BYOPC: Some Thoughts on the Gaming PC Build

Posted on June 12, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10, Xbox with 0 Comments

BYOPC: Some Thoughts on the Gaming PC Build

Just some of the mess that comes with the motherboard.

A little over a week ago, I wrote about the components I had ordered for my son’s gaming PC. Since then, the parts have all arrived, and my son and I successfully built the PC last week.

I’m going to try and document that process as well as I can this coming week when I get home, as I’m currently away, in a bit of bad timing. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts about the build.

I made a few changes based on feedback. The big one is that I upgraded from the EVGA SuperNOVA 850 B2 80+ BRONZE power supply to the higher-end EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2 80+ GOLD power supply. The price difference was significant—$80 vs. $124, or about $44—but I felt it was worth it because it’s a better fit for the high-end motherboard/CPU, is quieter, and has a longer 10-year warranty. Thanks to everyone who chimed in on the parts. This got a bit contentious in the site comments for whatever reason, but it’s appreciated.

pins

So many pins and connectors. So little clear documentation.

It took a lot longer than expected. Building a PC was like exercising muscles I hadn’t used in a while, so it took me a while to get up and running. As I signed off from last Tuesday’s What the Tech, Andrew told me it should take about an hour. But it took two nights of work (Tuesday and Wednesday) and then a good chunk of Thursday to complete the build and then install Windows 10, drivers, and the games my son wanted to play.

It can be overwhelming. The motherboard, power supply and case each came with approximately 1100 cables, and it wasn’t long before I realized that most of them wouldn’t even be needed to complete the build. (If you think about building something like a grill or whatever, you don’t ever have leftover parts.) The documentation was OK overall, but there were many missing steps that required us to actually think through what we were doing.

Before you install anything, flash the BIOS to the latest version.

Before you install anything, flash the BIOS to the latest version.

The case is way too big. Mark (my son) loves it, because one side is clear and you can see into the box, but this thing is monstrous, and when I build my own gaming PC later this year, I’ll be going smaller. You could probably put a dozen hard drives in this thing if you wanted, but right now there’s only a single M.2 SSD stick, which is kind of hilarious. But the size made working inside the case easier, especially with my large hands—and I like the airflow design.

There’s more to come. Sometime over the next few weeks I’m going to add a large (probably 2 TB, I’ll see what I have laying around) hard drive and some kind of optical disk to the PC.

It (mostly) worked properly the first time. I’m perhaps too proud of this, but once all the wires and cables were connected, we fired it up. Everything worked correctly—the front lights for power and HDD activity, the fans, etc.—except for one thing: Looking under the graphics card, we could see that its fans were not moving. That wasn’t totally surprising as both of us were iffy on whether the original power cable we used was correct. So we swapped it out with what is now clearly the right now—to be fair, the documentation failed us here—and it came right up. With the graphics card working, the PC booted right into the UEFI configuration screen, where we could see that everything (CPU, RAM, SSD, etc.) was present and accounted for. Success.

Windows 10 happens.

Windows 10 happens.

The Windows 10 install went fine. I believe it installed Windows 10 in just 5-7 minutes, which sounds impossibly short, but I didn’t think to time it. Regardless, once we got into Windows, there were many items banged out in Device Manager, and no network connectivity. So I downloaded the wireless driver from the ASUS web site, got online, and let Windows Update do its thing. It found everything, and gave us a clean Device Manager. But we also let the NVIDIA utility grab the newest drivers for the graphics card, updating what Windows provided.

Mark installed Overwatch first.

Mark installed Overwatch first.

It’s a screamer. The PC is very quiet given what’s going on in there, but the performance is astonishing, and my son couldn’t be happier. We loaded up Overwatch, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Fallout 4, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive on Thursday, and Mark reports that he’s maxed out the settings on all of them—his display runs at 1080p—and they all run at incredible frame rates with all features tuned all the way up. Really neat.

I’ll write more about this when I can be next to the PC to refer to things, and I took a ton of shots along the way as well. There were some times of doubt, of course—we had wires that seemed to have no home, for example—and worries about what to do if nothing worked. But in the end, it was a great experience, and everything seems to be working perfectly.

More soon. And again, thanks for all the great feedback.

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