Friday 10 March 2017

Building a PC for under £600 - Part 1 - Case, Motherboard and Processor

computer-build-a slice-of-something-blog

I will start this saying that, while I am computer literate, before I started this process I had never built a PC and can honestly say I didn’t have the faintest idea where to start. As I’m sure a lot of people are in the same boat so I thought I would share my experiences and decisions.

Bare in mind that for £600 I did not include a Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse or Speakers just the actual computer. This guide is not for a high end gaming or design specific PC but purely a general use, bit of everything household computer. Bear in mind that I do use mine for both lower spec gaming and some design software.

The Beauty of building your own PC is that you can upgrade and replace various bits along the way as they get outdated or as you realise you need higher spec gear. I have already begun this process, but I guess that's a story for another day. 

1. Cost
The first thing I would recommend you do is set yourself a budget, I bet that you that you will go over it but it’s worth setting down how much money you have to get started. My original goal was to build a new PC from scratch for less than £500 to see if I could get much more for my money than the easy option, a feat that I did not manage to achieve hence my revised figure of £600.

When deciding how much to spend, you need to know what you want to do with your computer. As I said, I didn't need a high spec PC just something that could handle everyday use, editing photos/videos and when I wanted to play an older PC game it wouldn't be unbearable.

2. Tower Case

The case is the best place to start when building a PC. There are two ways you can think about this, functionality or looks. Everyone will think they care more about how it works than what it looks like, but if it looks crap you’re not going to be happy with the outcome.

When deciding on a case you need to think about the form factor you are going to stick too as this will affect the rest of your PC. You really don’t need to spend much money on the case to get something that looks fine, has plenty of space and can fit all the fans you want.

If you buy a bigger case, the chances are it can accommodate for several different form factors so it doesn’t bog you down later in this process. Personally, I committed to ATX straight off the bat which to me seems like the most common and easiest.

My purchase was a Corsair Carbide Series 200R Compact ATX, this has plenty of room, tool free SSD, HHD and ODD installation and can fit four 3.5 and four 2.5 hard drives simultaneously.  I bought this for £45 but you could probably find a similar model for less if you looked hard enough. This included two fans but has 8 additional slots for all of your air flow desires. 

Having assembled the PC, the downsides to this case is that it’s very open and so does attract dust and the front panels (where not replaced by a drive) are a little flimsy.

3. Motherboard

ASUS B85 Pro Gamer a-slice-of-something-blog
Now this is where the decisions start getting difficult. The motherboard you choose will pretty much determine what parts you can get from this point on wards. Obviously, you will need to choose a motherboard that fits in your case so the form factor is your only real restriction.

There really are so many to choose from so narrowing this choice down will take a lot of research. If you have any specific parts you want, like RAM or the Processor, you need to make sure you get a compatible Motherboard. There are plenty of websites that can help check compatibility but the most fool proof way is to check the website of the Motherboard directly.

Other considerations are the number of connective ports e.g. USB, PCI, HDMI, VGA. This is where the research comes in, find out how many of each you need for all of the hardware you want.

I chose Asus B85-PRO Gamer Motherboard because its a good price (under £100) and is a good all-rounder. This has at least one of every connection you will need and up to 32GB RAM. It has a LGA 1150 processor socket so will only take an Intel processor of the right type.

The best advice I can give on this step is think about what you need and read lots of reviews. I've had no problems with this Motherboard and its handled everything I've thrown at it so far.

Do bear in mind you can get as many USB ports as you like after this step with some extra hardware.

4. Processor

Now that you have chosen your Motherboard, your choice of processor is limited. This is essentially what's going to determine how powerful your computer is so really your limitation is going to be cost.

Intel i5 4690K Processor a-slice-of-something-blog
My choice was Intel Core i5 4690K Processor (3.5 GHz, 6 MB Cache, LGA 1150 Socket). As far as I can see there isn't a great deal of different between AMD and Intel, they both have loads of choices with all varying specs.

There is always a good deal on when it comes to processors, mainly because they are all over priced. If your going with Intel like I did, first thing is to chose i3, i5 and i7.

When I bought the i5 4690K it was under £200 but its gone up a bit since then. So my advice is find out which compatible Processor is the best deal at the time and go for it. If your considering overclocking, make sure its got a K at the end of the name. Above is a photo of my processor with the stock cooler which is probably worth upgrading at a later date when you have more money, again that's a post for another day. 

I have opted so far to exclude a graphics card from my build, the on-board graphics from the "Intel HD Graphics 4600" have so far kept things running smoothly.

In my next post I'll be talking about all of the other parts you need for your PC, such as your RAM, Power supply, Hard Drive, Operating system and all the other bits you'll need to get up and running.

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