The GameJunkieNZ PC build project: Part one
Seven years ago, I build my first PC.
It was 2012 – and in real-world computing terms, that makes my PC ancient now.
What seemed la daunting experience actually ended up being a relatively smooth experience considering it was my first attempt. I got all the parts together and over a weekend, assembled the PC and hoped for the best (and, relatively speaking, it was pretty trouble-free).
It was based on an Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard which I paired with an Intel i7 CPU, 8Gb of RAM, an SSD drive, an HDD drive and a Gigabyte GTX660Ti GPU, all housed with a Fractal tower case and juiced by a 500W Enermax power supply. It was the bees knees as far as was concerned back in 2012 and has served me well over the past few years, playing games, writing blog posts and doing general computery things.
But as the GTX660Ti got less and less relevant in terms of graphical power, my game playing gravitated towards my PS4 – the PS4 Pro (and to a lesser degree, Xbox One) – but I always had a hankering that one day I wanted to return to the “PC Master Race”.
A couple of years ago, I won an MSi GTX950 GPU that I thought I’d throw into my rig. Nope. Turns out the DZ77GA-70K motherboard won’t accept newer GPUs, even with a BIOS update. To make matters worse, Intel has discontinued the board, too, meaning it’s essentially a paperweight now. I still have the GTX950: I’d like to at least give it one go, despite being several cards old now.
For years, my PC was doing all the right things. Until now, that is.
For the past few weeks, my once trusty PC has started Blue Screen of Deathing on an almost daily basis, throwing up disk errors and restarting by itself.
Now it won’t even display anything on my monitor, despite the CPU fan, the case fans and the GPU fans running. I’m at a loss but I think it’s past its use by date. I think it’s dying, if not already dead. I think the drives have given up the ghost.
So, I’ve decided it’s time to consign the old Intel board and GTX660Ti to the PC parts graveyard in the sky and build myself a PC for modern age, especially with games like CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk coming out sometime in the next few years. It’s a game that I think I want to play on PC, not console.
I also want to get back to playing Astroneer, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and all the other PC games in my Steam library that I need a PC to play.
Now, I’m not a risk taker. I’m not a person who rushes out and buys the first shiny thing that tickles my fancy. I do my homework. I read hardware reviews, I talk to people, I get opinions. The past few weeks have been what I like to call the “Do you homework” phase.
I initially contemplated buying a pre-built system from one of the numerous PC retailers around but I decided against it. They seems to be overpriced for the components they have (many of them outdated) so I’ve decided I want to build my own again. There’s something about building a PC from scratch that’s just so satisfying.
My plan is to use the existing Fractal case and PSU (500W should be enough), so need to buy a CPU, motherboard, RAM and storage, probably an SSD for the Operating System and a traditional HDD for everything else. I’m not flush with cash, though, so plan to buy one thing a month (well, that’s the plan), and I’m thinking of going for an nVidia GTX1060 6Gb GPU or whatever the budget allows.
The right brain
Perhaps the toughest decision I had was deciding what CPU to pick. Did I go with Intel, which I have for every PC I’ve owned, or AMD who seem to be making waves with its Ryzen line.
After watching lots of YouTube videos, talking to IT colleagues at work and having general discussions with online friends, I had it down to two choices, given my budget: Intel’s i5 8400 or AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600. Both had pros and cons, with the i5 pricier than the Ryzen.
Based on my research, AMD’s Ryzen 5 is cheaper and good for streaming and video editing, but Intel’s i5 seems to be faster when it comes to gaming, and that’s what I’m going to be using my PC for, mostly. Sure the i5 was dearer but when it came to game playing, it seemed to tick all the right boxes. Decisions, decisions …
Gentlemen, start your engines …
So yesterday, after weeks of tossing up between what CPU and motherboard combination to get, this suddenly happened:
I went to a local retailer that I’ve bought PC parts from before in the past and bought an Intel i5 CPU, an Asus Prime B365M motherboard and 8GB of RAM (memory prices have dropped dramatically over the past few months so it’ll be relatively cheap to move up to another 8GB if I want to). Just like that. All for princely sum of $NZ546, which I thought wasn’t too bad at all, actually. Although, I have already broken my “Buy one part a month” plan.
I was actually intending to go to another local retailer that was having an End of Year sale but, frankly, its pricing was $40 to $50 dearer than the other retailer I bought the parts from, even “on sale”. Go figure, eh? The guy where I bought the parts from even installed the CPU for me, meaning I didn’t have to worry about screwing that up!
OK, so the next step is to start researching SSDs and HDDs and graphics cards, although the GTX950 I have could fill in until I get Home Office approval to buy something more modern.