Description

This system was built for someone who needed a fairly powerful CPU to handle vector calculations for work, and who also wanted to play some games: Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Fortnite (basically a free-to-play PUBG; lots of fun). Oh, and the budget was about $200. Challenge accepted! This may be the best bang-for-buck thing I've ever built ;-)

Vectoring is the kind of workload that benefits from multi-threading, so an i7 was the request for this system. The only way that was going to happen within budget was if I found a used office PC with the right specs at a decent price... voila! Several hours of hunting online turned up a Dell Optiplex 990 SFF, with an i7-2600 and what turned out to be 16GB of RAM, plus a 500GB hard drive and a licensed copy of Windows 7. That was the good news...

The less good news was that the 'S' in SFF stands for 'small', and Dell ain't kidding! This thing is only ~9cm along its smallest dimension. That limits the GPU options pretty severely. Further limiting things is the power supply: 240W, with no PCIe power cables. The i7 covers the work requirement here, but what about the play side of the equation?

Nvidia's latest generation of ultra-budget graphics cards do not suck. I decided to try one: a GT 1030 from Gigabyte, which was low-profile (a must in this case) and passively-cooled, which was nice because I was watching every watt and no GPU fan is one less thing drawing power (even a little bit) to worry about.

At under $100 the card fits not only the case but also the budget, too.

Getting the system up and running was a moderate ordeal but once done, all looked good. Under torture test load (Heaven and Cinebench simultaneously) the system drew ~150W from the wall. Plenty of headroom for the 1030, I hoped...

(Well, I did already know that card only drew ~40W absolute max, so wasn't too worried, but still, that's all coming through the motherboard PCIe x16 slot, and the less stress placed on the Dell power supply, the better I felt.)

And yes, with the 1030 installed, total system power draw under the same load was only ~160W. I used AIDA64 and MSI Afterburner to monitor temps and clocks (CPU and GPU) during stress-testing and actual gaming, and everything was fine: high-ish but acceptable temps and no thermal throttling from either part. From the GT 1030 this was seriously impressive, considering it's crammed into a case with terrible airflow.

What about the actual gaming performance, you ask? Well, in synthetics the 1030 looks piss-weak. It was never going to impress here. Jumping into some actual games though, things look very different.

CS:GO and Fortnite were the two in particular this system needed to handle, and I tested a handful of other eSports titles, just for the info of anyone wondering how this sort of system would run their own favourite game.

The results were again very impressive from the 1030 (check the pics for specifics), which handled everything at 1080p Med or even High with extremely playable framerates. I suck at all these games, but had a lot of fun testing them :-)

So, there you have it: with a lot of bargain-hunting, and a little thought and effort, $200 can get you a system with an i7 capable of computation-heavy work and also a graphics card that'll handle eSports with ease. Who knew?!

Hope you enjoyed this "build" such as it was, and please let me know what you reckon below, or look me up on Facebook where I'm Sensible Systems.

Comments

  • 22 months ago
  • 4 points

I Didn't check for that specific Dell uSFF you posted but quite very often, almost all the time, they have a hard cap on the pciex power which usually is around 25w. So you get a x16 slot all wired but limited to 25w power output (instead of the standard max 75w). This could be holding up your GPU. You still get the x16 badnwitdh but the GPU itself cannot unleash all of the potential since it lacks all the power it would or could need.

nice little rig!

  • 22 months ago
  • 3 points

You sir are a wonder!

I knew the 2nd x16 slot wired as x4 was limited to 25W but thought the 1st full x16 slot got the full 75W. I wanted to check after reading your comment, because I have plans to try another of these maybe with a 1050 Ti. So I went and dug up the detailed engineering specs for these systems.

It turns out the full x16 slot does supply 75W in the MT model but in the SFF, which is what I used here and planned to use again, it can only supply 35W. That's enough for a GT 1030 (rated at 30W maximum draw and tested as drawing just a smidgen over that) but most definitely not enough for a 1050 Ti, which would under-perform as a result.

You've saved me some disappointment, frustration and expense with your comment - deeply grateful, and many thanks!

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Microtower (MT) is like any regular pc, most of the time. the SFF and uSFF are another story! If you stumble on a x1 slot it should be limited to 10w. Glad to know you got up to 35w on your x16, helps cover the peak usage just in case

  • 23 months ago
  • 2 points

In b4 featured!

Just kidding, although this is really cool.

Great budget build. Nice find on that i7 and to see that little office pc able to game.

Thumbs up.

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks :-) I always like to get your +1!

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

a GT 1030 wont be enough to run PUBG

  • 22 months ago
  • 6 points

he just said he plays fortnite.. which is probably better optimized than pubg

  • 22 months ago
  • 4 points

ah

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Yes, definitely not. For Fortnite it was fine though. I'm astonished how alike Fortnite is to PUBG, by the way.

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice build, super cheap. An SSD would round it off I feel.

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

I agree 100% and the next one will definitely get a little SSD installed.

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Easy +1 from me!
I love budget builds like this!

I do think that this should be featured for the price/performance ratio (even if the photos were taken with a potato). ;-)

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Hey, thanks very much from me and my hand-me-down Samsung S5 with the slightly damaged camera lens :-)

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

XD

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

great build! the i7 2600 is still a really good CPU

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you!

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Not bad for what its for:) Did you do any sound testing at load? I have never worked with that type of CPU cooler.

+1

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Only subjectively (left the decibel meter in the drawer for this one), and it gets loud. Steady low sound rather than a shifting higher-pitched one, is the saving grace, but yes, not the quietest system going by any stretch.

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Very impressive, sir, very impressive. Considering some people are talking about the PCI-E wattage limitation, I must assume some SFFs do have limits imposed on the slot, and some don't, because otherwise, I am finding it hard to see your GT1030 is excelling like that. Yet still, really neat. Have my +1

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Turns out I was wrong but lucky when planning this build. I knew the GT 1030's TDP (30W) and the results of actual power consumption tests, and was sure it would stay under the PCIe slot power limit, but I was wrong about that limit: thought it was 75W but actually only 35. Still enough for the 1030 (luckily) but it does sink future plans to try this same sort of thing with a 1050 Ti :-(

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

What did you search to find that computer? It looks like a great build!

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

I found the Dell on a local buy/swap/sell group on Facebook, after looking all over eBay and Gumtree (sorta like the Australian version of Craigslist).

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

"CONSHOLES R WAY CHEEPER U PC PESENT EWWWW" Jk lol,nice build. +1

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Ha! Love it!

  • 12 months ago
  • 1 point

At how many fps does this run fortnite? Thanks,

  • 12 months ago
  • 1 point

Hi, at 1080p on Medium, this was getting 50fps average (benchmarked using FRAPS). Hope this info is useful! Cheers :-)

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

I love the look of those Dell Optiplexes. They really butter my toast.

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  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Agreed, could really be improved with more and faster storage - will see what I can do with the next one, which will be more an open-ended project for me than this one was.

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