I am not going to lie… Suzaku, my laptop, nearly died a few weeks ago. I was in a panic. To think that I had just about my entire academic life in Suzaku and the damn thing almost killed all of my work with it’s possible death. I won’t lie… I was in pure fear. The Beast v7 had died a great while ago due to a bad power supply, so I really was SoL (not to be confused with my cousin Sol) without a spare WORKING machine.
It was one of those moments that I had to almost pause time and evaluate everything… The thoughts started rolling in my mind:
“What the Hell am I going to do?! I can’t afford a laptop…”
“Will Suzaku hold out until I can hole up at minimal $1,000 for a great laptop?”
“What will happen if my laptop dies?! I am not going to have a machine for college next semester!“
But then… A thought had hit me like a bolt of lightning from a brain storm…
“I have some birthday cash… Maybe I can make a budget build machine as a back up and slowly make it stronger.“
So I settled and decided to do the unthinkable… I drove out to CompUSA out in Plano and said “Let’s see what $200ish can get me nowadays…” What I found shocked me, as if Heaven smiled on me… The game plan was to take the shell of the Shuttle xPC SK41G and just throw in new parts.
So… Here were the parts I had gathered from my run (4/25/2009):
$50 – Biostar MCP6P M2+ microATX Mainboard (nVidia nForce 430)
$90 – AMD x64 Phenom 9500 Quad-Core 2.2Ghz processor
$30 – Ultra 450w power source
$40 -OCZ High Performance Dual Channel Kit: 866mhz 2GB DDR2 RAM
Total cost: $210 + tax (8.25% in Plano)
To most hardcore gamers… I know this was not “uber” but my point was to make a machine comfortable to use. The reused parts were to be the 40GB hard drive and DVD-ROM from The Beast.
So on arriving home… I feverishly tore open The Beast, cleaned what seemed to be 3 years worth of dust and dried out thermal paste and I ran into a problem. Shuttle’s xPC series uses a propretary flex board for their mainboards. I remember the words from my mouth that were uttered were “Oh… For crying out… ARGH!!! %#@&!!!” Naturally, this flex board was longer and thinner than the new motherboard I just bought.
Family had picked a bit of a scuffle with me… but resolute that buying another poor laptop would only result in me being unsatiated, I would say “I will see my project out, no excuses.” Thus… I began to plot on CompUSA’s website for a cheap case that would be adequate too cool the machine, but also not break my college student wallet. That would be were I found my new case… The Thermaltake Wings RS-100. My quest would be to buy a new shell and this would effectively mean a brand new machine.
Sunday morning… I would run at what seemed like the first light of dawn to find that computer case and bolt up my parts. The reps had trouble finding a shell and eventually a brand new Thermaltake Wings RS 100 was found! The best part was it was on sale to boot!
$40 – Thermaltake Wings RS 100 Piano Black case
Total build cost – $250 + tax
After purchasing the case… I would assemble it in haste while family picked their battles with me. I remember one point getting so caught up with family that I didn’t finish the build and was even late to work from debating with them! So I was resolute to finish it in my dorm…
Post work, I made haste to throw Byakko into my car with an old 15″ Sony Vaio CRT monitor, a Chinese-English PS/2 keyboard, and a whole lot of faith. After making the boring drive home to my dorm… I ran into an issue with the build up: My DVD drive was not being recognized. The next problem was getting Windows installed but without a CD/DVD drive.
Luckily, the web had a bunch of people making tutorials on how to fit Windows 7 onto a USB drive… so I just transposed the information to my copy of Windows. With a lot of faith… I prayed and watched my machine process everything and then… I saw the confirmation that the install had completed successfully. I was elated…
That was almost 4 weeks ago…
Since then, Byakko has had a few budget upgrades to help it breath a little easier…
$15 – Second hand 15″ standard definition LCD monitor
$50 – 320GB Seagate Barracuda 7,200 RPM hard drive
On top of that, I have dedicated it as my gaming machine… so naturally, I moved over my Saitek Eclipse back-lit blue keyboard, my Logitech G13 Advance Gamer Pad, and G9 Laser mouse. So far for $315, it’s been a grand example of a machine. I know the next upgrades will have to be the Geforce GTS 250 and widescreen LCD monitor to make my gaming & productivity a lot more tolerable.
The later upgrades from there will probably be the 4GB RAM upgrade, a Corsair 80-plus 750w power source, an additional 1TB hard drive, a few more USB ports, possibly a Blu-Ray drive and just call it complete.
I will say that for a machine on a budget… it runs like a champ! This is proof that if you want something that’s a killer value and you don’t mind doing some part recycling… you can build a nice system on the cheap.