So April of '14 rolls around and I find myself preparing to leave my boring job to move back to SoCal. With two weeks of notice, I had lots of time to diddle on the internet, and decided the most productive use of my time was learning how to build a computer that would be a long-term source of distraction and unproductive gaming time. So here we are! Goal: a PC that can play DA:I at 60 fps with near-max settings and a little AA.
I wanted everything I put in this build to be stupid cheap - that meant tweaking every coupon I could until my build cost was less than 50% of the PCPartPicker estimate. I sweet-talked managers, "borrowed" envelopes for MIRs, price-shopped every cash-back site and credit card point... I was in it to win it. When this build was finished the unadjusted price showed up as $1500.
The first part I bought was a $25 Thermaltake mid-tower, but when it arrived and I saw how massive it was, I just couldn't go through with a build in it. I love design, especially minimalism, and having something that big in my room was out of the question. I went against my entire build ethos and splurged on a white Node at full retail. It was 10000% worth it and I love seeing this clean little package on my desk every day. I sold the Thermaltake on CL for $35, so that was ~$10 net to me, but I spent that on beer so no net effect on build cost. Lagunitas and Stone Cali-Belgique IPAs, for the record. 5 stars for the case and both IPAs.
I kind of regret getting this card because the coil whine is pretty nasty and the fans are about as subtle as a carnival game operator. Performance is solid, though, and my OC get me close to a stock 280x. Might trade up to a 970 to get in on those sweet class-action dallahs. End of the day, I give it 4 stars for a value buyer. 3 stars for a quality-first buyer.
Love this thing. I STRONGLY recommend the 4590 that replaced it if you're on a budget build. Staples price-matched Microcenter and I used a $20 off coupon to get it under $140. Manager was chill, but this deal was definitely not supposed to work. 5 stars+
F this mobo. This is what happens when you build to a price-point - you give up functionality you'll miss later, or you buy an inferior product. Because this mobo sucks, the computer started refusing to shut down, forcing me to perform surgery and reset the CMOS (not fun in an ITX). 2 stars, at least it never called me anything racist or homophobic.
OTHER JUNK IN THIS TRUNK
Went with 1x8gb so I could upgrade to 16gb if I wanted down the road. PSU was originally a CX500 (seen in photos) but I found a TX650 at Goodwill for $20 so in it went. Would have liked semi-modular or better, but I don't mind a little extra cable management work and I'm not OCing the PC so temps aren't as big of an issue. 256gb SSD is more than enough if you don't play Skyrim, but I eventually threw in a 1 TB Caviar Blue to hold my DISGUSTINGLY MASSIVE mods folder. No wifi because why would you in a desktop?
JUNK ON MY DESK
Mouse and keyboard were a refurb package deal on Amazon Warehouse - I love both of them, mostly for their looks, but the wireless receiver dictates the position of my PC. It hates interference, so you need a direct line of sight for them to work properly. 3.95 stars. Nearly 4.
On monitors - seriously think about buying used, and look into 16:10 aspect ratios. 16:9 is great for movies, but if you're using Excel or Word you're going to really appreciate the extra real estate at the top and bottom of the screen. My monitor is a couple years old but it's an IPS, 25.5", 16:10, has no dead pixels, and was $100 on CL. Stole it. 4.5 stars because it could afford to lose some weight.
Mousepad was a $1 custom job through Artscow. Art is Voyage d'Hermes by Mobius.
OTHER SEMI-RELEVANT REVIEWS BECAUSE I LIKE THE SOUND OF MY OWN VOICE
Fiio E10k headphone amplifier - $75 on Amazon - I use this instead of the onboard headphone jack and I love this little thing. The depth of sound it delivers is outstanding, and it's 1/3rd the price of competitive amps. 5 Stars.
Beoplay H6 headphones - $ifyouhavetoask - SO GREAT. I have never, ever experienced such clarity and purity of sound. If you want to hear what musicians intended their music to sound like, buy H6s. You simply cannot experience a purer sound. If you want a lower budget alternative, I also really dig my Harman Kardon CLs and they were only $35, just be aware that you'll get rustling noises if you so much as breathe on the cable. 5 stars for the B&O, 4 stars for the CLs.
Xbox One Controller - $20 via Amazon Fresh (including bonus kiwi) - used $30 off $50 first order to get this but I don't use it because WIRES. 2 stars.
Alphaline Xbox 360 induction charger - $3 at Sears - It's nice to be able to just plop my controller on this pad and not have to worry about plugging it in. It doesn't work 100% as well as regular charging, but it came with the a battery and I got to throw away my play-and-charge kit. 4 stars.
TP-LINK AV500 Powerline Network Adapter - $25 at Newegg - If you've never read about powerline adapters and you're thinking about using WiFi on your desktop, STOP RIGHT THERE CRIMINAL SCUM. You need to reevaluate your entire life. These take less than a minute to set up and are way faster than AC wireless. More consistent and cheaper, too. 5 stars.
Router: Netgear R7000 Nighthawk, AC1900 - $110 at Staples - great piece of kit. If you want to get educated on routers go to smallnetbuilder or dd-wrt. This can run Tomato firmware so it's going to be easy to mess with if I'm unhappy, and at $120 it's half the price of its competition. This was $200 - 20% off coupon - $50 visa easyrebate. 5 stars +
Cable Modem: Motorola Sufboard SB6141 - $50 on CL - they're everywhere, and definitely worth the money rather than renting ISP-provided garbage. Mine's white so it matches my house. 5 stars.