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Case: Rosewill Blackbone
With so much of our budget focused on performance, the aim here was to spend little as possible on the enclosure. However, Rosewill's Blackbone offers an undeniable value at $35. Anything less seemed like a huge sacrifice.
Ventilation is particularly attractive in this price range. The case includes two 120 mm fans, a front mesh panel, and room for two or three additional fans. Contrast that to the bulk of $25 cases, most of which rely on a single 80 mm exhaust fan. Not cool.
Build quality is impressive for the price we paid, and many builders will appreciate the fancy screw-free drive clips and all-black interior finish.
The I/O panel located at the top of the front bezel is easily accessible, and it provides four USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA port, and two audio ports.
Power Supply: Cooler Master Elite RS-460-PSAR-J3
Considering that the $550 PC we built back in June drew about 240 W at full load with a Radeon HD 5770, we knew this system would need even less power.
This knowledge, coupled with a very tight budget, set us searching through a sea of inexpensive power supplies (not a place we're used to looking) Skimping on the power supply is one of those novice mistakes that you make once, but never again, leading to stability issues, data corruption, and even premature hardware failure. In general, choose quality over marketing-drive wattage ratings or flashy bling.
Perhaps you're wondering why we picked Cooler Master's Elite 460 W unit here. Unlike the company’s well-regarded high-end offerings, its entry-level Extreme and Elite lines are notorious for outputting less power than they're rated for (a trait not all too uncommon among “cheap” PSUs).
Quite simply, we chose to ignore both the unit’s rating and potential rating discrepancy. Instead, we focused on what we could get for the near-impossible $30 price we could afford to pay. Although this unit is adequate for our needs, understand that its limitations affect future upgrades, too.
Load test data found in this review reveals that the Elite RS-430’s 12 V and overall output levels are weak for the claimed 460 W rating. But the data also depicts a fairly decent sub-400 W PSU with “outstanding” voltage regulation, acceptable ripple and noise, and even 80+ efficiency between 150-300 W.
For our power-sipping gaming system, we think it's far better to use a thoroughly-reviewed unit than take our chances on other $30 options of unknown quality.
Optical Drive: Samsung Black 22x DVD Burner SATA Model SH-S223C
This OEM 22x SATA DVD burner has served our optical needs well in the past and came in at just the (low) price we needed.