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El Cheapo: $300 budget system

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June 3, 2010 5:59:27 AM

Hi all,

This will be my first build. Nothing fancy at all. My current computer is a six-year old Dell laptop with 512mb of ram, so anything even remotely better will blow me out of the water with its newness. I want to run win 7 64-bit pro, which I get for free through my school, and Ubuntu.

Basically, I'm looking to maximize value. Cheap, but still with good name brands, good warranties, decent quality, etc.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: hopefully by June 11, 2010.

BUDGET RANGE: $300-$400 for the system after MAD rebates.
don't really have a budget for keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, etc, although I'll need those as well.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Internet, I take a lot of classes online, word processing and MS Visual Studio, maybe streaming movies (no blu-ray), light photo editing. The only gaming I might do is some old-school point-and-click adventure games. :D 

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: discrete graphics card, OS (Win 7 Pro 64-bit and Ubuntu)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: whatever's cheap and not a complete scam. newegg.com, frys (b&m or .com) zipzoomfly although I know they suck)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: US

PARTS PREFERENCES: quality brands, decent warranties, not COMPLETELY obsolete, small size case (I prefer desktop to tower)

OVERCLOCKING: Yes, for fun and education

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: LOL...No.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: eventually I'd like to get a 24" HD monitor, but I will probably go with a free craigslist CRT for now and wait till black friday to get a nice 24" LCD on the cheap.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I may want to use some of the parts from this build as an HTPC in the future, whenever my old TV dies and I break down and buy an HDTV. So I'd be willing to spend a bit more on parts that are good for an HTPC.

What I've purchased so far (but can still return if needed):

CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply ($29.09 A/R)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

LITE-ON 24X DVD Writer Black SATA Model iHAS-324-98 ($19.99 A/R)
http://www.frys.com/product/6050558?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN...

WESTERN DIGITAL Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB SATA 3.0Gb/s 7200 RPM 32MB Buffer Hard Drive Bulk ($48.79 A/R)
http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?Product...

4GB DDR2 (2X2GB) PC6400 DUAL / CORSAIR TWIN2X4096-6400C5DHX ($69.99 A/R)
http://www.frys.com/product/5269577?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN...

Total spent so far: $167.86

What I'm considering buying:

Bgears BG01176 b-Envi Aluminum/Plastic Mini Tower Case Black Retail ($38.99 A/R)
http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?Product...

Athlon II X3-440 and ???? motherboard
(fry's usually offers the Athlon X3 as one of their super-cheap cpu-mobo combos (the combo will probably be <$90), but I can't decide if I should go with that or if I should actually shell out cash for a better/more current/more feature-rich motherboard. The combo motherboards would probably have only 2 ram slots, an older chipset, and low-end onboard graphics.) This is the key decision that will make or break my ideal sub-$300 budget. If I have to actually pay for a motherboard, my budget will be in the $350 range. Also, I don't want a mobo that is too new, because the price of DDR3 will raise my costs way too high.

THANKS!!! :hello: 

Best solution

June 3, 2010 6:34:00 AM

Hmm ok since u are fine with rebates and looking at the $300-400 rane this would be my config for an AM3/DDR3 build @ $370AR Take it u prefer small footprint casings ^^


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June 3, 2010 6:38:45 AM

Yah, but that DDR3 doesn't have the greatest reviews. I think for my purposes, the performance differences between DDR2 and DDR3 are not enough to justify the $30-40 price increase, especially when you compare the latency. For that price I could get another pair of 1 gb sticks to add to my current setup, to go up to 6gb (assuming I get a compatible mobo).

I agree with your mobo choice...it's the one I have my eye on as an alternative to fry's combo deals. It's got 4 ram slots, and what I hope are a nice chipset and decent graphics. I just can't decide whether to spring for newegg's combo now, or wait another ad cycle or two at Frys to see what mobo they're offering. I guess I will wait a bit and see if anyone else has any input or alternatives.

Nice case at a nice price, but the case is the one thing where I'm going more for surface-level appeal than for quality or absolute lowest price. I just really like the look of small, cute desktop cases rather than a tower. Somehow I just don't want a tower in my office. I'm a bit worried about the b-gears case because I think it's probably pretty cheap quality, but it's so darned cute, and the next-closest options cost twice as much, shipped.
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June 3, 2010 6:44:23 AM

Hmmm...just saw your second post...very compelling. I will take a look at some of the combo deals you've got there. Will my 400W corsair CPU run all that?
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June 3, 2010 11:46:20 AM

Yep Corsair 400 would serve u well
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June 3, 2010 7:21:18 PM

Well, I think you've convinced me to at least move up to the X4. I think I'll still stick with DDR2 (and compatible mobo) to stay within budget. There's a computer recyclery very close to where I live, so even when DDR2 goes the way of the dodo, I'll still be able to find it for cheap. I just don't think the slight performance boost to DDR3 is worth it for me.
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June 7, 2010 6:01:23 AM

Best answer selected by uglymonkeybutt.
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