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Inexpensive ($400) Developer Machine needed

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April 29, 2010 2:00:58 AM

Thank you to anyone / everyone who can help me through this process. I have built a half dozen computers in my day; none in 3 years. My current budget is very tight, $400 is going to have to do it. I would rather have room to grow in the coming months, even if that means onboard graphics for now with the ability to upgrade later for an example.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the next two weeks

BUDGET RANGE: $400 Before Rebates

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Database searching / mining (SQL Server, MS-Access); Encoding/Compiling/Development (VB2010); Website development (Dreamweaver CS4); Graphics (Photoshop CS4); minimal gaming

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, dual monitors, speakers, OS

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com, tigerdirect.com COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: I am in USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: AMD Seems to really be the best for my price option; mid- or full-tower case

OVERCLOCKING: Yes ; SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Yes (may have to be a future upgrade path)

MONITOR RESOLUTION: I currently have dual monitors -- 1440 x 900 and 1280 x 1024

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I know $400 is tight when I need things like case, PSU, etc. -- like I said, if I had onboard graphics for now that would be something I can upgrade to later (like Crossfire). I have been very pleased with my AMD.

The ASRock 890GX looks great to me for future-proofing, but I don't know ASRock's reputation compared to ASUS or MSI for example.

If I add in an AMD Phenom II x4 955 I feel I'm off to a great start, but I'm over $300 and haven't hit RAM let alone case, fans, PSU, etc. So, I don't know which areas to step down in (if not both), or if there are anticipated price drops on these components pending in the near term. I plan on buying Win 7 64-bit using student discount, and that is not included in the $400.

Thanks very much for any help!
April 29, 2010 5:45:03 PM

Thanks, Mindless -- very quick turnaround!

A few questions --

1) I suppose this go 'round, I will have to put USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s on hold?

2) In the future, I can add a video card -- or, more likely, will I be evaluating what is available at the time and what my budget is and maybe finding a videocard / mobo / CPU upgrade? Or, perhaps given the limited gaming horsepower I need, the onboard graphics should hold me over?

3) 380 Watts on the power supply would have been lower than I thought necessary -- or again, is it plenty for my uses?

4) This case seems to have an abundance of fans -- I would not need any further fans? Any 3rd party heatsinks? Any other minor things before I build?

Again, thanks for your help!
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April 29, 2010 6:11:08 PM

1) do you really need the USB 3.0? i am pretty sure you won't need SATA 6Gb/s since only the top of the line SSD's will cap out a Sata 3Gb/s link, the only reason you would need USB 3.0 is if you move large amounts of files externally

2) yes you can add a video card, might have to get a new PSU though depending on how powerful of a card you want/need

3) that 380w is probably overkill, but much lower than that and you start to lose quality (ie the only brands are the ones not worth it)

4) i imagine for the basic build the fans should be plenty, and later if you need more airflow, you can buy 2x120mm fans for the front

also, i finally fixed that link after too many mess ups, and $400 is not a lot of money for a build btw
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April 29, 2010 6:38:03 PM

$400 is a very tight budget -- I am truly appreciative of the work you have done for me.

1) At this point I don't need USB 3.0; I suppose I was imagining that if buying a mobo and HD I ought to go with SATA 6 Gb/s -- it appears not possible given my tight budget.

For OC, 2x120mm fans may help if I run in to issues -- I wouldn't think water-cooled is feasible given the tight budget.

Thanks again!

Oh, and a final thought -- is this rig (given its very tight budget) upgradeable, or should I look more towards selling this and starting over whether 6 or 12 months down the road. I am not asking you to have a crystal ball, but I see things like DDR3 and AM3 as up-to-date, but SATA II and USB 2.0 not so much. Any thoughts off the top of your head?
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April 29, 2010 7:05:27 PM

If you are overclocking, you should look at going lower on somethings and getting an aftermarket CPU cooler.
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April 29, 2010 7:38:47 PM

NorCalJon said:
$400 is a very tight budget -- I am truly appreciative of the work you have done for me.

1) At this point I don't need USB 3.0; I suppose I was imagining that if buying a mobo and HD I ought to go with SATA 6 Gb/s -- it appears not possible given my tight budget.

For OC, 2x120mm fans may help if I run in to issues -- I wouldn't think water-cooled is feasible given the tight budget.

Thanks again!

Oh, and a final thought -- is this rig (given its very tight budget) upgradeable, or should I look more towards selling this and starting over whether 6 or 12 months down the road. I am not asking you to have a crystal ball, but I see things like DDR3 and AM3 as up-to-date, but SATA II and USB 2.0 not so much. Any thoughts off the top of your head?


the best cpu as of now this can handle is the Phenom II X4 965, if they make an update you may be able to get the Phenom II X6 1090T

for USB3.0 you can always install a pcie x1 card for it, and like i said, you probably will never need Sata 6Gb/s (as only SSD's barely break Sata 3Gb/s)
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April 29, 2010 8:43:40 PM

Thanks for the replies -- I imagine dealing with $400 is not as exciting as when there are real $'s to play with.

I see SATA 6 Gb/s such as: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive. Western Digital may not be the best brand, but that is a 1TB for $110. Maybe I'm missing something here? This is obviously above the budget I originally provided, but that is the kind of future-proofing I was hoping to accomplish.

JB- I've seen reviews of the CPU (Athlon II X4 620) have good results with OC -- what kind of aftermarket cooling am I looking at? I assume you mean a CPU cooler, as this case seems to rate highly for its cooling?
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April 29, 2010 9:32:10 PM

I'm in now way an expert, but every time someone says overclock amd on this forum, the next reply seems to always be:
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus for only $35
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April 29, 2010 10:44:29 PM

JB4times4 said:
I'm in now way an expert, but every time someone says overclock amd on this forum, the next reply seems to always be:
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus for only $35


but it will be hard to compromise on anything to get the $35 into budget for the cooler, what i would do is try a mild OC with the stock cooler, you should be able to get 3.GHz without a voltage bump
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April 29, 2010 11:22:35 PM

Mindless and JB -- I really appreciate your responses. I may be able squeeze out $50, I would like a larger HD and was counting on OC, even if a $35-type cooling solution is required. I don't want to compromise any lower than on what Mindless put together -- I think it is dynamite for $400.
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May 7, 2010 1:07:39 AM

Okay, getting ready to purchase here -- I appreciate all of the previous work. NewEgg has the following Combo Deal:


1. Antec Three Hundred + BP43: $99.95

2. AMD HDX925WFK4DGI: $139.00

3. Kingston Technology Corp. KVR1333D3K2/4GR: $104.99

4. MSI 890GXM-G65: $129.99

Combo Discount: -$68.93
Combo Price: $405.00

As for hard drive, I saw this Western Digital 640 GB SATA 6.0 Gb/s: for $70. If overclocking, I suppose I need the $30 Cooler Master Hyper 212 fan previously suggested and $10 thermal compound.

I realize this is a different question than I originally posted ($400 has now grown to $525). Am I missing anything? Anything wrong with MoBo or RAM that I should be aware of? My reading of reviews on the Athlon II X4 620 were raving about its ability to overclock and its multitasking and office use (I won't be using this for gaming much) -- any thoughts about this change to Phenom II X4 925 Deneb?

Thanks for any help!
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May 7, 2010 1:26:36 AM

well, the phenom II should be a bit faster, and possibly overclock better, but that's about it, i personally would stick to the athlon II x4 for $40 cheaper since there really wouldn't be that much of a difference performance wise
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May 7, 2010 1:49:57 AM

mindless728 said:
well, the phenom II should be a bit faster, and possibly overclock better, but that's about it, i personally would stick to the athlon II x4 for $40 cheaper since there really wouldn't be that much of a difference performance wise


Thanks, mindless -- I guess I keep coming back to the same sticking point. Your original suggestions were awesome, and $100 is $100 -- nothing to sneeze at, and > 25% of the cost if you want to compare my original $400 request to the $525 I'm up to.

CPU to CPU, it's a no-brainer ... for what I need I would go with the athlon II x4 -- seems to be a perfect fit for what I need (ability to OC, multitasking, etc.). Where I get hung-up is the future-proofing and expectation of USB 3.0 and SATA III as becoming the standards. I don't need them today -- compared to what I am using either build is an upgrade. Maybe the ASUS board you suggested is better than the MSI in the combo deal, but I haven't searched for head-to-head comparisons. In my brief reading about SATA III, maybe the CPUs and/or MoBo's aren't really ready to take advantage of the doubling of speed I see between SATA II and SATA III.

If I am to add in $100 to your build, can you suggest a better upgrade than this combo deal from NewEgg? Is it really not going to knock my socks off compared to what you had suggested and I can save the $100 for a future build?
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