Description

Buddy of mine has been gaming (or, trying to) on a 5 year-old Phenom-powered HP workstation with an Nvidia GT 610 video card we added in: a futile attempt to get a little more gaming performance out of this underwhelming station. So, with a few days to spare and a friend in need, I decided to begin collecting some parts. Over the course of about 2 weeks, I tracked down and purchased compatible parts as cheaply as possible:

  • It started with an AMD Athlon X4 860K I found on sale at a local computer store for $98 ($20 off ... Not bad). I decided this would become the core of this new gaming machine.
  • The motherboard was chosen because it featured WiFi and Bluetooth and looked pretty good in flat black. Win-Win?
  • The RAM is the exact same I used in my own system so I bought one 4GB and one 8GB stick, put the 8GB into my own computer, and replaced it with one of my old 4GB sticks for an 8GB total. I trust this RAM and will continue to use it. Overclocks pretty well.
  • The case was a Fractal Design Core 500 changed last-minute because the Core V21 was on sale and had a window and I wanted to try building in it. A tiny ITX MoBo looks pretty odd inside but whatever, right?
  • The future owner of the system already had 2HDDs on-hand which I could have used and left it at that, but an SSD is a must in a modern machine and I so happened to have my leftover 840EVO laying around so was like whatever, throw it in.
  • I had an 850W Enermax power supply in to review the week prior, and was so impressed that I just HAD to call and asked them to send over a cheaper unit. 500W for under $50 was an amazing deal and these units are built REALLY well so another Win-Win here!
  • Windows 10 Pro went in as the main and only OS... No surprise here. 8.1 sucks, after-all. Didn't include a cost because we have not activated it yet. Simply installed it. He is planning on buying an activation key this Christmas.
  • The GPU was a tough choice. I was ABOUT to buy an R7 370 4GB and then decided on a GTX 760 and then thought to go a bit overkill and swing for a GTX970 and then thought a 960 would suffice and then imagined the system with a FuryX and then ended off with an R9 280 RoyalKing because it was on sale for a good price. Judge me.
  • LED case fan because window case and need for an exhaust fan.

Challenges: Ummm... Finding everything cheaply? Deciding components? Deciding on a GPU? There were no particular challenges in this build, really. mITX builds usually have troubles with cable management, but this case was over-sized and has REALLY good cable management. No issues.

I didn't include them but I also threw in some braided extension cables. There was so much space below the motherboard tray that I could sacrifice lots of room for extensions to make it pretty. Sadly, the red Bitfenix PCIe cables I bought would NOT fit the GPU. The connector looked different with the shape of the pins. No clue what the hell happened there...

Future: Of course Windows will have to be activated, eventually. A CPU cooler is also a good idea. Thinking of the DeepCool Captain 240 to keep with the red theme, but who knows. Once its on, I expect to get a bit higher clocks on the 860K. Its a good chip and ran incredibly cool at stock speeds, leading me to overclock it very slightly even on the included box cooler.

Part Reviews

CPU

Stellar performer and a great base to build from! Remember that it has no built-in GPU so you WILL need a dedicated card, but the lack of onboard graphics does give it a few advantages over its A10-7850K brother: The 860K has a bit more cache and overclocks a bit better because there is no built-in GPU producing more heat.

For a more budget build, go with the A10-7850K so you don't need a dedicated GPU, but as the core of a budget gaming PC or even an office workstation its a great and cheap choice! Don't expect amazing performance. Sits somewhere along the same range as a same-gen i3 or a slightly older i5.

Would rank 3.5/5 but will bump up to 4/5 because it is so much cheaper than even a Pentium but outperforms it in today's tasks.

Motherboard

Probably the best Mini-ITX option available for the FM2+ socket, thanks in-part to the inclusion of onboard AC Wifi and Bluetooth 4.0 as well as the solid black color theme. Plenty of back IO ports to keep you satisfied, and a good range of internal ports. Wish it had a few more fan headers SATA ports, as 4 is a bit limiting (1 SSD, 1 Optical Drive, 2 HDDs) but as it IS a Micro-ITX board sacrifices must be made. Its BIOS isn't as pretty as something from, say, Asus but it is very much easy to navigate and very useful. Power delivery and build quality are outstanding, as is the custom from Gigabyte.

3.8/5 because I want 6 SATA ports :P and because only having 1 chassis fan is inexcusable for a $120+ motherboard (1 header for CPU and 1 for chassis fan).

Memory

Too tall to clear even non-slim CPU coolers. However, it looks and performs amazingly. If you are using an aftermarket cooler that sits over the RAM slots, look into the version with short heat spreaders or the Dominator series.

If you just need good RAM: 5/5 Always trust Vengance

Storage

Its a shame these are being phased-out. For the performance, it's really hard to beat the price. Having gone down as low as $120 for the 250GB version, these prove themselves to be fast and secure storage. Haven't had one fail on me yet, and I use one as a scratch drive for Premier Pro.

Storage

A 1TB Seagate Barracuda is the drive you get when you don't know what drive to get. I have NEVER built a computer without including one. They can be bought for under $50 sometimes, I've never heard of one failing, and they atore a LOT of data. 1TB is a lot of storage and you can get away with having one as the only drive in your system.

Video Card

This is an oddball card which I want to love but just can't completely. Its a powerful GPU capable of maxing out demanding titles at 1080p and hitting 60-120fps. (With a good CPU and a tiny bit of overclocking in MSI Afterburner.) That said, it's still a hot card with performance similar to that of a GTX960, so don't expect to run anything new at 4K

Handles some 1440p games like Elite:Dangerous, Project Cars, BF4 and GTA5 in the 60fps range but anything more demanding than that and you'd best drop down to a 1080p panel like it was meant to. You can run 4 of these together but I can't see why you would want to do that. Unless you want your own personal space heater.

If you find one under $200 it's a good deal on a very capable card. Otherwise, a GTX960 will give you the same performance while running cooler and the R9 380X will more than justify itself in the performance gain.

3.5/5

Case

Cable management dream. Very good design. Love the customization options with the interchangeable panels. Leads to some creative builds, I must say.

4x240 radiator support is great for both AIO coolers and custom loops.

Window is a little scratch-prone and a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Keep the plastic vover on until you're 100% done.

Power Supply

Honestly can't say anything bad about this PSU. For the price it's an excellent unit. Alternatives are a 430W Corsair CX430 or a 600W Thermaltake TR2 TR-600 The 80+Gold version of this PSU would also be a good buy if you need more efficiency, but its otherwise a really solid power supply and I have had 0 issues with Enermax. Great warranty too.

Comments

  • 49 months ago
  • 2 points

nice build!

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Many thanks to you :)

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

need to get tiny voices for verification. agains its not the best thing in the world but you got it cheap

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

The PSU he is using is a Enermax Naxn, if I did my research correctly, it should be a Tier 3 PSU, which isn't bad for a budget build. Just hoping he didn't overclock anything. Other than that, it should be fine...

  • 49 months ago
  • 2 points

It is actually only a 400w unit made by CWT. It is definitely not great and I would not recommend powering a 280 with it, but it is not some diablotek that will burn down the house.

It performs well at 400w, so as long as you know it is only a 400w PSU, it is not terrible. It's about on par with a CX500-ish. I'd probably have the CX because of the bigger 12v rail, but again, this is not a 'blow up your PC" unit.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

The future calls for an ~850W 80+Gold PSU but the budget didn't allow it at the moment, so I got a unit which should be good enough.

It won't need to support any large overclocks and only draws 326W at full load, so I think it's still within its safe operating range.

As you said, it's by no means the best in the world, but it's a great PSU for the price and definitely not a fire hazard (unlike some other builds I've seen.......)

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Ehh, I would not say it is great for the price. It is discontinued and for the same money you can get a Corsair CX430 which is better in every day.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

I picked it up for $50, it satisfies the needs of the system very well, it's pretty quiet, has a good warranty and I trust Enermax PSUs.

The future plan for the system is to see what AMD's Zen has to offer and then decide on either Zen or Skylake (or Skylake refresh by then maybe?) on an mATX board with a second R9 280 (out of my brother's gaming PC). That definitely warrants a PSU upgrade.

The 860K and Giga board will probably be reused in someone's office PC with the Enermax unit.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

"blow up your PC" unit

Now that made me chuckle.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Did a very minor overclock. 200MHz.

Once a better cooler makes its way into the build I'll push it a bit more to 4GHz and leave it there. 300MHz shouldn't be an issue.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah - Its not meant to be the best, as you said. It's to be a capable gaming machine for under $800 Does pretty well for the price, TBH. And looks OK too

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice build, your friend will like it!

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Definitely: He loves it. Especially the boot time from the SSD (old computer would take well over 2 minutes to boot to login).

Do wish there were better choices for cheap powerful quad-core CPUs from Intel though :/ ... As it stands, the i3s are too weak for any heavy lifting while the i5s are too pricey.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

I'm glad to hear that he likes it, and I agree that Intel CPUs are very pricy, I'm going with AMD for my first build.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

For lower power builds on a budget AMD is still king.

That said, building a somewhat beefy system around a Pentium G4400 is a very good option, since you can then toss that $70 chip and replace it with an i7-6700K when you feel like you need an upgrade. You'll only spend a little more and will then have a clear upgrade path, provided you get a good MoBo and PSU

Something like this will probably be my next build (case and PSU will be in said upgrade path):

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Pentium G4400 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor $62.99 @ SuperBiiz
Motherboard ASRock Z170M-ITX/ac Mini ITX LGA1151 Motherboard $128.99 @ SuperBiiz
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (1 x 16GB) DDR4-2800 Memory $129.99 @ Newegg
Storage Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $44.89 @ OutletPC
Case Raidmax Element Mini ITX Desktop Case w/450W Power Supply $57.98 @ Newegg
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $424.84
Generated by PCPartPicker 2015-11-20 17:45 EST-0500
  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice build, I'm new to this PC building thing so the more experience I get from people that have done it the better.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

You're in the right place to start, my friend.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

This case/PSU is horrible. Completely trash PSU and low quality case. DO NOT buy that.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

I like the way it looks. That was the only deciding factor.

It's a box to house the computer parts... How can it be a horrible case? What makes it so horrible that you would absolutely not buy it?

The PSU is a bundled PSU and will therefore be "meh" quality... So? It would be replaced with a Silverstone SFX unit later on, and even until then, there is nothing wrong with using it for a little while as long as the wattage of the system as a whole is a LOT less than the rated output of the PSU, which it is. It's the same quality as what you'd get with a store-bought PC.

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  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

shrugs

AMD chips run hot... I made a mistake on the CPU temps, should be 73 not 83.

I do hope the newer generations coming up will run cooler. My HTPC is an A10-7850K build and if I decide to play some games on it, it quickly heats up my living room by a few degrees XD

I think of it as a free included space heater :3

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  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Imagine somehow making it waterproof and tossing it in a pool under a heavy overclock. Boom. Gamer's hot tub!

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  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Seen one - wanted to build one so badly... There was this chemical I found online that changes from crystal clear to opaque blue as it heats up and I thought it would be an awesome thing to add to the oil to show how the heat moves around inside the case and dissipates out away from the CPU, GPU, RAM, Power Controllers, etc... but then read that it can't be dissolved with mineral oil. Only water.

Dreams crushed :(

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  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

I honestly doubt it. I have the sapphire version of the 280 and while it isn't a terrible card, it struggles to get 60 fps on high in games like mirror's edge (actually crashed on high), and other demanding games.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

You may have a bad copy, because the 280 is known as a bit of a gem for 1080p gaming that consistently averages 60fps on medium-high. Possibly the best bang-for-buck card around right now since it's so stupidly cheap.

I had it in my computer (5960X though), this very same card, for about 1 week. Playing with some settings I managed to get 3-digits at 1080p on Elite:Dangerous and averaged 52fps on GTA5 consistently on high settings.

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Handles some 1440p games like Elite:Dangerous, Project Cars, BF4 and GTA5 in the 60fps range

This is what I was doubting. My 280 can play most games like you said on medium-high in or near triple digits (hell, I get steady 245 on CS:GO, but that's not very gpu demanding is it?), but there is no way a 280 can get 1440p 60FPS..

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

You'd be surprised. As long as you pair it with a more capable CPU you will reach 60 at 1440 once in a while, provided you actually take the 2 minutes to overclock the GPU a bit.

My card reached 1150MHz without much tweaking and a steady 1240Mhz after some adjustments, but that ran pretty hot so I pulled it back down. It was stable and ran at OK temperatures. On a 5960X it ran buttery smooth 1440p at an average of 40-60fps sometimes crawling up higher to about 65 and only occasionally dipping down below 40. If it was stock I doubt it could peak above 50.

On this specific build though, with the 860K, I only tried Elite at 1440p and it ran OK. Averaged about 35fps sometimes going up to 43-45 (not counting supercruise where it got like 300 XD)

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  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

The review I wrote for the card was specifically for the card, since I tested it both on an i7-4790K and a 5960X build. That's where you bounce in the 50-60fps range at 1440p with medium-high settings and up to about 120-130fps max on 1080p.

On this build it sticks in the 60-80fps range at 1080p on medium-high on most games, with some being forced down as low as 40fps. In all honesty, the CPU isn't proving as much of a bottleneck as you'd expect a sub-$100 chip to be. There is definitely a bit of a performance loss as opposed to an i7 but I wouldn't say its enough to justify the added cost for a more entry-level build.

It will, however, be really interesting to see what happens once more games start coming out with DX12 support, since its proven itself to give AMD GPUs a massive performance boost, especially running alongside lower-end CPUs.