After I finished the first draft of this article, I decided to sell the computer simply because it was seldom used – My parents have the new Sandy Bridge machine; I am away from home for at least 8 months in a year. Lynnfield was still popular at the time. After posting the sale on a forum I was bombed with inquiries. The whole thing was sold for 1800 yuan, down from nearly 5000 when I built it.
I always have a hard time naming the computers that I deal with, usually because I am not creative enough. But sometimes, naming is difficult simply because the computer is so mediocre in every way, like this one I built during summer in 2010:
- Intel i5-750
- Two Apacer 2GB DDR3-1333
- MSI P55-GD55
- Sapphire HD4830.
This was the least exciting desktop I have ever built. Still, it was an important one to me in terms of my interpretation of DIY.
Back at the time, I was using my Athlon X2 system, and my parents work on a Lenovo desktop. I do not remember the exact specifications, but essentially it had an Intel Celeron D 347, 256MB RAM and integrated graphics. It barely ran Windows XP well. My dad brought up the idea of building another desktop, and gave me a budget of 5000 yuan, or about 730 dollars. At this price, there seemed to be no reason to go AMD either performance-wise or power-wise, regardless of your target application. Intel i5-750 was probably the only reasonable choice at $200.
At the time, i5’s did not have integrated GPUs. Intel just began to accept the idea of putting GPUs on-board, was conservative in that only i3 users got on-board graphics. I guess the assumption was that anyone who wanted a fast CPU would also like a fast, i.e. discrete, video card, which apparently was not always true. The price of a dual-core i5 with integrated graphics was ridiculous, so I ended up putting the HD4830 I bought in 2009 in the new system. Obviously an overkill given my parents’ workload.
As I said earlier, this build was sort of a milestone for me. It was at that time did I start to care about the aspects of a computer other than raw performance. In retrospect, caring too much about raw performance was a mistake. Under this philosophy, brands like Lian Li (cases), Seasonic (power supplies), Noctua (cooling), Cherry (keyboards), etc., make no sense. The goal of DIY became to get the highest 3DMark score out of a limited budget. But a computer is not all about benchmarking. It is a tool, which should be handy and comfortable to use. It is also a piece of home appliance, which should be aesthetically pleasing and should last. I chose the components for this build with these ideas in mind. For example, I stayed away with the Intel stock cooler and used a GlacialTech IGLOO 5710 PWM heatsink that offered better cooling capabilities while producing less noise.
In dealing with previous two systems I found dust to be particularly annoying. It comes from nowhere, sneaks into the case, and builds up on the PSU, hard drives, on every single fan and heatsink. If you have ever opened the case of a used computer before you know what I am talking about. Not only is cleaning all these difficult, it also makes DIY less fun than it should be. This happens to me all the time – I am working in the case when I accidentally touch the metal cover on the PSU fan, and then I notice several arcs of dirt on my arm, often mixed with sweat. So, when building this Lynnbuild system, I installed fan filters and dust screens. They turned out to be quite effective, because dust accumulation was minor after several months of use. Fan filters and dust screens accounted for a very small portion of my budget, but they were crucial in making computer DIY a pleasant experience.
I built the previous two computers in “EGO Electronics Plaza”, generally known as 电脑城, literally “computer city”. It is a collection of typically small-sized retailers, most of which offer the same kind of service: building desktops. It is a one-stop service but satisfaction is not guaranteed. These shops are so alike, and to attract customers most of them choose to lower price. Eventually the price level becomes so low that profit cannot be maintained, which is when some sellers start playing tricks on consumers. The reputation of “computer cities” quickly deteriorated. In the meantime, online shopping is gaining popularity for its low price, good customer service and convenience.
For this build, I purchased the CPU, motherboard, memory and hard drive from a retailer in EGO that I had come to know well over the years. Everything else, including the case, power supply, heat sink, case fans, optical drive, internal card reader and other accessories like cable ties, was purchased online. For consumers like myself who live in a not-so-big city in China, online shopping also meant a wider range of options, especially in peripherals. In my city Chinese brands prevail, like Huntkey, Great Wall and OC3. For Silverstone, Corsair, Lian Li, etc., the best (and often only) place to find them is online.
This build marked the transition from offline shopping to online shopping. I expected all my future purchases for computer components to be made online. This was in fact exactly what I did for the next build: Sandy Bridge in a Lian Li PC-Q09F.