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Need advice with a new system - $500-600 budget, entering college

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March 3, 2010 12:26:48 PM

hi everyone,

I really love reading these forums, and a lot of posts have helped me :) 

I'm looking to build a new computer system. I have speakers and a VGA monitor, so those aren't an issue.

I wanted to buy the core i5 750 CPU, but I'm not sure if I could squeeze that, a motherboard, ram, hdd, cd drive, SU, and case in for $500 (max $600). So going with the q8400 is fine, though I'd imagine that socket 775 is going out of date.
I'm not a heavy gamer, but am more on the virtualization side of things. Granted, I don't run three OS's at once, but running something like Mac OS in a virtual environment with Windows would require CPU power. I currently have a core duo lenovo t60 laptop from 2006. Soon it will become almost uselss, since there is No 64-bit support.

Any suggestions? I'd be using this machine in college, in a single room environment, and hence am on a very very tight budget... :) 

All the best,
Tomi

Best solution

March 3, 2010 12:38:40 PM

LGA775 is dead. You cannot get an i5 on your budget. I highly recommend getting an AMD build...

Here's a full build:

CPU: X4 955 $160
Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H $85
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws 2x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $115
HDD: Seagate 7200.12 500 GB $55
Case/PSU: Antec 300 Illusion and Neo Eco 520W $120
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $24

Total: $559. This will not allow for any gaming. If you need a GPU (wasn't listed), grab an HD 4650 for $40 after rebate. Or if you're into overclocking, grab a Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus for $35.
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March 3, 2010 1:01:06 PM

You probably don't think a Home Theater PC is what you were looking for ... but I do. Combined with a modest HDTV, I think it would rock the dorm. The video card is just to help with "virtual worlds" (with modest frame-rates and detail).

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?I...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You can prolly get along fine without the video card, but there are provisions, on this mobo, to add a gamers graphics card, if you should decide that you need more speed.

The HDTV (which would put you over, a bit, might be able to come out of your "entertainment" or "household budget" ... You can run your VGA
*AND* an HDTV, from this computer, if you get a 512MB radeon in the 5000 series.

Just some thots.

= Al =
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March 3, 2010 1:03:20 PM



Looks like the cat might have scratched my eyes out, on this one ....

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March 3, 2010 1:27:57 PM

Problem with that build is that it's not as good for the stated task of virtualization. The CPU is very low for it. If the OP wanted an HTPC, they would've asked for it.

And it's still not a very good HTPC at that. It's a DDR2 machine, which means it was obsolete a year ago. It sticks you with a slow, older HDD. It doesn't include an HSF. It also sticks you with a case that won't allow you to get a different PSU, so you can't really upgrade the GPU very easily (if needed).
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March 3, 2010 1:49:42 PM

hence the "deal" moniker!

I'm definately gonna ask you guys when my build becomes possible. It would be my first AMD ever.
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March 3, 2010 1:56:09 PM

hmm.
how good are AMD systems? From other sources, I haven't heard good things about AMD but I might be wrong...

The problem with a media center PC is thatI'm visually impaired, so for me graphics are "useless", since I can only see light in my right eye. Which is ok. If you're wondering, I have lots of friends who will help me compile all this together, in fact my computer class really wants to help with putting it all together :)  Because I'm new at all this and since I'm blind I don't think me doing the building from scratch would turn out great haha!


I would be using this system more for virtualizing, yes... I'm not sure how well AMD systems virtualize with their technology, either.
All the best,
-Tomi
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March 3, 2010 2:00:06 PM

Very good. They offer the best performance for the buck. Intel is a high end dealer right now. AMD has focused on providing great value for very little.

There is literally no difference between an AMD build and Intel build, assuming the performance is about the same. Or I should say, no difference other than the price. No matter what type of software you use, the manufacturer of the CPU will not affect performance.
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March 3, 2010 2:32:26 PM

True. Intel is pretty high-end, as far as pricing goes :) 
I'm hoping I'll also be able to run Snow Leopard on Amd processors, from what I see it's possible though.

So graphics cards aren't that a big deal for me. It's true that ddr2 is out of date, though ddr3 memory is again quite expensive, I've seen 4 GB going as low as $89 and high as $150. I'm not sure how AMD motherboards compare to Intel ones. That processor is actually really good, considering that it has 2 gb l2 and 6 gb l3. 3.2 GHZ is really good, too. Is there hyper-threading/virtualization technology in it? I can't find a datasheet...

All the best,
Tomi

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March 3, 2010 2:40:15 PM

AMD boards run about $50 cheaper for equivalent boards. A good comparision are any of the USB 3/SATA III boards. The single PICe 2.0 slot AM3 board is $85 (after rebate) while the equivalent LGA1156 board is $135. The dual PCIe 2.0 slot board (8x/8x) for AM3 is $140 vs. $190 for the LGA1156 board.

You really don't need to spend more than the $115 for DDR3 RAM. The ones I linked to are as high as you need to go. DDR2 ranges from $75 (DDR2 800) to $170 (DDR2 1066). So the prices are basicaly the same.

AMD doesn't have hyperthreading, but neither would any CPU in your budget. Another consideration is that the AM3 socket will see 6 core CPUs soon. The same can't be said for the LGA775 (obviously) or the LGA1156. And AMD's 6 core CPUs won't be $1,000...
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March 3, 2010 3:27:51 PM

This is really difficult...
I could get the core i-5-750 for $194 at Newegg, and this motherboard at Microcenter for $101 (
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...
), which would in deed put me up an extra $60 or so.
The core i5, as far as I see, does exceed the AMD 965 in some aspects of performance. Would my cost be that much higher though if I went with the build described above with the core i5? Socket 1156 is relatively new though, where as the am3 socket has been around for a while and although it's probable, yes, that AMD will not drop support for it for a while, the 1156 I think might also see a nice life expectancy.

All the best,
Tomi

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March 3, 2010 3:51:36 PM

The 1156 will have a nice life. However, Intel is making it the mainstream socket. Meaning that what's out there now is about as powerful as it will get. So if you don't think you'll ever want to replace the i5-750 or only want to go up to the i7-8xx, then it would be alright. Since you've stated that most of your uses are going to be CPU intensive, I would land on the side that will have bigger CPUs out later on.

Basically, there is a difference between not dropping the socket and having a premier socket. The AM3 is the premier (and only) socket for AMD CPUs. Intel has both the LGA1156 and 1366 right now, with the premier socket being the 1366. That means that all of the technological advances are going to be for the 1366 and AM3 sockets. The 1156 will just be bypassed and get the less power tech.
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March 3, 2010 4:08:14 PM

ah, I see your point. So the am3 is the latest AMD premeer socket?
1366 is for sure out of the question here, those motherboards cost more than almost two of those AMD processors!

-Tomi
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March 3, 2010 4:12:20 PM

Yes. AMD typically only has one socket at a time, which spans all budgets. Intel likes to introduce a new socket for every new technology they bring in.
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March 4, 2010 11:16:49 AM

thanks so much for that system build. I just ordered the gigabyte motherboard and the 955 CPU.
I ended up going to
www.avadirect.com
and build a custom system there to see how much I'd end up with. Actually, with a 250 Gig hdd and some other lower-priced hardware I was able to make the price difference between the AMD 955 and the q8400 to be only $10.0, which was surprising.
Anandtech also has a benchmarking tool which allows you to compare two CPUs. I did several with the q8400/8200 and of course AMD scored better I think in all of the results. With the 9450, the competition was quite tight.
Probably in college when I actually get a better-paying income I may be able update the CPU to the 965, as by then the price should also drop a bit on that.
Overall, I think it'll be a good system :)  It does have AMD virtualization which is great, should make running even Windows in a VMware environment fine. I'm not sure if this thing could be used as a hackintosh, but I'll have to fully investigate that when I end up building the PC in around April/May..

Thanks again for the config!

All the best,
Tomi
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March 4, 2010 12:25:28 PM

The 965 is an overclocked 955. Buy an aftermarket cooler and read up on overclocking and you'll have the same CPU.
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March 4, 2010 12:32:20 PM

Best answer selected by TheJournalist.
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March 19, 2010 3:48:47 AM

Well well. It turns out that I'm actually writing this from my new homebuilt system.
Thanks so much for everyone's contributions and posts :) 

I ended up getting my CPU/ MOBO (the one listed here) from Newegg.
That same night it arrived, I went out to My local Micro center store and picked up most of the components.
I got a Coolermaster case for $60 with a nice fan/side fans, a decent $50 power supply (not moduler), an hdd for $44 (500 GB Western Digital 7200 RPM), and 4 GB OCZ DDR3 ram which is clocked at 1066 MHz. The DDR3 ram cost $70 after a $30 mail in rebate (about $105 originally) and I'm also getting back $15 from the case.

Overall, with this config, I spent about $500, actually $480 but we have to count tax in there too. Lol my mom also ended up buying me a 19 Inch LCD which is nice :)  Otherwise I would of had to resort to using an old CRT monitor!

In addition, I inserted my old Creative PCI128 soundcard (like, super old) so I have two soundcards. The alc889 HD audio in here has some background static noise which especially noticable when listening through headphones and the headphone jack.
Oh, and I also put in my floppy drive from that same old win98 machine. I suppose in escense I have a nice hybrid cross- between a circa2010 and circa2000 machine.

The AMD Cpu is quiet, though when encoding audio or-- god forbid-- running distributed projects like Seti at Home, it does spin up a lot, to the point where I can quite audibly hear the fans spinning. No big deal though, overall it's a really good CPU and I'm for sure recomminding it to anyone looking to build a decent (but not high-end) machine.

All the best,
Tomi
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