Description

Due to some poor purchasing decisions on my part, I ended up with an i3-6100 and GTX 950 doing a whole lot of nothing (i3) or not much (950) in my parts collection. Rather than deal with the headache of trying to resell, I instead decided to repurpose. A friend's family's PC is getting long in the tooth, so procuring a few extra parts and building them a new one as a late Christmas gift seemed as good a course of action as any.

The new parts needed were a motherboard and RAM. I agonized over parts choice quite a bit. Go inexpensive as possible? 200-series for expanded upgrade potential at slightly more cost? One can see from the parts list which strategy won out. The list below only reflects prices of parts I had to buy fresh to make this happen. For a true cost total for everything, look here.

CPU: The original chip from my platform upgrade in January '16, replaced by a 6600K.

MB: Every 200 board (I think) has M.2, and I wanted a four-DIMM board for initial dual channel with easy expansion. It was nice to see a B250 come in at under $80, which had been the price floor in my observation between release and time of purchase.

RAM: The choice here is slightly questionable, I feel, as matching modules will likely not be available when the time for more memory comes. But it was hard to argue with the same-as-2133 price. DDR4-2400 is a bit wasted here, but could come into its own if a Kaby Lake CPU gets dropped in at some point.

SSD: This was something of an impulse addition. I feel that no modern PC should be without an SSD boot drive, and I could have added the one "spare" from my collection. But that would have been a V300 (which has been working well in the face of all the hate it gets) and required adapter mounting due to the case. In the end, I splurged a bit and got a Toshiba M.2 drive. It's not the fastest SATA-based SSD out there, but the MLC flash and excellent price sold me on it.

GPU: My biggest f-up was here. Shortly before the 1050 launch, it was on sale for $140 with a $30 mail-in. The idea was to grab it, plug it in for some testing (I'd wanted to see if an Nvidia chip had some of the weird, minor FO4 performance issues I was having on my R9 380), and resell it for my cost or a slight loss. Yeah, missed the postmark cutoff by a day. Then the 1050 came out, 950 resale values took a dive, and all motivation to deal with the hassle of selling vanished. A gift it becomes.

PSU: A CX430 had been idling in storage, cast off in an upgrade. Upon installation I discovered that the fan was beginning to die. Luckily it was still within warranty, and thus RMA'd (return shipping not included in cost). The replacement was going to be delayed until May, so they sent me this CX550M instead. I call that a win.

Case: The original plan was to pick up a FD Core 1000 or 1100, but I felt the money was better spent on other core components. This case came from a co-worker, and once upon a time housed a Vista installation. It's not fantastic: it's the size of my other ATX mid-towers, despite only supporting mATX. Drive mounting is OEM-riffic, but far from the worst I've seen. It has a big ol' ugly vent grille in the side panel to feed the discarded OEM HSF duct (I hate side vents), and this variant doesn't leave room to install a fan in the front mounting location . This didn't become apparent until I tried to install the fan I'd bought specifically to put there. Drat. But it's solidly built, looks OK if one ignores all the holes in the side, and was free!

Optical drive: Included with the case.

Fans: There were supposed to be two (see Case). Original plan was one F9 PWM and one F9 PST (PWM sharing). Since the second fan doesn't fit, one 92mm exhaust it is.

Part Reviews

CPU

Before the G4560, this was probably the best price-to-performance general-purpose CPU available. The stock cooling solution unsurprisingly has trouble keeping up with sustained heavy loads, however.

Motherboard

It's not my favorite board ever. Placement of the SYS fan header is way off in the corner by the I/O shield, and there's only one of them. The x16 slot is in the top position, placing backplate-equipped GPUs extremely close to the DIMM latches, enough so that they won't fully disengage in such a situation. The release latch is also nearly impossible to access when shroud-equipped graphics is installed. Gigabyte's fan-control scheme is still rather "meh" IMO. It's one PCIe slot short of being properly mATX-sized. Audio circuitry doesn't look to be isolated, though the unnecessary, but defeatable, amber LED highlights suggest that it should be so. The silk-screened PCB lettering is dark gray and tiny, making it nearly impossible to read without really good light. But it booted first time with no hiccups, and has given me no operational or driver trouble. There are better options out there, but I wouldn't recommend against it.

Video Card

I claim allegiance to neither Team Red nor Team green, but cards like this are part of the reason Nvidia maintains market share over AMD. It's just so... nice. I like: fan stop at idle, DVI-I, attractive and solid construction, good performance for the price point (while it was current, of course), cool backplate. Dislike: length, FTW price premium and questionably-functional backplate.

Power Supply

Four stars because you can't really get the full picture of a PSU until you've had it for a couple of years. It looks nice, has semi-modular cabling, and is nice and quiet. Caveat re: noise: the build it's in can't even come close to stressing it, so it may as well be idle all the time as far as sound goes. I prefer a "Y" configuration on my SATA chains, but nobody does that.

Custom

Nice-looking if you can get past the snake-head graphic. They're single-rank if that's a concern. Heatsinks are as chintzy as any I've encountered. Didn't test them in a 2400-compatible setup, so can't confirm that they run at rated speed.

Comments

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

Love it, very nice and clean. =)

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks much. Lucking into the CX550M went a long way to keeping the innards tidy. Would have been a more challenging process otherwise.

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

Sleeper build :D

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

My favorite kind. >:-)

  • 28 months ago
  • 1 point

What would you recommend instead of the B250M-DS3H?

  • 28 months ago
  • 2 points

If I had it do do over, I'd probably get the MSI B250M Mortar. It's ~$20 more expensive, though.

  • 28 months ago
  • 1 point

Ok thanks mate!

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  • 29 months ago
  • 1 point

Apologies; didn't mean to! But what about it, if I may ask, pokes your OCD bear?

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