Intel i3-540 Home PC

After couple of months thinking about it, I finally got around to buying a new PC for home. My main uses of my home PC are: web browsing, playing music and watching videos. And of course it is my home web/email/svn server. After reading a lot of reviews and user comments, especially on Tomshardware, on Thursday evening I went to Zeer Rangsit IT Mall and purchased the following:

I choose an Intel CPU simply because I've always used Intel and didn't have the patience to investigate AMD CPUs. The i3, with its integrated GPU, has good reviews as a non-gaming or HTPC CPU. The graphics are supposedly enough for watching HD movies. Hence no need for a standalone graphics card (cutting down cost and power consumption).

To support the i3 integrated graphics I choose the basic H55 chipset (as opposed to H57 which enables RAID, which I've never used). I thought having USB3 support would be useful, as hopefully USB3 drives start coming out over the next year or two. I selected a uATX form factor with the intention of keeping everything small and potentially using a smaller case (although decided against that in the end; see below). Hence the choice was really between the Asus P7H55-M/USB3 and the Gigabyte GAH55M-USB3. I selected Asus as it seems a lot more common in Thailand and therefore a little bit cheaper (about 100 Baht). I also remember reading the USB3 in the Gigabyte shares bandwidth with PCI cards and maybe slower (not that that would have much impact on my usage).

The RAM was what ever was available from the shop from a decent brand (e.g. G.Skill, Kingston, Geil) and was on the list of supported RAM for the motherboard.

For a hard drive I investigated the Western Digital Caviar Blue and Green drives. The Green drives sound good from a power/noise perspective, but the 5400RPM is a limitation. Many reviews pointed to the Samsung F3 as the best performing drive of the similarly priced 1TBs.

The last two items were not originally what I planned.

For a PSU I was only looking for top quality, but not necessarily high power. With no standalone graphics card I only really needed 350-400W PSU. Hence my aim was a Seasonic S12II Bronze 430W, Antec EarthWatts 430W, Silverstone ST45NF or possibly Corsair VX450 (each offers much more power than I need; but I may opt for a discrete graphics card in the future). However finding good quality power supplies at lower wattages at Zeer Rangsit was almost impossible. There are a few shops that have high end 650W and up, and the rest seem to be generic PSUs. It was my second time wandering around Zeer looking for components. Ideally, after seeing what was on offer I should have gone home to check reviews online and came back another day. But that could have meant another week (or even next year!) so as my preference was to get a Seasonic S12II, when I found the 520W I bought it. A lot more power than I need, but hey, at least it has excellent reviews.

With cases there again are not many choices of brand names (Antec, Silverstone) at Zeer. The only brand name that has a reasonable range is Coolermaster. I had considered getting a minitower, such as Coolermaster Elite 341, but after only finding an Elite 360 and seeing how small it was I got a bit worried about heat and potential to upgrade. So opted for a standard midtower, the Elite 335.

Here's what the inside looks like all put together. Note the cables from nonopus power supply - I only used 2 out the 9 available:

Note that I didn't purchase an optical drive. I have a USB DVDRW drive with the laptop and plan to use that for the few times I need to burn a CD/DVD. Also no monitor - after fixing the Samsung 203B it is going fine. I will by a cheap Logitech/Microsoft wired mouse/keyboard combo soon.

The cost of all this: 14340 Baht (or about AUD/USD 485). All components were from JIB, except the motherboard which was from a small independent PC shop (Autonet).

Of course I had to assemble it myself. This was in fact the first time I've assembled a computer before. By following a step-by-step guide on Tomshardware it was quite easy, taking a couple of hours. I would recommend to anyone that knows which components to buy, to give it a try.