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H45W311 - A sub-$200 4th gen Intel build

by omni72



CPU Clock Rate



... because I can.

Don't get me wrong, it is really fun to have a decent budget to work with and deal with the first-world problem of too many choices. I've got a trading machine I am in the process of upgrading and I'm really digging where it is going. However, it kinda of misses the boat in the challenge department. So I set up my own challenge: design and build a Haswell-based system with an increasingly tightened budget.

I started with a $500 budget and that was very easy. Still way too many choices. $400 wasn't much better. When I got to a $300 budget, things started getting interesting. I felt I had a pretty solid entry, but still sensed I could do better. $250? After flexing my minimalist design muscles, this level really started to test me. But I was still able to come up with a few suitable builds. Okay. Go big or go home: $200 budget.

Initially I was trying to stick with a completely non-rebate based build. It's easy to have a life and forget to send off your forms in time, so I really wanted to steer clear from rebates if at all possible. I did okay, but did end up backing off of the no-rebate stipulation (I think 3 parts ended up having rebates).

Another stipulation was that I couldn't use parts on hand. If I pulled from my inventory, I could build it for about $75. I stuck with this but did incorporate some creative interpretation of the rule (more on that later).

So, to sum it up:

  1. Haswell based build
  2. $200 or less for everything
  3. Minimize rebates needed
  4. Complete parts list must be purchasable (See what I did there? That creative interpretation starting to make its appearance)
  5. Be realistically usable for day-to-day stuff

If at all possible ...

  1. Not hurt my eyes to see

And I did it. I'm actually writing this up from the new build. One of the craziest things? This machine was one of the easiest to complete. Seems like I blinked a couple of times and POOF! - we were heading into POST.

I usually do a pretty involved breakdown of the parts, but this one is gonna be pretty abbreviated. Well, I say that. I haven't written it yet, so I could be lying to you in the end.

CPU - $60 for a current gen Intel CPU. Done. A couple of nice features are the on-board graphics and that the CPU accepts ECC RAM (more on this later). One POSSIBLE downside is that, according to Intel, this chip maxes out at 1333 for the RAM. For me, this wasn't a big deal. And the limit doesn't mean you can't use higher clock RAM, you just won't get anything over 1333.

Mobo - A Military Class 4 mini-ITX 1150 board with USB 3.0, Sata3, up to 32GB RAM, all for under $30? Sold. One of the coolest things was, after installing the OS, I was up and running. No need to do any updates or driver stuff to get it up and running. Of course, I did start doing the updates, but it wasn't required to be functional.

Case - Other than cheap, a luxury I REALLY hoped to get was a case with a black interior. Not a must, but I really don't dig the bare metal interior thing. HEC came through with a case for under $10 that fit the bill for me. I like cable management challenges and this case gave me my fix. Because there is no cable management. I'm happy with how it came out.

PSU - Of all things, this was the item I was most concerned about. I've stuck with the biggies like Seasonic, Corsair, XFX, and so forth, but this HEC model was Haswell rated and had a lot of good feedback. It's not a >80%, but it is >75%. Ugly as hell (what's sleeving? XD), but it'll do.

RAM & storage - Whatever. You can always find 4GB of RAM for $30 or less and 500GB-1TB of storage for less than $60.

OS - While you could go with Windows, my intent is (was?) to run a Linux distro of your choice. I threw Win 8.1 on there just to put something on there.

And there ya have it. For $200, you can build a working, usable PC running on the latest Intel Haswell architecture.

Cheats & Confessions I used a 500GB HDD I had on hand. I started to actually buy a 1TB Blue, but that's silly. I don't need it. If you built something similar, you know you can get a lot of storage for less than $60. I also used two sticks of 2GB RAM that I had on hand. It's ECC, but this chip/board combo is totally cool with it. If you're willing to bend the budget up to about $215, you can easily bump this up to a 8GB build. I also had to replace the stock exhaust fan because I tore the connector from the cables. My bad. And I added a 120mm fan (from a 4-pack I got a while back for $8-12) on the front.

Happiest moment - When I was messing around with the front facing and dropped it, which resulted in a crack on the top (see picture). I was happy because this could have happened to me during any build, but when it did it was during a build with a $6 case :D

Lesson learned from project - You can build a modern PC for not a lot of scratch. And that it's fun to figure out ways to fit a square peg into a round hole ;-)

Update: Just noticed how incredibly dark the pic is of the finished product. I'll upload a better, move discernible pic later. Probably tomorrow. Also, I am sooooooo sad I didn't take a pic of the insides BEFORE I put on my cable management surgery gloves. Oh well :)

Update: Added a better view of the final build. Don't tell it, but I'm actually digging its cheap, unassuming self :P

Comments Sorted by:

Zeus 1 Build 18 points 54 months ago

dat $6 case..

Swish2000 10 points 54 months ago

has more cable management than my $50 one.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 5 points 54 months ago

Sexy, right? :D

Zeus 1 Build 5 points 54 months ago

It actually doesn't look half bad

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 2 points 54 months ago

That's kinda my view as well. I've definitely seen uglier & pricier cases :D On a side-note this build is also VERY light. I know it weighs more, but it feels like about the as a couple of HDDs.

Zeus 1 Build 5 points 54 months ago

there isn't much inside..

and at $6, the case couldn't add too much overall weight

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 54 months ago

Yup, just for grins I weighed it today: 13lbs 8oz :D

bloodroses75 1 Build 1 point 49 months ago

How did you get it for $6? They're normally a $30-$40 case. Same with the power supply at around $25-30. Just curious as I have been trying to figure a super cheap build for a friend of mine on a really tight budget as well.

Zeus 1 Build 1 point 46 months ago

Keep an eye out for any sales, sometimes some amazing deals come by...

Terrmany 0 points 32 months ago

I think it costed $10 to build... So enjoy what I believe to be umm... How do u do math? Thats right. $4!!!!!!! GRAND PRIZE WINNER

Duelix 5 points 54 months ago

An excellent example of what a budget build should be. +1 for epicness. Also, decent cable management for a $6 case x)

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 54 months ago

Thanks! :) I did my best with CM - what I thought were tie-downs turned out to be guides/support for stuff like the PSU :D

lt-smith 2 Builds 4 points 54 months ago

that power supply is a ticking time-bomb

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 5 points 54 months ago

Thanks for the feedback :) While user experiences vary, the reviews for this PSU are overwhelmingly positive (roughly 80% 4-star of above). If the CX430 would have been available for the $20 it so often is, I would have nabbed it instead. If you go with a 500GB ($50 instead of $60) and find a better deal on RAM (a lot of times you can find 4GB for under $25), you could definitely upgrade the PSU and keep it under $200.

Matryoshka 2 Builds 4 points 54 months ago

That may be so, but I think the power output/power draw is low enough for it to be okay for a while.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 3 points 54 months ago

Thanks, that's what I'm banking on as well :)

bsdev820 1 Build 3 points 54 months ago

Excellent budgeting - if I saw more builds like this maybe I wouldn't be on here every day looking for deals on parts that cost twice this build.

+1 for the best job you could have done with your requirements, I really liked seeing this build!

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 3 points 54 months ago

Thanks! Yeah, I love this site and all the crazy awesome rigs people put together, but I'm also very infatuated with getting the most from the least. Glad you enjoyed the build! :)

bsdev820 1 Build 2 points 54 months ago

Absolutely - out of curiosity, what do you plan to do with this rig?

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 2 points 54 months ago

To be embarrassingly honest, I built it mostly as proof of concept for myself; I don't really have a pressing need for it at the moment.

I loaded it up with some apps, Steam, and will end up putting an office suite on it soon. After I get done fiddling with it and pushing it to see what it can handle, I'm just seeing it as a general purpose daily driver.

My dad's been talking about updating his machine & all he does is surf/email/Facebook, so I may put him into it. If I do that, I will swap out the HDD for a SSD or possibly a hybrid.

bsdev820 1 Build 2 points 54 months ago

I did a very similar thing the other day with no real purpose where I took all of the best parts from old oem's and shoved them into one and I now have a Pentium E5300 + HD 4850 1GB + 6GB RAM + Raid 0 160's. It's now staring at me while I'm typing this with nobody to use it. Once again good build - I enjoy looking at REAL budget builds to see how they allocate money.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 54 months ago

Thanks man, much appreciated! :) Since it's technology, I sometimes feel a bit guilty not putting stuff to use. But I eventually embrace the fact that technology is also a hobby for me & sometimes that means a little "Hmm, I wonder ..." is gonna spark a project just for the sake of having a project :D

You should post your project - I know it would be the polar opposite of your 3570K build, but it sounds like a fun build too! :)

Glad you enjoyed the build & hope to see your Knack build here soon :D

malcar11 3 Builds 2 points 54 months ago

WOW!! that´s the kind of builds that I really appreciate. Imagination VS. budget!. Looks nice and the battle scar makes it look like a warrior (hehehe). Congrats! if I need advice building something like this, I would ask you for sure. thank you very much for sharing.


omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 54 months ago

Thanks! :) Glad you enjoyed the project and I like your spin on my gaffe - the PC now has character, not a blemish :D

And I'm always willing to help any way I can. Yvw :)

Enlyten 1 Build 2 points 54 months ago

I've spent more than this on damn toothbrushes... Fantastic - +1

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 2 points 54 months ago

Ha, thanks! :) That's kinda what fueled my decision to go for it. I bought an Elgato Game Capture device recently and just that little single-purpose, smartphone-sized thing was $150. So yeah, $200 for a 4th gen Intel - why not, right? :D

FreeFireXI 3 Builds 2 points 54 months ago

I gave you an upvote... because I can. Also fantastic for the price. :)

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 54 months ago

Nice! Thanks & glad you liked the project :)

ThePCguy2013 2 points 54 months ago

I have a 10 year old HEC psu. It's very loud, but it works

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 54 months ago

Ha, sweet! :D Regardless of whether I have a specific item or not, I love hearing about awesome examples of product longevity. I still have a couple of Dell's that are, man, 7-10 years old and running on whatever PSU came with them :)

ThePCguy2013 1 point 54 months ago

It powers my socket 478 pentium 4 build.

the13yearoldgenius 2 points 54 months ago

wow that is all, just wow

ExtremeBuildMaker 2 points 48 months ago

I was mindblown by the handpicked items that were added to this build. I never knew Windows 8 would run on a pentium with 2 cores and just 4 gbs of RAM. Wow....

ExtremeBuildMaker 2 points 48 months ago

plus how do you get such good gameplay FPS just without any GPU ;o

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 48 months ago

Just put everything in & clicked play :) But seriously, I never had to do anything special to get it playable. Of course, I wasn't exactly running Crysis 3 or anything like that on it :D

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 48 months ago

yup, i was pretty impressed by its performance as well. I ended up moving all the parts into my Rosewill M379 case, but it's been chugging along flawlessly :)

s5229 2 points 46 months ago

yea..$6 case..I have neva!! well i did find one for $1 but the shipping was like $200 hahaha cheaters!

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 46 months ago

ha, IKR? :) Believe it or not, the case is still in use. Not this build specifically, but I am still using it for one of my systems.

Patrich 2 points 36 months ago

I would not be surprise now if you will build a $100 PC. LOL that $6 case looks $40- $50.

DannyVekslender 1 Build 1 point 54 months ago

Well, this should max out Minespsweeper at 60 FPS.

"Minesweeper Ready $200 Gaming PC", ha-ha-ha.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 2 points 54 months ago

Lol, I know, right? XD Fwiw, I have tried out some Steam stuff and am happy with what it's doing:

  • Planetside 2 - 20/30 FPS (Med/Low)
  • Solstice Arena - 60 FPS (Default)
  • TF2 - 45+ FPS (High & 4x MSAA)
  • Minecraft - 60+ (Fancy, everything On/All/Unlimited/Max)

I was able to play Warframe, but for some reason that game crashes now. I may futz around and see if I can jiggle anything to get it going again, but if not Minesweeper it is! :P

gigapouch 1 Build 1 point 40 months ago

A $7 case? Interesting... A $10 PSU? Doesn't sound too promising.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 40 months ago

Yup, I still get a satisfying chuckle every time I see that cheap little case :) As for the PSU, it's been over a year and still running like a champ. AFAIC, its promise was fulfilled.

gigapouch 1 Build 0 points 40 months ago

Really? I wouldn't be surprised if it blew out within a week!

umpienoob 0 points 30 months ago

Im just going to ignore the fact you said it could have 32gb of ram.

Larry_BOb -2 points 54 months ago

Terrible terrible terrible power supply. Just terrible. I have no idea why you'd go with that.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 3 points 54 months ago

Well, several hundred verified owners disagree with your opinion and the reasons were already stated. So there ya go.

Prime_Paladin -3 points 53 months ago

It's 210 not including input or OS, im sorry but how is this sub 200? Really nice try though, this thing looks cool.

umpienoob 1 point 30 months ago

Price went up xD

[comment deleted]
omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 54 months ago

Thanks for the feedback - even if, like the reviews for the PSU, it came via the internet :P

But seriously, as with most things ymmv. Plenty of verified owners wrote about the PSU still going strong after 2-years and longer. Sorry things went south for your dad. Glad he came away from it with minimal damage.

Regarding the CPU, totally agree. I've loaded it up with some Steam games, some common apps, and will end up throwing an office suite at it as well. We have a 2120 in another machine and it runs like a champ.

Thanks, it was pretty fun to see the project come together :)