Update: Nearly a year after making this build, I couldn't help but feeling like it was just a bland black box sitting in my room. Don't get me wrong, it does everything I need, I just felt the visuals were a bit plain. So I decided to be adventurous and do some small scale modding. By this I mean I spray-painted my SSD and PSU, as well as added in some extension cables to match the colour scheme. I was initially apprehensive about voiding warranties and potentially getting paint in the PSU, but all turned out okay. I also added a window to the case using a jigsaw and a sheet of acrylic - it just didn't photograph well.
Original post Hi all,
Welcome to my new build - Penguin. I have named it as such as I have a (very loose) black/white colour scheme running throughout.
Essentially I was trying to build a small, quiet machine for some gaming and photoshop duties. Below, I'll go through each component and explain my thinking behind each one - as I didn't want to rush in and just blindly buy the most powerful parts within my budget. I have removed the custom pricing - which you can see here http://uk.pcpartpicker.com/user/dommoass/saved/dsvcCJ - so each user can see how my build translates for them.
However, the total cost for all the components for me was £629.41; fortunately I could get the SSD for free from Patriot as I have a contact in their PR office. I also picked up a Windows 7 Pro license from a decommissioned PC saving some cash (which is against the license agreement but under EU law, which takes precedence, it is allowed). My final saving was on the monitor, as Dabs did a £40 off deal if accessed through Facebook. All in all, I saved £280.99 from the total market prices at the time of writing.
CPU: Intel Core i3-4160 I went with the i3 for two main reasons. One, most games (yes, with some exceptions) still use just 2 cores, so the Intel's stronger per-core performance is preferential to an AMD FX-6300. Two, the 1150 socket obviously means an Intel-compatible motherboard - which leaves open the possibility of upgrading to an i5/i7 down the line.
CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS5X Performa This was quite a simple decision - I'm not overclocking so nothing extravagant was needed. The Zalman is cheap, quiet, and not hideously large or unattractive. No brainer.
Motherboard: ASRock Z97M Micro ATX 1150 Another fairly straightforward decision. Since I'd opted for the Intel CPU, I settled on a Z97 board to allow compatibility with the upcoming 5th gen CPUs should I want to upgrade, and also for the overclocking ability should I upgrade down the line. The ASRock was the cheapest Z97 I could find (micro ATX since I wanted a small PC), but it fits nicely with my colour scheme and doesn't lack any obvious features. A solid board.
Memory: Kingston Fury White 2x4GB 1866 Not a lot in this one - most higher frequencies of RAM were out of my budget, as were 2x8GB modules. It was more a case of what looks good and is reasonably priced for an 8GB kit. The white heatspreaders are obviously appreciated, too.
Storage: Patriot Ignite 480GB SSD Now, I am not a big user of storage space. My laptop only has about 200GB of used disk space, so I knew I wouldn't need much for the desktop. With that in mind, I had originally decided on an OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD drive after KitGuru ran 5 of them til they died - and they did very well. However, my contact who works for Patriot was able to get me a complimentary Ignite SSD - which is well reviewed, and obviously everyone loves free stuff. That settled it rather quickly.
GPU: Asus GTX 960 STRIX I always knew I wanted one of the new Maxwell cards. Power consumption, heat and noise are important to me - important enough that I opted for the 960 even though an R9 280X may be more powerful at a similar price-point. I had first thought about getting the 750ti - I remember seeing one model with a fanless design which I like, and it saves costs. However, I went for the 960 just to give me that extra grunt for 1080p gaming. I chose the STRIX model due to the innovative cooling system, where the fans will turn off completely if they are not needed. Other option were available slightly cheaper - but the STRIX has a high out-of-the-box overclock, backplate, and is quite compact.
Case: Fractal Core 1300 Mini Tower The case was an area of some deliberation for me. In an ideal world, I would have gotten a Corsair 350D - I love the brushed aluminium look, and it is said to be good for cable management and airflow. Sadly, it costs slightly too much. I then stumbled upon the Core 1000 - but I do not like the mesh front at all. However, the 1000 led me to the Core 1300 - with its brushed metal appearance and small dimensions. It is well reviewed, so I gave it a go.
PSU: Corsair CX500M On a budget, it is hard to beat the CX series. Positive reviews across the board, and fairly quiet. I went for the semi-modular version just to keep the case a little tidier as I knew I wouldn't need all the cables.
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-224DB I don't use a optical drive much - just for a few old games when I'm feeling nostalgic, and for copying music. So I just went for a cheap drive and the Samsung fitted the bill. It is pretty loud, but as I say, I don't use CDs/DVDs much so it is manageable.
OS: Windows 7 Pro As previously mentioned, I got a decommissioned Windows 7 license for a fair amount less than an OEM copy from Amazon etc. I'll upgrade to Windows 10 in a couple of months anyway, so quite happy how it worked out on the OS front.
Fan and Fan Controller: Arctic F12, NZXT Sentry Mix 2 I didn't think I'd need many fans for the small case - and given the Core 1300 has two fans pre-installed, I decided to just add a second exhaust fan. The Arctic F12 is fairly quiet, though it can push lots of air on full power. The fan controller I bought as I like to have manual control over what my fans are doing and when - on the lowest power settings, everything is near silent so I'm certainly happy enough.
Monitor: ViewSonic VX2363SMHL-W 23.0" Another deal here. I had been looking for a 1080p IPS panel - IPS is very handy when I'm photoshopping. I hadn't made up my mind until Dabs kindly popped up on my Facebook feed offering £40 off the 23" VX2363. 2ms refresh, 60hz, and it is even white. Perfect.
Other notes and benchmarks Cable management proved arduous, very arduous indeed. In the end I was happy enough with how it all turned out, but it is safe to say there is not a whole lot of room behind the motherboard tray in the Core 1300. It could also do with a few more holes to route cables behind the motherboard.
3DMark - 6170 Unigine Valley Extreme HD preset - 1512 Unigine Heaven 4.0 Extreme preset - 1125