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DIY Raspberry Pi Hobby Computer Build for Less Than $180

This computer will be a workstation for a cheap cost.

Hello everyone. These days everyone needs a computer. From work to fun, it is a necessity. But while there are many cheap older computers available, generally they fail because of the demands of modern technology. So what I had in mind was to create a cheap build, using only the parts I had available around the house. The great thing about this build is that you can replace anything in this list except the USB hub and the processor and it will work as a charm. This is what I came up with (note that the Raspberry Pi was the only new thing I bought, the rest was available). If you want to build an exact replica of mine go below. Note that this is a workstation build for gaming and video editing; the processor requirement will go up considerably so look elsewhere.

1) The Monitor ($30)

I had an old Viewsonic VA1703b available. You can find a lot of these old LCD monitors for about $20-$60 on eBay, not sure if they're available new but they're pretty solid lcds and they do a lot. It works at a 720p resolution and for my purposes it would do well. You can use any LCD lying around. However make sure you have a DVI to HDMI converter for those monitors without one. It's an LCD, it's not going to be a great beauty in terms of pixel department, but if you're just looking to get work done, maybe watch a small video or two it'll do just fine. A link for an ebay search for it can be found here.

2) The processor:(Raspberry Pi 3 Model B kit 57 dollars)

I used this kit. It has a good housing for the processor, sd card and a charger plus the raspberry pi 3 has the WIFI and bluetooth built in. Downloading and installing raspbian was a breeze and anyone can do it. No experience needed. With a quad core 1.2 ghz processor, 1gb of ram, bluetooth, wifi and hdmi built in, the pi will service all your tasks for a workstation pc fast and reliably. You can even install a version of Windows and Ubuntu on it, but I will still recommend raspbian because it has the most support and drivers available in case you do run into problems with your peripherals.

2) The Processor: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Kit ($57)

I used this kit. It has a good housing for the processor, SD card and a charger plus the Raspberry Pi 3 has the WIFI and Bluetooth built in. Downloading and installing Raspbian was a breeze and anyone can do it. No experience needed. With a quad core 1.2 ghz processor, 1gb of RAM, Bluetooth, Wifi and HDMI built in, the Pi will service all your tasks for a workstation PC fast and reliably. You can even install a version of Windows and Ubuntu on it, but I will still recommend Raspbian because it has the most support and drivers available in case you do run into problems with your peripherals.

3) USB Hub: Transcend TS-HUB3K ($27)

This is very important. The Pi cannot run many devices via it's native usb ports as it does not have the power. Buying a USB hub is necessary and one from their site as the others may have a reverse charge which can damage the Pi. Only use the keyboard and mouse if you must with the Pi's own ports. Please go to their website for more info on which hubs are compatible but I got this Transcend TS-HUB3K hub which is USB 3.0 hub that does well for my needs. Costs about $27-$35 on amazon. 

4) Storage: 1 TB Western Digital ($55)

I've been using Western Digital drives for the past five years without complaint. Sure you can get a more advanced drive with wifi but this is a simple computer I need for printing and office work so this will suffice. They are sturdy, dependable and come with their own software.

Verdict

So I connected everything together and for roughly $170 I had my brand new computer complete with Wifi and Bluetooth. There is no need to mount storage or install drivers as everything works out of the box. Add a keyboard and mouse (any with a USB port will do) but if you're really picky add about $30 to this and you have a fine computer for about $200. Can you buy a mini PC with this? Sure but this is still a highly reliable, hassle free build that won't cost a ton on peripherals and will save you a huge amount of space. The bad news? While a Pi can be used as a print server, a media centre and a host of other things, the 1.4 ghz processor still limits performance so if you think youtube videos in high resolutions will work stutter free, you're better off building a proper PC. Word processing, presentations, spreadsheets are all good and even connecting an external DVD drive. The media centre via XBMC works well too. So guys this is it. Have fun building your own!

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