Custom-built PC: The nerdiest thing I own #sorrynotsorry

Fun fact: I was a total more of a computer nerd back in the day.

Oh, no, I don’t claim to be having been well-versed in terms of specs and stuff that involved numbers. I mainly worked with what I had back then—a very basic desktop computer that my mother bought for very basic usage, but that’s never really stopped me from always looking for ways to improve the thing and maximizing what I can do with it.

Eventually, with the demands of college and work life, I moved on to something more portable, like my trusty netbook. Because those were even more basic (and I had less time), there wasn’t much to do with it, and besides eventually forgetting most of what I learned, I wasn’t also able to keep up with new products and updates.

But I found myself missing an actual desktop. More importantly, I missed the things I used to be able to do with a full computer, like playing games, editing videos, and making graphics besides writing Harry Potter fanfiction. With my current laptop showing signs of deterioration, I contemplated getting an all-in-one, until my friend Anton swooped in to save the day offer building me one instead. While it was going to take more time to put together, it would be customized according to my needs and wants. I wasn’t seeking anything fancy (full disclosure: it ended up somewhat fancy), but I definitely wanted a Jack of All Trades, not necessarily being a master of none. I also wanted it future-proof.

So, ladies and gents, meet Pallas.

Rig

My first desktop computers were bought pre-assembled, so besides my mother reading the specs in the fine print, I didn’t really give much thought about the components inside.

Assembling a PC from scratch though, that’s some overwhelming sh*t. There were things I cared more for (aesthetics, power) than others (everything else), so there were moments Anton tested my patience and the other way around. I’d give this one to him though, for sticking through my overthinking and occasional indecisiveness. Even with the occasional mild arguments, it was always his intention to build me a good computer—and he did!

While he came up with a list of components based on my budget, I focused on looks. Initially, I had no idea what I was aiming for, until Anton introduced me to mini ITX cases, which appealed to me because the form factor meant less bulk. He found this adorable Corsair Graphite Series 380T Portable Mini ITX case in NuTech, SM City Cebu, and it was love at first sight (there might have been a crying jag involved when I found out there was one last stock left and I couldn’t get it right away). I MEAN, JUST LOOK AT IT! The form is sleek and unusual, the car-inspired buttons are sexy, and there’s even a carrying handle if I need to lug this around somewhere. Actually, I would have preferred the black one with the red LED light, but the black-and-white combo grew on me. The design and colors also influenced the rest of the computer’s looks—and almost a computer chair, because I found one that looked exactly the same as this thing in Wilcon, and I would have gotten it had it been more comfortable.

* Anton’s notes in captions
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One wouldn’t think it’s a Mini-ITX case due to its size, but it is. Designed with build flexibility, ventilation, and mobility in mind (and in seemingly that order), the Corsair Graphite 380T trades the traditional Mini-ITX compactness for a little more room for those who want increased building flexibility but sticking to a Mini-ITX form factor. It can even fit those massive 300mm high-end GPUs (though the case’s official documentation recommends 290mm as maximum length). Want a radiator for your CPU? Go ahead and stick those 240mm radiators on the side. Hard drives? Two 3.5-inch and two 2.5-inch bays are more than enough for your games/pr0n. And that massive 200mm fan up front makes sure the entire setup gets adequate ventilation. The built-in interior lighting, exterior front panel illumination, backlit front panel icons and sports-car inspired control panel makes this case a small-form-factor builder’s wet dream.

When I got this case, my design ideal shifted from an all-black PC to a black-and-white one. Unfortunately, while some manufacturers do have white versions of their monitors, they weren’t readily available in the Philippines. When we were poking around numerous computer stores, this AOC I2381FH IPS kept earning my attention. I didn’t get it immediately because I was still on the market for a white monitor. When I gave up and decided on getting a black, I was debating between this and an Asus model. At the very last minute, I went with this one, because stand. The unusual design also has the advantage of leaving me with lots of space below the monitor, so it gives the impression of a bigger desk.

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A 23-inch 1080p monitor utilizing In-Plane Switching for wide viewing angles and excellent color reproduction, all packed in a minimalist-yet-stylish form factor. A matte finish minimizes messy fingerprints for when you keep on touching your crush’s photo on the screen. That stand is definitely unusual and eye-catching, too

I’m no big gamer (although I recently started playing Overwatch) so I wasn’t also particular about what kind of keyboard and mouse I have. The only thing I was certain of was that I wanted it backlit, because I like doing things in the dark 😉 Anyway, we were scavenging for parts in SM City Cebu when we stumbled upon Octagon and saw the CoolerMaster Storm Octane keyboard and mouse set. All them sharp angles resembled the same lines in my Mini ITX case, both keyboard and mouse were backlit, and the set was surprisingly affordable. Reading reviews online said it was also pretty good for its price point. Sold! A downside though: While I can choose between colors, a reboot resets the keyboard’s color to default blue. I’ve since kept it blue, but I would have preferred it to be what I actually wanted it to be. Still, I’m not mad.

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This keyboard and mouse combo looks aggressive with its sharp angles, black finish, and selectable backlighting, which is sure to add character to any desktop system yet remaining kind to the wallet. All those sharp corners also make it double well as a murder weapon (you didn’t hear that from me).

I didn’t prioritize a sound system either, thinking I’d be just fine plugging in headphones and calling it a day. After a day of using my completed build, though, I was itching for some speakers. They didn’t have to be fancy, but a decent sound quality was a must. The Creative SBS A120 2.1 Speaker System did the trick. Considering how much it cost, the output was impressive and would easily drown out my neighbors’ karaoke sessions if I wanted to exact revenge on them for always waking me up on Sunday mornings.

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With two satellite units and one subwoofer, this basic-priced speaker system has sound quality normally found on speakers in higher price points. Near-universally praised for its quality-to-price ratio, the SBS A120 is one of the best 2.1 speakers on the market if you’re not an audiophile, and even if you are, you won’t be disappointed.

A point of contention: My computer’s central processor. At first, Anton was inclined to go for an Intel Core i5, which was of course more affordable and fit into the budget. Later on, when he found out the things I wanted to focus on doing with this build, he changed his mind and wanted to get an Intel Core i7 instead. It was way more expensive, sure, which meant cutting back the budget for something else; at the same time, it also meant power (!!!) and future-proofing. Eventually I agreed, but this was after a random sulking session in a random vulcanizing shop in North Reclamation while I was getting a flat fixed. I ended up getting a monitor and graphics card at later times, with Anton lending me an extra monitor in the meantime. He also felt post-build guilt for pushing me on this, but hey, if this thing’s going to last me for a while, I can’t say I mind so much anymore.

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Four cores, eight threads, 3.4Ghz base frequency, 4.0GHz boost frequency, 8MB cache. Top of the line CPU; it’s the best you can get on the consumer market without overclocking. Chosen to tackle any video editing needs thrown at it. This is as good as it gets, at least until the 7th Gen processors come out. 😛 But even then, it’ll take a few more generations before this gets obsolete.

Another cause for argument, although this was more about my indecisiveness and quest for power than anything else: The graphics card. I wasn’t major enough of a gamer to feel like I wanted those Php 35,000 graphics cards unlike some people I knew, but I didn’t want anything too shabby either. Anton felt I could just go for the most basic one, but nooooo, I didn’t skimp on anything for this build and I sure as hell wasn’t about to start now, even on something I might not be able to maximize, because power!!! Enter the Zotac GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. It was a recent release around the time I got it, and I was never really aware of graphics cards anyway, but it fit my ideals and it was within my budget still. Let me just say, Fractured Space looks f*cking gorgeous on my screen and also I need to play more games that really show off the 1050 Ti’s power.

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Small but terrible. User wanted a graphics card that can handle light gaming, but not the bottom of the barrel either. Still, the GTX 1050Ti is nothing to sneeze at, able to run today’s demanding games at decent detail and framerates without even the need for external power.

Okay, time for stuff that I just let Anton have carte blanch with:

First off, the MSi H110i Pro motherboard for my mini ITX baby. Basically, despite my case’s form factor, you don’t really have to sacrifice much to end up with a really nice computer, and this motherboard plays to that strength exactly. Also, I don’t know about y’all, but military-grade sounds extremely sexy to me.

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Military-grade Mini-ITX construction, compact but doesn’t skimp on features, including two dual-channel DDR4 slots, integrated USB 3.1 ports (plus case expansion), a PCI-E x16 slot, and even an M.2 SSD slot should the user ever go that route in the future. Excellent surge and heat protection should ensure that this will last a while.

Next up was hard drive. We went with the Seagate ST2000DM001, which packs 2TB of space, so I’m pretty sure I’m all set for a while. And if I needed even more space than that, it’s easy to just add another one, given my motherboard.

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Even though larger hard drives are already on the market, it’s still fairly difficult to fill up two whole terabytes of hard drive space with that much pr0n. And with a 64MB cache and SATA 6.0Gb/s connection speed, that’s as fast as you can get without going solid-state.

My RAM, the Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 2666Mhz, 16GB (2x8GB), ain’t nothing to scoff at either. Also, lights. 😀

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Fast enthusiast-level RAM with integrated aluminum heat sinks for maximum heat dissipation and performance. Also has pulsing red LEDs. 😛The accent color is a tad off the build color scheme, but the pulsing red kinda makes the RAM look like the rig’s beating heart.

Currently powering my build is the Seasonic ECO 600W. Around the time we completed the build, we were using a CoolerMaster Elite V2 which was bought second-hand from someone who had never used it. Unfortunately, that shorted out within six months, so this was the replacement.

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Good balance of efficiency, reliability, and performance. And at 600W, it should be more than enough to feed this medium-high build. Odd trivia about this model: It’s only available in Asia. Globally, the lesser ECO 450W is more in circulation, so this is a bit of a rarity.

And finally, giving my build life is the Intex 650 Armour. In my previous computers, we’ve always just used an AVR, so the concept of an Uninterruptible Power Supply is new to me. This lets me keep using the computer after a power cut. Technically, I should be using that time to save files and shut down my computer properly, but I tested it and it lasted me a good 45 minutes before power finally drained. Not bad at all.

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A new player in the UPS market, Intex offers no-nonsense and affordable uninterruptible power supply units. With short circuit, overcharge, and overload protection as standard, along with the usual automatic voltage stabilization feature and a 4 to 8 milisecond transfer time in case of main power loss, it has everything anyone can want in a UPS without breaking the bank. Downside: Most Intex units, regardless of size, come with a maximum of 3 outlets, though all of them connect to the battery.

It’s been a good seven months since I had my computer, and while I actually haven’t maximized its power as much as I initially intended to, it’s still nice to know that should I decide to pursue something, I’m well-equipped for it. Since then, I’ve had minor additions to the unit, including a Genius microphone from Anton, and repurposing the PS3’s Eye Camera as my computer webcam. I’m looking to get either a second hard drive or, upon my brother’s request, gaming headphones, soon enough.

The entire process of assembling my own PC has been educational, occasionally frustrating, and loads of fun. Now that it’s more or less done, I find myself missing the times we spent talking about components with me learning something new along the way, not to mention all the Bad Boyz Wings and spam fries involved. It certainly helps to have partnered with a good friend who knows his sh*t and is basically tech support for life. 😛 But, yes, I definitely recommend assembling a computer from scratch instead of buying a pre-made one if time permits. There will always be something for every budget so that’s not an issue, but more importantly, you get something well suited to your needs. As it is, I’m very happy with my Pallas.

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