Around November, I was starting to yearn for an upgrade to the 1080p 60 Hz monitor I had been using for the prior two years. At the same time, my parents were trying to figure out how they were going to go about replacing my sister's aging Chromebook. Over dinner, I laid down a proposition: I would personally pick out parts and build a desktop for her in exchange for half of an ROG Swift. I asked for an $800 budget and they agreed. Many of the prices are super low here because I tenaciously took advantage of sales, including a two hour round trip to a MicroCenter for a deal on her CPU.
I decided that the build needed to fill a few requirements:
Competitive CPU with overclocking headroom to make her everyday task smooth (her boyfriend is a fellow CS major and would take care of any needed maintenance in this regard)
SSD for snappier regular use
GPU capable of light gaming (Minecraft, Portal, etc.)
Be absolutely cute as hell
Here's the reasoning behind my part choice.
Case: I asked for input from her boyfriend, as he would have to be around her while she used it and it was preferred that he know his way around her rig so he could help her if need be. I was planning on one of Corsairs cube cases, but he requested that I use a Prodigy, as he and his friends are familiar with them. The issue here was that the colored Prodigys are literally twice as expensive as the flat black cases. For that reason, I decided that I would buy a black case and paint it myself. Some white and turquoise made the whole thing pretty adorable, and she absolutely loved it when she saw it the first time.
CPU: I decided early on that I would sink most of the budget into her processor and cooler. As she doesn't game much, but instead does a lot of writing, working with photos, and heavy programs, I went with a high end quad-core i5. As I stated earlier, I drove to a MicroCenter to pick it up because I got a banging deal on it. I went with a liquid cooler because her case is tiny and I thought it would deliver better performance in a smaller package than a high-end air cooler.
GPU: I tore this out of a build I made in 2013 because, hey, it was free and all she would need.
PSU: I wanted a modular, 80+ Gold PSU, so I snagged this up. It's a Corsair PSU for $40. What more could you ask for?
RAM: 8GB seems to be the sweet spot right now, and, due to a black-Friday deal, this fit in the budget. For some reason 1866 MHz ram was cheaper than the 1600 in the sale. Don't ask me why.
SSD: I love Samsung solid-states, and the 840 EVO can't be beat for the price point (the 850's weren't out at the time). I figured 120 GB would be enough for her OS and programs, and I supplemented it with a WD 1TB spinner for all of her fluff files.
MOBO: I wanted a Z97 board in the Mini ITX form-factor that would also include on-board AC WiFi. This checked all the boxes, with the added bonus of having blue accents.
Peripherals: My sister is a girly girl and she likes pretty things. I donated my G510 (which I replaced with my K95 RGB) so she can make it all kinds of colors and crap. She doesn't care about mechanical keys or anything like that, so the fact that I could make it purple was good enough for her. The mouse was chosen because she's left handed and switches her mouse hand occasionally. The Kova+ is a fully ambidextrous mouse that can also be all sorts of colors. The monitor is my old one that was replaced with the Swift.
Build Experience: As someone who is used to working in full tower cases, the switch to a Mini ITX was, at times, infuriating. I have large hands, and even the simple cooler install was difficult. I needed a second set of hands on several occasions, and had to ask for assistance from my bored girlfriend. Cable management was a nightmare, but thankfully the 7870 blocks any view of the bird's nest in the bottom of the case. An especially frustrating sequence of events involved the hard-drive cage in the front-right of the case. In order to run cables to the right hand side of the MOBO, you have to remove the cage. Every time I thought I had routed all of the cables, I would reinstall the cage. This involved 6 screws. I would then find one more cable that needed to go through that same slot, so I would have to remove the 6 screws and cage, run the cable through, and then replace the cage and the 6 screws. This happened literally 6 times. I removed/replaced those 6 screws so many times that I wore all of the paint off of the bottom of the case in that area and had to touch it up with a paper towel.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy one of my more modest builds. I always love to hear what you guys/gals have to say about them. Cheers.