It’s been a long time since I bought my second-hand PC, 8 months actually. It’s been about 7 months since my musings on an upgrade path. As my Girlfriend from when I was 19 to 24 said “Patience is a virtue!” Well I’ve been patient long enough. I’ve bought some upgrades!
Attention:- This is not a sponsored article, all items were chosen and bought by me.
A quick a recap of my system:-
- Intel Pentium E5400 Dual Core 2.7 Ghz
- P5KPL-AM-EPU motherboard
- Ram 4Gb DDR2
- Asus HD5450 1GB – passively cooled.
- 500Gb Seagate HD
- G7 Power Extreme 680W
- Slightly worn In-Win case
That’s the little beauty, most of that heap of cables is just my headset mic, oh and that’s not beer it’s dandelion and burdock. I have not been able to invest in a computer desk yet, mainly the small space I have available and not seeing one I like!
So even though I’ve been silent on the subject on here it does not mean I have not been doing a LOT of window shopping. While I’ve been window shopping I’ve also slowly been increasing my available budget for shiny computer stuff. As I have recently moved into my own flat and no longer share (with some ropy characters) I decided it was time to treat myself. As I’ve been spending large sums on the house and still seem to be hemorrhaging money to make the flat acceptable for me to live in. Spending money on fridges and washing machines is not fun and does not count as shiny!
I had a good idea on what I wanted to buy so surfed around a few of the internet computer flogger and settled (as usual) on Scan of Bolton. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of money with this company it is very competitively priced, I also didn’t want to source items from lots of different places.
Believe me when this turned up I was as excited as a box of frogs! A very large box with a LOT of packing material, but unpacking this was more exciting than Christmas, birthday etc. Here is the big reveal…
- Fractal Design Define R5
- Corsair H105 water cooling loop
- Corsair RM750i modular power supply
- Samsung 850 EVO 250Gb
- Windows 10 retail USB
This upgrade is a fair wedge of cash but it’s the first stage of a multi phase build. Each item on the list was mulled over and changed multiple times as I swayed this way and that on where I wanted to go. So starting with the easy stuff first ‘Windows 10 retail USB’ I knew that my motherboard could boot from USB with a little magic and I wanted to be able to change motherboard without lots of messing around. So when all my stuff arrived I started the windows 10 download on my ‘In-Win’ computer so I had a windows 10 version on the HD that was the free upgrade from windows 7. My new retail version was going to be loaded onto the SSD. As I was not upgrading the motherboard getting a SATA SSD made sense and the Samsung 850 Evo has some great reviews and is very fast, which I will talk about later.
Classically understated if you ask me.
The Corsair RM750i a premium product, modular cabling delivering 750 watts with an 80+ gold certificate. One of the major reasons for getting this product was the efficiency rating and the expansion options that this PSU offered.
The case I choose the Fractal Design Define R5 I wanted a case that I could build a quiet computer into. I was not so bothered about large glass/perspex windows with wich to show off the internals. I wanted something unassuming and functional than a large shout ‘look at how expensive I look’ Partly due to living in a ground floor flat, I didn’t want people to see something shiny and covert it. I’ve even hidden my XBox One so it can’t be seen from the window or the door onto my veranda.
So the first thing I did was take it all apart, removed everything apart from the optical drive cage because that can’t be relocated only removed! I’m not sure if I will be buying an optical drive for this machine. So I left it in, so I would work round it as I choose positions for fans and the water cooling loop. You can see on the side panel the sound deadening material which was a major consideration for buying the Define. On the R5 the dust covers are along the bottom and across the front so you want to draw the air in through these and expel the air out the roof and rear of the case. The dust covers are simple to access and remove for easy cleaning. My last flat I lived in the center of town, at the end of a dual carriage way and when I took my computer apart about a week ago to clean it, it was covered in a black soot from car exhausts. The CPU Fan and cooler where caked in the oily black residue, gross! Even though I live in a quieter and cleaner neighbourhood I want to make sure that I use the fan and dust covers. While I had the case apart I explored routing options for cables and wires. The front of the case has a fan control switch for up to 3 fans on a 3 step switch this is powered by a SATA power cable. The case comes supplied with 2 fans so giving the obvious set up of one push and one pull. The ‘top’ side panel also has a cut out to allow an air intake to blow cool air directly onto a graphics card, but I’m unlikely to use this because I wont to optimise the flow from front to back, I feel that a mid case blast of air would disturb the flow.
The first item to go in was the PSU mounted to draw air in from the bottom and expel air out the back. The nice thing about the Corsair RM750i it does not expell any warm air into the case, it all gets expelled out the back. I’ve had previous expensive PSU’s where the air leaked into the case but not so with this little black box. Another advantage of the RM750i is that at low loads it can work passively and therefore reducing the noise from the machine.
The Corsair H105 all-in-one water cooling loop obviously this is not going to be used to cool my present CPU, but I wanted to mount it in my case and get it powered up to make sure it all worked. The radiator works best if it’s having cool air drawn across the fins, so in this case it means I need to mount it in the floor or at the front. In the above picture you see it mounted in the roof in a sub-optimal location. Also with the standard intel cooler on my present chip the fans end up been removed. The H105 is my first venture, dipping my toes in if you will to water cooling. I’m hoping that using water cooling I will be able to reduce the noise of my PC it will also give me the option at a later date to overclock by a modest amount. I decided on an all-in-one solution for ease of use and value for money. It is also a fire and forget solution. I’m not ready to produce a custom water solution, I would like to go that way but as this build is a multi-phase project it would be impractical going in this direction at this stage of the build. Maybe when I have the motherboard I will experiment some more and try moving the radiator and fans to the front of the case and allow the fans to draw fresh cool air in from the front.
The Define as well as having a lot of options for HD’s with removable and changeable orientations of cages it has twin mounts for solid state drives.
There is the EVO mounted, next to the empty (ready for exspansion!) mount. On the left you can see the cable tidy solution, the SATA power lead to power the case fans. Getting the SATA lead tidied away was easy, but when I tried to power the SSD I ran into a little problem.
As you can see the end of the power cable has a 90 degree angle to it, which meant that it wouldn’t fit into the SSD, the mid cable connectors would not fit either with out what I thought was undue pressure applied to the connectors. Thankfully my old PC had the solution for me.
So the connector is a molex to SATA link cable, I’ve seen small SATA power extension cables that will do this job for a couple of pounds. Getting the SATA extension cable will mean that I wont have to use a molex lead and can remove it and just have one SATA power cable powering both the front panel and the SSD reducing the clutter at the back of my machine. Once I had everything connected before I got to far into the build you have to make sure it all works.
This is my initial power up, no side panels, no cable tidying just fingers crossed hoping it all works. As I’m writing this you know it all worked! The big plastic bag where the top drive bay should be is the connector to the CPU of the water cooling loop. I put the bottom drive bay back into the machine because when I have the machine up and running I’m likely to need extra storage space for video editing and getting a 2TB HD is a cheaper option than trying to go all SSD for that amount of storage. While I had the computer in this position I forced the motherboard to boot from the USB and install Windows onto the SSD. Which was fast and pain-free. Then came the first test of booting from SSD, which to be honest is amazing! On my old i7 920 build I had an a 120gb SSD and was amazed at how quickly it would boot to windows, I wasnt disappointed with this drive either. The computer seems to go from the POST screen directly to the log in screen.
So the above picture is my HD balanced on the PSU so I can use the very short SATA cable (I only have 2!) to transfer all my steam library over which was about 60 Gb of data. Seen as it had all been downloaded via my mobile phone internet connection I didn’t want to do it again. Downloading files at less than 500k/s is not fun. I also copied a huge portion of my MP4’s and pictures that are used for this blog. I will be doing this again as I forgot to copy across GOG.com games, oops!
In the above picture I’ve started to tidy up the cables and you can see the radiator water cooling loop at the top but have removed the fans to allow the intel cooling block to fit.
There she is back in position all working. From here you can see that I have removed 2 out of the 3 top panels where the water cooling loop radiator is mounted.
The upgrade’s I have done in this article have not in real terms improved the performance of the computer. The CPU is the limiting factor, though load times on file intensive procedures are a lot faster. This upgrade has given me a very solid base to build a great PC on. But more than that has given me something to tinker with to my heart’s content. It took me just over a day not cause I am slow, but I didn’t want to rush, the whole point was to have fun and enjoy the build process. For me it’s not all about the end process the journey there is the adventure (to paraphrase Tolkien!)
Is probably going to be a video card, because it will be the cheaper of the two upgrades. As unless I can win the lottery or find a buyer for my mates 2 kidney’s it will be a few months before I have a few hundred scrapped together. I’ve been following the release of the nVidia cards the GTX 1080 and 1070’s but these are well out of my price range and to be honest I can’t see my gaming going beyond 1080p for a while. So that leaves the option of a second-hand card or depending on the reality of the Radeon RX480 maybe something newer and shinier. Upgrading the graphics card next will mean the games I’m playing will look excellent, where as I feel having a kick ass CPU and using a passively cooled HD5450 would be tantamount to heresy!
This will be another expensive upgrade but the end goal. Probably by the time I’m ready to upgrade I will have a number of options available. These would be probably a Skylake or Kaby Lake for a mainstream processor or even a Broadwell-E. If my usual slow purchasing schedule stays on track Zen from AMD might be out by then. But I will be scouring the internet, reading reviews and watching tech based YouTube shows to get as much information to base my decisions on!
At some point I would like to get a computer desk and chair, a proper monitor so I have a real setup for a PC and still have my TV that I will just use for my Xbox! Console gaming works best from a TV and a sofa/bean bag. But gaming on a PC needs to be done from a chair and a desk.
I’m really happy about everything I bought and how well it’s all joined together and am already looking forward to a future purchase of a graphics card, I will no doubt keep you updated on my future plans.
See you on the other side…