Everything was in on Wednesday! What really surprised me was how Canadapost managed to deliver my processor the day before the motherboard and SSD, even though it shipped a day later. Same shipping method, same place of departure. I don’t get it. Oh well, waiting the motherboard and SSD was a good thing, as I the case and fans arrived at the same time. Build went very smoothly, I wish I did get more pictures, but the ones I did pick out were the best lit.
Install was smooth, build was very reminiscent of socket 1156, which was to be expected. Lots of cleanup needed to be done. My NH-U12P needed the toothbrush treatment, and I burned through 2 cans of compressed air cleaning that, the video card, RAM, and hard drives. The power supply was actually fairly dust free, but it did have a mesh filter intake. I gotta say, I was super impressed with the build of the Asus board, but I did miss the lack of q connector for the front panel input. Lots of clearance around the socket for larger heatsinks too, which is great. IO is minimal (6 USB ports on the back panel total), but acceptable, as it’s what I had on my P55 FTW. I do get 4 USB3 ports however, so it’s definitely an improvement over old IO. The sound on board is top notch, everything isolated and the actual Realtek ALC1150 is EMI shielded. I don’t really take notice of the lights on the board, but they’re there. I guess it’d be nice if I had a case window. Slot selection is perfect, and definitely acceptable for what I need. I’m only using a single PCI-e x16 right now, but there’s slot availability for additional graphics cards, and more importantly, additional IO like USB3.1, or network adapters. Fan header layout is good, with 2 CPU fan headers (CPU and CPU_OPT), along with 3 chassis fan headers spread along the bottom, left, and right of the board. All headers are 4 pin PWM compatible.
I gotta say, I loved Noctua fans from when I was buying NF-P12s on the regular, but man, they’ve really stepped up their game. The NF-F12s and NF-A14s are engineering marvels. I thought the P12s were well built, but these are a step above. I won’t go over everything here, but you can see the features of the F12 here and the A14 here. The basics are that the F12 is designed to focus it’s airflow directly behind the fan, instead of letting it spill out everywhere. These are great for radiator and heatsink use due to higher static pressure too. The A14 is kind of a jack of all trades – It has some pretty good throw, but it also performs good in radiator tasks where it needs to push or pull in confined areas. In this case, I used the F12s mounted push/pull on the NH-U12P, and the A14s took up the front intakes and rear exhaust of the Define R5.
Noctua included a pretty killer accessory pack too. You get a PWM splitter, a 4 pin extension cable, a 4 pin low noise adapter, and their standard mounting gear. All very well sleeved and worth the extra premium paid per fan. I’ve used a few of these accessories to have the fans share some PWM headers for easier fan control.
Final build in the R5 was very clean considering the parts I was working with. I opted to remove the 2×5.25″ and 5×3.5″ drive cages in favor of additional airflow. The NF-A14s in the front are sharing a PWM header, as are the NF-F12s mounted to the heatsink. I mounted the SSD to one of the the removable trays behind the motherboard to keep things a bit cleaner. The Define R5 was a top notch case, and from a builder’s perspective, hit all of the major notes. If I had any real complaints, it’d be the front fan mounting was a bit difficult with the extended screws, but that may be in part due to the silicone vibration dampening on the Noctuas. If I was to list my favorite features, it’d be the center standoff for motherboard alignment, the fully removable drive bays, the latched side panel, and the easily removable dust filters.
Windows installed in about 10 minutes thanks to USB3 and the 850 EVO. I took the extra time after installing windows to format my old SSD (I created a VHD out of it late last week) and drive test a few other hard drives that are being sold. I also ended up setting up my fan control with Fan Xpert 3 from Asus. Though I’m not a huge fan of the interface, it worked well to identify the lowest RPMs the fans are capable of, along with letting me set up custom fan curves for each header. My current curves are set up to keep all the Noctuas at about 500RPM until the processor hits 50, then slowly ramp up to max speed at about 80. Fan Xpert can also control spin up and spin down times as well, making the sound curve a bit smoother. My GPU fan curve was set up once again with EVGA’s Precision X, and is pretty much identical to what it was before. At idle and medium loads, the computer is spooky silent. I opened up Planetside 2, and played for about half an hour, and didn’t hear any fans except the GPU. The processor hit a maximum of 60 degrees, and the GPU about 65. Borderlands The Pre-Sequel pushed things a bit further, and I ended up hearing the GPU spin up a lot more, but the rest of the case remained eerie. There will be more testing, but for right now I’m pretty satisfied.
Now that the initial build is complete, I can discuss my ideas for the rest of the upgrade path.
Asus GTX 970 Strix: The GTX670 is 2 generations removed at this point, and with plans for higher resolutions and newer games, a GTX 970 seems to hit the price to performance sweet spot for resolutions up to 2560×1440. The Asus Strix model works well in my build due to it’s fanless operation under no/light load, it’s quiet fans when under heavy load, and it’s matching of my board (What can I say, color/brand coordinating parts is nice). Once Pascal (Nvidia’s new architecture) releases, I’ll be prepared to evaluate and upgrade again at that time if necessary. If I do deem an upgrade is needed, the 970 should retain a lot of it’s value for resale.
Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 1TB SSD: I can hear the hard drives. Actually, they’re probably the only things I can hear in the computer now, until the video card spins up. I run a really old 640GB Western Digital Black as my games/larger programs drive, and 2TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12s striped with Windows built in RAID features, which I generally use for scratch files, and recording game footage. Replacing all of those drives with another back mounted SSD should give me loads of room for games, lots of speed, and virtually no noise. I can also remove the drive cage too, which should improve airflow even further. If I want to record game footage, I figured Shadowplay has some fairly low write speeds, and could probably be handled to the file server over the network, but I’ll need to test this. I’m choosing the Reactor because of it’s price point mainly – 1TB of flash memory for under 300 dollars is almost unheard of in Canada. Topping off the great price, it couples that with MLC NAND (Generally more durable and better performing than newer standard TLC NAND) and a proven, problem free Silicon Motion controller. If I do choose to record any footage to the Reactor, it shouldn’t be an issue. Doing the math, it’s good for about 131GB of writes a day, for 3 years. I don’t think I’d be worried about that kind of volume.
Modular/Semi Modular PSU: This one is a tough choice, but I’m pretty sure I have it narrowed down to a final few. The non modular TX650W I currently have is an absolute champ, and it’s actually pretty darn quiet, but it’s getting old, only bronze rated for efficency, and non-modular. There’s an absolute mess of cables behind the motherboard tray, and I’d love to cut down on that a lot. I’ve narrowed my choices down to a 650w-750w model from the Corsair RMi or RMx series, or a 650w-750w model from the EVGA GQ or G2 series. All power supplies considered contain a semi-fanless mode at low/medium power consumption, and are 80Plus gold rated. The current leader of the race is the FSP built EVGA GQ series, considering it’s a bit cheaper due to being semi-modular (Hard wired 24 pin ATX), but includes all ribbon style modular cables. The RMi/RMx/G2 series are all very nice as well, but only really have the advantage of being fully modular, with slightly better voltage regulation/ripple suppression. The RMi series also includes Corsair Link, which I don’t think would be overly useful.
Matching QHD Monitors: This one is a pretty big maybe. The 970 seems to benchmark pretty well in QHD, so I was considering trying to find a good deal on a triplicate of QHD displays. The current front runner seems to be Acer 25″ H257HUs, offering QHD IPS matte panels, DVI, HDMI, and Displayport inputs, and really slim bezels. Only real downside is they’re pretty spartan – No VESA mounting and a pretty average stand. With 3 of those, I’d end up getting rid of my 19″ and my 21.5″, and I’d mount the ultrawide over the center monitor, likely with an arm. This setup will give me a lot more screen real estate, matching IPS LCDs, and the option to play in Nvidia surround if I wanted to.
Here’s hoping for another update soon!