New PC Part II: Building from Scratch

I texted the guy from Craigslist and made sure everything was on the up and up. He was just selling the CPU and the motherboard, no other components. He was looking to get in to an X99 motherboard and CPU instead, so he was selling these things to upgrade. Understandable, especially if he’s a tweaker. There are countless Z170 vs X99 threads online that I poured through a few months ago when thinking about building a PC again. There are cases for and against both. The big thing to me was that either was obviously better than a Phenom II X4 from 2010.

He was firm on $450 so I told him I’d let him know. I started looking at all of the other components I’d need – first, DDR4 RAM, which was harder to find locally, and twice as expensive when compared to DDR3. Best Buy had one type of stick, some PNY “gaming” RAM, but the reviews for it were horrible. It seemed to be about a 50/50 hit/miss rate for bad chips, and Newegg doesn’t even stock that type of RAM anymore. That was a red flag.

Then add the PSU, the 1070, and a CPU cooler because the K series of Intel procs apparently don’t come with coolers since that’s the “enthusiast” model and they figure you’ll probably water-cool it. Add $100 for the only local cooler I could find – a giant dual-wide 120mm by 240mm Corsair liquid cooler – which, by the way, meant that I ‘d have to mount on the outside of my case. This meant tooling, Dremeling, etc.

The drives in it are only 7200rpm SATA 3 drives, so I figured ponying up for a 256GB SSD for the OS drive would probably be a good idea if I was going to have all the horsepower of a modern i7 and a 1070. Add another $100 for that. Then throw in miscellaneous small things like thermal paste, mounting brackets for the 2.5″ SSD, and my list was getting longer and longer.

When I added everything up I thought “Well, this ‘small’ upgrade project just turned in to, basically, a major ground-up build.” I was very turned off by the fact that I’d have to hack up my pretty Silverstone HTPC case and bolt (literally) a radiator and two huge fans to the outside of it. I found a picture of someone who did something similar on a similar HTPC case and it looked horrible. He also complained about how loud it was.

I was beginning to realize that this wouldn’t be a great idea. At all. For any reason. I texted the guy with the motherboard and CPU and told him that I was going to go in a different direction.

Then I came across, on Best Buy’s website, an ASUS ROG G20. This thing reminded me of the Compaq iPaq computers that we bought when I worked at an insurance company 16 or so years ago. It was a small mini-tower that looked pretty cool, plus it had a bunch of horsepower. 1TB 7200rpm drive, the same Intel i7 that Craigslist dude was selling, a GTX 1070, 16GB of RAM (upgradable to 32GB), plenty of USB 3 ports, and as a bonus a DVD+-RW drive for those “crap where’s my USB optical drive” moments. This was basically everything I was going to shoehorn in to a big heavy HTPC case in a tiny little package, and because it was on sale for $250 off, it was cheaper.

This excited me very much.

I thought “Well, this must be fate. All the same specs as what I was just going to do, for less money, and I don’t even have to go through the hassle of putting it all together, hoping everything works, and installing Windows!”

Yep… that’s what I thought alright. That’s what I thought…

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