Building a custom PC (page seven)

In conclusion

The much-praised Antec P180 drove me to madness at times, with quirks and features that just seemed unhelpful. And I'm not sure that a modular PSU is a good idea in a case that places the power supply in its own chamber. To be fair, though, the Antec P180 does have its good points. The drive cages slide in and out easily, making it very pleasant to install hard drives compared to a fixed-cage design. And the case walls are a triple-layer design that help to dull the noise generated inside the case.

The Asus P5K Premium/WiFi-AP is an excellent board, with plenty of overclocking options should I want to squeeze some extra performance out of the rig in the future. The BFG 8800 GT OC performs very nicely in new games, given how little it cost. And the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 tears through processing tasks. The only thing I'm disappointed with is the stuttering problem in BioShock, which may be caused by the game's lack of support for multi-core CPUs.

Either I'm getting slow in my old age, or I'd forgotten how much time and effort it takes to put together a new PC. Assembling everything took me ten hours from start to finish, plus another four hours to install the Vortexx Neo after I couldn't take the whining from the stock cooler any longer.

But I'm a control freak, so having the ability to approve everything that goes into my rig is important to me. And, despite the furious, full-volume swearing when things weren't going so well, it all seems worthwhile as soon as you're finally all installed and configured. I know exactly what components are in my PC, so I know exactly where to go for drivers, user manuals and software downloads.

Sure, I could buy a pre-built box from Dell or Alienware, but they'd charge a sharp premium for doing the build for me, and I wouldn't really get to know the machine so well. For anyone who doesn't care what's inside their rig, doesn't want to check online reviews and component compatibility, or doesn't bother to read instructions carefully, buying a pre-built PC is the best course. For control freaks, though, it has to be the custom build.


Something I've noticed is that the Asus P5K Premium WiFi-AP motherboard is seemingly not very good at varying the CPU fan speed automatically. Which is a shame because when the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro is at minimum speed, the whole machine is so quiet that it's barely audible even in an otherwise-silent room. But running CPU-intensive tests and increasing the core temperature, the Asus board doesn't increase the CPU fan speed accordingly, so you end up with higher temperatures than you're aiming for. Several other people have made the same complaint about similar Asus boards. I'm hoping that Asus fix this soon with a firmware update, as the thought of a near-silent PC, at least while using it for low-power tasks, is very appealing.

August 2010

I recently decided to give the Asus Q-Fan control (which you can find in the BIOS on the Power page) another try, and it does now seem that the Asus board is adjusting the CPU fan speed as the cores get hotter. Whether this is because of a motherboard firmware update, or because I used Speedfan to produce graphs of CPU fan speed over time, I don't know. But Speedfan claims that the Asus board kept the CPU core temperatures at below 70°C and the CPU fan does get boosted from its baseline of around 820RPM once the temperature gets high enough. Now when the machine isn't doing much it really is quieter, so this is a very valuable feature in a motherboard.

December 2014

After six years this custom PC began to show signs of imminent failure. Windows 7 would sometimes try and fail to boot, and intensive use led to a blue screen of death. This was on top of the failure of the second hard disk a year earlier, and the failure of the graphics card a couple of years ago. So this hard-working machine has now been replaced with a new gaming desktop from PC Specialist.