Typically, I only write this kind of post when I build an entirely new system, however there were a number of changes since the build of my Skylake system from less than a year ago in early December 2016, so I figured I’d write an update to cover them.
The new upgrades improved system performance across-the-board, however the biggest increase – my PC’s actual price – came from pressures on the RAM and graphics card markets causing epic price hikes! This year’s build increased in value by 36.5% from $3,815.32 in 2016 to $5,207.46 (although I did add a Gaming Monitor and VR headset I didn’t have before)! Yowtch!
What’s new for 2017?
- NEW Virtual Reality (VR) Headset: Oculus Rift + Touch Virtual Reality System
- NEW Dedicated Gaming Monitor: Dell Gaming S2716DG 27″ 144Hz 1440p Monitor
- UPGRADED Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC 2 iCX
- UPGRADED Boot Drive (SSD): Samsung 960 PRO 512GB NvME SSD
- UPGRADED Power Supply: Corsair RMx 1000-watt PSU
- UPGRADED Processor Cooler: Noctua NH-D15 6-Heatpipe Cooler
Read on for all the details!
Irk’s Current PC
Operating System: Windows 10 Home 64-bit (OEM)
Windows 10 has been excellent since I started using it and Microsoft’s updates over 2017 made it better and better. In my opinion, there is no better operating system if you’re looking to be both productive and game on your PC.
Current price on Amazon: $99.00
Processor: Intel Core i7 6700K 4.00 GHz Quad-Core Skylake Desktop Processor
If you’re looking at building a brand-new system from scratch, you might want to consider waiting for the Intel Core i7 8700K which appears to be providing a decent improvement, however many YouTubers and other professionals have demonstrated there isn’t a significant gaming performance bump even from the 2600K (yes, 4 generations older than MY processor). That being said, if you’re planning for productivity, go with the newest chip available, and I still hold to my guns that although many techies will tell you that the i5 is sufficient, the extra clock speeds and goodies you get with an i7 makes the extra $50-100 a no-brainer. Select the “K” version to get an unlocked processor meaning you can overclock the bejesus out of it (my i7 6700K holds steady with no problems at 4.5GHz with the ability to go even higher should I so desire).
Current price on Amazon: $315.00
NEW FOR 2017! Processor Cooler: Noctua NH-D15 6-heatpipe with Dual NF-A15 140mm
Previous Processor Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO – CPU Cooler with 120mm PWM Fan
I loved my Cooler Master Hyper 212 for more than five years, however, in 2017, I decided to go with the state-of-the-art Noctua NH-D15 and retired my Hyper 212. I haven’t looked back. The Noctua is the best-of-the-best! Take note: you do need to keep in mind that this cooler is positively MASSIVE in size. Even in my “ultra” full-tower case, this thing nearly hits the side when mounted. That being said, if the Noctua fits into your rig, you will NOT be disappointed – this beast keeps my system cool and quiet at less than 40 degrees Celsius under full load and could be much cooler if I didn’t mind fan noise!
At Amazon, the cooler is currently $89.95.
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 3400 (PC4-27200) C16, Red LED
If you’re going with a system that uses DDR4, you can continue to buy RAM without fear of needing to upgrade anytime soon. Even though I picked up DDR4 for my 6th generation i7, Intel’s upcoming 8th generation continues to use DDR4 and so does AMD’s brand-new Ryzen line-up just released this year. So, feel free to stock up on RAM without worrying you’ll need to buy new chips anytime soon.
RAM prices have positively skyrocketed over the past year, so although I picked up my 32GB kit for just $235 last year, the price for this state-of-the-art kit is now $390.98 at Amazon, a 66% price jump! Yowza!
NEW FOR 2017! Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC2 GAMING 8GB
Previous Video Card: ASUS GeForce GTX1070 8GB Dual-Fan OC Edition
In the first half of 2016, Nvidia released their 10-series chip which blew all previous and competing graphic processors completely out of the water. Last year, I picked up an ASUS 1070 during Black Friday. You’d think that’d be enough for me, right? Not so much. I kept thinking about all the performance I left on the table by not getting the top-of-the-line 1080, so I ended up swapping in an EVGA ACX 1080 in January 2017. Shortly afterward, EVGA released the new SC2 with a new approach to cooler technology called iCX, and offered an upgrade for ACX customers at the cost of $100. Naturally, I took advantage of that and upgraded to the 1080 SC2 with iCX cooler technology. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency mining operations are maintaining the high prices of all video cards right now, sadly.
Current price on Amazon: $592.88
NEW FOR 2017! Virtual Reality Headset: Oculus Rift + Touch Virtual Reality System
When the virtual reality (VR) headsets first showed up on the scene, they were priced at nearly $1,000 – a prohibitive price for untested technology, in my opinion, since they require gaming PCs that cost nearly that much, too! In 2017, both market-leading headsets dropped in price with the Oculus Rift, in particular, dropping substantially. I picked up the Oculus Rift with Touch controllers when prices hit $399. Why the Rift over HTC and Valve’s Vive headset system? Although I’m not a fan of Facebook’s walled-garden approach not letting Vive users access the store, the Rift is currently the only VR headset which can play both Oculus Store games and Valve’s Steam Store games. Plus, the Rift is more than $100 cheaper than the equivalent Vive! VR has come into its own, too, with the experience being second-to-none when compared to the offerings of years past (although I do experience some motion sickness) and it’s a true sight to see.
Current price on Amazon: $399.00
NEW FOR 2017! Boot Drive (SSD): Samsung 960 PRO Series – 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Previous Boot Drive (SSD): Samsung 950 PRO Series – 256GB PCIe NVMe – M.2 Internal SSD
As if Samsung’s 950 Pro NvME drive wasn’t fast enough, the 960 takes the same NvME technology to an astounding new level featuring read speeds up to 3500MB/s and write speeds up to 2100MB/s. For the uninitiated, that simply means this drive is stupid, bloody fast even over the lightning-quick 950 series!
Current price on Amazon: $289.99
Game Drive #1 (SSD): Samsung 850 Pro 256GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD
My Samsung 850 Pro continues to provide excellent performance for my games.
Current price on Amazon: $124.99
Game Drive #2 (SSD): Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD
Samsung’s EVO line-up of SSDs provides an affordable alternative to the more expensive Pro series. Why do you lose 6GB of space with this drive ringing in at 250GB instead of 256GB? I still have no idea.
Current price on Amazon: $89.99
Documents Drive (SSD): Crucial MX300 750GB SATA 2.5 Inch Internal Solid State Drive
(The 750GB model no longer available, I’ve linked the 525GB version)
After experimenting throughout 2017 by keeping all of my regularly-used documents on a SSD, I definitely do not recommend it unless you’re like me and just appreciate overkill. Crucial’s MX300 has treated me fine with great stability, however I’ve seen very little to absolutely no improvement in file access performance when compared to conventional HDD drives. My recommendation is to stick with Western Digital’s Black Series for your data, SSDs for your games & apps, and get a whole lot space for your money.
Crucial stopped making the 750GB model, however the 525GB version is on Amazon: $149.98
Data Drive (HDD): WD Black 5TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive
Western Digital’s Black Series features a 5-year warranty, superfast read/write speeds (for a conventional HDD) and 128MB of cache in the 5+ TB models. Ridiculous space. Ridiculous reliability. Ridiculous price. The Black Series remains my all-time favorite HDD lineup.
Current price on Amazon: $249.95
Optical Drive: LG Black 12X Internal Blu-ray Disc Drive Model UH12NS30
Even in 2017, I think it’s still worth having an optical drive. That being said, I’ve used it less than a handful of times throughout the year, so my next build might not actually include one (gasp)!
Current price on Amazon: $58.99
Motherboard: ASUS ROG MAXIMUS VIII HERO ALPHA ATX DDR4 3000 LGA 1151
The Maximus VIII Hero Alpha provides the best blend of features to price in my book for the Skylake series of processors. If you’re considering going with Kaby Lake (7th) or Coffee Lake (8th) processors, look at ASUS’s offerings in a similar price range and you won’t be disappointed with full-feature sets including M.2, U.2, Wi-Fi, automatic overclocking, BIOS protection, loads-of-settings, and tons of other features. Plus, ASUS always gives you all the cables and other goodies you need right in the box. Brilliant!
Current price on Amazon: $281.22
Case: NZXT Technologies Computer Case, Matte Black CA-H630F-M1
Although I regularly toy with the idea of picking up a new case with glass sides so I can play with RGB lighting, I continue to love my NZXT case’s expansive size and functionality.
The last time it was on Amazon the price was $169.99
NEW FOR 2017! Power Supply: Corsair RM Series 1000-Watt Fully Modular Power Supply
Previous Power Supply: Corsair RM Series 750-Watt Power Supply
My addiction to overkill continued in 2017 when I decided to go with a 1000-watt power supply. With full modular capability and fans that don’t run if the power supply is using 40% or less of its rated power, Corsair’s RM Series of power supplies provide silence and stability. I upgraded to the powergrid-killing 1000-watt model not because I need the extra power, but because if my system is using 400w or less (40% of the overall power output of this monster), the power supply remains totally silent with its fans completely off. Silence is golden!
Current price on Amazon: $175.50
Case Fans: Four (4) Nexus 140mm B/W Case Fans
The Nexus fans are still champions in my book and continue to be my favorites with price, performance, and silence being super-cool (pun intended). These awesome fans continue to provide superior cooling with almost no noise even under low, and their pricing simply can’t be beat.
Current price on Amazon: $7.99 each ($31.96 total for the four in my rig)
Keyboard: Logitech – G910 Orion Spectrum RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
The G910 has been an absolute pleasure to use over 2017 and continues to be my favorite. I do still use my all-time favorite Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 when I really need to work (carpal tunnel is the devil!).
Currently, Amazon carries the G910 for $139.39 and the Microsoft 4000 for $36.10
Mouse: Logitech G502 Proteus Core Tunable Gaming Mouse
With its 12,000-dpi sensor, superior ergonomics, an amazing feel, and RGB lighting, this mouse keeps me a die-hard loyal fan of Logitech’s (generally) outstanding gaming peripherals. The Proteus Core also features adjustable weights and programmable buttons. An outstanding mouse that’s well worth its price.
Current Price on Amazon: $49.95
Speakers: Logitech Z906 500-watt Surround Sound Speakers
My Z906 has performed great since I upgraded to them in 2016, however I will warn you that it appears you’ll need to use optical audio in order to avoid static and other sound issues. Noticeable sound problems proved disappointing considering the previous Z-5500 model performed perfectly with both optical audio and all other sources. Since everything seems to have gone optical now, this wasn’t that big of an issue for me, but it did still stink a bit.
Currently, $299.99 at Amazon.
CHANGED FOR 2017! Gaming Headset: Logitech Wireless Gaming Headset G930 7.1 Surround
Previous Gaming Headset: Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum RGB Headset
What’s new is old again. I loved my G930 headset for years, so when Logitech launched a new version in 2016, the G933, with better 2.4GHz range, nicer ergonomics, and longer battery life, I thought it was time to upgrade. After going through a myriad of issues with several different G933 headsets including constant signal dropping, bad audio quality reported by my fellow gamers, and several other problems, I switched back to my old G930 and even picked up a spare set from Amazon before they were completely discontinued. I’m seriously disappointed in Logitech’s new G-lineup and I hope they fix these inexcusable issues. This is the first Logitech product that has disappointed me. In the meantime, I do continue to recommend the older (but better) G930.
Current price on Amazon: $89.79
NEW FOR 2017! Gaming Monitor: Dell Gaming S2716DG 27″ 144Hz Monitor
Other Monitors: HP ZR2740w 27″ LED LCD Monitor Ultra-HD (2560×1440) -and- BenQ GL2760H 27-inch HDMI LED-lit Monitors
After years of running a three-monitor setup, I finally decided to get on-board with the newest gaming technology – superfast monitor frame rates – and picked up a dedicated gaming monitor capable of displaying 144 frames-per-second (or 144Hz). The Dell S2716DG fit the bill at 27″ and 2560×1440 and the 144fps frame rate is incredibly noticeable making games look smooth as silk when combined with the EVGA 1080. I still use and love my HP ZR2740w (now my right monitor) and one of my BenQ 1080p monitors (as the left monitor) continues to provide outstanding performance for the price.
Total cost for all three monitors? $998.95
Printer: HP OfficeJet Pro 8710 Wireless All-in-One Photo Printer
After a full year of use, I continue to love the HP OfficeJet 8710 which has consistently proved itself as a printing, scanning, and even faxing (yes, faxing!) workhorse in the office. I picked one up for $99.99, and it’s provided outstanding performance and reliability for my small business uses. I still recommend going with the 8710 over the slightly-faster 8720 as it’s regularly $100 cheaper. A crazy printer for a crazy price.
Currently $119.99 at Amazon.
Total cost of my current PC: $5,207.46 (2016: $3,815.32)
The benchmarks are actually quite interesting this year:
- The biggest performance bump came from the new Samsung 960 PRO, providing a simply huge 84.23% improvement over my initial build despite having a 950 PRO last year! This just goes to show exactly how crazy Samsung is with their NvME development.
- The GeForce GTX 1080 showed strutted its stuff all over last year’s GTX 1070 with a 15.54% improvement in the FireStrike benchmark and a substantial 21.63% improvement in TimeSpy. If you’ve got the cash, you do get some serious bang-for-your-buck going with Nvidia’s flagship card over the midrange.
- New BIOS updates and tweaked overclocking brought a few small surprises: GeekBench, PassMark, CPUMark, and MemoryMark all saw modest improvements over the initial build. Although the addition of the 960 PRO may have slightly improved these scores, I’m attributing the lion’s share of the performance bump to ASUS and Intel figuring how to squeeze more performance out of the then-relatively-new Skylake architecture with improvements to the BIOS and other changes.
Do you have a different perspective?
I always like hearing other opinions. Feel free to leave your comments below. If you want to catch up on where my PC was at the start of this generation’s build, click here for last year’s post!
Eric “Irk” Jacobson started using computers when he was 3 years old with an Apple IIe. He tries to be device-agnostic using all kinds of technology from all of the major players, and he loves/hates them equally in different ways. Eric Jacobson is a Public Relations and Communications Professional specializing in helping businesses, school districts, and municipalities build communications plans, engage in community feedback, and achieve their goals for success.
When not working hard, Eric’s an avid motorcyclist, a hardcore gamer, and a massive finance and statistics nerd playing the stock market and tracking his finances religiously – like, watching Fast Money and Mad Money daily on CNBC while looking at his accounts multiple times every single day and tracking every transaction he makes down to the penny (say it with me -“Obsessive, much?”).