Build to learn about/play with hardware, piecemeal style


Nov 4, 2016
I have an interest in basically anything computer/tech. For example: kernel hacking (I currently run Gentoo), setting a RPi for video streaming, web design, server configuration (postfix w/ SMTP handled through Amazon SES, OTR XAMPP server, etc.)...basically, I like exploring topics and R-ingTFMs.

About a month ago I got it into my head to learn something about game design, so I downloaded Sauerbraten and hacked around with that. I know it's an older/low-brow engine, but I wanted to work with the character models so that got me into MakeHuman & Blender. I have a decent enough laptop, but when it came to rendering the animation it'd take like 45 minutes running at 180% CPU for a 2 second thing.

So faster rendering partially prompted my interest in building a desktop. Compiling is also a task I'd like to do speed up, as is video editing (1080p, no 4K for me yet). In general though, I just want more experience with hardware, and I think it's time I learn about overclocking. In the end, it's gotta play with Linux (though it doesn't necessary have to play nice out of the box).

My plan is to start off with a working computer for somewhere around $900, and pick up parts when I want to treat myself. I've read a bunch of advice requests where performance is the main consideration. I know that pretty much any build will work better for all my purposes than my Lenovo Z70. My main priority is to start off with as much room to grow as I can (inside of a mid-tower) and use components which won't be obsolete for as long as possible.

I'm currently biased towards the i7-6700K or the 6800K. I figure a graphics card will come later because I'm fine with CPU rendering on either one of those processors. I'm also fine holding off on an overwhelming amount of memory (I'd like 8 or 16 to start), and a top tier SSD can wait too.

I figure the PSU, the case, and the cooling are the only components that can have the most longevity. As I understand it, motherboards last as long as 2 processor generations, so my priority there is flexibility.

The kind of answers I'm looking for are along the lines of, "stop getting off to the thought of a latest i7! [CPU] will save you a full $150 that you can put towards [PSU] (which isn't going anywhere fast) and liquid cooling so you'll have it when you know what you're doing and want to overclock the crap out of that cannonlake processor you start putting away for." Or, "______ motherboard comes with a highly configurable BIOS and isn't a pain to overclock. It's also not one of these $500 ones."

Hopefully I've explained what I'm looking to do well enough here. I'm happy to expand/clarify anything.


Oct 24, 2015
Lately motherboards only last through 1 generation unless you are going with a 2011 mobo. Cool things come out that seem to make those obsolete as well.

If your budget is ~$900 that is not a bad place to start at all.

Do you plan to play games?


Nov 4, 2016
[quotemsg=18826273,0,2105473]Lately motherboards only last through 1 generation unless you are going with a 2011 mobo. Cool things come out that seem to make those obsolete as well.

If your budget is ~$900 that is not a bad place to start at all.

Do you plan to play games?[/quotemsg]

I'll probably want to play with VR down the line. For the time being though, I'm not bent on playing Battlefield 1 @ 4k and 60fps. I was pretty bummed when I learned about the difference between gaming and workstation GPUs. It sounds like I'll need a budget for a whole second system to really game well, and it'll be awhile before that happens.

My only hangup with a 2011 is the additional ~$150-200 for the processor/mobo. I wasn't sure if that money is better spent elsewhere.

Here's what I figure the 6800K system would look like:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel Core i7-6800K 3.4GHz 6-Core Processor ($400.00)
Motherboard: MSI X99A SLI PLUS ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard ($195.00)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3333 Memory ($124.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec P100 ATX Mid Tower Case ($75.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Total: $795.98
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-11-06 11:37 EST-0500

Noted: I didn't select a cooler/PSU because I'd appreciate recommendations. It looks like I could make due with a 550W, but would a 650W ensure I'm covered with anything I might add? (A graphics card, hotswap, RAID, media card reader, etc.)? Also, would air cooling be sufficient for overclocking?

Edit: I'm thinking a Corsair RMx 650W and a NH-D15.

Last question is where should I feel safe going refurbished/open box? I could save a decent bit of money via Microcenter, and I've never had a problem with refurbished/openbox from them.