I got detached from PC gaming almost 6 years ago. I bought a budget gaming PC with my parents money back then after my laptop fried during a thunderstorm. The games I played are not AAA titles as they were very expensive at the time. As you can see, I’m was a student and didn’t have money to spent on gaming.
Add to that, I was studying abroad and moving from one place to another was the norm, so carrying a CPU tower was very inconvenient. I ended up giving it to my little brother and settled with a laptop for web development. From there on, I stopped doing PC gaming.
Still, I feel it would be awesome to have a gaming PC like everyone else. Every now and then I tried to play some games like Trine and Ori on a laptop and while I enjoyed them, the experience was very plain, with crippling FPS and loud laptop-fan begging for mercy.
Lately I have been playing few games on Steam, and would like to relive my PC gaming moments, I also wanted to enjoy the games I played on laptop as they were not very enjoyable on a laptop. So I started with an objective:
- I wanted a system that can run latest AAA titles with ease.
- Future-proof for at least 3 years, and can be upgraded without throwing the important parts away (e.g: Motherboard & PSU)
- Most importantly, it has to be small enough to carry, in case I’m moving out.
- I code web and run VMs frequently, so I need a lot of RAM.
- Affordable, I don’t need fastest processor on the planet etc.
Now, excuse my stupidity, I didn’t find out about Mini ATX before, and it’s like a revelation for me right now, because it’s so much smaller and it’s very convenient to carry around, and yet I can still put a powerful components inside. So let’s start off with that.
Casing: Cooler Master Elite 130
I was using CZone’s price list as the reference point, as you can see, from here on I’ll pick parts that are often the cheapest option but can still deliver my needs.
For the casing, I intentonally picked Cooler Master Elite 110 for it’s cheap price, but after reading reviews, turns out that this is a Mini ITX case, and then I learned about different sizes of cases and Mini ITX is the perfect size for me. I was a bit worried about heat problems but turns out it’s okay. I ended up picking the Elite 130 because I need to make sure any graphic cards can fit in just fine.
PSU: Cooler Master VS650
There’s nothing special about the PSU here, I was originally planing to get the 550W PSU because they are generally cheaper, but the guy at CZone advised me to takek the 650W just in case I need bigger GPU. Well, there’s not much margin in price so I went ahead and take this one.
One thing that I’m quite sure is that GPU vendors such as ATi and NVidia are making better cards with lower power consumption, so I know I shouldn’t worry too much about this. If there’s anything, I’m just a bit sad that it’s not modular, that means I can’t take out extra power cables to clean my setup, although I personally don’t think it’s a big issue.
Motherboard: Asus H110I-PLUS
I picked this up because from the spec it looks like it has everything I need, but then there are several things I didn’t discover since I’m really green:
- There’s no M2 slot (for faster SSD)
- The bus speed is slower, being a non-gaming motherboard.
- It can only accept 2133 RAM, so high-performance DDR4 is out of the window.
All these points, while it’s not important for me right now, I’m not sure about the future, although I’m sure I won’t be missing anything by not having any of these in the coming 5-6 years.
Memory: Kingston 1-stick D4 2133 16GB
So I was actually planning to get a high performance RAM, but I found out later that my mobo doesn’t support that. I was advised to get a gaming mobo but then I figured out I can hardly find any difference since I’m not a hardcore gamer. So I ended up with a normal DDR4.
The beautiy of this, is that I took the 1-stick 16GB. So that means my mobo (which has only 2 DDR4 slots) can take another 16GB in the future and I can have 32GB max. I know some people are saying 2x8GB is better than 1x16GB in terms of speed but I’m not sure if that’s a real thing and if I ever going to have any problem with that.
Processor: Intel i5 6500
I’m so thankful that researched the difference on i5 and i7. I was aiming for the highest one and being a laptop user, I was not very satisfied with my i5 laptop (Mac) and i7 laptop at work (Dell), as it turns out, desktop and laptop processors are very different.
I also saw a chart about processor differences and I realised all I need is an i5, I even tuned down to 6500 instead of the OC version since I don’t need to do any overclocking, a lot of saving happened here.
Storage: Kingston UV400 240GB
Again, I was originally aiming for 128GB since they are cheaper, but thanks to some cuts I made on the RAM and processor, I can get 250GB and they run just fine. In the future I can always add more storage as needed.
Graphics: Asus GTX970 Turbo 4GB DDR5
Enough said for this card, it’s a best bang for your buck. I was unsure if I should pick a Radeon but then I saw a lot of people are using GTX970 so I went it for “safety” reason. I know there are issues like VRAM but I don’t really mind it.
A little note though, I was planning to get the MSI one but they are out of stock, so I picked up this one instead, I didn’t even go with the Strix version since it doesn’t matter much at this point.
End result: A little box that packs power for <$650
So here’s how it looks, as you can see it’s quite small and powerful (at least for me), it’s running on Windows 10 and so far I’m very satisfied with it’s performance. I’m saving up to buy some AAA titles, but the stuff that I’m running, including Forza, are running smoothly at 60+ FPS. If you know me, you’ll see that I like to switch between games and coding very frequently, so this build can serve me very well on that.
I can easily bring this anywhere conveniently, and I can upgrade it with better specs in the future, which brings me to the next point.
Future plan: Faster processor, GPU and bigger RAM
The motherboard has 2DDR4 slots, 1151 CPU and 1 PCIe, that means in 4-5 years when better components are available in lower prices, I can easily grab:
- The fastest i7 that has slot 1151.
- Double my RAM to 32GB.
- Fastest GPU that has PCIe (who knows if they gonna change the slot again)
- VR headset!
Overall. I’m pretty happy with this build, it’s fast, powerful, small and it doesn’t hurt the budget at all.