Thanks a bunch for the advice, everyone! I’m sorry it took me so long, but I owe you all a report on how things went. This post is going to have to discuss the build only, not the power or overclocking results. I’ll post that stuff later.
As I said before, my last build was a Conroe C2D 6300 (built in February 2007) in an Antec Sonata with an HD4670. I was in school at the time, so cost was a big factor. This time around, I felt comfortable with a more generous budget although I can’t help but be practical. And X99 (for example) is not practical.
I wanted to do a mITX build because I have really only used two expansion cards in the last 8 years: a GPU and a TV Tuner. I’m going to keep the Sonata for PVR duties, basically using WMC to time-shift OTA sports broadcasts to watch after the kids are in bed. So one expansion card is enough. I also liked a few other things about the Node 304:
- Fits large tower coolers
- Uses a full-sized PSU
- Horizontal MB
- Small but not tiny
My main complaint is that the front panel connectors are on the side. Since I (currently) use this desk with a cabinet, I wouldn’t be able to access the front panel connectors. The worst part of this case (and I read this complaint somewhere else also) was installing the motherboard standoffs. I am not sure if the sheet steel was threaded for the standoffs, but there was so much paint in the holes that even with a nut driver I stripped one nearly bare.
Here’s a few shots of the components. Thanks to Abula for the RAM suggestion. These DIMMs are super short, not even taller than the clips that hold them in. You can see they take up about half of the available height in the plastic package. Similarly, the M.2 drive is miniscule! It’s like the size of a stick of gum! Yes, I went ahead and got the M.2 drive. No, it doesn’t make much sense. I just think that with SSDs, the conventional form factor is antiquated. There’s no reason to need a dedicated power cable, the SATA connectors and cables are awful, etc.
The Z97I-PLUS board is nice. I can’t imagine how much stuff they much have crammed into the ROG Maximus board, but most of that didn’t seem practical. I didn’t need WIFI built in, but the board checked all the boxes I wanted. Installing the cooler with roughly equal torque on each bolt resulted in uneven screw depths. Perhaps this means I did a bad job somewhere.
The M.2 drive was a bit of a puzzle. Asus provided this ridiculous little bolt at the end of the drive, although it is so short that I don’t think you could use it to secure anything thicker than a few sheets of paper. My solution was to install the bolt, drop a dab of hot glue on it then push the drive into the hot glue. So far, so good.