When my previous PC died, I started to think about what I wanted next… That was 5yrs ago… As a gap filler I picked up a cheap and cheerful second-hand Tecra P11 laptop. Nothing special, but with an i7 and dedicated GPU it did what I needed it to do, and also managed some casual gaming.
This build started with a budget of AUD500-600. That stretched a bit once I got into planning, mostly for reliability & performance reasons.
So, turns out the case would dictate what I was going to build. Initially I was going for a MicroATX Mid-Mini Tower, and wanted something fairly subtle, so basic black. Thermaltake Versa H17 and H18 cases looked like what I was after.
Then the boss (wife) stepped in, and I was now looking at another laptop (her preferred option) or something small enough not to be offensive.
Back to looking at cases again. Mini ITX Tower was probably still going to be too big, so it had to be LAN Box or Desktop. HTPC was a challenge that I wasn't after. Thermaltake Core V1 was first choice, but after reading a few negative reviews about the power/reset button placement, I decided on the Suppressor F1. I also think the F1's solid front panel looks neater.
An Intel based system with GeForce GPU was first choice. But considering my budget, and not wanting go too cheap in other areas, I starting looking at AMD. Reading all the Ryzen 3 2200G reviews, I decide this would be the basis for my system. The onboard Radeon Vega 8 also meant I could save a few dollars here.
I've used Gigabyte in the past, and they've been hassle free, so they were my first choice here. But after some more research the MSI mobo’s seemed favourite for the Ryzen CPU's. I also decided on a B450 to skip the BIOS update hassle.
Probably my only complaint is the fan control being a "dragable" graph, rather than the option to type in values.
For games, I really just play World of Warcraft and some Hearthstone. So high-end 4k @ 144fps wasn’t a priority. To be honest, anything above the Tecra's 25fps was a win! When looking at GPU's I considered going something lower spec like a GeForce GT1030, but reading the specs and reviews it was of no real benefit over the Vega 8 (with a mild overclock). And in some case, the Vega 8 was better. The GTX1050 was another option, but they were about $50 more than the 1030, and the GTX1060 was more again. So the extra cost to the build here didn't justify the gain. At this point I decided to make full use of the Vega 8, with the option to add a GPU later.
Playing WoW on medium settings the Vega 8 is managing 90-100fps (capped at 100fps) open world, and 75-90fps in major towns. Haven’t tested dungeon or raid yet. I lifted the fps cap, and it max’d at 104fps. Considering I’d been playing on the lowest of low settings at 25fps, it’s a massive improvement.
Whilst 8Gb (2x4Gb) is generally plenty for most gaming, as I was going to be using the onboard Vega 8, I decided not to skimp on memory and went for 16Gb (2x8Gb Dual Channel) 3200MHz. I chose the Corsair sticks from the mobo’s QVL.
For storage I'd never come across M.2 so did some quick research. Not much to say really, other than its newish technology that isn't that scary. I narrowed my options to Samsung and WD. Both were on the QVL for the motherboard.
Whilst it’s Sata rather than PCIe, NVMe, whatever, I don’t have A.D.D. so waiting an extra 3sec to boot Windows or games doesn’t stress me into a fetal coma.
With the estimated wattage about 150W, I looked for a PSU around 400-500W. I won't be heavily overclocking, so this would be more than enough. Corsair, EVGA, and SeaSonic were on the list, minimum 80+ rating, and non-modular, so it came down to price. I probably should've gone for an 80+ Bronze unit, but I'm fairly sure the power consumption for this PC will be far less than the heat lamps in the bathroom that the family leave turned on. There should also be enough overhead for adding a GPU and extra SSD later.
Cooling is fairly basic. I kept the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler and added an 80mm Noctura 1800 PWM case exhaust fan, which is split with the CPU fan. The Thermaltake 200mm front fan is running in DC Mode. With the case completely open, the fans are silent. I tweaked the fan speeds, and their speeds are a bit high so need to go back and change them. Temperatures so far at idle are around 28-32C, and under load (playing WoW) about 60-65C. Running CineBench R15/R20 the CPU reached 62C. I’ll be looking at upgrading the CPU fan and possibly the front fan once I start to overclock the Vega 8.
Did I mention this was supposed to be a “subtle” build…… So I didn't plan any lighting. But after having undercar neon many years ago (yes, I know), I caved in and decided to add a Phantek MSI RGB strip. So why purple, well "Amethyst".
Monitor - My old AOC E2070S, with a HDMI to VGA adaptor. This is on the upgrade list.
Keyboard/Mouse - Logitech G19 & G9. Not sure if they've been in storage too long, or just don't like Win10. Had them plugged into USB3.0 ports and the connection was flaky. Putting them back in the USB2.0 seems to be better. And yes, the G19 needs bit of a clean.
Having upgraded existing systems in the past, I’d never done a full build before. Building the PC was much easier than expected, thanks mostly to so much info being available these days. Even with a 9yro "helper" distracting me with 100's of questions and poking his fingers at everything, it went smoothly. I have distant memories of upgrading/adding HDD's and forgetting to set the jumper. Now it's all mostly plug 'n play. Even the bios is more friendly.
Moment of truth, and it fired up first go with Win10 booting off a USB and going through it's install.
I haven't pushed it much yet, or looked at overclocking. A quick WoW session, and straight out of the box it hit 100fps, with temps of 50-60C. Started to look at OC’ing thru "Ryzen Master", but without reading-the-manual things went south fast. Set the Vega 8 to 1350MHz and black screened. CMOS reset and was running again. Did a bit of goggling, and seems the Vega 8 has a dead-zone between 1300-1500MHz. Will leave it for another day.
Using the XMP I’m currently running the Memory at 2933MHz. Will put it to 3200MHz when I sit down to do some proper overclocking on the iGPU.
As an APU, I'm impressed. Great for budget builds when a dedicated GPU isn't needed.
Great quality. Everything where it needs to be.
Decided to not skimp on memory, and these paired up nicely with the MSI mobo and Ryzen 3. Considering they were only $50 more than 8Gb (2x4Gb), it's money well spent.
Fantastic little box. Clean and subtle looks. With the sides and top off it's very easy to work with. Had fun using it for my build.
It's a fan. It's quiet. It's doing it's job!
Still luv this keyboard.