The storage subsystem
SSDs: Dual Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB — You know the deal right now. PC storage is on the cusp of a revolution thanks to the NVMe protocol and the move to make PCIe the transport layer of choice. Z170 motherboards come ready with M.2 slots for these fancy new SSDs, too. However, the drives that take advantage of this new tech are still fairly rare, and some entries, ahem, aren't measurably faster than their SATA counterparts. The rare M.2 drives that perform better than SATA in synthetic tests haven't yet managed to produce better results in our practical benchmarks of things like boot times and game level load times. Also, NVMe drives are still quite pricey in terms of cost per gigabyte.
As a result, we're sticking with 6Gbps SATA drives for now—a pair of 'em. These HyperX Savage drives are based on a Phison controller that we've found to be a decent performer. They're also very, very red. SSDs tend to be boring bricks, but Kingston has dressed these things up handsomely.
My plan is to use one SSD as a boot drive and to devote the other one to Steam games, but the person who wins this system is welcome to configure these two drives in a RAID 0 for even higher transfer rates.
Hard drives: Dual WD Black 6TB — WD stepped up and offered a pair of six-freaking-terabyte hard drives for our last build, and they were kind enough to do the same for this project.
WD's Black drives spin their platters at 7,200 RPM, and they combine solid performance with massive capacity and near-silent operation. They're my favorites among today's hard drive offerings.
My plan, as usual, is to mate the two drives in a RAID 1 mirror, so that one wouldn't lose that big pool of data in the event of a drive failure. Another option, for those who like to live on the wild side, would be to create a 12 terabyte RAID 0 array. That would be... sufficient.
Optical: Asus Blu-ray drive BC-12B1ST — Asus sent along this weird contraption that mounts into a 5.25" drive bay and accepts, uh, some kind of round wafer-type things. I understand the "blue ray" variant of these wafers can be used like a virtual Netflix, even when offline, but there's only one movie per physical wafer. Another type of wafer works sort of a like a USB thumb drive, apparently, only they're limited to about 4GB of capacity each.
Anyhow, that it what they tell me. Asus is good at making things, and this is one of the things they make. You may even find these wafer-drives recommended in our system guides, as an option for those who want it.
The case and cooling
Enclosure: Cooler Master MasterCase 5 and friends —With Cooler Master involved, the MasterCase 5 was an obvious choice for the Skylake Damagebox. This new mid-tower ATX case is organized around an intriguing concept. The design is modular and, although the MasterCase 5 starts life as a solid-but-basic enclosure, it can be upgraded in various ways via add-ons available for purchase separately.
Here's how the MasterCase 5 looked when it first came out of the box:
Not bad at all, but since we have the hook-up with Cooler Master, we soon had our enclosure looking like so:
Up top, we've installed the radiator mount module, which changes the look of the case substantially. We won't actually need that mount for this build, but it's an upgrade that improves the look, so I installed it, darn it. The other big change is the addition of a windowed side panel, a no-question addition that we'll use to show off the guts of the final build.
Those guts include lots of space for storage expansion. The MasterCase 5 comes with a single drive cage featuring dual 3.5" removable sleds, and you can expand its capacity by adding another cage, either for dual or triple drives. Both options are populated with removable 3.5" sleds, as well. The case also comes with two 2.5" drive sleds, like the one pictured above with the thumbscrew in it. There's room for a total of four of those sleds: two up front and two behind the motherboard.
CPU cooler: Cooler Master Geminii S514 v2 — I've used closed-loop liquid cooling in a number of systems recently, and although I like it, liquid coolers do have their downsides. They're more complex, so there's more that can go wrong, for one thing. For another, liquid coolers don't tend to move any air around the CPU socket, and that fact can create issues with hot VRMs and DIMMs, which tend to require a little bit of airflow in order to stay cool.
Cooler Master has an interesting alternative in the Geminii S524, an air cooler whose heatpipes make a right turn back over the CPU socket. The Geminii is an obvious candidate for small, low-profile enclosures, but it should also work well in a typical mid-tower like ours. That big 120-mm cooling fan ought to keep our Skylake cool without making too much noise, and since it hangs out over the DIMMs and VRMs, everything around the CPU socket should get some additional airflow, as well.
Power supply: Cooler Master V1200 Platinum — Well, this is overkill in the best possible way. I would have been happy with the V750 we used last time, but Cooler Master surprised us with a 1200W monster. Don't take those words the wrong way, though. The V1200 Platinum fits into our case just fine, and its fully modular design means there won't be any extra cables hanging off of it. Furthermore, thanks to a hybrid fan policy that spins down the PSU fan entirely with loads under 25% of peak, this puppy should be almost entirely silent at idle and when lightly loaded. Those folks who want the airflow from a slow-spinning fan at idle can disable the hybrid fan policy via a switch that goes in an expansion slot cover, shown below.
If for some reason the eventual owner of the Skylake Damagebox wants to upgrade massively, the V1200 Platinum can support up to 12 PCIe 6+2 aux power connections. The cables are all ribbon-style affairs, too, to make routing nice and neat.