Description

Hey guys, this build was done for my uncle. He needed a computer that would be future proofed for a while. He'll be running some photo editing, basic home use, and streaming HD videos. He'll be streaming a max of 2 simultaneous streams so the i5 should be more than powerful enough to encode those streams. Some of the part selection is because of the future proofing and based off his budget. We could have easily gone with 8GB or RAM instead of 16GB, but he is the kind of guy that just wants it done so he doesn't have to worry about it later. We never know how hungry Chrome will get, am I right?

This is my first Skylake build. I was originally going to go with Haswell Refresh due to the inflated price of Skylake and DDR4. However, when I started shopping around I managed to find some pretty good deals. And I mean realistic deals that you guys should be able to find really easily. Not some of these ridiculous 50% off deals I've been seeing people post on PCPP lately. MicroCenter has the Skylake i5 and Haswell Refresh i5 at the same price. So with a little extra cost for the z170 chipset and DDR4, it was a no brainier, especially considering we're trying to make a future proof build.

The name of this build was inspired by the new i series. I hope to carry this name as a sort of product line for future Skylake builds. So you could consider this a prototype of sorts. Obviously the computer is not centered around gaming, but could just as easily be converted for multiple types of use.

I wanted my uncle to be able to easily add more SSDs and HDDs down the road. So when I made the custom cables, I put multiple connectors on the same run for the HDD cage. Where they line up perfectly to plug into a new drive. If you look on the back on the computer you can see I did this for the empty SSD slot as well.

I went a little over the top as far as build quality goes. I'm trying to build up my enthusiast level builds for my portfolio. I mainly build office machines. But I enjoy personal builds a lot more. I did all the custom metal work and cable sleeving. All the main system cables were sleeved in paracord and the rest were sleeved in PET plastic. If you are interested in sleeving and are just intimidated by it, don't worry, you can do it. The learning curve is not as steep as it might seem and the results or worth it. Once you have the few basic tools it is not that expensive for the sleeving material, especially if you sleeve your existing system cables. (Assuming you have modular cables, but you can just as well sleeve none modular cables.) Below are links to some great products to get you started:

  • Crimpers The most important tool. If you want the highest chance of a good crimp every time, this is it
  • Strippers Not the most important piece, but man will they make your life easier, especially if you want consistent length strips
  • Cutters I recommend buying two, one for cutting sleeve and another for cutting wire
  • Sleeving Really great cordless paracord for a really good price
  • Wire I recommend using 16awg wire. It will be best for efficiency and look the best. One thing to keep in mind, if you are sleeving with a light colored sleeve, you will want to use white to keep it vibrant as the black wire will make the end product darker. Mainframe customs is also a great place to pick up your connectors and pins.
  • Wire Wraps While Mainframe has their own wire wraps you can purchase, ensourced makes some really good 3D printed ones that are much tighter and have way less of a gap
  • Tutorial PCPP actually has the best tutorial for sleeving I've seen yet. Very strait forward, this method has saved me a lot of time and headahces. I highly recommend you watch this one.

I've recently fallen in love with Fractal Designs, their cases are just awesome. However, they lack a feature that I like to see in cases, a PSU cover. I personally don't care to see the power supply. And I see quite frequently a lot of people will choose their power supply based on its aesthetics, which is fine, but you might find yourself spending more money or buying a bad power supply just to fit your theme. Again in my opinion, I feel a PSU should be purchased based off efficiency rating, wattage needed with 25 to 35% overhead, and reliability. So as the Define R5 does not have a PSU cover, I decided to make my own!

If you are a DIY kind of guy/gal, then you could just as easily do what I did for this build. In order to make the PSU and drive bay covers, I built a metal brake for a total of $35 in materials at Home Depot. You could do it for even less if you already have a table to secure some hinges to. If you would like me to draw up some plans so you can build your own, just drop a comment. This was a lot of fun and it really improved the aesthetics of this build. It just makes it so much cleaner. I'm not trying to take away from those of you who like to see the PSU, it's just not my cup of tea.

As I could not seem to find the ASUS z170-AR on the part list, I'll list its review here. I was not very thrilled with this board at first. It could have a few more USB ports on the back and I'm not a big fan of the copperish brown color of the pathways on the board. Makes it look dated to me. I really like the boards that look almost flat black or all black PCB. But that is purely aesthetic. I do however like the white cover for the I/O ports, that is a nice touch and hope to see that carried forward from ASUS. White is a good neutral color as it will reflect most colors from LEDs to match someones theme.

One thing I was disappointed to see was the cheap all metal I/O shield. Asus has some really good ones with padding on the back and its painted. I wouldn't even mind to see a slight increase in price to ensure this feature made it with the board. At this point I don't see why any mobo manufactures are still using those crappy I/O shields.

Over all though the board functions very well for its price range. It handle my overclocks just fine. Probably don't want to go to crazy with it but for moderate overclocking its great. Very easy to use BIOS.

Part Reviews

CPU

This CPU is great. I'm extremely impressed with the temperatures I'm getting. It overclocks very easily as well. Especially in combination with the ASUS z170. I had my doubts at first but so far this CPU as proved me wrong against all my expectations. So far I like it more than the Haswell architecture chips. Add to all of that the price from MicroCenter and this thing is a very good buy.

I'm running 4Ghz OC at an idle temperature of 24C! 37C under load. Very surprised at those results. Note my ambient temperature is currently 22C. Might have something to do with it. In any case this i5 is not messing around. I havn't done any gaming with it, but I cant see it being an issue. No matter what you throw at it.

CPU Cooler

I gave this 3 stars for a few reasons. First I would like to say that this thing performs very well. Especially considering its price range and it being a single 120 x 120 mm radiator. However, it's pump is very loud. It is literally the only thing I can hear coming from the case. It has got a little better after running, (air not being circulated through the pump). The second thing would be that the pump top does not include the LED feature, which apparently only comes with the other Kraken models. Overall it is not a bad buy as it does perform well, but as I was going for a silent build, so it will not receive high marks from me. So if you don't care about noise it is a good purchase.

Memory

Hey its RAM! I do have to say, I really like DDR4. This is the first module of DDR4 I've worked with so I can't really give it a good comparison. But its fast, good price, and it works. I've heard nothing but good things about the hyperx fury black line, so my expectations are high.

Storage

This has got to be the best buy for an SSD in its range. For price per Gigabyte and overall performance, this thing kicks some serious butt. This is the 10th or so build I've used this SSD for and the boot and reboot times are incredible. After post its like 3 seconds or less. Add to that the reliability of the 850 Evo line and you have yourself a winner.

Storage

Not much to say about this drive. I use them for general store in my builds. Fast enough and reliable. As well as a great price.

Video Card

These 900 series from NVIDA are great. Obviously its no 980 but it can handle 1080p gaming no problem. Very quiet opperation with its silent fan technology. Idle temp is around 40c (fans off) with a load at about 49c (fans on). With the backplate, this card also looks great. EVGA has a pretty good stock cooler for this series.

Case

This is a great case for any level of builder. After working on my White Widow build in the NZXT s340, this thing was like working in a basketball court compared to a closet. Plenty of room for water cooling if you want. Great cable management routes and tie points. The fans that come with the case work really well and they are surprisingly very quiet. In case you are curious they are 140mm fans, which I think is a nice touch considering the price point of this case.

It comes with air filters on the front and full length of the bottom of the case. Both easily accessible. The bottom filter is accessible from the front of the case so you don't have to access it from the back. Great job fractal.

It will fit anything you can throw at it. Plenty of room for even the largest of graphics cards. However you might have to remove the center drive bay cage if your card is too long. 12" of clearance with the drive bays installed. 18" without the drive bays installed.

Its modular design is great. You can remove both hard drive cages and the 5.25" drive bays. But at that point you might as well go with the Define S. The top covers are also removable in sections so can remove what you need.

I've seen a large number of builds lately on this site using this case, and for good reason. Buy it.

Power Supply

This is a really good modular power supply. Gold + rated which is good enough for most builds. The RM series is designed for quiet use. The fan only spins up once a curtain load level is reached, making it great for silent builds with low power draw. It also has good capacitors that are designed to reduce coil wine.

Optical Drive

There is hardly ever a quiet optical drive, but this one isn't too bad. I personally try to avoid optical drives as they are hardly ever used. But overall this is a good price for a decent Blu-Ray drive. Its front fascia is also really nice.

Comments

  • 44 months ago
  • 6 points

Looks at build. Dies because too beautiful.

  • 44 months ago
  • 3 points

Great attention to detail, really polished build +1

  • 44 months ago
  • 2 points

sniff sniff I smell a Feature...

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

One that doesn't go away for a long time...

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

a well deserved one at that, bravo bmccarthy8989

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks guys! Looks like I may of been beaten out of it today though. : / Maybe next time.

  • 44 months ago
  • 2 points

When you are saying Haswell-e, do you mean Haswell refresh?

  • 44 months ago
  • 2 points

Yes, you are absolutely correct. I've been doing research lately on x-99 which references the haswell-e for the LGA 2011-v3 socket. Thank you for catching that. I've updated my build accordingly.

  • 44 months ago
  • 2 points

Sheer craftsmanship. Would you say that the case mod impedes cooling from the front intake?

  • 44 months ago
  • 2 points

Not as much as you would think, with 3 x 140mm fans behind it, there is plenty of air flow coming out of the vents I created. I've been running the machine none stop for the past 3 days. With no change in temperature. Also while I load tested it for over an hour, temperature leveled out below my expectations. Also when the fans are full blast, there is enough airflow to spin a non powered fan. So I think I'm ok. But to directly answer your question, yes, it does block some air flow, but no more than the existing drive bays that were installed with the case originally. In fact it may be better because the openings are wider than that of the drive bays.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Not to mention you're only cooling a 960.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

indeed

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you kind sir.

  • 44 months ago
  • 2 points

ma'am*

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

+1 For the name!

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Wow. The detail. The everything is just FABULOUS!! I luv it. Iz bootiful. Ez mein. :)

But actually though, this is a great build, and it looks like you put a large amount of time into customizing this case, and those cables. One question though. How are you getting airflow from the fans at the front of the case in the the back? I saw the vents, but the seemed to be the wrong way to be pushing air through.

Cheers!

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the kind remarks!

The way the vents are angled directs any air coming out of the vents down to the GPU. This setup works because of the different pressure areas within the case by creating these covers. In the main compartment with the motherboard there is a lower pressure, where as under the covers there is a very high pressure. There is a total of 3 140mm fans behind the covers forcing air into that cavity. Even at low RPM there is substantial air flow coming from the vents.

I have not fully tested this theory out as this is the first time I have done this. But I've been running the machine none stop and have done multiple load tests and this case still stays cool. I'll probably add an update to the build about this as I'm sure I'll be getting quite a few questions about it.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Ok, I see where you are coming from, I just thought the way they were oriented might reduce airflow to the front of the case for all dat cooling :P

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

really clean build

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

my nzxt x41 was loud for first few days, but now its completely silent.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

It's definitely got better, which I expected. But still pretty loud for an AOI cooler.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Let me guess you got that AR verison motherboard from microcenter?

Since you didnt like the kraken, what would of been your other choice as for a cpu cooler with this build setup?

Edit: just got done reading your post, i'm guessing you did in fact buy it from microcenter lol. I wonder why they stock the AR version and not the Z170-A.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Haha yep, sure did. I wish they had the A but the AR is working really well. I went with the Kraken in this build because it had the lowest price in that coolers range. I personally like the corsair AIO coolers. I would have much rather opted for one of those. They are quieter, but like I said, the performance so far is better with the 120mm Kraken, than the 120mm H80i I have in my work case.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah im considering the corsair h100i gtx for my cpu cooler I really like the look of it and it works well with my build as an exhaust at the top, or maybe cheap out with a 212 evo kinda unsure at this time ill see how prices change in the next few weeks. What your temps/OC looking like with the kraken?

EDIT: BTW i really like what you did with that custom PSU cover/inside side panel really cool idea and looks fantastic. Is it just painted aluminum with cut out grommets?

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

You can't go wrong with the h100i gtx. It'll handle a pretty decent overclock no problem. I settled with a 4GHz OC because the use of this build did not need anything higher than that. I also wanted a low idle temperature, which is at 24c idle, and 37c on load. Once I got above 4GHz it started to heat up to around 30c idle and 51 on load. Note this is with a single 120mm radiator. The h100i would have far better performance with its 240mm radiator.

I also prefer AIO coolers to heatsinks because it allows you to see more of the components around the CPU. But that's me, I can fully appreciate those that like the big heatsinks. Some of them look pretty bad ***, like the Be Quiet heatsinks. The 212 evo is so popular because of its $25 - $40 price range and it blows most similar priced coolers out of the water as far as performance goes. All depends on your budget and desired look and feel of the build. The Evo would be a solid choice if you are looking to save a few bucks. You can always upgrade later.

Thank you! I fear the amount of work that went into it goes a little unnoticed by the community. And in a way that's a good thing because it blends so well into the case. They are made out of sheet metal, fairly thick gauge, I can't remember off the top of my head exactly what gauge it is. And then I sanded them down and painted them. For the PSU cover, I also ordered some grommets from corsair. They are replacement grommets for the Obsidian series cases. Which look really good, just cut the holes to fit them and that's it.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

I may attempt to make a PSU cover like what you did, although i feel like the inside side panel may block some air flow? But none the less you did an excellent job. Yeah i agree with you about the large heatsinks kinda being to big and AIO are much more pretty to the eye in my opinion.

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Wow, awesome build mate. I really like your diy shroud and hdd cover and think I might try to make my own. It's the only thing I feel the R5 lacks as I was debating between the R5 and Phanteks Enthoo Luxe. I will definitely go with the R5 (white) now. Can you please give me your measurements/plans?

If you could redo it, would you purchase the same mobo? I'm deciding between the Asus Z170-AR and MSI Krait Z170; only flaw with the MSI are the sata ports.

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

Yeah, I'll have to go measure my templates. I'll do that this weekend.

You know the only gripe I have about the Z170-AR is the lack of USB ports on the back but that is hardly an issue any more. The board itself is really sound. No frills but it works great. I don't have any experience with the MSI boards. I've never built with them, so I can't really say much to that effect.

  • 43 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.

Yeah the board itself seems solid and I've heard good things about the bios. Is the brown pcb noticeable or too dark to matter?

  • 43 months ago
  • 2 points

Its really only visible when there is a flash on it, its pretty much black, but the copper pathways make it look brown with a flash.

  • 26 months ago
  • 1 point

This is low-key the cleanest build I have ever seen.

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