Availability and pricing issues have stirred up the PC market in general, and the GPU market in particular. But that doesn’t mean that every type of builder is affected equally!
Today, for example, we will demonstrate that it is still possible to build a computer with a good ‘bang for the buck’ and robust performance that is entirely suitable for office and school tasks.
The State of the PC Market
While the graphics card market was hit hard and continues to be in a sorry state, the CPU market has (luckily enough) not suffered nearly as bad. There was a brief period last year when CPUs were less available than usual, but that situation has essentially disappeared.
The only exception to this rebound in the affordability and availability of CPUs is the area where CPUs and GPUs overlap: CPUs with integrated graphics. A lot of budget gamers tend to pick AMD’s APUs, which are CPUs that generally possess some of the best integrated graphics performance. This in turn leads to soaring prices for those parts. Most (if not all) the Ryzen G chips are currently over 200 USD.
However, Intel’s CPUs with integrated graphics are less popular amongst gamers, since their graphics processors are often not strong enough to run most games fluidly. But even the worst of Intel’s recent iGPUs are more than sufficient for school or office work. That is why we will use an affordable, available, budget Intel CPU from their 10th generation in this build.
CPU: Intel i5-10400
I selected the i5-10400 as the CPU for the machine. It is not a current-generation model, but that does not mean it is weak; its six cores are more than powerful enough to deal with general workstation tasks. And, of course, it has an integrated GPU, which we’ll be using sot that we do not need a GPU in this build.
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 630
An integrated GPU is one that sits on the CPU die, as part of the chip itself. It won’t be powerful enough for most games, unless your interests are in indie games and retro games. But it is totally capable of everyday work and school tasks! And just because many (especially modern) games will be out of reach, that doesn’t mean that entertainment after your work is done is out-of-the-question. You can watch 4K video with it, for instance. It may also fall short of serious 3D rendering and complex video editing, but would be excellent for someone learning to code, or write, or do graphic design and photo editing. Also, if desired, it will be possible to install a discrete GPU into this system in the future (if prices on them return to earth), and all you’d have to do is stick the graphics card into the motherboard and move your monitor cable to it. Easy!
Motherboard: MSI B560M Pro-VDH Wifi
I went with a motherboard with built-in Wi-Fi, making this PC internet-ready without an ethernet connection or discrete wireless card. Again, the emphasis of this build is on office work and/or schoolwork, and you usually will not need a lightning-fast ethernet connection for that! Besides, Wi-Fi is convenient.
With two sticks of RAM at 8GB each, this machine will be able to more easily and smoothly dedicate some memory to act as VRAM (memory specifically for the GPU). This can be quite important for getting the best possible performance with integrated graphics.
Storage: WD Green SN350 960 GB
Quick boot-ups and quick folder navigation are always nice, and can help you get your work done a little bit faster each day. In the interest of pursuing that speed, we’ll be running the whole system from a big (almost 1TB) NVMe SSD.
This is a cheap, but very usable and decent quality, case. Cooler master is a reputable brand for computer cases, and this Master-Box (while not necessarily having the best airflow in the world) should be a sleek and compact enclosure for the machine.
Of course, we’ll need a per supply to finish off the build. 500 Watts is plenty for our purposes, and does leave enough headroom for a GPU upgrade later… if prices get lower and pigs fly and yada yada. Now, midrange and high-tier PSU prices are also inflated slightly, but the prices for PSUs like this one (in the ‘budget’ segment) remain relatively calm.
It still is possible to build a good performing, solid PC on your own. This computer will be totally sufficient for school and office tasks and even light workstation tasks. It may not be great for games, but it could still run some older and indie titles so even that isn’t out-of-the-question.
All told, this computer will cost around 550 USD, after including a Windows license. That figure is competitive with pre-built machines that have similar specs, despite the fact that this build would have higher-quality components than most pre-builts—especially for easily-overlooked parts like the motherboard, RAM, and power supply.
So, you still can build a good office PC right now! It is, after all, primarily just GPU prices that continue to be a heinous insult to all that is good and right.