zalman-z3-plus-white-led

The Build

The client is a young guy who wants to keep the costs down.  We are therefore going to incorporate some of the parts from his existing, already pretty powerful PC.  We have a good Power Supply, DVD drive, Hard Drive and a great Graphics card which we will be using from his existing system.  However, we need to add to this the meat and bones of the build.  We usually build based on AMD A series chips as they have  a great price/performance balance, but for this build the client wanted the power and performance of a high end Intel Core i7.  We went for a 4th generation ‘Haswell’ Core i7 4790.  This is an excellent chip and although takes up a fair chunk of the budget, its imperative we get a CPU thats as fast as possible.  His existing graphics card is more than capable of handling the masses of data associated with todays high end games so we didn't need to worry about this. This was key as it did give us some breathing room in the budget for a great processor and as streaming is all about the CPU, this was important.

Step 2 The Build is started

As with a house, we need good foundations for our build.  We therefore paired this i7 with an Asus H81 Plus motherboard which not only looks the part, but has masses of features for future expansion - its 4K ready, has a great UEFI Bios and excellent reliability credentials.  At also has 6Gb/S data transfer rate down the SATA ports which is excellent if a Solid State Hard Drive is utilized at a later date.

Lastly, the case.  Case choice does come down to what you like the look of but there is also a technical issue as well.  We need a full ATX type case to ensure that there is plenty of airflow over the components.  This is imperative in helping to keep the internal temperature as low as possible - a hot PC is a potentially unstable PC.  We helped the client choose a Zalman Z3 plus tower case.  This has all the characteristics we need, plus has plenty of space for a full sized graphics card, USB 3 and USB 2 ports at the front and space for 2 DVD/Bluray drives and a card reader.  Inside is a floor mounted Power supply and tray loading Hard drive bays which make adding and removing drives a doddle.  The case also has 4 x 8cm fans and a cool perspex window for the addition of lighting or other modding.

Corsair Vengeance LP
Asus H81M-Plus

    At Wizard PC Services we offer many services.  Most of our work is done face to face helping clients with general computer problems.  These might include virus removal or email problems.  However, there is much more to us than just that.    We  have a range of desktop PC's called the Sabre range.  These are great machines and are tailed to be extremely good value for money, reliable and great for most peoples tasks.  Based on the AMD A series these are easily upgradeable for future expansion. 

    Sometimes, however, we get a request for something a little different.  We were approached by a customer with a brief  to create a system that could handle 1080p Gaming with a difference.  The client is an up and coming streamer.  This means that the system has to be able to stream - or upload - real-time video of the game or task that is being played at the same time.  Below is what we did and how we built it.

Step 1 Parts selection

The full specification of the PC is as follows:

  • Zalman Z3 plus ATX tower case in White
  • Asus H81M Plus Motherboard
  • Intel Core i7-4790
  • 16Gb Corsair Vengeance DDR3 memory at 1600Mhz
  • AMD Radeon R270 Graphics card (supplied by the client)
  • 600W Desktop Power Supply
  • DVD/RW Drive
  • 1TB Desktop Hard Drive

Ok the parts are here so its time to get started.

First thing is always to check the parts and make sure you have got what you need.  I now have the old system from the client as some of the parts from this are going to be used in the new build.  These are the Hard drive, DVD drive and a lovely MSI branded Radeon R270 graphics card.  This card is pretty powerful and is more than enough to handle the games that the client is expecting to play at good resolutions.

IMG_1140
IMG_1148

The next step is to start putting them all together in the case.  Once the case is opened we can see that Zalman provide some nice touches with their Z3 plus case.  First off the ‘plus’ gets you a USB 3.0 port on the front as well as a nice acrylic window on the side for showing off your systems innards.  Also, we get a small box inside the case which has a supply of screws which are all black to contrast the case, a few cable ties, a small motherboard speaker and the rails that fit on the hard drive to allow the quick release of the drive.  You can easily fit 4 drives in this case (as well as an SSD if you want) so

there is plenty of scope for upgrades should the client choose.  Its not only about the now, but also planning for any improvements that maybe needed at a later date - this case does allow for that.

IMG_1155

The next step is to checkout the motherboard, CPU, CPU cooler and memory.  These can all be fitted whilst the board is outside of the case.  In many respects it’s much easier to do this anyway as long as you are extra careful when then installing the board in the case.  Its important when handling motherboards etc, to always make sure you are grounded.  Touch some bare metal (not a painted radiator) to ensure that any static charge in your body is discharged.  Static electricity and computers components are not best bed buddies!  You could also ware an anti static wrist band that clips to something metal which will do the same job.  Install the CPU as per the installation instructions set out in the motherboard manual.  You will find that generally you cant fit the CPU incorrectly as there are usually little cut outs on the chip which relate to small extensions on the motherboard.  This is a

Core i7 and is no exception to the rule.  If it wont go in - its not supposed to.  Don't force it as you could damage the pins on the board.  Once the CPU has been dropped into place, lock it down using the lever on the board and then fit the cooler.  We are using a stock cooler which maybe a bit surprising on a high end build.  However, we have no plans to over clock the CPU and the Intel chips are great at not getting too hot so we should be OK.  If a more efficient cooler is required in the future this is pretty straight forward and can be easily swapped over.  Once done, gently fit the memory into the memory slots on the board.

IMG_1152
IMG_1153
IMG_1154

You can see from the picture that there is an off center notch on the memory slot.  Make sure this matches up with the notch on the motherboard.  Gently but firmly push these into place and you are ready to install the board into the main case.

Step 3 - Install the Motherboard in the case

So we are just about ready to install the main board into the case.  This is pretty straight forward but you need to do a quick check first.  When in the case, the board sits on small pins that are screwed into the motherboard.  These have a thread opening which allows you to then screw the motherboard into this pins thus attaching the board to the case.  You should see in the case that there are pre drilled mounting holes for these pins.  You just need to make sure that the pins in the case match up with the holes that are in the motherboard.  As there are different sized motherboards, the holes could be in slightly different places to the pins in the case.  If so, unscrew them from the case and move them to the correct hole.  More often than not, there may not be enough pins screwed into the case to match the motherboard.  You usually get a small supply of additional pins with the case, so just add however many you need.  Always remove the pins that don't match up to the board as this could produce a short on the board when the power is switched on.  Install the I/O face plate in the back of the case as supplied with the motherboard.  This is just a cover with openings for the rear connectors on the board.  Its not imperative but the back of the case looks ugly without it.

With the board now in the case its time to install the power supply, make a small number of connectors and test the system to see if it POSTS.

IMG_1156

POSTING is when you first power the computer on and the motherboard goes through a pre determined pattern.  The computer does this everytime you switch it on and you can adjust the pattern and other settings from a menu system called the BIOS.  Its always a welcome sign to see the POST complete the first time you test the system!

Once the POST is complete, you should amend the date and time in the BIOS, set the BIOS to boot from the DVD or CD drive first then shut down the PC.

Next step is to fit the Hard Drive, DVD drive and additional graphics card (if you are fitting one) to complete the installation side of the build.  Also ensure the cables from the case for the hard disk drive lights, power lights, reset switch, USB header and front audio headers are connected to the appropriate sockets on the motherboard.  Once done, its then important to cable tie the loose wires into place to get a neat and tidy installation.  Routing these cables behind the board via the holes in the side of the case are the best bet.  Its a bit of an art and you will need perseverance and plenty of cable ties to achieve a tidy interior.

IMG_1169
IMG_1158

Next step is to power up the system and check to make sure all the internal fans are functioning.  Once this is done, insert your operating system installation disk or USB stick and install windows!

Job is now complete!

Although we haven't covered windows installation with this build, I might put something on a different page about this if there is sufficient interest.  Aside from that, before delivery it’s very important to stress test the machine for as long as possible  We use Unigene Heaven. 

This is a graphical fly though of a mythical environment and really tests the machine.  It can also be used to work out a bench line for future system upgrades etc.  Heaven can be downloaded from here for free.

The use of this machine is going to require a fair amount of multi tasking.  In addition to the game running, an Internet streaming service like Twitch will also be running as well.  Also multiple websites and additional gaming resources will also be in use all at the same time as will a 2nd monitor.  To facilitate this 16Gb of fast 1600Mhz DDR3 is being utilised in a 2 x 8Gb configuration.