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Budget Office PC: Build or buy?

Last response: in Systems
March 29, 2010 7:30:45 PM

Hi guys. After building my first i5 gaming PC with the help of this community, I'm wondering if I'm best served in buying an on sale puter from the local Big Box store, for my office, or building my own. All we do in the office here, is use Quickbooks, the internet, and run apps like Lotus, Word, Excell, etc. Basically we don't do anything all that demanding. We do run multiple apps at the same time. Most of the comps in the office are simple units, whose lives last an easy 6-8 years (like mine). Some have recommended buying PC's like this, cuz of the warranty, and the basic usage. Since I already have the OS, I figure one might be worth buying. If I did decide to build one, how much do you think it would cost? I ask because in building my gaming PC, I only researched higher end components and processors, so I'm clueless when it comes to the components I'd use here.

Budget: $400 or less

Usage: Office work, apps like Excell, Word, Lotus, Quickbooks, and internet use. NO GAMING.

Components not needed: OS (I have Win-7 64), DVD drive, keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

Components needed: Motherboard, CPU, GPU, PSU, case, RAM, and optional card reader.

Style isn't important, since this thing is going to be buried under my desk. Thanks in advance!
March 29, 2010 7:48:30 PM

This is a "homebuilt systems" forum. You're not going to find many people telling you to buy an OEM build around here. :)  You always get much higher quality components when you build your own. OEM's cut corners anywhere they can, especially on RAM and PSU's. Here's a build that comes in under $400.

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail $64.99

GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail $89.99

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $54.99

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT - Retail $99.99

Rosewill R223-P-BK 120mm Fan ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail $29.99

Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail $39.99

Total - $379.94
March 29, 2010 8:16:24 PM

I'm actually going to be the dissenting opinion here. Usually, I'm all for building it yourself. However, you can find some good deals with a prebuilt when you're on a very low budget. Also, the fact that it's for work should weigh in heavily. Do you really want to have to be trying to fix a problem when you have work to do? It would be easier and safer to have some kind of tech support to handle that.

That said, shortstuff's build is good. I would change the CPU to a triple core though (like this X3 440). It's barely in the budget...
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March 29, 2010 8:21:19 PM

MadAdmiral, you must not have used OEM "tech support" lately. I had to help a neighbor with his OEM system and their "tech support" was a joke. Just trying to understand the foreigner on the other end of the phone was the easy part. If you build a quality system like the one above the chances of needing any type of support is pretty low. You sometimes actually have to use the support on OEM builds because of the shoddy hardware and all the bloatware the systems come with.
March 29, 2010 8:22:23 PM

I agree that most tech support is a waste of time, but having the warranty and the excuse is always nice.

I'm also not saying definitely buy an OEM computer. I'm saying that the OP should at least look into the option.

And no, I haven't had to call tech support lately...
March 29, 2010 8:31:23 PM

I'm with MadAdmiral on this one, if it's for a work computer.

Yes, OEM support is terrible. Yes, the components are probably going to be awful.

On the other hand, at work, I don't want to be the guy who is having problems because "he built a crappy computer". If you have a hardware malfunction or an OS issue or whatever, it's always nice to have someone else to lean on in order to get it fixed quickly (at work).

If you're running a small business and you want to pay $400-800 per computer and build them yourself, awesome, but I'd only go that route if it were some sort of tech company. That being said, shortstuff's build looks good, though obviously you could step up the processor a little if you want more horsepower.
March 29, 2010 8:33:32 PM

I don't know why you'd need to step up the processor for the stated office work. A 3GHz dual core is plenty for that type of work.
March 29, 2010 8:35:56 PM

OP said multi-tasking. The multiple cores will help with that. I know that when I'm at work (with a dual core) all I use is the standard office stuff, and I have noticed considerable slow downs when trying to use a number of apps at the same time.
March 29, 2010 8:37:51 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
I don't know why you'd need to step up the processor for the stated office work. A 3GHz dual core is plenty for that type of work.

Mostly just looking for ways to spend more money if his employer is giving him $400 to spend one way or another. ;) 

Depending on how heavy the Excel usage is though, additional cores wouldn't hurt. You're right though, it's probably unnecessary, most people don't use Excel at processor-crippling levels.
March 29, 2010 8:40:40 PM

Most of the slowdowns in low-end systems is caused by a lack of RAM. I use a laptop with 4GB of RAM and a 2.66GHz Core2Duo at work and never get any slowdowns related to lack of CPU power or cores. I always have a ton of apps open and am doing processing in the background while performing other tasks.
March 30, 2010 3:54:11 PM

Thank you for all the responses. I do appreciate all the input. I should add that the business is my families, so the budget is basically my own. The budget stems from the prices I've paid for some of the computers I've recently purchased as replacements. For example, 2 months ago I replaced one unit with a Compaq Presario CQ5320F I saw on sale at Staples for $298 (it was $100 off).

Compaq Presario CQ5320F

•AMD Athlon™ II X2 240 Dual-Core Processor
•3GB installed memory
•500GB hard drive
•SuperMulti DVD Burner with LightScribe Technology
•Monitor sold separately
•Integrated audio, 6 speaker configurable
•Includes Compaq USB keyboard and optical mouse
•Dimensions 6.54" (W) x 16.87" (L/D) x 15.11" (H)
•Microsoft Windows® 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Deals like this one are hard to pass up, but since I purchased this a couple of months ago, I've built my own, and the experience went so well, I want to weight it as an option here.

I notice a lot of people recommend AMD CPU's when discussing lower priced puters. Are they simply better bang for the buck at this level? What is the real difference from an Athlon to Phenom, to a Celeron to a Pentium? I ask because Quickbooks is a bit of a pig of an app, and I'd prefer to have a CPU, or system, that won't have trouble running it, while running other programs.
March 30, 2010 4:17:09 PM

real world said:
I notice a lot of people recommend AMD CPU's when discussing lower priced puters. Are they simply better bang for the buck at this level?

That's basically it. AMD offers quad core processors at prices where Intel is offering dual-cores (with hyperthreading).

The other reason to go with a pre-built for an office computer, at least in my opinion, is that the cost of the OS is essentially subsidized by the vendor. This THG CPU article focuses on gaming CPUs, but as you can see, AMD owns the low end. For an HTPC, I'd consider going i3 with an H55 motherboard, but for most other low-end computing, AMD has the best value.

(Perhaps someone else can talk about the exact differences between Athlon & Phenom, etc. as I'm not an expert.)
March 31, 2010 5:43:04 PM

Alright fellas, can someone tell me if these components are compatible, and if so, if this is a good build. Thanks.

Shell shocker combo special at Newegg - $63.98

ECS A780GM-M3 AM2+/AM3 AMD 780G Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
Win7 Certified, ATI Hybrid Graphics, AMD Overdrive


Rosewill RS-M136-BK Black SECC Steel MicroATX Tower Computer Case 350W Power Supply

Combo link:

CPU - AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor - $64.99

RAM - A-DATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit - $93.99

GPU - MSI R4550-MD1GH Radeon HD 4550 1GB 64-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready - $29.99 AR

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM - $55

Total after 2 rebates = $309
March 31, 2010 5:43:50 PM

I've already got the Win 7-64 OS at home.
March 31, 2010 5:58:44 PM

They're not compatible. And it's not very good anyway. You've got a DDR2 board with DDR3 RAM. You've also got a really low quality PSU, which is very bad idea.

If you were to build it yourself, I'd definitely go with shortstuff's build.
March 31, 2010 6:37:25 PM

Doh! Thanks for pointing that out. How about that vid card, the 4550, is it worth investing in over the onboard graphics on the mobo? I would like to run two monitors, and I have a puter with the 6150 integrated crap, and I think the quality sucks. So I'm a little meh on integrated graphics.
March 31, 2010 6:42:49 PM

The ATI Radeon HD 4200 integrated GPU on the 785G is actually pretty good. There's absolutely no reason to use anything else for an office PC. You can run two monitors off of it, but I think one has to analog (VGA) and the other digital (DVI or HDMI).