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<$500 Budget Build w/Upgrade Path (AM3+?)

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March 2, 2012 6:08:07 PM

Hi,

I'm looking to build a system for under $500 that can be quite bare bones to begin with, but will have a long-range upgrade path. I was waiting for the AM3+ boards to shake out and now that they have I'm planning to use one of those mobo's (970? 990?). I am not a gamer, but I do enjoy certain exceptional titles, mostly strategy (Civ V, X3), but occasionally a FPS will come out that I really want (things like bioshock, fallout 3). I only care that these run smoothly, they need not have super-high settings, and often I will play games 2 or 3 years after they've come out, when the game and the hardware to run them has become more affordable.

>This price does not include an OS (I will use Linux until I can afford Win7 or 8)
>This price does not include any perhipherals, but I WOULD like advice on an inexpensive 22-23 in. monitor that is a good value, if you have any opinions.

Things I am willing to skimp on on the initial build:
>I don't need a large capacity hard drive to begin with, so I was thinking about getting a small SSD to load the OS on to improve performance. What, in your opinion is the smallest capacity SSD one would want to use as a dual boot drive (WIN/Linux) assuming you put only the OS's and a few essential applications on? (BTW, since NAND has a limited life, should one not use a swap file on them? If not, is the performance increase enough to offset lack of a swap file?)

>I would not spend more than $100 on a graphics card. What is best the best value (considering my needs)?

>I am ok with using an older/cheaper CPU to begin with assuming that it is worth cost savings.

Notes: I like some of the features on the Asus boards (like automated overclocking, voltage control, etc), but I don't need a million slots or SLI, etc. I would like a cheap, durable board. Also, BEFORE you suggest integrated graphics: The llano boards are a different socket, and I don't want an ageing architecture, my keywords are UPGRADEABLE and DURABLE. This is why I am thinking about AM3+, but I would be willing to consider intel, if there is an affordable option, although my impression is that AMD would be best for me. Also willing to consider a board with integrated graphics if it is AM3+ and significantly cheaper than a similar board+cheap graphics card, as long as I can pop in a graphics card later without detriment.

Thanks in advance for your help, and please drop ANY advice you might have. This will be my first build in 10+ years, so I have been a bit out of the loop.

Thanks!.



March 2, 2012 6:42:45 PM

Quote:
. Also, BEFORE you suggest integrated graphics: The llano boards are a different socket, and I don't want an ageing architecture, my keywords are UPGRADEABLE and DURABLE.


I'd go with Intel over a Llano build - if you're playing Civ V, the i3-2120 will breeze through it where the Llano will struggle to keep up. Trust me - I play Civ V *A LOT* and even my Phenom II X6 struggles to keep up on games that are over mid-size maps.

Aging architecture would be AM3 where the i3-2120 and FM1 are far more current, but I'd still recommend the i3-2120 over any of those.

Quote:

>I don't need a large capacity hard drive to begin with, so I was thinking about getting a small SSD to load the OS on to improve performance. What, in your opinion is the smallest capacity SSD one would want to use as a dual boot drive (WIN/Linux) assuming you put only the OS's and a few essential applications on? (BTW, since NAND has a limited life, should one not use a swap file on them? If not, is the performance increase enough to offset lack of a swap file?)


Certainly not on a build this inexpensive. I'd put that money into the GPU before suggesting an SSD - adding or removing drives is no big deal. You can always add an SSD later, the case I have picked out is one of the easiest ones to work with in it's price range when it comes to adding or removing drives. When you add a drive I highly suggest the Crucial M4 - I use the same drive and it's excellent. But I wouldn't recommend a 60GB storage solution without some form of secondary storage first.

Quote:
I like some of the features on the Asus boards (like automated overclocking, voltage control, etc), but I don't need a million slots or SLI, etc.


If you want durable and cheap - go with Intel. Asus boards are great but they can run quite a bit more. Asrock is good but I wouldn't recommend their lesser expensive boards - Intel boards may be bland on features, but they are well-built, and are rock solid and they really last forever. I still have a six-year old D975XBX that is still running strong.

Quote:
>This price does not include an OS (I will use Linux until I can afford Win7 or 8)


I'd suggest a Windows 7 Home Premium OEM license - you can get one for ~$100: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Quote:
>This price does not include any perhipherals, but I WOULD like advice on an inexpensive 22-23 in. monitor that is a good value, if you have any opinions.


Get a Logitech MK320 - great low cost keyboard / mouse ($30 total), and then get this for your monitor:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Try my low cost budget build that I suggested in another thread:


Case: Cooler Master Elite 430 - $49.99 ($10.00 MIR)
PSU: Corsair Builder Series CX500 - $59.99 ($10.00 MIR)
Motherboard: Intel BOXDH67DLCB3 - $89.99
CPU: 3.30Ghz Intel Core i3-2120 - $127.99
RAM: PNY Optima 4GB 1333MHz - $19.99
HD: Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB - $84.99
Optical: Sony 22X DVD Burner - $17.99
GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD 6770 - $109.99

Total: $550.93

If you want to pay a bit more for the motherboard I'd recommend this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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March 2, 2012 7:00:31 PM

Thanks for the advice and quick reply. You mentioned AM3 being an ageing architecture. However, I am talking about AM3+, just released, which is supposedly the new architecture for Bulldozer and upcoming AMD chips in the next couple of years. Am I totally missing something somehow here, or did you just misread my post?

As you mentioned, I do NOT want the llano, in case you misunderstood my post, so we are in agreement there:-)

For some context: I run Civ 5 on a laptop with integrated graphics, 4G RAM and a Core 2 Duo T6600. Its not exactly a pleasant experience, to say the least, but I can live with it more or less until near the end of a given game. If I saw a 50%-100% improvement in performance I would be elated. To put it another way: I have more time than money:-) I'd really like to stay under $500, and the lower the better.

I think you're probably right on the SSD, I can always just add it later, they are still too expensive.

Anyway thanks a lot, and I look forward to seeing a few other opinions here, or anything that might pop into your head later. I have some time before I can scrape together the money.

Thanks again!
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March 2, 2012 7:05:17 PM

P.S. - Also notices the board you recommended is a Z67. Would a Z68 be considerably more expensive, is it worth it to someone like me?

Thanks.
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March 2, 2012 7:53:38 PM

That intel board gunit suggested is one of the most stable budget boards I have ever seen. I have done 3 different builds for others with it and they went smoother than any other build I have done, including my own main rig.

Save a little money and swap the PSU to this:

CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 (CMPSU-430CXV2) 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - 44.99 ($8 off with promo code, and $20 mir)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

and buy your Windows 7 from here:

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - 68.99
http://www.softwaresupplygroup.com/microsoft-windows-7-...

This should get you under $500 or right at it after rebates and promo codes. Use the rest of the parts he suggested and youll have a good build for what you want.
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March 2, 2012 8:15:45 PM

Thanks. I guess the one main question I have (about switching to intel) is about the lifespan of this socket type and the compatibility of this chipset with future processors. Are there any plans to replace LGA 1155 in the future that anyone knows of? If so, what kind of time horizon? Also, with the H67 and/or Z68, does the former utilize all of the features of the newest (i5, i7) processors, presuming I wanted to swap one of these in once they become cheaper? And how big of an improvement would that be in a year or two? The long and short of this is, I don't mind buying a new processor in 3 years, but I don't want to have to buy a new motherboard AND a new processor to realize a significant improvement in performance. Just an overview of this issue would be helpful, as well as any links you might have to useful info. I don't mind reading! From what I understand these chipsets should be compatible with Ivy Bridge when it comes out this year, correct? And when it comes out, the price on i5/i7 should drop, making that a viable upgrade path in the near term?

P.S. It's also been a while since I did a build, so pardon my ignorance but: These boards/cpu's can all do basic GPU functions without a dedicated card, right? Meaning I could build without a GPU card and do some basic stuff while I save up for a dedicated GPU? That would make it much easier on my limited income. I guess I'm confused as to why a Mobo would have an HDMI out but not be listed as having "integrated graphics." Is that just code for the motherboard having a separate dedicated graphics acceleration chipset? Or does the lack of "integrated graphics" mean that the video outs on the motherboard are just pass-thru's for a video card one would install?
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March 2, 2012 9:35:46 PM

kraut2001 said:
Thanks for the advice and quick reply. You mentioned AM3 being an ageing architecture. However, I am talking about AM3+, just released, which is supposedly the new architecture for Bulldozer and upcoming AMD chips in the next couple of years. Am I totally missing something somehow here, or did you just misread my post?

As you mentioned, I do NOT want the llano, in case you misunderstood my post, so we are in agreement there:-)

For some context: I run Civ 5 on a laptop with integrated graphics, 4G RAM and a Core 2 Duo T6600. Its not exactly a pleasant experience, to say the least, but I can live with it more or less until near the end of a given game. If I saw a 50%-100% improvement in performance I would be elated. To put it another way: I have more time than money:-) I'd really like to stay under $500, and the lower the better.

I think you're probably right on the SSD, I can always just add it later, they are still too expensive.

Anyway thanks a lot, and I look forward to seeing a few other opinions here, or anything that might pop into your head later. I have some time before I can scrape together the money.

Thanks again!


Just check the info, but I think that Piledriver WON'T be using AM3+
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March 2, 2012 10:59:24 PM

From what I've seen AM3+ is good through 2013. I hadn't heard of "Piledriver" before, but it appears to be in the "Fusion" line, so it is an APU. It looks to me that AMD is more or less running these lines concurrently. So the next architecture will be FM2, but the FM line is for APU's right? Again, I'm not expert at all and much of this is confusing to me since I haven't researched this stuff in years. I'd still like to hear more about what people think of the longevity of any of these sockets/chipsets. If I you had to buy one motherboard (under $150) to last you the next 5 years, what would it be, and why?
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March 2, 2012 11:07:27 PM

Yes Ivy Bridge processors will use the 1155 socket. As far as buying a motherboard that will last for 5 years, it will last, but by then the newer processors will most likely be using a different Chipset. The same can be said for the AM3+ socket or the FM1. The sandy bridge/ivy bridge route offers you the most upgradable solution at the current moment.
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March 2, 2012 11:19:33 PM

Thanks.

And to recap:

Quote:
It's also been a while since I did a build, so pardon my ignorance but: These boards/cpu's can all do basic GPU functions without a dedicated card, right? Meaning I could build without a GPU card and do some basic stuff while I save up for a dedicated GPU? That would make it much easier on my limited income.


The i3 2120 is listed as having onboard graphics. I would like to clarify whether I have to have a special motherboard to use the onboard graphics (in the interim, until I save up for a GPU) to do basic tasks like configuration, installs, browsing, blah blah blah? I'm having trouble finding clarifying info on this. None of the boards mentioned have "integrated graphics", but the CPU itself does. Does that mean I can run my monitor/gui/apps (non-game) off the mobo without a GPU? Does the CPU itself support directx and things like that without an external chipset?

Thanks!
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March 2, 2012 11:54:19 PM

kraut2001 said:
Thanks for the advice and quick reply. You mentioned AM3 being an ageing architecture. However, I am talking about AM3+, just released, which is supposedly the new architecture for Bulldozer and upcoming AMD chips in the next couple of years. Am I totally missing something somehow here, or did you just misread my post?

As you mentioned, I do NOT want the llano, in case you misunderstood my post, so we are in agreement there:-)

For some context: I run Civ 5 on a laptop with integrated graphics, 4G RAM and a Core 2 Duo T6600. Its not exactly a pleasant experience, to say the least, but I can live with it more or less until near the end of a given game. If I saw a 50%-100% improvement in performance I would be elated. To put it another way: I have more time than money:-) I'd really like to stay under $500, and the lower the better.

I think you're probably right on the SSD, I can always just add it later, they are still too expensive.

Anyway thanks a lot, and I look forward to seeing a few other opinions here, or anything that might pop into your head later. I have some time before I can scrape together the money.

Thanks again!


AM3+ isn't really anything new - it's just a guideline for motherboard manufacturers to make their boards complaint with new AMD standards and CPUs. It's not a new socket by any means. The FM1 is a new socket and the next generation of AMD (I think it's called Pile Driver) will utilize a completely new socket interface.

I can barely get Civ 5 to run on my laptop which is a Core 2 Duo P8700, and my Phenom II system even struggles with it a lot.

Quote:
Just check the info, but I think that Piledriver WON'T be using AM3+


That is correct - it will be using a new socket.

Quote:

Save a little money and swap the PSU to this:

CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 (CMPSU-430CXV2) 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - 44.99 ($8 off with promo code, and $20 mir)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] &Tpk=cx430


Dropping to a lower PSU will not save money in the long run especially if the OP wants to run a dedicated GPU - and that seems to be the case. I always try to plan my builds for future expansion and a 400W PSU will not allow for that. A 500W or 600W will be the safest bets.

Quote:

The i3 2120 is listed as having onboard graphics. I would like to clarify whether I have to have a special motherboard to use the onboard graphics (in the interim, until I save up for a GPU) to do basic tasks like configuration, installs, browsing, blah blah blah?


Yeah for the most part. If you get the GPU I listed you can disable the onboard graphics in the BIOS with just a couple of clicks.
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December 19, 2013 1:35:46 PM

id go gtx 650 personally. awesome little card for the $
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December 19, 2013 2:42:13 PM

Maybe something along these lines:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 645 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor ($74.34 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: Asus M5A97 LE R2.0 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($74.99 @ Microcenter)
Memory: G.Skill Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($68.00 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($88.99 @ Amazon)
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB Video Card ($115.38 @ Newegg)
Case: Antec One ATX Mid Tower Case ($29.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Antec EarthWatts Green 380W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($44.98 @ OutletPC)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($16.98 @ OutletPC)
Total: $513.65
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-12-19 17:41 EST-0500)
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