Section 5 - $500 Build Example

Go Team 2704 Computer Workshop

A $500 Build Example

This is a build example for a desktop computer for about as cheap as one can build. At this price point, one can easily find a comparably outfitted desktop or laptop in a big box store for this amount or less. But... this little build uses quality components and can be upgraded. There are some compromises made at this price range, but they’re known compromises that can be worked with. What’s more, you can easily add a graphics cards and additional drives down the road. It may even be possible to upgrade the CPU. It’s a nice little build.

All of these components were priced off of NewEgg in September 2019. Prices will likely have changed since then. Also, there is always some things on sale. Prices change daily accordingly.

Case - Fractal Design Core 1100, $48

How was this case selected? Let’s be honest. It was relatively cheap and Fractal Design makes nice (but sometimes quirky) cases. Having said that, each case has a different personality and you’ll be stuck looking at it for a good while.

Overall, this is a nice case. But there are some compromises associated with it due to the size and the manufacturer went cheap in a few places.

On the outside, the case is compact (6.9" W, 14.5" H, 16.5" L). On the front, it does have a couple of 5.25" external bays for things like optical drives, though we won’t use them for this build. There a power switch, but no reset switch. A hard drive indicator light is included, which is sometimes useful. There’s a couple of USB ports, one for USB 3 and another for USB 2. Normally, USB 3 and USB 2 ports come in pairs because the motherboard connectors support two ports. And, of course, there’s a headphone jack along with a microphone jack.

On the inside, the size limitations become more apparent. The case is limited to an mATX motherboard size or smaller, which is to be expected given the compact size. There’s no opening for the back side of the motherboard. The lack of such an opening isn’t an issue except that some CPU coolers have brackets which mount on the back side of the motherboard. However, given the limited space for a CPU cooler, one will likely be limited to using a stock CPU cooler anyway.

Internal drives are mounted on a plate which is installed vertically along the side of the case. This mounting arrangement is weird, but will provide secure mounting for drives, which is the main thing. One aspect of the arrangement is that the mounting can interfere with installation of graphics cards down the road in that drive location will interfere with side mounted power connectors. As such, a graphics card would need to be chosen carefully to fit the case.

The power supply is mounted towards the top of the case directly above the motherboard, which is not unusual for lower end desktop computers. The fan for the power supply will be taking air directly from the CPU, which will be at an elevated temperature, though. Higher end cases usually allow for the power supplies to be mounted on the bottom of the case with the fan taking air from directly underneath the case.

Ventilation options are limited. The case comes with a supply fan for the front to push air into the case, but no exhaust fan. The product sheet describes the fan as being a Fractal Design silent 120 mm fan. A product sheet for fan was found on the Fractal Design website and the connector for the fan was confirmed to be a 3-pin connector (versus a 4-pin connector). An exhaust fan can be mounted on the back, with options for mounting either an 80 mm or 92 mm fan. An additional 120 mm fan could be mounted on the side, but is not recommended because it would be connected to the side panel inhibiting removal of the panel.

 
 

Case Fan​ - Artic F9 PWM, $11

As discussed above for the case, ventilation for the case is somewhat lacking. An additional fan for the case is desirable. Is there anything spectacular about this particular fan? No. It’s just a fan.

There are two aspects of the fan that are important, though. One, it’s a 92 mm fan which will fit for the larger of the two mounting options on the back of the case. Bigger is better when it comes to fans. It’s also a PWM [pulse width modulation] fan which allows for better speed control. However, it requires a 4-pin connection to the motherboard instead of the usual 3-pin connection.

Power Supply​ - EVGA 500 BT, $50 (on sale, normally $60)

Is there anything spectacular about this particular power supply? Not really. The main considerations were:

  • It was cheap (and on sale!)

  • It is a rated power supply (Bronze)

  • It has a respectable 500 watt power supply rating

  • EVGA is a reputable manufacturer

The 500 watt rating is an important consideration. This is about the minimum that you would want for a desktop computer allowing for some expansion. It can provide sufficient power to add a decent graphics card or other items. More is generally better for power supplies.

This is a non-modular power supply, which pretty much expected at this price. There is a spaghetti of cables coming out the back, which will take up extra space inside the case and affect air flow. It does have sufficient connectors to allow for addition of a graphics card and some items (such as drives) in the case.

EVGA states that the power supply is rated as “Bronze” for efficiency. A test report for this particular model couldn’t be located. However, a test report was found for a 450 BT model which is likely a predecessor to this model.

 
 

CPU - AMD Ryzen 3 2200G, $85

 

In this price range, the AMD CPU’s actually have more options and better performance than the Intel CPU’s. The key considerations in choosing this particular CPU were:

  • Price

  • It has graphics

  • It has decent performance

Key specifications include:

  • It uses an AM4 Socket

  • 4 cores with a total of 4 threads (i.e., no hyper-threading)

  • 3.5 GHz base clock with up to 3.7 GHz boost

  • Radeon Vega 8 graphics

Benchmarks are:

  • Futuremark 13654 for CPU, 2036 for GPU

  • Passmark 7324 for CPU, 1735 for GPU

The graphics are sufficient for basic applications, but you wouldn’t want to attempt anything that relies heavily on graphics such as gaming.

Motherboard - Asrock B450M/ac, $90

So, what were the main factors in choosing this particular motherboard?

  • Price (of course)

  • AM4 Socket (which supports AMD Ryzen 3 2200G)

  • mATX form factor

  • comes with WiFi

Like most mATX motherboards, it has an M.2 slot for an SSD, 4 memory slots, connectors for USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 case connectors, and a number of SATA connectors. Notably it also has a enough fan connectors to support the additional case fan specified above.

 
 

Memory - G.SKILL Aegis 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) 2666 MHz, $60

 

What thought process was used to select this particular memory kit? Not much. Specifically:

  • Price

  • 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) size, which leaves 2 free memory slots

  • DDR4 desktop memory compatible with motherboard

  • 2666 MHz, which is the fastest that the motherboard will handle without overclocking

  • reputable manufacturer

That’s about it.

 

Boot Drive - Plextor M9Pe M.2 2280 256 GB, $43

 

The key considerations for the boot drive were:

  • Price

  • Size - the 256 GB size was only slightly more expensive than a minimal 128 GB size

  • M.2 form factor, which allows direct mounting on the motherboard and faster data transfer speeds

  • PCIe interface, which allows faster data transfer speeds than a SATA interface

  • reputable manufacturer

 

Operating System - Windows Home 64-bit OEM, $110

Gotta have an operating system. Getting the OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] is cheaper than getting the full version and is still a legal version of the software.

A students checks out his BIO display from his computer build.