This was my first time building a PC and it was a fun weekend project. Really excited I found this website to help me know what does and doesn't work. Starting out, I was interested in the Mini-ITX form factor and decided this would be the way to go as I'm really not into having a flashy PC that draws attention to itself. Also, budget was a big factor for this grad student. I was shooting for something around $600. Really I just wanted something as a gaming/HTPC that could sit under my living room TV and not take up much space. It being easily transportable was another goal. I'm a casual gamer so I was looking for a mid range graphics card that could handle ultra settings at 1080p, but wasn't interested in a top of the line 4K graphics machine. After reading a lot of forums, I decided on the GTX 1060 6 GB and fell in love with the Cooler Master Elite 110 case. Everything else was built around these two components. Here's the rundown:
CPU: I went with the Intel Core i3-7100. It sounds like the 6100 has garnered a lot of popularity for budget gaming builds and usually when I buy tech, I'd rather purchase the tried and true rather the latest and greatest because I hate being the guinea pig for new products. But I figured for just over $100 I could take a chance on the new Kaby Lake processor and hope for the best. I don't care at all for overclocking so there will be no discussion on that matter ;)
Motherboard: Not a lot of options when looking for a mini-itx mobo that supports 7th generation intel processors. This is where I'm now the guinea pig. The B250I Gaming Pro AC from MSI has the bells and whistles that I was looking for, though some are unnecessary and I could have gone for something cheaper. I don't have an M.2 SSD but at least have the option if I ever decide to upgrade. I also wanted the wifi and bluetooth capability. A note to anyone that is thinking about buying this: when I first attempted to power up my PC, I had my monitor plugged into the discrete graphics card's HDMI out. Nothing ever came up on my screen. Looking at the mobo's EZbug LEDs I got an error code that the DRAM could not be detected. I originally had a Kingston HyperX Fury 8 GB stick in the DIMM1A slot, so I tried pulling it out and reinstalling. Nothing. I put it in the other slot for good measure. Still nothing. I read something online about someone with a B150 mobo having a similar issue, and using two sticks of RAM solved the issue for the first boot up. I ran over to my local Best Buy and bought the PNY 2x8GB sticks now installed (more on this later), but still got the same error. Then I tried plugging the HDMI cable into the onboard graphics port. This time the error would show an LED for "GPU not detected" for a few seconds before the LED "CPU not detected" would come on. Uh oh. I was quite certain that I was completely incompetent and never should have attempted to build my own PC because everything is exploding and it's all my fault. So I ate some ice cream to feel better. Chocolate. With peanut butter swirl. Next I tried starting from scratch by removing and reinstalling the CPU because what the heck. Still nothing. Not being a wise computer sage (pun intended), I didn't know about clearing the CMOS until after another hour of googling for a remedy to my predicament. I cleared the CMOS (at least I think I did) by shorting the JBAT1 pins with a paper clip. I got nothing. Lastly, I plugged the HDMI cable BACK into the discrete graphics card and because the universe is a quantum system of perplexing mystery, my screen showed the computer booted up to the BIOS with no error. WHAT. THE. FLIPPING. CRAP. Thus it seemed appropriate to name the computer Schrodinger's Cat, because for a period of about 4 hours the thing was both not working AND working perfectly at the same time. To avoid a similar experience, I would recommend not installing your graphics card until after you have installed your OS and the drivers for the card. I think I confused the poor motherboard at the beginning. But I'm willing to accept it was just me that was confused. (If you think you know what I did wrong, please comment below)
RAM: As I mentioned earlier, I was originally going to go with a 1 8GB stick of Kingston's HyperX Fury with plans to upgrade to 16 GB later. Because of the problem I was having with the PC not booting to the BIOS, I decided to try a different brand of RAM and see if that was the issue (thinking maybe mine was DOA). The only DDR4 my local Best Buy had on hand was the PNY Anarchy 16GB DDR4-2400 going for $139.99. Yikes. I live in Hawaii and it was after 6 pm when everything on this island closes down, so I didn't have any other option if I wanted to troubleshoot my problem without waiting a week for new RAM to come from Newegg. Luckily, Staples.com was offering this same brand for $85 and Best Buy agreed to price match. DONE! I haven't had any issues with it and I'm pleased it was only $30 more to double my memory.
SSD/HDD: I pulled the SSD from my old laptop I haven't powered on in over two years. Windows 10 is wicked fast on this thing so I'm happy. I also had a $100 gift certificate to B&H photo which I used to purchase the Barracuda 1TB and a wireless keyboard. Like I said, eventually I may swap for a large SSD but for this build I was trying to keep the budget low.
GPU: I love this card so far. I got a good deal on it from Newegg by buying a refurbished unit. It had a full warranty so why not get it cheaper?
PSU: I am happy with this power supply but in hindsight I think buying a fully modular PSU would have been a good idea. This case is really tiny and there isn't a lot you can do with the cables besides bunch them up towards the front of the case behind the front 120 mm fan. Temps seem to stay low under load so far, so I'm not too concerned.
Anyways, there you have it. Schrodinger's Cat in a box.