Buying a new PC is a lot more stressful than I thought it would be, the options are endless, you can spend a small fortune to get the top end bits and if you dare mention the specs you picked out, everyone will say ‘this is what you should have done’. But here I am, with a mid-level machine that cost about $1900 (not including the monitors) that should fit my needs nicely.
Before you head out the door to buy a new PC, you really need to create a list of what you need the computer to do and be diligent about sticking to that list otherwise you will end up spending far more than you need to on the hardware. For me, I needed to be able to run two 4k displays at 60hz, be able to easily handle YouTube Live encoding for my podcast, watch movies at 4k and run quietly without the need for the fan to spin up every five minutes.
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Prior to this machine, I was using a Surface Pro 4 (i5, 8GB of RAM, 256 SSD) and it works really damn well but the lack of a dGPU means that while recording a podcast, watching any video on a 4k display, or having too many apps open, the fans would spin up and mimic a hissing cobra. My laptop, a Surface Book, i7, 16GB of RAM with the dGPU sounded like the prefect replacement except that it cannot run two 4k displays at 60hz (it will only do two 4k at 30hz…so technically the SP4 can drive better displays than the i7 Book even though it costs less).
I will continue to use both of those devices (the Surface Book will remain my dedicated laptop as I really do like the machine) but time had come to get a machine that could handle everything I need with a little bit of extra room to spare.
When it comes to buying a desktop, you have three options: build it yourself (like Paul will soon be doing), semi-custom (pick the parts, someone else builds it) and the OEM route. For this machine, I went with the semi-custom route as I didn’t want to build the entire machine but I wanted to pick out the parts and still have a warranty; I ended up going with iBuyPower.
For the machine, I chose the NZXT S340 Gaming case by Razer, Intel i7-6700k, MSI Z170A Krait Gaming, 16GB DDR4 G.SKILL Ripjaws V, two ASUS GTX 970 Turbos, Samsung 950 PRO Series 512GB PCIe NVMe for the primary OS (purchased separately and not included in price) and daily apps, a 240 GB Intel 535 Series SSD for running my VMs of Windows 10 to test builds, a 1TB mechanical drive for media backup and the NZXT Kraken X31 120mm Liquid CPU Cooler to keep my temperatures down.
The first machine that I ordered arrived dead out of the box and after several hours of troubleshooting, I had to send it back and this is the second machine. The return processing was a pain in the butt, they wanted me to RMA the machine so they could try to fix it and ship it back, estimated time without a PC was at least two weeks…why should I have to wait two weeks for a machine that showed up dead? If this was BestBuy, I would walk in, drop it off, pick up a new one the same day and not wait for them to try and repair the other desktop.
After arguing with the sales person about wanting to return the machine and not wait for it to be serviced, I had to pay the return shipping and re-order another machine. I’ll wait for the comments that say “you should have just built the entire thing yourself” but I want a warranty (which this machine has covered for three years) and let someone else deal with it if a random part fails.
Annoyingly, I asked for there to be no stickers on the case, the water cooler to be mounted on the front and paid for ‘rush processing’ which the machine was supposed to ship out on Thursday but shipped a day later, on Friday (they never contacted me to tell me there was a delay).
When the machine did show up, this one was working but as you can see, the radiator was mounted in the back, instead of the front like I had asked. The front of the case had an IBuyPower sticker on it, which i clearly asked them not to do but was able to remove it with a bit of floss and elbow grease and the wire job was quite bad for paying an extra $20 for “professional wiring”. The images you see in this post are after I spent about 90 minutes re-running five different cables to conceal them behind the motherboard wall.
This machine is still fresh out of the box, so it will take some time to fully evaluate it but it should take care of my two basic needs quite well: run two 4k displays at 60hz and have no issues hosting a podcast using YouTube Live as well as editing the video after the show. I’ll likely do a bit of gaming as well too, need to find an RTS that isn’t Starcraft.