A couple weekends ago I built a PC for the first time since high school, and I thought I’d share some photos and details on the build.
This is a long post, because it’s a Saturday and I’ve had my caffeine and, like, why not? If you’re just interested in the details of the build, go ahead and skip down to that section.
Why build a PC at all?
The last time I built a PC was in high school — we’re talking 13 years ago. I just haven’t needed one since: in college I switched to Mac, and afterward I wound up using an iPad for most of my computing. The idea of dedicating a desk, and a monitor, and just all that physical space to a computer is something that doesn’t appeal to me.
But I still love playing console and VR games. Especially weird, indie stuff. And that weird indie stuff often doesn’t make it to the Playstation store.
So about a month ago I started thinking about whether there’s a way a PC could fit into my life. If it could basically just be a console — under my TV, dedicated to gaming, controlled by (ideally) a controller — maybe that’d be something that’d make sense.
So I started doing my research.
Finding the perfect case
Getting the right case was key. I needed something that’d fit in my living room, both in terms of just size and shape, but also aesthetically.
For a while I wasn’t sure I was going to find something. There seem to be just plain thousands of PC cases, but they run the narrow gamut, stylistically, from “steel and glass with neon lights” to “steel and glass without neon lights.” God bless the gamer aesthetic — I genuinely love how needlessly extra it is — but it wasn’t for me.
Then I saw the Cryorig Taku.
Lordy, it took my breath away. So simple. So understated. So IKEA. It looks oddly similar to my coffee table, but maybe that works. I knew this was my case.
The next challenge was finding it. It didn’t seem to be in stock anywhere in States (I’m guessing it’s been discontinued). But, thankfully, Newegg in Canada had it. They’d only ship to Canadian addresses — but the company I work for has an office in Vancouver, and a designer there volunteered to bring the case down in his luggage next time he visited SF. Perfect.
There’s a very real chance that if I couldn’t get this case, I wouldn’t have built a PC. Nothing else out there really caught my eye the same way.
Putting together a parts list
Like I said up top, I haven’t built a PC since high school. I had tons to learn. Even simple things, like: how do fans connect to a motherboard? How do I know if X part is compatible with Y part? Maybe they’re all standardized?
My key considerations were...
Thermals. The Taku is a small case. Airflow is an issue. I knew I’d have to contend with that, and I wanted to be proactive about it: with a blower card to get air out of the case, and an AIO so cooling the CPU wasn’t so reliant on airflow in a tight space.
Power. I didn’t want to have to wonder if I could run the latest, most intensive VR games.
Not listed? Cost. If this building a PC is a “size, power, cost — pick two” situation, I knew which two I wanted to pick. It’s been a good year for me, so this whole thing was a treat-yo-self situation.
My best friend is this guy I’ve known since preschool. He helped me build a PC in high school, so I just had to invite him down from Portland to help with this one.
It doesn’t hurt that he works at Intel, and knows his ****. We made a (long) weekend of it.
We started by assembling everything outside the case, to make sure it ran — no reason to spend time carefully threading cables through tight spaces just to find out some key piece is a dud. Hilariously, at one point we tossed the whole mess of parts in the case, in a pile, and got a great picture out of it.
The trickiest part of the build was making room for the AIO’s tubes. Squeezing them under the video card was tough, and to make it work we had to be smart about where we routed other cables — some we sent along the back side of the case, others along the front. It too patience, for sure, but it all worked out.
My one regret right now is I haven’t found a good way to secure the radiator. It’s just sort of resting on its tubing — which seems fine, but doesn’t look as neat as I’d like. I’m definitely open to suggestions for that. (I tried hanging L brackets off the side of the drawer, but they got in the way of the runners.)
Finally: how’s it running?
In a word: perfectly.
It’s possible I over compensated for thermals. I’ve never seen the CPU get above 57° C, and it’s pretty dang silent overall. I can run anything out there, which is fun, and I’ve been playing through some lovely, weird indie stuff that I couldn’t play otherwise.
A coworker of mine gave me a Steam Controller he’d never even opened, and that turned out to be really perfect — combined with Pulse Eight’s CEC dongle, it lets me grab a controller, sit on my couch, hit one button and have everything (TV, computer) turn on at once.
The Steam Controller is an OK controller (it takes some getting used to, for sure) but a great mouse replacement. It’s an unbelievable pain to set up with any non-Steam games, but I’ve finally got it working with basically everything.
In short: I’m happy. This computer was a blast to build, and it looks great, and it’s fitting in to my life (and small apartment) rather nicely.
One last thought...
...I’m going to try my best not to make a hobby out of this, but dang, it is fun to build small form factor PCs!