Hey folks, I'm Ray. Welcome to a 20 minute read about me nerding out over building my first dream PC. Bit about me first, I grew up in the countryside as a kid and got my first Amstrad computer when I was 14. Played and modded the original Operation Flashpoint (2002) from demo to death then headed out into the big wide world of work. Trained for and ran my own graphics business which accidentally became successful which moved to London. With the big 3-0 rocking up I decided to pack it all in and go to University to chase my dreams of becoming an Architect, 5 years later here I am!
I've watched LTT since the early days back in the house, loved the old car park unboxings and liked to think Luke & Linus taught me how to build a computer - Linus's review of the monster Asus G751 laptop turned into my daily driver at Uni. Now I'm an "adult", I mean now that I can afford this stuff, the laptop is a worn out render rig, I needed a new baby and decided its time to put my money where my mouth is and build my first PC ...
I'm just a middle aged nerd who's never built a PC before so 'knowing what I was doing' was key before I even started sourcing parts. I watched and re-watched build logs from all over Youtube and developed an idea of how it's done - and not done. PC Parts Picker made me want to cry for my bank account but in Fall 2018, a post here on the LTT forums for advice, both gave me some great help on a starting parts list and confidence I knew what I was talking about. Quickly realising I was about 1000 short in the finance department with Christmas approaching I postponed until 2019. March 19' arrived, the old laptop was close to copping it every time I opened a 3D model, it was time to purchase the replacement.
Using PC Parts Picker as a base for sourcing the parts, I made sure to pre-contact sellers I'd never heard of (some small but excellent shops in England), made sure I was buying from the Uk and populated a painfully expensive Amazon list. Moved the finances into place and began buying. This is where I hit my first snag. My bank flagged my account for suddenly spending thousands and blocked my card. Kinda makes sense when you think about it but easy to overlook - tell your bank before you start to avoid a sweaty panic and agonising wait in a phone queue.
I kept track of the purchases, costs and shipping dates for each item. Made sure to check three times a day and know exactly where everything was. When you're playing with this much money you kinda have to. This was snag number two. Someone stole my Corsair 500D RGB case from an Amazon warehouse in Marseille, France. They re-stuck the label to an empty box which was delivered to me late. Enough phone calls later to Amazon and getting far enough up the chain to talk to an American head of service they fully refunded me and I over-nighted a new 500D case from the Uk. Amazon is easy, but cover yourself, theft does happen. With a large stack of boxes and curious house mates wondering when my time machine would be built, it was time to open all the presents!
I'm super fortunate to live in a modest Thames side apartment so rearranged the sitting room to build the rig right there with that epic view. Setting out boxes in build order, tool locations, light, laptop for guides, bins and trays I was ready. First job was to strip down the 500D case, take the doors off and remove the Commander & Node Pro. For what ever reason I don't know, Corsair glued and 3M taped both units to the bottom of the case. When your a bit butter fingers being delicate at the start of a build the last thing you want to be doing is wrenching at a core part. After an hours battle with an old soapy credit card both were freed and set aside. From there it was pretty simple. Having a play-list already set up on the laptop of installation guides for each step, videos I'd watched many times over, I found I already knew my way around the hardware. Installed the H150i radiator first to get comfortable in the build and then moved onto the mobo.
Something I did find whilst building was after years of watching LTT videos, the hardware in real life is actually a bit smaller than I realised. Weird point but valid. Felt smug using the mobo box as a stand and pushed myself through opening up and installing the i9 in the housing. It'd be too easy to make a 'careful not to drop it' joke but years of watching just that made me take extra care and place a towel around the bench, just in case I was a muppet. The M.2 970 Evo was simple to install, though a bit taxing making sure I didn't drop a screw. The Ram wasn't so simple. I thought it'd be easy to just click in but actually it required more push than I was comfortable with giving. All 4 sticks did eventually give and click into place successfully, man did it look good! Mounting the Motherboard was a pain in the butt! Trying to line up well over a thousand pounds worth of hardware in your hands with metal sticks without scratching up the back was one of the hardest parts of the build. I MacGyvered some thin cable ties to act as guides and after a good hour of careful in and out, managed to seat the board - first try!
Knowing how much thermal paste to apply was a thoughtful moment. I'd decided to be brave and apply Kryonaut over Corsairs packaged circle. In the end I went with a video from Der8auer who spread it evenly as to maximise the full contact potential of the surface. The PSU went in easily as did the SSD, can't really mess that up, the fans went in properly facing the right way and I ran all the wires loosely to where I wanted them to sit. A BIG issue I discovered was my knowledge shortfall on what wire went where and did what. The AX860i PSU came with a bag of wires and a guide which didn't help at all. Genuinely thought it was going to beat me and I spent a good 12 hours out researching and learning, going back through build guides to figure it all out. Know how to power your rig properly, trying to learn it on the fly is hard! The main mobo connector would not fit in the motherboard, turned out the ax860i is 24 pin "only" meaning it was a 20+4 something, I wasn't too confident here but with a bit of tinkering it seated and ultimately worked so fixed it.
A dumb snag I hit whilst cable managing at 2am, I went to trim a cable tie and cut the head off a fan wire. Much cursing and another 30 quid later (Amazon redeeming itself with same day delivery) I was back on track, after a decent sleep. Top tip - go to bed ... or don't drink and tie! The 500D case has a tight cable management system at the back but for my first time I was quite proud how it came out. The graphics card was an absolute beast, much heavier and slightly panic inducing in length until I measured it. Probably should have checked that at the start, you noob. With the all important RGB light strips in place and the doors re-hung I carried my new baby into its final resting place in the studio. After an Oscar worthy performance removing the protective glass plastic, the wires were plugged in and it was moment of truth time. I wish I'd read the part in the PSU manual where it says it tests the connection before it starts fully ... As a grown man I might have screamed a little when it cut out briefly before powering up. I let myself have that one ...
Scroll forward 4 months to today. This machine is OP. Drone Lidar footage used to generate 3D rendered models used to take 30 hours to process, this monster does it in 15 minutes! Ai overclocked at 5.1ghz its a silent whisper even at full chat, if I manage to get it there. Vive VR daily doesn't touch it and I've yet to really stretch its legs despite throwing bonkers architectural renders at it which would have straight up broken previous machines or anything in the main studio. Hiccups have happened. Updating the Bios required me to use the manual Bios / USB update in the rear of the board and it does like to BSOD if you don't keep on top of windows updates. I recently installed a V1 Tech backplate and GPU bracket as the card had a notable 1 degree of droop on the far end, fair seeing as it weighs more than a London Bus! Looking to the future I'm thinking Corsair Hydro X or EKWB, second 2080 when they drop in price (lol Super Cards) and I'm laser cutting a few custom parts for fan covers and the front filter. The rig is about to feature in an Architectural event showcasing VR technology and beyond that it'll be upgraded to keep it at the sharp end of fun.
Thanks for inspiring, teaching and supporting this build LTT. Thanks to you a total novice nerd built his dream PC, that's a pretty decent victory.