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"College-Bound's Desktop"

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April 15, 2012 7:00:39 PM

Hello,
Having seen declining desktop quality from the likes of Dell, HP, and Others (I have personally had them). I wish to build what can be considered the "ideal" pc for a college bound/campus bound kid. He will not be gaming. But he will be using it for what i consider to be typical tasks that a serious student will conduct such as: running MS Office, taking photos and videos of his college days and editing those videos. Web communication with his parents (ie..myself and the wife). My son also may wish to record his guitar and vocals (as he likes to sing and play guitar) so some type of a sound card to handle this task. But a mid-tower configuration that is intel chip based or AMD...if it offers a price advantage. But a bullet proof assimilation of hardware so that it will get him thru COLLEGE tasks for the next 5 to 8 years - depending on weather he ends up with a masters or phd...lets assume. I welcome your build list and suggestions as to what is the IDEAL DESKTOP FOR A COLLEGE BOUND KID. As many kids will soon be off to college. This would be a good re-curring annual topic as well for tom's hardware website. I know laptops are available, but they are the most stolen item on a campus and my son stated he would rather take a mid size desktop which can serve him well for a lefe of about 5 to 7 years doing the above stated tasks.

More about : college bound desktop

April 15, 2012 7:03:45 PM

Budget?
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April 15, 2012 7:13:21 PM

I would give the budget allocation in two-fold. Lets say the Median budget is $500.00. But I would also consider the budget exceeded by $250.00. IF the build can add an intrinsic value to the performance specifications. Such as a component of hardware that would greatly contribute to the "bullet proof" aspect of the build I made a reference to. Let me elaborate, we are talking a college kid here. Who is like a typical college kid...SMART, out on his own for the first time, he will most likely have a room mate or two in the same room. The space is confined...that is small. They will probably have chips and food and drinks in the vacinity of the desktop tower. I doubt they will open the desktop too often and take a can of air and clean it up. So those factors do provide a bit of challenge. If there are any suggestions that you feel will be WORTH WHILE in adding $250.00 of components to the basic budget (50% of the budget). Then I welcome those suggestions. I hope in around-about way I have communicated why I have a 'sliding' budget scale. I welcome your responses. Every year, thousands of kids head to college campuses and to dorms. I know most take laptops with them, but the for the rest (like mine) they want a good desktop and its seems that the 'top' high volume manufacturers do not produce a quality, reliable product.
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April 15, 2012 7:27:41 PM

sonnymichigan said:
I would give the budget allocation in two-fold. Lets say the Median budget is $500.00. But I would also consider the budget exceeded by $250.00. IF the build can add an intrinsic value to the performance specifications. Such as a component of hardware that would greatly contribute to the "bullet proof" aspect of the build I made a reference to. Let me elaborate, we are talking a college kid here. Who is like a typical college kid...SMART, out on his own for the first time, he will most likely have a room mate or two in the same room. The space is confined...that is small. They will probably have chips and food and drinks in the vacinity of the desktop tower. I doubt they will open the desktop too often and take a can of air and clean it up. So those factors do provide a bit of challenge. If there are any suggestions that you feel will be WORTH WHILE in adding $250.00 of components to the basic budget (50% of the budget). Then I welcome those suggestions. I hope in around-about way I have communicated why I have a 'sliding' budget scale. I welcome your responses. Every year, thousands of kids head to college campuses and to dorms. I know most take laptops with them, but the for the rest (like mine) they want a good desktop and its seems that the 'top' high volume manufacturers do not produce a quality, reliable product.


Yes - you're definitely correct that the high volume manufacturers like Dell and HP don't produce quality products - they cut corners to maximize profits and include junk PSUs and watered down GPUs, limit access to the BIOS (which prevents overclocking) and include proprietary form factors to fit their cases which makes upgrading near impossible. And in college a desktop is less likely to get stolen than a laptop would - having a desktop in a dorm makes sense, IMO.

If you want to go with a specialized vendor like Origin, Digital Storm, or Falcon Northwest - they make some seriously killer systems but you'd better be prepared to shell out some big bucks if you buy one of their systems. I'm not a fan of Cyberpower or iBUYPOWER - to me that's the paint by numbers equivalent of system building.

If you fill this out - we can suggest what hardware you should get: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261222-31-build-advic...
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April 15, 2012 7:37:49 PM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =150.00 CPU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =110.00 Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =55.00 Power supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =50.00 Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =50.00 Ram
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =145.00 Monitor
The above are good quality parts and should last. I didn't include the OS because as a student they will either give it to him free or at a greatly reduced cost. It normally goes for $100.00. He won't need a graphics card because the CPU has them built in. There is 8 channel built in sound on the motherboard also. (in/out)
This totals a little over $500.00 and systems not nearly this good lasted my daughters through college - one through her masters. Good luck!
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April 15, 2012 7:42:43 PM

"He will not be gaming" Yea he will. Unless you are saying that "you hope he doesn't game". Regardless, you should not get a graphics card and get some sort of integrated graphics CPU. All the sandy bridges have integrated graphics. AMD supposedly has some better integrated graphics (I don't know details) but that would increase the chances of gaming.

Using the sandy bridge's integrated graphics, you can really keep to your $500 dollar budget easily. If you think space is an issue, look into the mini ITX motherboards and this case: Antec ISK 300-150 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168.... That's tiny but you need to make sure to get a lower power CPU given the power supply, although it could probably handle the 95 watt sandy bridges fine. The airflow is not that great for that case and will build up some dust. I would be mildly concerned about temps for a high watt cpu, but for 65W or less, this will be fine.
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April 15, 2012 7:51:09 PM

Pearlmam said:
"He will not be gaming" Yea he will. Unless you are saying that "you hope he doesn't game". Regardless, you should not get a graphics card and get some sort of integrated graphics CPU. All the sandy bridges have integrated graphics. AMD supposedly has some better integrated graphics (I don't know details) but that would increase the chances of gaming.

Using the sandy bridge's integrated graphics, you can really keep to your $500 dollar budget easily. If you think space is an issue, look into the mini ITX motherboards and this case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168.... That's tiny but you need to make sure to get a lower power CPU given the power supply, although it could probably handle the 95 watt sandy bridges fine. The airflow is not that great for that case and will build up some dust. I would be mildly concerned about temps for a high watt cpu, but for 65W or less, this will be fine.


Well the low end Radeons that are integrated into the FX CPUs are *slightly* better than the Intel HD 3000 GPU but the thing is it won't give you the same results as having a dedicated GPU would. Then using the integrated GPU you're also putting a huge burden on your RAM because your RAM is also doubling as VRAM - that will be a huge bottleneck in any application you use from Photoshop to programming apps that stretch out across multiple displays. Even a low end Radeon 6770 is better than nothing at all.
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April 15, 2012 7:51:37 PM

Chaz21 said:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =150.00 CPU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =110.00 Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =55.00 Power supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =50.00 Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =50.00 Ram
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... =145.00 Monitor
The above are good quality parts and should last. I didn't include the OS because as a student they will either give it to him free or at a greatly reduced cost. It normally goes for $100.00. He won't need a graphics card because the CPU has them built in. There is 8 channel built in sound on the motherboard also. (in/out)
This totals a little over $500.00 and systems not nearly this good lasted my daughters through college - one through her masters. Good luck!


I like these choices, but notice none of the PCI slots are being used, and only two slots of RAM. Mini ITX mobo can handle this setup fine. The physical size of the computer will be less than half this size. Mini ITX has only 1 PCI slot and 2 RAM slots. If you plan on upgrading the computer in the future then these limitations may be a concern. You also need a hard drive which will add another 50-100 dollars. Dont rule out SSDs, they are priced at about $1 a GB.
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April 15, 2012 8:00:17 PM

Yeah I did forget the HDD - good catch. While SSD's are nice, I love mine, they would be a luxury in the OP's case. He won't need the fast boot times and no way could he afford enough capacity to last him through school. A decent 1-2 TB should do it for him. Enough for a couple of movies, a bunch of music, pictures and plenty of room for all his school work. That size in an SSD would probably pay for a year. :) 
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April 15, 2012 9:20:55 PM

He won't be playing games? I find that hard to believe, but anyway:

CPU: AMD 3870K - $140
RAM: Kingston HyperX 1600MHz 8GB - $50
MOBO: Asus F1A75 V PRO - $115
GPU + SOUND: Onboard
HDD: Seagate Barracuda "ST" range: $142
CASE: Antec 300 - $60
PSU: Seasonic S12II 430w - $60

Add $99 for Win 7

Total: $666

Avoid a laptop, I've never had a laptop that the smooth feel of my desktop. Also note in two months the 3870K will be replaced by Trinity so you may choose to wait. And no, you don't need intel for this build. This is a quality build and stuffed full of expansion options, SATA_6 and USB3, with internal USB3 headers too.
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April 15, 2012 10:01:33 PM

The new Ivy Bridge CPUs will have better Integrated graphics.

If the worry about have a laptop stolen you can always get a lock
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Been using my since day 1 of college.

I would go with pearlmam's build and add on a harddrive and you should be good. While I understand you think a desktop would be better, Someone can pick up a desktop and monitor just as easy as a laptop. I do not know what his college is like, but mine allows us to bring laptops to class for notes etc. Just something to consider.

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April 16, 2012 6:02:39 PM

Well you see. He is pre-Medical and has never been into gaming. No x-box or PS3 while growing up..he is more into outdoors, working out and volunteering kind of kid. So That is why I am certain about the gaming aspect. But you are correct, most kids are into gaming.
Smeg45 said:
He won't be playing games? I find that hard to believe, but anyway:

CPU: AMD 3870K - $140
RAM: Kingston HyperX 1600MHz 8GB - $50
MOBO: Asus F1A75 V PRO - $115
GPU + SOUND: Onboard
HDD: Seagate Barracuda "ST" range: $142
CASE: Antec 300 - $60
PSU: Seasonic S12II 430w - $60

Add $99 for Win 7

Total: $666

Avoid a laptop, I've never had a laptop that the smooth feel of my desktop. Also note in two months the 3870K will be replaced by Trinity so you may choose to wait. And no, you don't need intel for this build. This is a quality build and stuffed full of expansion options, SATA_6 and USB3, with internal USB3 headers too.

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April 16, 2012 6:06:26 PM

kcsmacker said:
The new Ivy Bridge CPUs will have better Integrated graphics.

If the worry about have a laptop stolen you can always get a lock
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Been using my since day 1 of college.

I would go with pearlmam's build and add on a harddrive and you should be good. While I understand you think a desktop would be better, Someone can pick up a desktop and monitor just as easy as a laptop. I do not know what his college is like, but mine allows us to bring laptops to class for notes etc. Just something to consider.



Actually, its his idea of getting a small/midsize desktop instead. one other practical requirement would be wireless networking in the dorm room. Any suggestions to a good reception n-network card. PCIE or such?
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April 16, 2012 7:42:24 PM

sonnymichigan said:
Actually, its his idea of getting a small/midsize desktop instead. one other practical requirement would be wireless networking in the dorm room. Any suggestions to a good reception n-network card. PCIE or such?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... = $59.00 (Highly rated - secure)
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April 16, 2012 7:52:29 PM

This is a nice build. I forgot to mention I do have a flat screen monitor so will not need to purchase that. Is there a specific wireless card you recommend? Maybe with the monitor savings, a "basic' graphics card. More for basic photo editing and maybe he will shoot videos as college memories. Or will the integrated graphics handle this for him? Let me know your opinion.
Thanks in advance
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April 16, 2012 7:56:22 PM

Pearlmam said:
I like these choices, but notice none of the PCI slots are being used, and only two slots of RAM. Mini ITX mobo can handle this setup fine. The physical size of the computer will be less than half this size. Mini ITX has only 1 PCI slot and 2 RAM slots. If you plan on upgrading the computer in the future then these limitations may be a concern. You also need a hard drive which will add another 50-100 dollars. Dont rule out SSDs, they are priced at about $1 a GB.


Getting down to some specifics...will standard cpu cooler which probable comes with the cpu be sufficient or any after market cooler would be more suitable for long life?
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April 16, 2012 8:00:15 PM

sonnymichigan said:
Getting down to some specifics...will standard cpu cooler which probable comes with the cpu be sufficient or any after market cooler would be more suitable for long life?

No gaming. No overclocking. Stock cooler is fine.
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April 16, 2012 8:03:34 PM

I picked the case I did (for you) because it is a high air flow case (HAF 912). It should help keep his components cool.
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April 16, 2012 8:32:58 PM

Chaz21 said:
Yeah I did forget the HDD - good catch. While SSD's are nice, I love mine, they would be a luxury in the OP's case. He won't need the fast boot times and no way could he afford enough capacity to last him through school. A decent 1-2 TB should do it for him. Enough for a couple of movies, a bunch of music, pictures and plenty of room for all his school work. That size in an SSD would probably pay for a year. :) 

I agree, SSD is a great technology but 'old fashion' -SATA TB harddrive with a 32 mb cache will be sufficient for him. I think you are right on the standard cpu and fan. Thanks.
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April 22, 2012 11:40:43 PM

sonnymichigan said:
Actually, its his idea of getting a small/midsize desktop instead. one other practical requirement would be wireless networking in the dorm room. Any suggestions to a good reception n-network card. PCIE or such?


The dorm room should have an Ethernet connection. Not completely necessary to buy a wireless card if you want to save 20-50 dollars and the pci slot. Ethernet is faster anyway.
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April 23, 2012 12:03:21 AM

Chaz21 said:
No gaming. No overclocking. Stock cooler is fine.

It entirely depends on how cool he wants his PC.
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May 1, 2012 3:30:15 PM

Best answer selected by sonnymichigan.
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