Every 3 years or so I build a new primary workstation\gaming rig. My current system is about 2 years old so it’s not time for a replacement of it yet. But I had a need to build a system that guests at my house could use to game lightly on. Normally if your talking a gaming computer your looking at easily $1,000+ for low tier systems. I think I say ‘rock bottom’ gaming rigs starting at $800. My goal, I want to build a system for around $500. Oh yea it was that kind of weekend.
I wanted to get the rig up and running this weekend (for someone to use) so I decided to use Best Buy to source all my parts from. In my area we don’t have many independent computer stores with a good stock of parts so I was pretty limited in brick-and-mortar computer stores.
The goal here is not to build a top of the line or even a mid range gaming computer, but something that could run a number of games on Good/Fair settings. This is also just to build the box itself, not the monitor\keyboard\mouse\speakers. But Best Buy has a good selection of all those items so it’s pretty easy to source those as well in one shopping trip.
Every Best Buy is different. I have a small one by my house with a very limited computer parts section. So I did have to drive to Reno to pick up some items, but otherwise in my small local store I found everything I needed. Which is pretty amazing, I’ve always thought that you can’t get good quality parts in Best Buy but I was blown away. There were some brand new GeForce GTX 970 cards in there, sweet!
I did a bunch of research and had a lot of computer’s opened up at Best Buy, the geek squad was more then willing to crack a case so I could look inside, but it sounded to them like a strange request. I finally decided on a Dell Inspiron 3847 (i3847-2310B). This system came with a 1TB 7200 RPM HDD, 4GB of RAM and a Intel Pentium G3240 processor. What I liked about this case was the openness. None of the custom crap that Dell usually throws into their cases or big blocks of plastic housing that makes it almost impossible to upgrade. Additionally unlike some other Dell cases this one will support 2 slot graphics cards. Now there may be a length issue, there are some SATA cables and connections that could mess with very long cards but otherwise it’s very accommodating.
The case normally retails for $359.99. I saw the ‘on sale’ tag at my local Best Buy for $339.99. The store in Reno though had an Open Box version for $276.99, so I snatched that one up right away. The first thing you will notice about that case is that the PSU has no other available power outputs. So you cannot install another HDD, or Graphics Card that requires a additional power rail. I solved this with an Insignia 520W PSU from the store for $49.99. Now again this would not be my top 100 PSU’s to put into my own computer and Best Buy did sell high end PSU’s to my surprise but this rig just didn’t need it. Additionally I could have saved another $10 bucks on 320W one but wanted to make sure I could power a good graphics card.
Next item to take care of was the RAM, 4GB is just not good enough for doing anything of meaning on a computer nowadays. Remember that all the system processes on a Windows 8.1 box will take around 1GB to 1.5GB of memory. Add in additional processes like anti-virus, backup, email, chrome/ie, etc you’ll probably only have around 1.5GB to 2GB available for your game. That being the case 8GB is the minimum for me, so I picked up 8GB PNY Optima ram for $75.99. Again there were better ram kits available (a Corsair Vengeance kit) but PNY is a good brand and more then enough for this system.
Now for the big daddy of any gaming computer, the graphics card. At my local store the selection was very limited, but the store in Reno had way more higher end selection. But I was already back home when I found out my old card (PCIe 2.0) wouldn’t work as it’s a PCIe 16x 3.0 slot. There was a 1GB GeForce GTX 750 for $149, a 2GB version for $159 and a GeForce GTX 760 on sale for $199. I’m not a fan 1GB cards, so I am currently testing the GTX 750 2GB version. The benefit of this card is does not require another power rail so you could plug it into a stock case without a new PSU. At my Best Buy there were no R9 AMD cards so I didn’t go that route, I’m usually an NVIDIA man anyways.
Initial testing yesterday went well, with Warlords of Draenor running on a mix of High/Ultra settings and not dropped below 32 FPS in LFR’s or the Garrison.
Budget Best Buy Gaming Rig
|RAM||PNY 8GB Optima||$75.99|
|Graphics Card||GeForce GTX 750 2GB||$159.99|
I was a little over my budget (my total is $564.97 with the open box case and PSU that’s not needed right now). Without the PSU I would have just barely been over, but buying everything at normal cost for $575.97 is a great deal. The thing I love so far, is that with the new PSU I have much better options to upgrade this system. The motherboard can take up to 16GB ram and an Intel i7 Quad Core (4th Generation) chips which is way more powerful then the current processor in there. The case also has plenty of room so buying a new i7 you can buy a nice new CPU fan as well.
I haven’t’ decided if I’m going to upgrade this system any more; for example an SSD, more RAM, more power graphics card and a new CPU, but I have the option which is nice. I don’t know Best Buy’s Geek Squad can do these types of builds for people but it would be a good service and still cheaper then the $800 to a $1000 for a entry level gaming rig. I also don’t know if this is the way Dell is going with all their new systems, but if so major kudos to them, it’s refreshing to crack open a Dell system and it be normal and expandable. Also kudo’s to Best Buy for stocking some good options for PC gamers.
Today Resgrid is being featured by Microsoft as their featured BizSpark startup. Resgrid is a SaaS product deployed on Microsoft Azure, providing logistics, management and communication tools to first responder organizations like volunteer fire, career fire, EMS, search and rescue, public safety, disaster relief organizations, etc. It was founded in late 2012 by myself and Jason Jarrett (staxmanade).
For me this is a big deal. I’m sure Microsoft is getting tons of companies applying to be featured and they picked us, pretty cool. But I’m also excited because Resgrid currently is a very niche service, we are geared toward first responders. Most large companies, VC’s, investors, PR companies, writers, etc all want the consumer product story, the next Facebook or Twitter, startups like us don’t get much love.
Serving first responders is a very unique, challenging and rewarding niche to be in. I’m a volunteer firefighter and EMT and love the fire service. But there aren’t a lot of technology companies out there that serve the fire service or first responders. Sure there are some big guys out there with CAD systems, onboard computers, HUD’s, etc. But these technologies cost millions of dollars to implement, install and maintain.
There aren’t many “Web 2.0” technology companies out there serving this market, especially in countries other then the United States. Resgrid is one of a very small number of vendors serving the non-US markets for first responders. We’ve done this in such a short time span by building our solution in a cloud/Azure first mentality.
This is just the start for Resgrid, we are looking forward to expanding our service to more first responder organizations the world over, ensuing that they all get a great service. We are this far already because of our partnership with Microsoft and the Bizspark program. As we look to the future we are excited with the features and capabilities Microsoft and Azure give us, allowing us to continue to serve our existing customers and grow.
Recently I tried to upgrade Resgrid’s Azure SQL database form S1 to S2. Being able to upgrade the performance/characteristics of your cloud PaaS/IaaS services is one of the major tenants of utilizing a service like Azure. No longer do you by more hardware then you ever will use, you scale it.
At Resgrid this is something we subscribe to. We want to keep our costs down while providing the best performance to our customers. In Azure this is a very simple operation, especially with auto-scaling. We’ve never had an issue with this before, but not we’re being told that we cannot upgrade for an S1 SQL Azure database to an S2.
This is a huge, huge deal.
What are the S1 and S2 database levels (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/sql-database/):
As you can see the S2 is more then double the performance of an S1 database. This gives services a nice clear progression on how they can move through the database performance levels. The decision was made to move to the next tier, we’ve had more and more customers using the service and the DB performance is the major factor for our service.
Going to the Azure portal and trying to upgrade we get the following error:
“The operation is not supported for your subscription offer type.”
WHAT?!?!?! I’m a paying Azure customer in good standing. Ok maybe it’s an issue with the old Azure portal so I switch to the new one.
So far so good, so I save it….
Nope, same error, in a slightly prettier format. Ok, after some quick Googling I find this MSDN forum post with MSFT commenters, and I submit an Azure Billing ticket.
The reply I get back form Microsoft Azure support is absolutely mind blowing.
SQL Azure databases in US WEST (probably one of their most used regions) cannot be upgraded from S1 to S2! WHAT! Why is this restricted, because you want to run counter to what people expect from a cloud PaaS/IaaS provider. Is it April? Did I loose 2 1/2 months?
The following regions, you know all of our major Azure data centers are restricted from offing you a performance upgrade in a critical piece of any application.
Their first suggestion is that I move my primary SQL database to another region. This mean that every action, every database call needs to leave the region where my servers reside and traverse the Internet. Possibly adding orders or magnitude delays.
Their other suggestion is that I take my primary, mission critical, database and put it into preview mode, which Microsoft doesn’t advise for, you know, mission critical infrastructure.
This was supposed to be an easy operation, something quick and a normal,every day operation on the Azure cloud just scaling up my service. But for the moment caveat emptor when buying an S1 database in any of the Azure regions besides South Central US, you may not be able to upgrade it.
Resgrid is a SaaS product deployed on Microsoft Azure, providing logistics and management tools to first responder organizations like volunteer fire, career fire, EMS, search and rescue, public safety, disaster relief organizations, etc. It was founded in late 2012 by myself and Jason Jarrett (staxmanade).