FEATURE: Building Your Own Desktop Computer

Steve Makris

Published: 01/04/2019 10:50:01 AM EST in Electronics

FEATURE: Building Your Own Desktop Computer

Want to build your very own desktop Windows 10 PC? It might seem like a daunting task, but established computer parts stores like Memory Express in Western Canada can assemble a custom desktop with parts you choose. Here's a guide of the required hardware components.

The components listed below are from a new speedy and whisper quiet desktop I put together shortly after the release of the 8th Gen Core i5-8400 2.8 GHz processor earlier this year.

For processors, it's an easy decision with Intel's 8th Gen Core i5-8400 2.8 GHz processor ($280), which features six-cores with automatic Intel Turbo Boost Technology up to 4GHz when called for. The built-in 9MB smart cache (like RAM) literally doubles performance over 7th Gen Intel processors, which are still available in stores and online. Intel just released faster 9th Gen consumer i3, i5, i7 and i9 processors, but frankly, they're not worth the extra money. My new affordable desktop will outperform my five year old "beast" by a wide margin. This processor also has Intel Graphics built in so you simply plug it into a screen or TV.

The motherboards are the highways of the PC, connecting the processor with all input and outputs like RAM memory, hard drives, sound, Ethernet, Bluetooth and more. They vary in price between $100 and $400. I chose the ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-E ($265) with LGA1151 socket for the 8thGen Intel processor. This solid gamer motherboard has room to grow and features many settings and tweaks. It lets you speed up your RAM and processor, better known as overclocking. But the TPU feature takes all the experimenting headaches away. All new models accept the fastest SSD hard drives as well as traditional SATA spinning drives with room for more. The Z370-E has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. I like the included splash of LED light, which looks cool on cases with side windows. Motherboards change every few years to accommodate new processors, so you can't mix the newest processor with an older motherboard.

The ThermalTake Contac Silent 12 CPU Cooler ($30) is well designed and whisper quiet. And since your new desktop will have fewer moving parts, a 500 watt power supply like the EVGA 100-W1-0500-KR 500 W1, 80+ WHITE 500W, on Amazon.ca for $57.95, will suffice.

Choosing the right hard drive is challenging. A decade ago, there were IDE spinning hard drives followed by Sata I, II, III spinning and SSD drives, then SSD M.2 and PCIe NVMe drives. We went from 100 MP/s (megabytes per second) combined read/ write scores on decade-old hard spinning drives to more than 12,000 MP/s combined read/ write in top SSD drives.

I tested several popular SSD drives on price versus performance with Userbenchmark.com. For $180 the 1TB internal SSD M.2 WD Blue 3D NAND is the slowest performer at a combined read/write of 926 MB/s. It's best used as a secondary drive to store your produced files. But if you are on a budget, it will work fine as your main drive. The much faster Intel 512GB SSD7 ($200) at 2520 MB/s and Kingston KC 1000 480GB ($287) or with handy expansion PCIe card ($328) at 2381 MB/s are best used as your main operating system C: drive. The Samsung 1TB SSD 970 EVO PCIe NVMe ($439) at 4376 MB/s is in the small company of the fastest SSD drives. Compare these to a five-year-old 1TB spinning ioSafe drive at a crawling 100 MB/s!

There is an option of choosing a cheaper spinning hard drive, whose data is cached by Intel Optane memory, typically a smaller 16GB SSD. New store PCs are available with the Optane option. You get the best of speed and save bucks.
RAM is the least understood computer component. It is measured by latency performance, how long it takes to receive and send out frequently used data. The differences between today's slow and fast latencies are almost imperceptible. Although the Kingston Predator HyperX DDR4 3200MHz capable 16GB RAM ($224) buzzed my geekiness, the general rule of thumb in consumer RAM purchases is "more Ram is better than faster Ram." Check out slower running RAM like Kingston's ValueRAM 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 2Rx8 ($164).

Unless you are easily impressed by fancy LED-loaded, chrome-plated pricey computer cases, check out the med tower Corsair Carbide Series 100R Silent Edition ($70.) Its elegantly classic, light, black matte finish neatly organized inside to hide your cables. Two silent fans are included, top front USB 3.0 slots, mic and headphone, and a unique three level power switch for controlling your fan speeds. The side panel interior has sound absorbing material for the most silently running understated computer case you will ever own.

OPTIONAL: If you have many USB devices and memory cards, you can purchase combined USB 3.1 expansion units that fit in the unused hard drive or CD/DVD bay in the front of your tower. They connect internally to the motherboard's USB 3.1 connector. TIP: Most economy USB 3.1/card readers only have true USB 3.1 ports for USB 3.1 memory sticks, printers, and scanners. The media card readers are still 10X slower at USB 2.0. The giveaway are separate internal connection cables, one being blue tipped for the two USB 3.1 ports and another thinner, non-blue tipped media cable that is USB 2.0. It will take forever to copy 64GB of photos. Look for a USB 3.1 connection that handles everything with one blue tipped USB 3.1 cable. I use the well-made PRO-88 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Professional (US$40) from www.atechflash.com. It fits in a 5.25" bay and features SD, microSD UHS II, and CF/ UDMA media card readers, USB C, and two USB 3.1 ports.

You need to acquire a legal version of Windows 10 Home ($189) or Windows 10 Pro ($260). Transferring Windows from an older OEM PC, one that came with your PC purchase, will not work. If Windows for your previous PC was purchased separately, you may transfer the license to your new hard drive and computer. If you allow, for a minimal service fee, to have the computer parts store assemble your box (recommended for beginners) they can supply you with a new Windows OEM OS. Do not be swayed by online stores offering cheap offers on Windows. Many are not legit, and you might find your OS failing to work in the future.

Follow Steve at www.techuntangled.ca.

Article Tags:  build, computer, desktop, pc, components, parts, motherboard, usb, ssd, hard drive, memory, custom


FEATURE: Building Your Own Desktop Computer

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