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Project "Harrison" - First time build with son for gaming and general use

by omni72



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Several months ago, I was talking with my son about gaming - console stuff, PC based stuff, and Minecraft server stuff. We came up with a few different solutions, but in the end it seemed like our best bet would be to offload the Minecraft to a VPS and update the main PC used for gaming. We also agreed that it would be a great project for us to work on and when his birthday rolled around we'd just ask for cash so that we could pick out the parts. He didn't want gifts just to get more stuff. My role then switched to lead researcher.

I'd kinda kept up with technology (I love it & I'm in the IT industry), but holy crap was I overwhelmed by the myriad options that I discovered. But little by little, I started narrowing down exactly what would or wouldn't work for our project. A couple weeks before his birthday, I had a pretty solid idea of our most viable options; we'd still have to see what he hauled in from gifts, but I had a pretty good idea what to expect for budget.

Then I came across one of the most amazing sites on the planet - PCPartPicker. Totally blown away. It didn't take long to decide I wanted to get some input from the awesome PCPP community. I posted my story with proposed build and got some awesome feedback. Many thanks to all who shared :)

After chewing on the new feedback and churning out several new hypothetical builds, we were ready to order the rest of our parts (I'd already ordered the video card on the 16th). And on May 25th that is exactly what we did.


I'm starting with the video card since that was the first thing we ordered. I got a lot of great suggestions in this area, and opted to go with the XFX 7870. At the time, there wasn't much difference in price between it and some of the 7850's. Plus, and this was actually a big factor, the card came with about $150 in games. Had they been games we weren't interested in, then it wouldn't have been as inticing. But all three of my boys were wanting all four of the games offered, so it was a great option for us. Basically, we had the chance to add a 7870 to the build for about $40. Sweet! :)


I probably went about a dozen different directions when evaluating cases. Part of me really wanted to go with a slim, unassuming build. But with the video card we ordered, that really wasn't going to work (possible future project? :D). I decided I wanted something roomy without being massive, and something still pretty unassuming. I wanted plenty of cooling options if we wanted to get fancy down the road. I wanted good airflow. I wanted quality. I wanted USB 3.0 on the front panel. And I wanted decent or better cable management. Oh, and I wanted inexpensive - it didn't have to be cheap (~$25) but definitely budget friendly (~$60). The Corsair Carbide 200R was our winner.


I wasn't opposed to Intel (I've actually been pretty faithful to Intel for most of my adult life), but was kinda set on AMD. I just really liked some of the stuff they had been putting out over the last few years and figured this would be as good a reason as any to go Red. I was sooooooo tempted to go with the 965 Black. Great option for a budget build like ours, MASSIVE bang for the buck, and would probably suit us just fine for a few years (okay, at least two :P). I also loved the idea of going with an APU like the 5800K. And who wouldn't want to pony up for the 8350, right? Well, I ended up going with the FX-6100. It was right around $100, gave us the option to OC, had pretty beefy specs, good rep, and had a little lower TDP than some of the other chips I was considering. Along with being very budget-friendly, it would likely meet all our needs - for gaming and regular use.


This was actually the most difficult decision. And not because I couldn't find what I was looking for or because there were too many good options. The problem I ran into was quality control. With all the other parts, there'd be an occasional post or review about something being DOA or dead after a couple weeks or months. With motherboards, it seemed like about 30% of recent reviews had issues with their MB's. This included Asus, Asrock, MSI, Gigabyte, Biostar, you name it. It was definitely the part I felt most like we'd be rolling the dice with. After much contemplation, I opted to go with the Asus M5A97. It had all the features we were looking for, fit our budget, and from all the stuff I've seen I really like the way Asus interacts with their customers & community.

Everything else

I got some 1600 Ballistix RAM, a DVD writer, a Corsair CX500M PSU, and a Cooler Master 212+ CPU cooler. I already had a 60GB OCZ Vertex3 and a WD 1TB Green, so we were set for drives. I also have my OS and necessary peripherals.

The Build

I'm going to start with the thing that most stood out to me - I loooooooove the 200R case. Since it was a more budget-y case, I really wasn't sure what to expect from it. That thing is gorgeous inside and out. It was dreamy to work with. Fit everything we need to stuff it with and allowed us to make everything look nice and neat in the end. It even accommodated The Monster - the Hyper 212 Plus CPU cooler. The ONLY tiny gripe you'll hear from me (other than Corsair not giving them away free with the purchase of a PSU :D), is the lack of cable management grommets. That's it. Everything else - Bravissimo!

Without question, the most difficult part of the process was the 212. It's big and awkward to work with, plus the instructions seemed a bit funky to me. Not bad or lacking, just kinda meh. Still, given the overall smooth-sailing we experienced in the build, even dealing with the 212 wasn't too bad :)

The motherboard also had a moment or two of awkwardness, but that was my call. I could have waited to install the 212 after we had the motheboard in place, but it appeared to me that would have been a bigger headache than getting the 212 on there first. Again, very low on the frustration scale.

Everything else is pretty straightforward. Most of it is click-in-place or screw-in-place. Easy peasy.


It's aliiiiiiiive!! Not gonna lie, I was prepared to have to look up error codes. And before we even started building, I told my son, "Look, these are all electronic components designed and build by imperfect people, packaged by imperfect people, shipped by imperfect people, and now being assembled by imperfect people. There's a good chance one or more of these pieces simply won't work. Despite our research and best efforts, it is very possible this thing won't fire up when we flip the switch. I hope it does and we'll do what we can to get it to go, but I feel compelled to give you that heads up."

Plugged it in, gave power to the PSU, and poked the case in the eye. We have lift off .....


Now I'm going through the process of installing Win7, installing our base apps, updating drivers, blah blah blah. Good times! :)

Also, some of my prices are a bit funky because of promo codes, rebates, and so on, so for now the prices listed represent the MOST I may have paid for any item.


Can't wait for the next project. And my son asked to help in any future projects :D

2013-06-03 Update: FINALLY got Win7 all updated and happy. Also got most of the boys' Steam and Origin games downloaded & installed. And of course Minecraft is on there now :) I took Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon for a spin. Holy crap, that was fun! :D Funny too. Needless to say, Harrison easily handled the game. My son tried out Minecraft and Bioshock Infinite, both using (I think) high settings. Again, Harrison cruised through it all with style and panache. Looking forward to seeing Crysis 3 on it. Also, I added my follow up build, "Nadia", to my list of completed builds. Way different purpose and design.

Comments Sorted by:

sketch24 9 Builds 16 points 53 months ago

The bulldozer cpu isn't a great chip. Not sure if you were paying attention to builds when they first came out, but they were a huge disappointment in terms of performance. A 3 year old phenom II x4 does better than the fx-6100 and in some cases the fx-8100. If this was a recent build, I would put in that extra $30 for an exchange for the fx-6300. The piledriver chips are miles ahead of the bulldozers in terms of gaming performance and overall performance.

Besides that it's a great build with great cable management. All the other choices do so well together, it's almost a shame to see the 6100 in there with it.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 3 points 53 months ago

Thanks for the feedback, sketch24, much appreciated. I did look at & consider the 6300 (as well as 6350, 8350, etc.), but couldn't find a good enough deal that would let us keep everything else on our list. It was a tough call, but I went ahead and bit the bullet with the 6100.

Also, and my apologies for not providing a better frame of reference, the PC this replaces is an Acer that is at least 4yrs old. So even though the 6100 may not be the greatest centerpiece of this system, it should still be a vast improvement over its predecessor.

Again thanks for the comments and the input. Btw, nice build collection! :) I'm using the R379-M for an upcoming project, so I had the chance to take a peek at some of your projects.

Apach3 3 Builds 4 points 53 months ago

it's awesome to know you had a spare SSD and HDD lying around to make it considerably cheaper. having good equipment on-hand is always good.

like sketch24 said, i probably would've also gone with an FX-6300 for the extra money it would've cost, but as long as you and your son are happy with it that's all that matters.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 53 months ago

Thanks for the comments, and I agree. I was just thinking about it last night that having those two drives on hand really allowed us to beef up the system.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, but even with parts on hand & opting for the 6100, we STILL went (a little) over budget. But I justified it with the fact that it really will be something the whole fam damily can use :D

Apach3 3 Builds 3 points 53 months ago

you are absolutely welcome, good sir. special props also for getting your son in on the action. that was pretty much how i started as well.

the nice thing about an AMD platform is that they often have good backwards-compatibility between chipset/socket/CPU generations, unlike Intel who makes expensive platform changes every new generation like a pair of underpants. chances are, when Steamroller rolls around (pun intended), it will be compatible with any modern AMD board with a proper BIOS upgrade... just in case you ever decided to need a CPU upgrade in the future :D

Sabotage 3 points 53 months ago

Yay I love seeing builds with the corsair 200r! Great list of parts for your price range and clean cable management!

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 5 points 53 months ago

Thanks! Yeah, totally fell in love with the 200R during the build. And thanks for the cable management compliment - I told my son, "If we can't pull off some decent cable routing, I can't post images of the inside." :D

Sabotage 1 point 53 months ago

Nice one of my best friends has the 200r and it is so much better than my expensive haf922, I would switch, if I had a reason. I have the older edition of the 922 with no cable management build in, so I am not posting it!

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Frostbyter 3 points 53 months ago

Very well thought out build for the price,

although like said before, the 6300 would have been better. Otherwise, no other gripes! Nice!

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 2 points 53 months ago

Thanks! Ponying up for the 6300 over the 6100 does seem to be the consensus now, lol :D

I appreciate the feedback and the compliments :)

Frostbyter 2 points 53 months ago

Yeah, $30 isn't much to return and buy the 6300 when you think of the performance gains.

Norm101 3 Builds 2 points 53 months ago

Fantastic commentary. It is great seeing the process behind each choice. Personally I like it. Hope you and your son have great fun with it. :)

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 53 months ago

Thanks for the feedback :) I can't promise all my builds will get such a verbose recap; sometimes it may be as simple as "It looked cool." :D

And thanks for the positive thoughts. There has definitely been an excited buzz amongst my boys the last few days. Now that it's all put together, I'm concerned they will be disappointed when they discover it's neither an ATM or time machine :D

eharvey328 2 Builds 2 points 53 months ago

Wow, this is eerily similar to my build I just put up.

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 53 months ago

Lol, that's awesome! Happy to see another loquaciously-minded builder :)

I haven't had a chance to read through your entire build just yet, but when I see things like "past-proof" and "order-ish" it's a pretty good bet I'm in the right place :D

gman23rules 2 Builds 2 points 53 months ago

great build. mine isnt too far off. fx 6300, 7850 and cx430. good job!

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 53 months ago

Thanks! :) Sounds like a solid trio for your build - looking forward to the completed project :)

Mattkx4 2 points 50 months ago

I wish my dad would do that with me. I'm 11 years old and I'm building a $1,000 build. My dad wants me to save up for college and my mom don't know nothin' about computer stuff. So I'm left alone on this build. It sounds like you two had a load of fun! BTW how is that motherboard I've already bought it for my build and I've been stressing night over night. Is it alright and did you overclock with it?

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 50 months ago

Nice, I like the initiative! :) For $1,000 you will be able to build a true beast of a machine. This site is a great way to get the most bang for your buck and to help steer you towards a well-balanced build.

The motherboard's been great, we've been very happy with its performance. We did some pretty steep OC'ing just to see how things would go, but ended up ratcheting it back to maximize overall stability. I think we still left it OC'ed a bit (I haven't looked at the settings in quite a while), but even if everything was left at stock levels this machine would still coast through everything we ask of it.

I think you will be fine with your mobo, so you can remove that item from your list of stresses :D

Mattkx4 1 point 50 months ago

Thanks :P

akirakun 1 Build 1 point 52 months ago

How close does the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus heatpipes get to the Corsair 200r side panel? I'm planning on using the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO on similar parts

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 2 points 52 months ago

With our setup, we're not really doing much with the side-panel. We also don't have much top clearance above the PC, so we're mostly leaning on the back exhaust. The fan on the cooler is pushing and the one on the back is pulling. I don't check the temps on it much any more, but it never even comes close to getting hot. And it stays on 24/7 and probably sees active use (mostly games - Starcraft, Minecraft, Steam stuff, etc.) 8-10 hours a day. Hope that helps :)

akirakun 1 Build 1 point 51 months ago


n2alltheworld 1 point 51 months ago

WHat kind of frame rates are you getting from the XFX 7870? I am considering that graphics card along with the FX-6350 processor. Great build, love looking at the pics and you have used a lot of similar parts that I am considering. Thanks!

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 51 months ago

To be honest, I don't really know. But we can install fraps this w/e and see what we're getting. Lately my son's biggest time-suck has been Gary's Mod. Well, and Fallout NV. I'll reply back with what we see :)

n2alltheworld 1 point 51 months ago

Hey, thanks! Excited to find out. :)

omni72 submitter 5 Builds 1 point 51 months ago

Np, any time. According to FRAPS, we're getting about 45-60 on Crysis 3 all settings maxed/very high/etc. We didn't try online play and didn't get into any super-heavy skirmishes during our test run. Still, even when there was battle and he was cloaked, the FPS realy didn't fluctuate much at all. On Counter-Strike: Source, we were seeing 130-160. We'd see 180-200+ from time to time, but mostly between 135-155. I don't recall what settings he had on CSS but there ya go :)

Hope that helps!

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omni72 submitter 5 Builds 2 points 53 months ago

Thanks! We really had fun putting it all together :)