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A complete noob considering non-gaming desktop

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August 26, 2011 5:58:21 AM

Hello, I'm thinking about getting a new desktop for coming school year.
After some forum browsing I noticed that answers for most computer purchase questions are "build your own", so I've read some first-time guides for computer building.
But it's still confusing what kind of parts I should get for what I'm going to do. Can you help me out?

Here are some things I'm going to do with my computer:
-The usual stuff: office work, web surfing, listening to music, etc. I tend to multitask a lot.
-Basic image editing with photoshop
-Watch movies. A BD drive would be nice
-Work involves programming and MATLAB. My old laptop often crashed on these....
-Transfer files via USB flash drives and external hard disks frequently
-No serious gaming.

Given budget of $700~800(going slightly over is fine), what build would you recommend?
August 26, 2011 6:54:45 AM

I would say that you should go here: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/forum-13-322.html You will find a list of 'best configs' that may suit you -

Or you could go here in the buyers guide section : http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/review/Special,6/Buyers-G...

I would say that your budget is a little high for what you want to do - I'd pick and choose from the following buyer's guide and perhaps choose a BD seperately. It's a $500 gaming pc (you will find that generally gaming/photo editing capabilities go hand in hand: ) http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/diy-gaming-pc,review-3221...

The only thing I'd really change is the HDD to something more spacious, like 1TB, also I'd upgrade the RAM - makes for quicker image compiling. Add a Blu-Ray drive - and you will have a very capable system (that has been tested) for about $600.
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 9:16:30 AM

My $.02, more cores, and more RAM are what you want to look for. You can swap the MB, and CPU for Intel options if you prefer. Grab a PCI sound card later, if you don't like the onboard.

Case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$50 NZXT Source 210 Elite Black Steel with painted interior ATX Mid Tower Computer Case (has USB 3.0 on front)
PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$45 CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS (10% off with promo code CORSAIR10AUG, $10 MIR)
MB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$100 ASUS M5A97 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX (has USB 3.0)
CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$150 AMD Phenom II X6 1055T Thuban 2.8GHz 6 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 ($10 off with promo code HARDOCPX824B)
RAM: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$54 G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
HDD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$63 Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALX 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s
BDR: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$65 LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM 8X DVD-ROM 32X CD-ROM SATA Internal 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader (retail)
GFX: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$80 SAPPHIRE 100326DDR3L Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 ($15 MIR)
OS: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$92 Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit

Total: $699 + S&H (not counting MIR, specials, combo, or codes
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August 26, 2011 11:43:04 AM

IH8U said:
My $.02, more cores, and more RAM are what you want to look for. You can swap the MB, and CPU for Intel options if you prefer. Grab a PCI sound card later, if you don't like the onboard.

Case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$50 NZXT Source 210 Elite Black Steel with painted interior ATX Mid Tower Computer Case (has USB 3.0 on front)
PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$45 CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS (10% off with promo code CORSAIR10AUG, $10 MIR)
MB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$100 ASUS M5A97 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX (has USB 3.0)
CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$150 AMD Phenom II X6 1055T Thuban 2.8GHz 6 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 ($10 off with promo code HARDOCPX824B)
RAM: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$54 G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
HDD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$63 Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALX 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s
BDR: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$65 LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM 8X DVD-ROM 32X CD-ROM SATA Internal 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader (retail)
GFX: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$80 SAPPHIRE 100326DDR3L Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 ($15 MIR)
OS: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$92 Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit

Total: $699 + S&H (not counting MIR, specials, combo, or codes


BAM! Right on the money! Although i know he can get a window 7 for 30$ since he is a student
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August 26, 2011 12:36:41 PM

Thanks for all the replies! I'm reading over both Gumption's and IH8U's suggestions.

By the way, a question for ervinelim:
I found out that as a student I can get windows 7 professional upgrade from microsoft store at 30$, but since I'm building a new system I thought I wouldn't be able to use that. Is there a way around it?
It's my first time installing windows myself, so I don't have any XP or Vista installation disks...
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 12:57:52 PM

I recommend you a Hex-Core AMD Build in this case. :)  The processor is a real beast for heavy multitasking, HD Video Transcoding and even gaming.

Processor : AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz - $169.99
Motherboard : ASUS M5A97 AM3+ AMD 970 - $99.99

RAM : G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 - $49.99
http://newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682023...

Graphics Card : XFX HD-685X-ZNFC Radeon HD 6850 - $159.99
Power Supply : Corsair CX500 - $50
Case : Your Choice - $50
Hard Disk : Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB - $60
Optical Drive : LG DVD R/W - $20

Total : $660 after rebates
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 12:57:56 PM

No prob, try throwing Linux on it, then install 7 or see if anyone has a copy of XP/Vista/2000 laying around (not registering till after you install 7). Later throw in another set of RAM, for 16GB. The upside of ATI cards is if you want to hook it up to your TV via HDMI, it'll pass sound without needing another cable. If you want to do a bit more gaming, grab either a 6770 or 6850 instead.
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August 26, 2011 1:25:05 PM

Just confirmed that my school gives out free windows XP, so that's settled :) 

Meanwhile, I still have some additional questions.

1. So Intel i3 or i5 has integrated HD graphics, which means I won't have to buy a GPU. Is it really that bad compared to having standalone graphic cards?
I'm asking this since there's a microcenter near campus and they sell i3-2100 at $100 and i5-2500k at $180. If their graphics are okay for general use, I could skip graphic cards altogether. Do you think that's a good idea?

2. I've been hearing some comments about how SSD can make your computer run fast. If I add a 80~120 gb SSD for system drive on top of a regular HDD as a data storage, will it be worth the money?
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 1:42:39 PM

1. Yah, they are enough even for light gaming. I run Virtua Tennis 4 at highest details without a discrete GPU.
2. Nope!
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a c 122 B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 1:50:44 PM

I agree with 008, especially on #2. I do not have a tight build budget, but SSD's are still too expensive. I would rather have an extra couple of TB's of regular storage space instead.
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August 26, 2011 2:18:35 PM

The integrated graphics is not so good for anithing except playing video /where it's excellent, but sadly only in this and you completely lose this feature when adding a discrete GPU/. So you'll probably need a graphics card...
For some people an SSD worth the money, for others it doesn't, it depends.
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 2:37:51 PM

IH8U has a nice build, if you go AMD. Check benchmarks on your programs, if available, to confirm that the additional cores on the AMD CPU make enough difference. For the money though, they're still hard to beat.
I agree that you should get a discrete GPU. Even if your intention is not to play games, with a relatively inexpensive HD6670 you will at least have the option to do so, and in the meantime you'll get BluRay decoding. See if your programs benefit from GPGPU processing (Stream, OpenCL, or CUDA) before making your choice; a nVidia GT440 or GTX550Ti might make more sense if they use CUDA.
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 2:39:08 PM

For doing video editing, and programming you want more cores and RAM. You can wait to see how BD does in September, but I can say there will be a fire sale on AM3 procs (the X3, X4, and X6). This is the reason I suggested the AM3+ board. You can also get an AMD board with onboard GFX, such as this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$100 ASRock 880G PRO3 AM3+ AMD 880G HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 (has onboard ATI 4250, much better than Intel GFX)

Since you mentioned a lot of file transfers, USB 3.0 is great. A 6 core CPU is better at multitasking than a dual core (i3), and still better than the quad that costs more (i5). Or you can get a tri-core AMD, and upgrade to BD after September 19th (supposed to be 8 cores).

So swap the ASUS board I had earlier with the ASRock, and you can wait a bit to get the GFX card, and it will hybrid X-Fire.
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 2:40:13 PM

^^

Are you talking about a 8yr old Pentium 4's integrated graphics?

Now a days, Integrated GPUs are powerful enough to run most mid-end games at low/mid settings.

My i3 2100 delivers 55-60 FPS constant @ 1024x768 in NFS Most Wanted in highest settings. I admit its a 2005 game, still!
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2011 2:46:58 PM

Any Intel integrated graphics card is useless for what he needs (serious issues with most BRD). For Image editing you need something better, although he didn't list the res he would be on. Either way the 4250 is far and away better than Intel GMA anything. (Considering the 880 chipset is a bit dated)
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August 26, 2011 5:15:02 PM

Okay, based on what I've seen here and on newegg pages I came up with this build. Let me hear what you think about it.

Motherboard
ASRock 880G PRO3 AM3+ AMD 880G HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard: 100 at newegg

CPU
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T Thuban 2.8GHz 6 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Six-Core Desktop Processor HDT55TFBGRBOX: 150 at newegg, 10$ off with promo code
(maybe an overkill? but phenom II X4 was not much cheaper anyway, and while phenom II X3 was indeed much cheaper it didn't come with the heatsink and fan, and this one's obviously got more cores, so I just picked this one.)

GPU
None for now, gonna live off ATI 4250 integrated on the mobo till I actually start wanting it.

Case
COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW Black Aluminum Bezel , SECC Chassis ATX Mid Tower Computer Case: 50 at newegg

Memory
Patriot Gamer 2 Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory: 55 at newegg

PSU
CORSAIR Builder Series CX500 V2 500W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply: 60 at newegg, 20$ MIR, 10% off with promo code

Hard Drive
Samsung 1 TB Spinpoint 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.5 inch Bulk/OEM Desktop Hard Drive HD103SJ: 60 at newegg

Optical Disk
SAMSUNG Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-ray Combo Model SH-B123L LightScribe Support - OEM: 60 at newegg

OS
Windows 7 professional upgrade: 30 at microsoft(student)

So without promos and MIRs it totals up to 565, before shipping and tax.
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August 26, 2011 6:10:47 PM

Adobe recommends RAID 0 for photoshop and you have SATA III ports. I would consider getting 2 SATA III drives instead of just 1 SATA II drive.

If you bought 2 Western Digital Caviar Blue WD7500AALX 750GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
You would get 1.5TB of storage space in RAID 0
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August 26, 2011 6:48:18 PM

goxo1989 said:
Thanks for all the replies! I'm reading over both Gumption's and IH8U's suggestions.

By the way, a question for ervinelim:
I found out that as a student I can get windows 7 professional upgrade from microsoft store at 30$, but since I'm building a new system I thought I wouldn't be able to use that. Is there a way around it?
It's my first time installing windows myself, so I don't have any XP or Vista installation disks...



You can do a clean install with a win 7 upgrade disk just follow this guide.

http://www.winsupersite.com/article/win7/clean-install-...
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August 27, 2011 1:12:14 AM

Oops, I didn't notice that Samsung spinpoint HDD is SATA II. Gotta go with WD.
By the way, I did a quick search on RAID0 and apparently it makes computer fast but a bit insecure. I do want as much stability as possible.... while I use photoshop I don't use it that often.

And I'm still torn between AMD phenomII x6(with ASRock 880G PRO3 as MB) and Intel i5-2500K(with some LGA1155 MB, don't know yet). I guess the comparison boils down to:
1. which one is going to have less graphics problem during ordinary use and BD watching
2. which one is going to run faster and smoother in general for programming and usual use
3. if I do get gpu later, which setup's going to have better options
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 27, 2011 1:19:23 AM

1. i5
2. i5
3. i5
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August 27, 2011 3:41:48 AM

Oh wait. I might actually need to get a GPU anyway.
Since I'm getting a new monitor and also have an old spare monitor, I want to try a dual display setup. It seems that I need to choose my hardware accordingly when I want to plug two monitors in.
Do you have recommendations on what mobo/CPU/GPU I should get?
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 27, 2011 3:56:55 AM

i5 2500K
ASRock Gen3 Z68
Dual GTX 560Ti or HD 6850 or GTS 450 for dual display setup.
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 27, 2011 4:00:12 AM

Speaking from experience, if you are going to be doing a lot of matlab go for one of the i5's over the 6 core AMDs. Most matlab scripts and other programs that you write yourself wont be multi threaded so having better single core performance is definitely more useful than more cores for programming work. Since there is a microcenter near school i would definitely go for the i5 2500K, it will beat down the 6 core AMDs for programming and matlab work, its IGP is also good enough for basic stuff and some light gaming.
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 27, 2011 4:08:37 AM

^^

Not only that, an i5 2500K at stock speeds will beat ANY AMD six core processors even in heavy multitasking or HD video transcoding. Check anandtech benchmarks.
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!