Description

Build #3

Date of Build: January 2017

Name: IA (pronounced "Ee-ah") is a Vocaloid character. I name all my builds and devices after Vocaloids so nothing unusual here. There wasn't really a color scheme this time around, so I just picked a name at random.

Recipient: My friend Jaycee

Purpose: I intend for this computer to do moderate gaming, game recording, and possibly game streaming. (Casual Let's Plays)

Additional Notes: The GPU, Monitor, and HDD were all purchased many months ago, before I planned this build. The only parts purchased specifically for this build were: 3x 2GB of RAM, the sound card, the power supply, and one HDD caddy. The remaining parts were gratis, courtesy of Free Geek Portland. (Free Parts + Old Parts + $65 = Gaming PC)

The Story Behind It: This build is sort of a welcome home gift for my friend Jaycee. He just came back from his two-year mission to Guatemala and he's kinda short on money. I visited him a little while back and noticed that his only computer was a $270 laptop with a dinky Celeron N3050 and integrated graphics. He can't even play Don't Starve on decent settings :( He had mentioned to me that he would like to make Let's Plays on YouTube, but he didn't have the hardware or money to accomplish that.

I had been volunteering at Free Geek for the past few weeks and that gave me an idea. They give away free computers to volunteers after 24 hours of service, so I thought I'd give one of those free PCs to him instead. I already have two builds at home, plus a laptop for every family member so I really didn't need the extra computer anyways. These "Freak Boxes" that they give out come with a dual-core CPU (Core 2 Duos mostly,) a 160GB hard drive, 2GB of DDR3, a mouse, keyboard, 17" monitor, a pair of speakers, and a copy of Linux Mint. They also include their OEM Windows License which I absolutely planned to take advantage of. Jaycee was a bit hesitant to accept such a valuable gift, so I told him he's "borrowing" it until he can afford to build his own glorious battle-station.

On my second-to-last shift before hitting that golden 24hr mark, I noticed that all the Freak Boxes had been replaced with newer, more powerful machines. What luck! Now they carry Core i3-2120's and 250GB hard drives instead of the older Core 2 Duos and 160GB HDDs! I saw lots of Optiplex 780 and 790s, but one lone computer caught my eye: A Dell Precision T1600. If I could just request it before anyone else gets the same idea...

On my last shift, I checked the shelves, and the computer was still there! At the stroke of 5:30pm, I requested my PC. They allowed me to pick it out myself and then handed me the peripherals. I took them home and inspected the build. It appeared to have a standard ATX 265W PSU made by Dell. No PCIe connectors, but that's exactly what I expected. After swapping out that 250GB drive for a 1TB one, popping in my Windows 7 installation disk, and installing the necessary drivers needed to connect to the internet, I started bench-marking the computer to check for slow or defective parts.

Satisfied that the machine had sufficient potential, I replaced the PSU with the Antec I had bought a couple weeks earlier. Then I measured the maximum width for a graphics card: 9.5 inches. Luckily, my old (and neglected) EVGA 750Ti ACX was just short enough to fit while allowing the motherboard connectors some room. At first I was unable to get any output to the 17" 5:4 AR monitor they gave me, but then I discovered that both of the screw-on points for its DVI connector were missing, which meant the cable was too loose to give a solid connection. (I was later able to remedy this by removing the sole VGA retention screw and putting it on the DVI port instead.)

It was then and there that I decided to switch it out for the 1050p monitor I got for $15 at Goodwill. I had originally purchased this monitor for my Raspberry Pi, but I really didn't need a widescreen. Jaycee would be better served by the 16:10 aspect anyways. I then invited him over the next day so he could see the computer in-person. We planned to drive to the thrift store to see if they had any DDR3 on hand.

Shopping around at Surplus Gizmos, we were unable to find any compatible DDR3 modules. There weren't any other computer hardware stores in the area and there was no way we were going down to Free Geek when the Women's March was in full swing. We didn't leave empty-handed though. Jaycee was able to secure himself an inexpensive CAT5e cable while I walked out with a DVI to VGA adapter. He had to be somewhere else within the hour, so I offered to buy some more RAM for the computer online and then invite him back to pick up the PC once it arrived.

During the time it took to receive the memory and hard drive tray, I installed some free software to help Jaycee get started with the computer: Avira, Speccy, Steam, OBS Studio, MSI Afterburner, CCleaner, Shotcut, and a few others... Just the good stuff. Updating Windows 7 from SP1 took like two days... ugh! The next day, I finally worked up the nerve to install Windows 10. Yes, I got it for free, and yes, I got it past the "Free upgrade deadline." I'm not going to elaborate on how I did that, since anyone can search it up on google. I set up my Microsoft Account temporarily so that I could link the W10 license to it in case it ever needed to be re-installed. With all the setup out of the way, all I had to do was wait for the parts to arrive...

Just a couple of days later, I ended up splurging on a Xonar DX sound card I found for $8 at the Free Geek store. The microphone ports on the tower had lots of static so I figured this card would be a cost-effective replacement. The ASUS drivers and software worked perfectly in Windows 10. The RAM arrived in perfect condition. I installed it and ran Memtest86 just to be sure. The build was now complete! It was finally time for my friend to ascend!

That Saturday, I headed over to his house with the computer and peripherals sitting in the backseat. We ended up playing Minecraft for about 12 hours that day. Jaycee was surprised that he could set the chunk render distance past 20 without any significant frame drops. He normally could only have a render distance of 4-6 on his laptop so this was a huge improvement. Finally, around 1:30 A.M. we said our goodbys and I gave him some recommendations on what kind of headphones and microphone he should purchase for making his YouTube Videos. I can't wait to see what he does with them!

Part Reviews

CPU

Sandy Bridge is still decent for entry-level gaming builds in 2017. Even so, this processor is too old to consider buying unless you're getting a significant discount on both it and its motherboard.

Storage

Reliable ol' Blue has never let me down. 1TB doesn't get you the best capacity-per-dollar anymore. 3TB drives are the new sweet-spot.

Video Card

Good performance and excellent efficiency back in its day. This card has since been surpassed by the GTX 1050, 1050Ti, and RX 460. The ACX model stays really cool, but at the cost of always having the fan running at a minimum 42% speed. This specific model also requires a 6-pin power connector.

Power Supply

At around $45 retail, it's not a good value for money. Its color scheme doesn't match 99% of builds, it's not modular, it's wires aren't sleeved, it only has one 6-pin PCIe connector, and the box it comes in doesn't even contain a power cord! The only things it has going for it are its 80+ Bronze efficiency and Seasonic internals.

So why do I still like this unit so much? Somebody please tell me!

Sound Card

It has 7.1 speaker support, 116dB SNR, ASIO 2.0 support, and an optional low-profile bracket. The only real detractions are that it doesn't have a headphone amp and requires an outdated floppy power connector.

Drivers and software work fine in Windows 10.

Custom

Appears to have regular mounting points despite being an OEM board. It has four RAM slots, regular ATX power connectors, and three PCIe slots. It also has four SATA ports, two of which I assume are only SATA II.

Custom

I can only assume Dell uses these because they cost a little less than Intel stock coolers. Either way, it's very quiet and keeps the CPU reasonably cool.

Custom

Fairly quiet, probably because its slower than the average optical drive. Feels slightly more durable though.

Custom

Pretty average for an OEM mouse. Tends to double-click accidentally at times.

Custom

Quiet and lots of airflow. Pleasantly surprised.

Custom

Tool-less drive installation. Compatible with several Dell Mini-Towers.

Comments

  • 34 months ago
  • 3 points

I must say you are quite generous to your friends. The world needs more people like you.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

Is this a sleeper build? :D

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

I wish. The i3-2120 is the lowest-spec processor that T1600 units shipped with.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

If they had free geek near my place I'd volunteer all the time just to hae the chance to build more computers and to grab free computers to give around me

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

Definitely one of the most interesting reads of a build description. Really cool build and great of you.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

Noice build! I must say, for $270, it would otperform what you can do new with it. Wish I had a Free Geek nearby .....

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

Free Geek sounds like an amazing organization! After reading this I checked up if they were in my area, but it seems they are only in Portland.

I enjoyed reading your description. I always love taking old technology and giving it a home where it can still get used. You're a good friend and should be proud of this build.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

This is a pretty cool little story considering how you made such a capable machine for a friend who needed one. I've never had a close friend, let alone somebody who would out of the blue, hand me a computer that I wanted a lot that actually ran games at high settings. My PC is pretty garbage and can't run games well as it's my father's computer that he gave to me. It runs with Intel HD 2000, I try recording the least demanding games at the lowest settings at 30fps but it still isn't able to. Your friend is lucky to have such a kind friend. You deserve a cookie ;3

[comment deleted]
  • 33 months ago
  • 1 point

I love turning older machines into gaming rigs. I did something similar with a Dell Vostro.

Awesome work!

  • 33 months ago
  • 1 point

I love seeing old parts get a new life. And with such a great story it definitely gets my +1!

  • 8 months ago
  • 1 point

Hi, nice budget build! I am actually looking at this same motherboard on eBay and plan on pairing with a low power Xeon from that era. What size is that motherboard? I'm looking at trying to cram into a eMachines EL1358G, which takes mATX/mITX boards; kind of like a budget sleeper build.

  • 7 months ago
  • 1 point

It appears to be a standard Micro-ATX.

[comment deleted]
  • 34 months ago
  • 7 points

1) If I were building this from scratch I would have picked something else, but free stuff is free stuff. I used the parts that I had on hand.

2) The OEM motherboard won't accept any faster RAM, not that faster RAM affects performance much anyways.

3) Last time I checked, LGA 1155 is not "current gen." I tested the ports myself and found the sound card to have significantly less static.

4) When everything is said and done, my friend gets a computer that performs worlds ahead of anything he has ever had before.

5) This was a gift to my friend, dude. That's some pretty harsh critique for my generosity.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

It's a great build for what you had to work with, let the haters hate. I'm sure your friend is very grateful for the time money and effort you spent on this.

  • 34 months ago
  • 1 point

I actually didn't know the stuff was freely given to you and I wasn't trying to be harsh. I was only trying to give some advice, I should have thought about what I typed, sorry.

  • 34 months ago
  • 2 points

Cut him a little slack, he got a free computer from Free Geek and upgraded it himself.

[comment deleted]
[comment deleted]