The Task: My sister just graduated high school and she'll be going to college as an advertising major. At first, my sister wanted a new laptop as her graduation gift from our parents, but being a big hardware nerd, I told her she could get a desktop/Chromebook combo that would perform three times as well for the same price. She agreed that if I could build a better desktop and get her a Chromebook to take to classes while staying under budget, she would be all for it. Asking my father about the total budget (he would be paying for it as her graduation gift), I was told $800. Now most people would crumble at this point, thinking "There's no way you can build a nice desktop and buy a good, reliable Chromebook for under $800! Just Windows 10 and a monitor alone are going to run me $250+!" But oh, those people are so, so satisfyingly wrong, and this build will prove that ;)
The Parts: The final parts list used for this PC was refined over about a duration of 2 weeks, taking into account fluctuating prices and part compatibility. I cycled through plenty of preliminary builds before deciding that the new Ryzen 2 APU's were the way to go due to their insane performance per dollar value. For the aesthetics, I went directly to my sister to show her some cases and find out what kind of looks she likes in terms of cases/color schemes/etc. Unfortunately for me, she immediately fell in love with the small form factor Core V1 Snow Edition, a mini ITX case that not only costs quite a bit for a super budget build, but also limits us to 100+dollar motherboards, since there are no Ryzen mini ITX boards on the market right now for less than that. But this is her grad gift, and I want to make sure it's the perfect computer for her. So essentially every other part on this list was found during the Newegg memorial day sale, where a combination of rebates (20 off PSU and 10 off the Mobo), coupon codes ($10 off a 2200g?!? Score!), and sales in general ($85 for a matching Dual Channel RAM kit! And it's a fast 3000MHz kit, important for Ryzen APU's) helped me to optimize my build to the budget while maintaining the white/red/black/ color scheme I had in mind. I ended up deciding to spend some of my own money on spray paint, sleeved cables, and RGB lighting to spruce up her PC. While this was not part of the $800 provided by my dad, I've still included it in the build pricing. All pricing shown includes shipping prices and tax by the way. Also, the Chromebook I decided on was the 2018 Acer Chromebook 14, rocking a solid FHD display with decent specs for $260, putting the maximum budget for the desktop at $540.
The Build: After all the parts arrived, I put everything together outside of the case first to ensure all the parts were working, and sure enough it POST'ed on the first attempt. Looking at it all together outside of the case, I wasn't happy with how it was looking aesthetically, which is what made me want to do the custom paint job on the interior of the case and some of the parts. I ended up painting the inside of the side panels, the rim of the stock AMD Wraith Stealth cooler, the PCI-E expansion slots, and the hard drive bay an apple red. Building in the Core V1 is an absolute breeze, to the point where I almost wish the case was smaller because of how much unused space there was inside. I guess the case is a bit larger as an ITX case for people doing fancier hardline loop builds (Someday I'll build one! Probably for myself lol), but either way, it offers plenty of airflow and was very convenient to build in.
The Result: Honestly, I love the way this build turned out. At first I was apprehensive, but after the paint job on the inside, the computer really became something I'd be proud to say I built. Ideally (though my sister is not a gamer) I would throw an entry-level video card in, but given their current state of GPU's and the rapidly approaching next-gen Nvidia cards, I decided to leave it as an upgrade path for this build. I still haven't shown my sister the computer (she needs to get registered at her university so I can use her account to get her Windows 10 for free!), but I'm sure she'll love it. My dad who I also built a computer for saw it and thought it looked even nicer than the desktop I built for his home business. More pictures, temps, and benchmark values to come once I get Windows 10 on this thing!