+ Total (Canada):
All prices, unless otherwise stated, are in Canadian Dollars, and do not include tax. You probably won't be able to build this pc at this price ($261), but if you keep reading you might learn something useful! I removed the builds because I didn't like them.
My little brother is going away to university this fall so I decided to build him a going-away present. I used my old PSU ($35) and GPU (~$80) in this build since I haven't been gaming much the past year, and also because I am a student and therefore broke haha, so I wanted to save the extra $200 for food. Yes, food. A girl's gotta eat too you know. I also didn't want to build him too powerful of a rig for fear of him not studying enough, so the goal of this build was for most games to run smoothly at medium to high settings. Moreover, as a computer scientist in training, I wanted to see how low I could push it while still achieving the desired performance. Of course, I also tried to future-proof it as best as I could, so I went with the cheapest LGA1151 motherboard that fit my needs.
Review and Upgrades
The CPU can easily be upgraded to an i3-6100 ($150) or i5-6600 ($285). I recommend those choices because you won't be overclocking with this mobo, unless you want to upgrade it too (i5-6600K $300) and i7 is
overrated not a good value. :P
The motherboard is just fine because I'm not planning to overclock anything (my brother is not tech savvy and I don't want him to blow anything up while I'm not around) nor am I planning to ever run SLI. This board offers everything we need at this point in time, so I don't want to pay more for features that won't be used. Most mobos at this price point are missing the front USB 3.0 port, so it's great that this one supports it. Note that this specific motherboard seems to disconnect on wireless devices, namely my keyboard and mouse.
I firmly believed that the HyperX Fury was one of the better memory sticks at this price point, and I am not disappointed at all. These actually scored the highest in the benchmarks that I ran haha. They're standard DDR4-2133 sticks that we will definitely continue to use for some time, so this is a good investment.
Remember, 2x4GB is always better than 1x8GB with dual channel, and of course the mobo supports this as well.iHaveBeenCorrected You can go with any memory you'd like, but 8GB of memory (single or dual) is, believe it or not, more than enough for gaming.
I went with a HDD because of the price, and none of my other WD drives have failed me yet. Of course, upgrades for storage is simply adding more HDD or SSDs, and this mobo supports up to 4 sata devices. The computer boots up quite fast, going from off to desktop in 60 seconds, and another 30 seconds to initialize all my startup programs (Skype, Steam, etc).
The GPU is just randomly thrown in there, and as such it's obviously the bottle neck (only) when gaming, but if you want to build this, I'd suggest getting a 750 Ti ($150) for a budget build. If you want to spend more, you could get a GTX 960 ($230), but anything above that will probably require a slightly better CPU (i3 or i5).
R9 380/X ($250) and RX 480 ($280) are also good choices, and the not-yet-released GTX 1060 is rumored to be better than the 980 and will cost $250 USD (~$325). RX 470 and GTX 1060 are also good value. Of course I'm going to recommend Zotac for NVIDIA and Sapphire for AMD, simply because brand loyalty and good experiences.
The case is a standard microATX case, quite sturdy, pretty, and decent cable management. I love mATX boards, and it's nice that the price is good too. I didn't take a picture of the back of the case or the right side because I forgot, and quite frankly, I'm too lazy to now. Rest assured, it is a good budget case, and I have no real complaints. Note that once you break off the PCIe slots they won't go back on, and they only included one (flimsy) extra slot. Not a big deal though since all budget cases are like that, and everything screws in with minimal difficulty. The hard drive cage can be faced towards the right or the left, and I decided to put mine facing right just for a cleaner look. It comes included with a blessedly quiet 120mm rear turbo fan and has an air filter on the bottom for the PSU, which is really nice. It stays at a reasonable temperature with the stock cooler and no extra fans, and the parts I have in there are incredibly quiet, even at full load for several hours.
PSU is not amazing, but it works and the case fits a standard ATX PSU so upgrade as you wish. I recommend EVGA PSUs of course.
Testing and Comments
I'm still testing to see how well the computer performs in games, but so far I'm quite satisfied with the result. I don't know if it's because the parts are still new, but everything is loading instantly (comparable to i5s and i7s) and I am pleasantly surprised. With internet at 30mbps hardwired, I was able to play a song on Youtube on Google Chrome all while downloading Blade & Soul, Geforce Experience, and Life is Strange on Steam while Skyping, and the only hiccup during that time was a few glitches in the audio, although I think that only started occurring after I plugged in my headphones. Speaking of, the audio quality is fantastic compared to my other devices. The RAM is perfect, the CPU holds up quite well, and the HDD is somehow able to install everything at decent speeds. I was told that there was one random lag spike during gameplay, and this happened after the computer has been running Blade & Soul all day. I was also able to record Life is Strange gameplay at 900p with no lag, but until I render the file I won't know 100%. So the build seems okay, but more time for testing is needed.
The thing that I disliked the most about this build was the motherboard. The back-plate was flimsy, and I had to manually install the drivers so it would register USBs, ethernet, audio, etc. The disk came in the box, but it was a pain because I couldn't use my USB optical drive to install my OS, and instead had to pull a sata optical drive from my other computer and do a makeshift setup until all the drivers were working correctly. Let's just say I spent about three hours failing miserably until the sata optical drive saved me. So a tip for first time builders: always use a sata optical drive for painless first time installation. Also, plug in the power for your GPU because that was my dumbest mistake. This motherboard only has a HDMI port and I didn't know until I tried to plug VGA in and let's just say the only HDMI monitor I have is the tv, and the entire system refused to go into boot mode because my GPU was plugged in without power, then I did a CMOS reset and let's face it, that probably ruined everything because after that my USBs didn't register anymore. =_= But in the end, everything turned out okay. :'D Failing is okay, because I learn from my failures!.. usually.
I built this entire pc without looking at a single instruction manual, because they all sucked. :| It was all pretty intuitive anyway, and everything's fine and working so all is good. So hopefully if you're a first time builder, you figure it out! There's no fun in smooth sailing anyway, right? xD
July 9 2016: Installed some windows updates without telling my brother, he gamed and later told me the framerates went 10 higher. Cool cool. He's currently playing Blade & Soul and apparently maxed he gets around 60 fps. Pretty impressive for a 6 year old GPU I think.
July 10 2016: Did a benchmark for Thief at 900p since it's the most poorly optimized game I own, and it wouldn't run on my old systems. I was able to run it at around 20 fps on my i5 and GT 830M at over 1080p (if I'm not mistaken) but it was just playable. The entire time, the GPU didn't go over 75C and the CPU didn't go higher than 34C, so not too bad.
All with FOV 90, borderless fullscreen very low min 23.9 max 44.8 avg 33.3 low min 20.9 max 44.8 avg 33.4 normal min 14.4 max 33.7 avg 25.3 high min 9.8 max 28.0 avg 21.1 maxed min 11.6 max 23.9 avg 17.2
July 14 2016: Added a Windows Performance screenshot thing, rated 7.1 out of 7.9, although I'm not sure how accurate that is. The PC stays remarkably cool; my brother has been playing all day and the instant the game shuts down the parts cool off impressively quickly. Apparently his wireless keyboard and mouse combo (Logitech K260) keeps disconnecting/stops responding multiple times a day. I'm guessing there's a problem with either the USB port or the motherboard, although I just played for a few hours and everything seems to be running fine. Sleeping Dogs runs great on second highest settings (high?) at an average of 30 fps, and third highest setting (normal?) runs at the max 75 fps. Witcher 1 runs fine ofc, and I tried playing Blade & Soul and there's no lag at all. I was running all of these games at 768p while recording gameplay. TERA runs fine if you turn down the settings to low-medium, but stutters at anything above medium settings.
July 21 2016: My friends are all very confused because this computer is so quiet lol. So I actually had time to play games today (and since my brother's off on vacation I have stolen this pc), and Assetto Corsa runs great with no lag on max settings, and Dirt Rally benchmarked at 45.79, 36.21, and 60.81, at average, max, and min fps, respectively, on very high settings. These were all run on a small monitor at above 1000p if I'm not mistaken. How to Survive also runs great on max settings, as expected.
July 30 2016: I finally got around to playing Thief, and it can actually run on med-high settings with no drops in framerate. o_O I was pretty impressed. Sometimes I have problems with my mouse, like it'll lag in games, but I have no idea why it's doing that. I'm guessing it has something to do with the motherboard USB slots or the drivers. I'll check to see if there are any software updates..
July 31 2016: I think I've figured out the issue with the mouse. Essentially, my brother and I both use wireless mice. I plugged in a wired one and so far, no disconnects. This is the motherboard's fault, and the updated drivers didn't help. I also got a Deepcool Xfan 120L/R fan for $5.75 CAD, tax included, and put it in the front. It can't connect to the mobo (mobo fail) so it's just turns on when the pc is on. The new fan looks pretty cool and keeps the system a bit cooler, but since there's no fan controller, it's quite audible. It's near silent without the fan, so that sucks a little. Aesthetics +1. Silence -1. Mobo -2.
August 13 2016: Finally done with my summer term! -kneels over and dies- I had the time to edit some videos today, and I'm quite impressed with the video rendering times. On average, 1366x768 videos exported with 64.65% efficiency, and 1400x900 videos rendered with 52.53% efficiency.
1366x768 111s in 35s 42s in 13s 95s in 39s 97s in 35s 2490s in 982s = 2.829s per second 1400x900 311s in 145s 755s in 365s = 2.107s per second
I'm very happy with it. Haven't had any problems with it so far, stock cooler keeps it at a decent 40 C on full load, and everything runs super fast. I've yet to render a video, but I will do that next week and update this review accordingly.
It only has a one HDMI port, so make sure you have the right monitor or GPU. The back-plate is kind of flimsy, and it disconnects with wireless devices (tested with mouse and keyboard). It has a front usb 3.0 and can't overclock. Two SATA connectors are included.
My favourite stick of RAM. I'd recommend this over the other brands at this price range.
Runs surprisingly fast, but we'll see how long it lasts. WD hasn't failed me yet though! Boots from off to desktop in around 60 seconds.
Runs at 74 C on full load, but very quiet and is a good value for it's price. Or at least used to be, it's pretty outdated now, so I'd suggest getting a GTX 750 Ti at least. Still runs great after 2.5 years though!
Not a bad case at all for the price, sturdy, good-looking, decent cable management. PCIe slots once broken will stay broken, and only comes with one backup slot so you'll have holes in your pc if you put in a GPU and then remove it. The top slot is obstructed by the case so I had to plug my monitor in on the second one. Might be a problem for some people. Drive bay can be faced on both sides, comes with an nice and quiet 120mm rear turbo fan and has an air filter at the bottom where the PSU goes. Lots of space for airflow.
No complaints, does what it's supposed to do, and still runs great after 2.5 years.