Build this awe­some LED PC





THERE ARE MANY rea­sons why we’re not par­tic­u­larly fond of RGB here at Max­i­mumPC. We are, per­haps, more than a lit­tle bored of it at this point in time—and who wouldn’t be? As more and more man­u­fac­tur­ers try to cram those tiny LEDs into ev­ery dif­fer­ent type of com­puter com­po­nent, it’s easy to see good de­sign go out the win­dow for the sake of more sales.

But per­haps the prob­lem lies less with RGB it­self and more with how it’s mar­keted. Af­ter all, when the first mon­i­tors uti­liz­ing those tiny lightemit­ting diodes came into ex­is­tence, we didn’t have a per­pet­u­ally scrolling rain­bow gra­di­ent tit­il­lat­ingly danc­ing its way across the screen, did we? It’s about choice; about dis­play­ing what you want. And that’s ex­actly what it should be. Feel­ing red to­day? Then switch ev­ery­thing red.

RGB shouldn’t be about funky pat­terns and grotesque com­bi­na­tions of multi-col­ored atroc­i­ties lurk­ing in­side your rig, but more about tak­ing the the­matic nature of builds that we used to see 10 years ago, and ac­cen­tu­at­ing them with mod­ern de­sign and con­tem­po­rary lights, in col­ors that suit the en­vi­ron­ment—build your­self that black and red Asus moth­er­board, the green flecks of a Gigabyte sys­tem, or, to hell with it, turn the whole thing pink. Surely, that’s the point?

Per­haps we’re just a bit too strung up on it. Well then, let’s see what we can do with RGB, in­stead of just moan­ing about it. This time around, we’re go­ing to take some mid-range RGB com­po­nents on a jour­ney to see what ex­actly we can do with the medium that doesn’t seem to be dis­ap­pear­ing any­time soon.


IT’S ODD TO THINK that out­side of re­view, we’ve never had a proper in­sys­tem look at In­tel’s Core i3-8350K. It’s a part that’s had some­thing of a strange legacy. In­deed, when the first un­locked Core i3 launched in 2017, it was an od­dity. Who the hell would want an un­locked du­al­core, with Hy­per-Thread­ing, that’s priced just shy of a base-level quad-core i5? At the time, it seemed lu­di­crous. To­day, on the other hand? Well, with In­tel’s bumped-up core count, that dual-core i3 is turned into a quad-core one, mak­ing it more akin to last gen’s i5 than any­thing else, and weirdly, given the state of gam­ing to­day, far more at­trac­tive than its pre­de­ces­sor—although, ad­mit­tedly, you could still nab the Core i5-8400 hex-core part for only $20 more.

Next up on the list of “pretty things we wanted to use for this build” is Phanteks’s lat­est P350X ATX chas­sis. It’s a su­per-sweet com­pact bud­get tower that, if we’re hon­est, is one hell of an easy sell. As usual with Phanteks, it has man­aged to trans­plant the top fea­tures that are baked into its more pre­mium of­fer­ings into the de­sign of its bud­get mod­els. Yet it’s the aes­thetic as­pects that re­ally caught our at­ten­tion: the sharp LED lines in the front panel, with ex­pan­sive air­flow in­takes, and the ad­dress­able LED strip run­ning along­side the bot­tom of the PSU cover. It’s all there.

Now we’re on the topic of cus­tom-lit com­po­nents, what other il­lu­mi­nated parts did we opt for? Well, there’s the Cooler Mas­ter MasterAir MA610P CPU air tower, the 16GB of HyperX Preda­tor DDR4 RGB mem­ory, the Gigabyte Ul­tra Gam­ing 2.0 moth­er­board, and the Sap­phire Radeon RX 580 8GB Nitro+ with its RGB logo. We’ve also in­cluded a 30cm white LED strip hid­den along the front, just to help light up the in­te­rior for pho­tog­ra­phy.



SINCE HAV­ING our mod­ding buddy and Al­pha­cool’s mar­ket­ing hon­cho Dave Al­cock to help last is­sue, we’ve learned a lot about the sub­tle art of per­fect­ing PCs. It’s al­ways good to col­lab­o­rate on a build with a friend, es­pe­cially one who po­ten­tially has more ex­pe­ri­ence than you. Apart from shout­ing at us for not sleev­ing our own ca­bles, he did teach us the art of cable train­ing. In short, if you haven’t sleeved your own ca­bles to the ex­act length you need, or have cable combs at­tached, you can train your ca­bles to lie a cer­tain way. To do this, work out where your ca­bles are go­ing ahead of time, group them to­gether, and bend them the way you need, to plug in to the var­i­ous sock­ets, tak­ing the grom­met into ac­count. Keep a tight grip, and es­sen­tially wring them back and forth, un­til they fall the way you want. It’s not per­fect, but it’s bet­ter than leav­ing them as they come.



AN­OTHER PRO TIP we picked up was with re­gard to fan con­nec­tors—namely, where to thread them through. The front fans in this build were par­tic­u­larly trou­ble­some to route; for the top fan, we ended up rout­ing the cable through the hole in the chas­sis you can see below. Ob­vi­ously, there’s a big is­sue with that: the fact that the rec­tan­gu­lar PWM fan head won’t fit through. In short, you have to de­tach the plas­tic fan header. To do this, use a small flat­headed screw­driver, and push down on the clips hold­ing the ca­bles in place on the header. Then, care­fully pull the cable out—re­mem­ber which cable plugged into what hole in the header. Thread the cable through the hole, then push the ca­bles back into the plas­tic header un­til they click into place, and you’re good to go.



THERE’S NO DENY­ING that the Cooler Mas­ter MasterAir looks bad-ass. At first glance, it seemed as though the two fans were sym­met­ri­cal on ei­ther side, mak­ing us be­lieve that both of them were push­ing air in­ward, and the tower was ex­haust­ing that heat up­ward. Be­cause of that, we in­stalled two ex­haust fans in the roof, draw­ing air out of the chas­sis, and even con­sid­ered run­ning an­other fan in the rear as an in­take. On closer in­spec­tion, how­ever, although they look sym­met­ri­cal, the blades on the fan to the rear of the tower are ac­tu­ally in­verted, mean­ing the ori­en­ta­tion we have cur­rently draws air in through the front, and pushes it out of the back. Our air-cooled setup still work fines here, but now we’d love to in­stall an ad­di­tional 120mm in the rear as an ex­haust as well.



SO, IN THIS WORLD of RGB in­ter­con­nected good­ness, where ex­actly do you plug in all of this well-lit para­pher­na­lia? Well, there are two types of RGB header avail­able: There’s the 12V RGBW header, which is the stan­dard ana­log con­nec­tor, for sim­ple func­tion­ing LED strips; and there is also the VDG header, or the ad­dress­able header, for when you’re plug­ging in ad­dress­able LEDs (which means you can tell each LED in a strip how to op­er­ate). Gigabyte’s Z370 Ul­tra Gam­ing 2.0 has two VDG head­ers, and two 12V RGBW head­ers. The 12V RGBW header has five pins on it, and most likely your RGB LED strip will have four pins; to in­stall it, sim­ply plug it into the 12V RGB sec­tion, leav­ing the W pin un­con­nected. For any­thing ad­dress­able, the VDG header is your gal. Ei­ther way, you’ll want to make sure you line up the ar­row on each con­nec­tor with the 12V part of the con­nec­tor, and you’ll be ready to go.



WE DE­CIDED to shake things up for this build, and whip out one of our cur­rent fa­vorite AMD cards, the RX 580 Nitro+. Thanks to those ASIIC min­ers com­ing into pro­duc­tion, the price of GPUs has plum­meted, both for AMD and Nvidia. One thing we would say is that if you’re look­ing to make ev­ery penny count, we’d drop the Nitro+ Spe­cial Edi­tion, and opt for a cheaper RX 580 in­stead, be­cause you’d prob­a­bly net your­self a pretty $30 sav­ing, too. Ei­ther that or go for a fairly well-priced GTX 1060 6GB in­stead. The rea­son we love the Nitro+ so much, at least for this build, is the sexy back­plate on what is tech­ni­cally a mid-range card. It’s crisp and clean, and with the white, black, and sil­ver color scheme match­ing the rest of our build’s ac­cents, it re­ally brings the whole sys­tem to­gether nicely.



LET US KNOW if you get that ref­er­ence. Any­way, back to setup. So, you’ve got your RGB mem­ory in­stalled, your CPU heatsink plugged into your mobo, and your RGB LED strip in there, too. How on earth do you align this plethora of LEDs? Well, most moth­er­boards come with some form of RGB LED con­troller soft­ware. In Gigabyte’s case, that’s the Fu­sion App, found in its App Center, and down­loaded from its web­site. Sim­ply load it up, and you can con­trol ev­ery RGB LED con­nected to your mobo, DIMMs, and all. If you want to con­trol in­di­vid­ual seg­ments of the moth­er­board, head into the ad­vanced header for even more op­tions.

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