Back-story (You can skip ahead if you're bored by back-story, I just figured I'd include it)
I'm a Sophomore in High School (15 yrs old for those who don't live in the USA.)
This is a project that I've been wanting to do for quite some time. I originally had the idea to build my own custom desktop about 2 and 1/2 years ago, but never really did much about it. This was partly because I didn't actually have the money I needed, and partly because I actually didn't know a single thing about what building a PC took and what I actually wanted in the PC.
When I first started considering what I would actually have to do to build the computer, I was still using an old laptop with a Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 / 1.66 GHz, 1GB RAM, 100GB HDD, and Intel Integrated Graphics. The laptop, which had been a gift, had been an incredible gift and let me do so much more than I would have been able to if I was just using the family laptop.
However, it was getting a bit long in the tooth (it was made in 2007) and I wanted to do some more demanding stuff (Compiling software, Visualization, 3D rendering, Video editing) that the laptop definitely could not handle.
Jump ahead to Thanksgiving/Black Friday 2013, and I'm scouring Newegg - looking at the kits - and reading over the Lifehacker guide and the Logical Increments. I didn't actually buy anything, as I still didn't have enough money.
I sorta knew what I wanted, I had a list that went something along the lines of:
- CPU: i5 or i7
- RAM: 8GB is nice, but at least 4GB.
- GPU: none, I honestly had no clue about GPUs at that time
- Storage: 64GB SSD is nice, definitely 500GB hard drive
and some other stuff that I can't remember. Obviously, I really didn't know what I was doing.
Jump ahead until August 2014. I discovered PCPartPicker and began researching parts like mad. I received suggestions from several friends as to what to look for, and then discovered LinusTechTips - which was a massive help. The first video I watched, for the curious, is his one comparing RAM speeds. I watched several (okay, all) of his ultimate build guides and that definitely showed me a lot more about what a good build constituted and also how exactly one actually built the PC.
If there are any first-time-builders out there: watch the ultimate build guide videos - they're extremely helpful and can save you a lot of time and pain.
Looking back at all the previous builds I selected, they all look pretty darn crappy compared to what I ended up with. Granted, my budget grew by ~$75-$100 from $500 to ~$600, but even with $500 I obviously didn't know what I was doing.
Here's an example of my very first builds I planned on PCPartPicker (please don't murder me, or at least do it in a gentle manner...)
|CPU||AMD A8-6600K 3.9GHz Quad-Core Processor||$84.99 @ Newegg|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-F2A55M-HD2 Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard||-|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory||$62.10 @ Newegg|
|Storage||Kingston SSDNow V300 Series 120GB 2.5" Solid State Drive||$51.78 @ OutletPC|
|Storage||Western Digital RE3 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive||$55.85 @ Amazon|
|Video Card||Asus Radeon HD 7750 1GB Video Card||-|
|Case||NZXT Source 210 Elite (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case||$39.90 @ Directron|
|Power Supply||EVGA 500W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply||$34.99 @ NCIX US|
|Optical Drive||Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer||$16.98 @ OutletPC|
|Monitor||HP W2072a (A3M50AA#ABA) 60Hz 20.0" Monitor||$101.99 @ B&H|
|Other||Ubuntu 13.10 - Best. OS. EVER.|
|Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available||$448.58|
|Generated by PCPartPicker 2015-01-23 16:45 EST-0500|
Now, if you've already looked at my part selection, you may think that it's a bit strange. And if you're coming from the gaming standpoint - you're right. At this price-point I should probably have gone for a higher end GPU and possibly an i3 or lower end i5. However, this build wasn't supposed to be a "gaming" build - it's supposed to be a workstation/all-around CPU.
Which, I guess, transitions this to the rationale.
As I mentioned, this build is a little different than most of the builds on here, as it's supposed to be used as a workstation/work-horse computer, as opposed to a gaming rig.
CPU: i5-4690k (3.5GHz - Quad Core): I chose this CPU over an i3 simply because of the physical 4 cores, as opposed to the physical 2 and virtual 2 cores of a i3, which I figured would provide me with better multi-core processing power. I also considered going with AMD, but the Mobo+RAM deal (which I explain later) kinda forced me to use Intel – which I was fine with.
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti FTW Edition: From a gaming stand-point this is probably the strangest choice. Originally I was going to be going with just the 750, but, like I mentioned, my budget increased - so I decided to change the GPU to a 750 Ti. I actually missed a deal on a PNY 750 Ti for ~$85, but then later was able to get the one I have now on a great deal. I also considered the R7 270X/R9 280 from the red team – but ended up going with NVIDIA simply because of the better support for Linux, a must-have.
I'm actually kinda glad that I missed the first deal because this GPU is definitely better. It comes factory OCd and has the ACX cooler on it, so it's faster & it runs incredibly quiet and cool. *
RAM: 8GB (1x8GB) 1600MHz Kingston HyperX Blue RAM: This was kinda decided for me, as it came bundled with my motherboard. It works fine, and looks pretty good too. Plus, it fit with my black/blue scheme. I'll eventually be upgrading this to at least 16GB, if not a full 32GB.
Motherboard: MSI PC MATE Z87-G43 Full ATX: This was a bundle with my RAM for $90. The $90 was actually ~$10-$15 less than I was going to spend on my motherboard anyways, and it came bundled with the RAM. It also was a higher-quality board than what I was gonna get (I was going to probably go H97 or B97) so it was only a win-win-win situation (features, price, included stuff.) It's a full ATX motherboard, which is kinda a downside (as it forces me to use mid or full ATX case), and doesn't support SLI. However, the lack of SLI support isn't an issue, since the 750 Ti can't SLI anyways. The fan control software in the BIOS (or would it be the UEFI) is kinda meh, but that's fine, since the only PWM fan I have is the CPU heatsink fan.
SSD: PNY Optima 240GB: Having an SSD was something I was certain I was going to include in my build. Originally, I was going to go with the Crucial MX100 128GB SSD for ~$60, but when this deal came up where I could get double the space for only $20 more, I grabbed it. It may not be as fast as a Samsung 840 Evo or Crucial MX100, but it's still an big improvement over a 7200 RPM mechanical drive and an incredible improvement over the ancient SATA 2 (if even) hard drive in my laptop.
HDD: WD Blue 1TB: It's a hard drive, and probably one of the best out there. Originally, I was just going to get the SSD and add mass storage later, but I ended up just ordering it off Amazon when I was ordering my ESD bracelet. It's a good thing I did too, as I've already filled up over 190 GB with VMs, ISOs, and video files (in under a month of use.) I knew I was going to go WD with this, simply because of the large number of posts I'd read that said they'd had Seagate drives fail on them. (Flame war inbound*)
Case: Corsair Carbide Series 200R: This case performs very well for the money. I got it on sale for ~$20 off (normally it's around $60) and it's a fine case for the money. It's an entry-level/mid-range case that provides good features including two USB 3.0 ports on the front, 4 2.5" mounts, 4 3.5" mounts, cable management zip tie tie-offs, and a filtered PSU intake. It's not the most featured case, but for the money it's pretty darn good. One thing I would note is that the two included fans (120mm I believe) aren't PWM fans (only 3-pin) and can be a bit loud. But hey, this isn't a case you'd be using for a silent build anyways. Any suggestions for good, relatively cheap (sub $20) fans are gladly accepted!
PSU: Yeah. The PSU. I (forgive me, don't know how I managed to think this) thought that you could POST a mobo with just the mobo & RAM & a PSU. So, I ordered this PSU when I saw it on sale after being pointed at it after asking about a XFX PSU on /r/buildapc. (BTW, the sub-reddit /r/buildapc and /r/buildapcsales are great resources for the prospective PC builder.)
Anyways, it definitely was not the smartest of choices and definitely not a choice I would make again. The next build I do I will definitely use a modular PSU. Although I was able to hide the extra cables behind the motherboard tray, it was still something extra I had to do and made the wiring process just a little harder. Bad decisions aside, this PSU is a 550W 80+ Gold for $55 and it is very quiet (or it could just be quieter than the case fan - I need to replace those soon.)
Finally, and quite importantly, the ESD strap. It's a $5 ESD strap - it works like it should and does nothing more. One thing to note is that it has a relatively narrow strap, so it doesn't fit around my ankle like Linus suggests. And, for all you experienced builders out there who have “built tons of systems and never used a bracelet and never had an issue”, that's fine for you. However, I'm a High School student with very limited funds and I definitely didn't have the money to replace a part I accidentally shocked. Plus, I was building in the middle of December in Michigan – it's really dry and static is crazy. It was a $5 thing, and it's the whole “rather safe than sorry” thing.
I had originally planned an entire Saturday (9AM to ~5PM) to build and film this, but someone in my house had decided to use the camera and hadn't charged either of the batteries, so that pushed me starting back until noon, which caused all sorts of problems, the primary being lighting. Plus, my sisters had friends over, so that screwed up my planning more.
I built it in December, so it gets dark very early, making video quality really bad. Plus, I decided to try and get some "b-roll" of the parts on a green-screen, which took more time and it ended up that the video didn't turn out like it was supposed to.
However, I still had time to finish the build and was able to build it in under 3 hours.
I put the CPU, GPU, & RAM on the motherboard and was able to POST them all right away. This was a huge relief to me, as I was really worried that I would get a DOA part and not be able to RMA it because of how I was ordering the parts spread out over a large period. I plugged everything in and jumped the power pins with a screwdriver...and immediately there was this horrid chatter. I don't think I've ever freaked out so bad, I was so afraid I had managed to short something or connect something incorrectly. Turns out I hadn't removed the wires powering the CPU heatsink from all of the little things that hold them to the edge of the heatsink when the heatsink is in the box and the fan blades were nicking them. I removed the wires from the holder clip thing and the noise stopped (the wires were fine as well.) Boy was that scary for a first time builder.
I initially built the PC, but wasn't able to actually use it right after I built it (sad panda) because I had to go somewhere. So, next day I booted it up for the first time and everything was just fine. I also did some more cable management – a royal pain with the non-modular PSU I chose. I hope I pass the cable management pat-down...
Note*: the max GPU temp
Quick explanation on the temps for CPU/GPU.
The CPU temps I gathered by (for the Under Load temp) rendering out a 17 min 720p video that I'd been working on and measuring the temps every 30 seconds, adding them up, and then averaging them. As for the Idle Temp, I got ... when the computer was idling. Nothing fancy.
Similar process for the GPU. The temps I give are what I was getting when playing Portal 2 with the anti-aliasing all the way up to 8x MSAA (or whatever Portal 2 uses) on a 1440x900 display (so, a little over 720p & almost 1080p.) Obviously, this isn't the heaviest of games, but it was the heaviest (graphics-wise) that I had. Well, short of Minecraft that is. However, I didn't want to tax my GPU too much, so I stuck with Portal 2 :D
You'll notice I didn't include Windows with the parts – that's because I didn't actually install Windows.
I have been using Ubuntu on my laptop for the past 4 years and it's become the only OS I use. It provides me with everything I need and works amazingly, plus it's Open Source and doesn't cost $100, all while giving me total control of my computer. I'm not here to start a fanboy war, I'm just stating that I find Ubuntu to be the best OS out there. Windows 10 does look quite promising, but that has obviously not been released fully yet.
Steam on Linux has come get leaps and bounds within the last year, and pretty much my entire library that I actually play (mainly the Portal series, CS:GO, TF2, VVVVVV, FTL, and Gmod) runs on Linux – the only games that I have that I actually play that aren't on Linux (yet?) are Torchlight 2 and Terraria – so that's fine for me. And, yes, it does run Minecraft.
It's also been amazing in terms of power. The SSD? From the GRUB prompt (Ubuntu's bootloader – look it up) I normally get a 5 second boot time. I can virtualize (and have been testing out Windows 10 Technical Preview) as well as render out videos at several times the speed my laptop could achieve.
If you've read this far, congratulations. You have just earned 47 internet cookies!
Sorry for the long post, but hey, I'm supposed to post about the build, right?