I’ve recently built a new PC, yet again. Here are my thoughts.
I’ve used the following components for the build:
- Case: Fractal Design Define 7 XL Dark Tempered Glass
- CPU: Intel i7 11700K
- Motherboard: Asus ROG Maximus XIII Apex
- GPU: nVidia GeForce GTX 1080 (MSI Aero)
- PSU: Corsair RM850x
- CPU Cooler: Arctic Liquid Freezer II-420
- RAM: 2x16 G.Skill Ripjaws V 3200
- SSD: Samsung EVO 970 Plus 2TB
- HDD: Barracuda Compute 2TB
So, immediately, you may look at the GPU and think “Wow, this is old!” and you’d be correct. Given that current GPUs have more than +100% scalpers markup, I’ll be waiting on upgrading her for the time being. So until GPU prices are reasonable again - if they ever become reasonable again - I’ll be with the GTX 1080.
Let’s talk about each component, shall we?
So I went for the Fractal Design Define 7 XL Dark Tempered Glass. One thing about this case is, as you can imagine, its size. They certainly weren’t lying when they said it was XL. It’s really big. But I like it, I really do. However, there are some things I don’t appreciate about it, or that could have been done better.
First of all, the top insert, to which the top fans (or in my case, AIO) is screwed to, was bent. Not in a major way, not enough for me to return it as damaged, but it was still visibly bent. For a case that costs 240€, I expected better quality control. Secondly, the case is designed for 140mm fans and has three of them pre-installed. Several of the screws used to install those fans were so badly stripped that I had to get a screw extraction tool to get them out and use my own case fans. Again, not the end of the world, but for the price I expected better.
As for the installation manual, it could…need a re-write. For example, on page 20, they talk about the “Nexus+ 2 Fan Hub”, which at first I thought was an optional accessory they were trying to sell. Like “If you have this, here is how to connect it”. The reason I thought that was because they do not include it in the Case Overview on page 5, nor on the explosion drawing on page 6. Imagine my shock when I was almost done assembling my PC a few hours later and then finding it in the top corner of the case.
On page 26, they show the process of removing a hard-drive cage, which I had to do to fit a third 140mm fan to the front. Removal of the covers is just a bitch to do, and I wouldn’t be surprized if several people managed to accidentally break this plastic cover in the process. Then they show the cage just being removed. What they casually forgot showing you is that you had to remove the dust filter from the bottom of the case and four screws, holding it in place.
In order to install a third 140mm fan, the front needs to be removed. In typical scandinavian fashion, the manual shows “Remove the front cover” as one step, but doesn’t explain how. In order to do that, six plastic pinch pins need to be pressed and then removed individually. How do you know to do that? Why, you just pray to the Omnissiah and wait to be blessed with knowledge.
So that sounded quite negative, but after all that messing about and lots and lots of cursing, I managed to install everything and it looks very beautiful. The large open space means plenty of airflow, as well as looking beautiful with the LEDs.
I think the quality control issues, as well as the mediocre manual can be fixed by the manufacturer.
An Asus ROG Maximus XIII Apex. What a name. It would get a +0.31 as a car model name. The only reason I got it was because I got it for half price, because the box was damaged. And 250€ rebate for a damaged bit of carton? Yes, please!
So? How is it? Well…kind of…I don’t like it. I don’t like it for two reasons. First of all, it doesn’t have any video out. And secondly, it only has two RAM slots. You may think that a lack of video out isn’t a big deal, since I have a nice GPU anyways, but being able to have some form of graphical output, even without GPU can help a lot with debugging. Especially if you don’t know if the reason you don’t get any output is the GPU or not.
And just two RAM slots? Really? I’m genuinely upset about that. Like, really?
Aside from that, the UEFI interface is really nice. Updating the UEFI is pretty easy, just downloading the files onto a USB stick, then selecting it in the UEFI option menu. It also has MemTest86 built in, which is always neat and useful for debugging. In the business, we call that foreshadowing.
The RM850x, or RMx for short, is quite a lovely fully-modular PSU. It’s quiet, delivers its power, and the cables are fine the way they are. Aside from that, there’s really not much more I want from a PSU.
The CPU Cooler
I’m a sucker for AIO coolers. I like how quiet they are compared to traditional fan coolers, because you can spread the same thermal load over a larger surface, meaning that each individual fan can run slower for the same performance, which in turn reduces noise. I’m sure some enthusiasts would be all too happy to tell me how their custom liquid cooling solution is even quieter, even cooler, even more efficient and it even made their penis 2cm longer. I am certain all of that is true, but I like the simplicity of just adding all the stuff I need and being done.
Which is also why I didn’t like this particular cooler very much. You see, all the previous AIOs I bought were from Corsair, which had an Intel mounting bracket pre-installed. But Corsair didn’t have a 420mm cooler, so I had to get a different one. I went for an Arctic Liquid Freezer II, and the experience was…it could be better.
So right when I ordered from the manufacturer, I didn’t get any confirmation e-mail. None. I wasn’t sure, did my order not go through? Or did I perhaps fall for some well-made scam? No, according to their Twitter account, this is intentional. “We don’t send e-mails”, they said. Well, I hope you fucking start sending them soon, because not getting a confirmation email upon sending an order worries me. Hell, even a restaurant sends me a confirmation when I reserve a table.
So anyways, once I got my AIO, installation went somewhat decent. The cable management between the fans was well-done and screwing the radiator to the bent case was easy, thanks to the metal being detachable. There was just one small problem: The pump end of the AIO had no mounting brackets pre-installed, and the manual was rather confusing. You see, there were three bags. One was labelled “AMD”, the others were not labelled. I was quite sure about one of the unlabelled bags being for Intel, but among the God-knows-how-many screws, it wasn’t easy figuring out which one was for mounting the mounting bracket to the pump. A print on the plastic bag would have helped.
Once the mounting bracket was installed, it was time to apply some thermal paste. Luckily, they shipped a small tube of thermal paste, specifically their “MX-5” paste, which they assured me was of great performance! Unfortunately, it was also a lot more viscous than any thermal paste I have previously worked with, or the thermal paste from their marketing material. It genuinely felt more like a “paste” than a liquid. Could it be that it had dried up a little? Possibly. I don’t know for sure. But it refused to spread well, so I had to help it a bit with a cotton swab. Given that my CPU is running at <30°C right now, I’m confident that it’s working as it should.
Let me ask you a question: What does it mean when Windows tells you “0x8007025D” during installation? According to a lot of Googling, it meant that the installation medium is corrupt. You ask yourself “But how can the USB drive that I just prepared be corrupt?” You would be correct. And further you ask “What does this have to do with RAM?”
You see, one of the two 16GB sticks I have bought had some bad addresses, and Windows attempts to create a RAM disk when installing itself. So what happens is that Windows uses these bad blocks during the creation of the RAM disk and then complains about some of the data being corrupt.
Luckily, as I mentioned above, my UEFI comes with MemTest86 loaded, so I could determine that this was indeed the issue. After removing the offending RAM stick, the installation worked without issues.
All in all, this build was a huge headache. I considered quitting a few times, I also considered shooting myself in the head at other times. All in all, I’m happy now with how it turned out.