White Lightning – Finished

While it happened in December, the upgrade to this system occurred a little sooner than I expected. The ASRock mainboard with the A8-7600 just would not remain stable. And then what forced my hand is the power supply dying. Thankfully EVGA makes RMAs easy. But I didn’t wait for the RMA to turn around. I just bought another power supply from my local Micro Center and went on with the build.

So with that, I pushed forward. System specifications:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon X4 860k
  • Cooling: Corsair H115i with Corsair Link
  • Memory: 4x4GB EVGA DDR3-1600 (running at XMP profile)
  • Mainboard: Gigabyte GA-F2A88X-D3HP
  • Graphics: Gigabyte RX 470 Windforce 4G
  • Power supply: EVGA 650 G2
  • Storage: Kingston UV400 480GB SSD
  • Chassis: NZXT S340 White

Philosophy

I’ve gotten into quite a few… conversations online about the Athlon X4 processor. Namely by people who feel that the processor should not be used in any system since Skylake is available. One person resorted to insults when I wouldn’t bow to his obviously lesser-experienced and overly narrow-minded opinion.

Every system has a budget. The question is whether it will allow building a system meeting your specific requirements or desires. And in my opinion, if you’re going out of your way to get a particular processor and you end up skimping on parts that are, frankly, a hell of a lot more important overall, you’re doing it wrong. I said such to one of my adversaries on YouTube with regard to Skylake specifically:

But pushing for a quality power supply and reasonable chassis could push other options out of reach. I mean if you’re so focused on getting someone Skylake within their limited budget that you skimp on the power supply, memory capacity, cooling, or other things that are, frankly, more important, then you’re doing it wrong.

This is especially the case if you have never built a system before, meaning you are starting from scratch. As such, you’ll want to set yourself up for the long term by selecting a good chassis allowing for good cooling (plenty of options today compared with years past) and a quality power supply.

At the same time, set yourself up with a good CPU cooler. Almost all have universal socket support, and thankfully AMD and Intel have been consistent in socket designs for mounting hardware. It’s not an essential purchase at the outset, though, if your budget won’t allow for it. It’s just that the stock cooler that comes with the CPU tends to be loud or annoying, not adequate, or both.

The power supply will matter more. A good power supply with a great warranty and a company that stands behind that warranty with good RMA service will keep you running smoothly for years. And I opted for the EVGA G2 brand for its 10 year warranty. Plus, as noted above, I have experience with EVGA’s RMA process. Corsair’s as well.

Select a mediocre chassis and you’ll set yourself up for frustration not only building your first computer, but upgrading it in the future. In trying to find a chassis, select one that will serve you for the long run. There are many good selections available regardless of what size system you want to build. A lot of that has been fueled by healthy competition in the PC building market over the last several years as more move away from buying pre-built PCs to building their own.

Why the Athlon X4?

I know that when most see this particular hardware pairing — or an AMD processor used at all — the word “bottleneck” gets screamed. And as I’ve said before, you have to look at how the system will be used.

World of Warcraft will be the most taxing thing this system will run, and it likely still won’t tax it that much since WoW’s system requirements are such to cast a wide net of players. This system won’t be used for AAA titles. The GPU selection is more to make it look pretty, and I selected it primarily due to cost. It is an overkill GPU for this purpose, but that also means it shouldn’t ever run all that hot. I probably could’ve left the GTX 660 in her system without issue, except I wanted that card back.

NZXT S340 mini review

Like it’s bigger brother the H440, the S340 is an interesting chassis in which to build. It’s a great value while still having room for the massive dual-140mm H115i.

Cable management behind the motherboard tray is reasonable as well, and the cabin at the bottom for the power supply aids in this somewhat. The vertical white bar in the white version gives a great way to hide cables as well. You still have to plan your cable management, though, so don’t think this allows you to get away with a sloppy job.

But there is no ventilation for the 3½” HDD cage in the basement. That HDD cage is also not removable. This is a poor design decision given that modern HDDs still run rather warm when excited. So if you intend to use an HDD for this build, opt to a 2½” laptop HDD to have it up in the main compartment. Laptop HDDs and SSDs are also designed to run with less airflow, so you can use a 2½” to 3½” sled in the HDD cage to have it out of the way.

The little sister to the H440 is still a great option for lighter builds. A full ATX mainboard looks a little cramped in this setup, though, so opt for a microATX mainboard unless you need the extra slots. That will also allow for better reach to the front panel connectors while still giving good clearance around the rest of the hardware.

Overall I would certainly still prefer and recommend the larger H440 to the S340 since it also has more fan capacity (S340 only has four fan mount positions). But if space is a little bit of a premium around your desk, this is still a great option at a great price. The included fans can be a little noisy running at a full 12V, so consider undervolting them or hooking them to the mainboard to control noise. Or you can swap them out altogether for a quieter option.

Next setup

There is a companion system planned. The mainboard and processor will be the same, but the chassis will be different. Since the chassis can dictate cooling options, that also means the CPU cooler will be different, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do. I might lean toward an AIO again, or I’ll find a good, quiet air cooler, such as the Noctua NH-D9L that I’m currently using in my NAS.

The power supply will likely be the same, or I may lean toward another brand while sticking with the same wattage. And I’ll likely also pick up another RX 470 for that build, depending on what prices look like for other GPUs.

The chassis isn’t set in stone for that build. I’m leaning toward the InWin 303, also white. But since desk space is at a heavier premium than around this system, I may opt for an HTPC chassis such as the Silverstone GD09, or even go ultra-SFF with the Node 202, which would require a different mainboard and power supply.

So stay tuned for that build.

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