I’ve been longing to put a new PC together now for quite some time now as my compact mATX based PC was feeling old and very cramped. I originally opted to go for a small rig as I primarily wrote reviews, edited photos and a small bit of video here and there, but I was never happy with. I started off with an i5 2400, XFX 4890 (my God! What a terrible card) and 8GB of Kingston HyperX 1600MHz of RAM, of which had slowly swapped out parts to create something manageable, but not something as a co-owner of Play3r to be proud of:
- i5 3560K
- Asus Maximus IV gene-z/gen3
- 16GB Samsung 1600Mhz LV RAM
- EVGA GTX 760 4GB
- Corsair H50 CPU Cooler
- Antec True Power 650W
- 40GB Mushkin Calisto SSD
- Various HDDs
All of this crammed inside a Lian Li PC-A04, which whilst it was a great case, it really wasn’t designed to handle that many HDDs and the increasingly popular AIO CPU coolers – it was that bad, I had to bodge together the radiator onto the bottom of one of the front fans resulting in this:
I had to fit the top screws of the radiator to the bottom screw holes of the bottom fan – quite a bodge and probably not very good!
My God! Look at that mess! The cable management is sub-par in the Lian Li – something I’m fairly certain the new case will be an improvement on.
Still, it kept me going and allowed me to play my favourite franchise: Battlefield and fiddle around with photos and video – but I wanted something better! When Fractal Design and Gigabyte offered to sponsor me a new case and motherboard, both of which would fit my needs perfectly, I jumped at the chance and quickly threw together a shopping basket of several other components that would result in something that I would be truly happy with. So, once I made my additional purchases, I would end up with the following specs:
- Fractal Design Define R4 Titanium
- i5 4670K
- Gigabyte G1 Sniper Z87
- 16GB Samsung 1600Mhz LV RAM
- EVGA GTX 760 4GB
- Antec True Power 650W
- 120GB Kingston HyperX SSD
- 2x 1TB Samsung F3 HDDs
When putting this build together I wasn’t really sure what cooler I wanted, so I decided to stick with the Intel stock cooler until something eye-catching comes along. Again, it’s neither a total beast nor a top of the line workstation, but it will suit my needs for a budget of £300. You’ll also have to bear in mind it took me a while sourcing the components and deciding what I really wanted to do with the case as I did have some intentions of making minor tweaks make it perfect for me.
So, I think it’s time we crack into the build and check out some of the parts.
First up is the case… Wow! I had a Fractal Design Define R2 Black Pearl a while back and I loved that, but it had several major flaws – most of which had now been fixed of even improved. I had an idea to mod the power LED to white, as I cannot stand the garish blue often seen in more and more electronic products!
Something I really liked with the old R2 was the easily removable fan cover and dust filter, which I believe was a first for Fractal Design.
It’s good to see that Fractal have also made the 5.25” bays have removable covers – I hate having to remove those things! I intend to use both bays for a DVD drive and multi-card reader.
The Define R4 really is a lovely case and it has so much room! Perfect for those extra HDDs and better cable management.
First up – motherboard! Again, wow! The G1 Sniper Z87 looks fantastic! I wasn’t sure if the bright green colour scheme would be my thing, but it really looks impressive in person – it’ll do nicely!
The installation of the motherboard was a breeze – mainly due to this little guy:
I’m not normally impressed by little things – but Fractal Design have really put a lot of thought into this! For those who do not recognise it – it fits over the motherboard standoffs and allows you to use a screwdriver to tighten them.
When fitting the motherboard, I also took the opportunity to remove the front of the case.
On the inside of the front cover, you’ll find the power LED & button and USB/Audio jacks. What I want to do here is swap out the blue LED for one of my white ones: easy right? WRONG! I could not for the life of me prise off the clear plastic switch surround, which houses the LED – it would just not budge and I really didn’t want to risk damaging anything else. Why did you have to make it so difficult Fractal?! I decided to leave this and swiftly move on. Next up:
Very easy to fit as you would expect. I also fitted the stock cooler shortly after taking this photo:
PSU next, shortly followed by all four sticks of RAM and finally the GPU. Now I wanted to make this rig more multimedia friendly so I opted to fit an internal 5.25” multi-card reader by ICY BOX.
I thought it would make life easier when swapping out SD cards, adds a few extra USB ports and even allows me to charge something when the PC is off. Perfect right? Nope! Not only was this a royal pain to fit into the case (it was too big for the front panel of the case), it was also DOA as I found out later. Not cool! Back in the box, taped up and returned.
I really wanted to make an effort with the cable management with this PC, and with the R4, it was a doddle; there were routing and holes for everything! So, several moments later:
Whilst there are still a few things I would like to change, primarily the cooler (obviously), I would also like to swap out the PSU for something more efficient and even attempt braiding, but for now I am happy. Sure it’s not overly exciting for most, but it does the job I want it to do well, allows me to not have to worry about upgrading for a while (I’m not like Gavin who changes components like he does his underwear).
You know a build has gone well when everything fires up for the first time, so when I hit the power button and heard the almost silent Fractal fans come to live, I almost shed a tear of joy! I won’t be tainting my PC with Windows 8 anytime soon, so on went Windows 7, followed by all the drivers – of which felt like it only took 30 seconds with the blistering fast Kingston SSD!
So now, I’m typing sitting next to my rather awesome PC, which I am very happy with. Most of this is purely down to the generosity of Federica at Fractal Design and their design department for creating such a great case – of which I didn’t think would get any better until they announced the R5! I loved all the little things they put into the case; the fan controller, removable panels, plenty of fan slots and the little thing-a-me-bobby which helps tighten those stand-offs. If this was a proper review, it’d be getting the editor’s choice award, coupled with the quiet award as I can only hear the damn Intel stock cooler!
Gigabyte also played a crucial role in this coming together, so a big shout out to Andrew. The G1 Sniper was a pleasant surprise and very feature rich – fulfilling all my requirements and more!
Overall, I doubt this is very exciting to some, but when you only get the chance to upgrade your PC once in a blue moon, it becomes pretty thrilling, nerve-wrecking and awesome all at the same time. This pretty much concludes my build log, hopefully I can add to it in the future (maybe when I’ve figured out how to remove the LED housing!), but until then, thanks for reading!