Updated: 2/5/20 - changed build name, aesthetic additions Updated: 1/31/20 - updated benchmark scores & build log at bottom Updated: 10/26/19 - see bottom
Cinemark 20 (with one RAM stick): 2469
Cinemark 20 (with both RAM sticks): 2619
CPU-Z 1 (with one RAM stick): 3163
CUP-Z 2 (with both RAM sticks): 3367.6
I haven't built a computer in several years (my last build was lit with cold cathodes and cooled with 90mm fans). But, I decided that I wanted to upgrade from the Walmart Special Dell laptop that I have been abusing for the last year or two.
The needs are: Amateur voice over recording Filthy casual streaming General/every day use
Budget was an absolute factor. So it was value over straight up performance in every category. I also wanted to mitigate any potential pain if for some reason there were catastrophic ID10T errors.
I really need to credit the Paul's Hardware & Bitwit YouTube channels. I watched a lot of their videos the last few days and actually kind of "played along" with a Bitwit build vid while putting this together.
The build went fairly smoothly. There were two times where I thought I was doing something incorrectly, and backed myself out, did a quick search, confirmed what I was doing was actually correct and continued to move forward.
The first minor issue came with the Cougar CF fan. The ASRock mobo's RGB is incompatible (fan is 5v, board is 12v). Looking for a solution to this one still. On the subject of RBG's, I got the, I guess standard(?) Wraith cooler sans RGB ring. With the RGB on the IO cover of the board, and the dimms, it leaves kind of a dark void in the middle of the board. Aesthetically not awesome. The included fans (2x 120 Silent Series LL) I think look great from the front of the case. But they don't throw much light either direction, so if you're looking to be seen from space, don't count on much from the included fan lighting.
The second (and more pressing) issue came when I attempted to post. It appears one of the two Team T-Force memory sticks arrived DOA. It was seated in A2 and didn't light up and the system would go into a reboot loop. Once I pulled it off the board all together, the system posted with no issues.
As an old head, it amazes me that M.2 memory is a thing, and maybe I'm just old manning right now, but the Sabrent, plus the 8 (of 16 lol) gigs of RAM and a 12 thread 3.4 CPU and this thing boots wicked quick.
My cable management isn't great, but it works for me right now. Part of that is that I didn't use any zip ties, and part of it is that the cables coming off the PSU are a little stiff to work with.
Thanks to r/buildapc for the very helpful advice when I was dialing in the shopping list.
I had heard somewhere that ASRock boards and T-Force dims don't play well together as far as RGB goes. And I found that to be true. The RAM is non-compliant when using UEFI to set RGB settings (the RAM defaults to disco puke). The RAM also has a difficult time with Polychrome settings. It doesn't comply with certain lighting effects, but will keep pace with color changes.
I also learned something important about the difference between RGB and ARGB (and 5v/12v). The original Cougar case fan I picked up is a 4-pin 12v fan. ASRock board has a 3-pin 5v header (also called ARGB/addressable RGB). Instead of going through the trouble of buying a converter, I just went ahead and got a 120mm 5v Cooler Master fan.
The system has been running for about four months now with absolutely no complaints. I fixed the graphic settings for my second monitor (which is a very old 27" Westinghouse HD TV with built in DVD player). That screen is only used for YouTube or Spotify, or whatever media I'm distracting myself with.
Today I did get around to installing my replacement RAM stick. Kudos to T-Force, it was a relatively easy return. I also gave the whole kit a quick wipe down cleaning and did a bit of cable management. The only issue I had appears to be my power cable to the wall. The system posted and ran for about 30 seconds then the power cut. So it looks like I may eventually have to replace/upgrade the power cable to the SeaSonic 520.
The more I live with the disco puke RGB, the more it grows on me. And I have played with those Polychrome settings. So having an additional RAM stick with RGB adds pretty significally to the light output in the case. Doesn't appear that Polychrome fully supports T-Force RAM yet. But as a bonus, Polychrome does trip anti-cheat software (specifically the one used in Halo: MCC).
Four months in and I am still incredibly happy with the build. After living with the system for hot minute, I'm putting together a future upgrades list:
2 or 3 more CoolerMaster fans to replace the box-stock fans (and add one to the top rear exhaust)
I am not an expert, but the board seems well designed. It was packaged very well. The feedback I got going into the build was "don't mess with mATX, those boards are cramped and difficult to work with.
I have big meaty ogre fingers, and had no issues with fitment. Plenty of space for a AMD Wraith cooler and the RAM slots. the grey IO cover (not the IO shield that pops into the case, but the cover that comes up over the top of the IO elements on the board) looked chintzy and toy in photos, but not so on actual inspection. There is also plenty of clearance between that element and the rear case fan.
The UEFI/Bios is very straight forward, even the advanced settings. I was fairly intimidated by the idea of changing settings in the UEFI, but it was very easy.
The IO shield carries over the digital camo inspired graphic pattern from the board, but is not overwhelmingly '90's mall punk. There's also a fair bit of padding to allow for distance variance, which is nice.
The "top" m.2 drive bay has plenty of clearance to be visible below a Wraith CPU cooler (though, if you get a 3rd party cooler, obviously, YMMV). Without pulling out the ol' measuring tape, the m.2 actually looks pretty well centered between the cooler and the backplate of my video card (Sapphire RX 580 Pulse).
Three minor complaints:
It might be my eyes failing me, but the front panel header is impossible labeling is impossible to decipher. And there is no information on the layout of the SATA ports (though, being a newb, I do admit that I don't know if it matters which SATA port is being used).
I haven't done much digging, but it appears that aRGB support for the memory kit I purchased (Team T-Force Delta) is near non-existent on ASRock mobos.
The LEDs mounted under the chipset cover (which is low profile enough to allow a video card to extend over top of it without any interference) are not well hidden. My case sits to my left facing right (so I'm looking at it from just off the case's front left corner) and I can see two bare LED's. Nit picky complaint, and a minor annoyance, but just giving a full rounded review.
-1 star because 1 stick was DOA.
Otherwise, the one that works does its job. Feels solid in hand. Looks clean and well made.
Performs as advertised.
Performance wise, will defer to the legion of other very positive reviews.
Would prefer to take a half star, but taking a full star only because I was unable to set this drive to RAID. Once I undid that setting, set-up was a breeze.
If setting your storage to a RAID configuration is important, look elsewhere.
Very nice looking case in person. The covers on the 5.25" bays upfront blend into the rest of the front grill almost seamlessly. Seams all the way around line-up flawlessly. My case seems to be plumb and true and every angle is sharp and clean.
Internally, not many bells and whistles. Standard routing areas are all sans-grommets, but are large and easy to work with without being useless.
Two cages support total of four 3.5" drives. The floor cage with a nicely designed slide-out system. I also believe that there are mounts on the rear for two 2.5" devices.
Clearance on the back is tight but a non-issue. Cabling from my modular Seasonic PSU fit without any bulging issues. Actually, they all fit without any rubbing issues. They're not loose, but they're also not cramped. I did no real cable management, but I'm sure with some zipties or even some combed custom cables, the reverse would leave plenty of room.
There is no PSU cover, so the "basement" is exposed. Makes cable management a bit more of a chore. Originally I didn't think I wanted a cover, but seeing all my loose cables will give me pause to consider on my next case purchase.
The black powder coating on the mobo tray is very well done. Doesn't have that powdery feel, and it doesn't feel like it would absorb finger nail scratches as some other boards (as JayzTwoCents has pointed out recently) might.
Branding is minimal. I like the fractal designs wordmark, and aside from some raised elements in the case, the only logo is on the bottom of the front panel.
Power LED and HDD activity lights are both very cool (tone not Fonzy) and bright white. Nice touch to avoid the standard blue/red, particularly if you're going "snowblind" or "storm trooper" on your build. Maintaining that mono/duochrome look is a very thoughtful touch.
Case includes two Silent Series LL 120mm fans. They are white LEDs and run very quietly. In fact, with the 6 fans I have running (2 front, 1 rear, 2 video card and 1 CPU), I barely hear a hum. Of course, I do have light hearing loss. But compared to a mechanical keyboard, the fans are quiet like church mice. The two complaints are that they aren't discopuke enabled, and they don't really throw much light forwards or backwards. From the front they do produce a nice visual effect. But they don't do much to light up the interior of the case. In fact from straight on they're almost a non-factor in interior lighting.
Overall, it cuts a small footprint. It feels like it is smaller and lighter (without being cheaper) than other mid-towers I've seen. But that could be perception.
For the price, it's a great value. Not many bells and whistles. But what it does do, it does efficiently.
I've been a SteelSeries fanboy for over a decade. The Siberia neckband headphones are still the best things I've ever put on my ears.
But, the Rival 310 is comfortable in hand. 5 buttons and a clickwheel, buttons 4&5 are placed right where my thumb rests. Though it's not ambidextrous, so if you're a southpaw, your out of luck.
cable is very long without being overly cumbersome. Two individually addressable RGB's (one under the clickwheel and one at the logo on the heel. Neither are offensively bright, but also not too dim.