottoming out the keys. I put B000FMWLR8 o-rings on all of the key caps, which prevents bottoming them out and improved the tactile feel. I would recommend this keyboard to anyone curious about mechanical keyboards, or anyone looking for new ways to passive-aggressively annoy their co-worker in the adjacent cubicle, so long as the noise doesn't bother you.
Mouse: Logitech G203. Exceptional value mouse; matches my keyboard. It's lightweight and well-constructed. The switches and the scroll wheel feel great, and the tracking is ultra-precise with no acceleration. The G203 goes on sale at Best Buy frequently, so definitely pick one up for a couple of bucks as a backup even if you're satisfied with your current mouse.
I think that about wraps it up! I know that nobody is going to bother reading through this entire thing unless they are interested in specific components mentioned here, but for those of you looking for information, I do hope that this post helped answer your questions. If there is anything else you'd like to know, please feel free to ask me in the comments. The photos are not the best I have ever taken, but they should be adequate for this purpose. :)
Thanks for stopping by!