So after a long, long time, I assembled a PC again.
The inspiration for this was the untimely demise of my Xbox, and the vigorous urging of my brother Hari who is certainly of the PC Gaming Master Race camp. After Hari's initial list of parts, I went ahead and did a whole lot of reading about assembling PCs and realized had stuff had changed a lot (a lot) since the old days when I helped dad assemble a few PCs at home1.
Building a PC from scratch is pretty much the opposite of the usual world where I live and thrive (hello the vertically integrated fiefdom that is the Apple Universe!) but I have to say, it's a very rewarding process for the inner geek.
Why? You get to choose exactly the components you want. And you get to unbox all of them, separately. And then you get to put them together one after the other until you have a fully working PC. If you haven't done this before, I recommend you do this someday. It's a great experience.
The first task when you assemble a PC is to pick parts. This means you pick your Form Factor, Motherboard, CPU & Cooler, Graphics Card, RAM and SSD/HDD.
I wanted a high-end PC that I could use for the next 5 years or so without much upgrades. I also wanted one that I can place in my living room and connect to my TV. This meant a nice case & a smaller form-factor.
These are the parts I picked:
- Case: Corsair CC-9011061-WW Graphite Series 380T Portable Mini ITX Case. It looks cool and it's a Mini ITX form-factor, which means it'll fit under most desks. I always planned to keep mine on display, so a cool-looking case was a must. If you're planning to keep the case hidden away, an alternative could be the Cooler Master Elite 130 Mini-ITX Computer Case. Price ₹10,1002.
- PSU: Corsair RM Series RM650 - 650 Watt 80 PLUS Gold Certified Fully Modular SMPS. The important bit here is to buy a fully-modular PSU. This means that you can choose (& reduce) the power connections that go through the case to keep everything cleaner. For a small case, this is super important. Note: be sure to check the dimensions of the PSU against the case. Next: How much power do you want? For a single graphics card system, 450W is A-OK. Choosing a higher-rated PSU however means that the PSU fans can run silent at lower power-draws, especially if you buy a PSU from a quieter-line (like the RM series). Price ₹8,853.00.
- Motherboard: Asus Maximus VIII Impact Mini-ITX Motherboard. One of the most flexible Mini-ITX motherboards out there. Frankly, you can go with any motherboard that supports the latest-gen Intel CPUs. Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI Motherboard is a cheaper alternative. Price ₹23,999.00
- CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K LGA 1151 Processor). Buying a CPU depends heavily on the kind of games you play. The game I play the most doesn't do threading well, so I went for a higher base-clock. For most systems, this CPU will be an overkill. Buy a Core i3 instead. Price ₹27,799.00
- RAM: 2xG.SKILL Ripjaws 4 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4 SDRAM 2400Mhz. I just bought these for the looks. Matches the case. You can buy RAM that can be seriously overclocked, but I wasn't interested. Price ₹6,100.00
- SSD: Kingston UV300 480GB 2.5-inch Solid State Drive. This is pretty much how much you want to store. For me, this was mostly a gaming PC where I'll install a few games, so didn't need much storage. Add a slower terabyte HDD if you'd like to store more media. Price ₹9,045.00.
- CPU Fan: Corsair Hydro SeriesTM H100i V2 Extreme Performance 240MM Liquid CPU Cooler. You need a good clean CPU fan, and I opted for a water-cooled model. This was not for any added cooling efficiency. A normal CPU-mounted fan will work the same. The water-cooled model made good use of my case-space & combined with the combo front & back coolers in the case, provides very good ventilation3. Price ₹8,940.00.
- UPS: APC BX600C-IN 600VA, 230V Back UPS. It's India, with its power cuts and voltage fluctuations. Save your costly investment with a UPS! This one has sufficient amp to backup my entire Gaming PC setup (including TV & Internet router) for 15-30 minutes. Price ₹2,698.00.
- & finally, the Graphics Card: MSI GTX1080 Gaming X - Twin Frozr VI. The GeForce 10 models had just come out, so buying one of the series was a no-brainer. Frankly, this card is a bit overkill for me. I bought this one simply because I didn't want to plan on an upgrade any time soon (if ever). You can safely opt for a cheaper 1070. On the other end of the spectrum, true 60fps 4K would probably require two of these babies4. Price: ₹63,200.
- Total Bill of Parts: ₹174,633.005 (yes that's a whopper).
- The guide I most closely followed was this excellent Build Log from Corsair. Almost every step is exactly the same.
- The motherboard didn't exactly fit into the holes in the case & come out the back. Hari & I had to remove the back-padding on the motherboard to make everything fit fine.
- Fitting the cooler was a bitch & not at all as easy as in the video. This was compounded by the fact that I bought a smaller version of the cooler first3, and that didn't fit at all.
- The system worked at the first try, so that was great.
- The ASUS Bios software is very good. I haven't played around with all the settings yet (especially the overclocking ones6) but it's a sensible no-nonsense BIOS. I like the aesthetic of the default launch screen too.
- The case with the fans look really nice. A lot of people (especially the newer generation who have never used anything but laptops) are genuinely confused as to what that red thingy is. The most common guess is high-end speakers.
- The performance is super-sweet. There's no game that's not playable at high settings in 1080p. 4K is a different matter, but if you are willing to go below 60fps, almost every game is playable.
- This is VR-ready and more. That obviously means more hardware though.
- The entire case can easily be lifted and transported, especially with the grab-handle at the top. It's almost like a console in that respect. Heavier and denser than you'll expect though.
- PC Gaming has a lot to go for it. One of the best reasons is probably much cheaper games. Steam Sales ftw! I've already amassed more games than I had in my Xbox collection. A lot of them are PC-only. A few of them turned out to be the best games I've played.
That's it. If you've got any questions, holler at me in the comments or on Twitter.
Just for context, this was in the days of serial ports, so yeah a pretty long time ago. ↩
All prices are from when I bought. They keep swinging up and down. ↩
If you are building out a dual GTX setup, please opt for a full form-factor PC. Otherwise you are just in for a world of trouble. ↩
Auto-overclocking is also an option. ↩