First time PC build
Just before Christmas my desktop computer died a death after almost 9 years of faithful service. So began the search for a new low-cost machine which I could use for photo and video editing. It soon became apparent that I wouldn't be able to buy a ready-made PC that met my requirements within my budget, meaning I would have to build it. My budget was a maximum of €900 (US$1030 - GB£815)
Selecting the components
The first decision I had to make was the processor: Intel or AMD? After reading various reviews and watching a number of YouTube videos, I decided to go for an AMD Ryzen 5 2600X. The second generation of Ryzen processors' power to price ratio leaves Intel in the shadows. Out of the box, the 2600X has 6 cores, 12 threads and runs at 3.6GHz (max boost of 4.2Ghz). The 2600X also ships with its own heatsink and fan. Price paid €238
The next thing on the list was to find a motherboard into which I would plug the processor. This decision was really driven by my budget. I knew I would be able to save some money here and my research lead me to the award-winning ASRock B450 Pro4. It's an ATX board with an AMD AM4 socket which supports DDR4 3200+ RAM. It comes with dual M.2 slots that support both SATA3 6Gb/s and PCIe Gen3 x4 Ultra M.2 interfaces that push data transfer at speeds up to 32Gb/s. Price paid €89
Having selected a motherboard, this is where the fun began: finding compatible RAM and SSD. It's really imperative to go through the motherboard manufacturer's Qualified Vendor List (QVL) to find products which have been tested on that motherboard and which do not provide any compatibility issues. After some time I fell on 2 banks of 8GB GSkill Trident Z DDR4 3200. Price paid €164
Although I removed the HDD from my previous PC, I wanted to invest in an SSD on which to install the software, and keep the HDD solely as storage. SSD prices have apparently been falling over the last few months, and I was able to find a cheap 500GB Crucial MX500 M.2 Type 2280 SSD. Price paid €79
Deciding on which graphics card to go for was a difficult decision. Firstly, there are conflicting points of view out there as to whether GeForce or Radeon are better when it comes to photo and video editing. It seems that Adobe Premiere Pro renders more efficiently by using multiple processor core threads and graphics card CUDA cores. However, I have seen a comparison video that showed that Premiere Pro worked faster on a Ryzen machine with a Radeon card. With that in mind, my choice of card was based on reading user reviews and cost. In the end I went for a Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti G1 Gaming with 4GB GDDR5 and 768 Cuda Cores. Price paid €194
After all this I only needed one more internal component, the power supply unit. It is possible to save some money here by going for a non-modular unit, but after a little hunting around I came across a 750Watt Semi-Fanless 80 Plus Bronze rated modular unit from Cooler Master. The reason I went for such a high powered unit is so that it won't need to work at full power, and it gives me flexibility to upgrade any of my components in the future. Price Paid €78
Now all these bits and pieces need to be homed somewhere. The case is another place where I was able to claw back some money. I'm not interested in having a work of art sitting on my desk, I want to be productive. Again, after watching a video review, I plumped for the Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 5. Price paid €46
OK, I bought one more thing. A set of two 120mm fans with red LED lights. After all, it would have been wrong not to give the case a little bling! Price paid €22
Finally, I have all the parts necessary to build my new desktop, to add to the monitor, keyboard and mouse I already have.
Building the new PC
With both side panels and front cover removed, I had perfect access to start fitting everything. I started off with the two front mounted 120mm Corsair fans. This was a good move because had I left them to the end, I would never have been able to tighten the screws nearest the back panel with the motherboard in place. The first thing I did was fit the standoffs, those things which screw into the chassis and onto which you mount the motherboard. Following that I placed the I/O plate into the opening on the case. After that I mounted whatever I could to the ASRock motherboard before placing it inside the case. I started by placing the Cruicial SSD into the M.2_2 socket; unfortunately this drive isn't compatible with the Ultra M.2. Next I removed the two plastic mounts either side of the AM4 socket, they aren't required with the bundled Wraith Spire cooler. Then, I lined up the Ryzen 2600X processor and clamped it into place.
The next component to be fitted was the Wraith Spire cooler. Here I got away with a little mistake, let me explain. The heatsink comes with the fan already attached, and a coating of thermal paste. The unit can be fitted in one of two ways so that it screws perfectly into the backing plate on the motherboard. One thing to notice is that the fan has a raised edge with the AMD logo on it. Don't do what I did and fit it so that the raised edge is over one of the DIMM slots. As it happens I was lucky because I didn't need to use that slot.
With the GSkill RAM sticks in place, I lowered the motherboard into place and screwed it down. The Gibabyte graphics card was the last remaining item to go in before turning to the Cooler Master power unit, connecting the various leads and tidying up all the cables.
Turning it on
There was a nervous moment as I pressed the On/Off switch, but everything that should light up did, all the fans started to spin and the monitor burst into life. After a fresh installation of Windows 10, I updated the motherboard's BIOS, various drivers and I was finally up and running again.
All things considered, this was really much easier than I thought it would be. I can say, hand on heart, that I will never buy a ready-made PC again. Being able to select the individual components and buy them at half the price of a retail machine wins every time. If you are thinking of replacing your PC, don't be afraid of building it yourself. Just do your homework to ensure all the parts are compatible and go for it.