Computer Build – Finale – The Build

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IMG_0845Here is the finished Product. She is a wonderful machine that runs fast, quiet and fairly cool. It’s a shame that I don’t get to use her more often as I can, but when I do get to use it, it’s the best machine I own. IMG_0849I’m really happy with the final product and it actually makes using Windows 10 somewhat manageable. I am using two Dell monitors for the time being which are wall mounted and then set to canvas on the G1 Gaming card. This way, you can set a panoramic photo as your background wallpaper and see the entirety of the shot. There are some great images online that folks have taken. This one on mine is of NYC Manhatten.

I appreciate you checking in on this project once a week. Hope you’ve learned something to boot!

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Computer Build – Part #10 – Accessories

610Rgb0J0xL._SL1001_Happy Canada Day!!!

Ok, now on to Part#10.

When you build a computer, you also probably want some additional things. For example, you’re going to want to buy cables to plug in monitors and such. I highly suggest getting long high-quality cables to connect your monitors, machine and other items together. For example, I bought two DisplayPort to DVI-D cables (10 ft) so that I could run great picture quality to a DVI capable monitor. The picture looks great and I am happy that these cables are not banjo-stringed to the machine. I actually have the computer on the other side of the desk and the monitors mounted to a wall about 6 ft away. I love it.

pi_engineering_x_keys_xk_24_programmable_keypad_p3_1250x640Another accessory that I picked up was a 24-key Xkey device. Basically, it’s a USB keypad that you can program to execute commands. Great for starting programs quickly or if you are doing specific tasks repeatedly. I bought it because I was planning on learning some day-trading techniques and knew that with the push of one button, I could set an order with a preset amount of shares and get out of orders very quickly. I paper traded with it for about a week but didn’t have the chance to really sit down and iron out all the buttons I wanted. The three I got working are amazing and I could sell all positions with the push of a single button. I’m really excited to try it out more – and it has a cool LED background-lit function – which is also programmable. I might try to set it up for a few games too – just to see if I can simplify commands. You can tell it to operate the same for ALL applications or App-specific (so if you change applications, the same keys can be programmed differently for more than one app).

51ClW9xDmGL._SY300_Lastly: headphones. I bought a set of Audio-Technica AD-700x’s which are open-backed headphones — amazing for focused attention listening. They do allow outside noises into the area around the drivers, but they create large soundstages, so if you are playing dynamic games – you can crank them up and hear just about anything at any distance. I love these headphones – plus, because they are open, they don’t let your ears get too sweaty. Also great for movie watching and especially Binaural Audio – like the Verge’s NYC Walk-around. Check it out on YouTube with a good set of headphones. You’ll be amazed.

Anyway, those are the three main additions outside of the computer itself. For monitors, I just use standard 1080p Dell monitors – and they serve my needs well. I am looking to buy 3 and set them up together soon – but that hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure I’ll talk about that when it goes down.

Up Next: The final build!

Computer Build — Part #9 — Hard Drives and RAID 1

One of the things people HATE about computers is how long it takes for the operating system to boot up. When a traditional hard drive has to spin and find all the data it needs, it consumes power and time to achieve this goal.

Luckily, for you, there is a solution. SSD drives, although more expensive initially, can help reduce boot times and increase productivity. The main drawback is their size in comparison to traditional HDD drive.

Before going on, I should also explain RAID 1 configurations. In the hard drive world, you can set them to work in tandem together – and in several configurations. The following list explains the 2 most common RAID configurations:

  • RAID 0: This configuration between two or more hard drives writes the data across the storage units. It’s known as striping – meaning if someone were to steal a drive from your machine, they would only obtain half of the data.
  • RAID 1: This uses two drives of the same size to create a backup copy. When if one of the hard drives dies, all the data is copied (we call it an image) to a second drive – meaning you just swap them out and keep going. This is one of the most common uses of RAID. The only problem is, if you get a virus on one, you get a virus on both. It does not help you if you mess up the data itself on the drive.

71tpwWHXlOL._SL1500_I chose to use two SSD drives as my Windows 10 operating system, configured in RAID 1. This way if one had a problem or one died, I could easily switch them out and keep running. I also did the same with 2-1TB hard drives for mass storage. This way, again, if and when one dies, I can handle it and keep moving. I went with SanDisk’s Internal 120GB 2.5 inch SSD. They are probably the cheapest SSD’s you could go with without compromising reliability. They aren’t the best, but they get the job done and a lot faster than HHD.

71UN+Ex0ioL._SL1500_I also chose to go with WesterDigital’s Blue 1 TB drives for my mass storage. They fit well in the case and work well configured under RAID 1. I use these primarily for my gaming purposes – where read/write speed isn’t the most critical. They are great drives with a good company behind them. In hindsight, I might choose to go with a green drive instead from WD, but – meh. I don’t care too much.

It should be noted that RAID 1 takes 2 hard drives of the same size and pretends like it’s one hard drive. So if I set up my 2 1-TB hard drives in RAID 1, my computer thinks that I only have 1 TB hard drive. Same with the SSD’s because it’s copying all my files that I save to both drives (like a backup).

I’d recommend these drives as options for your machine. The SSD boots up Windows 10 in 17 seconds – from dead-cold to Go. It’s awesome. I highly recommend doing that, if anything.

Next Week: Accessories.

 

Computer Build — Part #8 — Fans

There are a ton of opinions and options when it comes to Fan choices for your computer. There are expensive ones and there are economical ones. It all depends on what you want and what your budget can allow. There are two major types of fans in the Computer-fan world. First, there is what’s called a Static Pressure (SP) fan. Essentially, these are for placing up against something (heatsink, radiators, etc) to push the air through. The other type of fan is commonly referred to as Air Flow (AF) fans designed for more open spaces like Computer Case wall openings.

ek-vardar-140I went with two main choices in this build. First, I chose to use two expensive fans for the main exhaust out the top of the machine. The photo on the right is an EK-Vardar High Static F3 120mm Cooling Fan, from EKWB. They are well known for their dependability and quietness, but at $25 a piece, I should hope so. Granted, they are slick looking and do run extra quiet, even at high RPM’s. I installed them in the top of my case and together, they make the overall look of the computer have a professional and high-quality look. IMG_4274Anyone who knows their computer fans also knows that these are a bit like the sports car of the computer fan world – but I don’t think any of my friends are that advanced with computer fan knowledge. Here’s a look at the top of the computer.

Secondarily, and primarily for budgeting reasons, I purchased 4 Corsair Air Series SP120 Quiet Edition Fans. These fans are much more reasonable in price (about half the price) and usually come in a twin pack – so I ordered 2-twin packs (4 total) from Amazon for about $50 total. They also come with interchangeable colored rings that can coincide with the case color – but I just use the white ones so if I change out the LED’s one day, they will still match.

IMG_0845Lastly, there were two clear-plastic (blue LED) fans that came with my case. They were installed in the front and back of the case, but when I installed the purchased ones, I took those out. Then my CPU Cooler-Master arrived. I got looking at it and realized that there was room for two 120mm fans on the sides of the Heatsink. So, I took those two, clear, blue-LED fans and snapped them onto the Heatsink – pointing them to the rear Corsair exhaust fan. They are probably the loudest of them all, but they do push the heat out of the case and into the room. I might end up buying some High Static ones for this eventually, but the added light in the case is welcome – and like I said, they get the job done.

Next Week: Hard Drives & RAID Options

Computer Build — Part #7 — RAM

1902733With my computer build, I wanted to be able to expand the RAM option should I ever think that I needed to up my “game.” I decided to start out with one 8 GB stick of Corsair’s Vengeance 1600 Mhz RAM and to get the computer built and running, it did the job. Soon after that, and for only another $40, I ordered a second stick and get that installed too. The current build is now at 16 GB, and according to many people online, 16 is kind of the sweet spot for Gaming right now. A lot of people go straight to 32 or more, but that is more about bragging rights than it is about actual functionality. Besides, with onboard RAM on graphics cards (like my G1 Gaming with 4 GB dedicated), a lot of the real drawdown from the RAM is now dedicated to other functions – meaning, you get back a lot more useable Motherboard installed RAM when the Graphics Process is taken care of with onboard Graphics RAM.

So currently I have 16, and for $80, I could double it. It’s not the sweetest RAM in the world, and it’s not the fastest either, but for all my applications, it makes the most sense (and cents).

Next week: Internal Fans

Computer Build — Part #3 — The Motherboard

z97-AJumping quickly into this week’s Computer Build topic is my plan — so here we go.

I chose to go with the ASUS Z97-A motherboard for a few reasons. I am well aware that it is not a true Gaming motherboard and that there are many superior motherboards on the market. On top of that, I am also aware that it’s not the prettiest – but when you’re on a budget, you have to consider all sides of the coin. Do you want the prettiest machine? Do you want a cost effective machine or would you like to have something in the middle? All these questions led me to purchasing the ASUS Z97-A.

What I like about the motherboard was that it is versatile enough for the performance I wanted out of this desktop. I was looking at an i7 processor (Intel) and at least 16 GB of RAM with a nice sized graphics card to boot. Included with this – a large power supply and large, multiple hard drive units (now and in the expandable future).

The board offered everything I needed to add these parts quickly. It was a painless install to the case and every item I added to the board seem to fit well.

140429122540This motherboard, at the time of purchase, was around the 100$ price. It was purchased online through Newegg.com and was delivered within the week. I haven’t experienced any problems to date with this unit and set up was easy. There is an onboard system as well that can be accessed upon startup which controls Variable Fan Speeds and a few other performance style options. If you have an overclockable Processor, this is also where you can tweak these items. It’s easy to use and manipulate – but always be careful when you change the system defaults – you risk your system and often, void any warranties from manufacturers. For the record, I have not overclocked my system – although I could with my specs.

Overall I am very satisfied with this Motherboard. It was easy to use, install and holds all my items for my custom build. Yes, it’s not sweet to look at, but the dark finish helps it be inconspicuous in the case. I’d recommend it to someone looking.

Next week: the graphics card.

Computer Build — Part #2 — The Case

I built a computer last year. I had a budget of around 1000$ and wanted to get a machine that would allow me to game a bit — but also do some investing (that is for another tale/blog post).

819aYj7mNPL._SL1500_The case I chose was from Amazon. It’s called the Sentey Blade Mid-Tower Gaming Case — in Black. It includes a transparent side which allows you to see inside the case — if you’re at all interested in that. The case ran about $70 USD and arrived on time in a well-packaged box. I was surprised how light the case was in comparison to some of the other cases I’ve purchased – which seem bulky and heavy due to their construction. **Some people like that feeling, but I was going to load this computer up with a bunch of stuff anyway – so I didn’t need a heavy case on top of all the components.

There is a front button which is in the shape of a silver shield which acts as the main Power Button. It also has a mesh front behind the button panel to allow the install of fans and air flow through the machine.

It also included 2 case fans which were initially positioned on the back of the case, but I moved them onto the CPU CoolMaster heatsink. I then purchased other fans to improve airflow.

There is a Bay-Port unit at the top of the machine. It includes a 2.0 USB, a 3.0 USB and Mic and Speaker ports — should your motherboard support that. Your motherboard instruction manual (which can be found online if you’ve lost it) should tell you where to plug in the cables (which are included with this case). I have found this bay-port unit especially handy when it comes to connecting my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse receiver to the unit. No more reaching around back. The 3.0 USB unit also is handy but plugs into 3.0 ports on the motherboard – which are different than the 2.0. Again, you’ll need to make sure that your motherboard can handle these cables. Lastly, there is an indicator light on this bay port which shows the CPU activity.

IMG_0843The feet that come with this case are crap. They are thin plastic and I do not trust them. Instead, I ordered small rubber feet from Amazon and installed them with standard screws – slowly turning the screws through the plastic feet on this case. Not only does it help the computer not more around when it gets bumped, but it also eliminates any vibration between the desk and the computer case.

IMG_3947The case is designed to be see-thru, so purchasing case lights are likely in your future. I ordered a pair of 3-feet blue LED strips. After I realized they were shipped from China and about 2 weeks of shipping, they arrived. I plugged them into my power source and taped them down. They really do help with the brightness of the case. I have one in the roof of the case and one in the front, behind the power button panel.

IMG_4274There are 5 places for fans to be placed in this case. There are two spots behind the power button panel on the front, two on the top of the case and another on the rear. You can set these up to move air in the most desirable fashion you wish, but I have mine moving in from the front, out the rear and top. There are also two fans on the CPU Heatsink that point towards the rear exhaust. I’ve found that this orientation works well – especially when playing high graphic games through the G1 Gaming Windforce graphics card. I have noticed that when I am playing a game, the room temp does rise – which means two things – the unit is working – and this system gets HOT.

IMG_0845There are some things that I don’t like about this case — however. First, I don’t like the lack of cable management space. The side panel comes off and I have fed all my wires into the back of the machine — but a basement would have solved a lot of this problem. I also should note that the Power Supply sits on the bottom of this case which I don’t mine, but it doesn’t look amazing – again, which could have been solved with a basement. Second, things are tight in this case – including the cables and my large graphics card. A few more inches longer and wider could have solved this complaint. Lastly, the front interface feels a little cheap because it’s all plastic. A few metal trim items would have solved this.

For the price of the case, I am happy with it — but there are lots of cases out there for that price range. Mine works well, but I’m not super impressed. It is functional and works for my needs.