Alex's Feedback:

I wanted to build a new high end gaming PC to replace my aging build from 2010. I undershot a bit last time and wanted to rectify that this time, with a top notch CPU and high end GPU, and room to grow to two GPUs in SLI down the road when I finally see a 1440p/4K gaming monitor worth buying (XB270HU anyone?) I also wanted something that would run cool and quiet when not under heavy load. The first clue that I overbuilt came when I fired up a few games to test, cranked the settings to maximum, and found that even after 10 minutes or so the GPU wasn't bothering to run its fans. Clearly it felt insulted by 1080p Skyrim, even at max settings. :-) I plan to pick up some newer generation games soon though (super excited to finally get to the Metro series and Witcher 3), as well as a 1440p or 4k monitor....

Happy building, and thank you very much [TBG] for the advice! I'm extremely happy with this machine, and really appreciated your feedback along the way!

Alex Gaming PC

Built: April 2015

Alex sent along some great pictures of his extreme gaming PC - this is a seriously top-notch rig, based off of our totally-insane $3,500 Ultimate Gaming PC Build, as of March 2015, along with some choice component swaps from our $2,500 Build and $2,000 Build to keep the price from reaching the stratosphere. If Alex wanted to guarantee that he'd be future-proof for years to come, it's pretty clear that he succeeded!

Component List:

  1. CPU: Intel Core i7-5930K Haswell-E 6-Core 3.5GHz LGA 2011-v3 140W Desktop Processor BX80648I75930K
  2. Motherboard: ASUS ATX DDR4 3000 (O.C.) Motherboard X99-DELUXE
  3. Memory: Kingston HyperX Predator 16GB Kit (4x4GB) 3000MHz DDR4 Non-ECC CL15 XMP DIMM Desktop Memory (HX430C15PB2K4/16)
  4. SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 1TB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E1T0B/AM)
  5. Hard Drive: None (using hard drive trays for existing NAS drives)
  6. Video Card: MSI Graphics Cards GTX 980 GAMING 4G (plan to upgrade to dual-SLI at some point)
  7. Case: Corsair Obsidian Series 750D Performance Full Tower Case CC-9011035-WW
  8. Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 1300G2 ATX12V/EPS12V 1300W 80Plus Gold Power Supply 120-G2-1300-XR
  9. Operating System: Windows 7 64-bit and Debian Linux
  10. CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro H110 280mm Cooler
  11. Thermal Paste: Arctic MX-4 High Performance Thermal Compound for All Coolers, 4-Grams (ORACO-MX40001-BL)

First off, we have the obligatory box shot. When you're picking up components like these, even the boxes look good!

Parts

Alex built this system around the cutting-edge Haswell-E platform, going for the 3.5GHz Core i7-5930K (which provides a massive 40 PCIe lanes), and the ultra-high-end Asus X99-Deluxe board. Unfortunately, his board arrived faulty, and had to be RMA'd to Asus. Luckily, the replacement worked just fine. This is one of the drawbacks you might run into with boards that offer so much capability. The more engineers try to pack in, the more there is that could go wrong. The good news is that Alex kept his head together during the building process and was able to narrow down the issue to the motherboard.

Build

Because he hadn't yet picked up a lot of newer games and was still running at 1080p, Alex made the wise decision to go with the seriously-fast GTX 980, rather than the ludicrously-fast R9 295 X2 or GTX Titan X (which actually still isn't available in quantity as of this writing). Going with the GTX 980 provides stellar 1080p performance today, with the promise of equally-fantastic 1440p performance down the road when paried with another GTX 980 in SLI. Given that he went with the gargantuan EVGA Supernova G2 1300W, he'll have plenty of power to spare. Indeed, he could run tri-SLI in this build and still have a huge amount of headroom!

In the picture above, you can see the MSI GeForce GTX 980 right in the middle of the case, hooked up to the sweet red PCIe power cables that come with the Supernova G2. Also on display is the Corsair H110 liquid cooling block, which looks sleek and keeps the CPU ultra-cool. Note the array of hard drives in the lower-right-hand corner; these are actually on NAS duty - they aren't used as main system drives. 

As we turn to the back of the system, we can see how most of the cables get tucked behind the motherboard. Also on display is the Samsung 850 Evo 1TB drive, mounted towards the front of the case. These vertical SSD mounts are becoming more and more common in high-end cases, and they make perfect sense. SSDs don't need active cooling, and given how small they are, they can be mounted just about anywhere.

Back

Alex passed along a bunch of feedback on this build, including lots of great tips that could help others. Here they are, in his own words:

* The liquid cooling wasn't too hard [to install], which was something I was concerned about. I hooked the pump up to the CPU-ALT header and put one of the fans on CPU-FAN. My understanding is that ALT always runs at full speed, which is desirable for liquid cooling. The cooling is extremely quiet in this case -- I hear the case fans louder. The hardest part was honestly hooking the radiator up to the case; I found putting the pump on the CPU fairly easy, while definitely nerve-wracking! The MX-4 was much easier to apply than the Arctic Silver I've always used in the past, and seems to also give excellent results -- I noted 4 C lower at load vs the paste that came with the H110, though that could be as much my applying it better.

* I was unable to get Windows 7 to work with the ram clocked any faster than 2133 MHz. Instant blue screen. It works fine under Linux though and passes memtest86 just fine, so I don't think it's a hardware issue. I'm running at 2133 MHz for now; I may look into this more later (varying command rate, etc). I'm not doing any serious overclocking, just the XMP profiles. [The Guru's Tip: Try starting with a frequency of DDR4-2666 - that's the maximum data rate under the official Intel spec, and higher frequencies often require additional tweaking.]

* The power supply is insane! This build idles at about 100W (measured at wall via Kill-A-Watt), and is whisper quiet. Draw when it's off is barely 3W!

* This case is AWESOME! Being able to run cables behind the mobo easily seems to have become a standard feature since my last build, and I love it so much. It really compliments the modular PSU (my first time owning one. I'll never go without again).

* Likewise, the Samsung SSD is a real pleasure. I don't plan to have any HDDs in this machine (Actually it's serving as an offline NAS for backups in its night job as a ZFS fileserver; hence the hard drives in the pictures; no hard drives for Windows I mean.)

* The CPU temperature idles around 28 C, which is barely warmer than room temperature. Under max load it tickles 40 C. This is INSANE, and a testament to the power of liquid cooling. I wasn't able to stress the GPU enough to get its fans to turn on. :P