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Advice for building computer for engineering student, $500 budget

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July 11, 2010 7:53:21 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Anytime between now and the beginning of september BUDGET RANGE: I was thinking around $500

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: internet, MATLAB/autoCAD, gaming limited to emulation
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Monitor, I have this one available to use: Hanns·G HW-191APB 1440:900 resolution
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: doesn't matter as long as it's good, I usually go with newegg though COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: AMD CPU, was thinking of mATX case not sure though (read additional comments)

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not needed

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1440:900

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: My brother will be entering college as an engineering undergrad and needs a computer. From what I understand MATLAB,autoCAD, whatever else they use in their major can be somewhat demanding. I realize my choices are probably overkill but I figure I should spend the extra money to have something that will be good enough to use for a while and be able to upgrade if needed (gaming was big for me in college :)  )

Here's what I was thinking:
AMD Athlon II X3 440 Rana 3.0GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB 32MB Cache SATA
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS SATA DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Windows Home 7 OEM 64-bit
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The subtotal from newegg so far is $379 (I subtracted the $15 rebate from the harddrive, and have discounted the cpu/mobo combo; just didn't link it as that since combos change and link can be outdated)

Now, this is where I need some advice (although advice/suggestions for everything else is also welcome!). Dorms are small and smaller cases would be easier for transporting, moving in/out, etc. I have no experience with anything other than full towers. Would an mATX case be ideal?

Something like this would be cool, again, repeat cooling concern, and should I upgrade the power supply? It seems weak. This is another problem for me....if a new one is needed, what quality power supply would fit it?:
Rosewill R379-M Steel Slim MicroATX Computer Case with ATX12V Flex 300W Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Alternatives I looked into if the previous case doesn't work out:
Rosewill R512 BK Black Ultra High Gloss Finished Steel MicroATX Mid Tower Computer Case with 400W Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HEC 6K28BBX585 micro ATX w 585W PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(haven't heard of this company but this case seems to have good reviews from newegg users)

Thanks in advance for any advice
July 11, 2010 8:07:11 PM

Ya looks fine. You can probably get away with the 300watt power suppply as you're not doing any kind of gaming. I would caution and maybe get the 400w depending on your budget. You might change your mind and buy a video card. onboard video might not be enough for autocad. You don't need anything crazy for autocad though.

My only advise is maybe add in a static wrist guard so you don't zap your components.

Also look at the HP dvd-burners I got an HP burner retail for 25 bucks and it came with nero 8 essentials, cables, and screws.
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July 11, 2010 8:11:44 PM

hmmm the processor uses 95W alone so go with the 400. Scratch the 300 completely. You might want to get the 500+ watt one if you think you might need a video card for autocad. I would read the recommended specs on autocad.
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July 11, 2010 8:24:33 PM

Definately go with a MicroATX case... cooling will be fine with no video card and no overclocking. I'd reccomend to spend the extra 30bucks and get the Phenom ii X4 925... in addition to another core, also has L3 Cache which will help in his applications.
It's well worth the price...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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July 11, 2010 9:06:57 PM

Lowrider: I can't really justify the purchase of a phenom ii x4 925. It's $130 compared to the X3 440 ($75). That's a 73% increase in cost. Tom's had an interesting article to read here (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/athlon-ii-x3-440-ga...).The article is written in terms of gaming, but I think the general idea still applies.
Haha, to be honest, I'm still contemplating getting an AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor instead to cut costs.

xxsk8er101xx: that's what I thought as well. So then, what power supply would fit the slim mATX case?
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Best solution

July 11, 2010 9:14:14 PM

AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor would be fine to. I understand autocad isn't cheap even for the student edition for the student.

my only concern is autocad might need a video card but I don't know what their recommended system is. I highly suggest you find out and then build around that.

i'm going by what you picked out above they include power supplies. ALL Standard ATX cases can take a standard ATX power supply. Not to be confused with ITX - that's ITX not ATX. ATX includes micro, mini, minor, super awesome atx - they all take standard atx power supplies.


Bruit said:
Lowrider: I can't really justify the purchase of a phenom ii x4 925. It's $130 compared to the X3 440 ($75). That's a 73% increase in cost. Tom's had an interesting article to read here (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/athlon-ii-x3-440-ga...).The article is written in terms of gaming, but I think the general idea still applies.
Haha, to be honest, I'm still contemplating getting an AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor instead to cut costs.

xxsk8er101xx: that's what I thought as well. So then, what power supply would fit the slim mATX case?

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July 11, 2010 9:35:50 PM

Oh, whoops. The radeon 4200 that's integrated in the motherboard should be able to handle autocad, movie watching, etc which is why I didn't include a graphics card. I should have mentioned that. Everything I picked out should handle his computing needs just fine.
Well then, I'll just have to buy a 400w PSU.

Thanks for your help.
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July 11, 2010 9:40:36 PM

Well the case you picked out includes the 400w power supply.

Bruit said:
Oh, whoops. The radeon 4200 that's integrated in the motherboard should be able to handle autocad, movie watching, etc which is why I didn't include a graphics card. I should have mentioned that. Everything I picked out should handle his computing needs just fine.
Well then, I'll just have to buy a 400w PSU.

Thanks for your help.

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July 11, 2010 9:41:22 PM

Rosewill R512 BK Black Ultra High Gloss Finished Steel MicroATX Mid Tower Computer Case with 400W Power Supply - although it has really bad reviews might wanna look somewhere else.
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July 11, 2010 10:00:20 PM

True... I'm think I'm going to go with the HEC one to be safe
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July 12, 2010 3:54:03 AM

A scientist friend of mine needed to upgrade his PC. He uses MATLAB extensively. We built a PC based on a micro-ATX motherboard and a i5-660. He was amazed at how fast it was, and now quiet it was. I think the higher clock rate with turbo boost made all the difference. I don't think MATLAB is multi core enabled, so a quad or triple is somewhat useless. For scientific computation, I think the Intel clarkdale 32nm cpu's are faster than the corresponding AMD chips.

I just completed for myself a micro-ATX build using the lian li PC-Q07 case and a G6950
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...
It is tiny, about 8" x 8" x11" tall. It takes a standard ATX psu. With no graphic card, the PSU requirements are minimal. 300w should be plenty. Initially, I used a 150gb raptor I had laying around, but it seemed to get hot. I replaced it with a 2.5" laptop drive which is much cooler. If capacity is not an issue, then a small SSD would be ideal. How much do you like your brother??

As a student, he will be entitled to academic pricing for windows-7. Check that out.



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July 12, 2010 4:20:40 AM

Best answer selected by Bruit.
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July 15, 2010 9:20:09 PM

good to know about the power supply. The Lian Li boxes look pretty cool. Will definitely have to check out the student pricing on windows, I totally forgot about that. Thanks for reminding me.

Not entirely sure on the clarksdales being better for scientific computation. Can anyone else vouch for that?
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July 16, 2010 1:43:04 AM

If you're a college student, you should see if your school is signed up for the msdnaa program, which offers you a lot of great software for free, such as windows 7 professional in both 64 bit and 32 bit flavors.

Also, it is possible to get a full version of autocad or solidworks if you join a well connected club, which shouldn't be too hard.

Also microatx is definitely the way to go, something with a handle is even better. I'm currently an engineering student and being able to just move your computer whenever you want is a lifesaver.

Not sure how well threaded autocad and matlab are, but if they are well implemented, more physical cores is still the way to go.
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