After months of saving and years of dreaming, my first ever PC build is complete - meet Icebreaker! My goal with this build was to create a system meant for heavy web browsing and word processing, as well as light to medium gaming on fairly demanding modern titles; that also coordinated with my chosen colour scheme (black/white/RGB). Because I’ll be moving to a college dorm in a years’ time, I also wanted to utilise the Mini ITX form factor for general space efficiency. For these purposes, I targeted budget/midrange modern hardware that fit into my rough total budget of $1500 NZD.
Parts (most are under Part Reviews)
Storage – For my storage needs, a 120GB SSD and 1TB HDD was always going to be the best route, as its most certainly the best way to straddle the line between speed and capacity while remaining on a budget. In terms of the SSD, Apacer isn’t a very well-known brand, but with the Armor, for only $65 NZD on sale, in addition to the silvery-white/black colour scheme, this was a place where I could easily save some dollars, and has performed admirably without issues so far. (4 Stars)
Power Supply – Once again as with the SSD, FSP certainly isn’t the most well-known PSU manufacturer, but however, at $75 NZD, having features like 80+ Bronze Certification and all black ribbon cables are frankly unprecedented, so I would highly recommend the Hydro in any of its variations to a buyer who wants a strong bang for your buck power supply. (4 Stars)
The system itself feels unbelievably snappy, more so than any other PC I have used before, but I know that’s just because this is my first experience with a custom build. Other than that initial report, watch this space for benchmarks and gaming performance tests coming down the pipeline!
Cable Management – As a first-time builder looking back on the building process, choosing a non-modular Power Supply in order to save money while building in a Mini ITX case was certainly a bad idea, and due to my inexperience, I was in the end essentially forced to shove the side panel on in order to keep the cables inside (hence no pictures of cable management), so I will certainly be sure to spend the extra money on a semi or even fully modular solution in the future!
Update (24/07/17) - As of the time of writing I have upgraded from the Cooler Master Masterkeys Lite L to a Razer Blackwidow X Tournament Edition keyboard equipped with Razer Green switches, and a Razer Taipan ambidextrous mouse in white. While I didn't originally intend to go for Razer peripherals, I bought the keyboard due to stock issues and on impulse, and haven't looked back, enjoying the lighting and typing experience so much that I chose to pick up the mouse along with it! Coupled with my extended mousepad and Corsair Void RGB Wireless headset, it really is a good little peripherals setup :)
Thanks so much for reading!!! <3
While my original plan was to pick up the extremely popular and potent 6500/1060 combo, I bought most of my parts around Black Friday, and because of stock, found a much better deal on the Core i5 6400. While it may not have quite as good of a bang for your buck option as its older sibling, the little brother of the 6500 is still a very capable quad core locked CPU, with solid clock speeds, and no hints of bottlenecking with the likes of the GTX 1060 or RX480.
While the stock cooler would have done just fine in this system, I find it extremely ugly, and also wanted to add a little flair, so I decided to go with the Cryorig C7. This little cooler is one of the most popular low-profile options on the market, and for good reason – it provides great cooling performance and noise control into a very manageable form factor, and at such a low price point, the white fan and sleek silver heatsink round out a very compelling package.
Not a huge amount went into this one: my objective was to find the cheapest B150 colour neutral ITX motherboard possible, and at the sale price I got it at, the B150N-GSM really delivers on basically everything I wanted from a board at this price point – a nice simplistic appearance, well positioned front panel connectors, and even two fan headers as opposed to the standard one on normal budget ITX boards – alongside helpful future-proof features like M.2 support and a Mini-PCIe slot for Wi-Fi cards; rounding out a solid buy!
For a build with the purposes of mine, I really didn’t need more than 8GB of RAM, nor did I require crazy speeds, so it was basically impossible for me to look past the amazing prospect that was the HyperX Fury Black kit. Not only do the black heatsinks with white detailing look incredible for sticks at this price point, and fit in extremely well into my colour scheme, but they are also well-built and durable – an absolute no-brainer!
Apart from WD Blues, Barracuda’s are pretty much the most solid and reliable 3.5” spinning drives out there, so when I could get it for $10 cheaper, I wasn’t going to say no, and after some slight initial formatting hiccups, it’s been an absolute breeze up until this point!
While the RX480 is definitely a good card, I decided for the slight performance gain, and minimal increase in price, that the GTX 1060 would be the best option for me as a GPU solution. In terms of manufacturer, I wanted to pick up a blower-style card due to space limitations between the PSU and the card itself in my case, and because the reference 1060 isn’t available in New Zealand, the Turbo was my only option here – it doesn’t include a backplate, but at its price point, the swappable LED logo, clean design and slightly different modes make for a solid overall choice.
After much deliberation over the fantastic Phanteks Entho Evolv ITX, I decided instead on the Fractal Design Define Nano S; and I can easily say that it has been the best decision of the whole building process. The design is ultra clean, with the biggest window you can find on a reasonably sized ITX chassis, noise dampening is existent and works like a charm, the included GP-14 intake and GP-12 exhaust fan work exceptionally well in addition to the extra GP-14 I picked up for intake, cable management was handled as well as possible with Velcro straps and included cable ties, and the mounting locations were all intuitive and well thought out: add features like an exhaustive manual for first-time builders like myself, and little additions like pre-routed front panel cables and a fan splitter, and I can confidently say this is an amazing case, for any ITX build.
While it’s not central to the build itself, I also wanted to mention the monitor I decided to pick up, due to my overwhelmingly positive experiences with it – short of an UltraWide panel, a regular curved widescreen is the pinnacle of immersiveness in media consumption, and when one considers the clean industrial design, FreeSync capabilities for AMD cards, and low price point, the C24F390 is certainly an enticing prospect for those after a smaller, cheaper but still premium display.