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In February 2020, we still didn’t know just how damaging and how serious COVID-19 was going to turn out to be. Some of us have been fortunate enough to still work from home as needed.

Carlo Dinglasan, a PC enthusiast and a system builder for more than 20 years now, shares that he watched from the sidelines as the pandemic affected the community and PC parts spiraled out of control. As the law of economics dictates: the lack of supply and increase in demand will push the price up, and we are still feeling the effects a year later even though the supply has stabilized a bit.

Since then, Carlo shares that people have been requesting for a work-from-home setup or school-from-home setup so he gives us some clarity on a WFH or SFH build that doesn’t have to break the bank.

Even though what I am about to suggest is an Intel build, we can all thank AMD for providing Intel some competition. In fact, AMD processors have been so good that Intel can barely compete and got forced to provide value for performance. That is why Intel processors are a bit more affordable now compared to AMD, and it does not help that with the current video card shortage, AMD’s popular APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) that combines the central processor and the graphics processor has also skyrocketed.

Before we proceed, here are some talking points for clarity:

More CPU cores – splits a workload, like if four students split a workload in completing a college thesis instead of just one student trying to finish the entire project alone.

More CPU threads – think of this as you (one core) having to do chores at home. If you only have one thread, like cooking rice, you will need to wait and finish for the rice to cook before you can do another task. But if you have two threads, you’ll be able to sweep the floor while waiting for the rice to cook. 

RAM (Random Access Memory) – used to store data small data that your processor and video card need to access quickly.

Solid State Drive – just like your regular hard drive, but faster.

Power Supply Unit – the TL:DR would be, get at least an 80plus.org certified PSU from a reliable company. FSP is one of the good and reliable ones out there and an 80+ Bronze rated PSU will provide you with at least 85% efficiency so your system won’t use up too much electricity.

With that in mind, here is what we are looking at (not including the peripherals):

Processor, Intel Core i3 10100 4 cores/ 8 threads

Motherboard, MSI MAG B460M Bazooka

Memory, Kingston Hyper X 16GB 8GBx2 DDR4 3200

Disk Drive, Samsung 870 EVO SDD

Power Supply, FSP Hydro K 500W 80+ Bronze

PC Case, Tecware Nexus Air M2

Monitor, Any 24″ VA/IPS monitor

Heatsink and fan, Deep Cool DC Gammaxx 400

As mentioned above, AMD Ryzen processors are currently in high demand and are also commanding a premium price. Intel’s UHD630 may be slower than AMD’s VEGA 8 and VEGA 11 but since this isn’t a gaming setup, it will still be good enough for work and school. Intel’s Core i3 10100 should be more than fast enough for both work and play, as well. Plus, you can add a gaming graphics card in the future once prices go down.

MSI, on the other hand, has been providing excellent motherboards for the price since 2017 with their B150M Night Elf, and their price: performance continues for both AMD and Intel motherboards to this day.

As for the RAM, you should buy as much as you can afford since RAM allows you to run programs and applications and quickly and as smoothly as possible. 8GB would still work, but 16GB would still be better since MS Excel and Chrome (having a lot of tabs) are RAM hogs. Even if this setup does not support RAM speeds above 2666Mhz, you may opt for DDR4 2400 kits if they are cheaper… or just get what is available.

Having an SSD on your system is a massive quality of life upgrade. Your operating system will boot faster. Your applications will load faster. And everything else will feel snappier. Be careful, though, since not all SSDs are made equal. Samsung makes some of the best in the world and I also provide a list below of some alternatives if you cannot find one in stock. In a nutshell, you should look for an SSD that has DRAM, and avoid the pitfall of getting a 120GB SSD just for the “Operating System” because in reality, 120-250GB as the main drive today is just not large enough. M.2, NVME, or SATA? It does not matter. All of them are so fast that you will not be able to tell the difference in real-world usage.

I love the Tecware brand as it gives you decent quality at an affordable price, and their Nexus Air series is pretty hard to beat. For its affordable price, it isn’t only designed for good airflow, but also comes with free decent fans. 

For the monitor, just get what is currently available. You don’t really need a 75~165hz gaming monitor, but something that you can really notice is the black levels of a VA (Vertical Alignment) panel or the rich colors of IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel over the old TN (Twisted Nematic) panels.

For the heat sink and fan, you don’t really need an aftermarket solution in my opinion. However, Intel processors can get really hot and Intel is known to provide the worst thermal solutions for their processors. Deep Cool has been in the cooling solution business for a long time now and their Gammaxx 400 is probably one of the best and affordable aftermarket cooling solutions you can get in any market.

Alternatives:

Motherboard: any B460 that is available

Memory: Any DDR4 kits from Crucial, Corsair, Patriot, TForce, GSkill

SSD: Crucial MX, WDC Blue 3D NAND SATA (this is what I personally use), WDC Blue SN550 M.2 (This one does not have a DRAM but this is the best DRAMless SSD in the market)

PSU: Cooler Master MWEv2 500-650W 80+ White or Bronze, FSP Hyper K, Silver Stone Strider Essentials, Corsair CV

Case: Anything available, really

Heat sink and fan: Anything that is available. Take note that there is no need to spend more than Php2,000 on this one and at this point, anything is better than the stock Intel Heatsink and Fan.

The pandemic keeps throwing curveballs our way, and having a proper and reliable setup will at least ensure you have a smooth work from home or school from home experience. Hopefully, this knowledge will be able to help you source the PC Hardware for your needs without overspending while getting the most bang for your peso.

Check out an SM Cyberzone near you for all of your PC-building needs. Also, don’t miss our PC exhibit in SM North Edsa this June.

Written by: Angeline Rodriguez 

Angeline Rodriguez is the Managing Editor of WhenInManila.com and an Editor at Newsweek Amplify. She is a gamer and a geek with a mad love for anime and KDramas.

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