I’ve been keeping an eye on PC gear for the last year or so, seeing what’s new and what the prices are like. Our own, Aaron “Diagamblic” Hickman built himself a PC with a bit of help from yours truly. Granted, I might not “NEED” a new PC yet. My machine that’s been going on since 2010 is doing fine, but I am a little tempted in building a new PC just like how a car enthusiast wants to own a sports car.
Nice, but no thanks…
Originally, I wanted to build a machine with multiple graphics cards to get a SLI set up. This is where you run two or three of the same graphics card and make them work together to perform better. But after doing a little reading on websites and forums, I discovered that SLI, Crossfire, or any other sort of multiple GPU set ups are not quite what people expect, and cause a few issues in the process. One example is something called “Micro-stuttering”. This is where the games can randomly which out between 30 and 60 FPS causing the game to look like it’s slowing down, but it’s because multi-GPUs set ups are not purely synchronous, causing Micro-stuttering on-screen. Reading into this, to make advantage of a multi GPU set up, you need to have games that support it. Not all games will work on a SLI or Crossfire set up; and even if they do, they’ll only work on one or the other, meaning that if you have a game that works on SLI, like Titan Fall, but you have an ATI Cross Fire set up, there’s a very high chance that it’s not going to work unless you remove one of the cards out of your case, which would defeat the point of having a multi GPU set up in the first place! The only real reason to use SLI or Crossfire is if you’re going to do 3D rendering, and/or 3D animation. Which is funny considering that I hear a lot of people trying to do this for gaming. But as I’m not doing 3D animation, I won’t not bother doing any SLI stuff…
Because of this, my next PC build will be purely a single graphics card set up. But there’s one thing about my current set up that bugs me; I have LOADS of space inside my case, and all those PCI and PCI-e sockets are not being used! What I’m getting at is that I want a PC build where I’m utilising the whole board, and have nothing that is wasted. Keep what’s needed, and don’t have anything that’s not necessary.
A week ago, I discovered that Cooler Master has released one hell of a small Mini-ITX case called the Elite 110. It can still fit a standard ATX PSU, and graphics card up to 2100mm long. Reading this forum thread about a PC build with a Cooler Master Elite 110; an Asus GTX 760 can just about fit in tiny case. To be honest, as nice as it is to have a midi sized ATX case with plenty of space for expandability, if I’m not going to use it, what’s the point of having it right? The next machine I want to build will be a small mini-ITX machine that packs a punch! In other words, a Windows based Steam Machine that can used for more than just gaming!
So let me put together what I want to put in this machine…
Firstly, I’ll be needing a mini-ITX motherboard. I’ll say that I’m a bit of a fan for ASUS and Gigabyte motherboards as they’re pretty well made and last quite well. I picked the Gigabyte H87N-Wifi for the motherboard of my new PC because it’s the only Mini-ITX motherboard I can find that has plenty of USB 3 sockets on it, which I will be using for external hard drives for backup purposes. Personally I don’t need the wireless card; there’s a model without it, but I can’t find anyone who sells it, Amazon doesn’t even have it! This goes against my new “Keep what I need, don’t have anything unnecessary” philosophy, but as I can’t find any other Mini-ITX boards with plenty of USB 3 sockets, but no wireless; I’m going to have to make an exception on this one. Even if it does come with wireless aerials, they are detachable, and I don’t have to use them, so it’s not quite the end of the world if I get this board.
For the processor, I picked the Intel i5 4670K. I picked this because it’s the highest end i5 you can purchase that features a turbo mode, and an unlocked multiplier for future over-clocking. I could’ve picked an i7, but in my opinion, an i7 is simply over the top. Sure they’re very fast, but I would never fully utilise one! Having an i7, especially for myself, would be like taking a McLaren P1 just to do weekly grocery shopping! An i7 is expensive, and really unnecessary, sure they’re powerful, but i7s, going back to SLI set ups, are really made for really-really heavy work, like video and audio editing, and 3d rendering. Sure you can use them for gaming, but that’s not a job for an i7. So I’ll be using the best Intel i5 on the market. I could go with just a 4670, the model without the unlocked multiplier for over-clocking, but I would like to try that out one day, so I’m sticking with the 4670K.
Next we need RAM. The motherboard I picked uses DDR3 RAM, like what most motherboards use these days (even though DDR4 is coming out soon.) You can get DDR 3 in many-many speeds and latency ratings. When it comes to speed of RAM, which is rated in mega hertz, the motherboard I picked can only handle DDR3 RAM up to 1600MHz. Which is fine for me as anything over 1600 MHz is a waste, especially if you’re going to be using a dedicated graphics card. The RAM on the graphics card that I’m going to pick is very fast (GDDR5 @ 6008 MHz), so the need of system RAM faster than 1600 MHz isn’t necessary. The only time you really need 2000+ MHz RAM is when you’re building one of those really tiny NUC PCs that uses an integrated graphics chip and the system RAM is being used for video memory. But since I’m using a Mini ITX motherboard that uses a PCI Express socket and more standards than what NUC uses, I don’t need anything faster. However, there is a thing called latency. Latency is to do with how the CPU communicates with RAM and how much time it takes for CPU to get data sent to the RAM. The image above shows two pairs of RAM, a 8GB kit (pair of 4GB sticks) and a 16GB kit (2 * 8GB sticks), but notice how the 16GB kit on the left shows bigger numbers (10-10-10-27) than the 8GB kit on the right (9-9-9-24); that’s showing you how much latency is in the RAM. Typically the latency gets bigger when the RAM is bigger in gigabytes and faster in megahertz. As much as there isn’t a huge difference between the latency in the two pairs of sticks, it’ll be cheaper, and better to grab the 8GB kit. As much as I would like 16GB of RAM, I have no idea if I’ll ever 16GBs, again going back to the philosophy I have; not to mention that most PC gaming rigs, as well as the XBoxOne and PS4, use 8GB of RAM. If I need 16GB in the future, I’ll get it later, hopefully by then it’ll be cheaper, with a lower latency; I just hope that DDR 3 doesn’t get discontinued as DDR 4 is just about to come out!
As mentioned above, I read a forum thread about someone who built a gaming PC using a Cooler Master Elite 110 with an Asus GTX 760 card inside. Now yes, you can get better than a GTX 760, there’s the GTX 770, GTX 780 and the GTX Titan, but those cards are too big for the tiny Elite 110 case. The Asus GTX 760 will be the best card to make a gaming rig inside an Elite 110 case, not to mention that the GTX 760 is significantly more powerful than my existing GTX 650, which is performing fine at the moment. To be honest, I could just throw my existing GTX 650 card into this new machine and get a GTX 760 later on. Chances are, that’s what I might do, but I’m planning things out here…
Now we need a Power Supply Unit. Just like the graphics card, this might be a purchase I get later, mainly because I already own a very nice 700 watt Gigabyte branded PSU that I was able to purchase very cheap from a work mate back when I built my PC in 2010. But I would like to use a modular power supply. A modular power supply is where rather than having all the cables coming out of the power supply and not using them all, you have detachable cables coming from the power supply, meaning that you only use what you need. I discovered that there’s a new kind of the modular power supply you can get called a hybrid modular power supply. This is where the motherboard cables are permanently attached the PSU, you need them anyway, so there’s no point of having it detachable, whilst the drive and graphics cards power cables are detachable. by doing this, he hybrid PSUs are a little cheaper than the fully modular PSUs. The one I picked is a “Be Quiet” 630 watt Hybrid PSU. The Be Quiet brand is really good for low noise power supplies. I picked the 630 watt model because I need at least 600 watts if I’m to get a GTX 760 later on. Technically my 700 Watt PSU can do better than the PSU I picked, but it isn’t modular, and it’ll be a mess with all the cables inside the tiny Elite 110 case, meaning I’ll have to do a fair bit of cable management inside the case so that it’s not a complete mess and prevent air flow.
The Cooler Master Elite 110 is designed so that you use a liquid cooler rather than a fan cooler for your processor. Funny enough, I already have one of these! I own a Cooler Master Seidon closed loop liquid cooler. Back when I purchased this, I was going to invest in a liquid cooler that used a 240 x 120mm radiator, but good thing I got this one instead that was on offer at work because the Elite 110 can only hold a 120 x 120mm radiator. So no need to purchase one when I already have one that can fit in the new case!
As for hard drives and storage, I already own a 128GB solid state drive and a 2TB hard disk. These drives serve me fine, as I’m using the SSD for my OS, and the hard drive for pretty much everything else like games and music. Though I would like to get to get a pair of faster SSDs and put them in a RAID to see how fast you can boot up Windows, though to be honest I might not need to do it and I could just stick with what I already have, it’ll save me some dough doing that!
So here’s what I’m going with…
Motherboard: GA-H87n-WIFI Mini ITX £87
Processor: Intel i5 4670K £167
Cooling: Cooler Master Seidon M (Already own)
RAM: Corsair Vengeance Low Profile 8GB kit £62
Graphics Card: Asus GTX760 (Future purchase) £195
Power Supply Unit: “Be Quiet” 630 Watt Hybrid Modular supply (Future purchase) £60
Storage: 128GB Kingston SSD and a 2TB Western Digital Hard Disk (Already Own)
Case: Cooler Master Elite 110 £66
In total, this build will roughly cost £634, which is almost as much as my current PC I built in 2010. Bare in mind that he Power supply and the graphics card I don’t need straight away, so that takes it down to £379, which is very affordable. Now I just need to save a bit of money to build this machine!
Now… Where’s the Steam Controller when I need it!