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System Builder Marathon, Q3 2013: $350 Bonus Entry-Level PC

Case, Power Supply, And Optical Drive

Case: DIYPC FM08-W Black ATX Mid-Tower

As we checked out the cheapest enclosures, we thought we might be limited to microATX-based mini-towers lacking USB 3.0 support and cooled by one exhaust fan. By no means were we expecting one exceeding this build’s requirements for just $22.

The DIYPC FM08-W supports ATX and microATX motherboards, and has front-panel connectivity for USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and a pair of audio ports. It’s outfitted with not one, but two bundled cooling fans: a 120 mm intake and an 80 mm exhaust. With a mesh front bezel, it offers both the most room and ventilation for the money, by a long shot.

Read Customer Reviews of DIYPC's FM08-W Case

Power Supply: Antec VP-450 450 W ATX12V v2.3

While I don’t like to over-buy power supplies based on output, I think it's even worse to under-buy quality and risk the headaches of rail instability. Therefore, I didn’t even bother to look at cheap enclosures with built-in PSUs. Among the options available to me, the lowest I was willing to go was a 300 W unit from Sparkle priced at $36. But at the last minute, I made a change to accommodate upgrades and future-proof my build a bit.

Antec's VP-450, which has powered many of my gaming PCs, was only $4 more. The combined 30 A rating of its +12 V rails should let us upgrade to a mid-range graphics card down the road with enough wiggle room for tweaking today.

Read Customer Reviews of Antec's VP-450 Power Supply

Optical Drive: None!

As with our $400 mini-ITX PC from last quarter, this budget build forgoes the expense of an internal optical drive. Unfortunately, that means you'd need an alternate PC or external drive to read or write CDs, DVDs, or Blu-ray discs.