My younger brother is your typical 13-year old boy who likes to play video games (read: a lot). Up until now, he’s been making do with an 8-year old Dell desktop which, until recently, did not even have a discrete graphics card; he’s been playing Call of Duty, Rome: Total War, and other games which definitely outstrip the Dell’s capabilities.
Given that desktop computers are collections of parts which you can mostly upgrade or replace one at a time (taking into account compatibility), I thought to build him something on a reasonable budget that can play his games on relatively high settings while showing him how computers work and how he can upgrade or change it over the years into university. Because hell if I’m buying him another computer for college, that’s my San Franci… tuition budget. Yeah.
We went with the following outline:
- i5-4670, $239
- ASUS Z87-A motherboard, $170
- Corsair Vengeance 2×4 GB RAM, 1600 MHz
- 128 GB SSD, $100-ish at Canada Computers
- 1 TB HDD, $65-ish at CC
- Gigabyte GV-N660OC-2GD graphics card for the NVIDIA GTX 660, $219 (HUEG fans, see below)
- 850 W power supply at the store, $130-ish
- Rosewill Challenger mid-size case, comes with 3 fans (one with blue LED), $55
- Windows 7 Home Premium, $100
With some price matching and substituting of components which I don’t remember, the total came to about $1250 after tax.
I just wanted to take a moment to show a picture of the graphics card. It’s HUEG.
I chose it because of the huge fans and what we learned in heat transfer: forced air convection is awesome and the bigger the exposed surface area, the more heat is transferred away. Add in the exposed heatsinks and you’ve got one cold card. If there’s one thing I got out of that hated course, it’s that fans + fins = freezing.
Assembling it was real fun (read: scary as hell). Clamping my anti-static wrist strap to the bare metal of the ventilation duct in the floor, I fumbled around with some screwdrivers and managed to get things into place. It didn’t help that I forgot the I/O shield plate for the back of the computer, and had to reseat the motherboard, nor did it help that the I/O shield was weirdly designed and had these prongs sticking out of them making it ten times more difficult to assemble. If these prongs actually fulfill some useful function, someone please tell me.
Finally, after about two hours of fumbling, fiddling, and touching bare metal objects, it started up just fine! Due to its quiet nature despite its 3 fans, and its blazing speed tucked into a steel case, I called it the STARPLATINUM after Jotaro Josuke’s Stand in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 3.
The case’s fans whirred quietly as the computer downloaded updates and restarted repeatedly; initial boot times were about 30 seconds from pressing the switch to moving the mouse on the desktop. Core temperatures were stable at around mid 30 degrees Celsius; when idle under no load, it can dip even into the 20’s.
This thing now runs my brother’s games off Steam at the highest settings with little drop in framerate or performance; the old monitor he’s using can refresh at up to 75 Hz, which this thing seems to handle just fine. It almost makes me want to ditch my currently-dead W530 Thinkpad and just build a better computer for cheaper!
The build was completed shortly before I returned to school for the summer, so that would’ve been around May 4.