Modest might

June 24th, 2010 in .Blogs .PC Components
Suds McSoapdish
Clip to Evernote

When you think of putting together a new PC, keep a few things in mind. First off, it’s not as difficult as it used to be. There are no IRQs to set, no jumpers – unless you really insist on digging up ancient motherboards and work with those. Nowadays building a DIY desktop entails mostly putting the pieces together, which has been simplified and streamlined over the years. The parts also auto detect beautifully, taking out most of the guesswork.

Secondly, once you decide to assemble your next PC, you’re opening up numerous new options. You save money by getting the parts individually, even if it’s not a night and day difference compared to getting a pre-installed system. The main boon to building your computer is the joy of doing so, and of course the confidence and comfort you’re going to gain by getting hands on with the technology.

Thankfully, economies of scale and different trends have made the gear more powerful and more affordable than ever. We recently found that a seemingly mid-range build can yield top of the line results. Hence the title – you can keep the parts mainstream, tone down the budget and still garner impressive output and performance. This is a great development and one we urge all PC users become better acquainted with. We’re not saying building or buying a powerhouse hardcore system is wrong, of course not, it has its place and many people relish the chance to do so. It’s just that, now you can build a perfectly potent desktop PC by yourself in under an hour – why wouldn’t you?


First off, you can save money and power expenditure by going with a micro ATX board. You don’t have to go for the latest and greatest chipset if trying to cut costs, so something like the M4A785D-M PRO motherboard will do just fine. It’s an AMD board, supporting the new Phenom II and Athlon II processors, but the chipset isn’t the latest iteration from AMD. This board has everything you need, and even comes with a built in Radeon 4200 GPU on the board for integrated HD graphics that are good enough for quality playback and normal desktop uses. If you have to save and don’t want to get a standalone graphics card, this is an excellent board to start with. As you can see from the pic, this motherboard is clearly marked and colour coded, so it’s easy to work on. It also has HD audio built in, plus all the USB and SATA 3Gb/s connectors you need.


We’ve already picked an AMD board, so let’s get to the CPU. The thing with AMD is, their processors are generally more affordable, and something like the Athlon II X4 635 Propus will do more than just fine. This is a speedy 2.9GHz chip, and has four cores with good HyperTransport capabilities for genuine multi-threaded excellence. It’s not the most powerful CPU out there by a long shot, but the overwhelming majority of users will find it has an ample power quotient for everything they throw at it. It’s a good performer in gaming, and has considerable headroom for overclocking, even with natural aspiration.


Memory is one area in which you unfortunately can’t reduce expenditure. This remains the bottleneck for all PCs, and as a result, the most expensive part of the system. With Windows 7 64-bit demanding 2GB as a minimum, we suggest you go ahead and get 8GB of DDR3 memory to give you that extra leeway. However, if you must save, 4GB will do. In terms of memory clocking, the faster the better, but 1066MHz will be enough if it saves you some money.


The system we’re building is micro ATX, so let’s use the TM-22 micro ATX case. It has great cooling, a nice design and meshes pre-drilled for up to three side fans – that’s always a nice touch. The elegant front panel design and sturdy build make this a good, affordable choice.

Power supply

One of the main advantages to putting together a more modest PC is eliminating the need for a monster power supply. Whereas top of the line components demand powerplants of more than 850 watts, we can get away with the solid P-55GA, a 550 watt supply that has all the connectors you need plus a 120mm fan with intelligent controls to reduce noise and power wastage. 

Hard drive

Any SATA 3Gb/s hard drive will do, but try to get a 7200RPM model with at least 500GB and a 16MB cache. The latter and the faster spin speed make a difference in reading and accessing data, while the storage amount is a must in this era of high definition everything.

Graphics card

Here’s one area where many PC builders go over the top, but the good news is that a calm EAH5750 can run all your games in high settings on a resolution like 1680X1050 with no problems. The technology behind graphics cards has come a long way, it’s no longer a case of get the most you can afford. In times like these it’s important to conserve, and we can’t rave about the EAH5750 enough. This Juniper Radeon has 1GB of GDDR5 memory on the PCB, and it comes with a variety of overclocking tools so you can get even more performance out of it if you really feel the need. We were really surprised with the power of the 5750, thinking it would turn out to be a compromised mid-range solution, but the difference next to the absolute top end in games is barely noticeable right now, and in regular video and Windows, there’s obviously no difference. Of course more powerful cards will last longer and will be able to make more of upcoming games, but right now the native DX11 5750 is an awesome card.

Optical storage

You could go with Blu-ray for your PC build, but we think that would be going for a more lucrative budget, and since we’re focusing on the modest side of the scale, a regular DVD reader/writer like the DRW-20B1S has all the formats and functionality you need. No reason to spend more unless you decide to go for a more up market system overall.


If you already have an LCD TV you can use with this DIY project, all the better. Chances are it’s got a VGA or DVI in you could use for a fast hook up. If not, get something like the 22T1E, which makes the most of the fact that now TVs and computer monitors are in fact one and the same, using the same technology. The 22T1E is effectively a PC screen with a TV tuner built in, and it has all the standards you want – VGA, DVI, composite, component and HDMI. So it doubles as a TV and PC monitor. We did say we’re going to get you great value for money!

There you have it – no need to break the bank, this system will do everything you need and want for the next couple of years, and it’ll be fun to assemble. Go to it.

Related Articles

Share |