Description

Overview

This value oriented build was put together for my partner. She’s been gaming on a GPU-less MacBook Pro recently and suffering with low FPS and crazy loud internal fan noise. She primarily plays Neverwinter Nights, but also occasionally plays some modern titles.

The Entry Level Intel Gaming Build guide from PCPartPicker was used as the initial part list. The initial plan didn’t include RGB, but fan prices and features aligned so that RGB fans and cooler were cheap options. The motherboard includes 1 RGB header, which can drive all the RGB gear. Cool.

Overall this is an amazing build. When planing NWN the computer runs cool, quiet, and very easily hits 60fps. Performance with other games has not been tested yet.

Useful videos

Constraints

Value focused budget of $600 Connect to an existing 1080p 60Hz display, so no need for anything more performant than 1080p 60fps.

Existing hardware

  • Acer 1080p 60Hz display
  • Samsung 850 SATA SSD 500GB
  • Keyboard and mouse

Build process highlights

The motherboard shipped with F6 version of firmware, but CPU support for the i3-9100 was only added in F13. The firmware was updated by installing a different 8700k first to not into BIOS and perform the update. The thermal pad made swapping CPUs effortless!

Originally a Corsair CX550M was ordered, but due to shipping delays of ~1 week, we switched to the Seasonic Focus GOLD 550W. Until this arrived, we borrowed a PSU from a different computer.

Observations

there is some heat buildup in the bottom rear part of the case, especially when the GPU fan is not running. Going to replace the PCI covers with ventilated ones to Crete an air outlet. The PCI-x16 slot release mechanism is fully covered by the 2 slot thick GPU, making GPU removal difficult. The release can be pushed from above using a very small screwdriver. For whatever reason, when running Pop!_OS 19.04, the computer will not actually shut down. It must be physically powered off by holding the power button.

Do overs (what I’d change with this build)

Nothing! I’d do this same build again with no changes.

Review (5 Stars): Innovation Cooling Graphite Thermal Pad (30mm x 30mm)

Took a gamble with this graphite thermal pad. Discovered it after watching some Youtube videos and thought it was too good to be true.

After running this build for a few days it is amazing. Performance is amazing, it performs just well (if not better) than the thermal paste I would have used on this build.

Because the pad can be easily reused, “reseating” the CPU cooler is now super trivial too. Using this graphite pad has convinced me to change my build to a graphite pad.

Part Reviews

CPU

The perfect entry level CPU. At time of purchase it was the same price as the 8100. Chose the 9100 over the 8100 as it boosts to 4.2 GHz (i3-8100 does not boost) and it’s never. Higher clock = more fps.

CPU Cooler

An amazing cooler! The build quality is amazing, it’s easy to install and remove, and most importantly keeps the CPU cool. I usually build with Noctua components, but that said, I was very impressed with the quality and performance of the cooler and the fan. Especially at the $30 price point.

Being a little shorter than other 120mm tower coolers means it has great clearance from the side of the case. That was important given the smaller case dimension.

Motherboard

The motherboard prices all the functionality needed for this build, plus paths for future upgrades.

The RGB port was an unplanned useful feature that enabled management of the RGB fans and CPU cooler.

It shipped with firmware version F6, which did have to upgraded to F14 first. Slightly annoying, so taking 1 star off for that.

Memory

Good memory. No issue overclocking to 2400 using the included XMP profile.

Video Card

Looks great and works great. The fan stops below 60 degrees, so for basic web browsing and light gaming the temp hovers at around 60 degrees. Wish the RGB could be controlled from Linux.

A rebate brought the cost of this inline with the other MSI GTX 1660s, adds extra RGB, and also looks nicer than the other cards.

Case

TL;DR this case is great! Would recommend for other builds and would buy again.

This case looks great on paper and is great to build in. The cheapness of the case shows up only in the use of acrylic for the window, use of plastic for the IO panel, and also in some of the screws/holes. The magnetic dust filters stay on just fine.

There were some red flag reviews (Gamers Nexus and Mikes Unboxing) that came up while researching. I was anticipating having to Dremel out the front of the case to get adequate airflow, but this did not eventuate. The case fans are able to move enough air around without serious mods.

The combination of 3 case fans (2 front intake, 1 rear exhaust) plus tower CPU cooler keeps the CPU cool and quiet. When gaming, the CPU hovers at ~52C with all fans barely audible (~40% PWM). When idle, the CPU hovers around ~32C with all fans near silent (~30% PWM).

Power Supply

Great PSU. Runs quiet and included a bunch of useful accessories. This was my first Seasonic purchase (usually buy Corsair PSUs), and would buy them again. They have amazing Amazon review statistics.

Semi-modular is nice and it removes a lot of the clutter from unused cables. Only the ATX and CPU cables are fixed, which is fine because these are required by the motherboard.

Case Fan

These fans are amazing value - quiet, good air flow, and RGB. They are definitely audible at max speed, but an aggressively quiet BIOS controlled fan curve keeps the fans running slow.

These provide amble airflow for this build. They push enough air through the case to keep the CPU and GPU running cool.

Comments

  • 5 months ago
  • 3 points

Is that Pop_OS! I see? You are a man of culture.

  • 5 months ago
  • 3 points

Well spotted :) We both run it for gaming now.

It is great at running "picky" older games, like The Sims 2, which runs best on Windows 7. The ecosystem has evolved to the point where Lutris can emulate the specific machine that the game needs. I'd say that Linux is more stable than Windows in this case.

  • 5 months ago
  • 2 points

I've been using it on my laptop for a while now, and it's been great except for a couple minor issues. Any time I use a Chromium based browser, there's some weird flickering in the upper right hand corner, and the window flashes sometimes. It doesn't happen in Firefox, but the scrolling is terrible on a trackpad, so I just kinda deal with it. Haven't found a fix for it yet, but I still prefer it to MacOS. I keep meaning to install it on my desktop, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

Does the 9100f come with a stock cooler?

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

I can’t speak for 9100F model (no iGPU) but the 9100 (includes iGPU) does come with a stock cooler.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Great build! Do you ever use Windows 10? I don't know how much space Pop!_OS would take up.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Yes! An additional SSD was added to enable easy dual booting between Windows 10 and Pop!_OS.