General SFF PC for family - build suggestions (i3, or i5 "overkill")?

Approximate Purchase Date: this summer (August 15th at the latest)

Budget Range: $550 or so (not including monitor)

System Usage from Most to Least Important:(basic word processing, surfing the internet, iTunes music, streaming Hulu/Netflix content)

Parts Not Required: 1TB WD Caviar Black HDD (brand new spare)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: or

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: Intel, and SFF CASE IS A MUST

Overclocking: NO

SLI or Crossfire: NO

Monitor Resolution: Don't know (will get basic 24" LED monitor, probably)

Additional Comments:

This computer is for my daughter's birthday on August 24, though my ex-wife and her "boyfriend" will undoubtedly use it, also (they live down the road from me). Their household has a laptop and a notebook computer, both with varying degrees of sluggishness - so much so, that they don't even bother with internet service (though they will get it with the advent of the computer I propose to build here).

I want to give my daughter a "kick-ass" computer, but I don't want to "over-do" it. For instance, an Ivy Bridge i5 with a 120GB SSD boot drive sounds great, but I doubt she needs power like that. An i3-2105 with the OS on the 1TB HDD is more likely ... but will it be "sluggish" in comparison? And if not, I am tempted to wait for the Ivy Bridge i3s which should drop in late July or early August, just in time for this new build. Would a smaller (therefore cheaper) SSD boot drive (64GB or so) still be advantageous, or just a waste of money? I want this computer to be relatively inexpensive, but "quick and responsive" ...

(To compare, I myself have an i5-760 with a 320GB HDD boot drive and a 1TB HDD for storage, and I'm happy enough with mine).

I want to convince my doubting ex-wife that a good desktop beats an inexpensive laptop every time (without spending a fortune).


SilverStone SG05BB-450 ALL Black Plastic/SECC Mini-ITX Computer Case with SFX 450W 80+ Bronze Certified/Single +12V rail Power Supply

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (of course)

HDD: (already own it - $89 last summer, never used)
Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

CPU: not fully committed - maybe wait for Ivy Bridge i3-3225 (HD4000 IGP)
Intel Core i3-2105 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000

... or ...

Intel Core i5-2405S Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz (3.3GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 65W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000

CPU COOLER: not overclocking, so "stock" should be okay?

GPU: N/A - will use integrated graphics (they have PS3/XBOX for games)

MOBO: not committed (simple "mini-ITX" with at least 1xSATA 6, and HDMI?)

RAM: not committed (2x4GB sticks sound nice, should be low-voltage)

OPTICAL DRIVE: (gotta be "slim" - don't know that Blu-Ray is a must, and I kinda like that this is "slot-load" instead of tray)
Sony Optiarc Slim CD/DVD Burner

I have a tendency to "over-think" this stuff to death ... any advice ON THE BUILD I PROPOSED ABOVE will be helpful, thank you.

Main question ... which CPU, and suggest a MOBO/RAM pairing (probably H67?)
7 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about general family build suggestions overkill
  1. I had a two core intel 775 for years i just replaced it with an i5 3540. any of the two core intel cpu with a good video card will do most of what a child wants there pc to do and will be quick. an ssd will make the boot time less the down side is that ssd at this time there no real hard data on how long they will last or how many write cycles they can do. it great for us pc builders that like to tinker. if the drive fails we call up the company and rma the ssd. if the comp fails it you that going to be mr tech guy. blue ray is when your going to watch movies on your computer screen..your better off buyer her an xbox or blue ray player. a 20.00 sata dvd drive is going to be fine to install games and the os.
    myself i use this chip
    the h like will do both ib and sb just cant overclock the mb like the x68 or z77. or the 7750 from ati yes there 100.00 video cards there are older ones that are less money like the 430 from nvidia. if your daughter tries to play a video game most games look for ati or nvidia chipset. even the mmo online.
    memory is cheap i go for one of these two kits.
    with ram any good 1.5 kit will be fine with both sb and ib.
    case like this
    or the antec one gaming case.
    both give you good airflow...i have the antec case and the fans are wisper silent.
    good ps at a great price with rebate..never go cheap on a ps it can take out your whole ssytem if it a badly made china crap.
    also replace the stock intel heat sink with a heat sink that has a metal back plate. the intel ones are free with the cpu but use plastic legs.

    i would check to see if your daughter school is in the microsoft edu program you be able to get windows and office at a discount. one thing i would do use use microsoft windows tools or few free tools and install the drivers and office and anti virus then make a ghost image or a recovery cd for the pc. if someone there crashes windows or the hard drive fails you wont have to install windows....then office...then all the updates.....make sure you have a copy for yourself one for the pc and one on a usb stick...i would get the parts and then burn the system in a weekend before you give it as a gift. memtest....prime95 or intel burn in and futermark for the gpu.
  2. a larger case like the antec or any other mid size upright case you want to have good airflow...low temps..also have good wire management...bad wire could get you a wire in one of the fans. with those mini cases if the ps dies a stock ps may or may not fit in the min cases. the cases i pointed out will take standard power supplys.
  3. Thanks for the advice -

    * I'm dead set on the SFF case I picked out (SUGO 5, and the Silverstone PSU should be good, though I'm usually a Corsair fan) - it should have great airflow. I could get one of "slightly" bigger size (SUGO 7) that might take a regular size PSU, but I will not go "mid-tower" for this one

    * I guess my main concerns are ...

    :??: ----- which CPU should I ultimately choose?
    :??: ----- what MOBO (mini-ITX) will serve me best?
    :??: ----- what RAM will go best with that CPU and MOBO?
    :??: ----- should the OS lumped in on the 1TB HDD be "good enough" or would a small SSD boot drive provide a huge jump in performance?
    :??: ----- I think Intel's stock CPU coolers SUCK ... but is it worth the expense of a "Scythe Shuriken" or somthing, if the airflow is good and no overclocking will happen (in both the "i3" AND "i5" scenarios)?
    as you can see you this system was built for gaming..but it has good points for your build. the h61 board there is a nice board at a good price. line that up with an i3 cpu and she should have a system that going to last her a few years. the ram itself you one to buy one that on the mb tested list or a vendor that tested there ram to run on the mb. you also want one with lp heat spreaders. other then boot times and programs running a little faster your better of using the money for a better video card or mb or cpu. with the cpu cooler most post here of people that have cpu that are running hot on there first build with the stock cooler..most time it that the legs of the cooler are not locked in right.
    for a few dollars added to the build you get a cooler that should have had intel name on it. one that uses metal screws and a good back plate over the cheap fan that comes with the cpu.
  5. Best answer
    The HDD should be good enough. An SSD set up may confuse casual users. They'll probably end up installing everything on the SSD and filling it up within a few months. Since SSD reliability is hard to gauge, it's better suited for those who like to tinker.

    Depending on the age of your daughter, you may want to consider teaching her how to build a pc for one of her b-days as a father/daughter bonding thing.
  6. Best answer selected by mcsmoothearl.
  7. moornix said:
    The HDD should be good enough. An SSD set up may confuse casual users. They'll probably end up installing everything on the SSD and filling it up within a few months. Since SSD reliability is hard to gauge, it's better suited for those who like to tinker.

    Depending on the age of your daughter, you may want to consider teaching her how to build a pc for one of her b-days as a father/daughter bonding thing.

    Someone who actually "directly addressed" at least ONE of the questions I asked ... AMAZING! Thanks, dude.

    I will stick to the OS going onto the 1TB HDD, you're right on that (SSD is too advanced for this).
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