New PC, who DOS?

As I’ve previously posted about, during the pandemic I’ve been playing some games off and on. Don’t tell my employer, but some of this has been on my work laptop, which was woefully underpowered on the graphics front and was draining the battery even when plugged into the power adapter (who knew the 85W MacBook Pro adapters weren’t enough to power it at full throttle?).

With all that in mind, I’ve been on the lookout for a new computer, and with the aim of a bit of gaming it would need to be a PC (I do not want to get into that argument, but for the games I was thinking about it is a requirement). I put it off for a while, knowing both AMD and Nvidia were coming out with new graphics cards and hoping that would mean the existing generation of cards would drop in price. The former happened, but constraints on supply meant the latter didn’t.

Whenever I’ve priced up the computers I was thinking about on PC Specialist or Overclockers UK, mainly thinking about an AMD CPU, they have come in around £1,500 to £1,700. Not top-of-the-line, but decent enough to run modern games with an eye to having a go on Microsoft Flight Simulator. However, as my wife and I are supposed to be saving at the moment, that was a stretch too far.

Then, at the beginning of February, I started hunting around on the Dell outlet. The figures above were still too high, but I thought I might find something a little more modest. I had really wanted to have a PC built to my own spec (or to build one to my own spec), but I also didn’t want to end up with nothing (and availability of graphics cards off-the-shelf was poor).

I’d been reading Tom’s Hardware to try and figure out what spec graphics card was going to be best bang-for-the-buck. What popped up on Dell outlet was a G5 5000 with an i7-10700F CPU, 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD, 16GB DRAM and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super for a few notes over £1,000 (given a discount that was also running at the time). That seemed like a reasonable deal given the availability of components and the price of that box relative to the ones with less powerful cards.

It uses the H470 chipset, and I can replace the i7-10700F with an i7-10700K(F) if needed (and affordable/available), or even an i9.

Now, in retrospect you get what you pay for. It’s a custom power supply of 500W that can’t be replaced by anything more powerful.

The cooling is also limited, a single fan on the rear, with another bolted onto the heatsink. There are a number of threads about fitting better CPU coolers, but more airflow through the case requires some significant modifications.

There are two spare 2.5″ SATA bays at the top of the case, and what appears to be a third at the front, but the manuals say that with an M.2 SSD, the only option is for a single drive up to 2TB in one of the bays, I’ll need to read a bit more about what causes that limitation, but Crucial only lists 2TB drives too.

ComponentPower Consumption
H470 Chipset6W
GeForce RTX 2060 Super175W
DRAM6W (?)
SSD8W (?)
Fans5W (?)
Estimated maximum power consumption

The graphics card consumes far more power than the CPU of course, but perhaps there is scope for a chip with a 125W TDP and a 2.5″ SSD without taxing the PSU, but probably not much more than that.

This is the first Windows-based PC that I’ve bought since the very first PC that I bought, a Pentium 133 (later upgraded to a 266MHz chip) that was running (if I recall correctly) Windows 95. Since then it has either been work computers or Macs. Windows 10 is very different, but I’ll be dual-booting it into Linux (making it probably the most powerful UNIX system I’ve ever used, despite over a decade of managing UNIX systems in universities, some of which filled a 6ft/2m rack). More of that in another blog, and more on my first impressions of using Windows as my day-to-day desktop.

By Rob

Just another network engineer that enjoys motorcycles and travelling.