System Builder Marathon Q4 2014: Budget Gaming PC

Assembling Our Gaming Box


The no-frills DIYPC M89-R was a throwback to my earliest years of grabbing bargain enclosures at computer shows. Missing are the colorful tool-less drive and slot clips, the black matt interior, and provisions to access the back of the motherboard or tidy up internal cables. It didn’t even include an instruction sheet. A first time builder may find this intimidating, but for any seasoned veteran this was basic PC assembly 101 all over again. I’d need to rely on good old fashion screws for mounting drives and expansion cards, which is fine by me, plus (not so fine) be left on my own to tidy up those wires and cables. It’s pretty simple, I would just advise care be taken should you desire to remove the front bezel.

Was I disappointed with this enclosure? Not in the least bit. Outfitted with a pair of pre-mounted fans , front panel connective for audio and USB devices, and plenty of room for lengthy graphics cards, it was exactly the value part I desired to meet my goals. The case was small and light, but not flimsy. The fans were fairly quiet and versatile, being outfitted with both 3-pin header and Molex plugs. And unlike those old beige boxes, as well as many new “gaming cases”, I find the M89-R to be quite aesthetically pleasing sitting on the desk. Sure, I’d probably prefer to lose the red LEDs on the two fans, but their glow was subtle, and then totally disappeared from sight at my sharp seating angle.

Overall I have very little bad to say about this $30 enclosure, apart from an 80mm fan populating the 92mm-capable rear exhaust mount. Sure, the hardware bundle was scant, but still adequate for our needs. The rear slots contain those familiar (and cheap) break out tabs, and no slot covers are provided for later changing your mind. Motherboard tray holes are tapped, as well as the necessary standoffs provided, to accommodate narrow boards like our H81M-P33, plus full-size mATX boards as well. Also provided was a short buzzer speaker. When all was said and done, I was left with just three spare standoffs and six screws.

The build came together nicely, and almost everything went according to plan. There’s room for an after market CPU cooler, but you’d need to be sure the power supply is in place ahead of time. I mounted it after the motherboard and drives, both to make things easier on myself, plus to be sure it could be done. Last to go in was the fairly massive graphics card. The case is designed to support far longer expansion cards, however, this MSI is a rather tall card, with power connectors positioned facing out, and not forward. EVGA jackets the power leads in mesh, and the shrink tubing makes the connectors pretty stiff. The easiest route would have been to just use the pair of Molex adapters bundled with the graphics card, or find some 90 degree adapters instead. However, with care I was able to slightly notch out 1/8” of shrink tubing from underside to make the leads more pliable and tuck into the case.

When pinching pennies, a modular power supply was out of the question, so this mATX build took a bit of extra time and care. A whopping 16 plastic tie straps were consumed to tidy up all the cables , keeping them away from fans and making the build more presentable. Plus I used up the lower 5.25” bay tucking in the unneeded wires. I applaud the versatility of the dual fan connectors, but in the end would favor a removable adapter harness instead. I chose to use the 3-pin motherboard headers, and then had to secure the short Molex extension so it wouldn’t flap around in the breeze.

  • airplanegeek
    Why is the PSU fan facing up instead of down? Doesn't that affect the cooling of the PSU?
  • sea monkey
    Upon submission of the form:

    The Sweepstakes opens on September 23, 2014 12 noon PDT and closes on October 6, 2014 12 noon PDT.

  • pauldh
    Yes it would. And it is facing down, just hidden from sight in the photo. The PSU fan's venting holes are flush with (and actually a part of) it's shell.
  • Zeh
    Just a hint: you SHOULD be using an air conditioner so you can have the same room temperature over the year.
    Preferably one with Inverter technology, which will decrease the temperature delta (it doesn't start-stop once it reaches a given temperature threshold).
  • Onus
    Hmmm, I see some kudos for the VP-450 in here, being remarkably efficient despite not being 80+ (it is disqualified for 80+ for not having Active PFC).
    Since the purpose of these SBM machines is (imho) to learn things, I would have liked to have seen a different mobo used, for comparison.
    I appreciate the thoughtful approach to overclocking that was used here.
    The only niggle I can't resist is the $18 for the optical drive. For months, I've been seeing one or another of them for around $13-$14. That seems a small thing, but that $4-$5 plus the leftover may have bought either a better cooler or a faster HDD.
  • sea monkey
    totally disappeared from site


    while monitor temperatures


    to be sure it could bee done


    none the less


    it’s R9 270X graphics card


    Yet, both machines share a similar weakness, they’re outfitted with a dual-core Pentium capable of juggling only two threads at a time.

    comma splice

    outputting to 3-panels

    three panels
  • codyleemanofaction
    Darn those moving prices! I was hoping to see the R9 280 make it!
  • lesmore2222
    I agree with cody. I really wanted to see the difference a r9 280 would make as well. This was just too similar to the last build. Should have bought the r9 280 anyway and fibbed on the price a little. ;)
  • ingtar33
    A final thought to consider is at what point will the next big game on your radar force an early upgrade to Core i5? It might not be too far off, as Far Cry 4, which launched a week after we ordered this machine, completely lacks official support for dual-threaded processors.

    same with the game of the year, Dragon Age Inquisition.

    I suspect it's time to drop dual cores as a build suggestion.
  • BoredSysAdmin
    Great build. I would probably never built it exactly like the article (more ram, sdd - etc), but it provides great bones to build upon.