I built this PC to replace a 9 year old HP Pavilion (which still runs with all the original components, but is marching slowly to the grave). At first, I was looking at APU builds since I am not a PC gamer, but I ended up choosing a setup with an FX-6300 and a discrete graphics solution. In the end, this configuration added very little to the price compared to an APU build that would use an aftermarket cooler, fast RAM, and a capable FM2 board. It also has the benefit of having a more upgradeable socket (AM3+).
The main motivation for building this PC was so that I could get the experience of building a PC, and have something that was ‘modern’ to use. I started out with a budget of $525 or less, but as I did my research I realized I could get more of what I wanted if I went up a little higher (excluding OS, this build is right around $500). I didn’t want to spend over $600, since I wasn’t getting a high end gaming machine with the graphics card I chose (and I didn’t need one, anyway).
My purchase strategy was to use Microcenter as much as possible, and avoid mail in rebates as much as possible. In other words, I wanted this build to be stress free more than I wanted to save a few bucks. Microcenter has nice bundle deals, so I actually did pretty well on the core components. I used Newegg for the remaining items as Microcenter couldn’t compete with a few deals, and doesn’t carry the specific case I bought. In the end I paid about $20 in tax, but it gave me peace of mind that I wasn’t likely to have to abandon the project for a week returning parts through the mail.
The components: Processor: AMD FX-6300. I wanted a good price to performance CPU, and by all accounts, the FX-6300 is one. This and the 8320/8350 seem to be far and away the most popular FX chips, and in accordance with my budget and needs, this one fit the bill.
Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 R2.0. I went ATX for ease of installation. I didn’t want to get cute with the build, even though I looked at plenty of smaller form factor options during my search. Since AM3+ has no mITX motherboards, I couldn’t do a Prodigy build so this route just made the most sense. This board has all the features I need, including USB 3.0, good audio connections, SATA III. Since I don’t have high graphics demands, there was no need to buy anything fancier. I can even use my old PS/2 mouse and keyboard.
Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 2 x 4 GB 1600mhz. Standard RAM speed, CL9, best deal I could find at Microcenter. Not too much to say here, other than I got more RAM than I need at the moment.
Storage: Western Digital Black 1TB 7200RPM HDD. When I first bought the components I bought the Kingston 128GB SSD that has been on sale lately. My plan to re-use old mechanical drives didn’t quite pan out so I returned it and bought this higher end HDD. I paid the premium for the parts quality and a little performance gain over the Blue series.
Graphics: MSI Radeon HD 7770 GHz edition 1GB GDDR5. This card fits my build nicely. It’s better than an APU solution, but it doesn’t break the bank. It should be plenty good when I get a new monitor and use the HDMI output vs. the older VGA monitor I have at the moment.
PSU: Antec VP-450. This seemed like a good balance of quality and value. It has all the connectors I needed, enough power, and is priced at around $40 with no hassle of mail in rebates. I knew going in that the 4+4 supplemental power connector wasn’t likely to reach routed behind the board, so I purchased an extension cable that worked perfectly.
Case: Cooler Master HAF 912. At my $50 price point, this was a front runner from the very beginning. There are some other good looking options out there, including the NZXT Tempest 210 and Corsair 300R, but in the end this one was the path of least resistance and offered everything I needed. I purchased the KKN4, which has USB 3.0 and a blue LED front fan. This particular model seems new, as it has very little coverage compared to the previous KKN1 model. It’s the same price as the USB 2.0 case, so to me this was a no brainer.
Optical drive: The only part I was able to pilfer. I didn’t take it from my 2004 machine, but it’s still 5+ years old. No big deal, I can get a new one if I need to.
Windoze: Since the 8.1 update is right around the corner, I figured I’ll just learn Windows 8 and see how it goes. I have absolutely no other Windows install discs because pre-built computer manufacturers love to not give them to you.
The build: After watching several build videos online, I had a pretty good appreciation for what to expect. The first part of the installation was way easier than doing all the work in the case. The AMD heatsink/fan is screwless, so I didn’t even have to worry much about that. I had to fiddle with the RAM for a few minutes before I remembered how you are supposed to seat it, but no harm done.
After I had the core components together, I set up a test build on my motherboard box. Since my mobo has no on-board graphics, I had to get the GPU out for the exercise. The computer recognized everything and I was relieved / excited that I got a POST beep and didn’t have to immediately return anything (yes, I did a fist pump or the like). I was pleased that the RAM was recognized at 1600mhz immediately.
The first thing I installed in the case was the motherboard / CPU / RAM. The Newegg instructional video I had pulled up in the background was in the middle of describing the things he likes to install in the case before the motherboard while I was screwing it down, oh well. I got the PSU in there next and then it was a few hours of plugging in and cable routing. Since I had been looking at pictures and videos of builds for the last month or two, I had a basic understanding of cable routing.
The PSU I chose has the perfect amount of cables for this build. I think I am using every cord for at least one object, but there are still extra SATA and Molex plugs should I need them. The main power connector is the only cable that is sleeved, but that wasn’t too much of a bother to me, even if it doesn’t look pretty. All the cables were long enough with the exception of the 4+4 cable I already mentioned.
Ah, the case. Since I’ve only had the system operational for a day or so, this is probably the component I can comment the most on. Overall this case is great for the price, and definitely met my expectations. It’s very sturdy, with solid side panels (they don’t bend easily like the ones from my pre-built machines), nice mesh design, and plenty of configuration options. The version I got came with a 120mm fan in the front and a 120mm fan in the back. It’s a pretty open case so I don’t anticipate any airflow issues for now, but I am considering some top exhaust fans or perhaps another one in the front down the road.
The first thing I removed was the 2.5” SSD drive behind the PSU. This would work if you have a modular unit, but I needed the room and I don’t have an SSD. The front bezel and 5.25” drives are very easy to work with. The bay covers come off with a pinch of the fingers, and I had no trouble sliding the optical drive in and screwing it down. The main 3.5” bay can swivel 90 degrees to face the back of the case, but I left it where it was and ran the cables to my HDD through the slot in the back. The 3.5” drive installation was tool less and also very easy to slide into place.
If there’s one thing I would have liked to be a little more beginner-friendly, it is the cable management area in the back. There isn’t much clearance, but I think I made it work. My goal wasn’t to pretty it all up, it was simply to avoid having cables crossing the motherboard area (which appears to be the primary reason the notion of cable management exists). I mainly used the hole in the bottom of the case to route PSU and case connectors. I started by running the main power cord through the slots on the side of the motherboard, but it was a tight fit and I figured functionally what I ended up with is the same. I used a technique I saw in other builds with this case and tried to stash some of the cabling in the lower 3.5” bay I am not using. This worked out pretty well, although like I said, the PSU didn’t have too many cables.
I had to get a little creative with the 4+4 pin extension because there isn’t much clearance for those plastic adapters to fit back there, but the back of the case slides on without issue. I rotated the back case fan 90 degrees so that I could run the cables up top to one of the fan headers. There is a fan header right next to it, but then cables would be hanging in front of the mobo, and we can’t have any of that! :]
Summary: Right now I’m thinking this build went a little too well. I’m hoping it is because I spent a time planning it out. I haven’t had a chance to run tests or install too much on the computer yet, but I have loaded the OS, updated it as well as the drivers, installed A/V and a firewall, and connected to the internet. I will report back if anything breaks, but so far I am very pleased with how this turned out.
The computer was performing just fine, but I had some noise issues. Two were fan related. The front intake fan didn't have a long enough plug to reach the motherboard chassis fan header, so it was going at 100%. I fixed this for $2 by getting an extension. The other was the stock fan from the FX-6300. I had read that it was garbage, but I figured it would be fine for regular use. However, that wasn't the case. It kept my temps reasonable, but as soon as I started playing a game or doing anything intensive, it got NOISY. I fixed that issue by getting a CM Hyper 212 Evo.
The other issue was some noise from the PSU. I probably just got a less than ideal unit, and I exchanged it for another one. So far so good and I will update if anything changes there.
So the total price of the build is getting near $620, a little over what I was originally planning to spend, but I think I will be much happier with this new, quieter version.
This computer brought to you in part by:
PCpartpicker | Tom’s Hardware Systems Forum | Newegg How to Build a PC videos | Microcenter
|CPU||AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core||$127.19|
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing||$31.79|
|Motherboard||Asus M5A97 R2.0 ATX AM3+||$63.59|
|Memory||Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600||$63.59|
|Storage||Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM||$90.09|
|Video Card||MSI Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition 1GB||$69.99|
|Case||Cooler Master RC-912-KKN4 ATX Mid Tower||$49.99|
|Power Supply||Antec 450W ATX12V||$42.39|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8 (OEM) (64-bit)||$74.99|
|CPU Clock Rate||3.5GHz|
|CPU Temperature While Idle||31.0° C|
|CPU Temperature Under Load||-|
|GPU Core Clock Rate||1000MHz|
|GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate||1125MHz|
|GPU Temperature While Idle||31.0° C|
|GPU Temperature Under Load||-|