UPDATE January 2020: I've been really happy with this PC since first building it in 2015. But the upgrade urge eventually caught up with me this Christmas. The R9 290 has been excellent, even supporting VR on Rift since Jan 2019 (Elite Dangerous on Low / Med settings, Superhot and Beatsaber). I've always tried to get maximum value with this build and this year I felt that GPU prices and performance were finally worth an upgrade. Nearly went with a second hand Vega 64 but found a new Radeon 5700 XT for £300 which felt like a lot more bang for buck compared to the R9.

Performance is excellent, Far Cry 5 figures for comparison:

R9 290 / 1440p / High: FPS Min 33, Ave 40, Max 53

5700 XT / 1440p / High: FPS Min 44, Ave 63, Max 86

5700 XT / 1440p / Ultra: FPS Min 45, Ave 60, Max 80

So inline with expected increases.

The old iMac with Target Display Mode finally broke so have just added a dedicated monitor from Electriq:

It's cheap and cheerful but its an excellent panel for the money. The addition of Freesync has also made a big difference too.

Finally after getting the Rift I overclocked the FX-8320 to 4.3Ghz which has helped with VR performance and has remained stable since doing it about 12 months ago.

Hope posting this update is useful for anyone considering upgrading similar builds.

UPDATE 25th July: Replaced the stock cooler with a Noctua NH U12S and added an additional NZXT case fan at the front. Also flipped the PSU. This has made a dramatic difference to noise and temperatures! Previously was louder than our vacuum cleaner, now its barely audible. Temps down massively too. Game performance - Witcher 3 is running at around 45-60 FPS at 1440p with mainly High and a few Ultra settings. Nvidia Hairworks off.

This is my freshly built first PC. This build has its origins in Elite: Dangerous coming out this year. The original Elite was a favourite game from my childhood and I've been loving playing the reboot on a MacBook Pro with Bootcamp. However its naturally felt a compromise on the graphics front. This combined with a desire to upgrade from my PS3 for mainstream games and the children complaining about how slow Minecraft is on our family iMac. The only answer was to build a gaming PC to drive the iMac screen!

Objectives were the usual impossible balance of:

  • Performance - 1440p was a must to drive the iMac panel natively
  • Value - get as close to the price of an XBox One as possible
  • Small - it will live in the living room
  • Quiet - ditto

After a long period of research - big thanks to Lifehacker, Tom's Hardware & especially Partpicker - I pressed buy on the R9 290 on eBay. And from that moment it was Game On.

The parts

CPU | AMD FX-8320 3.5GHz 8-Core Processor | Purchased For £69.00 New on eBay. It was this or an i5 and this came up for the right price first. Not going to OC to begin with so thought I would start with the stock cooler.

Motherboard | Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3P ATX AM3+ Motherboard | Purchased For £36.00 Nearly new on eBay - taken out of a retail custom build that was never purchased. Seemed like the best value motherboard for the AMD CPU that would allow some future overclocking experiments.

Memory | Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory | Purchased For £36.00 Secondhand on eBay. Last item to be purchased so had to find the right price to hit £500

Storage | Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5" Solid State Drive | Purchased For £67.00 New on eBay. Really wanted a SSD as it makes such a difference to the snappiness of a computer.

Video Card | MSI Radeon R9 290 4GB TWIN FROZR Video Card | Purchased For £173.00 Secondhand on eBay. First item purchased. Started out thinking could get away with a 280 but was worried about the 1440p resolution and the whole point of the build was to deliver brilliant graphics performance so decided to go all in on this. Seemed like the best bang for buck.

Case | NZXT H230 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case | Purchased For £49.98 New on Amazon. 3rd item purchased. This build has been through loads of iterations, starting out as ITX, then growing to mATX before I finally realised that by going AMD FX CPU I had really forced myself into ATX. This seemed good value, clean looking and relatively compact.

Power Supply | Corsair RM 750W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply | Purchased For £99.99 New Epsilon Computers on TCR. This was originally a XFX XTR 650 which I got for £67 to hit my £500 budget. But it went bang when I first plugged it in. Impatience led to a trip to Tottenham Court Road and not wanting to skimp on the PSU I ended up with this.

The Build

Apart from the PSU disaster everything went together really well. I was very worried I'd fried everything so bought a little motherboard speaker to check the beeps. Hearing that for first time was a big relief. I first put it together with the front fan in its default position but as I came to tidy it all up I moved it up to take advantage of the clearer section in the middle of the case. The case is good but main worry is lack of air intake at front. Also it might be a good quiet case but this is completely defunct with something as loud as the FX 8350 stock cooler inside.

Both PSUs came with flat ribbon cables which are a pain to route as inevitably you need to turn corners. However the modular design does make things neat for a fairly sparse build like this. For my first build I'm pretty happy with the cable management but it took a few goes and I'm sure there are some improvements I can make.

The Results

  • Performance - tick - its really fast and Elite looks amazing in 1440p at Ultra. Will post some more FPS figures once I have a few games.
  • Value - tick - for what should have been £498 I think its amazing value and should last a long time even before upgrades are considered.
  • Small - not really. Its definitely bulkier than I envisaged. But I'm really glad I didn't try and shoehorn that CPU into a small case.
  • Quiet - not remotely. The stock cooler is really noisy. I wish I'd read a bit more on this. I think I might have waited longer to find a good value i5. As it is I know what my first upgrade will be. Suggestions for a cooler to replace it will be gratefully received. I should note that everything else is pretty much silent. The case fans are pretty good. And the PSU fan doesn't even come on, with no discernible electric hum either.

Overall I'm really pleased with the results. Need some great content now to really put it through its paces. Any tips or feedback would be great to hear.

Part Reviews


Hot, noisy, cheap. But you knew that already.

CPU Cooler

Simply brilliant. Very high quality piece of equipment - from the packaging to the materials to the 6 year warranty. Pretty much silent. Worth every penny.


I'm not qualified to review a motherboard but it definitely works.


Reasonably well made, clean looks, easy to use. The front fan screw holes aren't threaded so need a bit of force to use. The drive sleds are v flimsy. Limited air flow at front needs to be considered.

Power Supply

Almost certainly overkill for this build as it stands but love that its silent and very well made.

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  • 55 months ago
  • 4 points

You should maybe consider getting a CPU cooler, as this may help in the future

  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, I think it will be a necessity - stock one is dreadful. I need some good recommendations for quiet coolers that will fit in the case...

  • 55 months ago
  • 3 points

Performs like the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo and looks much nicer.

  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

Really like the look of that but its currently very hard to get in the UK. only place i can see it and it comes in at £45 with shipping and extra tax from Italy.

  • 55 months ago
  • 3 points

Nice all AMD build.

  • 55 months ago
  • 3 points

An extremely clean and modest build with very nice pictures. Have been wanting to see a build like this for a while.

  • 55 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice build. Good to know that a 290 will handle 1440p ultra for E:D. I'd like to be able to play it at 1080 ultra, so I'm guessing I could skimp a little bit more.

  • 55 months ago
  • 2 points

In the future you should consider getting a liquid cooler with a small radiator. That should quiet it even more.

  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

Wait... theres an H series case from NZXT that's not the H440? I think you're lying to me.

  • 46 months ago
  • 1 point

does that cooler allow you to close the case?

[comment deleted]
  • 55 months ago
  • 2 points

Good spot - thanks!

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  • 55 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks a lot - appreciate it.