A common misconception about my current PC is that I spent a lot all at once. This isn’t my first ever build, in fact this is probably my 6th or 7th build now, and when I say build, yes, I meant a PC that I bought the individual parts and had a friend over the years teach me how to build PCs until I can finally build PCs on my own. This doesn’t mean, however, that this is only my 6th or 7th PC I owned, nope, since my family had a PC that isn’t necessarily built by me, nor is it something that I can call my own.
Every time that I build a PC, I always start with the essential parts to get the PC up and running. This means that I may not have had a sound card, a disc drive (back in the day when they were more ubiquitous), or even a video card just yet. I then just add those other parts later down the road when I have saved enough money. Same goes for the peripherals.
This is especially true back then, since in those days, and when I first built my current PC, I was just a student, relying on me saving whatever I can from my allowance that my parents give me, heck, I even have to ask my parents to buy certain parts for me as a reward for my good performance in classes and such. Granted, now that I have a job, I can buy all the parts I want for a new build at once, but I will still most likely do the same thing I have done in the past – that is, build upon my build.
The purpose of this post is to give a bit of hope and inspiration for those who want to build a dream PC with multiple monitors, RGB lighting, a racing simulator, etc., and feel bad that they can’t achieve it overnight, over a month, or heck, over several years. A PC build, in my eyes, is evolutionary. My current rig was first built last 2012, which means I still rock the i7 3770 processor, and it is still a great processor and overall rig.
What I first do in new builds is of course, think of the end goal as to what I want to achieve with this build. Its final version so to speak.
I then start canvassing for parts and see where I can get a great deal. Let’s go back to 2012, I first bought my Intel i7 3770, 8GB (4GB x2) G. Skill Sniper 1600 RAM, a Corsair GS700 PSU, an ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 motherboard, and a Bitfenix Shinobi case. I then just used my 23″ LG IPS monitor, 17″ HP TN panel, and my 500GB Seagate HDD from my previous build and the other peripherals like keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc. Notice, no GPU just yet.
I then added an after market CPU heatsink, the DeepCool Ice Blade Pro, and shortly after, I got to save enough money, and it so happens, the new nVidia cards just released, so I got the GTX660Ti.
That is when I started to think about upgrading my peripherals starting with the keyboard. I always wanted a mechanical keyboard, so I got the Ducky DK9008 Shine 2 Cherry MX Blue mechanical keyboard.
Sometime passed again, and this time I upgraded my mouse to the Razer Deathadder (first and last time I ever bought a Razer product…) and replaced my monitors with 2 23″ Dell 2340L IPS monitors.
Another time has passed, I then upgraded my GPU to a Radeon R9 390, my first AMD/ATI GPU ever, since I have always been buying nVidia cards (and I have since returned to nVidia with my latest GPU, and with my experience with the R9 390, I think I will not go back to a Radeon card any time soon… more on this later), and added yet another 23″ Dell 2340L IPS monitor to finally reach one of my goals… having a triple monitor setup. I am no stranger to multimonitor setups, since I have always been using a minimum of 2 monitors since 2008, but only in 2015 did I finally get triple monitors. And yes, no cable management under the desk! CRINGE!
A year later, I got a better chair, this isn’t like the DX Racers or something, but it did the job. I also got a new printer. I also finally made a little effort to fix the cables under the desk. Having the printer helps hide the cables. Oh yeah, I also got a Logitech G600 MMO gaming mouse. This mouse has become a legendary mouse for me as it is one of the few pointing devices that was perfect for me and my uses. Sadly, it broke down… I can usually salvage it by repairing it myself, but this time, I couldn’t save it. I since then replaced it… more on this later.
Sometime later, I passed my medical licensure exam, and my first purchase with my first salary, was the new case, a Phanteks Enthoo Evolv. Notice the plastic is still there at that time. I also added a new extended mouse pad and a Logitech G13, as well as a Logitech G430 headset, and a Logitech F310… this is when I was really starting to be a Logitech fanboy.
A year later, I finally bought an Ikea desk and a proper gaming chair. I also got a Logitech Z333 speaker system. Told you I was a Logitech fanboy.
Later that year, I just upgraded my headset to the Logitech G933 and upgraded my controller to the Logitech F710.
It is well known that I love Formula 1 and I love racing games, so I finally got me a new wheel and pedal set (my first one was sometime 2008, but it was from an unknown brand. I recently found it in our storage room at the back of our house, just gotta make time to retrieve it and show it off), the Logitech G920. Logitech yet again!
I told you I love Formula 1! I then ordered a custom F1 rim from the guys at Speed Max Racing all the way from Italy, as well as a small LCD from them for my racing needs.
From this point, I haven’t really upgraded anything on my PC, but I did upgrade my RAM to 16GB (4x4GB) G. Skill Sniper 1600 RAM, I have since then added 2 SSDs (Plextor 128GB and a Samsung 250GB), I also sleeved cable extensions for my PSU, but I can’t recall when I got these anymore. Nice to note that I still rock the Seagate 500GB HDD in my rig, because I have 8TB NAS storage for my photography and backups; the 500GB is just used for documents, eBooks, and whatnot.
The latest upgrade were made when my PSU and GPU, the Corsair GS700 and the Radeon R9 390, both finally bit the dust. I replaced the PSU with the ThermalTake Tough Power Grand Series 650W RGB and the GPU with a MSI GTX 2060 (I have returned to nVidia!). The latter of which reminded me of my love for nVidia because the temps are 20-30 degrees C lower than the R9 390 even on triple screen ultra gaming. So, I think it is also due to MSI’s twin frozr cooling, but the overall nVidia architecture. I mean, I knew that long ago, it has become a meme, that Radeons are way hotter than Geforce cards, but the R9 390 had a sweet price back then.
I also had to replace my Logitech G600 because I can no longer repair it (soldering new Omron switches, etc.), with a Corsair Scimitar PRO RGB. It is surprisingly similar to the G600, just lacking a few buttons here and there, and the Corsair iCue software isn’t as good as Logitech’s. But hey, I can no longer find a new or even used Logitech G600 any more, unless I want pay for international shipping that is frankly not worth it. So I finally from my Logitech fanboyism and got the Corsair Scimitar PRO RGB. Overall, I love this mouse, too; it will definitely be as loved as the G600.
And that’s it… for now… I think the next time I upgrade, it will be a new system… meaning a new processor, motherboard, RAM, etc. Whatever I can be salvaged from this current build, will be passed on to the new build, and you guessed it, I will build on the build from there.
So there, I didn’t buy all the components at once! I built upon it… it is evolutionary. So don’t fret, build upon your dream… after all, isn’t that what we do with our lives, too? Toil day and night at school, to one day get that dream job? So think of it that way. Heck think about grinding in video games: you are just level 1 now and it sucks, but later on, you are level 99 with all the best gear and buffs. And what’s more important? You can look back and see the journey to how you got to your dream build. Like I did. Like I will.
I may not have that many friends in total, but the number of friends that I do have, I feel are the most real and closest friends I can ever have.
Most of my close friends are from my college days and my post graduate days in medical school. Just yesterday, I finally got to catch up with my closest friend, my brother, in medical school, and obviously, fellow physician, Doc Joed.
This was a long time coming as we have made plans to hang out for months on end, but things happened to make us cancel it all the time.
He is my brother in medical school as we both we from B.S. Biology (though different universities), and we share the same passion for research (experimental more than descriptive), and finally, the 1st letter of our surnames are close to each other in the alphabet that we usually land in the same group for the 4-5 years we were in medical school (5 years if we include post graduate internship), thus it is no surprise we are close like brothers.
Such is life in that planned activities never push through, but spontaneous plans seem to push through by way of sheer adrenaline, hence, when we just decided to hang out in the country’s capital just to roam around the city and malls, we made it happen albeit the gloomy skies that opened up and rained pretty heavy.
Braving the rain, we arrived at our stop, SM North EDSA…
After lunch, we decided to shop around; as usual, my number 1 priority in shopping would be for my hobbies… action figures, PC parts, etc. The least of my priorities was shopping for new attire, which was Doc Joed’s main priority apparently. Needless to say, he bought a lot of new clothes and such, then with out really thinking much, I bought some clothes too that I found were nice… something you don’t here me say everyday, “I bought new clothes”, as I seldom really do so; I let my mom or sisters take care of that for me as they know my fashion style (or the lack thereof).
After looking around some more the mall, we had the chance to hang out and catch up with one of over very 1st residents that took good care of us and taught us well during our clerkship days, Doc Anna!
Next was perusing the mall again and also its neighboring mall, Trinoma, looking for at everything and anything we may actually purchase; not to be outdone by my brother, I was on the hunt for a Logitech Driving Force Shifter to add to my ever growing passion of Sim Racing (we can’t have him just spending alone now would we?) and to pair it with my Logitech G920 Driving Force Wheel and Pedals.
Having bought the things we want, fairly satisfied going around the malls, and having caught up with everything that needs to be caught up, we decided it is time to head back home.
Honestly didn’t get nearly all the things I was planning to get in this trip, but what matters to me was that I got to see my former mentor/resident, Doc Anna, and finally got to hang out with my bro, Doc Joed. Things like just talking about anything under the sun without having to pretend you’re someone else makes it quite liberating especially in this world right now where you have to think twice what you say (I usually don’t care about thinking twice anyways) lest you want to insult someone.
Looking forward to another hangout/trip like this in the near future; a geek like me, though truly an introspective and less outgoing, should consider seeing more of the world… helps to de-stress…
Anyways, I will most likely make another post about the Logitech Driving Force Shifter just to give my thoughts on it. I will no longer be reviewing my peripherals as in dept as I used to as it is now time consuming and I don’t have the luxury of time since I need to prepare for USMLE and I still have jobs as a physician to give more of my time to.
In my previous post about finally building a Sim Racing Rig, I mentioned that I modded the brake pedal by removing the rubber stopper/block that Logitech put in order to simulate progressing brake tension, but the design was poorly thought out as the rubber block/stopper, made it next to impossible to brake fully. Thus I decided to remove it.
Not satisfied with such a simple mod, I wanted to make the Logitech G920 pedals feel a lot better and a lot more responsive, especially in the throttle; I felt the throttle spring is too light and have fine control of throttle a little bit tricky. I also found the stock face plates of the pedals didn’t really feel comfortable as the are a bit too tiny, especially in the throttle, thus I decided to be on the lookout for after market pedal face plates.
Thankfully, as is with most racing wheels for simulators, they are nearly identical to real life counterparts, so you may use after market parts for real cars in the racing wheel and pedals.
I found a cheap enough pedal set, with a long enough throttle to feel comfy and a large enough, rally style brake face plate, that can make it easy for me to do heel toe braking if I need to (which I don’t need so much in F1 games), and it being large enough, makes it very comfortable to brake.
I then decided to switch the stock clutch face plate with the stock throttle face plate, since I bought the after market face plates without the clutch; the stock throttle face plate is large enough for the clutch in my opinion.
I then switched the springs from the clutch to the throttle and vice versa; the stock clutch spring had more tension than that of the throttle, and I felt that if when I need to use the clutch, I want it to be pushed down completely and quickly. Whereas the stock throttle spring had little to no tension for me, making it difficult to pepper the throttle to control the speed in corners when trying to lift of. So by switching the springs around, I got the tensions I want for both the clutch and the throttle. (Note: I removed the face plates of both the throttle and clutch in order to work on them)
After all these, was it worth the time, effort, and expenditure? As with all hobbyists, they would say of course it was without having good tangible evidence as to back up the purchase. Well I do…
I was just having a quick drive around Monaco where my best time with my personal car setup was a 1:19.231 (I am not the greatest sim racer out there; others easily get 1:13.00s) and shattered it, while not driving really seriously, with a 1:18.897. So, yeah, it was worth it.
What is my next project for the SimRig? I do wanna make 2 dedicated sim dash devices so I don’t always have to use my iPad mini and my Zenfone 2; plus I get to program exactly how I want them to look and what telemetry to collect using readily available programs intended for Arduino. Though I won’t be doing it anytime soon as I don’t have so much time for such projects just yet. But it will happen sometime.
I have always contemplated on changing my Bitfenix Shinobi midtower case for another one with far better airflow and for possible future watercooling projects for my system. I was bouncing around different cases, even thought of getting the new Corsair 400c, as it had a PSU shroud and seemed to be roomy enough if ever I decide to go for dual GPU and whole system custom watercooling loop.
But then I remembered the owner of the local enthusiast shop had a Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX for his build, before he switched to the ThermalTake Core P5 case. And I was entranced back then, and looking at the pics, it turns out, I still was.
Speaking of ThermalTake Core P5, I was also thinking about picking it up, but I was thinking how the dust build up and the clean up would have been an absolute nightmare. I love being different from the norm, and getting that ThermalTake case would help me be different, but the trade off for having dust build and the nightmarish clean up was just not worth it.
Needless to say, I got myself the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX in black. All the while knowing that this is primarily a full aluminum paneled case, apart from the steel inner chassis, I was anticipating this being heavy, and oh boy, was it heavier than I expected. In fact, I asked some of the employees at the local shop where I ordered this to help me pack in the car since I can’t carry something this heavy due to my right knee being operated and all.
After staring at the box for at least 30mins and planning out how I would tackle the transfer of my current system in the Bitfenix Shinobi case, I knew that apart from the transferring and cleaning of the system, I have to rewire the “battle station” and clean it up, too.
So the plan of action yesterday in what I dubbed “Open Part Surgery” was firstly, clean up the desks and the re-route the wires in such a way that little to no wires can be seen on the floor; move the power strips and the subwoofer underneath the 2nd desk that is accessible thru a crevice between the 2 desks; remove and clean each component from the Bitfenix Shinobi case; and finally, plan out the cable management on the new case while transferring the rest of the components.
I had to move both the desks slightly from their original positions to assume a more compact look; this way I can hide the cables and the subwoofer underneath the 2nd desk, as they were formally on the 1st desk, covered by a printer and a small plastic drawer for cables. Where the cables, plugs, subwoofer, etc. were placed originally was not the most ideal as I had no more leg room. Thus, I decided to utilize the space underneath the 2nd desk, using the tiny opening that combining the 2 desks creates to access the power strip and the subwoofer to turn them on or off. I am a pseudo audiophile, so with that said, I knew there will be a better boost to the bass sound when placed in placed like this. Having tested it with several bass heavy songs, I was happy with the deeper bass it is now creating – in fact, I even have to adjust the equalizer later on in the PC just to get all the sound right.
I then decided to move the printer next on the side of the 1st desk so I have leg room. Sure now it ruins the ease of access, but come on, I am not that lazy to stand up just to go to the side of my desk to load up paper if need be.
That process took a good 2 hours just de-cluttering the desk, re-routing the wires, and simply dusting off the desks and the floor, and placing the printer in its new location. Onward to removing the components from the Bitfenix Shinobi and dusting them off.
My way of cleaning my components is using tiny brushes that are used for painting on an easel; they aren’t too tough, get in between ares real easily, and just for peace of mind, these do not make as much electrical/static discharge that may destroy these components. Also, speaking of electrical/static discharge, I am not using an anti-static wrist strap, but I am touching the case and the PSU every now and then to remove any static built up in my body.
I would like to try Brian’s, from Tech Yes City in YouTube, method of cleaning up; he uses parts/brake cleaner and such to get them really clean and looks, in his voice, “brandy new”. The reason why I am not ready to do his method yet is that this is my main system and currently only system, so if I screw up, well, I have to replace them and will set me back weeks or so. Also, I need to research on the strength of the parts/brake cleaner he is using as I don’t know if the ones sold here locally will be too tough on the electronics and the plastics on it.
The PSU, HDD, SSD were easily enough to clean; just dust them off, and you’re all good. The PSU, in my case, wasn’t dirty inside, so I just had to clean up the exterior. The GPU was a little more tricky. Thankfully the heatsink didn’t have that much dust on it that warrants my to break the GPU apart to clean it properly. The fans were a bit hard to clean on this particular GPU (VTX3D Radeon R9 390), but after near mini heartattacks cleaning this GPU, I can breathe a sigh of relief as this is the most expensive component of my whole build.
The CPU, I decided not to remove the DeepCool IceBlade Pro heatsink out; I cleaned while it was placed in the motherboard, I just covered the motherboard really well and dusted off the heatsink. Thing about this heatsink is that it is tarnished like crazy; no matter what I do to get it all shiny, I just can’t. Anyways, I am gonna replace this with an All in One watercooling loop, or a whole system custom watercooling loop, later on. After that, I just dusted off the motherboard, the extension cables of the PSU, the rest of the fans, and the Shinobi is now bare bones.
I thank you Bitfenix Shinobi, you have been a great case for the past 4 years, but I started to see the limitations of the case, thus I needed to move up the case food chain for possible future upgrades like water cooling or simply for a future build still using the new case.
Enter that aforementioned new case: The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX case in black!
Even the box itself looks menacing.
What’s inside the box? Apart from the obvious case, which I took the time to stare at it – set me back another 30 mins… It came with an cardboard accessory box that is really sturdy; this isn’t like those cheap cardboard boxes that comes in other cases that you are compelled to just dispose, this one was sturdy enough to really have it for keeps. Plus what is inside really forces you to keep it anyway.
So, inside the accessory box you get the manual, a plastic with some zip ties (I honestly didn’t need it thanks to the robust design of the case) and extra LEDs for the front panel (I used the blue one, of course), a plastic toolbox of sorts to keep all your screws in (easily my favorite accessory! Now I can keep my other screws in here, too!), and other brackets for HDD, etc. to be placed in the main compartment of the case (I didn’t need them as I just had HDD and SDD and they can be placed in the PSU shroud/back of the case away from prying eyes).
Now the star of the day… everyday… of the whole year… of every year… the case! I won’t go all review on this, because this is just a weekend project blog, but I will give a gist: it is aluminum panels with a steel inner chassis, with a huge side window and a hidden front panel port for 2 USB 3.0 ports, the mic and headphone jack inputs, and the reset button witch also acts as a HDD activity light. Both side panels can be easily removed and they are further dampened with foam to prevent metal on metal and causing noise. The front panel is also easily removed revealing a removable dust filter and 2 140mm fans. The PSU also has its own removable dust filter. The top panel can be removed by removing 2 screws in the back and front, and it is minimalistic as it only has tiny vents and the power button.
Inside, you can see the area where the brackets can be placed for extra HDD and what not, or leave it blank like I did for better airflow; this area can also be used to place your reservoir or radiator. You can see another 140mm fan at the back as well as ventilated expansion slot bay covers. The cable holes are grommeted, the PSU shroud is porous in case you change the orientation of the PSU and this provides the 2nd GPU, if present, to get air. The shroud also has a big cut out in case you want to show off you PSU, has a smaller cut out and a drop in screws for a SSD – I used that small slot to route my NZXT Led strip. That way, I can hide the small PCB of the LED in the shroud. Also of note, I could have done a way better job keeping the PSU cables in the free space in the shroud as my PSU is not modular, but that’s something to keep in mind especially if you keep the HDD/SSD brackets in there.
At the back, you can see there is a big motherboard cutout, 2 more drop in screws with brackets for SSDs, a PWM controller chip, 2 HDD/SSD cage in the PSU shroud, and Velcros for better cable management. As you can see the blurry pic below, the clearance is around a 3/4 of an inch, but that is measured on the smallest area possible; the motherboard tray angles at the front so there is a lot more space towards the front and you have room in the PSU shroud.
The rear is your standard rear so I won’t even talk about it at all.
I first moved the 2 140mm fans in front higher to give more airflow in the main compartment. I am neglecting my HDD and SSD underneath the shroud, and I am banking on the large fan of the PSU to cool itself down. I then added the 3 fans on top as exhaust; I like this feature of the case, I remove 2 screws on the fan/radiator mount in one side, and 3 more in the other side, to easily slide out the mount. I made a mistake though, I had to put the motherboard in before the placing these fans.
I’d usually put in the PSU first; it adds stability to it since the heavy side panels aren’t there to keep the chassis stable. Next was the motherboard; I can’t, for the life of me, remove the extra 3 stand offs for the EATX motherboards, so I am forced to use the one and only extra stand off to complete the ATX stand offs. I wished Phanteks supplied more stand offs for clumsy people, or people like me that likes to keep a surplus.
After the motherboard I then placed the HDD and SSD in the cage underneath the shroud. I can use the drop in cages for the SSD near the motherboard cutout but my current sleeved SATA data cables are with 90 degree angles, so I had to use the regular cages; in fact, the 90 degree angle of the SATA data cable was such a tight fit on the HDD since it is close to the bottom part of the case. I might want to replace that real soon to avoid problems. Thus far, it seems to be holding up well.
I then planned out the cable management of the fans and the extra cables of the PSU. Like I said earlier, I probably could have done a better job in tucking the extra PSU cables away, but I was already tired at this point. I fixing the cables now since the GPU and LED cables are not as hard to fix; the GPU has its own route in the shroud and I will use the small cutout for the SSD in the shroud to route the LEDs.
After the initial cable management, I then placed the GPU and also managed its cables through the grommeted cable route. Nice to note that both the 24 pin motherboard and GPU’s 6 pin and 8 pin molex cables have cable combs to “train” them and keep them neat. And yes, it will take awhile for these cables to be trained.
Last bit was the LEDs; I just used my favorite 3m double sided tape and re-used the cable clips that hold the LEDs in place. I removed the bracket of the PCB that controls the LEDs so I can tuck it inside the PSU shroud. The top was a bit tricky as there was no space to place the clips. I decided to place them on the fans plastic bodies and orient the LEDs upward at this area to avoid seeing them in the window.
Finally, the build is technically complete. I then had to do the usual test before placing all the peripherals and panels; let it also be known, even if I know this PC works, I still did the traditional booting outside the new case after clean up. Powering it on, it worked, however, the top, back, and front fans are not working. I knew I connected them all on the PWM control chip, connected it to the motherboard and supplied power. It turns out, I placed it on a 3 pin header in the motherboard and PWM is usually on 4 pin headers. After the switch, everything runs.
Added all the panels and all the peripherals and did another test boot to see if everything really works, to my surprise, my system was on a constant reboot; the motherboard has a small LED panel that gives a alphanumeric code to tell what is causing the problem. The error code was 0x55 and looking at the motherboard manual, it means that the RAM are not installed. Which is weird, because all for DIMMs are in and it worked earlier. I removed 2 of the DIMMs in 1 channel, test booted it, and it worked… re-inserted the other DIMMs I removed and the whole system is working again. Probably a seating issue while I was moving the case around a lot while connecting the monitors, peripherals, and panels. Removing it and inserting it again provided a better re-seat of the DIMMs.
I am not gonna lie, this case with my full system is heavy. REAL HEAVY. And since I am still recovering my right knee, I had to ask my dad to help me move it in the right position; when I say right position, that is a position where the cables in the back won’t be seen, but you can still get to see the large side panel. I will probably move the cable modem, router, and my NAS to a different place in my room to give more room for the case as I might want to move it a little more forward to easily remove the side panels if need be.
The rest is really just managing the rest of the cables of the peripherals – I just used black duct tape and taped them on the edge of my desk; no, an IKEA signum or the like will work… I’ve tried, so taping them was my only option.
After putting all the peripherals back and cable managing, the PC system, overall is done. I just needed to sweep the floor, wipe the bare floors, and I am completely done. This entire ordeal took me 13 hours, skipping lunch and dinner. I tend to get really absorbed in my projects and work that I forget to eat, much like my busy days at the hospital. But in both cases, I never complain, because I am a workaholic, and I enjoy doing these.
I am absolutely happy with the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX case; I got it because of future upgrades that this can accommodate and if ever the time comes, I can still use this case for my next PC build. The design, to me at least, is simple and timeless. I also got this knowing it has better airflow than my previous case and being mostly aluminum and steel, it can also act as a heatsink. Thus far, the temps are great even with the side panel on. I would usually remove the side panel on the previous case to get it more cool.
Now, I will save up for a new PSU, a second GPU, and a possible watercooling loop, all within the year. And this case we have no problem accommodating all those.
And with that! I end my post about my weekend project. Hope you all enjoyed reading this, though I know it is quite wordy.
Til next time! PEACE!
If you want to see my parts list, just click here to my PCPartsPicker list.