So, my mother’s laptop finally died, and GOOD RIDDANCE. It was a Lenovo G475 equipped with an
E2 AMD APU silicon-made piece of **** that, despite a RAM upgrade and a HDD swap, was still an underperforming mess (you know it’s bad when it can’t even run Quake III Arena on high at 768p). It finally died due to misuse and abuse, but I always hated to be dealing with that laptop.
So the opportunity to build a PC arose, in part due to my mom asking for a desktop, as she already has a laptop doing double duty as a workstation and as a media consumption device. Then my brother stepped in, telling me that some of his friends play Overwatch… I made him promise me that as long as he studied (he wasn’t doing 100% okay at School) and he sold both his PS2 and PS3 (which he hasn’t been playing with for a while and to make him pay for the PC), I would build a minimum-spec PC for him to play Overwatch at 720p. (this because they have an old 15.6” 720p LCD display).
Money constraints, partly forced by my mom, discouraged me from getting new parts, so I had to search for deals online, and two routes appeared: The APU route or the (moderately) upgradeable CPU + GPU route. Allow me to describe my situation and DISCLAIMER: I live in Argentina. PC Hardware is not cheap here, and the used market won't get you far because everyone, myself included, are reluctant to understanding the basics of depreciation and simply discount up to 40% of the original cost for a PC part that probably was used for more than a year, whereas you folks up North can get reasonable bargains.
I wasn’t keen on picking an FM2+ APU, as the minimum I would want to get was an A10-78XX class APU, which was still expensive even in the used market. To make matters worse, no FM2 Athlons can be found in this region, so the idea of getting an Athlon 8XXK + RX460/560 GPU was quickly dismissed. Adding to all that, I didn't want to mess with an aftermarket cooler that I didn't like (Tower coolers are not my favourite coolers at all), and seeking a bargain with the Wraith cooler proved to be even more difficult, as difficult as searching the Holy Grail (Why this? Remember that in FM2+ parts, more than the FX parts, stock coolers provided with the APUs are so ******* loud it's unbearable. That and the APUs reach ceilings of up to 100°C (!!!!)).
As a side note: I already had a GPU on hand, but it was an R9 380, which consumes a lot of power and would’ve meant picking a bigger PSU to run everything, plus I deemed it overkill for the sole task of playing video and running Overwatch at 720p. (And no, I didn't use it for Ethereum mining because it only had 2GB of VRAM).
So the ultimate decision was as follows: Build a PC from scratch, with some upgradeable components, and acceptable performance. At this point in time, an AMD platform was inevitable. Only cheap Intel alternatives for the cash I had (USD300) were LGA775 combos or horrible Sandy Bridge Pentiums, most of them with barely 4GB of RAM.
A quick search ended up in me finding a guy on FB who would sell me, for USD200, a combo comprised of a CoolerMaster K350 case, an ASUS M5A78L-M/LX V2 motherboard, an AMD FX-4300 CPU, 8GB of RAM and an ASUS nVIDIA GeForce GTX650Ti GPU. I took it off his hands for that cash, and swiftly. Needless to say the parts were all working, but VERY dusty, so before putting everything together, it was of utmost importance to clean everything. As you can see in the pictures provided, some dust can be seen as I was photographing all this while cleaning it.
From another FB user, I got a CoolerMaster Extreme Power Plus 500W PSU for USD40, and then, USD50 later, came a new HDD since no one would offer me anything convincing in the used market.
After cleaning everything with two brushes, a toothbrush and an air blower, using Isopropyl and WD40, as well as Sewing Machine oil for the Stock HSF, it was time to put everything together (BTW, as an update: I got a better stock HSF from a friend, for free!). First, I tested everything over the Motherboard’s cardboard box, and the only nuance was to swap the CMOS battery. Then I disabled Cool ‘n’ Quiet, and set the Q-Fan to Off, and moved on to the case. After mounting everything, I updated the BIOS, installed Windows 10, the drivers, and then Overwatch and finally, performing a full Win10 optimization process by deleting all the unwanted fluff and configuring most settings.
Excuse me for not providing pictures of the PC turned on, but I have time constraints when it comes to building PCs (Work, College, Gym, Volunteering, I’m dating someone, and so on).
Below you can find reviews for the parts I picked, and to wrap-up, allow me to tell you what kind of PC I would've expected to get for the same cash I spent on these parts, had I gone the New PC Route:
- Intel J1800 + 4GB RAM + Intel HD + 1TB HDD + Generic PSU
- AMD A4 4000 + 4GB RAM + APU GPU + 1TB HDD + Generic PSU
Any comments will be welcome and thank you very much for reading.
I used to hate the FX series because I'm a Phenom fanboy and Bulldozer and its brethren turned out to be huge disappointments, but I got a certain affection towards the FX4300, of all chips. While the build I used it in was not overclocked, I can tell you it does overclock well, right up to 5Ghz. For a LAN Party Build plus an RX460, it can beat the best FM2+ chips... Yeah, for a base Piledriver chip. If you're going to get this in 2017, ensure to find it as dirt cheap as possible, it can't be worth more than 30/40USD.
Solid motherboard, my old Athlon II/Phenom rig had a similar one. 125W TDP CPU support is most welcome. Three major gripes: Only SATA 2. No USB 3.0. Tepid color scheme. Some folks are also complaining about the old BIOS but hey, seems everyone today has gotten so used to UEFI that they can't get their heads around old blue-screen BIOS. From my side, it was pretty intuitive. Be wary that not many Windows 10 drivers are available for this motherboard, so do try to download some Windows 7/8/8.1 drivers if needed, or rely on Windows searching and intsalling the most proper driver.
It's Kingston. Nothing else to say. Will work on ANY compatible motherboard, the QVLs will always mention Kingston, so why worry? Yes, it's the LP green PCB stick, but no complaints whatsoever.
The go-to drive 100% of the time. I despise Seagate and HGST is under the WD umbrella anyway. Toshiba is unavailable in my country except Portable HDDs. Fast, reliable, cheap, no-frills, and has great warranty support.
A bit oversized for a GTX650Ti card from its day (EVGA had a tiny card back then that was so cute), but hey, it has superb cooling performance, and definitely the best GPU shroud design from ASUS in a long, LONG time. DirectCUII fanboy.
Sharp edges here and there and sub-par rubber pads for the PSU, deter this case from getting my 5-star rating. Other than that, it has many fan mounts, the cable management is excellent, it has dust-filtering up front, and the acrylic side panel and overall design are quite subdued, and don't have that gamer aesthetic I despise.
Many people (myself included) don't like CoolerMaster's PSUs because of their past reputation for being extremely inefficient and overrated, but it mainly depends on which PSU you pick and for what purpose. I was cash-strapped, and EVGA was not an alternative to consider. So I went with this PSU. Non-sleeved or black cables here are a nuisance. Cable length is appropriate only for minitowers. Has a single 6-pin PCI-E connector so I can assume that up to a G4560 + Reference RX480 can be supported, but I wouldn't recommend it. Not the best capacitors inside, but it's too heavy to think it's a generic PSU.
Just stick to this PSU if you need to do an Office Build, a low-end LAN Party Build, or an Internet Café MMO/MOBA/FPS APU Rig.