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First Build - engineering student & personal uses - not gaming (yet)

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January 18, 2012 4:17:26 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: within 2 weeks

Budget Range: ideally under $600 after rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: AutoCAD/Workstation, Browsing Internet, Excel, Youtube, movies (upgrade to Blu-ray later?)

Parts Not Required: mouse, monitor

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: no preference, all from one site would be ideal

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: prefer reliable and upgradable

Overclocking: would like to learn about and utilize if it's recommended

SLI or Crossfire: unsure of meaning, no preference

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080 - unsure, will verify later

Additional Comments:

Got a build list from a Squidoo article - currently $642 - would like some help on selecting these parts. I'm more of an independent, not-afraid-to-screw-up type of person, so once I'm confident in my parts list I'd really like to get going. Like I said, I don't plan to do much gaming or watching movies in the near future, I would just like something that will flawlessly run AutoCad and similar programs, browse the internet, and possibly both at the same time via dual monitors. Is this realistic with this setup?

If I sound like I have no idea what I'm talking about... it's because I do.

Any help will be greatly appreciated, thank you

processor Intel Core i5-2400 3.1 GHz 6 MB Cache Socket LGA1155 $190
motherboard ASRock H61M/U3S3 Intel H61 Micro ATX DDR3 1333 $75
memory PNY Optima 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) PC3-10666 1333MHz DDR3 Desktop DIMMs Memory Kit MD8192KD3-1333 $32
graphics SAPPHIRE AMD Radeon HD 6870 1 GB GDDR5 PCIE $160
power supply Antec NEO ECO 520w 80+ Certified $60
hard drive Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB $65
case Antec 300 $60
January 18, 2012 4:42:14 PM

Here's what I use (a lot of recycled parts from various but I'll note the changes at the bottom). I realize this system may go way over budget but it should give you some idea:

Case: Cooler Master HAF 912 - $59.99
PSU: Corsair TX 750 V1 - recycled
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P - $179.99
CPU: Intel Core i3-2120 - $124.99
RAM: 16GB Corsair XMS3 RAM 1600MHz - $89.99
Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus - $29.99
SSD: 64GB Crucial M4 - $109.99
HD: Samsung Spinpoint 1TB - $159.99
Optical: LG OEM BD-R Burner - $59.99
Video Card: EVGA Geforce GTX 470 - recycled
OS: Windows 7 Pro - $139.99
Monitor: Acer H243H - recycled
Keyboard / Mouse: Logitech MK550 - recycled

The total I paid for this system was around $879.

I'd actually be more inclined though to recommend an AMD setup only because the H61 is not at all expandable and is very limited to what it can do as say a Z68 or P67 would be and those motherboards will run you quite a bit more. Try something like this:

Case: Cooler Master HAF 912 - $59.99
PSU: Corsair CX600 V2 - $69.99
Motherboard: Asrock 970 Extreme 3 - $89.99
CPU: 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X4 960T Zosma - $124.99
Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus - $29.99
RAM: PNY Optima 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 - $38.99
HD: Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 7200 RPM - $99.99
Optical: Lite On DVD Burner - $17.99
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 - $149.99

The difference is that the i5-2400 can't be overclocked where the AMD Phenom II X4 can be, and the 970 honestly is a far better chipset for a budget board than the H61 is. And this build includes a fan and a optical drive.
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January 19, 2012 12:48:39 AM

That's great. Thanks for the tips.

Let me rephrase my initial post - my top priority (since I can't afford the best of the best now) is the potential for future upgrades to a more powerful system. My main uses will still be Autocad, Excel, Internet browsing

I like what I've heard about the AMD Phenom products, although I still don't know much about... much.

My main goal is something that will simply allow me to multi-task with multiple programs and windows and tabs without worrying about crashing. I would also like to run Windows 7.

... energy efficient would be nice as well, I support sustainability and what not

A DVD burner is not necessary for my needs

Will the Cooler Master do a better job of cooling over the Antec 300? I'm somewhat attracted to the simpler, black appearance.

From your second list... I think the PSU, motherboard, CPU, RAM, and video card sound good.

Do I need the optical? Is there a "minimum" or cheaper option that will do, w/o the DVD capabilities?

If I choose a different case, what would it need to have to work with the other components you selected? Could I possible pick the wrong case?

What's the difference between 2.5" and 3.5" HD's?

Is an additional cooler necessary for my intended uses? How could I tell if I'll need it?


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I probably seem picky.. just trying to learn, ask questions, and make the right choice for myself. There seem to be so many "budget build" lists out there and I realized the only way to do it "right" is to learn this stuff fully, not just ask for a pre-made list.

Thanks so much for your time, I definitely appreciate it.
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January 19, 2012 2:26:18 AM

Quote:
Will the Cooler Master do a better job of cooling over the Antec 300? I'm somewhat attracted to the simpler, black appearance.


They're both excellent cases for the price but the Cooler Master has a few extra cable management features that the Antec doesn't. It also includes an adapter for 2.5" SSDs - which the Antec doesn't.

Quote:
From your second list... I think the PSU, motherboard, CPU, RAM, and video card sound good.


The motherboard is excellent. I've had it for almost 5 - 6 months now with no hiccups. The RAM is pretty decent I'd suggest checking out G.Skill and Crucial as well.

For the PSU if you do get the TX750 make sure you get the first version - I think they still sell it on Newegg. I've heard of a few problems with V2 but they're few and far between.

Quote:
Do I need the optical? Is there a "minimum" or cheaper option that will do, w/o the DVD capabilities?


DVD drives are like next to nothing anymore. You'll definitely need one for OS and program install.

Quote:
Is an additional cooler necessary for my intended uses? How could I tell if I'll need it?


I'll keep repeating it but I'm really in the minority when I say I prefer the aftermarket coolers over the stock coolers. And here's why - the aftermarket coolers keep the air circulating in your PC better, which will keep the hot air out for the most part and keep the cool air circulating through your machine, prolonging the life of your components.

Quote:
My main goal is something that will simply allow me to multi-task with multiple programs and windows and tabs without worrying about crashing. I would also like to run Windows 7.


That PC will run pretty much anything you can throw at it. Both the Intel and AMD models will.

Quote:
I probably seem picky.. just trying to learn, ask questions, and make the right choice for myself. There seem to be so many "budget build" lists out there and I realized the only way to do it "right" is to learn this stuff fully, not just ask for a pre-made list.


It's always better to build one yourself and really research what you're buying than it is to pick parts from a list. It has a more "personal" feel.

Quote:
What's the difference between 2.5" and 3.5" HD's?


Smaller form factor. The 2.5" mechanical drives are made for laptops, but both the mechanical and SSD drives can be used in desktops with adapters.

Quote:
... energy efficient would be nice as well, I support sustainability and what not


If you want energy efficient you should probably pick a silver or gold rated PSU - the one I listed is a bronze rated. Maybe try something like this:
- Silver: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Gold: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Quote:
Let me rephrase my initial post - my top priority (since I can't afford the best of the best now) is the potential for future upgrades to a more powerful system. My main uses will still be Autocad, Excel, Internet browsing


You could easily get by with an i3-2120. It's the same CPU I use and I use plenty of AutoCAD and Autodesk products and I never hit more than an 80% load even on full redraws. If you can't afford that one I'd go with the AMD setup as it's a lot less expensive and will allow for overclocking.
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January 19, 2012 3:49:14 AM

Best answer selected by esburmeister.
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January 19, 2012 4:15:36 AM

Considering everything you said.... I've changed my list quite a bit. Thanks for the additional pointers. The overclocking of the AMD Phenom X4, silver-rated PSU, and Cooler Master options all sounded good to me.

I am very open to suggestions, still. Thanks again g-unit.


Here's my new list... I'd like to think it's light, quick, and energy efficient, still capable of serious work..? If it all works out, I shall call it...


THE GREEN MACHINE


$125 CPU - AMD Phenom II X4 960T Zosma 3.0GHz
- selected due to massive amount of positive reviews on Newegg and future overclocking/upgrading

$90 - motherboard - ASRock 970 Extreme 3

$42 RAM G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333
- selected due to price and positive reviews on Newegg

$97 GPU SAPPHIRE 100326L Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready
- selected (downgrade from 6870) due to price and positive reviews
- for Autocad, will the 6870 offer a noticeable difference, worth the $100? is there a better option compatible with the rest of the list?

$120 PSU PC Power and Cooling Silencer 760W High Performance 80PLUS Silver SLI CrossFire ready Power Supply
- selected due to silver rating, high capacity, and "Anandtech Editor's Pick"

$105 HDD WD Caviar Green 1 TB
- selected due to "green" factor, positive reviews, 1 TB

$20 OPT ASUS 24X DVD Burner
- selected due to price and positive reviews

FREE OS - as a student.... I'm thinking I can get Windows 7 free or discounted

I didn't really care for that bulky black case - would any/all of these 3 work with this setup? Would any of these be the obvious choice to pick or avoid? They're all $55 and I would like to incorporate the green appearance if possible.
Black - Cooler Master Centurion
Green Cooler Master
Green APEVIA
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January 19, 2012 4:21:09 AM

After further study... the APEVIA seems like the obvious choice... it comes with front, rear, and side fans.... and an LCD display for temperature.

Is this the best, since they're all $55, or am I mistaken?
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January 19, 2012 4:32:40 AM

esburmeister said:
After further study... the APEVIA seems like the obvious choice... it comes with front, rear, and side fans.... and an LCD display for temperature.

Is this the best, since they're all $55, or am I mistaken?


No, Apevia is an awful, awful, awful brand - I had that case - the plastic LED light covers fell off, I shattered the front USB ports and the temperature gauge never gave any sort of correct readouts. Stick with the Cooler Master.

If you don't like the HAF maybe try the Elite 430 - I used it in a friend's build and it turned out really well - it's a different looking CM case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The Antec 300 is a good choice but it lacks a lot of features that the CM has. Alternately you could try the Rosewill Challenger - a lot of people here seem to like that case, I'm not the biggest fan of the brand but it works for a lot of people here.

Quote:
$97 GPU SAPPHIRE 100326L Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready
- selected (downgrade from 6870) due to price and positive reviews
- for Autocad, will the 6870 offer a noticeable difference, worth the $100? is there a better option compatible with the rest of the list?


Stick with the 6850 - for ACAD it's better, but honestly a Fire Pro would be the best but those will run you quite a bit more.

Quote:

$75 HDD WD Caviar Green 1 TB
- selected due to "green" factor, positive reviews, 1 TB


It may get good reviews but it's a 5400 RPM hard drive. That will be a huge bottleneck in your system. It will be better to get a faster 500GB 7200 RPM hard drive, it may hold less but you can always add more drives later on.

Quote:

$120 PSU PC Power and Cooling Silencer 760W High Performance 80PLUS Silver SLI CrossFire ready Power Supply
- selected due to silver rating, high capacity, and "Anandtech Editor's Pick"


That is an excellent choice for PSU.
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January 19, 2012 4:48:02 AM

Quote:
No, Apevia is an awful, awful, awful brand

- and this is why I'm glad I'm here, asking. thanks - what did you think of the green cooler master option?

Quote:
Stick with the 6850 - for ACAD it's better, but honestly a Fire Pro would be the best but those will run you quite a bit more.

- i figured a quality graphics card was pretty important - 6850 it is

Quote:
It may get good reviews but it's a 5400 RPM hard drive. That will be a huge bottleneck in your system. It will be better to get a faster 500GB 7200 RPM hard drive, it may hold less but you can always add more drives later on.

- OK, so there's nothing wrong with the WD Caviar Green 7200 RPM option? Would the 1 TB 7200 RPM operate as well as the 500 GB 7200 RPM?

Quote:
That is an excellent choice for PSU.

- ha, 1 out of 4 decisions isn't bad!




GREEN MACHINE, updated:

$125 CPU - AMD Phenom II X4 960T Zosma 3.0GHz
- selected due to massive amount of positive reviews on Newegg and future overclocking/upgrading

$90 - motherboard - ASRock 970 Extreme 3

$42 RAM G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333
- selected due to price and positive reviews on Newegg

$165 GPU SAPPHIRE 100314-3L Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support
- selected for performance and reputation

$120 PSU PC Power and Cooling Silencer 760W High Performance 80PLUS Silver SLI CrossFire ready Power Supply
- selected due to silver rating, high capacity, and "Anandtech Editor's Pick"

$100 HDD WD Caviar Green 1 TB 7200 RPM
- selected due to "green" factor, positive reviews, 1 TB, 7200 RPM recommendation

$20 OPT ASUS 24X DVD Burner
- selected due to price and positive reviews

$55 Green Cooler Master case?
- selected due to price, dual fans, appearance, "green theme"
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