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Tiki? iMac? Custom Gaming PC? Help me out!

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January 14, 2014 9:11:00 PM

TL;DR I'm interested in a slim gaming tower that has style, a decent build quality with enough power to last me 4-5 years. I'm not looking to overpay unless the premium warrants it.

Hi, I need to replace my desktop. It's 7 years old and even though it still run most games maxed out I need to replace this monstrosity. The case I used when I built it (it's still in that case) was a Cosmos made by cooler master, sure it's roomy and extremely quiet, but it's so god damn big. I'm done with gigantic gaming towers.

I'm now living in an apartment and I want something doesn't take too much place, look beautiful and is easy to carry around. My original plan, which isn't off the table, was to find a small case that I liked, order the parts online and build it myself.

Since then I've been exploring dozens of ideas and I'm not sure what to do anymore. I wanted to wait and see what would be shown at CES 2014 (mostly the steam machines), I looked at an iMac which I would bootcamp windows on and I've looked into prebuilt computers.

When I was younger I only believed in price and performance (at least on paper), I just did not understand why someone would pay so much for a mac when he could get more for his money by building a windows pc. I've grown to understand why you pay a premium for a mac, attention to details, build quality and overall design. All of that has a cost even though it's hard to put a number on it. It's something most manufacturers just don't understand.

I'm not afraid to pay a premium when it's warranted, now I've spent hours searching on google for feedback and opinions on various options and Falcon Northwest (even though they charge very large premium) seems to be the only company, in the prebuilt industry, that places importance on quality.

Although I consider myself a gamer, I am very difficult to please when it comes to games and only play a few games. I've been playing DotA for over a decade and I don't think I'll stop anytime soon so I won't be needing much GPU power. Other than DotA I play Blizzard's games (or I used to I should say), Counter-strike (made the switch from 1.6 to GO last year) and I emulate all of nintendo's consoles. I need an SSD and an HDD as I have tons and tons of media that I need to store and can't stand the slow boot time of an HDD.

Now, I know there aren't any case like the Tiki out there and even if there were I'm not sure I would want to attempt to build one myself. I have tried to put something similar to the Tiki I want with a 3 year warranty and 1 year of express replacement (not necessities but I wanted to compare apples to apples to see how much their premium was) on ncix.ca and it came to around $1950 for a machine that would match the $2246 tiki I configured.

Has any of you bought or know of anyone that has had an experience with Falcon Northwest, are their machines reliable? Would you advise me to go this route, the mac route or the custom pc route?
a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 9:35:46 PM

Yeah, uhm... imac? Really? No. They do not have such attention to details, and design is absolutely subjective. I would much much rather do everything myself, knowing that I've done something right, paying attention to the details, rather than trusting the cheapest assembly labour a company can find. You realize that you get 3-5 year warranties on most parts, right?

I would absolutely recommend you go the small form factor custom build - that's what I specialize in, and there's a certain art form to it.

I am solidly against certain manufacturers of prebuilts, including HP and Dell, but most notable Apple. The reason for this is that you can tell yourself they look pretty, and they put a lot of design into making it look good... but they took these design goals at the absolute cost of any hope of working on it yourself, and then jacked the price up to a ridiculous level. Just look at the "mac edition" graphics cards coming out later than any other offering, for $200 more than the cards they're identical to.

If you have to absolutely have something that's got design all over it and that screams expensive, go with a Tiki. They're wonderful machines - not as reliable as a custom built where you know exactly what's going in it, but good.

That being said, I will always, always favor the functionalist design of a small form factor case that I've put hours of planning into making sure everything runs perfectly in sync with itself, at the optimal intersection between cost and performance, with looks to back it up. You seem to think that good design means the thing screams that it cost a lot, but that's not what it always means. I would look at the Caselabs S3, the Bitfenix Prodigy, the NCASE M1... they, to me, are much better looking than something like an imac or tiki, and a large part of that is because they show off the fact that it was something you did, not just something you paid somebody else to do the thinking and work for.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 9:47:03 PM

well first off i wouldnt buy a mac. yes they are pretty, yes they have nice cases but you get so overcharged for mediocre performance its not even funny.

falcon northwest is a well respected company (amongst origin pc as well) and they do nice work however the prices are so insane unless you feel like wasting lots of money i would avoid them as well.

why dont you make the switch to micro atx? or at least swap down to a mid-sized tower. certainly much smaller but you dont lose function. "slim" (think ps3/ps4 size) really dont allow you to use a video card (some companies mount it horizontal with a special pcie ribbon cable) and often standard power supplies dont work (due to the size). normally these cases are good for only motherboards with integrated or low profile video cards (which arent for gaming).

what are your thoughts on cases like the haf xb (not my favorite but its not super large) or the corsair 540 (nice case but a bit fat) or the corsair 200r/300r? another popular case is the bitfenix prodigy (which looks sort of like a mac case)

as far as parts are concerned...

i5-4670k cpu
hyper 212 evo cooler
asus z87 mobo
2x4gb 1600mhz ram
gtx770
250gb samsungg 840 evo
whatever hard drives you want
whatever case you want.
550w-600w psu

thats overkill for the games you want to play. you could cheap out in many areas.

you could go with an amd fx-8350 and asus 99x motherboard to save $100-150 over an intel build. a bit less performance but not by a large margin and both are overclockable.

anyways... i think in your case you care more about how the product "looks" as well as how "big" it is so decide on a case first then i'd worry about the components after.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 9:50:54 PM

yeah... but the bitfenix prodigy takes a m-itx motherboard which is extremely limiting (i only listed it because its pretty looking and looks like a mac) and that the bitfenix prodigy m (which does take matx mobo) has horrible airflow.

quite a few of us know hardware well enough and have enough builds under our belt to recommend anything from small budget builds to all out builds. there is no need for self promoting here.

i do agree with the main point though.... "build it yourself". thats the best route to go.
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January 14, 2014 9:54:47 PM

@DarkSable (p.s. ty for the quick reply)

I'm not looking for the rolex of computer cases. I don't want my case to scream it's worth thousand of dollars, but I certainly don't want it to look like something I would find in a server room. I want something that makes me forget it's a computer case when I look at it. Hell, I've been trying to convince myself to like the Bitfenix prodigy, because I don't believe the Tiki is worth the premium.

As far as Apple products are concerned, I'll have to disagree with you. When you pick up an apple product it feels premium. I've been the owner of a Galaxy Note 2 for over a year and it certainly doesn't feel like a $800 phone when I hold it, unlike an iphone. Same goes for a MSI laptop versus a Macbook Pro.

Now the iMac is not really something I consider any longer and it's mostly the Tiki versus a custom built slim micro ATX. I would love to find a case that I would fall in love with so I could go the more wallet friendly route.

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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 9:59:10 PM

looking at the tiki...

yeah they have the gpu rotated so its paralell with the motherboard (likely using a pcie ribbon cable)

thats the only way to have a pc that thin.

you would need a case with a riser card..

edit:
this is an older one ... but the photos show the kind of riser card they would need
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

edit2:
i'd still suggest getting a normal width tower or perhaps a horizontal case. better cooling than something like the tiki or slim towers.
there are plenty of nice looking mid towers. i'll have to see if i can find a few you may like.
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January 14, 2014 10:05:42 PM

Are m-itx mobos truly that inferior? I looked into the 200r and 330r; I am not a fan of cases with doors but I can't stand ugly drive bays and the 330r actually looks clean. The 330r is exactly the style I'm looking for, I'll have to check youtube videos to see how big it is and check if it's made of aluminium.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 10:09:44 PM

well... m-itx was designed to be as small as possible hence it lacks many of the features that larger sized boards like m-atx have (makes sense right?)

however the problem is that the price doesnt correspond to the features they offer. they are quite expensive for being so limited.

what limitations?

for one, there arent a whole lot of choices. second they only have one pcie slot. third you are a bit limited on what usb headers and such you have.

so while not bad... they do have limitations you should be aware of before jumping in.

i'll have a look at the 330r and see if i know of anything similar you might like too.
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January 14, 2014 10:12:02 PM

The NCASE M1 is definitively my style too!
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 10:15:40 PM

you might want to look at lian li. i have an older v2000 and it has a flip-down style dvd drive cover which is pretty awesome.

its a work of art not a computer case. they are pretty well built and aluminum.

http://www.lian-li.com/en/products/#all/1/list
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 10:16:39 PM

oh i do like the M1. that is pretty nifty.
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January 14, 2014 10:31:38 PM

Oh there's a few case from Lian Li that I like, would it be possible to fit what you've suggested into the PC-C60/C-33?
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 10:35:52 PM

let me look. one minute please.

edit: looks to be possible in those two cases.

the one only has usb2 though and is discontinued.

neither of them really has super airflow though.

fancy looking yes but i think you can do better?
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January 14, 2014 10:47:00 PM

I'm just exploring ideas, and thanks a lot for helping me by the way. As for the airflow of the 330r, how good is it? Also, how does Falcon NW manages to keep the tiki cool? I've heard it's relatively quiet and doesn't have heat problem yet it's very slim and compact.

Edit: Love the Node 605 from Factal Design and Lian Li pc-50b, do they have better air flow than the 2 from Lian Li that I suggested?
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 10:50:40 PM

well... just come up with a list of which ones you like for now... then we can weed out the better performers from the weaker performers afterwards.
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January 14, 2014 10:58:46 PM

I just watched a video of an unboxing of the Fractal Design Node 605 and I fell in love with it. It would be my number one (by far) followed by the PC-C50B and finally the 330r by Corsaire.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 11:04:08 PM

the 330r airflow?
http://www.anandtech.com/show/7236/corsair-carbide-330r...

its not terrible. one 140mm input, 1x140mm output + psu output is fair though its a negative pressure system so its going to suck dust into every nook and cranny. you could throw another 140 input in however that removes the drive cage probably. you could most likely fit a ssd and data drive up into the top below the cd drive though so its not a huge deal if you are okay with that. that improves the performance of the cooling quite a bit.

not as good as open cases but much better than slimline cases.

-----

cooling on the falcon northwest tiki?

it has a 120mm water cooler connected to the cpu.

the gfx card card has a 120mm fan pushing air right into the gpu fan.

the psu looks to suck out the rest of the air which vents in from vents on the case and from the cpu intake radiator.

honestly probably the best cooling they could get in such a small package.

a full sized system will do better on airflow/temps with the cpu though the gpu might be hard to beat on most cases since this design basically pumps cool air direct from outside into the gpu. i'd still go with a bigger system though. your choice of course.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 11:04:40 PM

so dont like that M1 anymore then i take it?
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Best solution

a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 14, 2014 11:15:09 PM

hmm the Fractal Design Node 605 really doesnt seem too bad in terms of cooling considering its a smaller case and it supports alot of motherboard types. i would say it should be fine.

the lian li PC-C50B is going to be similar to the node. both have removable cages.

the 330r is going to be the easiest to work on (more room) and has the best airflow options (more 140mm fans) so for ease of install i would suggst going this route... but you could go with the other cases just realize it might take longer to fit everything in/organize cables, etcetera. matx sized cases are more time consuming than larger ones.

oh and also the larger 330r can easily handle a regular air cooler but in the slim cases you might have to research what will fit. or just use a water cooler on one of the intake fans. that works too.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 15, 2014 11:17:19 AM

SSDDX, lemme just throw a couple things out there:

1) The M1 isn't actually for sale anymore, sadly.

2) I wasn't self-promoting whatsoever, I was saying that my specialty is small form factor builds, and I was explaining that was because they're more challenging and interesting.

3) It used to be true that mini-ITX had way less features than a full-sized board; this is absolutely not true anymore. It's just that you have to pay a little more to get it.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 15, 2014 11:48:38 AM

@dark

1) that isnt quite true. even though its a limited production run there are still some for sale on ebay and other websites. however... the pricing of some is just plain crazy so i'd probably avoid it despite the fact that it really is a great little case. heres hoping to lian li making it a production model!

2)it sounded like self promoting to me which is why i said something. glad to hear that was not the intention however i'm sure you realize how such misunderstandings happen.

3)it still is absolutely is true in some respects. you are limited to only one pcie with zero pci (though they do give you a mini pcie but thats of more limited use). you have limited fan connectors on all but the most expensive model. limited usb header support. limited sata connectors (but in a small case normally i agree is not a factor). dont get me wrong... something like the asus maximus impact does provide a huge array of features on such a small board which certainly is very impressive but when you compare it to something in matx or atx size which are around the same price it doesnt look so good anymore.
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a b 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 15, 2014 3:14:25 PM

Ahh, fair enough - didn't think about looking for them there.

Yeah, I totally understand; I just wanted to clear the air so you didn't think I was trying to blow my own horn.

Ehh, I would argue it could go either way. I have one mini-itx setup with a dual-slot graphics card and a sound card, using a mini-pcie to pcie x4 adapter, and the other does the same thing with a TV tuner card. Both also have Wifi. You have to do a little bit more work, including some modding, and you have to spend a little bit more money, but if what you're looking for is a small computer, that's the way to go. As for the RoG boards, those things are just incredible. A daughterboard to provide better overclocking support plus a second one to have a shielded sound card of amazing quality? Heck, that would make me want it just for the cool tech, much less the fact that it's so tiny.

I agree that mATX represents better value and lets you use cards in SLI, but as a fan of small factor builds, and as someone who travels a lot and brings my computer with me, I would much rather have a mini-itx rig than either a ridiculous gaming laptop or a immobile larger computer.
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