Hardware Tech

Potato Computer

The super budget computer made from second hand parts is always a great bang for buck option. Not to mention good for the soul in keeping used parts in service.

With computer hardware supply chains an issue currently. There is some scarcity and prices have gone up. This isn’t helped by a poor Australian exchange rate and the huge push to work from home.

Mid to high end components are available but at their usual punishing prices.

Purchasing carefully, a solid computer can be had for not a lot of money. The biggest costs of current computers are the CPU, GPU and memory. This is where the most savings can be made depending on how far back you go.

Monitors can be a sticking point depending on whats acceptable. New and used 720p and 1080p monitors can be had cheaply enough.

No surprises, the key requirement is to know what the use cases are. Even the cheapest new or second hand computers are well able to handle general computing.

Skylake and Haswell i3s can easily handle general use like web browsing and productivity. Add a GTX970 or RX570 for a solid gaming experience.

Just know that older hardware has its limitations. They can be a maze of hardware and software incompatibilities. Software support will get harder as time goes by as manufacturers stop bothering.

A perennial example is the used office desktop. These can be had cheaply but compatibility can be tricky. Especially for GPUs and wifi cards.

At the time of writing in Sydney, used GPU prices on Ebay and Gumtree were exceptionally high for later hardware. Demand has pushed Rx580s, GTX1070s and the like, into the pre pandemic low end new GPU ($200AU – $300AU) price bracket.

A new laptop might be the better option as its less temptation to fiddle and will arrive ready to go. Or the budget has blown out where new gear might be a better choice.

Gaming and streaming can have the highest requirements. If the aim is to just play older games at low resolutions then a low budget computer can be a great option.

However if the need is to play the latest games, especially multiplayer, and / or streaming. Then older hardware will start to show its limits.

This is where the price premium for current hardware wins out. Chiefly because it hasn’t reached its shelf life.

Check out any tech Youtubers build videos to see that they’re currently ending up with a lower end AMD Ryzen CPU and B450 motherboard. If they haven’t gone with an APU (like the Ryzen 3 3200G) then its either an RX580 or GTX1600 series GPU (for the streamers).

Typically this is the $600US ($900+AU) target they all seem to hit. Problem is that usually excludes the monitor, key board and mouse.

Using this as a base, a good range of upgrades is then possible. Switching to a newer CPU or GPU as budget permits.

Where this falls down at the moment is that even APUs are not that cheap.

A second hand build can be a great adventure in itself. But its not the only route available to potato.