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Cheap build for a friend's family: money-saving recommendations?

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January 6, 2010 12:28:34 AM

Hi all -

The computer owned by my friend's parents has evidently died. It was a "Gateway GT4016" with an AMD Athlon 3700. Monitor gets no signal from the computer and the motherboard makes no sounds.

I thought about trying to fix it, but it seems like it would be easier to just build a new one for them. From their old computer, I am salvaging the video card (an EVGA e-GeForce 8600GT) and that's it. I also already have a Samsung F3 SpinPoint 500GB HD that I am going to use for this build.

I don't want to spend more than $350 total on the new build. This family uses their computer for mainly office work, internet surfing, and very light gaming (the only current game they want to play is Tropico 3). NOBODY is going to overclock, do SLI/CrossFire, edit videos or run heavy apps. They are going to run Windows 7 64-bit on this computer when it's built.

The current build I was thinking of was:

Pioneer CD/DVD Writer Black SATA Model DVR-S18M LabelFlash Support ($45.99)
G.SKILL Extreme Series 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 533 (PC2 4200) Desktop Memory Model ($49.98 for two)
AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor Model ($99.00)
ASUS M4A78 Plus AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard ($79.99)
FSP Group SAGA+ 450R 450W ATX12V Power Supply ($49.99)
Samsung F3 SpinPoint 500GB (already have)
EVGA e-GeForce 8600GT (already have)

Which adds to $340 or so shipped from New Egg.

My reasoning for each part:

Pioneer CD/DVD Writer Black SATA Model DVR-S18M: just a SATA DVD/CD drive I found on NewEgg.
The G.SKILL Extreme RAM: I didn't think more than 2 GB was necessary for their needs.
AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition: seemed like a well-reviewed, powerful dual-core for $100.
The ASUS M4A78: I have no idea how to choose motherboards. This seemed a cheap AM3 compatible motherboard.
The FSP 450W power supply: 450W should be enough power for the 8600GT and the X2 550?

Where I am uncertain:

They probably don't need as powerful of a CPU; maybe I could get a better/cheaper motherboard (remember: no overclocking!); is a 450W PSU enough? More than enough? Will these parts work together?

My goal is to make a computer that will let them surf the internet, do office work and play light games comfortably for a few years.

I am truly thankful that there are forums like these where I can ask these questions.

Thank you for helping me deliver this sort-of post-Christmas gift!
January 6, 2010 12:14:56 PM

Wow. Talk about crap.

First, you shouldn't be buiding with DDR2. DDR3 is roughtly the same price and much, much better.

Second, I've never head of FSP as a PSU maker. Generally, you should stick to Antec Earthwatts, Corsair or OCZ, as these are very high quality and fairly reasonably priced.

Mobo: Here's a good one at $10 less: ASUS M4A77TD $70 after rebate

RAM: OCZ Gold Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 CAS Latency 7 $76

PSU: Corsair 450W $60. 450W is more than you'll need.

For that price (and needs), you may want to direct them to Dell or HP. Keep in mind that you'll need an OS, and Windows 7 costs $100. With ultra budget PCs, prebuilts will get you more for your buck. The other benefit of building your own is picking every part, which is great for special uses (gaming, encoding, etc.). Since it's just a general computing machine, there is nothing you'll need that a low cost prebuilt won't give you.
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January 6, 2010 12:54:33 PM

450 PSU wattage is good, but change your power supply to something that has a better track record.
Change the ddr2 memory to ddr2 667 or dddr2 800. 2GB, as you state, is sufficient.
There are far cheaper dvd drives, you just need to look around a bit more. Don't understand why you are going with a $45 drive.
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January 6, 2010 12:57:47 PM

^ +1.

FSP isn't a bad brand, but it's a budget one. I'd have no problem using it in my main rig, but I can afford more.

To answer your questions: The GTS is more powerful than GT, so the power req. would be the same or less for GT. Also, the mobo manual will tell you how much wattage to aim for. Most AM3 manuals say 400W+, assuming it's a generic PSU. With a brand name, you can go under wattage a bit.

Quote:

Q: What are the recommended power supplies for the NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS cards in single and multi-GPU configurations?
A: GeForce 8600 GTS requires a minimum 350W or greater system power supply for a single card or 450W or greater system power supply for SLI.


http://www.nvidia.com/object/geforce_8600.html

The game sys. req.:

Quote:

Recommended System Configuration

* Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7
* Processor: 2.4 GHz Dual-Core
* Memory: 2 GB
* Graphics Card: 512MB DirectX9c, Shader Model 3.0 (Geforce 8 Series, ATI HD4800)
* Free HDD Space: 5 GB
* Sound Card: DirectX9-compatible


http://www.tropico3.com/?p=system

To play the game smoothly, it's best to meet or exceed the recommended sys. req.
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January 6, 2010 12:59:03 PM

Forgot to add the cheap burner: Samsung 22x SATA DVD Burner $27 w/ free shipping.

My changes bring the total to $340 ($7 more for the parts, $7 less for the shipping of the burner).
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January 6, 2010 1:02:24 PM

And by changing the board to micro-ATX you should be able to save a few bucks, but what you have is fine, too.
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January 6, 2010 1:23:06 PM

MadAdmiral said:
Second, I've never head of FSP as a PSU maker. Generally, you should stick to Antec Earthwatts, Corsair or OCZ, as these are very high quality and fairly reasonably priced.

FSP has been around for a while.
You mention OCZ as a high quality, reasonably priced unit, the StealthXStream and GameXStream units were decent quality budget power supplies that were built on FSP platforms.
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January 6, 2010 1:28:51 PM

I'd have to agree with MadAdmiral for the most part -

1.) FSP (Forton) is a reputable maker of OEM PSU's for many companies so for your use it will be fine though as he said the Corsair is better and worth the extra $20

2.) For the $ at the moment I'd go with the new Propus 620 Quad core (they removed the L3 cache to get a cheap model quad but for your intended use you'll never notice and you get 2 more cores which will help them do more faster. Here is a good CPU\MOBO Combe for $198 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... )

3. I also agree going DDR3 is the future and that MOBO\CPU combo is AM3 socket so requires it For about the same $50 you can get some decent DDR3 1333 2GB kit (ie. THis G-Skill Kit with a 7 latency - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ) for $54 + $5 shipping

With the Extra $20 for the Corsair PSU and a $35 DVD Drive ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ) that brings you to about $380 for a much better setup ---- Though you do not mention several components (ie. Monitor, MOuse\Keyboard, OS, Case, Speakers, Etc.) but I assume you have those already otherwise be sure to include them in your estimate as well !

EDIT : Took a look on Newegg and came up with this setup for $335.65 including Shipping - http://i212.photobucket.com/albums/cc189/JDFanning_buck...

It has the quad core CPU - an ASUS AM3 790X MOBO - 2GB DDR3 1333 RAM - A BFG 450W PSU - and a Sony DVD drive which gives you a very good system for them to use for a couple years or more while also giving you a very adaptable platform if they decide they need better performance or get into more gaming !!
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January 6, 2010 1:29:04 PM

The Corsair 400W supply is often on sale and is a very good PSU. Right now it's $40 at newegg but I bought it recently for $30. I used it for a build similar to yours: AMD Phenom II 550 but with an ATI 4670 GPU.

Also, you don't mention a case. I used this microATX case for my build, COOLER MASTER Elite 341 RC-341C-KKN1-GP , but there other decent, low cost cases by Cooler Master or Rosewill.
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January 7, 2010 2:00:11 AM

Thank you everyone for your answers- they have been really helpful- let me offer some more info:

I thought about just buying a new computer from Gateway or Dell... But the family already has a mouse, keyboard, speakers, a good LCD monitor, and Windows 7 64-bit in addition to the 8600GT graphics card. I just thought they could get a better deal overall by building a computer themselves. However I would love to hear more thoughts from anyone about this.

MadAdmiral and vanekl - thank you for schooling me about RAM. For this cheap build I will get 2GB of G.skill DDR3 RAM.

About CPUs: I am not sure whether to get a cheap dual core (like the recommended Athon II X2 240 or 245) or a cheap quad core (like the recommended Propus 620). I don't think many applications they would be running now would require a quad-core CPU but I understand that it would make the build more future proof... would it be "irresponsible" to stick a dual-core in this build?

About the case: I thought about just re-using the crappy Gateway case, or buying a very cheap case like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I didn't want to get a microATX case because I don't know if I'm going to get a microATX mobo?

My final running question is motherboards. Following suggestions (for AM3 boards) I am considering:

ASUS M4A79XTD EVO AM3 AMD 790X ATX ($109.99 or so)
ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO AM3 AMD 785G HDMI ATX ($99.99)
ASUS M4A77TD AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD ($79.99)
ASUS M4A78 Plus AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 770 ATX AMD ($79.99)

These are seriously just a bunch of random digits and letters to me and I don't know which to get (they all say 'AM3' so I assume they would work if I'm going for the Propus 620 or the Athlon II X2 240). Since I'm not overclocking, I assume that the most important thing is just to get a reliable motherboard. Do I need the ASUS M4A79XTD EVO AM3 AMD 790X ATX? Would it be OK to use the cheaper ASUS M4A78 Plus AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 770 ATX? Is there something even better that hasn't been suggested yet?

Sorry for asking so many questions! Please, tell me anything you can - and thank you!
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January 7, 2010 2:37:34 AM

On the MOBO's listed personally I'd drop the 2 770 chipset boards because
1.) the M478 Plus is a DDR2 based board - so no DDR3 Ram on it!
2.) the M4A77td AM3 is DDR3 based but is the older 770 chipset which is slower and offers less performance

The M4A785 TD-V is a decent board with the 785 chipset the problem there is the 2nd PCI-e slot only runs at 4x speed so if you ever decide to add a second video card the performance will suffer (but that may not matter to you in this case !)- It also has the 4200 built in video with 128mb of sideport memory in case the video card ever dies so that is a plus

Personally I'd still go with the M4A79XTD since it is based on the 790X chipset (so the 2nd PCI-e slot if used makes both slots run a X8 Speeds which is still fast enough to not slow your video cards down) and has the SB750 SouthBridge. Especially if going with the Propus 620 quad core chip since the combo saves you $20 and has Free shipping on both the MOBO and the CPU saving another $10-$20 !
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January 7, 2010 4:58:33 AM

I would open up the crappy Gateway case and look inside and see if it is a standard case or whether Gateway modified it. If you think you can fit a standard motherboard in it I would reuse the case after I tore out its PSU and replaced it.

Personally I would be getting a microATX board for a build of this type.
$103 MSI 785GM-E65 AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
Ask MSI for their Cool'n'Quiet BIOS that goes with this board.
MicroATX boards have all the features of ATX boards except they are more compact, have fewer slots, and run a few bucks cheaper. I would then pick a smaller case.

If you want to go full-ATX, go with the ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO AM3 AMD 785G HDMI ATX -- it has an HDMI port.

I would go with the Athon II X2 240 or 245 or 250 if I was planning on keeping this build for only 2 years. Otherwise, I would get the Propus.

If I needed a new Win7 license I would probably buy a cheap Dell and slap the 8600 and F3 in it.
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January 7, 2010 4:37:16 PM

The case does not look modified, I probably could fit a motherboard in it. However, to be "safe" I am thinking of buying a case anyway. The cooling for the Gateway case is pretty bad... even if they're not overclocking it seems safer to get a case that cools more effectively.

I don't know whether to get an ATX or micro ATX. There seems to be decent combo deals on Newegg between the Propus and both types of boards. Here's the build I'm thinking about right now:

DVD: Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model AD-7240S-0B - OEM ($29.99)
Case: NZXT BETA EVO Classic Series CS-NT-BETA-EVO Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case ($39.99 after rebate)
PSU: CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS ($39.99 after rebate)
RAM: G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit ($54.99)
CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 620 Propus 2.6GHz Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Processor Model with
Mobo: ASUS M4A785-M AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard ($158.99 combo)
Video card: EVGA e-GeForce 8600GT (already have)
Hard drive: Samsung F3 SpinPoint 500GB (already have)
OS: Windows 7 64-bit Professional (already have)

Total with shipping and rebates: $337.63.

I guess now I ask the final round of "standard questions": are these parts really compatible, or there is some small thing that my untrained eye has overlooked? Is there anything I need to watch out for? Is this MicroATX motherboard OK or should I get the ASUS M4A79XTD combo for an extra $28? They don't need HDMI, but neither will they ever need CrossFire or SLI.

One last question - from the old Gateway they have a fully functional IDE CD/DVD drive. Could I skip buying the SATA drive and use this 2006 IDE drive? I know that SATA is better, but would it make the build easier to just get a new SATA drive?

I would like to thank everyone who has replied to this thread. Provided I get working parts and the build goes well, I think this will be a great computer.
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January 7, 2010 4:47:20 PM

That board doesn't support DDR3. You want an AM3 board, not an AM3/AM2+ etc. one. I would go ahead and get the M4A79XTD combo.

You can reuse the old IDE drive. It won't make much difference.
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January 7, 2010 5:06:52 PM

As Mad admiral mentioned that combo has a DDR2 based MOBO so you'll need to either change it or get DDR2 RAM instead of the DDR3.

Personally I'd drop the SATA DVD use the old Ide model and use the $30 to get the M4A79XTD combo. (http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... )

and you'll be set !
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January 7, 2010 5:38:19 PM

Sounds good. Thank you everyone for your help. I'll buy the parts soon and hopefully start building sometime next week.
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January 7, 2010 9:00:30 PM

Here's a case/PSU combo to consider so you don't have to mess with MIR's.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $88.94 (Antec 300 + Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified PSU combo)

Why in the world are you sticking with 2GB with a 64-bit OS? 4GB is the new standard, especially with a 64-bit OS.

I would go with the dual-core Athlon II X2 250 and a cheap 770 AM3 motherboard. They don't need more than that for their needs.

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail $67.00

GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail $79.99 - $10 MIR

Use the money saved by the above to get them 4GB of nice CAS7 DDR3 RAM.

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH - Retail $99.99
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January 7, 2010 9:52:39 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
Here's a case/PSU combo to consider so you don't have to mess with MIR's.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $88.94 (Antec 300 + Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified PSU combo)

Why in the world are you sticking with 2GB with a 64-bit OS? 4GB is the new standard, especially with a 64-bit OS.

I would go with the dual-core Athlon II X2 250 and a cheap 770 AM3 motherboard. They don't need more than that for their needs.

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail $67.00

GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail $79.99 - $10 MIR

Use the money saved by the above to get them 4GB of nice CAS7 DDR3 RAM.

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH - Retail $99.99


Only problem with that case\psu combo is when you add the $16 shipping on the 2 pieces it makes the case and PSU $105 and you get only a 380W PSU whuch means no overhead for any future upgrades if it even runs the system with that old 8600 (they were not the lowest Power consuming cards) -while it would be fine for the 250 and the 770 chipset MOBO it would also mean no upgrading to a more powerful CPU or video card unless you buy a new PSU also - so better to invest less now and get more !!

Also 2GB is plenty for their use and adding a second 2 or 4 GB later is a simple task if ever needed (much more so than upgrading to a new CPU\PSU if you go with your choices !
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January 7, 2010 10:00:54 PM

The 80 Plus Bronze certified 380W Antec PSU puts out just as much power as the Corsair 400CX. They're both quality PSU's and would easily power the system with the 8600. I was just throwing out other options for the OP.
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January 7, 2010 11:21:50 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
The 80 Plus Bronze certified 380W Antec PSU puts out just as much power as the Corsair 400CX. They're both quality PSU's and would easily power the system with the 8600. I was just throwing out other options for the OP.


Sorry - got this thread confused with another that I was helping in that was looking at the BFG 550W supply ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ) forgot this was a 400W unit which is about the same as the one you listed ! And extra options always helps !
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