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Author Topic: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?  (Read 5694 times)

Offline D2Disciple

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Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« on: February 05, 2010, 07:01:54 PM »
This is more of a... Umm... showoff thread about my rigs than anything else. Just warning you. I doubt you care about all this, but I thought I'd waste cyberspace with news about my life and make it fairly educational at the same time.   :D

So everyone knows - college kids are POOR. I'm a good example of that. I work as an intern roughly 14 hours a week for minimum wage on computers. But hey, I am proof that any idiot with a job can afford lots of cool tech, if you just know where to sink your money and where to hold it tightly.

This new rig I've built has been in the works since the beginning of last semester (early September). It's not perfect, nor is it finished, but perhaps you'd like to see what you can get for chump change:


Okay. It's an ugly case, sure. But it was FREE from work (I literally pulled it out of the dumpster an hour after another intern threw it there). Old, ugly, scratched-up cases are everywhere for nothin'. Whaddya know, it had a CD-RW drive intact in there. And a floppy drive, but who cares? So lets see what I sank into it:

MSI G31-M2 V2 LGA775 mainboard  ~ $60
Intel Pentium 4 HT 3.4GHz Prescott 1MB L2 Cache ~ $25
3GB 800Mhz DDR2 SDRAM ~ $60
500GB Western Digital Caviar Green 5400-7200RPM SATA HDD ~ $60
EVGA nVidia GeForce 8600GT 256MB DDR2 VRAM ~ $30
Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS ~ $40 (purchased a couple years ago)
Sunbeam Black Steel 580W Power Supply ~ $30
Antec 80mm blue LED fan ~ $10


This comes out to a nice 325 US dollars. What does Unreal Tournament 3 think about this rig? Well, even with it's "outdated" technology (such as the Pentium 4), this sucker still runs UT3 on medium detail at 800x600 with only the most minor hitch on one particularly detailed map. Crysis looks horrible at 640x480 and at very lowest detail (the draw distance is incredibly short), but runs quite smoothly (which is impressive for 300 bucks since Crysis' graphics engine is hardly efficient). For the record, the video card's Windows Experience score is >5.9, which isn't exactly a performance benchmark, but it does say something for 30 dollars.

But it all has to go somewhere, right?


Here's my desktop (along with my Descent jewel case being honorably used as a coaster for my Buffalo Rock ginger ale). The monitor? That ain't no monitor. That's a 19" AOC HDTV. And if anyone here has used AOC CRT monitors as much as I have, you know the bang for the buck is huge. On sale, this TV was a mere 150 bucks, and comes with a fantastic 3000:1 contrast ratio (comparable to most 19" HDTV's 500:1 contrast ratio). It's maximum resolution is 1440x900, and it's nice to be able to swap from the (original) XBox to the laptop screen and back effortlessly. It looks great as a monitor and as a 720p TV.

It's running via HDMI into my ASUS U81A laptop. Bought originally for 650 bucks and now available for <600, this is easily the best bargain computer I've ever owned.

2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 Centrino
4 GB DDR2 SDRAM
320GB 5400RPM HDD
DVD+-RW Drive
14" Bright Widescreen Display (1366x768 max resolution)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
4.6 Pound total weight
7-8 hour battery life (3-4 in Ubuntu Linux)

All this is accompanied by that beautiful Klipsch GMX-A2 2.1 sound system (I don't skimp on the audio) for 140 bucks.

So altogether, this whole set up cost me a rather affordable $1265 US.  for the record, that's nearly two-hundred dollars less than the Apple Macbook I bought three years ago (I sold it to buy the ASUS). Furthermore, my ASUS laptop performs similarly to my roommates brand-new Apple Macbook he spent nearly 1500 dollars on. Awesomeness on a budget. It's possible.

But is it perfect?

Not really. The desktop has certainly been a project. The MSI mainboard I purchased to replace the Foxconn I bought and shipped back due to non-functionality. That cost me nearly 30 extra bucks in shipping costs and restocking fees - curse your restocking fees, Newegg! - in order to get a working motherboard. Then, when the MSI came in, I plugged up my nVidia GeForce 8600 GT, and.... No dice. I had to then ship that one back to EVGA for a replacement, costing me another 10 bucks and another frustrating amount of time. Then I found that the overpowered Pentium 4 HT runs just under the maximum safe temperature under load even with a 92mm aluminum/fan heatsink combo, and further, the Northbridge chipset is about as cool as an active volcano (>200F under constant 50-70% CPU load), forcing me to buy a solid copper Thermaltake Extreme Spirit II heatsink/fan this weekend. A case purchase is in my future as well - I'm considering the XClio Godspeed 2 Advanced case for the sake of maximum inflow of cold air and exhaust of hot air. And today, the switch on the back on the power supply broke and is stuck on the "on" position. Not a big deal, but annoying at worst.

Otherwise, I feel pretty happy about my current rig. I'm excited. Can you tell?  ;)
« Last Edit: February 05, 2010, 07:08:58 PM by D2Junkie »
I, for one, hope this is much, much more than a reconnaissance mission.

Offline Ronin RedFox

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2010, 08:42:09 PM »
But have you ever thought about how poor High-School freshmans are?  :P Thats Me.

Sounds like a pretty nice pc. I still have to build one for myself soon.  :)
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Offline -<WillyP>-

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2010, 05:04:15 AM »
It really ticks me off to pay shipping to return defective product.

Nice write-up, I do enjoy reading about computer builds. It's interesting and informative. I need to upgrade my kids computer, It doesn't run even D3 well. Of course, I will probably upgrade mine, they get the leftovers... ;)
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Offline NUMBERZero

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2010, 11:16:55 AM »
Pics broke. They were fine the other day.

Sounds cool! I'm one of those people who would just go and buy a computer. I went broke for my new one that I bought a few years back.
"I hate not being able to move in three dimensions. Cramps my style." -Cpt. Jack "Heartbreak One" Bartlett (Ace Combat 5)

Offline -<WillyP>-

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2010, 07:14:36 PM »
Pics are fine now... try again, maybe something didn't load.
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Offline Foil

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2010, 11:38:36 AM »
Very nice!!  It really is amazing what deals one can find on computer equipment, if looking hard enough.

I can certainly appreciate the feeling of finally getting a good machine together.  I've been building my gaming rig on a limited budget, myself.  Not quite as tight as when I was in grad school... but still tight.  Maybe I'll post pics sometime.

Offline D2Disciple

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2010, 10:53:20 PM »
Well, an update on the build.

Just recently scored an old server box from work they were throwing out, so I ripped all the old stuff right out of the case and began to paint it flat black. I love all the extra room in it and especially the fact that the hard drives mounts are directly in front of two 120mm fan exhaust mounts.


I think I really like this old case because it's so retro and... big. The focus of everything these days is "smaller and lighter" and I think that's evidenced by the fact that people now seem to prefer watching movies on their iPods while on a plane (which would give me a serious headache). This is just massive, heavy, and is built like a tank, and I like that sort of counter-culture in technology. In a land of quick little Mazda Miatas, this is a danged 409 Buick. It stands up within about 8 inches of my desk, so it actually makes for a great place to put my little box fan.

To size it up:


Well, I got my CPU and chipset cooler in, and.... No go. So I've submitted for an RMA from MSI for my motherboard, and I have my fingers crossed that I'll only have to shell out 12 bucks in shipping to get yet another motherboard. Oh well. The CPU cooler was a cool 18 bucks, and looks really cool to boot. From what I can see, it's quite functional as well, though my eyes understandably stayed on the northbridge temperature most of the time I had the computer on.  ::)


Ah well. Next thing to do is wait for the motherboard RMA number. Other than that, all I really need is a couple of 80mm fans for the exhaust for the CPU and another blue LED 120mm for the back. It looks pretty nice and lights up the wall with only one... But I want to make it really shine.  ;D


Despite all my troubles, I've really had fun with the build so far. That's not to say that I haven't had a lot of cash unnecessarily eaten by it, but hey, it's my hobby, and once I get it working really well, it should be a pretty decent gaming/media machine.

I just can't wait to be dual-booting Vista Ultimate and Crunchbang Linux.  ;)
I, for one, hope this is much, much more than a reconnaissance mission.

Offline TechPro

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2010, 05:52:01 AM »
"Vista Ultimate"?   Ugh.  I'd bump for Win7 anytime Vista shows on the horizon.  You said you're on a college kid budget ... as a student you can get Win7 real cheap.   Trust me.  Go Win7 instead of Vista.  You won't regret it.  Too many ... ah, "issues" ... with Vista.

Offline -<WillyP>-

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2010, 07:28:35 AM »
What? Issues with a Microsoft product? ::)
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Offline Foil

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2010, 09:36:57 AM »
Very nice, D2J!

For anyone interested, I posted pics of my own recent build at the RIP Forums.

[P.S. It's running Vista Ultimate.  :) ]

Offline -<WillyP>-

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Re: Impressive tech at a college kid budget? Why not?
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2010, 01:13:14 PM »
I'd love to go water... fanless water... just to not hear the fans all the time. But I've got the Sunbeam core contact cooler, it works great!
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