I’m aware that this is possibly the worst time ever to build your own PC, what with the worldwide parts shortages and price hikes. I’m looking at this as a project for 2021, where hopefully some key parts become available in the spring or summer.
All told I’m looking to spend $2 grand, but I need to reserve at least $300 to $350 of that for Windows 10 Home OEM and Office 19 Home&Business. (Boooo on not including Outlook in the regular Office 19 Home.) That leaves around $1500-ish for parts including tax and shipping with enough left over for unforeseen costs or (preferably) a modern game or three to showcase the new system.
I’m expecting this new computer to last 8 years without significant upgrades. My current computer (i3 3220, 8g ram, GeForce GT 630) was a $500 budget box from Newegg I bought back in the summer of 2013, so that’s 8 years. And that one was crappy when it was brand new! It still does the job but it’s pretty clearly upgrade time. I did upgrade the power supply and add a second HDD to it a couple years after I bought it to help prolong its useful life.
I’m a casual gamer and occasionally edit large media files in the 500 to 1500 mb range. I prefer running at a modest 1920x1080 resolution, so I shouldn’t really need that much raw power.
I do not have any interest in overclocking, LED lighting, glass side panels, or really any bells or whistles. I’m not much of a gamer but would like to be able to play games reasonably well. Low settings is fine, but at the same time I would enjoy being able to try out modern games on high settings or at least mid settings.
My current computer is functional but extremely loud. All the fans are always running at 100%, and the cheap case rattles if I screw the side cover on either too tightly or too loosely, and it gradually changes over time so I have to keep futzing with it just to stop it from screaming. Super annoying. It was also highly unpleasant upgrading the power supply and adding a second HDD because the case is cheap crap. And the second HDD I added (1 TB) is already almost 60% full, so I want bigger drives on the new computer.
Given all that, I want to spend my money on a nice case, quiet fans, good size hard drives for lots of media files, and an overqualified power supply that will barely notice the draw and thus stay quiet itself. While I’d prefer a 4TB HDD for my D: drive, it’s looking like 2TB will have to suffice. (Two M.2 drives plugged directly on the motherboard, woohoo!)
I’ve been messing around with the custom PC builder on Newegg. Here’s what I have so far after poking around for a few days. The linked list will change as I update it, so for posterity here’s my initial thinking, plus the questions it raises for me:
Intel i5 10400 $180
I’ve been brand loyal to Intel (and Nvidia) since the early 90s, and would like to remain so. My gaming needs are modest, so going this route saves me $90 (compared to the 10600) to spend on other parts, like a quieter case and fans.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition CPU Air Cooler $40
When I type “recommended cooler for i5 10400” into google, this one comes up directly as a google answer. Seems like a no-brainer. Do I need to buy and apply thermal paste? If so, what kind of paste? I’m shuddering in fear at the very idea, but maybe youtube videos can show me the way.
** Gigabyte H470 ATX Motherboard** $130
I don’t foresee ever wanting to mess with overclocking anything, or having two video cards. All I care about is having two onboard slots for hard drives, have a native USB-C connector (since the case will have one on the front panel and my phone has one too), the board fits in the case, and it’s fully compatible with the i5 10400. This seems to be the right choice, and saves me another $70 (compared to a Z490) to spend elsewhere. I did read that Gigabyte was a good brand for motherboards. Can anyone confirm or deny?
16GB (two 8GB sticks) G.Skill Memory $80
This is plenty, right? Also, I can just use two 8gig sticks and leave the other two slots open on the motherboard, right? But they have to go in in pairs? So in two years I could plop in another two 8gig sticks in the two empty slots and I’m good to go for 32GB? And since I’m not overclocking, just cheapo slow memory is fine? As to that, the same comment I read that said Gigabyte is known for motherboards said G.Skill is known for memory. I’m putting a lot of faith in that one random comment; thus this thread.
RTX 3060 TI Video Card $470
Hahahahahaha! It’s hard to even list this without laughing, as if it were possible to buy this at any price, much less at the list price of $470. Maybe by Black Friday if I’m lucky. But let’s say I go with a temp video card for a couple years, then when everything is back to normal maybe I pick up a 3070 for $300. I’m talking like two or three years from now; that might be reasonable, yes? With that in mind, I’d like the finished build to allow a simple swap out, replacing the temp card with a 3000 series down the line. (Need to be sure it will fit in the case, etc…) Note that if that ends up being the case, the only number that matters for this current budget is the temp card. The upgrade in two years would be a separate budget. Then again, if that ends up being the case, it’s probably an even 50-50 chance I’ll just stick with the temp card for all 8 years and call it good enough.
Fractal Design Define 7 Compact Black ATX Silent Mid Tower Computer Case $100
My biggest problem in general with pre-builds is that to get a decent video card you have to get a gaming build, and those are all gaudy lights and glass side panels. Me no likey. I want a simple black box. Ideally it’d have a DVD writer, but I’ve made peace with the idea of going full modern and just getting an external DVD writer for $25. Originally I penciled in the larger, nicer version of the Define 7 series ($170) but it’s a touch too long for the space I have. Plus one of the reviews complained that the optical drive bay only had front screws, so the back of it just hangs there torquing the case. Screw that. I’m going with a “driveless” concept so I can skip all the cabling anyway, so an external DVD writer is actually better for what I want. This case will fit all my stuff, yes?
be quiet! Silent Wings 3 PWM Case Fans (1 each 140mm and 120mm) $45
The compact Fractal case listed above says it comes with two fans, one 120mm and one 140mm. Reviewers seem to agree that the Fractal cases are quieter but the stock fans are shit, and that bequiet fans are the gold standard. In total ignorance, I’m thinking I just replace the two fans that come with the case with these bad boys. Does it work like that? Will that be enough cooling? Do I need more fans? I know nothing whatsoever about fan placement or theory in general. Much help needed here.
Seasonic FOCUS PX-550, 550W 80+ Platinum Power Supply $120
Is 550W enough to largely ignore the expected load of this computer while I’m browsing the internet or using MS Office? When just futzing around, I want this computer silent. My original thinking was a 650W, but the Newegg custom PC thingy keeps saying my build with the 3060 TI ends up under 200W, so 550W should be plenty? Will a temp card use more power than a 3000 series? (Is that one of the things that makes the 3000 series better? Running cooler and quieter?)
I have no idea about positioning or size or fitting in the case at all. Can anyone confirm this power supply would work with the case listed above? (Of course this could be moot as it may be out of stock for a while.) Also, this is a nice power supply, yes? Is “platinum” noticeably better than “gold” for this system? (Worth paying for? Overkill?)
Two WD Blue NVMe M.2 PCI-Express SSDs (1TB system, 2TB user) $340
I’m unclear on much of this. I need PCI-Express to get the faster speeds of M.2 drives, yes? Sata will land me at regular mechanical drive speeds? Also, the H470 motherboard says it has two NVMe M.2 slots, meaning I can plug both of these in and get a 1TB C: drive for Windows, programs and games, and a 2TB D: drive for user files? And because they both go directly into the motherboard, I don’t have to bother with cables, not even power cables? And skipping the optical drive means essentially no cabling at all? (Gotta power the motherboard and fans, of course, but still.) If that’s the case, hell yeah! In a perfect world I’d rather get a 4TB mechanical D: drive for like $180, but for an extra $50 (but sadly only 2TB instead of 4TB) I get to just plop them into the motherboard and not cable anything AND they will read and write much faster AND be noticeably quieter? Do I have all that right? Is this a good way to do it, do you think?
That totals around $1500 for parts, but is of course a very tentative first pass. Suggestions welcome, anything from tweaks to wholesale changes.
My biggest areas of concern are the case fitting everything, the two drives fitting in the motherboard and just working, and of course the dreaded thermal paste. (Can I take it down to a repair shop and pay a pro to just do the thermal paste bit?)