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Budget/Performance Build for Wife

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May 2, 2012 10:47:47 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: 1-2 months

Budget Range: I would like to get it under $800 (after 7.75% sales tax and rebates) without sacrificing too much quality or performance.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Web browsing, MS Office, other general use, possibly minor gaming in the future (League of Legends or similar graphical level)

Parts Not Required: GPU, keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, storage drive (HDD)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg, Amazon, Micro Center

Country: US

Parts Preferences: None in particular.

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080

Additional Comments: As the title indicates, this build is for my wife. She cares about space and appearance, so I had her pick out the case I will be using. That is the only part set in stone, unless someone has a very good reason I should go away from it and have her pick something else. I've built or assisted in building 6 PCs since 2003, so this isn't my first time around the block.

That said, I've put together a Wish List on Newegg of the parts I'm considering. Here is the link.

Basic thoughts:
I know the CPU can be purchased for less at Micro Center, and that would save $40 right now.

I'm not sure about the motherboard. I have never owned anything from ASRock so I don't know how their quality rates. I've liked ASUS and MSI in the past, but they are more expensive for the same features.

I prefer not to go lower than a 120GB capacity SSD, and I like the Patriot Wildfire and Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe. I also know the first thing most of you will think is that there is no place for an SSD in a "budget" build. However, boot times and software load times are where Solid State Drives make the biggest difference, and those areas also happen to be the place my wife will notice slowness first. That said, I am not locked into either model SSD I mentioned above, and I'm open to other options that maintain good quality, durability and performance.

The USB 3.0 add-on is there because I have historically kept my PCs with very minimal upgrades for around 5 years. I suppose, however, I could always take that off right now and add it later when I actually have a USB 3.0 device.

Lastly, I can transfer the nVidia 7600 GT from my wife's current PC when I build this one, but I'm not sure it will make much difference over the Intel HD 2500 graphics. I will also eventually have an nVidia GT 240 that could go into this PC when I rebuild my own early next year. I have also considered watching for a ~$30 GPU in Newegg's Shell Shocker deals, but I'm unsure what card would be worth it to jump on for this build at that price.
May 2, 2012 11:41:04 PM

What case has she picked out?

If space and appearance are an issue, I have a recommendation:
Look at the lian li Q07 case. I is a very small itx case which also comes in red (stunning) and silver.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


For your usage, integrated graphics and ANY sandy bridge i3 will be fine.

Any where from the G530@2.4 to the 2130@ 3.4 will do the job.
I suppose a ivy bridge and HD4000 quad will do well, but at close to $200 it is not really necessary.

There are lots of ITX motherboards for <$100 that will support i3

It is really the SSD that will make it fly.
I think Intel makes the most reliable. Look at the new 330 series, it goes up to 180gb for $220.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
INtel 520 series is good, and Samsung 830 is usually a bit cheaper and also good.

While the Q07 uses a standard ATX psu, there is not a lot of room for a long psu.
I would suggest a seasonic 300w unit which is not expensive and is relatively small:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

8gb of 2 x 4gb ram will be right.
May 3, 2012 4:41:33 AM

geofelt said:
What case has she picked out?

If space and appearance are an issue, I have a recommendation:
Look at the lian li Q07 case. I is a very small itx case which also comes in red (stunning) and silver.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


For your usage, integrated graphics and ANY sandy bridge i3 will be fine.

Any where from the G530@2.4 to the 2130@ 3.4 will do the job.
I suppose a ivy bridge and HD4000 quad will do well, but at close to $200 it is not really necessary.

There are lots of ITX motherboards for <$100 that will support i3

It is really the SSD that will make it fly.
I think Intel makes the most reliable. Look at the new 330 series, it goes up to 180gb for $220.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
INtel 520 series is good, and Samsung 830 is usually a bit cheaper and also good.

While the Q07 uses a standard ATX psu, there is not a lot of room for a long psu.
I would suggest a seasonic 300w unit which is not expensive and is relatively small:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

8gb of 2 x 4gb ram will be right.

Thanks for the reply geofelt.

The case is in the Newegg Wish List. It is the APEVIA X-QPACK2-BL/500 for $100. The most common complaint in the reviews is the MB tray is made of thin aluminum. I'm planning on checking it out in person at my local Fry's to see what I think of it. It comes with a basic 500 W (not 80Plus) PSU. I've had pretty good luck with Raidmax cases that included PSUs, but those builds have all been before I knew the durability difference a PSU can make. So I'm contemplating sticking with the included PSU... because buying anything decent would add on $50. I don't know that a 300W PSU will work long term as it would severely limit my options for adding on a discrete GPU...
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May 3, 2012 5:01:02 AM

I know you said you were checking it out, but I cannot stress how important it is to get a quality PSU. This is NOT a piece of hardware that you want to compromise on.

I also feel like a quad core is very much overkill for her needs. As geofelt said, an i3 would more than take care of her needs in terms of MS Office and internet browsing. The integrated graphics will more than likely all that will be needed for light gaming as well.

Great move with an SSD in this build, that will make a world of difference in general computing.
May 3, 2012 6:31:41 AM

no need for the USB3 add on card as you already have USB3 on the motherboard, and your keys, mouse, and printer are going to work equally well on USB2 or USB3. USB3's advantage is external storage... and just how many of those devices are you going to plug in at the same time?

SSD is an absolute necessity these days, but the ones you like are a bit overkill for loading OS and programs. Seriously, there may be a difference rendering video projects on a performance SSD vs a budget SSD, but for opening Office you are talking .2 seconds to .3 seconds. Either way it is damn fast, and you can still get great performance and reliability for home user workloads on much cheaper OCZ and Mushkin drives (even the almighty M4 is $1/GB or less at most stores). Durability is impoartant when doing tons of reads and writes, but for opening office/games and saving documents/game saves this is hardly a concern. My wife has a 60GB SSD with win7, office, audio editing/production software, and my normal loadout of utilities and browsers and she is only using ~30GB (all documents are on a seperate HDD). If most document storage is on the home network then there is little need for anything larger than a 60-90GB drive unless installing a mess of games. If documents are stored locally then look into 240GB drives, because 120GB can fill up quick with large pics, music, and HD video.

Microcenter tends to have SSDs much cheaper than newegg ($30 cheaper on my recent 240GB purchase), and the CPUs you already know about. Consider looking at a CPU/Mobo bundle there as they sometimes have killer discounts (upwards of $50 off) and you might be able to afford a higher end board that way, though the board picked is sufficiently overkill. They also have decent case prices.

If you already have a GPU in mind then save a few $$ and go with an i3 2100 Sandy Bridge. For these workloads there is no real advantage of having a quad core CPU over a duel core unless she starts playing a CPU based game like WOW, which still plays just fine on an i3 paired with a decent GPU. Also, there is only a 3% performance increase on IB in the first place (clock/clock).
If going with integrated GPU then stick with IB as the HD4K graphics are ~2x better than SB's HD3K solution.

4GB of ram is overkill for these loads, and 8GB of ram will be more than enough long after this computer is gone. Even if you run into virtual memory (which you shouldn't) then it is not so bad when on an SSD that reads and writes so quickly... but again, for office and stuff she will not likely use more than 2-3GB even with a game. But then again Ram is cheap, and 8GB isn't going to kill the budget.

Consider a blue ray player/DVD writer. It may cost a bit more, but I know my wife loves hers and gets a fair amount of use out of it (lol, the only person I know who still uses optical media in their PC on a regular basis).

ASRock use to be ASUS's 'budget level' company, but they recently bought themselves out, and seem to have not lost any quality in the transition. It should work well for what you are doing, but if you go to the SB chip then you ought to be able to find a much cheaper board like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
It still has SATA3 for the SSD, USB3 for storage devices (cameras, external HDDs, flash drives, etc), USB2 for keys, mouse, optical audio for quality audio output (may want xFI MB2 software to add some richness to it), and of corse gigabit ethernet. Obviously H61 only supports up to DDR3 1333, so you would have to get some cheaper ram as well, but for these workloads there is no performance hit to go with 1333 (heck, I have 1333 in my production/game rig and still run circles around my friend's Mac with 1600, ram is rarely the bottleneck that slows a system down, and I have no problem maxing out every game I have tried so far).

7Pro adds domain functionality, real compatability mode, ability to address more than 16GB of ram, and a few other rarely used features. Most likely you can pick up 7Home and save a few $$.

Last note is on the power supply; It is junk. Wether sticking with onboard video, or the 7600GT you are not going to push the supply much and it should last a good long time on such a light load. But personally I would want something better quality and quieter. 380W is plenty for onboard video on this system, and ~450W should be plenty for the dedicated card, but 80+bronze should be considered a minimum requirement. PSUs are just not something to take a big chance on as they are the one part that can take out a bunch of parts when they go bad.


All told, I am suggesting: cheaper CPU (microcenter i3 2100, -$110), mobo (Intel H61, -$40), ram (1333 version of what you picked, -$1 lol), and OS (Win7 Home, -$40). Cutting out the USB card (-$19). Get a bigger but less pricey SSD (256GB M4, +$20). Get a quality aftermarket PSU (450-500W brand of choice, +$50). Upgrade to a Blue ray player/DVD burner (ASUS, +$34).
Total Changes: -$106 with a minimal impact on performance unless getting into hard core gaming (highly unlikely), or into major production work for video/photo editing or 3D design.
As there is little way to get more performance out of this workload I would suggest putting that money into additional capabilities such as wireless, quality speakers (if you don't already have some), web camera, silent fans and heatsinks for the CPU and GPU, media bay for card readers, etc.

also, some cuter case ideas (as this is for the wife's PC, and the case you picked looks... well a little gamer-ish, and cheap for costing $100). Most of these cases have front USB3, which would require a USB3 card with the mobo I suggested (as the mobo does not have a USB3 header)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... really like this one
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... overkill, but pretty
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... well designed and tiny
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... the classy 'short and squatty' case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... the cute gamer case
May 3, 2012 1:57:19 PM

I missed your wish list.
Here are my thoughts.

1) For a small, cute case, look again at the lian li Q07.

It is 8.19" x 7.60" x 11.02" vs. 14.70" x 11.20" x 9.00" for the apevia.

I like the looks of the apevia, but the apevia psu's do not have a very good reputation, so it might be an added expense to change it out.

Note also, that the Q07 includes a usb3.0 port in front.
Here is a link to the mfg page:
http://www.lian-li.com/v2/en/product/product06.php?pr_i...
You can find the red version on amazon.
I have built two pc's using the red anodized aluminum, and it really is stunning as a color. Consider it for something different.

2) Is there some feature of windows 7 pro that you need? Thare are usually none for the home user. The Home version will save you $40, and an inplace upgrade is still available if your needs should change.

3) A minor savings, but 1333 ram will work as well.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

4) Desktop usage does not use 4 cores, two is plenty. I suggest the i3-2125 @3.3 which will save you $50. It also includes the faster HD3000 graphics.
Slower chips would be OK also, but for your budget, the 2125 is appropriate.

5) A ITX motherboard will also cost a bit less. After all, how many expansion slots do you really need?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...



May 3, 2012 6:38:33 PM

Grand_Admiral_K said:
I know you said you were checking it out, but I cannot stress how important it is to get a quality PSU. This is NOT a piece of hardware that you want to compromise on.

I also feel like a quad core is very much overkill for her needs. As geofelt said, an i3 would more than take care of her needs in terms of MS Office and internet browsing. The integrated graphics will more than likely all that will be needed for light gaming as well.

Great move with an SSD in this build, that will make a world of difference in general computing.

I went with the Ivy Bridge, Quad-Core CPU for 3 reasons: power consumption, desired PC lifespan, and productivity benchmarks. I also forgot to mention that this PC will be housing my mp3 library (until I can save up enough for a nice NAS unit). I don't like purchasing mp3 downloads because there is always a chance that they get lost (HDD failure, company bankruptcy, etc.) and then you have to rebuy the music. Rather, when I purchase music, I buy the actual CD and rip it to my computer. So audio encoding performance matters. I'll be reusing an existing HDD as my music storage in the PC.

I have considered the Core i3 2100 processor, but I am leaning towards the i5 3450 because it should give the computer a longer lifespan. The 2100 will be a lot better than anything I have now, but how happy will I be with it 4 years from now? (I built my current PCs in summer of '06 and January of '07).

CaedenV said:
no need for the USB3 add on card as you already have USB3 on the motherboard, and your keys, mouse, and printer are going to work equally well on USB2 or USB3. USB3's advantage is external storage... and just how many of those devices are you going to plug in at the same time?

Microcenter tends to have SSDs much cheaper than newegg ($30 cheaper on my recent 240GB purchase), and the CPUs you already know about. Consider looking at a CPU/Mobo bundle there as they sometimes have killer discounts (upwards of $50 off) and you might be able to afford a higher end board that way, though the board picked is sufficiently overkill. They also have decent case prices.


All told, I am suggesting: cheaper CPU (microcenter i3 2100, -$110), mobo (Intel H61, -$40), ram (1333 version of what you picked, -$1 lol), and OS (Win7 Home, -$40). Cutting out the USB card (-$19). Get a bigger but less pricey SSD (256GB M4, +$20). Get a quality aftermarket PSU (450-500W brand of choice, +$50). Upgrade to a Blue ray player/DVD burner (ASUS, +$34).
Total Changes: -$106 with a minimal impact on performance unless getting into hard core gaming (highly unlikely), or into major production work for video/photo editing or 3D design.
As there is little way to get more performance out of this workload I would suggest putting that money into additional capabilities such as wireless, quality speakers (if you don't already have some), web camera, silent fans and heatsinks for the CPU and GPU, media bay for card readers, etc.

I included the USB 3.0 add-on strictly to gain front panel 3.0 ports. In reality, it is unnecessary at the moment and you are right. I will take it off and add it after I actually have a need for front panel USB 3.0.

I'll take a look at what SSDs the closest Micro Center (Silicon Valley, CA) has in stock and their prices. I live ~2 hours away from it, so I've been struggling with the thought of getting only the processor there as the money saved would be mostly used to pay for gas for the trip.

Now to specifically address the case selection: I appreciate the suggestions of other case options. However, I sat down with my wife and had her look through all the cases listed on Newegg, filtering out the larger and impractical form factors (Full tower, bench cases, etc.), and that was her selection. She started by looking at each case's appearance, and then checking the dimensions if she liked how it looked. She literally hand-picked that case for the appearance and size. So if there is a major problem with that case I will work with her to pick out a new one (and will, of course, show her these suggestions). The case will be sitting on top of a desk and she really liked how sleek it looks; I only wish is came w/o a PSU (and even just $30 cheaper) so it would be easier justifying that extra expense of a decent quality PSU.

Now regarding a PSU. Linked here is a power search of the options I'm looking at on Newegg. I would prefer not to go below 450 or 500 watts because that would seriously limit my future options if I ever need to add a discrete GPU to this computer. I don't want to have to purchase a new PSU again at a later date, and I've always heard it is best to run a PSU well below its capacity anyway. Is that power search leaving out any good quality brands? Currently included are Seasonic, XFX, and Corsair.

CaedenV said:
ASRock use to be ASUS's 'budget level' company, but they recently bought themselves out, and seem to have not lost any quality in the transition.

I really appreciate the input on ASRock's quality level. It helps put some of that uneasiness about buying a new (to me) brand to rest.

Quote:
7Pro adds domain functionality, real compatibility mode, ability to address more than 16GB of ram, and a few other rarely used features. Most likely you can pick up 7Home and save a few $$.

I selected Windows 7 Pro because I am an experienced IT professional. I currently have one PC with Win XP Pro and another with Win XP Home, and I always feel handcuffed for some reason when I go to do any maintenance on the Home Edition PC. Is that really all that is different with Win7? Domain functionality is obviously unnecessary, and I can't see ever needing more than 16GB of RAM. Real compatibility mode ("Windows XP Mode"?) sounds like it might be useful, and I might want to use remote desktop functionality in the future. Would I be unable to remotely connect to this computer with Windows Remote Desktop if I use Windows 7 Home Premium? I'm not sure what the Wikipedia article means by "operating as a Remote Desktop server".

The difference of only a couple dollars for the 1600 vs. 1333 MHz RAM is worth it for me to stick with 1600. I have been tossing around the idea of a blu-ray drive, but I think I want to wait for the prices on blu-ray burners to come down. They seem like a killer way to make long-term data backups on a minimal number of discs.

Lastly, do you have recommendations if I wanted to swap out the included case fans? Good airflow and quality/durability to go along with low noise levels of course, and possibly (but not required) lighted.
May 3, 2012 10:58:26 PM

A 450W PSU for that 'just in case' scenario is justifyable, but as newer cards are pushing so much for better !/W I would imagine that 450W is all she would need, and would likely be overkill for this type of setup (remember, the more power usage means more heat in a tiny case, which is a bigger deal than a tower).

Ya, ASRock is pretty solid. They are not as good as ASUS and some other big brands, but now that they are their own company they are beginning to compete more with them, but it will take some time for them to have as slick of a UEFI, and other high end features that make things nice even if they do not add to performance.

For managing win7 I generally try to use 'God Mode' when doing an initial setup.
http://www.sitepoint.com/windows-7-god-mode/
It has just about every setting from all the menus from control panel and the My Computer properties page and brings them all together. At my work we exclusively use win7pro, while at home I just have win7 home and I have not noticed much of a difference for day-to-day maintenance as they really are the same OS, with the same layout, but just a few different features. Even my netbooks with win7basic is wonderfully similar (though extremely neutered). Gone are the days of XP when the home and pro version were truly different monsters, and the home version was simply not as good, and less stable than the pro version.
As far as Compatibility mode is concerned; Home edition has some compatibility capabilities for running software, but 0 driver emulation support. This is especially a concern if you are using older printers, scanners, and web cameras as they are (oddly) very OS dependent. Where it is annoying or impossible on Home, the Pro version allows for it fairly simply.
Remote Desktop Server is something that you generally do not need, but can help make remote desktop smoother, but that being said I have connected using remote desktop a few times between my dad's system and mine with minimal difficulty and we are both using Home I believe.

If the system supports 1600 then go for it as it is only $1, but my suggestion for 1333 was only if you wanted to go to SB with H61mobo. But for $1 it shouldn't hurt anything to have better ram than the system can use... I am just accustomed to building to spec. Old habits die hard.

For blue ray burners you have to remember that you also need blue ray media to use it (lethally expensive in a world with cheap USB drives, and readily available external HDDs), and you would need blue ray readers/burners in all the other machines that would possibly use the media. If that is fine by you then go for it... but I find it hard to believe that it would be practical. Even game consoles and DVD/blue ray players/TVs can stream video via USB port, so optical media is largely a dying format... but still a nice playback feature for movies if the PC is hooked up to a decent sized screen.

For case fans I am not sure. I have personally fallen in love with these cheap $11 Enermax 120mm 6-800rpm fans I found at Microcenter. The look nice, are dead silent, and move an OK amount of air for what they are. But they are low airflow fans, so in my case I have 3 on the case and 2 on the CPU, and in a 68*f room it works well for my use where silence is something I am striving for. However in a mini box I would want something that moves a bit more air, especially if you put in a real GPU, and I am not the best authority on those. I have heard that Scythe fans are pretty good.... but again, no expert.
May 3, 2012 11:25:14 PM

Great info again, caedenv. I don't anticipate and hardware/software compatibility issues, thought it is always nice to be prepared. So it helps to know more specifically what differences Home and Pro have when it comes to compatibility modes.

You are making sense with the blu-ray reader drive as well. I'll definitely consider it and keep my eyes open for good deals.

At current prices/rebates, I think I would be going between either the OCZ ZS Series 550W 80PLUS Bronze and the XFX ProSeries P1-450S-X2B9 450W power supplies. Anyone have any thoughts?

I also just noticed the Mushkin recently came out with a new line of SSDs using Synchronous NAND flash and priced almost as low as their less expensive Asynchronous Chronos line. Currently they only have the 120 GB capacity Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe MX MKNSSDCR120GB-MX for $130 on Newegg. Any thoughts on this line and how well it would stack up against a Crucial m4 or Samsung 830 for price/performance-capacity?
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