Back in 2016, I had to get my first ever desktop PC out of necessity after my MSI GP60 laptop kicked the bucket. Unfortunately, I was still a fresh grad back then, and all I could afford was a cheap setup with parts that I had to carefully choose in order to fit my very limited budget of around 20k (for my non-Filipino readers, that’s the equivalent of roughly $400).

It was a very entry-level rig with an i3-6100 and GTX 950. Around half a year later, I upgraded it with a GTX 1060, a second 8GB RAM stick, and a secondhand i5-6500. It was an okay setup for gaming, but it was definitely still a relatively weak hunk of junk, and as the years passed by, it became apparent that I should really just build a new one for both work and play.

Doing the Research

While I’m no stranger to computer parts, I haven’t been keeping up with current tech for the past couple of years. Since I wanted to do this while under quarantine (I still am, as of writing this), I really couldn’t afford to spend too much money nor could I wait a bit more time to save up for better parts as literally every brick-and-mortar tech store around is struggling to keep up with demand.

After searching the net for reviews and suggestions, I figured I’d go with team red and just ditch both Intel and Nvidia in favor of AMD. The reason for this is because their parts typically offer better value for the performance, especially since in my country, parts are significantly more expensive than they are in America, where most of the sources I found are based in.

I spent weeks revising my parts list until I finally decided on a build that I’m happy with, and after consulting with the store of my choice, this is what we came up with (minus the cooler and case fans, cause I got those off an online marketplace):

(Edit: The RAM is 3600mhz. I didn’t notice it said 3200 in the image, also the HDD is 7200RPM. Whoops.)

It’s a very modest gaming and productivity build that serves my purposes well. As an avid gamer and content creator—both for work and fun— I needed something that’ll let me multitask comfortably and render stuff at a reasonable speed, so I went with the Ryzen 5 3600, which most consider to be the best bang for the buck CPU at the moment. I originally wanted to go for a 3700X, but after a bit of pondering, I realized that I didn’t really need the extra oomph, and I couldn’t wait and save up for it because stocks were running very low.

Obviously, I’d also love to not have to fiddle with my settings until certain titles ran smoothly. I also wanted a rig that I could use for streaming, since I thought it’d be a fun way to create extra content. With the 5700 XT, I could run almost everything on ultra and still take advantage of my 144hz monitor. Unfortunately, the encoder sucks for streaming, but my CPU is more than capable of handling the load, so it’s all good. (here’s proof!)

The rest of the parts are pretty self-explanatory. The motherboard was the only B450 variant the store had left, and while it’s more expensive than my original choice (The B450 Tomahawk Max), it also happens to be a better board anyway. Sixteen gigs of RAM is the standard nowadays (you can still work with eight if you’re really strapped for cash though!), and for my storage, I only went with a 1TB HDD since I’m salvaging a 2TB drive from my old build, and the SSD was relatively cheap and is enough for my OS, some essential apps, and a couple of favorite games.

With all of that in mind, I paid the store the full amount, and the waiting game began. The store (which is owned by a YouTuber) is about twelve hours away, and my system is one of the many builds they were working on at the time, so I was ready to wait a couple of weeks for it. Here’s a picture of the finished product that they sent me (I was still gonna add my own case fans and aftermarket cooler):

The Arrival

So, after probably the longest two weeks of my life, the courier finally notified me that they’ll be delivering my new rig within the day. I was ecstatic. A few months of hard work and it’s finally here!

Well, when it did get here, I opened the box and found this:

Yeah, so the tempered glass panel on my case is completely shattered due to the courier’s mishandling of my package. Not only that, but a part of the case—right beside the rear exhaust fan, to be exact—is badly dented.

I can only assume it was dropped or thrown at the sorting facility, or they hit it really damn hard with another package. I don’t know. All I know is that, at the time, I was both incredibly sad and angry.

I took a few photos of the damage (even before getting it out of the box), and immediately contacted the store. I’m not gonna show you the convo as it’s fairly uninteresting and mostly boils down to them talking about how they’ll try their best to compensate me. I don’t really blame them for anything, and they were really quick to respond despite being swamped with inquiries. This was purely the courier’s fault.

Anyway, I set aside my emotions for a bit and got to work. I had a LOT of shattered tempered glass to clean up both in and out of the computer. The thing is, there’s a chance that none of the components inside are damaged, but I had to make sure that I clean up the ungodly amount of the shards first.

The Revival

I’m not gonna get into too much detail cause I spent a staggering 10 hours getting everything working and cleaning up the mess left behind, but I’ll cover the entire—extremely stressful—process.

First off, I had to disassemble the system because there were shards in literally everything inside the case. To do that, I had to gently shake off most of the visible glass so I don’t hurt myself (or the parts) when I remove everything.

After making a mess on my floor, I grabbed a screwdriver and started to take the PC apart. Sounds easy enough right? Well, I haven’t really built my own rig before, let alone take one apart. The extent of my experience with dismantling a computer is a quick and simple CPU and GPU replacement.

I carefully removed literally everything that wasn’t a part of the case, and I made sure that no glass shards were left in my components by violently shaking them off. I pretty much had to for some of them (there were chunks inside the PSU, for example) since I don’t really wanna try and dismantle the components themselves.

At around 10PM, I finally managed to put it back together, pretty much just losing the glass panel and the amazing cable management job the store did. I was so relieved when it booted up properly, but I still had a lot of cleaning up to do. By midnight, I was exhausted, but I was also done sweeping up and properly disposing of all the shattered glass.

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The picture above was taken at 2AM. I felt like I was gonna pass out at any second, and I was already lying down on my fully reclined chair. After a bit of testing, I was convinced that everything works perfectly fine and finally called it a day.

Fun fact: I named my system Phoenix, an obvious reference to how I managed to rebuild the entire thing from scratch, but also because I love the X-Men (that’s a Jean Grey funko pop in my PC).

The Future

With my system working fine, I plugged in my aftermarket cooler and started fiddling with the RGB (I still mess around with it, as you can see from this article’s thumbnail). Everything’s done, but what about the missing side panel?

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Well, while you can’t see it in the picture above, there’s a very thin plastic cover where the panel should be. It’s really just there to reduce the amount of dust getting in, but honestly, I’m just too tired that I’ll probably keep it like this. It looks much better in person anyway, my camera just sucks.

As for the upgrade path, I really only plan on upgrading my CPU to a 3900X (or maybe even 4th gen Ryzen if it’s out by then), as well as adding 16GB more RAM and maybe a couple of SSDs in the near future. My GPU is fine as it is, especially since the only upgrade that’d make sense at the moment, both economically and performance-wise, would be a 2080ti, which costs almost as much as my entire rig.

Oh, and the store? They were pretty cool about the entire situation too. They sent me an entirely new case, and this time it wasn’t damaged! I won’t be using it though, since the one I currently have is objectively better. I’m gonna save this for a future build though, because funnily enough, this was one of my case choices in early revisions of my parts list.

Building my current PC was quite a wild ride, but it was all worth it in the end. Work has been much faster, and now, any game I throw at the rig runs as smooth as butter. I even overclocked my GPU a bit just to give it a slight boost in more demanding games!

I have no doubt that Phoenix is gonna serve me well for the next few years, especially since this has a better upgrade path than my janky old 6th gen Intel rig. Hopefully, it’ll last me five years, or maybe even ten!

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