Build Log – 1150 Haswell

I have always loved playing games like GTA 5 and Fallout 4 that have full controller support on the TV. It is just a more pleasant experience playing from the softness of the sofa in a number of different unhealthy body postures. Also co-op games like the Trine series is just more fun sitting next to each other while looking at the same screen.
The process of such gaming sessions so far started with me routing a 15 meter HDMI cable from my main rig to the TV and ended with yet again me disassembling the whole stuff.
Needless to say this got old fast and we have noticed that such gaming sessions became a rarity lately. Things needed to change.

Decision was made and I had to build a gaming PC for the big screen. It does not need to be extremely powerful nor does it need to be fully silent. But since we are replacing the “movie-watcher/torrent/storage HTPC” we already have there, it must be good enough in those territories as well.

I have settled on the Haswell platform yet again. Sole reason is that I have parts leftover laying around and the fact that I know it is good enough for what I intend to use it for. Those 1150 i7s still pack a punch, even in today’s games at 1080P. So the core of the build is the i7 4770S variant which is an excellent little chip. It has a 65 W TDP instead of the 84 W of the non-S while still having the same max turbo clock of 3.9 GHz. The only difference is the base clock which is “only” 3.1 GHz.

The ram of choice was a simple Samsung DDR3 kit of 2x8GB@1600 MHz. This thing was dirt cheap and it’s perfectly fine for the 4770S but heatsinkless look of the modules I did not like. Grabbed a set of black heatsinks and dressed up the bad boys.

Even if the 4770S is only 65 W I had to cool it down somehow. The cooler of choice is the Scythe Big Shuriken 2. This is an awesome cooler for the HUMBLE if you don’t block it much from getting fresh air! More on that later.

On the graphics front things were a bit complicated. On the one hand I knew what kind of power I was looking for and on the other I did not want to spend much on a HTPC. After looking up all the info only 2 contestant remained. The RX 570 and the GTX 1060. The 570 is a nice card. I have used one for like 2 years. I know it’s limits and I also know it is cheap beast for 1080P gaming. On the other hand the 1060 6GB variant is a full-fledged monster for 1080P and has an outstanding price/performance ratio. On the second hand market the price difference between the two is around 30 dollars and in the end I have put my money on the EVGA 1060 mini because the power difference is simply worth it. And boy it delivers!

All of this stuff naturally needs some power and the PSU of choice was the Be Quiet SFX Power 2. This is a 400 W unit and since everything in this build is semi low powered the total peak TDP does not exceed 250 W, it just did not need more. Also I was hoping for it being really quiet but sadly it is not the case like with higher quality PSUs. Even running on the desk with nothing attached the fan is kind of quiet but definitely audible, although the current is nice and smooth.

Of course as always aesthetics are just as important as the inside stuff. And since we are talking about a HTPC and a HUMBLE here, I just had to give it a spin of my own. Matte black is always an elegant choice, but I did not have any matte black panels left. What I had however is a can of matte black acrylic spray paint. I always wanted to try how the spray paint looks on a damaged powder coated surface. One of my glossy black set of panels got real scratchy and this proved the perfect canvas for such experiment. Gave a little rub for the top and bottom panels with a 400 grit sandpaper before painting though just to be sure.

The side panels and the front got a different look. I love wood. Love the grain and the countless shades one can achieve with finishes. I have got a high quality wood vinyl wrap that I wanted to use for a speaker cabinet restoration for way too long now but that never happened so I figured why not use it on this HUMBLE. Applied the vinyl, cut the excess with an exacto knife and the result was a stunningly classy finish.

Since this is also a HTPC build we needed storage. This opportunity let me to design an add-on module for the HUMBLE. This single piece of metal lets the user to put in 3 more 2,5” drives or two 2,5” and one 3,5” HDD per module. If there is no GPU present in the build one can even use both of these to achieve some nasty amount of storage in such a small space.

About that cooling, since the Shuriken is kind of close to the bottom of the PSU it is not easy for it to get fresh air. The side panel which is normally used for an intake fan is in this case blocked by the add-on module to house more storage. So the only direction it can effectively exhaust hot air is the front. And that side is also fairly blocked by the RAM sticks.

This combination of issues led to the high 70’s, low 80 degree Celsius on the cores under load although in idle or HTPC mode, the machine is virtually silent. It is only during heavy gaming when the CPU is fully loaded so it is only natural that it gets hot without adequate amount of fresh air intake.

Still it is not throttling and remains powerful, but the Shuriken gets really loud at full speed. Although can’t really hear it if we are using the home theater speakers.

With this in mind I would suggest to use the add-on module only if there is a lower profile cooler like the L9 from Noctua or within a NAS build with a low power CPU. Maybe an APU build without GPU, in that case the module can go on that side without blocking any air intake.

After a few weeks living with the build and using it almost every day for gaming and movies I must say I am in love. The power it delivers while being so stuffed and the aesthetics of the case next to the big screen is just stunning. It looks stealthy and classy at the same time, and guests always ask where is the PC/Console when I show them how I run games on the TV. You should see their faces when I tell them that this tiny beast is responsible for everything!

 

Parts List:

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-B85N Phoenix (rev. 1.1)

Processor: Intel® Core™ i7-4770S Processor

Memory: SK Hynix 2x8GB DDR3 1600MHz HMT41GU7AFR8A

Power Supply: Be Quiet! SFX Power 2 400W Bronze BN227

CPU Cooler: Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B

Case Fan: –

System Drive: Samsung 850 EVO mSATA SSD MZ-M5E250

Gaming Drive: Samsung 850 PRO 2.5″ 512GB MZ-7KE512BW

Gaming Drive 2: Corsair Neutron GTX 120GB SATA3 CSSD-N120GBGTX-BK

Storage Drive: Seagate Mobile HDD 2TB 5400RPM SATA 6Gbps 128MB Cache ST2000LM007

Storage Drive 2: HGST Travelstar 5K1000 1TB 2.5″ 5400rpm 8MB SATA3 0J22413

Graphipcs Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC GAMING 6GB 06G-P4-6163-KR

 

Below you can find the shots of the build process.