How I Saved Thousands by Building My Own Computer

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PC is the go-to platform for my work and entertainment needs so naturally, I want the best ones. Lucky for us, best doesn't equate "expensive", especially if we know how to build it ourselves.

“What’s a PC?”

Aside from the most rudimentary usage of excel spreadsheets and Facebook, my parents are utterly illiterate when it comes to computers. If I crack open one of the CPU cases and show them, they probably think I discovered some sort of alien technology from the backyard.

So naturally, when our PC needs an upgrade, or if it crashes and falls into an eternal slumber, they can only put complete trust in the for-profit technician. Usually, they are inclined to recommend more replacement than what is necessary.

If you’ve gotten a quotation for a computer before, you’ve probably seen something like this.

  • MSI B360 INTEL GAMING PLUS MOTHERBOARD
  • INTEL CORE I5-9400
  • KINGSTON 8GB DDR4 2666 RAM
  • KINGSTON A400 480 GB SSD MTS820 SATAIII 6GB/S M.2
  • SEAGATE BARRACUDA 1TB HDD 7200RPM
  • MSI RX5500XT MECH 4G OC GRAPHIC CARD
  • AVF XV100
  • AVF GFP RB600W POWER SUPPLY
  • MICROSOFT WINDOW 10 HOME 1- 64-BI WARRANTY 3 YEARS

Holy-moly.

It’s like someone just ran their face across the keyboard to type out all these nonsensical strings of words and we are supposed to know what is up. Back then, the only information that I can distill is located at the bottom right corner of the quotation, and it would read something crazy like… RM 3800.

We’d pay them.

The parts specifications were crystal clear. But what’s not written in the receipt is the (i) the markups on each component, (iii) the unnecessarily powerful hardware and (iv) the extras you pay for replacing your existing, perfectly good components.

I did some math. If I exclude unnecessary parts and source the rest from Lazada, we’re looking at a potential savings of RM 1200. That’s a 32% discount! It would be more if you reuse your parts. Feel free to check out the breakdown of retailer vs Lazada pricing.

Well, f*ck.

To be fair, I get that businesses do need to make money. But when we talk about savings, I see no other way around it. You’ve got to do it yourself.

Or… you know, at the very least, be in the know-how to communicate your computing needs accurately to the professionals so they don’t just pick the most powerful device off the shelf.

I thought to myself, “Hmm, wouldn’t it be financially helpful if I can share a list of important things when buying/upgrading a computer?” A month later, here we are. 

As attested by the sheer length of the post, there is a teenie-weenie bit of a learning curve. But I do sincerely hope that these articles will help you put one foot across the door towards the art of assembling your own PC. 

Disclaimer: Having graduated from the University of Myself with my impressive 23 years of experience playing an inhumanly diverse portfolio of video games, I am only as qualified as your next door neighbours. I’ll do my best to provide the most accurate information but as always, please do your own research before making any purchase.

Understanding How Computer Works

Don’t worry, my dear friends. I know no one is here to sign up for a 4-year degree in computer construct so we will not be going full-on geek mode here.

But I believe that knowing just enough can help us make better money-saving choices. Having a general context of each PC component’s respective role will help us…

  • decide how high end or low end we want to go
  • narrow down the bottleneck parts that we should upgrade to achieve tremendous performance boost
  • communicate effectively with retailers

That said, let’s go around the circle and do a quick introduction for each PC component.

The 6 major components inside of our computer case.
These are the more important PC hardware. P.S. CPU (No.2) is hiding underneath the fan.

Source

Original image copyrighted under attribution 2.0 generic by Michael Pereckas from flickr, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.

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  1. Motherboard
  2. Central Processing Unit (CPU)
  3. Graphical Processing Unit (GPU a.k.a Graphics Cards)
  4. Computer Memory (RAM)
  5. Storage Drive
  6. Power Supply Unit (PSU)
  7. Computer Case
  8. Choosing Motherboard
  9. Choosing Central Processing Unit
  10. Choosing Graphical Processing Unit
  11. Choosing Computer Memory
  12. Choosing Storage Drive
  13. Choosing Power Supply Unit
  14. Choosing Computer Case

Motherboard

A motherboard is a printed circuit board that is responsible for power routing and connectivity between all other components.

A used motherboard found in a recycling pile of electronic goods.
Motherboard looks complicated but that’s not true. You just need to read the user manual to know which hardware fits where.

I like to think of a motherboard as a huge plot of empty land that’s as big as a city.

As you build your computer, you are constructing the CPU town, GPU village, Memory island, Storage dumpster, and Power Supply reservoir across different places on this land. The motherboard houses all these components and acts as the highway that connects them together so that communication is possible between the different components.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Central Processing Units (CPUs) are the logical brains and commandos of our computer. They are responsible for data processing operations and to bark out instructions to the other components.

Central processing unit (CPU) on a motherboard.
CPU is only about the size of a biscuit, but carries significant importance.

Whenever we perform any actions, like double clicking on an Excel file, the Excel application stores a set of instructions in a series of zeros and ones into our computer’s memory (RAM).

The CPUs will fetch these instructions and start processing them through simple arithmetics (add, subtract, etc) and logical (true or false) operations. Once it’s done the math, our CPU will send the results back into the memory before releasing the instructions to the rest of our devices.

Poof, the excel file opens.

Graphical Processing Unit (GPU)

Graphical Processing Units (GPUs), a.k.a Graphics Card, can be thought of as the creative brains of our computers that are designed to handle intensive graphical rendering tasks.

The front and back of the RTX 2080 graphics card.
Pay more attention to graphic cards if you’re planning to use your PC for gaming.

While both of them are capable of processing data, they work in completely different styles. CPUs focus on single tasks, while GPUs focus on multitasking.

Here, hold my beer. I’m going to bring out this bad boy demonstration for you.

The video shows how CPU and GPU works at a scale that we can relate.

As you can see, CPUs are built with only several cores to perform one thing at a time, but at an order of magnitude faster than GPUs. GPUs on the other hand, have thousands of tiny cores to perform thousands of smaller operations extremely well.

This makes GPUs perfect for rendering computer generated graphics, where rendering of shapes, textures, and lighting has to be done simultaneously to portray the ever-changing images.

Computer Memory (RAM)

Computer memory, or Random Access Memory (RAM) is very similar to our human brain’s short-term memory. It’s a place where our computer temporarily stores information so that it can be accessed quickly.

Every program that we click open will take up some amount of memory. The more we multitask, the more memory our computer needs.

Two elixir brand computer memory card (RAM).
Each RAM card can come in 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB.

The best analogy I’ve heard is that memory is like your work desk.

When you work, sometimes you want to have multiple files, papers, or binders on your desk so that you can cross reference the materials. The bigger your desk, the more materials you can leave on your desk for easy access without having to walk all the way to the filing cabinet (or in the case of a computer, your storage drive).

Storage Drive

Storage drive is our computer’s data storage space — the place where we store our Instagram pictures, video games and quite possibly, pirated movies. Arrr!

A solid state drive hardware is what gives us the storage space on our computer.
Storage drives are like the big brothers of our USB thumbdrives.

Source

Original image copyrighted under Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license by Panenlei, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.

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Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Not much of a surprise, but computers run on electricity.

What’s not so obvious is that the type of electricity matters too. We need direct current instead of alternating current. That’s a problem because all electricity providers, including TNB in Malaysia, can only supply alternating current (due to efficiency reasons) to our houses, which by itself, cannot be used for our computers.

For that reason, every computer needs to be equipped with a Power Supply Unit (PSU). It helps us convert these alternating current into direct current that will power up our computers.

A black power supply unit  on a wooden table.
PSU can’t generate electricity, they just convert our household electricity from AC to DC.

Source

Original image copyrighted under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license by Danrok.

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Computer Case

Computer case is the enclosure that keeps all of the PC components in a neat and tidy manner while shielding them from external damages.

Check out this ANTEC computer case. Shinyyy. 

A black computer case that is opened up.
It’s a good idea to open up your PC case once in a while to do some cleaning. It helps to improve lifespan.

Source

Original image copyrighted under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic by Brent Ozar, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.

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How To Pick Our Computer Parts?

Finally.

After all that hard work, I think we’re ready to move on to arguably the most exciting part — choosing our hardware.

Fyi, there is no one-size fits all computer. Everyone has different wants and needs so the perfect PC parts should in parallel to that line of thought.

To give you an idea, I spend a lot of time on my computer nowadays and having it run smoothly would greatly improve my quality of life. I want a computer that is performant even when I am doing research with like 30 internet tabs, some occasional graphic design stuff on Adobe Photoshop, and perhaps most importantly, be able to run graphics intensive games like Black Desert Online.

My philosophy when it comes to computers is practicality, performance, and pricing. Not so much on aesthetics and wow factor.

There you have it. That’s me in a nutshell.

With that in mind, here’s what I would look at when choosing each individual part, my reasonings, and some of the pitfalls that I’ve faced.

Choosing Motherboard

Since motherboard is like an empty land waiting to be developed, the first thing we need to decide is whether our “land” is big enough to fit all the hardware of our choosing.

At the same time, I would also check the suitability of the land for my intended purposes, e.g: if I’m planting crops, the land needs to be fertile. Similarly, I’d check if the other parts I choose are compatible.

Here’s a checklist of what I would do.

Criteria #1: What size?

Motherboard generally comes in 3 different form factors, namely (i) standard ATX, (ii) Micro-ATX and (iii) Mini-ATX.

ATXMicro-ATXMini-ATX
Size (mm)305 x 244244 x 244170 x 170
RAM Slots4 to 842
PCIe Slots3 to 51 to 31
Price$$$$$
The number of RAM slots and PCIe slots may be higher or lower depending on the manufacturer’s design.

Without diving too deep into the details, I’d recommend getting a Micro-ATX motherboard because they have more than sufficient features for virtually all general uses while being the most affordable.

You only ever need standard ATX when you are planning to “crank up the engine” and overclock your computer to its absolute extreme. Great for hobbyist who appreciates cutting-edge technology but not meant for the budget friendly folks.

On the other hand, Mini-ATX are expensive while having the least amount of slots for hardware. The only thing it has going for itself is the compact size. Choose this only if space is an issue.

Criteria #2: Is it compatible with our CPU?

All motherboards will have a CPU socket for you to insert, well, the CPU.

In the year 2020, the most common type of socket would be LGA 1151 or AM4. We need to make sure that the motherboard’s CPU socket matches with the CPU socket type or else we won’t be able to physically slot them in.

An empty CPU slot on a Dell motherboard.
Those needle-like pins can bend easily so practice extra caution when installing your CPU.

There is one other thing.

Being able to physically install your CPU onto the motherboard is step number one, but we also have to consider if their software side of things are compatible too. We can check if the motherboard likes the CPU by making sure that it is listed in the manufacturer’s specs sheets or CPU support list.

Criteria #3: Can it fit inside our PC Casing?

This is a no-brainer. Since the motherboard needs to sit inside the casing, it has to be smaller than the casing. More about form factors in the Choosing PC Casing section.

Criteria #4: Is it compatible with our RAM?

Again, they need to fit together. More about this on our RAM’s section.

Choosing Central Processing Unit (CPU)

You want your CPU to be fast. The faster it is, the less delay you’re going to feel when running sequential tasks like opening your excel files, sort function, searching & filter, etc.

Criteria #1: Processing Speed

If I just pull a random CPU from Lazada, it would look something like this.

“AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6 Cores 3.6GHz with Wraith Stealth CPU”

When we talk about processors, the number of cores and clock speed (in this case, 6 cores and 3.6GHz) are the two specifications that are widely advertised.

With higher clock speed, your computer can perform calculations quicker and your applications therefore get executed smoother; When you have more cores, you essentially have multiple brains and can therefore multitask better.

Back then, the number of cores and clock speed is all that matters when it comes to the processing speed of CPUs. But as economical and physical constraints capped the clock speed to about 5GHz, these measures alone no longer provide a holistic comparison.

We need to be looking at other miscellaneous attributes of a CPU.

Criteria #2: Miscellaneous

Manufacturers have since turned their focus onto other equally impactful aspects such as cache size, hyper-threading, thermal design power, power ratings, etc. All these attributes can and will ultimately aggregate into the final performance of our processor.

Unfortunately, a number to number comparison won’t be accurate either. We also need to factor in the year of manufacture, or as they call it “generations”.

A 3GHz 10th-generation Intel CPUs made in the year 2020 can outperform a 2GHz 6th-gen Intel CPUs made in the 2015s because of the more efficient electronics components and architectural designs. All these are probably beyond the scope of this article, but feel free to short-circuit your brain with ITECHTICS’ comparison of Intel processors’ generations.

Okay, so how do we do this?

I apologize for all the mumbo-jumbo. I just wanted to point out that it’s very difficult to compare the performance of processors on our own. But fortunately, we won’t need to.

There are many CPUs comparison websites out there that pits two CPUs head-to-heads against each other with comparable stress tests. What other better ways to compare them than actually using them?

These test results are free and they come with a full analysis of the CPUs performance with their recommendation on which CPU is the best value for money. Did I mention they’re free?

There is one caveat, however.

These websites usually earn a commission if you purchase the CPU from them. So out of my unproven paranoia that their test results may bias higher margin CPUs, I personally like to use CPUBoss because they don’t perform their own benchmarks, but rather collate them from multiple sources of websites that do the actual testing.

For me, I like to start with a CPU with at least 3GHz, quad-core, ideally eight treads, and then let the comparison do the talking.

Choosing Graphical Processing Unit (GPU)

If CPU is the logical side of your brain, then GPU is the creative side.

It is a different type of processor that complements your CPU by focusing more on graphics-related rendering tasks, which is especially important when playing video games or watching a movie. 

Because it’s also a processor, it features similar attributes such as core count, clock rate, memory, and TDP which we have already discussed in the CPU section. And as you’d probably guessed by now, it’s tough to just compare these individual attributes by themselves.

Here’s how I would approach my GPU selection instead.

Criteria #1: What game do you want to play?

If we put graphics design softwares and engineer’s 3D rendering softwares aside, the most common use of graphics cards is in the gaming segment. So for most people, it makes sense to base your purchasing decisions around the type of game you intend to play.

Most game developers will release a set of recommended computer system requirements (such as Black Desert Online’s recommended system requirement) to run their game smoothly.

As a starting point, I like to look at the list for recommended GPU and then look up the GPU score on PassMark’s GPU Comparison Tool to get a feel for how powerful of a GPU I need. And then compare other GPU that are similar in performance, but are significantly better value-for-money.

Criteria #2: What is your monitor’s screen resolutions and refresh rate?

Notice that on the game’s recommended system requirement page, there is a line that says Screen Resolution: 1280×720. The number refers to how many pixels your screen has.

In this case, there are 1280 pixels across the width and 720 pixels across the height of your monitor. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image. But a higher screen resolution also means that your GPU needs to work harder to constantly refresh the higher amount of pixels.

Another thing to note is that your monitor also has a refresh rate, typically in the 60Hz range. It indicates the number of times your screen will refresh itself. Think of refresh rate like flipping through a flipbook. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the animations. But obviously, a higher refresh rate will also take a toll on your GPU.

Fortunately, it’s pretty straight-forward to check what kind of monitor you are using. Here’s How-to Geek’s guide on how to check and change your monitor’s screen resolutions and refresh rate.

So if my monitor features a much higher screen resolution and refresh rate than the one recommended by the game developer, I’ll consider getting a slightly better graphics card than the recommended one based on PassMark’s comparison tool.

Criteria #3: Does it match your monitor port?

Monitor port is the type of connection between your monitor and graphics card. I’m sure we are all familiar with our mouse or keyboard’s USB cable. Instead of USB, we use (i) Display Port, (ii) HDMI, (iii) DVI, or (iv) VGA for our monitor.

To find out which port your monitor has, simply look for the connections at the back of your monitor. The physical shape will tell you which port it is.

The male and female connector for display port, HDMI, DVI, and VGA cables.
You can use adapters if your cables doesn’t match.

Source


Image of HDMI male connector copyrighted under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by D-Kuru, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.
Image of HDMI female connector copyrighted under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by Kreuzschnabel, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.
Image of Display Port male connector copyrighted under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by Belkin, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.
Image of Display Port female connector copyrighted under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria by D-Kuru, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.

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I found a really good article by AVA Direct comparing Display Port, HDMI, DVI, and VGA. As a quick summary, DVI and VGA is the older technology and is slowly dying out because it makes your screen look blurry on higher screen resolutions. HDMI is what I would recommend because Display Port is an overkill. If your monitor doesn’t have an HDMI port, perhaps you can consider switching your monitor too.

Make sure that you can connect the monitor port and GPU port.

Criteria #4: Fan Noise

I had a terribly underwhelming graphics card back then and ever since, a noisy GPU became one of my biggest pet peeves.

Under normal conditions, the graphic card is quiet, occasionally letting out a barely noticeable vrr….. vrr..… sound if you really paid attention. But when swarms of monsters appear on screen and therefore put a ton of load on my graphics card, my GPU kicks into high gear and goes VRRRRRR…! It’s super distracting and stops me from fully immersing into the game. I’d pay a premium any day to not have that issue ever again.

I like to dig for red flags by reading user reviews on the particular model of GPU that I’ve shortlisted.

Criteria #5: Compatibility with Power Supply and Case

As usual, we need to make sure the part we choose works with the rest of the hardwares and in this case, the power supply and PC casing.

Graphics card is the most power hungry component in your computer so I’d make sure that the power supply can output the wattage it needs. More about this in our PSU section.

We also need to make sure that we can fit our graphic card inside the case. I would pull out both the graphic card’s and case’s spec sheet and make sure that our graphic card’s length is shorter than our case’s maximum graphic card clearance.

Choosing Computer Memory (RAM)

Cost aside, the more the merrier. The more RAM you have, the better your computer can multitask.

Criteria #1: Find out your operating system memory limit.

All operating systems (i.e Windows 7 32-bit, Windows 10 64-bit, etc) have an upper limit of memory size you can use. If you exceed this amount, you will either end up with the specified memory limit, or in the worst case scenario, your computer won’t even boot.

This is usually a non-issue for 64-bit users because the limit is really high. But if you’re using 32-bit or a really old operating system, then you may need to pay attention to this. Here’s how you can identify your operating system and a nicely compiled list of maximum addressable memory for operating systems for reference.

Criteria #2: Memory Size

Most websites, including NewEgg Insider and Digital Trend seem to agree that 8GB to 16GB is the sweet spot for most users. Now some of you may think that they’re just trying to get you to spend more, but I can personally attest to their statement.

My previous work PC has 4GB of RAM and I feel that it’s just barely sufficient for a normal day-to-day excel spreadsheets, replying emails, and simple warehousing / accounting softwares etc. The delay starts to become obtrusive when I run these softwares and around 3 or 4 browser tabs. It’s still usable, but I definitely wouldn’t want to use anything less than 4GB of RAM.

Personally, I’d say that 8GB would be perfect for most general uses. That said, I did splurge a little extra to get two 8GB RAM (so 16GB total) and it’s been working wonders for all my computing needs.

On a side note, if you’re using multiple RAM cards like I am, always use the same brand of RAM with the same capacity (e.g: 8GB and 8GB) to avoid compatibility issues.

Criteria #3: Does it fit onto your motherboard?

Our computer memory has different generations and can always be denoted by the word “DDR” followed by a number, such as DDR3 or DDR4. The higher the number, the more recent the technology.

There are differences between performances but what’s more crucial is the difference in the location of the notches.

DDR, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4 and their respective differences in notch location.
It’s hard to tell the difference between DDR, DDR2, and DDR4. Best refer to the product spec sheets.

Most motherboards can only support one type of DDR. If your motherboard’s RAM slot is a DDR3, it will only fit a DDR3 RAM card and not DDR2 or DDR4. So, make sure to find out if it fits before you make any purchase.

Choosing Storage Drive

When we talk about storage drive, you’ll hear the word HDD and SSD gets thrown around a lot. Hard-disk drive (HDD) is the older technology that relies on moving mechanical parts to read and write our data; In stark contrast, solid-state drive (SSD) is the new boy in town that utilizes flash memory similar to our thumb drives technology.

HDD vs SSD.
HDD (left) vs SSD (right).

Source


Image of Solid State Drive copyrighted under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria by D-Kuru, edited by frugal-millionaire.com.
Image of background vector created by starline at www.freepik.com.

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There is a whole PhD waiting for us if we want to delve deep into the technicalities, but here’s the gist of it.

HDDSSD
SpeedSlowFast
Storage SizeLargeSmall
PriceCheaperExpensive
An oversimplified comparison of HDD and SSD.

So here’s what I would consider.

Criteria #1: Speed

To put things into perspective, SSD enjoys four times the read/write speed of HDD according to Paul Rubens from Enterprise Storage Forum. Windows would boot up faster, files open and save faster, games start up quicker — basically everything that accesses our data storage gets a tremendous speed upgrade with SSD.

Personally, I think SSD is arguably one of the cheapest but most effective upgrade for our computer’s performance.

When it comes to speed, SSD wins hands down.

Criteria #2: How much storage capacity do you need?

Sometimes it’s not just about the speed, it’s also about the size.

If you download a lot of movies, or have a lot of Instagram pictures to keep, then a bigger capacity might give you a lot of utility. As a very rough estimate, each picture is about 3MB and a movie is about 3GB. We know that 1000 MB makes up 1GB, and 1000 GB makes up 1TB. From there, you can decide how much storage space you want.

HDD are often available in larger storage sizes. As of 2020, I can easily find HDD up to 12 TB of size on Lazada, but SSD are generally around 2TB max.

Criteria #3: Pricing

Speed aside, HDD are significantly cheaper than their SSD counterparts given the same storage capacity. For comparison purposes, here’s what I can find from Lazada.

As you can see, there is a time and place for either SSD or HDD. It entirely depends on your needs. Should you desire, you can even use both simultaneously. Simply store all the files that you don’t use frequently into your HDD, and those frequently accessed files into your SSD. Boom, best of both worlds!

For me personally, I don’t download movies or keep pictures on my computer so disk space has never been an issue. I went with just a modest 250GB SSD.

Choosing Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Blehh.

For many, PSU may be the least sexy component to pick because it does not offer any performance upgrade. But heed my words, power supply is not something that you want to cheap out on. It’s not about speed, it’s about safety.

Criteria #1: Power Rating

Power rating refers to the amount of power that a PSU can output consistently. A “Gigabyte P750GM 80+ Gold 750W PSU” means that it can supply 750W of power without overloading the PSU.

The first thing I would do when picking a PSU is to find out how much power my computer needs by using a Power Supply Calculator. We want to make sure that our power supply unit has enough capacity to power up our PC. If your computer needs 500W of power, then feel free to shortlist your PSU choices to anything with 500W and above, but never lower.

I usually like to pick one that is slightly higher, say… maybe 50W or 100W higher than the recommended wattage. The initial upfront costs may be slightly higher but I think it’s worth the margin of safety.

Contrary to many popular beliefs, using a higher wattage power supply will not drain more electricity. The amount of electricity it produces is entirely dependent on your computing needs.

If your computer only needs 400W to power up all of its components, then it will only draw 400W from your 600W PSU. Nothing more, nothing less. Any excess capacity is a buffer for when and if you need the power.

That said, power rating is not the be all and end all goal for a good PSU. As we will see in the later part of this section, higher wattage is not synonymous with better.

Say watt??

Criteria #2: Efficiencies

When converting from alternating current to direct current, a small portion of the electrical power will be inherently lost as heat energy. The extent of this wastage depends on the efficiency of the PSU.

If we are powering a 100W computer with a 50% efficient PSU, it will cost us 200W of electricity, of which 100W will go towards powering our computer, and the remaining 100W will be dissipated as heat.

One easy way is to look for 80 PLUS certification on the product description.

80 PLUS certification is an efficiency-certification program that a manufacturer can apply to get their PSUs tested against the 80 PLUS standards. Basically, they’re like the Michelin Stars for restaurants. It’s a prestigious title that can help tremendously in marketing.

The program will subject the PSU to 20%, 50%, and 100% of its full rated load and if the PSU maintains at least an 80% efficiency, they get awarded with the certification.

Here’s a quick run down of the 80 PLUS standards.

20% Load50% Load100% Load
80 PLUS80%80%80%
80 PLUS Bronze82%85%82%
80 PLUS Silver85%88%85%
80 PLUS Gold87%90%87%
80 PLUS Platinum90%92%89%
An overview of 80 PLUS certification ranking system.

We want a highly efficient PSU because it (1) consumes less electricity and (2) produces less heat. Although these benefits are not going to give us jaw-dropping ROI, as highlighted in Is it worth investing in a highly-efficient power supply (to save on electricity bill) by ExtremeTech, I like to go for 80 PLUS Gold because I feel that it’s the sweet spot between price and performance.

Besides, I also think that if the manufacturer is willing to go through the process to get their PSU certified, it’s usually a good indication of how much they care about their product.

Criteria #3: Safety Features

Another worthy attribute to pay attention to would be the PSU safety features. Power supplies can come with protective circuitry to help guard against short circuiting and cases of over or under voltage, power, current, and temperature.

Much like a fuse, these PSUs have systems in place to either reroute the surplus energy, or shut down the PSU to prevent (further) damage to your computer, and in the worst case scenario, fire.

Always good to look at these safety features when comparing two similar PSUs.

Choosing Computer Case

This is probably the easiest of the lot.

If we are just concern about getting a computer case that works, we just need to make sure the size fits. If you want to get fancy, feel free to consider the other additional features too.

Criteria #1: Size

For obvious reasons, you can’t put a large motherboard into a small PC case because it just won’t fit! So, first thing I’d check is the size of my motherboard. If I’m using a Mini-ATX motherboard, then I want a Mini-ATX PC case.

While you can put a Mini-ATX motherboard in a Full-ATX case, I don’t recommend it because it looks weird having all your components crammed into one corner.

So, I’d pick a case based on the size of our motherboard.

Criteria #2: Additional Features

Buying a PC case is like dressing up. While we need just a piece of clothing to cover our body, sometimes we want to get just a little bit more than that out of fashion, whether to look, comfortable or feel awesome.

Similarly, there are as many features and tweaks as there are designs to a clothing line. I found the feature list written by PCWorld in their How to buy the perfect PC Case guide to be particularly helpful. Personally, I think these are the more important ones to look out for.

  • Fans and Airflow (If you want your hardware to work hard, you gotta keep them cool)
  • Dust filters (Having a dust-free PC is not only satisfying, but allows heat to dissipate faster too)
  • Front-panel connectivity (I like to make sure my PC have enough USB ports to use multiple thumb drives simultaneously)

Aesthetics of the casing might be something worth considering too but since we’re here for money saving purposes, I’m going to leave that bit out.

Just My 2 Cents

For comparison sake, I dug up this quotation and looked up the parts on Lazada. Here’s how much they differ.

PartsQuotationPrice on Lazada
MSI B360 INTEL GAMING PLUS MOTHERBOARDRM529RM428
INTEL CORE I5-9400RM749RM729
KINGSTON 8GB DDR4 2666 RAMRM199RM157
KINGSTON A400 480 GB SSD MTS820 SATAIII 6GB/S M.2RM330RM253
SEAGATE BARRACUDA 1TB HDD 7200RPMRM250
MSI RX5500XT MECH 4G OC GRAPHIC CARDRM850RM715
AVF XV100RM120RM120
AVF GFP RB600W POWER SUPPLYRM270RM189
MICROSOFT WINDOW 10 HOME 1- 64-BI WARRANTY 3 YEARSRM489
TOTALRM3,786RM2,591
I left out HDD and Windows 10 because 480 GB from SSD is plenty and I don’t need the other item, iykwim.

To be honest, I never really went through with the purchase. I’ve decided to customize and build my dream PC with some other parts instead so I don’t have a retail quote to compare to. Instead of buying everything, I’ve also reused some of my older parts as well.

But from the looks of it, I’m pretty confident that I saved quite a decent amount. If anyone can share their experience buying vs building, please do let me know in the comment section below!

All in all, I genuinely think that knowing how to build a computer is a skill worth learning. I hope the guide will help you guys save some hard-earned money.

Until then, stay safe and keep saving!

Psst… Every time you share, you help someone somewhere to become a frugal millionaire!

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About Me  

Casey Cheng is the author/owner of frugal-millionaire.com. Graduated with a Masters in Engineering, he can calculate the square root of 3 in his head but the answer often reminded him of his bank account balance. Eager for a change, he embarks on a personal mission to find his pot of gold and hopefully, through sharing, inspire people to start their own journey on becoming a frugal millionaire.

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