WORK IN PROGRESS: Almost done! It's in its new case but I haven't put all the panels back on because I want to take photos and video footage of it in natural light - something that doesn't really exist in UK winter but fingers crossed for the weekend weather.
My first PC build a.k.a. Building a new PC because my ancient gaming laptop has finally died.
Note: Not all of my parts (read: my case) came at the same time so there was a period of time when my beautiful PC had to live in a ghetto cardboard box - but I did cut out holes for the power supply and all the ports!
Anyway, onto my thoughts...
~Form Factor & Performance~
I'm a relatively small human female so I didn't want a big ATX form factor PC that I wouldn't be able to move around but mini ITX cases are tricky to keep cool and can be more expensive which was why I opted for a micro ATX form factor. In hindsight though, there are actually lots more options for mini ITX parts than mATX parts and some of the mini ITX cases actually wouldn't have been so bad for cooling options.
I also knew I would need a decent CPU and graphics card for: building machine learning & deep learning data models playing online multiplayer games like Minecraft, Civ5 or MMORPGs in general (thanks to League, I'm never touching a MOBA again!) streaming live drawing and coding editing videos & other media
So in the end, I decided on an RTX 2060 GPU since it's the entry level chip with turing architecture and CUDA cores that support high parallel processing - supposedly great for deep learning models that require processing unstructured data like images, videos, and audio.
I didn't want to bottleneck my GPU so my CPU had to be of compatible power which led to the Ryzen 7 2700X. I've had Intel CPUs all my life so wanted to try something different and heard AMD's Ryzen series was cheaper and better at handling multitasking compared to Intel equivalents. I chose the X variant in case I'd like to try overclocking it in the future.
For RAM, 16GB (2 x 8GB) was a recommended spec for the CPU and having 2 sticks instead of 1 enables using dual channel capabilities apparently. I chose 3200MHz as it was recommended as the best price vs performance for my needs. In the end, the brand and model I chose was G.Skill Trident Z RGB because it's one of the models tried and tested with Ryzen, it has a relatively low profile, and it's relatively light in weight. The other options were Corsair Vengeance LPX or Corsair Vengeance RGB but those were sold out fast on Black Friday and somehow, the RGB version of Trident Zs were cheaper than the non-RGB versions on the sites I checked.
Next, I needed a mATX motherboard that supported both Ryzen CPU gen 2 and gen 3 (in the event I want to upgrade to a gen 3 later). I also wanted it to have 4 RAM slots in case I wanted to buy more sticks of RAM later. I was debating between the MSI B450M Bazooka vs the MSI B450M Mortar but went with Mortar in the end because the Bazooka is surprisingly difficult to get my hands on in the UK.
For storage, I knew I wanted at least 250GB in NVME M.2 SSDs for that fast boot times and at least 1TB of storage. Reviews suggested that Samsung, Crucial, and Western Digital are reputable brands for storage. Fortunately on Black Friday, Samsung SSDs were heavily discounted so I got the Samsung 970 Evo Plus (supposedly preforms better than the non Plus) in 500GB and the Samsung 860 Evo in 1TB.
Now that I roughly knew what components I wanted in my case, it was time to pick a case. Turns out there aren't that many mATX cases out there. So my first choice was the NZXT H400 because it looked like one of the easier ones to build in, cable manage, and have good airflow. Unluckily for me, the case was discontinued and any remaining sellers of this model sold them for jacked up prices. So I got the Corsair Crystal 280X instead which has lots of glass panels and loads of space for cable management. I'm wondering if the volume of space it takes up is actually equivalent to some ATX cases but I'm actually really pleased with how cute the more cube-like case looks. Also, it had space for 4 fans on the top and front - I figured the bottom wouldn't have space once the mobo was installed and I was right.
From looking at reviews of the Wraith Prism stock cooler that comes with the Ryzen higher-end chips, it seemed like it would be enough to cool my PC for the immediate future - I probably would need to get a better cooler if I choose to overclock it. For the case, I took advantage of that fan real estate and installed 4 Corsair LL140 RGB fans - because the Corsair LL series are the nicest looking fans out there right now imho. I knew from the beginning that I'd need something to sync up the 4 fans 'cause my mobo doesn't have enough fan headers so I opted for the Corsair Commander Pro since that's what was compatible BUT LATER I found out that for the RGB LEDs to sync, I also needed a Corsair RGB LED Controller Hub to plug into the Commander Pro which then plugs into the mobo. Summary of experience: CABLES EVERYWHERE
With the case measurements in hand, it was time to pick which graphics card I wanted. Originally, I wanted the Zotac RTX 2060 6 GB GAMING AMP but they sold out at Black Friday. Fortunately, the Gigabyte RTX 2060 GAMING OC PRO graphics card went on sale and ended up being cheaper than the Zotac's original price. Reviews also noted that the Gigabyte runs relatively cool and quiet but isn't as expensive as the Asus RTX 2060 STRIX GAMING OC. Only downside is that it's bigger since it has 3 fans instead of 2. After installing it, I also found that I really like that it has a black back plate (I definitely would've broken something without it) and the really subtle RGB on the logo ('cause the rest of the case is RGBBBB). Also, the fans on it only start spinning once it gets too hot or is handling heavier loads - nice!
For a monitor, since I'm not a super gamer, I wasn't interested in the super high refresh rates of TN or VA panels nor in G-Sync so I went on the hunt for a monitor with IPS panels for nice viewing angles and colour. I don't have a lot of space in my little apartment so looked for screen sizes between 23-26 inches, I didn't have all the cash to splash so wanted it under £300, and I wanted the screen to be rotatable by 90 degrees because it looks nice for coding. Hence, the BenQ BL2420PT.
Now that I knew what power-hungry components I wanted, it was just a matter of inputting them into a power calculator to find out what power supply wattage I needed. I wanted a modular or semi-modular one so that I wouldn't have to deal with lots of cables and opted for the Corsair TXM Gold because Gold wasn't that much more expensive than Silver standard.
For my keyboard, I didn't mind getting a cheaper one since, knowing how clumsy I am, I'd likely kill it by sitting on it. I did want a mechanical one though and not have it sound too obnoxiously noisy over a mic so looked for red or brown switches. I also like some RGB to play with so opted for a cheap Drevo Tyrfing keyboard.