Gaming PC Builds – May 2015
Jump to a specific budget build –
Here is the May 2015 update to the Monthly Gaming PC Builds here at Newb Computer Build. Yes I did miss last month (April 2015) and for that I apologize, but there was a lot of engagement in the previous month builds in the comment sections, which was really good to see. It’s always great to see new pc builders as well as novice builders wanting to upgrade come along and ask questions so feel free to do so in the comments section following the article.
It’s a great month for PC builders in any of the $1500, $1000 or $600 budgets in that each are still strong contenders, with a few included upgrades due to significant price decreases, especially RAM costs. The $1500 has seen a few tweaks and comes in comfortable below $1500 this month. The $1000 build has a few upgrades and the $600 has the most significant upgrades with a bump up to the AMD FX 8320 included in its base build this month – this is great news for anyone considering a $600 build this month.
Gaming PC Build Recipe:
Game with Extreme settings at resolutions of 2560×1400 and 1920×1080
Overview: Gaming PC Build ( $1500 )
The $1500 build is definitely the build to get for those wanting to game at resolutions of 1920X1080 up to 2560×1600 maxed out. Furthermore, this build even has the potential of 4K resolutions, and 4K resolutions maxed out with some slight upgrades (see hardware alternatives table below main build).
The processor used is the Intel i5 4690K processor, which isvery easily overclocked and I have paired this with the MSI Z97 GAMING 5 motherboard, which has dropped in price and comes with some nice built in features like a row of voltage detection points to help with the needs of enthusiast overclockers – this motherboard’s overclocking ability is great and one should have no problem pushing the Intel 4690K processor to its limits.
The CPU cooler once again is the Cooler Master Hyper 212 CPU Cooler, which is a worthy investment to take full advantage of the unlocked multiplier on the Intel 4690K processor, allowing an easy overclock. If you want to install a liquid CPU cooler instead, then I have also included the Corsair Hydro Series H100i GTX liquid cpu cooler in the upgrade suggestions table below.
For the graphics card, I have once again chosen to go with the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP Edition, which is simply one of the most affordable GTX 980’s out right now. The GTX 980 is a very capable graphics card and even more so for those who are expecting to game at high resolutions.
The RAM package has stayed the same with the Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (8Gb X 2). 16Gb of memory is more then enough and it will last in a gaming pc build for years to come – this RAM kit is extremely affordable right now coming in at only $109; this is an amazing price for a full 16GB of memory. This RAM kit has gone down in price for the past 4 months as memory has finally become much more affordable versus in the recent past.
The included hard disk hard-drive used is the same one I’ve included for a few months now, the Seagate Barracuda 1TB, which is plenty of space for most gamers, but I have also includedthe very fast SanDisk Extreme PRO 240GB Solid State Drive – this is where you would install your OS and any of your most played games / software in order the maximize boot & load times.
I have gone back to the high quality EVGA SuperNOVA 750W G2 Gold Certified power supply since it is now priced much better. This is a super high quality & efficient PSU and I highly recommend it.
The case for the $1500 build for May 2015 is the Corsair Carbide Series 330R Blackout Edition. This case is relatively similar in look the last $1500 build and it boasts low noise designed for media rooms, bedrooms, dorm rooms, or any place where performance and silence are essential according to Corsair. Below are some tech. specs for the Corsair Carbide 330R (read more at Corsair.com)
- Black anodized brushed aluminum front door panel
- Integrated three-speed fan controller
- Extensive noise damping material on front door, side panels, and top removable panel to quiet noisy internal components
- Front door is reversible, with angled air intakes to reflect internal noise away from the user
- Direct airflow to components – the front 140mm fan is unrestricted by hard drive cages and has a low-restriction dust filter in front for excellent cooling and low noise levels
- Removable top panel, with top fan mounts pre-drilled for 240mm or 280mm radiator compatibility
- Five fan mount locations
- Front: 140mm included (upgradeable to dual 120mm or 140mm)
- Top: Dual 120mm or 140mm
- Rear: 120mm included
- USB 3.0 on front panel with internal motherboard connector
- Four 3.5” / 2.5” hard drive bays with full SSD compatibility
- Up to 450mm of space for long graphics cards
- Up to 160mm of space for CPU coolers
- Cable routing cutouts to keep your cables out of the airflow path
- Tool free installation of 5.25” and 3.5” drives
If you have a little bit of extra cash, then you may be wondering what else you could spend it on either over and above the $1500 budget outlines above or in the near future.
Some may benefit from upgrading to an i7 processor, such as the Intel Core i7 4790K featured below (Perhaps you do more then game? Maybe you stream? Video edit? Do Graphics Work?).
You could go also go all out and opt for a Dual GPU Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card that comes with a closed looped liquid cooler, which might help those who want to push some high-end 4K gaming performance out of your rig; if so this graphics card will do the trick!
The Corsair Hydro Series H100i GTX liquid cpu cooler has just been released recently and can provide you with some optimal cooling if you like. You could also go with more storage in your SSD by going with an affordable Samsung 850 EVO 1TB SSD – or any combination of drives mentioned in the $1500 build overview above.
Capability: Game with Extreme settings at 1920X1080 resolutions and even High Settings in some games at 2560×1400
Welcome to the May 2015 $1000 gaming pc build. This build is for those gamers who want to play most of any game maxed out at high FPS’s using HD resolutions of 1920X1080 no problem and even for those that want to push their games to higher resolution of 2560X1600. Depending on the game FPS will vary as your resolutions increase, so always remember to do a little research with regards to the collection of games you’re planning to play and at what resolution (The GTX 970 included in the build is a very capable graphics card though!).
The included processor is the Intel i5 4690K processor, which is the same processor in the $1500 build and for a while has been the go to gaming pc build processor. To easily overclock this processor, I have included the Cool Master Hyper 212 Evo to aid in efficiently cooling the cpu.
As for a motherboard this month, I have changed this to the previous $1500 build choice since it fits nicely in this build now, which is the Asus Z97-A. This is a very capable motherboard with the following short overview specs. (To read the full specification please visit asus.com)
- 5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5 – One click, total system optimization!
- M.2 & SATA Express – Speed up your system with lightning-fast 10Gb/s transfer speed
- Crystal Sound 2 and Intel Gigabit Ethernet — a game-winning combo!
- ASUS HomeCloud – Access your PC remotely and stream multimedia content anywhere, anytime
- Proven quality – 5X Protection. 1000+ compatible devices. 7000+ validation hours.
The included graphics card again is the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 ACX graphics card, which is a great choice in this budget range and well worth the cost where it’s at. This graphics card will play most games really well at resolutions as high as 2560×1600 maxed out and at the moment this is one of the best graphics cards for your money.
RAM has been getting cheaper every single month (literally), and featured again is the 8Gb of DDR3 Crucial Ballistix Sport kit – where 8Gb of RAM should be the perfect amount for this build. For a storage solution, we have a 1TB Seagate Barracuda hard drive, which should be plenty of space for most gamers – if you can splurge a little bit more it might also be worth either switching to a solid state drive or adding a smaller SSD boot drive (see builds hardware alternatives below).
The power supply unit being used again is the EVGA SuperNOVA G1 650W power supply, which is a great PSU with all modular cables and it provides the perfect amount of power for this build along with room for some upgrades.
This month the PC case we have is the Corsair Carbide Series Black 300R, which is a very similar case to that featured in the $1500 build except that the $1500 build Corsair 330R blackout version has aluminum inlay front panel, 3 speed fan control switch to control your cooling. The corsair 330R is still a great case and has been very popular. To read more on the Corsair 330R please visit Corsair.com.
$1000 Gaming PC Build Upgrade Suggestions
Whether you have some extra cash over and above the $1000 budget to spend or want some future considerations here are some of my recommendations.
You could SLI with two EVGA GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards, which would definitely be enough juice for extreme gaming at higher resolutions (2560X1600 & 4K for example), or even high resolution multi-monitor setups. You could also consider this a worthy future upgrade consideration should you find you need the graphics juice in the years to come.
Since there is no SSD included in the base $1000 build, I do highly suggest considering one. An SSD makes a world of a difference in boot / loading speeds. Featured below is an affordable OCZ 240GB SSD, priced at only $88, making it one of the most affordable (and recommendable) SSD’s out now. Furthermore, if you think you’ll need much more storage, you could also consider umping up the 1TB Seagate hard drive to the 2TB version for not much more.
The last upgrade suggestions includes the newer Corsair Hydro Series H80i GT liquid CPU cooler, which has an improved coldplate and pump design (learn more about Corsair’s new liquid cpus here).
Also, please *note that if you do decide to SLI with another GTX 970, I would suggest you have at least a 750W PSU.
(Game at Smoothly with Medium – High settings at 1920X1080 resolutions)
Gaming PC Build Recipe:
The $600 is more then capable of playing any game out there and perhaps can play a bulk of them maxed out with high FPS at 1920X1080. This month the base $600 has upgraded significantly with the inclusion of the AMD FX-8320 8 Core Black Edition processor instead of the previous AMD FX6300. This was doable since the cost of all the combined hardware dipped significantly, which is very exciting for those trying to fit their budget build into $600. This processor is also unlocked and easily overclockable.
The motherboard included again is a small form factor Gigabyte AM3+ GA-78LMT Micro ATX motherboard. This is a Micro ATX motherboard and will allow for a smaller PC case to make a nicely compact build without missing out on performance increases. The Gigabyte AM3+ GA-78LMT Micro ATX motherboard has the following specifications – (To learn more visit gigabyte.com)
- Ultra Durable 4 Classic Technology with high quality components design
- Supports AMD AM3+ FX/AM3 Phenom™ II & Athlon™ II series processors
- 4+1 Phase CPU Power design for AMD high TDP 125W CPU support
- Integrated ATI Radeon HD 3000 graphics (DirectX10)
- PCI-E 2.0 x16 interface for ultimate graphics support
The GeForce GTX 960 graphics card is a newer graphics card then the other included card, the Sapphire Radeon R9 280, except I’m hesitant to give it a full recommendation since the Radeon R9 280 performs slightly better for a slightly lower cost. However the GTX 960 uses significantly less power, so I have included both in the build table above for anyone interested in either.
For a total of 8Gb of RAM we have a kit of Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB, which like most memory has gone down in cost significantly. As for a hard drive for each build this month we have the same for each build, which is the 1TB Seagate Barracuda.
The power supply used is the EVGA 600B 600Watt power supply, plenty of power for this build and a great price for 600Watts of power in a solid budget psu.
For a PC case this month I chosen another Micro ATX case for a nice compact gaming PC build – The Silverstone Tek Micro ATX PS08 pc case. This is a great budget mico atx case with plenty of room for all of your components, yet still very compact with the following specifications (learn more at silverstonetek.com)
- Includes one 180mm Air Penetrator fan for positive pressure cooling
- Removable motherboard tray and top panel
- Quick access filters to prevent dust buildup
- Convenient wire and cable routing pathways
- Adjustable holder for large CPU coolers
- Motherboard back plate opening behind CPU area for quick cooler assembly
- Impressive storage capacity up to five 3.5″ hard drives and one 2.5″ drive
Upgrade Suggestions for the $600 Gaming PC Build:
If you have some extra spending cash or want some ideas for future upgrades over and above the allotted $600 budget for this gaming pc build, then below may be some ideas to consider.
First I have included the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO cpu cooler, this would be a great addition to anyone considering overclocking your AMD FX 8320 processor right off the bat in order to keep everything nice and cool while doing so.
I have included two hard drive alternative solutions. The first being a 2TB Seagate Barracuda for those that need a ton of storage for those need more then the included 1TB Seagate hard drive. The second drive is a Solid State Drive, the OCZ Storage Solutions Arc 100 Series 120GB SSD, which is a very affordable SSD with lots of storage per dollar spent at only a current $59.99.
Finally, if you want a higher quality more sleek looking Micro ATX case, I have included the Corsair Carbide Series Air 240 Micro ATX case. This is a very unique case that comes in both the white version you see below as well as black.
Included as an attachment to this post is the gaming pc peripherals of the month article for May 2015. The builds above include the essentials to build a gaming pc, however you do need peripherals in order to control or utilize your build. So if you already don’t have any of these (such as a mouse, keyboard, monitor or OS), here will be some gaming specific suggestions.
You can view three separate categories including each in a higher end, mid-range and basic peripheral categories.
To view this months peripheral suggestions please visit May 2015 Gaming PC Peripherals – Keyboards Mice and Monitors
Operating System Options
If you don’t already have an operating system for your new gaming pc build, then you’re going to have to either invest in purchasing a standard OS such as Windows 7 or 8. Otherwise, there are some free alternatives that you could consider.
The following are some operating systems you can consider installing upon putting your Gaming PC build together. The first two will cost you and are either Windows 7 or 8.1 – I have no opinions here so I’ll leave the purchase of these up to the discretion of yourself. I have also included two other operating systems that are both currently free. Ubuntu is a Linux based operating system. The last OS is SteamOS, which is also a Linux OS being developed by Valve Corporation and is being made to be used for a Steam Machine game console. The official release of SteamOS has not been announced, however you can try out the beta.
The latest edition to our gaming case round-up highlights enclosures spanning $50 to $800, all on the market for 2015. Most of these cases were shown at CES 2015 and have separate, individual coverage on the site (from last week); a few were shown in 4Q14 and had a presence at CES '15.
Best Budget Gaming Cases of CES 2015 ($40-$100)
Budget gaming enclosures with a penchant for gaming are abundant in the market, and it wasn't until the larger players stepped in that a droplet of quality suffused the sub-$100 price-range. NZXT's S340 and Corsair's 200R are recent examples of budget cases, but they're not alone anymore.
SilverStone Raven RVZ02 – Brilliant Innovation in mITX Cases (~$85)
SilverStone has long held an image of expensive, high-end cases, partly thanks to their general distaste toward plastic and low-end power supplies. The company was among the first to bring 600W+ 80 Plus Gold SFX PSUs to the market, a marked success.
SilverStone Raven RVZ02 Specs
|Dimensions||350 x 350 x 80mm (LHW)|
|CPU Cooler Height||60mm max|
|Special Features||- Forward-facing GPU heatsink.|
- Mirrored installation panels.
- Front LED.
- Sliding I/O Faceplate.
|MSRP||<$85 when available|
The RVZ02 enclosure caught our attention at CES, warranting such praise as “leading innovation and design.” SilverStone's new Raven mini-ITX enclosure is a fan-less approach to gaming HTPCs, leveraging slotted acrylic windows near the VGA and CPU to perform all cooling. The interesting nature of the RVZ02 – and the reason it can cram a GTX 980 into similar-width case – is its use of a PCI-e riser card that allows the video card faceplate to point outward. Given the effort invested in recent GPU cooler designs, showcasing the faceplate and fans makes sense.
This orientation necessitates that the motherboard is pointed the opposite direction of the video card, hence the riser card implementation. For visualization purposes, both side panels are mirrored, so they can be installed on either side of the case (acrylic window up on one side, down on the other). Opting for a riser PCB over a cheaper ribbon cable ensures greater physical strength and reduced latency with age.
The RVZ02 only supports CPU coolers up to 60mm high (including the fan), so something like SilverStone's AR06 is required to efficiently cool the CPU. The stock cooler will be too big (and too hot) for this enclosure. Cooling is a concern, so invest in a well-designed VGA and CPU cooler.
Corsair 100R & 100R-Silent – Small, Discreet Cases ($50, $60)
As you'll see in the case mentioned immediately below the 100R, two companies have caught on to the fact that a rare few Chinese factories are capable of stamping side panel bezels with the depth showcased here. The 100R aims to accomplish similar feats to the 200R, targeting users in need of a modern and discreet budget case.
The 100R offers dedicated SSD mounts, light cable management options, and includes a single 120mm rear exhaust fan. Support for 2x140mm front fans and 2x120mm top fans offers room to grow.
Corsair 100R Specs
|Motherboard Support||ATX, mATX, mITX|
|Fans||1x120mm rear (incl.)|
|Features||Silent version offers foam|
Deep bezel for cable management
|MSRP||$50 & $60 when available|
Corsair's 100R Silent case includes a thick, surface-tense foam for vibration and noise absorption. The inclusion of this foam boosts the price an extra $10, landing it at $60 for the same case, just with better sound absorption.
SilverStone PS11B – Direct Competition to the 100R ($50)
SilverStone and Corsair coincidentally showcased the same case this year, with slight variations to the foam and paneling. The PS11B and 100R are almost identical, both made in what appears to be the same factory (each uses a deep bezel in the side panels), and both offered in silent versions.
SilverStone PS11B Specs
|Motherboard Support||ATX, mATX, mITX|
|Fans||1x120mm rear (incl.)|
|Features||Silent version offers foam|
Deep bezel for cable management
|MSRP||$50 when available|
The only difference here is that SilverStone's option uses a different type of sound-absorbing foam, resulting in a $50 price-point for both the silent and standard PS11B.
Best Mid-Range Gaming Cases of CES 2015 ($100-$170)
Mid-range cases were in shorter supply this year than the previous year, which featured industry-acclaimed offerings like NZXT's H440. Mid-range options offer ease-of-installation features with a fairly wide range of cooling options, but don't normally include all the bells, whistles, and aluminum that the higher-end options do. We actually prefer building with mid-range enclosures in most instances, given their general focus on practical features as opposed to useless considerations.
Given the general lack of quality mid-range enclosures at CES this year, we've summoned forth a few 4Q14 cases that deserve a bit of attention.
BitFenix Pandora – Aluminum at an Affordable Price ($120 with window)
The popularity of boutique shop BitFenix grew wildly with the Prodigy, a small form-factor box that many of you already know. Sneaking into the end of 2014, the company staked its name on its ability to craft an aluminum-enclosed tower. The Pandora is effectively identical to the already-shipping Pandora Core, with the primary exception that the new unit (strictly called “Pandora” or “Pandora Window”) hosts a built-in 2.4” LCD.
Uniquely, the LCD is capable of displaying user-designated designs or logos rather than BitFenix's default logo. This allows some loose customization of the exterior.
The Pandora doesn't support ATX or full form-factor motherboards, but micro-ATX support allows flexibility for most single-GPU PC builds.
Fractal Define R5 – Silence in a Mid-Tower ($110)
Able to mount ATX, mATX, and mini-ITX motherboards, Fractal's Define R5 continues the company's legacy of subdued visuals and noise levels. The Define R5's hard drive and optical drive cages are fully-modular, with a supporting 2x2.5” SSD mounts on the rear side of the motherboard. To this end, a system builder could remove the entirety of the cage structure and instead install two SSDs behind the board.
In the spirit of silence, the Fractal Define R5 also includes what the company calls “ModuVent” plates. The plates are foam-padded modules that attach to unused fan ports, ensuring that fan mounts that go unfilled don't allow space for noise to escape (or dust to enter).
The Define R5 is intended for users who demand silence and an absence of dust, but who also don't care for the “gamer” look or flashy LEDs. It is available in windowed and window-less versions (+$10 window).
Thermaltake Core X9 – A Mad-Modder's Playground ($170)
The last of our mid-range enclosures is also the most expensive. We gave our honest criticism of Thermaltake's new Core X9 at CES, commenting that the case is interesting for its target audience – part-way modders and playful enthusiasts – but likely too oversized for the vast majority of system builders.
Thermaltake Core X9 Specs
|Motherboard Support||E-ATX, ATX, mATX, mITX|
|Dimensions||502 x 380 x 640mm|
(19.8 x 15 x 25.2")
|Weight||17 kg / 37.5 lbs.|
|Fans||1x200mm front (incl.)|
1x120mm rear (incl.)
3x140mm (side panels)
|Clearance||CPU Cooler Height - 250mm|
VGA Length - 400mm (590mm w/o cage)
PSU length - 220mm
Highly customizable mounting hardware
|MSRP||$170 when available|
The X9 is a unique case. It's sort of an erector's set of trays, brackets, rails, and screws, all completely removable to allow an aquarium-like setup purely for liquid cooling (or vertically-stacked systems, if using two cases). The X9 is accompanied by Thermaltake's X2 and X1 cases, smaller in physical size and in price.
Best High-End Enthusiast Gaming Cases of CES 2015 ($170-$800)
Enthusiast-classes PC cases still got love at CES 2015, though not to the same big-name fanfare as Corsair's past 900D or similar cases.
In-Win S-Box Aluminum & Tempered Glass Enclosure – Affordable Case Art ($300)
“Affordable” may be a bit of a relative term here. That is, relative to the $800 masterpiece below, $300 quickly appears “affordable.” In-Win isn't really known for its finesse when it comes to budget-friendly enclosures, but if you've got money and you want art, they're the brand to look at first. The S-Box uses a single sheet of folded aluminum – similar in basic concept to the S-Frame – and a high-quality, tempered sheet of glass to cover core components.
The S-Box's hard drives are concealed in the front “bend” of the aluminum, facing the rear side of the case.
DeepCool / CyberPower Tristellar – Eccentricity in Cases ($350)
Aluminum is a lightweight, expensive material to shape and manufacture. This case, taking a sharp turn away from the design elements of the S-Box, makes use of three compartmentalized component containers, each roofed with a heavy, steel shell. The case is easier to explain in video form (done here)
The Trinity system is made by CyberPower, for which DeepCool manufactures the enclosure (separately available for $350). If you want a large, Lambda Shuttle-shaped case in your living room, this is the go-to. Rather specific, but there you have it.
In the very least, it's different and cool, and we give it props for that.
In-Win S-Frame – an $800 Work of Hand-Folded, Aluminum Art
And we arrive to the S-Frame. In-Win's $800 showroom case. The company told us that they've got an internal “Vision Team,” entirely dedicated to the creation of PC cases that they'd want to display in their living rooms as artwork. This results in some of the most expensive manufacturing processes and MSRPs, but shows that templates can be broken.
The In-Win S-Frame (we wrote about & videoed here) is built using a single piece of aluminum, hand-bent fifteen times with a press and two employees. This process is time-consuming and skilled, resulting in the higher market price. A high-quality, heavy, tempered sheet of glass covers the core components.
2015 Recap – Top Cases for Gaming PCs
The year has started out extraordinairily strong in the budget and high-end markets, but has room for growth among the mid-range products. We anticipate an upswing in case design as the year progresses, having spoken to all the major manufacturers at CES, but we're satisfied with the launches thus far.
- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.
The Fall 2015 Budget Gamer
Respectable power and performance on a budget
Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again. Red frills and decorations are everywhere, and holiday music fills every conceivable retail space. Love them or hate them, the holidays are just around the bend. At least there are some deals to be had.
When we went looking on Newegg to find parts for our Fall builds, we had a few goals in mind: take advantage of pricing and make sure that we include the latest Skylake CPUs wherever possible. With this guiding principle, we were able to put together a great gaming build that will get players up and running with most titles at 1080p.
To start off, we went with a locked Skylake CPU and a motherboard without unneeded overclocking heft. We chose a quad-core Core i5-6500 and stuck it in a ASRock H170M mini-ITX mobo. While the H170 isn't as sexy as the Z170, we saved a little money by going with the H-model. The CPU, while not a K-model unlocked SKU, is still plenty powerful, and offers i5 speeds and features at a reasonable price. It also let us go with a cheaper H170 without hesitation or fear of missing out.
One thing we did run into problems with was the stock drivers in Windows 8.1. We kept getting blue screens until we were able to install the motherboard memory driver from ASRock. If you go with this motherboard, be sure to do that first (and don't discard the DVD that came with the mobo). The only other oversight was that this model did not have built-in Wi-Fi. While adding a USB dongle is a simple and cheap upgrade, not grabbing Wi-Fi on the mobo was a small oversight on our part.
Here's what we put together.
Note: All prices reflect in-cart price at time of procurement. Sale prices and instant rebates are included. Tax and mail-in rebates are not included.
Good things come in small packages
We decided to take the little board and mount it into the cube-shaped Xigmatek Nebula. The Nebula is a handsome little case, which would look right at home next to a TV or a small desk. The turned-up corner features an orange power LED, and is so similar to how a Steam Machine might look, we almost expected the Steam logo to adorn the light's face.
Three of the Nebula's four metal side panels come off easily, which allowed us to work on your build from nearly every side. However, this configuration was a mixed blessing: we couldn't figure out how to get the top off, which made for some interesting modifications to our build process.
There are a couple of main schools of thought when it comes to mounting your CPU: lne says you should mount it before mounting the motherboard; the other says it's better to mount the mobo first. This case pretty much forces you into the first school, since there really isn't a whole lot of room to safely mount the CPU once the board is mounted.
The other thing that makes this case a bit different is the lack of cable management options. When building into a small mini-ITX case, we highly recommend using a modular power supply to cut down on clutter. We went with the 450W Corsair CS450M to get the job done.
The cable management wasn't the only thing to worry about. We noticed this case came with only one exhaust fan. This means that the case is built to create negative pressure, which will suck in dust from every crevice. Luckily, it's so easy to open that cleaning should be a cinch compared to having to open up a tower. Just remember to clean your case regularly (like you should be doing anyway), and everything should be kosher.
Pixel pushing on a budget
When building a gaming machine on a budget, it is usually a good idea to sacrifice smaller features for the best CPU you can reasonably afford. We really tried to squeeze a shorty Asus GTX 970 into the build, but the sacrifices were simply too great. Instead, we went with an old favorite workhorse: the GTX 960.
The GTX 960 model we got from EVGA comes with a small factory overclock, and was plenty short enough for our needs. The GPU can handle most games at 1080p at max settings, and will perform admirably even at 1440p. However, don't try to play in 4K with this card; it just doesn't have the muscle, even if texture quality and anti-aliasing are turned way down.
Our tests with this build revealed just what we expected in this realm: decent FPS at the lower resolution, but sluggish performance at 4K.
Little box, little storage
One big thing we omitted with this build was a hard drive. Some may gasp and choke in alarm, but we felt that spending a little more on a larger SSD would yield a better return on investment. The 250GB 850 EVO is able to hold your OS and a respectable library of games. The 850 EVO is also one of our favorite SSDs for its price-to-performance ratio.
For those who need more storage, a 1TB HDD can be as little as $70, so adding a hard drive after-the-fact is a cheap upgrade. External hard drives are cheap, too.
High in the Skylake
If there's one good thing that stands out about the guts of this build, it's the Skylake core. Even with the new core, a locked CPU and a lower clock speed of its K-SKU cousins means that this little i5 can't compete when it comes to number-crunching tasks.
When it came to our multithreaded benchmark, the quad-core i5 performed similarly to its Haswell cousin we used in the Summer build.
At the end of the day, we're really happy with this build and feel like it would make a great entry-level build for those who want to get into PC gaming, want to play the latest games in 1080p, or want a homebrewed HTPC/Steam Machine for the living room.
3-Way Budget Mid-Tower PC Case Shootout
Regardless of budget, most system builders want a case that can handle enthusiast hardware while being cool, quiet and hopefully somewhat sexy. If a manufacturer can check those boxes and still be competitively priced then it likely has a winner on its hands.
With hundreds of models available, mid-towers are by far the most popular desktop chassis form factor, supporting most full-sized hardware including the ever abundant ATX motherboards and power supplies while typically costing only $50 to $75.
In most situations, any mid-sized enclosure in that price range will be adequate for a standard build, but Silverstone, Corsair and In Win have launched new contenders that are said to deliver the build quality, design, features and performance of pricier models.
We'll reserve final judgments for now but at first glance it's especially hard to believe that Silverstone's Kublai KL05 is south of $100, much less being in line with In Win's 703 at $65, while Corsair's $50 Carbide 100R seems smart if you're solely after a bargain.
Silverstone Kublai KL05 Design
The Kublai KL05's design straddles a middle ground between the elegant FT05 and the extremely aggressive RV05. It isn't boring to behold but it's also far from being over the top.
The KL05 weighs just 6.9kg which is quite light for a relatively large ATX case that has been built primarily out of steel and plastic. It measures 200mm wide, 494mm deep and 525mm tall, making it much taller than the previous model, while not quite as deep and thankfully not as wide. These changes make it appear far less bulky.
At this point we should note that there are two distinct versions of the KL05: the KL05B-W and KL05B-Q. Both are black but one is a quiet version while the other is a more aggressive windowed model with a mesh front grill.
As far as we can tell both cost the same amount. The KL05B-Q has been upgraded with foam padded side panels and a solid front panel, which helps reduce the amount of noise that escapes from the case, hence being the quiet version.
For review we have the KL05B-W, which is the more eye-catching of the two thanks to its acrylic side window and large dual fan grill at the front which shows off the blue LED fans.
Regardless of which version you choose, the front panel that covers the fans is removable, granting access to the dust filters. Above this panel are two external 5.25" bays and the front I/O panel, which features rather plain power and reset buttons along with the standard audio jacks and two USB 3.0 ports.
Moving to the top of the KL05 we find a large plastic top panel with a ton of ventilation. Both models have the exact same panel which is removable via a pair of thumb screws on the back of the case. Underneath is room for a large water-cooling radiator which technically would be mounted externally.
The right side panel can also be removed by a pair of thumb screws and other than the window it has no other noteworthy features. The opposite side door is much the same but without the window.
Around back, the KL05 is painted black as you would expect. At the bottom is the power supply bracket, followed by eight expansion slots and two circular holes with grommets for routing water-cooling pipes externally. Above all that is a 120mm exhaust fan mount and the motherboards I/O panel slot.
Laying the KL05 on its side reveals four circular feet on the bottom that raise the case 20mm off the ground. There is also a huge removable dust filter that filters air entering the power supply, as well as two optional fans.
With the side door removed we get our first look inside the Kublai KL05B. There is a lot less to talk about than on the outside as the inside is fairly basic. That said, all the important stuff is included such as tool-less drive cages, cable management features, motherboard socket access and plenty of opportunities for cooling upgrades.
Like the previous model, the KL05B's storage capabilities are decent, offering room for half a dozen 3.5" drives along with two 2.5" drives and two 5.25" devices. You can install six 3.5" and two 2.5" drives or eight 2.5" drives. Alternatively, a third 3.5" drive cage can be purchased as an optional extra, taking the 3.5' drive support to nine.
Those wanting to go with a multi-GPU setup are limited to graphics cards that are 280mm or shorter in length, assuming the 3.5" drive cages remain. By removing the drive cage(s) the KL05 can support cards as long as 406mm. Given that most high-end graphics cards are 280mm long or shorter, the KL05 should be able to handle a beefy GPU without having to sacrifie drive bays.
If you want to cram a heap of cards into the KL05 you will no doubt be interested in its cooling features.
Silverstone has thrown just a single 120mm blue LED fan into the package, which can be found mounted in the front of the case. Taking the relatively low price into account, we can't criticize Silverstone too heavily for this move.
Though the setup out of the box leaves a lot to be desire, the KL05 can be well equipped with room for two 120mm or 140mm in-take fans at the front, two 120 or 140mm top mounted fans, two 120mm bottom fans and a single 120mm exhaust fan at the rear.
While we have talked about the GPU length limitations it is also important to note the maximum CPU cooler height as well as the maximum PSU length. Those wanting to go with a heavy SLI or Crossfire setup will be happy to find room for a massive power supply stretching up to 225mm.
When it comes to CPU coolers, the KL05 encourages users to opt for a liquid cooling setup with that external radiator mounting location in the top of the case. That said, with a fairly generous 165mm of headroom, the very best air coolers such as the Prolimatech Megahalems and Noctua NH-D15 will fit.
The motherboard tray features a massive cut-out allowing for rear access to the CPU socket using a wide range of AMD and Intel motherboards. There are also a number of access points for routing cables behind the motherboard tray -- eight in fact. Also found behind the motherboard tray are two 2.5" drive cages which are handy for installing some speedy SSDs.
There is anywhere from 10 to 20mm of clearance behind the motherboard tray for routing cables and we will look into this in greater detail in the installation section coming up.
The KL05 includes the essentials for a case in this price range. You might not get much, but what you do get is of excellent quality. Furthermore although the bundled cooling is pretty weak, the cooling potential is exceptional. It was also nice to see that Silverstone didn't skip on storage, which we have seen a number of case makers do recently, most notably Corsair with their Obsidian 350D which supports just two 3.5" drives out of the box.
Silverstone Kublai KL05 Installation
Given that the Silverstone KL05 is pretty basic/standard inside, the installation process was straightforward. The handful of features that the case does have are included to make the installation process easier, such as the motherboard tray cut-out, cable management and tool-less parts.
First we installed a relatively large Intel X79 motherboard which fit easily enough, we then fitted it with the Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme. Even with this massive heatsink installed there is a surprising amount of room to move around in the KL05. We didn't find this with the FT05.
However, although the Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme is 165mm tall and the KL05 is said to take 165mm coolers, it was a tight squeeze to say the least. The heatsink presses against the case window and does cause the door to bulge out slightly. Therefore, while it is possible to squeeze big heatsinks like the Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme in, you really have to wedge them in.
Next we installed the power supply and this was a pretty straight forward affair. The ATX PSU is simply placed in the bottom of the case and the KL05 can either accommodate the PSU drawing in cool air from outside the case or using the air already inside.
With the power supply installed and hooked up to the motherboard we threw in a GeForce GTX 980 reference card, which fit nicely. There is no reason why you couldn't fit another or perhaps even three more.
Each of the dual 3.5" drive cages are armed with three tool-less drive caddies that make installing 3.5" drives a breeze, though using screws they can also accommodate 2.5" SSDs. The drives are mounted sideways so the power and data cables are accessed via the right hand panel. Silverstone has ensured that there is enough room for the cables to stick out the drives and not hit the case door.
The external 5.25" drive bays also feature a tool-less design that works well and enables users to quickly install devices into these bays.
The single 120mm LED blue fan connects using a standard 3-pin fan header power cable, so we plugged that directly into the motherboard.
Overall the KL05 is extremely easy to work with, supports a wide range of varied hardware and offers exceptional cable management.
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