Buddy of mine has been gaming (or, trying to) on a 5 year-old Phenom-powered HP workstation with an Nvidia GT 610 video card we added in: a futile attempt to get a little more gaming performance out of this underwhelming station. So, with a few days to spare and a friend in need, I decided to begin collecting some parts. Over the course of about 2 weeks, I tracked down and purchased compatible parts as cheaply as possible:
- It started with an AMD Athlon X4 860K I found on sale at a local computer store for $98 ($20 off ... Not bad). I decided this would become the core of this new gaming machine.
- The motherboard was chosen because it featured WiFi and Bluetooth and looked pretty good in flat black. Win-Win?
- The RAM is the exact same I used in my own system so I bought one 4GB and one 8GB stick, put the 8GB into my own computer, and replaced it with one of my old 4GB sticks for an 8GB total. I trust this RAM and will continue to use it. Overclocks pretty well.
- The case
was a Fractal Design Core 500changed last-minute because the Core V21 was on sale and had a window and I wanted to try building in it. A tiny ITX MoBo looks pretty odd inside but whatever, right?
- The future owner of the system already had 2HDDs on-hand which I could have used and left it at that, but an SSD is a must in a modern machine and I so happened to have my leftover 840EVO laying around so was like whatever, throw it in.
- I had an 850W Enermax power supply in to review the week prior, and was so impressed that I just HAD to call and asked them to send over a cheaper unit. 500W for under $50 was an amazing deal and these units are built REALLY well so another Win-Win here!
- Windows 10 Pro went in as the main and only OS... No surprise here. 8.1 sucks, after-all. Didn't include a cost because we have not activated it yet. Simply installed it. He is planning on buying an activation key this Christmas.
- The GPU was a tough choice. I was ABOUT to buy an R7 370 4GB and then decided on a GTX 760 and then thought to go a bit overkill and swing for a GTX970 and then thought a 960 would suffice and then imagined the system with a FuryX and then ended off with an R9 280 RoyalKing because it was on sale for a good price. Judge me.
- LED case fan because window case and need for an exhaust fan.
Challenges: Ummm... Finding everything cheaply? Deciding components? Deciding on a GPU? There were no particular challenges in this build, really. mITX builds usually have troubles with cable management, but this case was over-sized and has REALLY good cable management. No issues.
I didn't include them but I also threw in some braided extension cables. There was so much space below the motherboard tray that I could sacrifice lots of room for extensions to make it pretty. Sadly, the red Bitfenix PCIe cables I bought would NOT fit the GPU. The connector looked different with the shape of the pins. No clue what the hell happened there...
Future: Of course Windows will have to be activated, eventually. A CPU cooler is also a good idea. Thinking of the DeepCool Captain 240 to keep with the red theme, but who knows. Once its on, I expect to get a bit higher clocks on the 860K. Its a good chip and ran incredibly cool at stock speeds, leading me to overclock it very slightly even on the included box cooler.
Stellar performer and a great base to build from! Remember that it has no built-in GPU so you WILL need a dedicated card, but the lack of onboard graphics does give it a few advantages over its A10-7850K brother: The 860K has a bit more cache and overclocks a bit better because there is no built-in GPU producing more heat.
For a more budget build, go with the A10-7850K so you don't need a dedicated GPU, but as the core of a budget gaming PC or even an office workstation its a great and cheap choice! Don't expect amazing performance. Sits somewhere along the same range as a same-gen i3 or a slightly older i5.
Would rank 3.5/5 but will bump up to 4/5 because it is so much cheaper than even a Pentium but outperforms it in today's tasks.
Probably the best Mini-ITX option available for the FM2+ socket, thanks in-part to the inclusion of onboard AC Wifi and Bluetooth 4.0 as well as the solid black color theme. Plenty of back IO ports to keep you satisfied, and a good range of internal ports. Wish it had a few more fan headers SATA ports, as 4 is a bit limiting (1 SSD, 1 Optical Drive, 2 HDDs) but as it IS a Micro-ITX board sacrifices must be made. Its BIOS isn't as pretty as something from, say, Asus but it is very much easy to navigate and very useful. Power delivery and build quality are outstanding, as is the custom from Gigabyte.
3.8/5 because I want 6 SATA ports :P and because only having 1 chassis fan is inexcusable for a $120+ motherboard (1 header for CPU and 1 for chassis fan).
Too tall to clear even non-slim CPU coolers. However, it looks and performs amazingly. If you are using an aftermarket cooler that sits over the RAM slots, look into the version with short heat spreaders or the Dominator series.
If you just need good RAM: 5/5 Always trust Vengance
Its a shame these are being phased-out. For the performance, it's really hard to beat the price. Having gone down as low as $120 for the 250GB version, these prove themselves to be fast and secure storage. Haven't had one fail on me yet, and I use one as a scratch drive for Premier Pro.
A 1TB Seagate Barracuda is the drive you get when you don't know what drive to get. I have NEVER built a computer without including one. They can be bought for under $50 sometimes, I've never heard of one failing, and they atore a LOT of data. 1TB is a lot of storage and you can get away with having one as the only drive in your system.
This is an oddball card which I want to love but just can't completely. Its a powerful GPU capable of maxing out demanding titles at 1080p and hitting 60-120fps. (With a good CPU and a tiny bit of overclocking in MSI Afterburner.) That said, it's still a hot card with performance similar to that of a GTX960, so don't expect to run anything new at 4K
Handles some 1440p games like Elite:Dangerous, Project Cars, BF4 and GTA5 in the 60fps range but anything more demanding than that and you'd best drop down to a 1080p panel like it was meant to. You can run 4 of these together but I can't see why you would want to do that. Unless you want your own personal space heater.
If you find one under $200 it's a good deal on a very capable card. Otherwise, a GTX960 will give you the same performance while running cooler and the R9 380X will more than justify itself in the performance gain.
Cable management dream. Very good design. Love the customization options with the interchangeable panels. Leads to some creative builds, I must say.
4x240 radiator support is great for both AIO coolers and custom loops.
Window is a little scratch-prone and a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Keep the plastic vover on until you're 100% done.
Honestly can't say anything bad about this PSU. For the price it's an excellent unit. Alternatives are a 430W Corsair CX430 or a 600W Thermaltake TR2 TR-600 The 80+Gold version of this PSU would also be a good buy if you need more efficiency, but its otherwise a really solid power supply and I have had 0 issues with Enermax. Great warranty too.