My best friend since high school (yeah, we finish each other's sentences sometimes) showed me PCPARTPICKER while we were on a video call one night. We were talking about how my laptop had just broken at the hinge and that I was looking for replacements. Well, he showed me how the website works and after talking through a couple of configurations, he said that he wanted to buy a PC for me since I could use it for school/work CAD (mechanical engineering) and "stuff" (gaming). So I thanked him profusely and spent the next day or two doing research on components (and basic knowledge since I am a rube) to get the best value for his investment. I was off optimizing configurations and a few days later, I showed him the final list. Then, parts started to come in!
The Parts Chosen
He suggested the AMD FX-8350 and it stuck along with having an SSD for a boot drive, at least. Eight cores sounded better than four cores, but I did not fully grasp the multi-thread benefits in all applications. SolidWorks (SW) only uses one core either way, sadly, which I learned later, but SW is also the reason for the large amount of RAM. The rationale behind having two graphics cards was also related to CAD. I wanted to be able to use two screens at once, one for drawings and one for SW, for example, without having any problems. I thought SLI was the coolest and best option for a card(s) under $400. I wasn't sure if a higher GPU speed or higher GPU memory was better... or if more cores/bus width is best (still not sure). The case I chose because of it being sleek, simplistic, sophisticated, symmetrical, and specialized (functional doesn't start with "s"). When I look at my case, I think that it's the kind of unassuming case that could be holding pure computational power in a futuristic movie. I love it!
My father (large meat hooks in pictures), who has been a computer guy for longer than I have been alive, helped me assemble my first PC! We were missing a screw for the motherboard, but he had a box full of them. He really appreciated the build quality and features of the Fractal Design Define R4 case. I like the drive cages that can be rotated or removed, sound deadening foam inside the case, cable management ports, bottom and frontal removable mesh dust filters, robust paint, and most of all, the very solid-feeling construction of the structure itself.
We were also very impressed with the EVGA SuperNOVA G2 850W power supply; the standard wire sleeves match the overall high quality feel. The power supply alone made me want to buy EVGA in the future, not to mention the warranty.
The ASRock 990FX Killer motherboard has many useful features, like the included SLI bridge instead of the ribbon one that I ordered separately, the gigabit ethernet connection (because I like to dream), and high quality sound connections that I hope to utilize fully some day.
The Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler is massive, as the name would suggest. The comparison to the stock cooler is almost comical, I call it Big Poppa. The second fan had to sit higher than the other fan in order to clear the RAM. We put the cooler on after installing the motherboard and RAM, which made it very difficult (tight fit) to plug in some of the cables in the top left of the case but pliers helped.
The EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW and SSC graphics cards were easy to install, but the SSC does not have a back-plate and the FTW does. The back-plate is an important aesthetic and somewhat structural feature, and it probably bothers me more than others because I like symmetry. Both are running the same screen when I game for optimized performance and I split them between monitors when I want to use two. I do not remember which is the master and which is the slave, as far as the GPUs are concerned. The Valley benchmark is on one 1080p screen with both GPUs (optimized performance) and I am pleased. It is common for me to get above 60fps, even in un-optimized games like PUBG. I do always have a dose of paranoia about whether both GPUs are actually running all of my applications together, but the Valley Benchmark says GTX 950 x2 so I'm somewhat at peace.
Now, my best man and I are able to PC game together! I am able to play most games without having to worry about anything under 40fps when I look at the Steam fps counter. I am able to play Stellaris, for example, with 80-100+fps even around space battles. PUBG, like I mentioned earlier, is very enjoyable even though it is not an optimized game yet, and I get a wide fps range from ~25-60+fps with some needless settings turned off. As far as SW is concerned, I think that non-"workstation" GPUs don't really help with computations or anything. Since SW is a single core application, I don't see a large improvement in productivity (other than the sea of RAM). CPU and GPU temperature values were recorded during 3DMark Fire Strike. I would be interested to know how a multi-thread CPU would compare to my FX-8350 with SW. In the future, I might consider using one workstation card and one card for gaming instead of SLI gaming. I do not plan on overclocking any of the hardware, especially for very minor benefits.**
At the behest of my father, I bought a CyberPower 650VA UPS to ensure the safety of the system. I have changed my keyboard to a Corsair STRAFE with Cherry MX Brown switches, a gift from my wonderful wife, and it feels consistently more responsive than my old keyboard. I also have a gaming mouse from the wife that allows me to change the DPI, which can really come in handy. I really want to get into water cooling or something like a EVGA Hybrid graphics card, or upgrade to Ryzen or Intel with the same plan. The last picture is of my current setup with the PC sitting on wood so that it is not on the carpet, next to the custom wood and pipe desk that my father and I built. I have upgraded to a dual monitor mount so that I can look up at my monitors instead of looking down at them.
Comments and helpful knowledge are both welcome, along with suggestions.
**I can upload different benchmarks if there are any really beneficial/cool ones that are free.
This is a lot of CPU for the money and I hope to fully utilize it all.
Ryzen came out right after though, mah threads! D:
The Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler is massive, as the name would suggest. The comparison to the stock cooler is almost comical, I call it Big Poppa. It has more fins than an aquarium and is probably the best air cooler out there (because it's huge). I really want to analyze it in SolidWorks!
This motherboard has more features and ports than I had dreamed of, I'm still learning to use them all!
I want to use the M.2 slot for an SSD next!
It is not the fastest RAM but there is plenty of it. I hardly ever use more than half of it, but I love the "just in case I need to render your mom" overkill. I trust G.Skill products because of this RAM.
This is my first SSD and I now really appreciate the difference between it and HDDs. The read and write times are fantastic and the size is great for a boot/critical systems drive. The Samsung EVO line has a great reputation and price-to-performance ratio.
I do plan to upgrade or add a larger SSD at some point and I wouldn't have a second thought about getting another EVO.
This is inexpensive and reliable storage. I would get a Western Digital drive again for my next upgrade or build.
These graphics cards are what I expected and I trust EVGA's products and quality. I have a FTW which has a back-plate and a SSC which doesn't have a back plate.
The build quality and features are wonderful for the Fractal Design Define R4 case. I like the drive cages that can be rotated or removed, sound deadening foam inside the case, cable management ports, bottom and frontal removable mesh dust filters, robust paint, and most of all, the very solid feeling construction of the structure itself. I chose the case because of it being sleek, simplistic, sophisticated, symmetrical, and specialized (functional wasn't an s-word). When I look at my case, I think that it's the kind of unassuming case that could be holding pure computational power in a futuristic movie. I love it!
This power supply is everything that I hoped it would be and then some. It has sleeved cables and multiple cable options. And there is an amazing warranty. I really trust EVGA products, in part due to this PSU.
This is inexpensive and it works as it should.
These speakers provide adequate amplitudes and frequencies, but my only complaint is that the audio cable should be longer. Having my PC on the left side of my desk means that the cable is very taught since the audio cable goes to the right side speaker first, instead of a Y split between speakers. The volume knob is satisfying and the white accents are pleasing.