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A new build for simulation purposes (<$800)

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February 11, 2012 8:45:18 PM

Hello,

I'm trying to build a computer for my wife (this is my second build in my entire life. My first build was done last year). Her old machine (laptop) starts to fail pretty often and gets hot easily, but I couldn't figure out why. Since it's old anyways, I think it's time to get her a new one. And I don't think running computation-intensive simulations on a laptop is a good idea, so I'm building a custom desktop.

Usage:
1) Primarily uses tools like ESRI ArcGIS 10 and Bentley WaterGEMS v8i.
2) Also uses Visual Studio 2010 to write simple applications for the above-mentioned tools.
3) Does a lot of multi-tasking. In particular, she likes to watch streaming and/or hi-def videos while running a batch of simulations.
4) Other basic uses, such as web browsing and word processing.
5) No gaming.

I'm not familiar with the tools she is using, and my wife does not know in much details about software (she just started learning programming languages and .NET framework). I did a quick search. It seems the applications have a fair amount of computation, and it seems that none of her tools uses CUDA or any GPU acceleration. However, it seems possible that future versions may support GPU acceleration since I see in related forums that similar looking softwares claim to have such features.
If anyone knows about these tools, please let me know whether I am right or wrong. :) 

So anyways, I was thinking of using the integrated graphics processor in Intel's Sandy bridge (Core i5-2500k to be specific) for now, and maybe later install a CUDA GPU when needed. I don't think she'll need the really high-end of CPU performance since each simulation seems to be relatively short (possibly minutes, but not hours).

She wants a very stable system with decent processing power. So (I think) I did a bit overkill on cooling and power, but I don't want to spend too much for something she won't need. Also, there are so many options for the mainboard, but I couldn't tell the difference(e.g. what is double copper layering??). I tried to choose one that didn't seem too bad nor too expensive, but I have no idea if that's the right choice.

Here is my current configuration I'm thinking of. Any thoughts or suggestions greatly appreciated.

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3 GHz
CPU cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus (w/o extra fan) OR ZALMAN CNPS9500 AT
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z68A-D3H-B3 ATX Intel Motherboard
Discrete GPU: None (for now)
DRAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-pin DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800)
Case: COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Power: OCZ ZS Series 550W (Later GPU upgrade in mind. But is this PSU reliable?)
Hard Drive (SSD): OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-120G 120G SATA III (I thought SSD is a good idea since my wife reads/writes a lot of data from hard drive now and then, but are SSD reliable on massive amounts of writes?)
Hard Drive (HDD): Western Digital Caviar Blue WD2500AAKX 250GB (Since 120GB would not be enought, but the hard drives these days are too expensive.)
DVD Writer, Card reader: Any cheap one

Approximate Purchase Date: Within 48 hours (Her computer is failing too often, so need one soon)
Budget Range: Less than $800 After Rebates (Lower cost is better if requirements are satisfied. Don't mind higher cost if necessary)
Country: US
Overclocking: No
Additional Comments: Need a quiet and reliable PC

Thank you!
February 11, 2012 9:07:50 PM

I just realized that the parts I listed sums up to be more than $800, it's more like $900 or $1000. It's okay that the amount is more than $800, but if anything I listed is really unnecessary, I'd appreciate some feedback on that. Thanks!
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February 11, 2012 9:12:00 PM

I think your plan is a good one.

To answer your questions:

My short list of quality psu's would include Seasonic, Antec, XFX, Corsair, and PC P&C.
550w is about right. You only need 200w for the build, but 550w is not much more, and will accomodate a good graphics card in the future if you should ever want one.

On the SSD, I would look to Intel or Samsung first for reliability. 120gb is probably a good size.
Intel has a 5 year warranty. A normal desktop user will not run out of writes for a long time. Think 10 years, or long after the drive is obsolete.

Hard drive prices are high. Perhaps you might defer until you need the space, or get a 160gb ssd in the first place.

For storage, caviar green is not a bad option.


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February 13, 2012 1:38:11 AM

Thank you geofelt for your answers. They were very helpful.

I just made my order.
I followed your suggestion on the SSD and changed it to a Samsung SSD. That increased the overall costs and it isn't the fastest out there, but it's less expensive than Intel and seems to have a good reputation for being reliable.
For the hard drive, I decided to take out one of my two HDDs from my own desktop for my wife to use.

Thanks for your help!
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February 13, 2012 1:38:39 AM

Best answer selected by skk0308.
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