Computer for the Holidays: The Pure Indulgence Build – Forbes
Computer for the Holidays Part 3 of 3: Pure Indulgence originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
In Part 1 of this series we looked at an entry level gaming PC for the . In Part 2 we pulled out the stops for a real . This time around we’re going to pull out all the stops for a fully customized gaming machine that leaves behind no opportunity to push the envelope.
While this is presented for the experienced enthusiast builder, towards the end we’ll take a look at a version of this that includes most of the performance but is a little bit more straightforward to put together. As a note: While I usually provide a PCPartpicker link towards the end of the article, in this instance there are several parts on our holiday shopping list that aren’t listed on PCPartpicker, but I promise to provide some links along with a price tag at the end.
o, what does a Pure Indulgence gaming machine look like? Indulgence starts with absolutely uncompromising performance but follows that performance up with premium cooling and aesthetics. Machines this indulgent are works of functional art that aren’t just a joy to use, they’re a joy to look at.
So, what’s going into our Pure Indulgence machine?
CPU: Intel i7–6850K
GPU: 2x Nvidia Titan X (Pascal)
RAM: 128GB DDR4
Storage: 2TB PCIe + 4 TB SATA III SSD
PSU: 1600W 80+ Titanium
As a spec sheet goes, while a little indulgent, that’s not too horribly out of line with what you might expect for a really nice gaming machine is it? In this case though, the exciting stuff isn’t on the spec sheet, even if the spec sheet would leave a lot of gamers drooling. So, let’s get into the core of the system and then we’ll get to the exciting stuff.
CPU: Some people may find the i7–6850K to be an odd choice for an indulgent machine, expecting Intel’s pricey flagship i7–6950X. Personally, after two years with an 8 core i7–5960X sitting on my desk, I just don’t see many gaming uses that need that many cores. What gamers need, more than anything else, are fast cores, but they don’t really need lots of them. We’re starting to see more games benefit from multi-core systems, particularly in the field of Strategy games where large numbers of units can start to bog things down. Still, a 6-core, hyper threaded CPU should meet our needs and give us plenty of potential for overclocking. What is important, in this case, is not skimping and getting an i7–6800K. Doing so would cut our PCIe lanes to 28 and we’re going to need all the bandwidth we get on X99.
If you’ve been following me for any significant period of time, this should come as no surprise:
Of all the premium system board we can choose from I like the MSI Godlike Carbon for for lots of things, not the least of which is RGB LED lighting. Overall, one of the things I like the most is that it’s very clean in design and the all around black lets us work our own color scheme rather than worrying about shaping our color scheme to the accent colors of the board.
RAM: While in previous builds we utilized Corsair’s LED RAM, for this build we want to step outside of the stock color palette a little bit and while we can get RGB LEDs on just about everything else, RGB LED RAM is still on the horizon. Given that, we’ll opt for 128GB of Corsair Vengeance and dress it up a little later.
GPU: GPU is yet another place where things might feel a little odd. Typically, in extreme builds like this, we’d be talking about 4-way SLI. Nvidia, however, has moved away from support for 4-way builds which shouldn’t really be surprising. We’ve known for a long time that games rarely scaled past a 3rd GPU and that you were working against diminishing returns any time you went past 2 GPUs. In this case, opting for only 2 GPUs lets us run both cards at 16X and still have PCIe lanes left over for our SSD.
Storage: I’m cheating a little bit when I talk about storage for this build because our primary drive is technically only available for pre-order. That said, since some of the other parts further down the list are custom and will have a bit of a wait time for delivery, I saw no reason to not suggest a drive that will be available after the first of the year:
The Samsung Evo Pro 960 carries forward in the wake of the Evo Pro 950, leading the market in performance and also offering up impressive capacity for it’s tiny size. With a max sequential read of 3,500 MB/s it’s getting very close to tapping out the available speed of 4x PCIe lanes and with 2TB of storage this fast, most gamers wouldn’t even need more storage but…
I feel like it’s worth including an extra mass storage device for the enthusiast with large game libraries, hours upon hours of recorded gameplay and whatever else they may need to store. With a total of 6TB of SSD storage it’s plenty to satisfy most gamers but, for the enthusiast with exceptional storage needs, the MSI Godlike offers us more than enough connectivity to add another Evo 850 or 5 in whatever your favorite flavor of RAID is, and of course, we could always add another M.2 PCIe drive as well without stepping our GPUs down from x16.
PSU: For purely indulgent machines, I have a hard time turning to anything other than an EVGA 1600 T2, 80+ Titanium power supply.
Not only is it a 94% efficient power supply, EVGA has delivered on all of their usual quality with a reliable and quiet unit that provides all of the power we could possibly need (and then some.) We’re going to replace the stock cables but fortunately the EVGA Supernova series is well supported by after market cable makers.
Aesthetics: Case, cooling and cables.
I wanted to save aesthetics for last because truthfully, this is where we run headlong into a lot of personal preference. There are, of course, dozens of options besides the ones I’m about to present but the nice thing about what comes next is that the color scheme is very flexible. Which is good, because my pure indulgence machine is pink & black.
Case: Caselabs Magnum THW10
The Caselabs Magnum THW10 is an absolute monster of a case and while I won’t say that we’re going to use every inch of it, we’re going to use a lot.
When you order a Caselabs case, you’re provided a number of configuration options. In this case, we’re going to opt for an XXL window on the system board side and solid panel on the PSU side. On the front, we’re setting up for 4×120 ventilation on both sides with solid covers for the remaining bays. We’re only going to need two radiator mounts, in this case we’re going to be using 560mm mounts. We really only need one drive cage with a 3.5 to 2.5 adapter bracket though you can add more if you feel like you need more than 8 SSDs. We’ll take ours in black.
This is where things get really interesting and why we’re using such a monster case. We’ll start with the easy stuff and move into the more esoteric as we go.
Up front we have room for 8x120mm fans (4 on each side) and we’re going to use every mounting point we have. Pink fans are hard to come by but NZXT has some wonderful goodies for us in the form of their Aer series of fans:
We’re going to need lots of these. 8x120mm. We’re also going to need 9x140mm fans (we’ll get to those in a second.) NZXT’s Aer fans are controlled by their Hue+ controller which can chain 5 fans per channel. Since each Hue+ only offers 2 channels we’re going to need 2 of them to control all of our fans. Well, all of our RGB fans.
We’re also going to need 8 Noctua NF-A14 PWM fans:
I know, they’re ugly as sin but we won’t see them anyway and they’re quiet, which is a handy thing.
If you’ve been following along so far and counting fans you should be coming up with 25… That’s a lot of fans for even a system board like an MSI Godlike. The RGB fans we’re handling with the pair of Hue+ controllers but we’re going to need something to handle the Noctuas and for that I tend to reach for a handy PWM controller from SilverStone:
That’ll let us run all 8 Noctua fans from a single system board header (don’t worry, it’s powered via SATA connector, we wouldn’t want to run 8 fans directly off power from the header!)
So, where are we putting these things? The 8x 120mm RGB fans go on the front panels as intakes which should give us plenty of air coming into the system. The 140mm fans are for these:
What you’re looking at is an Alphacool NexXxoS Monsta 560mm radiator. At 85mm thick, this is a radiator that demands push/pull fan configurations. While thinner radiators like the 30mm radiators usually seen in AIOs can get by with push or pull, to move air through a thicker and more restrictive medium we’re going to want the extra umpf. The Aer fans will be our push fans where we can use them to illuminate case internals, the Noctuas will go under the lid as pull fans. One last Aer fan gets mounted on the exhaust mount.
After fans and radiators we’re going to need a few blocks. While I’d generally snag EVGA Hydro Copper editions of GPUs for a project like this, I don’t yet have a release date for Hydro Copper edition of the Pascal Titan X so we’ll need to grab reference cards and block them ourselves.
EK remains my OEM of choice for water blocks and we’re going to start with an EK-FC Titan X Pascal copper block (two of them) and a pair of back plates as well.
After that, an EK-Supremacy Evo Full Copper edition:
And then… the thing that may be a surprise. Remember earlier when we were bemoaning the lack of pink LED RAM (or any form of pink RAM?) Well, there’s a solution for that: The EK RAM Monarch X4. We’re going to need 2 of them along with 8 EK RAM Monarch Modules. Personally, I use black ones but it really doesn’t matter.
After that we’re off to the races… er, the reservoirs. In this case, we’re snagging 2 of FrozenQs LF Reaction 400mm cylinder reservoirs:
Finally, an OEM who gets that pink and black is a thing! Truthfully though, while they do offer UV Pink for the spirals, we’re planning on using UV Pink fluid (PrimoChill Intensifier UV Pink) and the spirals might blend out that way. If we were using clear fluid, this would be pretty slick but I’m inclined to either go with pink and black or just matte black on the spirals so they show up.
After that, we round things out with fittings tubing and a pump (okay, an EK-XTOP Revo Dual D5.) My preference is for PETG tubing and black compression fittings especially since the blocks are copper. If we’d gone with nickle blocks I might prefer matching the fittings to that, but in this case, I’d rather keep the fittings minimal and do as much of the work with bending as I can. This is one where I typically leave the choice of fittings to the individual builder but at a minimum we’re talking about 16 EK-HDC 16mm fittings and 2 meters of PETG.
Finally, because we wouldn’t want to neglect cabling, let’s turn to the fine folks at CableMod for a set of pink sleeved cables. Yes, we could do alternating pink and black cables but… there’s enough black in the case already.
What would it take to build all that? About $11,000. Does it need to be that expensive? Not at all! You could very easily take the system board, RAM, drives, graphics cards and power supply, run the GPUs on their stock air coolers, use the stock power supply cables, add a basic AIO like a Corsair H100i v2 and throw it all in a much more modest case. Doing so would save you around $4,000.
But for the person who’s passionate about their gaming PC and wants to pull out all the stops … you can make some really beautiful things. Of course, you might not find a pink and black motif to be your idea of beautiful but that’s fine too. There are a plethora of color palettes that aren’t well supported by manufacturers that this would adapt to fairly easily or you could move yourself into more mainstream color schemes like white and red and get significantly more out of the box support for things.
In the world of fully custom, the sky is the limit with plenty of room to express your creativity as a system builder. I don’t expect anyone to rush out and build the system above but I hope it’s inspired you to look into the world of fully custom and see what you can do there.
When I talk about fully custom, one of the questions I get asked the most is: “Where do you get this stuff?” So, as promised, a whole bunch of links.
EK Blocks & Fittings:
Double Helix Reservoir:
NZXT Aer fans and Hue+:
Custom Power Supply Cables:
Alphacool 560mm Radiator:
PrimoChill fluid dye:
The rest of course, you can find at your PC hardware retailer of choice.
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