Description

A few contributing factors motivated me to finally pull the trigger on this little budget gaming build. My fiancé’s laptop was really showing it's age at about 8 years old, even as just a web-surfing/netflix machine for our small apartment living room. Not only that, but my Dell XPS 630i from when I started college in 2008 recently started freezing/shutting down with no warning, and hence, showing it’s considerable age as well. Due to this, I'd been taking my laptop back and forth from work constantly as it's the only thing capable of playing games decently with it's GTX 960M (her laptop has onboard graphics, my old desktop has a GTX 550 ti). This worried me, as I'm planning on biking to work through the Minnesota winter this year for the first time, and I feel like I'll be falling more than usual, so I don't want to endanger my laptop any more than I have to. Finally, I've also been able to get the fiancé into some local co-op games recently, and we've had a lot of fun with those ( Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Cook, Serve, Delicious, etc.) so I wanted something to be able to keep playing those, while also satisfying my desire for Dark Souls 2, Skyrim and Xcom. However, being a graduate student (#PoorLifeChoices) I did not have a lot of cash to throw around, so I wanted to keep the budget to $700 or below.

Actually building it was an adventure, and I actually loved every minute of the 5 hour process. After getting the pin polarity mixed up on the power button/reset button pins (the arrow means + lead on two-pin cables for the Elite 130 case, for anyone interested), placing the HDD on the bottom mount position, making it impossible to plug in SATA cables on the motherboard, and I think plugging the peripherals Molex power cable into the motherboard incorrectly, resulting in un-responsive fans (I'm still not 100% sure what that other end is supposed to plug into), I had a working PC. Cable-management was a bit of a beast, as I anticipated, but I'm glad I at least shelled out for the semi-modular power supply, because I think it would have been a lot uglier (and congested) otherwise. I'm more concerned here with airflow than with any aesthetic considerations, as you can't really see much of anything through the case. I ultimately went with the Cooler Master Elite 130 because it had an optical drive port, where many other mITX cases did not. Then, it all came down to dimensions, as the 15" depth was just right for the shelf, and it was not too tall for the 12" shelf above it.

The build is small, to fit like a media center for netflix and web-surfing on our entertainment shelf, but packing some decent graphical and processing capabilities for more demanding games as well. I'm very, very happy with everything about this build right now. Though I went just a little over budget on paper (I have a $15 rebate still coming for the power supply, but then there's tax, too) I'm quite satisfied with what I got for the money, and the experience of doing it this first time made it even more worth it! I'll post more reviews as I get to actually testing the system.

Part Reviews

Motherboard

Fantastic mITX motherboard to work with and performs well for the price.

Case

Definitely limits your CPU cooler height significantly with how the power supply is mounted, and the cable management can be really tricky, but all in all I loved building in this case, and it fits my build well.

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Comments

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Not a bad little build. I think the only changes I'd make in your shoes is going with a 2 stick RAM instead of a single stick, a 240GB SSD, and the 6GB version of the 1060. Oh, and any hard drive other than a Seagate, but that's just my opinion based on bad luck with them. Nice build overall though.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! Yeah, I went back and forth on the 6 gb 1060's, so I ended up going with the 3 gb version to stay as close to budget as possible, but then a week after I bought the 3 gb the 6 gb versions went on sale on Newegg, as luck would have it, haha. I've also heard bad things about Seagate, but also that they've cleaned up in the past few years. I've always been WD, but I thought I'd give them a try, since I got a ~10% discount. Is there a significant performance difference between using more ram cards than one, say 2x 4gb instead of 1x 8gb? If so, I'd be down with swapping this one into my old desktop one and going that route.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Yes more sticks is faster, it's more expensive but not by that much

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Not really a big issue unless you're using the iGPU. He probably put in just one stick for upgradeability.

  • 40 months ago
  • 2 points

Agreed

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, I mostly went with the single 8 gb for the ability to bump it up a bit with the remaining slot some time in the future. I felt like I had to be discerning with the two ram slots I get with the mITX, haha.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

If you are gaming the performance difference between one or two sticks of RAM is not significant. If you are on a budget you should go with a single stick of RAM, it (mostly) keeps you a few bucks and you can add another stick if you need more or you can get it on the cheap.

Also nice build!

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

There is also not a significant difference between the 3gb and 6gb 1060, check this article: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2016-nvidia-geforce-gtx-1060-3gb-vs-6gb-review

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

I actually read this exact article when I was researching this build. Great read, and very applicable. I viewed the 3 gb much more favorably afterwards.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

The 6gb version mainly gives you the advantage if you play games modded with texture mods, ie Skyrim or Fallout. The texture mods REALLY like cards with higher frame buffers.

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  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

A dual channel setup, say 2x 4GB or a single 8GB would essentially be faster as it would give double the channels of memory to address, think 2 lane vs 4 lane highway.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

This looks pretty nice! I'm looking for ideas for a VR ready build, is this a good build that can run VR?

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Yes, it is. However, I would advise changing out the 1060 3gb for the rx 480 or 470 4 or 8 gb. Is cheaper and better price to performance.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

It's only cheaper in a few countries.. The RX-480 is way more expensive and almost impossible to find stock where I am. Only the RRP is cheaper - in the real world however, its a different story.

OP did a fantastic job with his part choices, has a very very capable cpu/gpu combo, and has room for expansion with memory in the future. Kudos!

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Wrong gpu in your part list btw

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

Bro when i looked at this I was like, wait is this my build? I have the same graphics card same cpu, same ram, same motherboard and same power supply. Just a different case, but also cooler master xD

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  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! Yeah, I was explicitly looking to tackle 1080p as our TV is kind of old, so that'll probably be the limiting factor in display quality in any case.