UPDATE: Making this into a workstation. See Page 2 for details.
I've done mild modifications to OEM desktops before, but this was my first time building a desktop from the ground up. Budget was $300, so I had to reuse several parts to meet that budget. Goal was to create a low-end casual gaming desktop with overclocking and upgrading potential. I do not live close to a MicroCenter, and the closest one to me is in a neighborhood that I'd rather avoid. All of this was put together a few weeks ago.
Case: XClio 320
Wanted a cheap case with a minimum of a bottom mounted PSU. This one surpassed my expectations. Very sturdy, no sharp edges, lots of room to work with and cable management options. Quite a few fan options as well: 2x120mm front, 1x120mm bottom, 2x120 or 2x140 top, 2x120 or 2x140 side, and 1x120 or 1x80 rear. Simple design with only two USB 2.0 ports and audio ports in front.
MB: Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3
One of the things I disliked about all of the OEM boards I've worked with is that the SATA ports faced upwards, which interfered with large GPU's. Hence, one of my requirements was that the SATA ports were parallel to the board. Other things I looked for was a BIOS that allowed overclocking, a minimum of 16GB RAM support, PCI slots, and decent spacing between PCIE slots in the event I ever considered doing SLI or Crossfire. This board pretty much fits all of my requirements, though I wouldn't be able to do SLI in the future with an x4/x16 pair. Didn't know that SLI locks out x4 slots until after I bought it.
CPU: AMD FX-4170
Just wanted something better than my old Phenom x4 9550 around the $100 range. The i3's, from what I understood, are dual core processors with a locked multiplier, and I didn't want to spend more for an unlocked i5. The FX-4170 was advertised as a 4.2Ghz quad core unlocked processor. Little did I know at the time that the ads were misleading. Probably would have been better off with the older Phenom II x4 965 BE. I'll address this if it becomes an issue.
RAM: 2x4GB Ripjaws 1600Hz
Came with the motherboard. No real complaints here. 8GB is enough for me and 1600Hz, from what I've researched, seems to have a good balance between higher clock speeds and actual real-world impact. The heat spreaders were a nice touch, I guess.
GPU: 1GB MSI GTX 550 Ti OC
Bought this back in February to replace my GeForce 8500 GT. The PSU that I had bought (which I'll be covering later) did not comfortably fit inside my OEM HP case. Rather than buy another power supply, I looked for a lower-end GPU that did not require more than a 400W PSU. The GTX 550 Ti fit my criteria. Now that I've upgraded my case, though, I'm looking for a better GPU since the GTX 550 Ti isn't that impressive and doesn't have much overclocking headroom. Goal is to be ready for Metro Last Light's release. I'd prefer to play it across 3x 1600x900 monitors at decent settings (if I got with an ATI card, I could use my GTX 550 Ti as a dedicated Physx card), but that's unlikely with a single GPU and would compromise with higher settings on one monitor for certain games, and lower settings across multiple monitors for others. That support it, of course.
PSU: Antec HCG-750
Got it back in 2011 but never used it because it didn't fit well inside my OEM HP case. Biggest problem is the numerous thick braided cables. Definitely opting for a modular power supply for my next build.
Since the XClio 320 gave me the option to play around with case fans, I figured I'd give it a shot. I have 2x120mm Rosewill fans as front intake (74CFM each), 1x140mm Logysys SF140 top intake (72CFM), and a four pack of Cooler Master 120mm fans for 1 side intake and 1 rear exhaust (45CFM). Opted for a top intake so that I could feed the CPU cooler (and RAM) with fresh air and to essentially move air around in the top half of the case. Others have tried this and have gotten good results. Haven't had a chance to experiment myself. GPU sees a max temp of 62C with MSI Kombustor. All are managed by a NZXT Sentry Mesh fan controller, which I got in the event I ever decide to go with something as loud as a Scythe Ultra Kaze again.
I went for a Cooler Master Hyper 212+. At the moment, it's in push configuration, which gives me 48C with Prime95. Thinking about changing it to pull and removing the rear case fan. Don't think there's too much benefit in going for push/pull; switching to another 120mm fan with higher CFM's would probably do more.
CPU + MB + RAM Combo = $196
CPU Cooler = $15 w/ rebate
Fan Controller = $25
Fans = $29
Case = $35
Wireless Card = $25
PSU, Optical Drive, HDD's, GPU = $0 (reused)
1) 120GB SSD. Got an 120GB Adata SX900 for my laptop and have been really impressed with the SSD performance... and that's with my laptop locked at SATA 1 speeds. Should be even faster with this motherboard. Hardly even use 40GB on my laptop, so 120GB should be fine. Currently using three 7200 RPM HDD's, one of which is empty and another is just for virtual memory use.
2) A new GPU. Really want to try tri-monitor gaming, or at least play Metro Last Light with most settings on high on a single monitor.
3) CPU upgrade. I've read that even the HD 7870 is bottlenecked by the FX-4170. If this becomes an issue, I'll probably just upgrade to a FX-8320.
Case and CPU fan experimentation
Overclocking the CPU
Edited by Kiro, 28 December 2012 - 09:35 AM.