My 2021 PC Upgrades

PC Upgrades and Components

It’s that time once again to have at least two particular tabs open on my browser—my bank account and the computer store website. After a good bit of pondering and perusing, I’ve come to my final list for what PC upgrades I shall introduce into my life. Hopefully, the major components will be procured as early as the start of July (EDIT: I may delay it to August or September), just in time for my birthday.

Perhaps talking about it here will help people learn a bit more about what to consider when they’re shopping for PC upgrades as well. I advocate building computers specifically for what they’ll be used for, not simply buying whatever is the most expensive. You’d want the best bang for your buck, so you have to be able to rationalize why you want those PC upgrades.

Also, I name the computers I use after world conquerors. My current rig is Alexandros, after Alexander the Great. I’ve chosen to name my next one after Napoleon. I don’t know if I’ll name one after Genghis Khan someday, but we’ll see. Yeah, I’m a dork like that.

To Be Upgraded From Old Build

My previous rig was fully assembled in March 2016, four months after I bought my graphics card. It has since been on for 16 hours a day on average with almost no breaks. I use the hibernate feature when I go to bed and rarely shut it down.

Since the pandemic, it hasn’t had a break at all. That goes to show how reliable it has been and proves that my building philosophy is sound—value and reliability above all else. I can count with one hand how many times I’ve opened up the case for maintenance.

Therefore, my PC upgrades have to be about reliability and long-term viability above all else.

Case: (Old ATX Case from 2002)

Yup, that’s right, and it’s still working fine. It has no modern airflow and cable management, so it’s a noisy rat’s nest. I thought of changing it as far back as five years ago, but I’m a lazy miser who doesn’t want to spend money or do work. If there’s a good time to finally change this case, it’s now.

PSU: Thermaltake Litepower 700W

Thermaltake Litepower 700WAfter I blew up a cheap power supply and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that it didn’t damage any other components, I had to get a good one. I chose the Thermaltake Litepower 700W because it cost ₱3,000 while still being pretty solid. I have not regretted my purchase.

While I can still use this for a while in the new rig, I’ll have to get a newer one since power supplies do degrade over time.

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 3

Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 3I searched across the land for a good motherboard that didn’t have a B chipset. My aim at that time was to get the most affordable motherboard that supports SLI. I ended up not using SLI, but it was a good standard to base my purchasing decision as it was to be expected from an ATX board to be fully featured if it had SLI support.

My friend Jilbert recommended Gigabyte, so I started from there. I then browsed user reviews on Newegg to see which LGA 1150 motherboard was the most reliable at my budget. I ended up with the Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 3, which I bought for around ₱7,500 and has served me well for over five years.

The only drawback I can pinpoint is the rebranded ethernet controller. The driver that came with it is for the Killer E2200 gaming ethernet controller, which I later found out is a rebranded Qualcomm Atheros AR8161 gigabit ethernet controller.

Before I changed the driver, it was giving me sporadic disconnections, so I would drop out of Overwatch games back in 2016. Once I found out how to solve the problem and changed the driver, the disconnections stopped.

CPU: Intel Core i7 4790K

Intel Core i7 4790KIt was a time before AMD Ryzen, so Intel was still on top. DDR4 recently became the standard and Intel had just released their Skylake line of processors. If I were to go for that then, I would’ve bought an i7 6700K. However, I went last gen with my purchase for one simple reason—I didn’t have money to buy new RAM.

To this day, I’d recommend the i7 4790K for anyone looking for a second-hand processor. It’s damn solid and still fast enough for many tasks, including video editing and streaming. This processor will be repurposed in a future build. I’m still deciding on either a dedicated streaming rig, network-attached storage, or both with a virtual machine server.

Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212X

Cooler Master Hyper 212XThe best value air cooler out there. I’m all about price to performance, so getting this was a no-brainer. Since Intel stock coolers aren’t the best, I wanted a beefy cooler that could ensure the longevity of my system.

Recently, the fan started to slow down to around 500rpm, so my i7 4790K was idling at 60C. I had to dust the whole rig anyway, so I took out the CPU and GPU coolers, repasted them, and oiled up their fans. I should buy another fan and slap it on the other side.

RAM: Corsair Vengeance LP 16GB DDR3 1600MHz (+8GB DDR3 1333MHz)

Corsair Vengeance LP 16GB DDR3 1600MHzIt’s a hodgepodge of different RAM sticks, so I know for myself how it is to mix different RAM sticks. While it does indeed impact your performance as your system defaults to the lower speed, I felt that I needed more capacity over just sheer speed due to my use case.

The 1333MHz sticks have been with me since 2010, while I got the 1600MHz sticks around 2014. I remember having to RMA that one 8GB stick of Corsair Vengeance LP as it was causing blue screen crashes. I mem-tested it, found errors, and went back to PC Hub to warranty it. I then waited a week before I got a new stick.

SSD: Crucial MX100 256GB

Crucial MX100This was my first solid state drive. Once I felt the speed for myself, I could never go back. It was a momentous occasion when I installed Windows into it and saw it boot for the first time. It still lives, well past the lifespan that’s expected from an SSD. This is what made me a Crucial fanboy, and I will remain so for a good while.

With that said, I’ll have to upgrade this soon. The longer I use this old SSD as my boot drive, the more I’m rolling the dice.

Not Upgrading Yet

If you’re updated on the current market, you know why this part is not getting upgraded just yet. If I want to financially recover from this endeavor, I’ll have to hold on to this for a while longer.

GPU: Asus Nvidia GTX 970 Turbo OC 4GB

Asus Nvidia GTX 970 Turbo OCThe ongoing GPU-pocalypse is still keeping me tied to this thing. I bought it for ₱15,000 back in November 2015 for Fallout 4, and I had to play Cyberpunk 2077 with it as well. The problem with it is the below-average cooling solution, which was why it was cheaper.

The heatsink isn’t substantial enough, despite the amount of copper on it, and the fan is just a single blower doing the work expected from an air conditioner. It idles over 50C and I have limited its top end to 80C. It has lasted me this long, but I would like to relegate it to less strenuous duties soon. However, I’ll have to wait for at least 2022 to do that.

Napoleon: 2021 PC Upgrades (₱36,200)

I usually advocate a “GPU first” upgrade path for gamers as most modern video games are GPU-focused. However, due to current market conditions, if I’m ever to get any PC upgrades at all this year, I’ll have to change lanes and do a “CPU first” upgrade path.

I can wait for DDR5 to come out, but it’ll be a couple of years before prices for that hardware stabilizes, much like what happened with DDR4. Therefore, I decided to do it now rather than later, and I don’t think I’ll have buyer’s remorse since I did the same thing five years ago.

In the end, I’ll end up with a computer that’s more than twice as good as my previous one. That’s the main rationale behind these PC upgrades.

Case: Rakk Haliya ATX (₱1,500)

Rakk Haliya ATXFinally, I’m changing my case. I’ve been on this super old case for almost 20 years now, and it’s time to get a modern case with cable management and better airflow. But since I’m fine with very little, I don’t need tempered glass and RGB stuff. It’s just a metal box with holes around it.

I found the Rakk Haliya while browsing Shopee, and I like what I saw. It looks to have adequate airflow, sensible cable management, and comes in either black or white. As long as I can fit all of my hard drives in the racks, I should be alright with it.

Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 UD (₱8,300)

Gigabyte X570 UDThere seems to be no reason for me to switch to a different brand at this point as what I’ve been using has been fairly reliable so far. The Gigabyte Ultra Durable series has been good to me, so I’ll purchase another one.

This is perhaps the most affordable X570 motherboard in PC Hub, and it has enough of what I need. The only drawback to this thing is that it has less USB ports on the back. That just means I’ll have to buy more USB 3.0 hubs.

I chose this model instead of the Gigabyte X570 Gaming X because I don’t need the RGB controller, which saves me ₱700. I have nothing against RGB, but I keep my PC on the floor. My demands for aesthetics in my PC builds end with color coordination.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X (₱17,400)

AMD Ryzen 7 3700XGetting an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 would’ve been enough since that would still be more than double the Intel i7 4790K, which makes it a good upgrade in my book. However, I really want to go for the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X for the extra power and “futureproofing”.

I know there’s no such thing as true futureproofing, but this is more about my use case. The i7 4790K has served me well and will continue to do so if I so wish. However, I did hit a wall with streaming, as I want to stream while also locally recording gameplay footage simultaneously. The current rig is not powerful enough to do that and I can’t find an appropriate external recorder that’s affordable enough for me.

I also need the extra power for running virtual machines. Getting this one will definitely hold me over for many years to come. Also, if I really go crazy, I can actually upgrade to an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X if I get the money and the balls for it.

RAM: Team Group T-Force Vulcan TUF 32GB 3600MHz (₱9,000)

Team Group T-Force Vulcan TUF 32GB 3600MHzSince I don’t care for RGB, I can just pick up whatever RAM I can find that doesn’t clash too much with the rest of the build. I definitely want 3600MHz for the extra umph, and I need at least 32GB as I tend to work with many tabs open. As long as the memory chips are from a reputable manufacturer, it should be good.

I may want to fill in the other two DIMM slots in the future. Hopefully, there will still be stock of the same sticks of RAM so I’ll actually have them match for once.

Future PC Upgrades (₱20,000)

I want the new PC to not just perform at least twice as good as the last one, but also twice as nice to live with. Therefore, further PC upgrades are for increasing reliability and storage space.

PSU: Seasonic Core GX650 (₱5,000)

Seasonic Core GX650Never skimp on the power supply. I’ve blown up two power supplies in the past, and it will never happen again. I know how bad power supplies can compromise otherwise healthy systems, so I’m going to make sure that I get something that will definitely last.

There’s no other power supply brand that’s better than Seasonic. I recommend it to other people, and it’s time I practice what I preach. Also, I want to finally have a fully modular power supply so I won’t have to wrestle with cables again.

Cooler: Noctua NH-D15 Chromax (₱5,700)

Noctua NH-D15 ChromaxI favor air coolers due to lower failure rate and ease of maintenance. The only cooler I know of that can top the Cooler Master Hyper 212 series is a Noctua cooler.

I can go for a similarly-designed Noctua NH-U12S, but it’s time for me to get the best possible cooler for my needs. While the base model is cheaper, I’m not sure if I want to introduce the trademark Noctua brown into my life just yet, so I might go for the more aesthetically pleasing Chromax black.

While liquid coolers do make for lower temperatures, the cost and the lingering concern over it breaking down after a few years is a no-go for me.

Also, AIOs with 120mm fans are no better than stock coolers and they’re only good for really small ITX cases with less-than-adequate airflow. If I ever end up with an AIO cooler, the radiator has to be at least 240mm.

But my first choice here is certainly the air cooler. If I ever overclock, it’ll only be for a bit of extra power. Otherwise, I have a reliability-first policy.

SSD: Crucial BX500 1TB (₱5,000)

Crucial BX500It’s high time that I get a new SSD since I’ve been running on this Crucial MX100 for a good while now. The thing about SSDs is that when they die, they don’t really give you much of a warning like with mechanical hard drives.

Getting a 1TB one will allow me to install applications, store footage, and install virtual machines with more wiggle room. I can also get an m.2, but that’s for another time. I have a rule of not using m.2 as a boot drive since I don’t think it’s necessary.

GPU Cooler: Arctic Accelero Xtreme IV / ID-Cooling Frostflow X 240 (₱4,300)

Arctic Accelero Xtreme IVID-Cooling Frostflow X 240This is a possible upgrade, likely the last thing I get for the year if I feel like it. Since the cooling solution on my GTX 970 isn’t the best, perhaps upgrading that will make it run smoother. I have a choice between the air cooler Arctic Accelero Xtreme IV and the AIO liquid cooler ID-Cooling Frostflow X 240. Among all the PC upgrades on the list, this is perhaps the least essential.

Napoleon: Final 2021 Build (₱56,200 ~ ₱71,200)

What I hope to end up with this year is a dependable machine that lets me do even more things than before, as well as make my life easier and my workspace look a bit better.

  • Case: Rakk Haliya ATX (₱1,500)
  • PSU: Seasonic Core GX650 (₱5,000)
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 UD (₱8,300)
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X (₱17,400)
  • Cooler: Noctua NH-D15 Chromax (₱5,700)
  • RAM: Team Group T-Force Vulcan TUF 32GB 3600MHz (₱9,000)
  • SSD: Crucial BX500 1TB (₱5,000)
  • GPU: Asus Nvidia GTX 970 Turbo OC 4GB (~₱15,000)
  • GPU Cooler: Arctic Accelero Xtreme IV or ID-Cooling Frostflow X 240 (₱4,300)

Everything else I upgrade will be quality-of-life improvements and more data storage space. I’ll settle with that until the GPU market opens back up with better prices. Hopefully, my current graphics card will run fine until I can get to that point.

Conclusion

It does look like I’m splurging when there are cheaper PC upgrades that will do the job anyway, or that I don’t even need to upgrade in the first place. However, I chose these higher-end parts because I know these will stay viable for at least five years and can be repurposed for other tasks if I decide to retire it down the line.

There’s nothing wrong with budget PCs at all. In fact, that’s what I recommend for most people. However, for my use case as a power user who’s at the computer for at least 12 hours a day, I need a machine that can take whatever I throw at it and ask for more.

With this new rig, I’ll be able to do a couple of things more reliably than before. All that’s left is getting bigger and better data storage, which is the next project.

Got Feedback?

Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have in the comment section below.

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