My cheap gaming rig

I’ve been to several LAN parties recently, and have been getting a very accurate understanding of how much a pain it is to lug around a 30lb case, 30 inch monitor, and all the accessories.  I’ve looked at gaming laptops;  they all seem too expensive, too expensive, and too slow compared to something I could build myself, for cheap.

The total cost for the project needed to be under $80.  I already have a good gaming rig, and the convenience of such a thing is only good if the cost is low.

I started with collecting all the spare hardware I had.

  • 22 inch monitor, unsellable with minor scratch on the display
  • 300 watt Dell PSU(no PCI-E)
  • 500GB IDE hard drive
  • Lots of random cables
  • nVidia GeForce 9600GT
  • 2 sticks of 1GB DDR2-667
  • Motherboard stands
  • Zipties

I set out a shopping list of supplies I needed

  • Cheap motherboard/CPU combo($50, Fry’s Electronics)
  • M4 bolts, nylon spacers, motherboard mount nuts($1.96, local hardware store)
  • 18"x12" sheet aluminum($4.36, Home Depot)

Total for the entire build was $56.32.

Creation and installation was simple.  I started by drilling holes for the monitor mount, attached the nylon spacers between the sheet metal and monitor, then did a test fit for the holes and sheet metal plate.

After that I drilled holes for the motherboard mounts, stuck the mounts through the sheet, cinched the nuts down, and attached the motherboard.  The processor and oversized heatsink mounted cleanly without causing any flex to the motherboard or metal backing.

Then I measured the distance between hard drive holes, drilled that out, and attached it via the bottom holes of the drive.  Easy fitment on the top portion of the sheet metal, opposite the motherboard.

The power supply was a bit of a tricky beast.  I originally planned to bend the sheet metal, cut a hole for fan and power plug, then drill holes and attach the power supply through it’s proper mounting holes.  Since I did this on the living room floor at a friends house, I merely found the power supply cover screws were a convenient mounting point, then drilled and mounted it on the bottom side of the plate, opposite the motherboard. That completed all of the component mounting.  The only step left was to attach cables, and tuck everything away to make it nice and pretty.

I did run into a problem, as the power supply was too old to have the PCI-E connector needed for the video card.  My solution was to cannibalize a Molex->SATA power adapter, and a PCI Express modular PSU cable.  Ganging all 3 ground and 12V connectors into 1 butt splice receiver wasn’t a problem, however it was a tight fit.

The final test was to see if it actually RAN games.  I’m happy to report that after an intense 6 hour gaming session of Civilization 4, it ran beautifully, quietly, and at a low temperature!

Future plans are to add a handle to the top for easy carrying, adding a kickstand(it’s back-heavy), and fix the metal flex on the power supply side.