The Night Mother is our unholy matron! The undying spirit of a great woman who birthed the children of Sithis... and killed them.
I never was very good at intros, so here goes nothing. This is the 2nd build I've done for free, this one for the mother of a close friend. She was looking for a system that could do things like browse the web and edit documents.
Now I know you're thinking right off the bat that I am absolutely bonkers for including an i5 in this build and well... under normal circumstances you'd be right. However, the inclusion of the i5 was due to the fact that she insisted on having it, as her last PC had an AMD E1 and ran absolutely terribly, so she was afraid it wouldn't perform well if she didn't get a good CPU. The 7500 is more for her own peace of mind than any actual performance benefit.
I'll get into the rest of the (potentially odd) part choices in the history and actual build portion.
Part 1 - Background and Events Leading Up:
This all started about a month ago when a friend of mine texted me a picture of some spec sheets and price tags of computers at Best Buy that his mom was looking at getting. What followed was a week-long process to convince them to let me build a computer for them, and a hell of a lot of preliminary research. I had initially narrowed it down to either a Ryzen 3 (for upgradability) or an i3 (for ease and stability). However, the price of a dedicated GPU on top of Ryzen 3 along with the increased motherboard costs and issues I saw when working with IwannaPC on Independence from Debt and numerous other testaments from friends made me decide to stick with Intel.
This brings us to the day of ordering parts. After about 3 weeks of deliberation, orders on Newegg, Amazon, and B&H were placed and the CPU and board were to be purchased at Microcenter on the day of the build. When I started putting together part lists, DDR4 was at $57 for 8GB. By the time actual orders were placed on everything, it had risen to $76. This is where things ran into a problem: The charge was denied on all of the orders except the case and Windows 10.
Come the day of the actual build (November 4th), I received a message from my friend that the payment had been denied on the orders for all the parts except the case and Windows 10. This really threw a wrench into things, since she really wanted the build done that day. I was sent into a frantic search on the Microcenter website to find the missing parts for similar prices that we could pick up while getting the CPU and board. I ended up with RAM that was $79.99 instead of $75.99 because Microcenter didn't have anything else in stock to price match to. I also had to opt for a more expensive (but higher wattage) power supply, as that was the cheapest decent unit they had in stock. One pro is that the 545s 256GB was on sale, so I ended up getting that for cheaper than I was going to pay for the MX300 275GB.
With all the parts (and a $2 compressed air can for cleaning my own PC) in hand, we headed home to start the build...
Part 2 - The Build:
The first part of the build was pretty straight forward. Fitting the CPU, cooler, and RAM into the motherboard was no problem after plenty of experience with other builds, and I was pretty confident that I could handle anything the ultra cheap FBM-01 could throw at me.
Let me tell you, the FBM-01 did not get off to a good start. The side panel was warped, and the removable cover for the optical drive bay was bent. In order to install the motherboard into the case, I had to remove the 80mm exhaust fan. Probably the most glaring issue I found with this case is that it came with no tool for screwing the standoffs in with a screwdriver. This especially surprised me because it did come with the SRM-01 I used in The Listener. I was very lucky that I brought the one that came with my N200. Other than that, the hard drive mounts were a little sketchy, and might be something to avoid if you plan on using the 4th dimm slot. I am very glad that this case came with properly labelled screws, though, as that made it a lot easier to install everything than the SRM-01 or the N200. The second most troubling featured happened to be the fact that the only place to mount a 2.5" drive was on the bottom of the case. This was especially problematic because the SATA power cables for the CX550M had the cable going out the bottom of the header, making it very difficult to plug in at the bottom of the case.
After installing everything, plugging in all the necessary cables was mostly smooth sailing. The non-existent cable management space made the build pretty ugly looking, but there are still plenty of nooks and crannies to hide or support cables (such as in the top 5.25" bay). Much to my satisfaction, the PC booted just fine on the first try, and I was able to get Windows installed right away via the disk (outdated I know, but it did the job and I wasn't about to download the iso onto my laptop for USB use with their slow internet). This leads directly into the next section...
Part 3 - Post Build Setup:
This was (and always seems to be for me) by far the most trying and frustrating part of the build. I had to plug in the old Seagate Barracuda from her previous computer to move her roughly 50GB of photos onto the new PC. This shouldn't have been a problem, except that the board's BIOS would not let me change the boot order and it defaulted to the OEM hard drive instead of the SSD. Luckily, this wasn't a problem for long as I unplugged the Barracuda after I finished moving all of her important info. Still... the inability to change the boot order really irked me as this seems like a common sense feature in a board's BIOS.
After doing the usual Ninite for essential programs, I downloaded some benchmarks to test how the PC was doing. I'll post the results of these later. Now for the final section...
Part 4 - Closing Thoughts:
This was overall a pretty successful and refreshing build. It still took me a long time (around 2-3 hours for the initial build and another 3 for setting it up and benchmarking it), but I seem to just be a rather slow PC builder in general so 5 hours is pretty impressive for me. She seems thoroughly impressed with the 5-10 second boot time on the SSD and the overall great performance on the PC. I'm hoping this satisfaction will lend itself well to getting more people onboard the custom build train and maybe even ask me to help them with it. I had a lot of fun and it was some great practice for all the general skills of PC building.
If you've actually stuck with me to the end of this long-winded build description, I thank you. It was a wild ride and I hope to post many more.
Solid IPC, high cache, and good integrated graphics make this a great chip for someone looking for a CPU that can handle your everyday tasks and also serve well in a gaming machine if you add a GPU. The only complaint I have is the mediocre-at-best intel stock cooler that runs pretty loud.
Lots of great features for the price, but a couple key things hold it back from being a perfect board. For one thing, it comes with 2 Conventional PCI slots, which make little sense in a board release in 2017. I would have vastly preferred PCIe X1 instead, which would've been totally doable given that the X16's can split lanes. The other star off is for the terrible BIOS. The layout and UI was very lackluster, and the fact that I was not able to change the boot order is absolutely unacceptable. The only thing keeping me from taking more stars off is the potential that it was just my stupidity that caused this issue.
Absolutely great kit. No qualms whatsoever. They look slick and I had no hiccups at all.
Solid performing hard drive at a great price. Not much more to say since I haven't gotten a whole lot of use out of it.
Despite the 3 star review, I still very much recommend this case to anyone who is on a budget and knows what they're getting into with it. I was very conflicted between giving this case a 3 or 4 star rating. It needs improvement in almost every area, but is also literally the cheapest case on PCPartPicker. I'll give a list of the things to look out for: There is no cable management space in the back, the only SSD mount is on the bottom of the case, hard drives could potentially block the 4th DIMM slot, it comes with no tool for installing the standoffs so you'll have to tighten them with a wrench, the front panel has absolutely zero airflow except for the small hole where you grip it to take it off, and the extension slot covers cannot be put back on once you decide to take them out.
Not much to say here that hasn't already been said in my review for the CX550M. Good quality, modularity, and great looking all black cables. It fits nicely in even the smallest of mATX cases, and has plenty of connectors for all your realistic needs at this price point.
1 star off just because they say nothing about where the activation code is located in the packaging (it's on a scratch-off sticker).