I was asked if I could build a gaming PC for a friend’s 15 year old, with a budget of around £600 with some flexibility, to replace the Dell Inspiron 15 laptop with integrated graphics that was in use. Having waited and dreamed for years of wanting to finally have his own PC that could run new, more demanding games, and with no other requirements than it needing to have green lights, it seemed apt to the name the build “Emerald Dream”.
Coming from the i5-6200u in the laptop, anything which was going to be built would straight away be a huge improvement in performance, but it also needed to be equal or better in all component areas. Not only did the £600 budget include hardware, it also needed to include a genuine copy of Windows, so in effect, this made the budget even more challenging. Naturally, without this included, more luxuries could have been included such as an SSD, perhaps stretching to an entry-level Quad-Core.
People may question why I opted for the i3-7100 rather than the cheaper G4560, and that was because he had remarked about wanting to play Arma 3 on the machine. The extra speed on the chip in what is a very single-threaded game would help get the best performance possible.
In terms of the motherboard, the fact that it came with a free mouse was a bonus. But it also offers enough potential for upgrades with the m.2 slot for either Optane or an NVMe, and comes with extras like an RGB header if he so desires in future.
I coupled this with an 8GB stick of 2400mhz DDR4 RAM and a 1TB WD 7200rpm Blue to match the capacity of the laptop in both cases, but be significantly faster. Powering it all is a Corsair CX450M which not only looks better with the flat black cables which are easier to manage but gives peace of mind for them with a 5 year warranty. Finally, to round it off, 3 Coolermaster Sickleflow 120mm Green LED fans and an Akasa Vegas Green LED strip show it off.
This was all housed in an absolute gem of a case for the price; a windowed Thermaltake Versa H15. I wasn’t expecting much, but with a removable drive cage, removable 5.25” Optical bay and mounts on the backplate for 2.5” drives and enough space for cable management, building in this was surprisingly easy and satisfying.
With benchmarking proving that the combination of the i3-7100 (and previously 6100) along with an RX470 was solid, being able to get the GPU on offer for such a low price was a great win. Ultimately for what was in effect a £520 budget for components, this is a big bang for the money spent and is a good base to build from in future.
For my first build for someone other than me and my family, it’s been great to be able to put all the experience and knowledge from builds since Firestorm (Sept. 15) into a build for someone else to realise their dream. And it’s been very well received by him and his parents which is very rewarding. Any questions, just ask. Thanks for looking!
Fast, Optane ready and supports 2400mhz DDR4 out of the box. Builds upon the excellent price/performance of the i3-6100, even if it is somewhat overshadowed by the Pentium G4560 in terms of price/performance.
Controllable Red LEDs on the underside of each corner, M.2 slot, Reinforced PCIe slot, nice looking Red design. And did i say it comes with a free mouse? The manual is very informative, the box comes with 2 SATA cables. If there is one criticism it’s that the red text labels next to headers on the board is very hard to read so lots of reference to the manual is needed.
Dependable, low-profile RAM with a nice clean design. No issues whatsoever.
This version of the WD Blue is a 7,200RPM drive rather than the current/newer Blue which spins at 5,400RPM. Good performance for the money.
For such a premium looking, and (generally) priced, Strix card, I was expecting a backplate of some kind which is disappointing. The cooler shroud is fairly solid plastic but is mainly attached to the PCB around the middle of the card, especially not towards the rear end near the power connector where it ‘floats’. The card idles nicely in the case in it’s 0 RPM fan mode at 35 Degrees C so is silent in idle and light loads, and fairly quiet under load.
The star of the build process for me. For such a cheap case, sure the panels aren’t the thickest and the screws aren’t labelled (needing the manual), but that's where the criticism ends. It was very easy to build in. The removable drive cage makes PSU installation and cable management easy when dealing with Semi-Modular PSUs. The 5.25” bay can also be removed which is a nice feature. Standard I/O on the top of the case, filtered front cover, but there is loads of room to stuff cables.
The expansion plates need to be snapped off, and only one is provided to screw back in if needed, and i’m not a fan of the open fan mounts at the top, but given the price, who cares. It is a brilliant mATX case for building on a budget and definitely recommended.
5 Year Warranty with a Semi Modular design with black-flat cables modular cables. A shame that the ATX and EPS cables aren't flat, but good PSU for the price. Especially as this is a grey label CX PSU which was relaunched in 2015.
Cheap, but pretty good led fans for the money. These aren’t PWM which is a shame but they aren’t too noisy when DC controlled via the motherboard. At full 12v, they are audible at their maximum speed. Though it’d be nice to have more of a glow from them, the X design for the LEDs looks good.