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It’s been more than a decade since I last built a computer. Last time I built a computer, I spent hours searching online catalogs for parts and then had to go to a physical store to try to find the parts or equivalents that fit within my budget. Today, planning a computer build is so much easier and more efficient with websites like PCPartPicker.com. You can confidently pick parts that are not only compatible but also fit perfectly.
My primary goal for this computer build is to manage and edit my growing photo library better. My second goal is to be able to play some video games, mostly simulations like Cities Skylines or Flight Simulator 2020. My tertiary goal is size, as I live in a San Francisco apartment where space is at a premium. My desk area is already quite full with an external monitor, Synology NAS, Intel NUC running Linux for Plex Media Server, a laser printer, and a UPS.
Case (Cooler Master MasterBox NR200 Mini ITX) #
I wanted a compact case that wouldn’t limit the parts I could use. After some searching and checking out what people were building on r/sffpc, the NR200 was one that kept appearing in a lot of builds. I was hesitant to go with a cheap case, as it was one thing I regretted in previous builds, but this case has so far been amazing. It’s modular, easy to take apart, and feels solid.
CPU (AMD Ryzen 5 3600 3.6 GHz 6-Core Processor) #
Intel used to be the clear market leader, unless you were building a budget machine, in which case you would go with AMD. That seems to have changed at some point, and now AMD appears to be the clear first choice for most custom builders. The Ryzen 5 3600 seems like the perfect balance of performance and cost. This might be one of the components I plan to upgrade down the road, but it should be more than enough until the Ryzen 9 or the Ryzen 7 become a bit cheaper.
Motherboard (Asus ROG Strix X570-I Gaming Mini ITX AM4) #
When choosing a motherboard, I wanted to have USB 3.2 available for the case’s front panel. I also wanted to maximize the amount of RAM I could install. I don’t really care for the LEDs or lighting inside the computer and plan to disable it all (maybe).
Memory (Corsair Vengeance LPX 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3200 CL16) #
I was originally planning on maxing out the motherboard with 64GB of RAM, but it turned out to be more expensive than I was expecting. For the time being, 32GB will be more than enough until the price comes down.
Storage (Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive) #
Fast, fast, fast. That’s what I wanted for the drive that will have my OS and applications on it. This was on sale when I bought it, although I would have liked to get the 2TB model. I am not willing to spend more than $300 for it, and I don’t really need the extra storage space. Although this machine is for photo editing and my library is already beyond 3TB of photos, I have a Synology NAS with 16TB on it that I plan to mount. My Lightroom and Capture One catalogs will comfortably fit on 1TB for now, and if they get to the point that they don’t, I can pick up another SSD later.
Video Card (EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti) #
Not the most powerful card now that they have 4090 and newer, but after the great Video Card shortage it is plenty for what I use it for. My limiting factor is probably more of my CPU than the 3060.
Power Supply (Corsair SF 600 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully Modular SFX) #
The only thing I was looking for here was that it was fully modular. My last build didn’t have this, and I will not go back.
Cable Management #
It has been some time since I built a computer, and my cable management has gotten a bit sloppy. I some custom cables from pslate customs. Although they are a bit pricey, I appreciate that they are tailor-made to fit my case perfectly and are the ideal length for a clean, clutter-free look inside. Even though I don’t plan to use the window on my case, it still gives me peace of mind to know that my cables are immaculately organized.
I like to plan out my setup and document as much as possible so that I can replicate it later. That full document is here and I will do my best to update when things change.