Every enthusiast dreams of building a budgetless rig with nothing but the best hardware. That fantasy becomes reality for a lucky few, but we generally aim to spend around $1,000 to $1,500 on a gaming system. That's a realistic target for most of our readers and it's enough cash to cover the essentials.
The Haswell MicroATX PC we built a couple years back fit that budget at $1,400 sporting a GeForce GTX 760 and a 240GB SSD -- generously sized for the time. Then to celebrate the Pentium Anniversary Edition, we explored two affordable builds a year later, each costing half as much as the previous Haswell project.
This time around we're throwing caution to the wind by cramming the upper echelon of gaming gear into a 32L chassis.
Along with Intel's Core i7-5960X, the priciest desktop Haswell CPU money can buy, we'll stuff a Silverstone KL06 with a high-end X99 motherboard, 32GB of RAM, a 500GB SSD, a dual-radiator closed-loop cooling system and the Radeon R9 295X2, which of course has its own 120mm radiator. This is how the system will look when completed...
When we're done, there will still be room for eight more 2.5" SSDs and a 3.5" hard drive. The end result should be a ridiculously powerful mATX system ready for any and all tasks. With the hardware coming in at around $2,750 without a keyboard, mouse or monitor, this is an affair with no expenses spared.
But, let's enjoy the project and take it one step at a time...
Though this is Silverstone's sixth Kublai case, it's the first MicroATX model. The Kublai series is known for efficient layouts, classic styling and affordability. Earlier this year Silverstone announced the KL05, a huge mid-tower that costs just $70 despite having it all. The KL06 is almost 40% smaller and yet it has the same $70 asking price.
The KL06 might be smaller but it is still well equipped, featuring a pair of 120mm fans out of the box. The KL05 impressed us with its capacity for liquid cooling options as well as its ability to handle an assortment of high-end GPUs.
In keeping with that theme, Silverstone's new KL06 might be tiny but it still has mighty hardware support. Silverstone says that the KL06 has been designed using the internal body structure of the Temjin TJ08-E and Precision PS07. As such the KL06 has been designed to meet current and future demands, which includes accommodation for 13.5 inch long graphics cards and simultaneous front/rear all-in-one liquid cooler support without drive cage removal.
For more convenient access during assembly the KL06 features a removable drive cage, motherboard tray and top panel, plus provision for custom liquid cooling pump. These assembly features are geared towards advanced users that enjoy customizing their system.
Maintenance is remarkably easy thanks to externally accessible filters on the front panel and independent power supply vent.
When it comes to storage the KL06 is very much designed for the future with support for eight SSDs, six of which can be installed into a tool-less drive cage. The KL06 also includes a pair of external 5.25" drive bays as well, which is a little surprising.
Externally the KL06 is rather bland and unassuming, no one would expect to find a Core i7-5960X and Radeon R9 295X2 tucked away inside. As mentioned earlier, the case features a 32L capacity as it measures just 375mm tall, 211mm wide and 405mm deep. Empty the KL06 weighs just 5.5kg making it an ideal case for LAN goers.
A stand out feature of the KL06 is the ability to take a 240mm radiator in the front and a 120mm radiator in the back, a feature we plan to check out with the TD02-E and R9 295X2.
Having used the original TD02 in my personal gaming PC for well over a year now, I can speak to the quality of that product. It features a thick 45mm custom built radiator with brazing fins, all metal (alloy) water-block with copper base and 310mm long FEP tubes.
Silverstone says that the TD02-E has 'updated' materials, but when reading between the lines this really means cheaper more cost effective materials. See the original TD02 was quite pricey at $120, whereas the new TD02-E is selling for a much more competitive ~$90.
Still, having said that we prefer the tubing of the TD02-E as well as the water-block design. The radiator has gone on a diet and is now just 27mm thick opposed to 45mm previously. Although the height and width remain the same the reduction in thickness means there is 40% less radiator.
Silverstone has made efforts to jazz up the new radiator with fake carbon fiber inserts along the sides of the radiator. The design looks quite good, but it's a considerable downgrade from what we saw with the original TD02.
The water-block is virtually the same as the only changes have been made to the top cover and the removable mounting arms. The arms are now anodized black rather than silver, while the top cover has been given a black gloss paint job and the Silverstone logo lights up brighter.
So while the TD02-E might be 25% cheaper it features more bling and less hardware.
Asrock Fatal1ty X99M Killer
Late last year when the Haswell-E platform arrived we were given our first truly great high-end Intel chipset. The X99 for the first time out-classes its mainstream performance counterpart, which is the Z97. Albeit the differences aren’t exactly day and night, but at least with 4 more SATA 6Gb/s ports on offer X99 owners have something to gloat about other than the massive CPU socket.
Speaking of which, the LGA2011-v3 socket needs to be big as the "Haswell-E" (22 nm) processors feature a die size of 356 mm² (17.6 mm x 20.2 mm). That's almost 40% bigger than the "Ivy Bridge-E" processors and 101% bigger than a standard Haswell Core i7 processor.
In true LGA2011 fashion, quad-channel memory support is also featured but this time using new DDR4 memory. So with a CPU socket that measures 90mm x 90mm and a minimum of four DIMM slots measuring 140mm long and 8mm wide, designing anything smaller than an Extended ATX motherboard seems like a real challenge.
After all, the Micro ATX form factor calls for a maximum board size of 244mm x 244mm, which means the LGA2011-v3 socket and four DIMM slots eat up 21% of that space right off the bat. That might not sound like much, but it is when you consider everything else that needs to be included in that space.
Still, a few motherboard makers have pulled it off, which includes Asrock, Evga and Gigabyte. The Evga X99 Micro costs $245 and forgoes M.2 support while just six of the possible ten SATA ports have been included and a single Gigabit Ethernet port.
Asrock on the other hand has come up with what it calls the Fatal1ty X99M Killer for just $230, which boasts full length M.2 support (Gen3 x4 - 32Gb/s), dual Gigabit LAN, all ten SATA ports and a seriously cool looking board design that will no doubt impress AMD fans with its red color scheme.
Meanwhile the Gigabyte X99M-Gaming 5 delivers similar features but at a higher $260 asking price, while Asus and MSI are yet to develop a mATX X99 motherboard.
The Asrock Fatal1ty X99M Killer is the perfect choice for our ridiculously powerful mATX build, as it allows us to utilize all eight SSD options in the Silverstone KL06, while two-way SLI and Crossfire are still on the table. Another important feature is that Ultra M.2 slot which we will fill with the Samsung SSD Evo 850 M.2 500GB, though ideally we would prefer the Samsung XP941 512GB for $450 if we could get one.
G.Skill Ripjaws 4 32GB
When it comes to DDR4 memory there are plenty of options to choose from. For our build we wanted memory that could run at 2.8GHz or greater and looked good so as to complement the build. The choice then was G.Skill's latest Ripjaws 4 series memory, the kit of choice was the 'F4-2800C16Q-32GRR' which provides four 8GB sticks operating at 2800MHz using CL16 timings.
Priced at $410 this 32GB kit isn't cheap, but it is competitively priced. The Ripjaws 4 series was the first DDR4 memory to reach an overclock of 4004MHz, granted it was in a single-channel configuration.
The Ripjaws 4 series is ideal for our build as space is at a premium and G.Skill has gone with a low-profile heat spreader design. The modules stand just 40mm tall helping them fit under over-sized heatsinks. That said, we are going down the liquid-cooling path, but even so there still isn't really room for tall modules.