A few months ago I decided to retire my 4-year-old i7-860 PC
and build a new machine based on Intel's Haswell platform. I had skipped Intel's previous Sandy- and Ivy-Bridge systems and was looking forward to modernizing my ageing PC, not only with a new, power-efficient Core i7 processor, but also with chipset improvements such as USB 3 and SATA III (and because of the motherboard I selected, Thunderbolt).
Here's a list of the components I ended up using in my new build:
- Motherboard: Asus Z87 Deluxe/Dual
- CPU: Intel i7-4770K
- CPU Cooler: Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 Silentwings
- RAM: 16 GB Kingston HyperX 10th Anniversary Edition (2 x 8 GB, 1.5v, 1600 MHz, CL9)
- Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD7970 3GB OC with Boost
- Boot Drive: Crucial M4 256GB (carried over from previous build)
- Data Drive: Western Digital Black 3TB WD3003FZEX
- Optical Drive: LG BH10LS30 Bluray Writer (carried over from previous build)
- Chassis: Antex P280 (carried over from previous build)
- PSU: Seasonic Platinum 860 (carried over from previous build)
- OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
Like the i7-860 system before it, my new Z87/4700K system is rock-solid reliable. No weird BSODs or driver issues to deal with - everything just works. This is a relief, since 20 years of custom PC builds have taught me that you never know what to expect when assembling your own system. But with each iteration, PC components and drivers have thankfully gotten more trustworthy. And more efficient. The i7-860 system idled at about 140 watts while the new i7-4770K build runs 110 watts at idle.
I can't say, however, that this new i7-4770K system feels significantly faster than the i7-860 it replaced. Oh, the benchmarks might tell you it is, but I find it hard to notice mostly because, as I've stated in the past, I don't do a lot of PC gaming and this is used primarily for general purpose PC tasks like web browsing. However, being an enthusiast means I'm not content with merely good enough hardware and I'm compelled to build high-performance machines.
What is noticeable, however, is the system noise or rather the lack of it. This is hands-down the quietest machine I've ever built. While not completely silent, it is difficult enough to hear under my desk that I'm never sure if the system is on or not. This can attributed to the following:
- Antec's P280 is designed to be quiet,
- The Dark Rock Pro 2 is an exceedingly efficient CPU cooler,
- Asus's Fan Xpert 2 is excellent at keeping system fans at low RPM when excessive cooling is not required,
- The Sapphire Radeon dual-fan cooling solution is remarkably quiet.
Fire up a modern first-person shooter game (like Tomb Raider), however, and you'll have no trouble hearing it anymore. Every fan in the system steps it up a few notches to provide adequate cooling to the CPU and GPU. I wouldn't exactly call it noisy at this point, but you can definitely hear it.
The last thing I wanted to make note of is the NFC reader that Asus bundles with the Z87 Deluxe/Dual board. In order to justify the higher cost of this particular motherboard, Asus had to add something. Frequently, these "value-add" items are gimmicky and while they may sound cool, they are of little real-world use. For me, however, the NFC reader is extremely useful. It provides two very welcomed features: the ability to log into my computer without typing a password, and a two-port USB 3 hub. The USB hub is self-explanatory, but not many people are aware of NFC (near-field communication) as it is primarily a smart-phone technology that hasn't really caught hold yet. In this case, it allows me to place a small NFC tag (included with the Deluxe/Dual, or you can use your phone if it supports NFC) on the NFC reader which then auto-logs me into my machine. Anything that keeps my computer secure without requiring me to type passwords all the time gets high marks in my book.