Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Build: Meet the Parents - Part 1

My parents have been speculating about getting a new PC for a while now, as the PC I built them back in 2008 was beginning to show it's age. Despite this, there was never any pressing need to upgrade; the system was perfectly functional for the basic tasks my parents would carry out on it. However, a few weeks ago, they started experiencing BSODs, which was enough of an excuse for them to finally commission me to build them a new machine!

Research and Design

I love researching, speccing out and building PCs; usually they're geared towards gaming, but as this was for my folks, this would be a slightly different direction for me. So, always up for a challenge, I started researching and planning. To begin with, I used the PC Part Picker site to get a rough idea for how much it would cost. It's an amazing site; you choose the components you want and it finds the cheapest place to purchase them. It even does rudimentary compatibility checks, so that as you select a motherboard or CPU, it will whittle down your suitable hardware in other sections of the site automatically. The site covers multiple regions (currently: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, the UK and the US) so if you live in one of them you should be able to use the site to it's full potential and have it suggest the cheapest places to order components.

The system is primarily used for browsing, emails, Skype calls and working with Microsoft Office documents. My parents both have a 2012 Nexus 7 tablet, so you would be forgiven for thinking that a desktop machine would be redundant for them, however when working with documents or messaging for an extended period they (like myself) prefer to sit down at a desk and benefit from the additional screen real estate and processing power afforded by the desktop form factor. On top of this, my Dad does like to dabble with PC gaming... He has been an avid RPG player since we had our Spectrum back in the 1980s. I can still remember both of us playing Lords of Midnight (not strictly an RPG, I know), before moving onto The Bard's Tale on our Amstrad PC in the early 90s. Sadly, he's not had as much time to play games of late, what with frustrating time-sucks like employment getting in the way; the last games I believe he managed to sink some time into were Morrowind and, to a lesser extent, Oblivion. So, I was keen that the system be able to play modern games should Dad happen to find the time.

Part List

So, without further ado, here are the parts I finally settled on:


Asus H87M-E - I opted for a Micro-ATX board because they tend to be slightly cheaper and it keeps the inside of the case tidier in my opinion, at the expense of fewer PCI slots. The H87 chipset doesn't have all the enthusiast features of the Z87 (overclocking, tri/quad SLI/Crossfire), but my parents would be unlikely to use them anyway. However, it does provide the Intel Smart Response technology that allows the use of an SSD as a caching device.


Intel Core i3 4130 - at the time, this was the cheapest Core-series Haswell part available. It's a dual-core part and has HyperThreading enabled for a total of 4 virtual cores, and if my parents ever need more CPU horsepower it will be extremely easy to drop in a Core i5 or i7 part.


Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600MHz CL9 2x 4GB (KHX1600C9D3K2/8GX) - 8GB of RAM is the bare minimum I'd put in new build these days; given how cheap memory is, it's not hard to. I'm 99% sure my parents won't be overclocking their system, so I stayed with 1600MHz DDR3; the maximum supported by the CPU, even though the board supports faster. A big plus for this pair of DIMMs is that the part itself is actually referenced on the motherboard's Qualified Vendor List (QVL).

Graphics Card

MSI Radeon HD 7790 Overclocked 2GB - this wasn't my original choice of graphics card; originally I had wanted the Asus HD 7790 DirectCU II 2GB, but there were some issues with the supplier I ordered the part from. So, I fell back on the MSI card instead.

Power Supply

Corsair RM550 - one of Corsair's new fully modular range of power supplies. I was keen to buy a modular PSU to keep the number of cables in the system to a minumum; but I actually ended up connecting a cable to every port in the supply! It's an 80+ Plus Gold certified PSU and it also doesn't spin up it's fan unless the system is pulling at least 40% of the total power available.


Seagate ST1000DM003 Barracuda 1TB HDD - I am a big proponent of Seagate drives; I might not have the hard data to back up my claims, but anecdotally at least they seem to be the most reliable drives I've owned!

Crucial M4 64GB SSD - an appropriate sized SSD to use with the Intel Smart Response technology (64GB being the maximum supported) afforded by the H87 chipset.

Samsung SH-222BB/BEBE DVD/CD Writer - an optical drive. If it were my machine, I'm not sure there'd be a need for this, but my parents occasionally burn pictures to DVD or CD for family members.


Corsair Carbide Series 200R Compact ATX Computer Case - this case is one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, that Corsair manufacture. It's not overly huge, which was necessary as my parents have a computer desk, so it had to fit into the cupboard section. In addition, I wanted a case that could be configured to exhaust hot air up out of the top of the case; because the PC would be situated in a cupboard, I believed this would be a more efficient way to remove the hot air.

Wireless Networking

TP-Link TL-WDN4800 N900 Wireless Dual Band PCI Express Adapter - my parents router is situated far enough away from their desk for wireless to be necessary, hence this card.

TP-Link TL-ANT2403N 2.4GHz 3dBi Wireless N Desktop Antenna - with the computer being in a desk cupboard, it's necessary that an external aerial be positioned on top of the desk.

Additional Cooling

Corsair Air Series AF120 Performance Edition (2-Pack) 63.5 CFM 120mm - to assist the two 120mm shipped with the case, I ordered a further two fans. These actually ship as a pair, although you can order them individually if you prefer. Each fan has three different colour rings (red, blue and white), which allows you to match your builds colour scheme.

Additional Cable

50cm SATA 3 cable - the motherboard only shipped with two SATA cables, which covered connecting the HDD and SSD. With the optical drive, it was necessary to order another cable.

Dust Filters

DEMCiflex Dust Filter Kit for Corsair 200R - knowing that my parents are unlikely to be opening up their case as often as I do, I thought it would be pertinent to order these dust covers. As the name suggests, they're intended for use with the 200R case and fit nicely over the fan grills.

The Build

The build went pretty smoothly, so I won't go into too much detail. However, there are a couple of things I'd like to highlight:

  • I think this was my first build in a case with decent cable management. I can't stress enough how amazing this is; now I'm considering a new case for my primary rig, Daedalus! I'm very pleased with the end result:
  • I did have one minor grip about the case: when I moved the supplied fan at the front and installed the two AF120s, I was surprised at how thin and flimsy the metal was where I attached the top fan. It's nothing major and once the fan was installed and the front panel was back on you'd never have to see it again, however, I did worry that if I'd been too heavy handed I could have snapped the case.

  • The modular PSU is another first for me; I was keen to minimise the amount of cables inside the system. What was frustrating is that I ended up using all the ports in the PSU apart from the one dedicated for use with the Corsair link system.

  • While I still think the DEMCiflex filters are a great idea for my parent's machine, I'm not sure I'd get a set myself. For a start, I think they spoil the look of the case somewhat; the flexible nature of the filters meant it was difficult to achieve a uniform appearance. Secondly, I found that the filter for the rear of the case didn't fit very well, which I thought was a shame considering the set was supposedly intended for use with the case.

  • I configured the Intel SRT (SSD caching) in "maximum mode", which means that writes are cached on the SSD.

So, as this post is fairly long already, I'll be writing a follow up where I publish the benchmarks I took of the system; comparing this machine to my own gaming systems. I need some time to compile them all anyway!