Years ago I maintained a consistent PC build, where continual upgrades allowed it to stay modernized. Then, for some reason, I assumed a laptop would always be ok. Now that I want my young kids to start using it, and I want to play some games (Civ 5) here or there, the laptop thing just doesn't cut it anymore. Not to mention I'm a programmer for a living and would like to experiment on new technologies at home - laptops just don't have the CPU power. The only problem is that now I'm starting from scratch (not even a keyboard or monitor), as I unloaded all my desktop equipment years ago. So with a budget allocation of $800, I set out for a good build that would allow some easy upgrades over the next few years. With some advice from the forums here and the awesome price lists on this site, it was not too difficult to come up with a solid build at this budget.
The build went well, but I made a few rookie mistakes (it's been awhile). The case (arguably one of my sacrifices) marked all the ATX holes, and I naively put in all the standoffs without ever comparing it to the motherboard. After installing the motherboard I realized it missed a few holes and I had to start over (to some degree). Then, I realized I forgot to install the rear panel shield that comes with the motherboard, and had to take it back out again. But other than that, cable management wasn't too difficult int he case and it went smoothly.
Once complete, it was clear there were a few needs. I'd forgotten about wireless - my basement isn't wired for ethernet. So, PCIex card ordered. The case was clearly a budget one, and didn't have an SSD mount (you can see in one of the pictures I mounted it vertically in smaller screw holes temporarily). It also had no positive pressure fan (despite plenty of fan mounts). So, one more Amazon order for a 2.5-3.5 HDD adapter and a 120mm case fan and everything was complete.
So glad I made room for the SSD. It makes this PC scream, and it feels so responsive. Even more glad I went for the Samsung - it is well rated for a reason, and is bundled with software you actually want to install.
The case is definitely budget, but it has a lot of room for mounting stuff and isn't cheap. For the price, it was a great decision, since it helped allow me a faster processor and SSD.
It is actually pretty quiet for not spending much on cooling, but the stock CPU fan is a bit high pitched. The metal case actually seems to amplify this. I think I'm going to get something to help dampen the case noise. The PSU purrs quiet as a fox.
This ASUS monitor is a beast, in the best way. I have never spent so little for such a great display, and I'm absolutely thrilled with it! It's big, bright, and the included speakers (decent ones, but not a long-term solution) helped keep my budget down. I was worried the display would sink my budget, but this was seriously a great purchase.
- Install a good video card. This is clearly the biggest bottleneck on this system.
- Upgrade the case and cooling; get some quieter fans
- Double the RAM, make a RAMDisk for browser caches and stuff I use for development
- Get another display, go dual-monitor
- Get better CPU/Mobo combination someday, i7 or better with ability to overclock (did not care about OCing this build)