So what is this thing? Well, I needed to build a computer to fit the following needs:
1) Replace the Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, etc. apps on my Visio TV, which blows chunks. 2) Play retro games via emulation, and light-weight titles on my big TV, like Fallout New Vegas (a favorite of mine), as well as playing some newer games at lower settings. 3) Give me something to screw with. I also use older computers on occasion -- like an Apple IIc and some Tandy 102s -- and I don't want to bog down my main rig with disk images, documentation, etc. 4) Give me something to stuff some bigger drives in later for archiving.
The following constraints were necessary: 1) Cheap as hell -- cheapest processor, cheapest motherboard, cheapest GPU and cheapest RAM that could do the job, using an existing MATX case, PSU, Blu-ray drive, HDD (for now), etc. 2) Be totally drop-in upgradeable -- more CPU (I have an i5-6500 in another computer that I'll eventually put an i7 in), more RAM (same computer has 16GB, and I'll probably upgrade that eventually, too), more storage, faster graphics, etc. Basically, I'm looking for something that will do the dirty work for at least 5 years.
So lets walk through this thing...
CPU: A Celeron G3900, the cheapest Skylake CPU. Why? Because in the next year I'll dump $300 for an i7-6700k for my editing/gaming rig, and this machine will get the i5-6500 out of my main computer. No point in splurging on something I'm going to hock in 12 months, is there? And this Celeron seems to be running well enough for now. BTW, the cooler on this chip is the stock i5 cooler -- better fan, more surface area on the heat sink. The stock one is in the box for resale whenever I get around to upgrading my main rig.
MOBO: The cheapest MATX motherboard that would support my hardware. Why? Because it was on wicked sale (before a rebate, too) and it fit in the case. USB 3 front header isn't being used, but oh well. It's there if I upgrade the case (see point about drop-in upgrade requirements for the build)
RAM: Two mismatched 4GB DDR4-2133 sticks (Corsair is a placeholder). Why? Because I bought one (originally planned for just one) and then I won an eBay bid for a similar spec'ed stick for stupidly cheap. Like $10.
STORAGE: An old laptop hard drive. Why? Because I had it laying around. $0 added to the build. An SSD will be a purchase in a month or so (Black Friday sales coming up). Not a fancy one, either. I'm not blowing any more money on this thing than I have to.
GPU: I have a theory to buying video cards: The best performance in my ironclad price range (set when I plan a build) at the time I buy. I bought a reference RX 480 8GB for my main rig on launch day for MSRP because it did the job and cost less than a GTX 970. Had the GTX 1060 been out then, I probably would have bought that (but that was months off). For $10 more than an RX 460 -- not that many RX 460s or GTX 1050s are actually available at MSRP, but whatever -- I found an MSRP GTX 1050 with more than 10 percent better performance. My price limit was $125, and $109 was the price on the 1050. $15 under budget. Sold.
CASE An old eMachines case, beat to hell, covered with stickers and with a giant hole cut in the side for a 120mm fan. Why? Because I had it laying around. Note the random collection of stickers and the handle -- a drawer pull off of a trashed mid-century office desk. Note the cost of $0... you'll notice a pattern forming here. There's also a 2-bay HDD tray sitting in a box here, so it'll take two more hard drives without any real work.
PSU: A cheap refurbished non-modular EVGA I originally had in my main rig. A bit more power than needed, but at the price of $0, it fit the build well (PSUs are usually more efficient with smaller loads, too). I pulled this PSU out of that build (also here on PCPP) when I found a modular Seasonic at a stupidly low price (before rebate, too...)
A slight digression... I hate rebates. Rebates are evil. But I bought two things with rebates in the last two months because they were already on sale for an acceptable price before rebate. With stupid rules about where to staple UPC labels, don't ever expect to get a rebate back without waiting 6 months. ...enough of that digression...
OPTICAL DRIVE, ETC. --A Blu-ray player. Why? I wanna eventually get some new Star Wars movies, and Blu-ray is a lot cheaper than it used to be. I also don't own a Blu-ray player.
--A cheap 802.11n WiFi card. Why? Because I don't wanna screw around with ethernet all the time (girlfriend's house has WiFi, but limited Ethernet access, and this will go back and forth on occasion). Also, my router only supports N speeds. And the card was on sale for under $10.
OS: I originally tried Ubuntu, but I couldn't get the graphics card drivers to work -- it just wouldn't recognize the card. Don't know if it was card or motherboard related, or just software. After two days of messing around, I slipped my Win 10 USB stick in it (uhh...) and went with Windows. Sorry, Ubuntu, I tried, but you couldn't get the job done. Off to Windows we go (with a "Activate me" watermark until next paycheck).
PICS: 1) The case. Yucky-ucky... There's a reason it lives behind a speaker in my living room...
2) The insides. Note the lack of cable management spots, and how tiny the motherboard is! It only uses two rows of standoffs, instead of 3 like a "full size" MATX.
3) The CPU and video card. Isn't the Zotac just so adorable?!? I just wanna pinch it's widdle cheekie-weekies...
OK, I'm back.
4) The only crap I actually bought for this build. Far less than what the total says ($500? LOL...)
EDITS: Some clarifications, tweaks to wording and a wiener joke or two. Thanks for the feedback, folks...