I built a new PC. On the first day of last month, I ordered parts and got the last item on May 10th, which is the case, the most important part of a desktop build. Thanks to this delay, I built and tested the machine on my desk for a week. Here is the summary of hardware:
- Board: MSI PRO B760-P WIFI DDR4 (link)
- CPU: Intel Core i5 13400 (link)
- CPU Cooler: Arctic Freezer i35 (link)
- Case: Zalman N5 OF (link)
- RAM: Kingston Fury Beast DDR4 8GB 16CL 3200MHz (link)
- SSD: Kingston KC3000 1TB (link)
- PSU: NZXT C550 Bronze (link)
- Monitor: Dell S2421HN 24" (link)
Honestly, I didn't do much research on these parts at the beginning; I only checked the main complaints about issues and read a few reddit posts. I didn't cherry-pick either; price and availability were my first concerns about decisions. For example, I was looking for the latest generation of AMD systems with DDR5 support, a CPU like Ryzen 5 7600x or more, but first I didn't find an air cooler for AM5 sockets in my country. So I changed my plan for the cheapest AIO cooler, which was priced more than 3x for a decent air cooler with some RGB lights (sorry if this feels too discriminatory, but I don't like them). And minutes later, I figured DDR5 modules were just double-priced in my country. I swallowed and decreased my RAM target to the two slowest 8G modules. In the end, I was staring at a list priced at more than a thousand euros, which was more than double my humble budget.
First and foremost, I didn't want to build with Intel parts. Why? First, I experienced early Ryzens at work and liked their BSD and Linux performance. Integrated or discrete AMD graphics work almost flawlessly like Intel's previous integrated series with BSD and Linux, whether on desktop or mobile. Also, the power consumption and thermal specifics of the Ryzen series are really good for my usage scenarios, again with desktops or notebooks. Second, Intel was always more expensive (at least, as far as I remember). So, I aimed for the Zen 4 when I started, but it didn't fit my budget, as I said before, and I restarted the search process. I looked at the available previous generation Ryzens and built two different machines on paper. One with Ryzen 5 3600 and the other with Ryzen 5 5600, both with cheap discrete PCI-E 4.0 AMD GPUs. Coolers and DDR4 modules were cheap for these systems, and performance and compatibility had already been battle-tested for years. But I couldn't find a mainboard that was cheap and met my needs. This is not just a technical problem; sellers in our country focus only on popular or dirt cheap products. Actually, I found a mostly OK board; supports 128 GB of RAM, PCI-E 4.0, but with a caveat. It didn't support BIOS updates without an old-generation CPU. I am living in a small town and don't know anyone with an old Ryzen system. I contacted sellers, and they mostly didn't reply back or didn't want to flash BIOS. One of them explained, "Because the process required opening the box before sale, bla bla." but probably just didn't care. I lost hope and closed the browser that night.
A few days later, my wife notified me about an oncoming discount from the biggest online store in our country. Discounts didn't affect the hardware I wanted to buy, but I checked again just in case, campaign mostly covered gaming computers and hardware. But there was a price too good to be true for a 13th generation Intel CPU. Core i5 13400 was for ~140 euros, and it was boxed, not a retail sale. It was cheaper than i3s of the same generation and even cheaper than 12th generation i5s. I did some research about the Linux support and looked at some basic benchmarks against Ryzen 5 5600 and 7600x, and the i5 performed almost the same or better most of the time. added it to the cart, went to the mainboard section, filtered the results to LGA1700 only with 128G RAM support, and sorted by price, from lowest to highest. There were models from Asus, Biostar, Gigabyte, and MSI, but I had to look up chipset differences. One of the MSI models looks OK (which is the B760-P), and with a discount price of 120 euros, I did some research, but nothing really came up, even on youtube. A young youtuber reviewed it for price and performance, but there was no benchmark or usage experience. I went the Reddit route, and there were just two or three question posts without replies. But this board was cheap and looked OK to me, so I bit the bullet and added it to my cart. The most important thing about it for me was that, the board was ready for the latest gen processors without a BIOS update. I didn't really care about the other options, like WiFi 6 support or PCI-E port numbers, etc. But some of them made me comfortable in later days.
After I decided about the CPU and mainboard, things got easy. Thanks (or curse?) to the common availability of Intel products, I easily found a budget air cooler, the Arctic Freezer i35, which I bought for almost 35 euros. The thing is, since the Pentium III era, I don't trust stock coolers from producers. And yes, I saw and used some systems that worked flawlessly with stock coolers, but even a personal comparison of stock versus budget aftermarket coolers shows a significant difference, at least for me and my daily usage. Frankly, I don't know if old issues still occur or not with modern hardware, but taking steps about them takes a load off my mind.
Memory and storage were easy, again. I didn't think much about them and made my choices based on budget. I searched for the cheapest modules, and Kingston Fury was priced just a hair more than the unknown brand's modules, probably because of heatsinks. I paid a total of 40 euros for a couple. The KC3000 was an easy choice too, because it was already a bit famous online because of its speed, and the discount I mentioned before covered it when I bought it. I did some quick research about it, read two reviews, and added it to the cart. I paid 75 euros for the 1TB variant, which contains a 1GB DRAM cache. If there wasn't a discount on it, I would probably go for a Samsung 980 Pro.
I like Zalman; I have used many products from them, including cases, CPU fans, notebook coolers, etc. I still remember when Pentium 4 systems filled the market with weird looking non-beige cases. Zalman had a good portfolio, and its products always had good material quality, based on my experiences. So, choosing a case wouldn't be a problem for me. But when I looked at the market, there were only three Zalman cases and ~900 were others. On top of it, I hadn't heard of most of the other brands until this day. I didn't want a colourful case, led lighting, or a window. But there was none. One full circle later, I bought the cheapest Zalman case with a plastic glass, paying another 50 euros for it. The case has three fans with white LED lighting, but at least I can turn them off with a button, plus the same button controls the fan speeds.
I wasn't aware of the NZXT before, but people said good things about it. So I bought this PSU, and I like its build quality, silence, and packaging. Performance and packaging are kind of surreal for a budget PSU, in my opinion. I spent another 65 euros.
The hole was in my tight budget, almost 500 euros. But I achieved it anyway, and with a little pushing from my spouse, I bought the Dell monitor as a bonus for almost 60 euros. Also, this monitor was the first item I received from my order. I had been using a Benq GW2270-B for 7 years without a hitch.
I can say easily now that I am a lucky man. In my country, customer rights and related laws are a bit so-called and impractical. If you received the wrong or broken product, good luck with it. Returning, changing, and getting your money back is a very painful process, and there is almost zero guarantee about the solution. Most of the time, buying products from the official distributors and/or manufacturer's own stores makes things easy, or at least bearable, but when it comes to computer parts like these, there is no real solution. For example, I know companies and people bought "used mining GPUs" as brand new in the last few years, and when they knew about the truth, there wasn't any response, and nobody cares about them. I think you get the picture.
So, all parts of the order were delivered to me without a problem. Case, like I mentioned before, was the last item. For the first few days, I built the machine on my desk and tested it. I am not a handyman, but I know a few things about computers, and installing the CPU on the mainboard, applying the thermal paste, and putting a cooler on top of it is not rocket science nowadays. Until my SSD came, I just used a spare Western Digital Green SATA 120GB SSD for tests. I installed Windows 10 and checked everything about the devices. As a Linux/BSD user (and even a former Commodore/Amiga fan), I think this is a good way to test the general condition of a machine. Especially with Windows 10, which does not require a licence or a key for basic installation. Because almost all hardware is manufactured for this software, whether we like it or not. I tested everything I knew and tried some free and simple benchmarks. Updated the BIOS. Everything was OK.
After the delivery of the case, I put things together in it and must admit that new toys are great. Everything went smoothly; modular cables are a great invention. I know these have been on the market for years, but I didn't build a PC from zero for years. I mostly bought used systems and upgraded them personally, and as my main machine, I always have a notebook. But after a few months with a Mac Mini M1 and later on a Raspberry Pi 400, reminded me the desktop computer concept again. This is one of the reasons why I built a desktop years later on my own, from scratch, instead of buying another Thinkpad.
Finally, I finished the building phase and installed Debian Unstable on it. Everything works without a configuration or trick. The login screen comes in a few seconds, WiFi performance is just wonderful, and there is almost no sound with three case fans and one CPU fan. And, my new monitor is just 2 inches bigger and has the same resolution as the old one, but colours are better. OK, I am sold.
Probably most people have better machines than this; even I know there are faster and stronger systems out there that are a few years older than my new desktop. But you know, the best is what you have, and in my circumstances and with my budget, this is a great deal. And take into consideration that my previous main desktop was a Raspberry Pi 400 with an external SSD disc, which isn't really slow or unusable for me. I was already looking for a new computer, and I just wanted to feel like a builder again ("Crom, count the dead.").
But there is always more than meets the eye. Here are some points from my secret agenda: First, I tend to use my machines longer than most people, and my processing needs are generally lower than most people's. I can go for any Core i3 CPU newer than the Haswell generation, and it would be OK. Again, I can build with any brandless case made of some aluminium sheet and plastic chips, which would be enough, because in my town, heat isn't a big problem even on the hottest days. Or, I can use one of the spare SATA SSDs at home and call it a day with another brand new 1TB rusty grinder. For PSUs, I have a few in my basement from the old days, and I think any 300W is enough for a system like this. But buying and building a machine like this is not just for me to consume media. I said before that 128G RAM support was a must because this machine, maybe not tomorrow but one day, will join my off-site computing and storage cluster (I don't have one at the moment, but I am planning to install the first one this summer; I found a great place). I don't know what its exact role will be ahead of time, but I probably need a TrueNAS server or a virtualization server there. I can update other parts and add more things to this system. In short, I like to tinker with these junks, still and planning world dominance bit by bit.
But before ruling the world, I want to learn something more from the internet and should watch some videos, so let's celebrate my new desktop together!
Thank you for reading.