NOTE: This is a re-posting of a previous thread on a different forum that no longer exists.
Last summer, I posted a thread about my then most recent build, highlighting the good and the bad as well as offering tips along the way.
I hadn’t planned on building a computer again so soon, but Newegg had a really good deal on an AMD motherboard and APU combo: only $97 after rebate. I had tried to build a computer a few years ago based on AMD’s APU but was never able to get the system stable (I eventually switched to an FX 4350). This offered me a second chance, but I had a dilemma – I didn’t have a need for another computer.
Having built several computers in the past, I have spare parts, extras or parts that I’ve pulled from previous builds accumulating on the shelf. I thought to myself “do I have enough parts laying around that I could build a complete system if I bought the APU/mobo?” With that mindset, I added the combo deal to my cart and started rummaging through my closet.
Indeed, I had all the other components necessary to build a computer. As with anything, ideas morph and while I have an extra case (literally, brand new, never opened), I felt the case was too big, especially since this was an mATX motherboard. So I relented a little and allowed myself to buy a case (I bought a few other items to supplement the build, but you’ll see that below). I wanted something smallish with a little flare. I should say that I did not pick the case: I narrowed down the choices to two, and wanting her to feel she was a part of the process, I had my mother (Sharon) choose. I was surprised by her choice…BUT she selected it and I bought it.
So here’s the build which I’ve dubbed “Sharon’s Scorpion”:
Thermaltake V3 AMD Edition case $50
ASUS A78M-A FM2+
A6 5400K 3.6 ( Turbo 3.8 ) Dual Core $97 combo (after $10 rebate)
Arctic Alpine 64 Pro CPU Cooler $15
Coolermaster Sickle red LED 120mm fan $8
OCZ Agiligty 3 240GB SSD
4GB Balistix 1333 DDR3 RAM
Ultra 600W PSU
Windows 8 Pro upgrade NOTE: I did not purchase a GPU because of the integrated graphics, however I am passively looking (AMD, of course to fit the motif) and will purchase one if the deal’s really good
You’ll immediately notice that I purchased a CPU cooler and a fan. I’m not a big fan of the stock AMD fan and I’ve used this CPU cooler before and really liked it. For 15 bucks, why not? The fan was to add a little bit of flare (keep reading to find out what happens!).
Once the CPU/mobo arrived, I had to test them quickly to make sure they worked, mainly to make sure it was okay to claim the rebate, but also because I was reminded from my last build how important it is to see if the computer POSTs before you get too far. I grabbed an old “test” case and tried them out. Good news: it POSTed first try:
NOTE: The AMD case had not arrived when I did my testing, hence the use of an old case. If you look closely at the third picture, I misplaced some of the standoffs (bottom right corner is actually sitting underneath the motherboard). TIP: Make sure you count and track the standoffs. A misplaced standoff could mean a fried motherboard.
Once all the components had arrived, I started thinking about airflow. I really like LatiosXT’s thoughts on “positive pressure” (more air being pushed in than being pulled out). The case came with one fan and I had the Sickle which I thought would look nice in front. When doing my POST testing earlier, I noticed the old case has a white LED fan. Red…white…I found my 3rd fan. Two fans in; one fan out.
I’ve never worked with a V3 case, but I found out quickly that to remove the front panel you have these weird “winged” washers which help secure the panel to the chassis. There are a total of 4, two on each side and two of them are in difficult spots to remove. A nice long narrow screwdriver and some patients are what I need to eventually take the screws out.
Surprisingly, aside from the front panel, the case was pretty nice to work in. There were adequate cutouts which allowed for decent cable routing. The case is pretty flimsy, but I believe that’s a byproduct of the case’s design since it is surprisingly light. One other odd feature was this locking pin for the PSU. I’m not exactly what purpose it served except adding two more steps when you install a power supply (you have to remove it to install the PSU, then re-insert it afterwards). Let’s just say I performed the former step and not the latter.
The rest of the build was pretty straight forward.
NOTE: My original plan was to have one intake fan in front and one on top (with the exhaust being in the rear of the case). Unfortunately, the motherboard layout prevented the use of the top fan locations, so I had to move the second intake to the side panel.
With the assembly complete, I fired up the computer to see if there were any glitches. On the up side, all components seem to be operating fine. On the down side, the Sickle Red LED fan sounded like a tornado inside the case. I’ve had bad fans before but nothing like this. I’ve heard that you can have quiet fans, and you can have LED fans but you can’t have both; this fan supported that statement. It was back to those blasted winged washers and the front panel. Unbeknownst to me the sole fan that came with the case was red LED and it’s relatively quiet so it got bumped to the front.
NOTE: I tried to take the picture in a low-light setting, unfortunately the flash from the camera and a relatively weak Red LED light from the fan don't let you see the full effect.
Few things to note:
The Win 8 OS is an upgrade disc, not a full install OEM disc. If you are upgrading from an older OS like Vista or XP, you actually have to perform a clean install. When I performed the clean install I continued to get message saying I needed to enter a valid product key, even though I had used the appropriate key. If you run into a similar situation, check out BinaryInk's post. It helped me and numerous other people, too.
Monitoring with CPU-Z and HWMonitor, I ran Prime95 for just under 1 hour. At rest, the CPU hovered right at 40 C (not bad for a cheap 3rd party cooler). Under stress, the temps rose to low 70s with 75 being the max temp registered. AMD specs indicate the max temp is 70. I found it interesting that even at those high temps, the CPU continued at stock speed (3.6GHz).
I don’t do a lot of benchmarking and though many people in this forum don’t like windows built-in Windows Experience Index (WEI), it is available to anyone running Windows and, therefore, provides an easy method for users to compare computers. So, here are the WEI:
3D Graphics: 4.7
Hard Drive: 8.1
TIP: I guess Microsoft doesn't like WEI much either since they hid it in Windows 8.1. If you're interested, this webpage shows you how to get it.
Additionally, I benchmarked a couple games since the games include built-in benchmarking tools:
Batman Arkham Asylum – at 1920x1080 at Low settings, the computer could only muster 15 fps (all fps will be stated in average fps unless otherwise noted) with a lowly 4 minimum fps. Since 720 is “technically” HD, I dropped the resolution to 1280x720 and was able to get a better 30 fps. I even tried 1024x600 and at the resolution the computer spit out 36 fps. I believe it would be playable at this resolution but you would have a pretty small window (about 30% of the screen on a standard 1080 monitor)
Tomb Raider – the computer faired about the same with 14.5 fps using Low settings at 1920x1080. Out of curiosity, I tried Normal settings (with no AA and texture filtering turned to its lowest setting) and the game could only churn 10.8 fps.
And that completes the Sharon’s Scorpion build. I hope you learned something along the way. All in all, I’m very impressed with the computer. I was surprised by how responsive it is, which I know is partially because of the SSD. Still, for an everyday, non-gaming computer, it’s perfect…though not quite as powerful or tenacious as its namesake.