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Going to Grad School, need Cheapest Possible Build for next 6Yrs

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October 19, 2012 4:10:19 PM

Hello all,

I just made a account, so please excuse any mistakes.

I'm going to start at a university as a PhD student. I would like to build a PC that is as cheap as possible, and will last me for the next 6-7 years. Here is pertinent information:

Approximate Purchase Date: Very Soon

Budget Range: $300 - $400 (less the better, my stipend is not that much).

System Usage from Most to Least Important: 1. Programming (Matlab, Java, C/C++), 2. Watching 1080p movies, and streaming HD TV shows from sites like Amazon and Hulu (I don't have a TV, so I watch all my shows online), 3. General Office Software (Word, Excel, etc), 4. General Internet, Email, etc.

Parts I already have: Monitor (1080p), Keyboard/Mouse, DVD Burner (internal), Print/Scanner, Webcam, Windows 7 OS

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg, Amazon, etc.

Location: USA

Parts Preferences: I prefer Intel processors, but I'm open-minded. Don't have a preference for graphics, etc.

Upgradability: Of course its always nice to be able to upgrade, but price for me is the most important thing. I'm willing to sacrifice upgradability if I can get a machine for cheaper that will last me a while and can do all that I listed above.

Additional Comments: I just want this machine to last me for the next 6-7 years for the purposes above. Please let me know if I can build a cheap one that can do that. Or if you guys think its better to just buy a pre-build one.

Thanks a lot,
-DV



October 19, 2012 4:53:49 PM

If you want to game, you could always go for the 6670 and Crossfire it with the built in IGP, and it be a good gamer and be about $400.
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October 19, 2012 4:55:58 PM

For that kind of money, you're never going to get something that will last you 6 years. For that kind of money you might get something to last you 2, but particularly with the programming, you're going to be spending a LOT of time waiting for the compiler to do its thing. If you want something that will last 6 years, you need to be buying high end stuff, and anything costing less than about $2K is unlikely to cut it.

The alternative would be to scavenge castoff parts or even whole systems from people, or do most of the work in labs. College campuses are good for that sort of thing, so you might well be able to find things at regular asset disposal sales by the university, or people who have the luxury of rich parents (or just the ignorance that student loans will follow them for the rest of their life) who are upgrading systems every time some new game comes out. So you might be able to be able to continually upgrade your system on the cheap as you go, but expect to spend at least SOME money during your time in school.
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October 19, 2012 5:54:19 PM

Thanks for all the help so far.

The current PC I have has lasted me ~10 years, and while I made minor upgrades throughout (upgraded the OS, got more RAM), it was able to do many of the tasks listed above.

I noticed that in the build above there was a) AMD processor, and b) no graphics card. Isn't Intel considered better than AMD currently? Also, without a graphics cards, will I be able to play my 1080p HD movies? I think I would prefer some sort of discrete GPU.

Thanks,
-DV
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October 19, 2012 5:59:32 PM

At your budget and usage I agree AMD is better. Intel is better for hardcore gaming, though.
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October 19, 2012 6:13:04 PM

Ok, thanks, AMD it is then!!

What about graphics card? Is the 6670 crossfire with built-in IGP the way to go?

Thanks much,
-DV
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October 19, 2012 7:00:59 PM

The A10 is an APU. It's a quad-core with a built in IGP equivalent to a 6670. It will play all your 1080p vids no problem. The 6670 can be found for $60 and if you Crossfire it with the IGP, it will game very well.
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October 19, 2012 7:02:28 PM

The A10-5800K has build in graphics that is suitable for your purposes. You would only need to add a video card if you're gaming. Check out the A10-5800K product page at Newegg for a description of what it can do.

obsama's build is pretty much as good as you'll do for your budget. I would suggest changing to this motherboard:

ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M FM2 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

It's about $12 more expensive than the one obsama recommended, but it offers 2 additional DIMM slots to add more memory if you ever feel you need it, and it offers SATA III and USB 3.0 for faster data transfers.

I would also recommend thinking about replacing the hard drive with a 128 GB SSD. As long as you're streaming video and not downloading and storing it you shouldn't run into storage space issues. An SSD would give you a noticeable speed improvement and you can frequently find 128 GB SSD deals that aren't much more expensive that the 500 GB hard drive obsama recommended. Unfortunately I'm not aware of any deals right at this moment but if you keep your eyes open for them you should find something.
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October 19, 2012 7:10:32 PM

cl-scott said:
For that kind of money, you're never going to get something that will last you 6 years. For that kind of money you might get something to last you 2, but particularly with the programming, you're going to be spending a LOT of time waiting for the compiler to do its thing. If you want something that will last 6 years, you need to be buying high end stuff, and anything costing less than about $2K is unlikely to cut it.


This really isn't true. Compiling represents <1% of your time when programming. Most of the time is spent writing code (which is essentially word processing) and debugging (which usually involves stepping through code and spending hours staring at the screen looking for what could possibly be wrong :ouch:  ). And with incremental builds even when you do need to re-compile it only takes a couple of seconds with any modern CPU.

As long as he doesn't decide to start gaming, and doesn't get into 3D graphics or 3D programming, this system should last him several years.

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October 19, 2012 7:12:33 PM

An SSD would be nice, but putting all your programs on a 128GB would be limiting. Windows alone would eat like 20GB of that. I would just get a 500GB HDD and get a 128GB SSD on a BF deal.
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October 19, 2012 8:14:58 PM

We don't know exactly what programs he's going to want to install, but it doesn't seem like he's doing anything graphics intensive that would eat up storage space. I have a 64 GB boot SSD that has Windows7 HP, all of my productivity apps and utilities and a few games (admittedly low HD footprint games) and I still have 20 GB of free space. I'd be very surprised if his OS and apps can fill even half of a 128 GB SSD.

If does need to add more storage space later it's easy to add an HD as a data disk (much easier than adding an SSD later as a boot disk).

I wonder if these rumored BF/CM amazing deals on SSDs are really going to happen. There will undoubtedly be some (like there will be for all types of items on those days) but they'll probably sell out quickly. There are plenty of good SSD deals that come up from time to time. Unfortunately he was one day too late to take advantage of Amazon's $70 deal on a Samsung 830 128 GB.
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October 19, 2012 8:27:50 PM

a slight tweaking of obsama's build here:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A10-5800K 3.8GHz Quad-Core Processor ($119.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: ASRock FM2A75M-DGS Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard ($60.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($35.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: OCZ Agility 4 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($74.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($29.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $346.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)

about $10 more but with the A75 and SSD, also a smaller case, important for dorm rooms
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October 19, 2012 8:52:31 PM

ScrewySqrl said:
a slight tweaking of obsama's build here:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A10-5800K 3.8GHz Quad-Core Processor ($119.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: ASRock FM2A75M-DGS Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard ($60.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($35.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: OCZ Agility 4 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($74.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($29.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $346.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)

about $10 more but with the A75 and SSD, also a smaller case, important for dorm rooms



Dear ScrewySqrl,

Looks very good, especially with the SSD. There is a small problem though. The pcpartpicker website says:
"ASRock FM2A75M-DGS Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard has an onboard USB 3.0 header, but the Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case does not have front panel USB 3.0 ports."

Any suggestion to fix that incompatibility?

Thanks much,
-DV
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October 19, 2012 9:42:12 PM

That's not really much of an incompatibility; it's just warning you that you won't have a USB port at the front of your case. There will still be one at the back by the motherboard tray, I believe and the system will work fine. Also, I'm not sure how much of the USB 3.0 you will use in the first place so it may have no effect at all. If you really want the USB port in the front then you can try to find a different case.
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October 19, 2012 10:14:14 PM

If you are at the university,

I would think you just need a dumb pc terminal and then you can remote login into the actual school workstation that are provided to your labs.

If your lab or department doesn't have their own hardware, as a student, you likely will be able to obtain access to the general shared pool of campus-wide computers

So this can handle all your processing work except for games.

I would wait until you are at the univeristy to ask around and figure out the free resources you already get. Then, they may have university discounts on a dell or something generic.
Pretty much any new computer can do microsoft office, websurf and stream media these days.
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October 19, 2012 10:16:42 PM

One potential problem with ScrewySqrl's build is that the motherboard does not have HDMI out. This could be an issue depending on what monitor connections are available.
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October 19, 2012 10:32:27 PM

raytseng said:
If you are at the university,

I would think you just need a dumb pc terminal and then you can remote login into the actual school workstation that are provided to your labs.

If your lab or department doesn't have their own hardware, as a student, you likely will be able to obtain access to the general shared pool of campus-wide computers

So this can handle all your processing work except for games.

I would wait until you are at the univeristy to ask around and figure out the free resources you already get. Then, they may

have university discounts on a dell or something generic.
Pretty much any new computer can do microsoft office, websurf and stream media these days.



One potential problem with ScrewySqrl's build is that the motherboard does not have HDMI out. This could be an issue depending on what monitor connections are available. said:
One potential problem with ScrewySqrl's build is that the motherboard does not have HDMI out. This could be an issue depending on what monitor connections are available.



Depending on the university, the resources available could be better or worse than this build, based on both their budgets and how long its been since they upgraded. I'd say the typical State-sponsored University Comp Sci department right now is running on Core2Duos and first gen i3s. This is a better computer than that. If you're lucky, and they refreshed recently, they'll have sandy or ivy bridge i5s, which this computer will be inferior to.


As for HDMI out, that doesn't matter: most monitors have a DVI connection, and there is also a VGA that will work fine with a TV set
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October 19, 2012 10:35:16 PM

I was thinking more along the lines of you'd be running your processing intensive needs on the unix/linux servers (big iron), but yeah ok.

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October 19, 2012 11:02:31 PM

Thanks for all the responses guys! I think my university lab is good, but I prefer doing all my work in my room on my own machine. Also, I don't mind if my code take time to run. I often test the code on small datasets when I'm designing it, and then launch it for the whole dataset over night after I have all the bugs worked out.

Currently I'm using a Core 2 Duo from 2008, and it runs my code in a timeline that I am ok with. This processor is better, so I should be just fine.

I just want to make sure the graphics (7660D) will be enough to support my needs..I guess if its not enough I can always Crossfire it with something.

Thanks,
-DV
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October 19, 2012 11:06:03 PM

i still suggest waiting until you get on campus to leverage the discounts you may get for educational affiliation. Ask around with your colleagues, report back if you have choices for comment.
Good luck
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October 19, 2012 11:22:56 PM

I would definitely get Intel instead of AMD, just look at the benchmarks on pcpartpicker. The Intel chip I'm suggesting (i3-3225) which is a dual core with hyper threading and only uses 55 watts, beats the AMD fx-8120 which is EIGHT core and 135 watts in most benchmark categories. And that is basically AMD's "best" chip.

The i3-3225 has intel 4000 graphics which is the latest and best. I took the previous parts list and only changed the cpu and motherboard, and it's only $24 more. http://pcpartpicker.com/p/kOzl

The Asrock H77m motherboard is the same one I just bought also, it has all the new features like usb 3.0 and sata 3 connections for 6gb/s data transfer. If you get the i3-3225 with it then get some 1600 memory, I got Corsair, should cost about $40 for 8gb.
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October 20, 2012 12:11:58 AM

The HD 4000 is nowhere near the IGP of the A10. The i3 might beat the 8150, but even the A10 beats the 8150. It depends on what you want. Better singlethreaded performance? Go for the i3. Better IGP and better multithreaded performance? A10 it is then.
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October 20, 2012 1:51:12 AM

you might also consider waiting just a week or so. The newest AMD chips are supposed to release on the 23rd -- the CPU versions of the A10 APU.

even without it the 7660D is great for streaming video and lightweight gaming. throw n a $60 HD6670 and you get a gaming system with power beteen a 7750 and 7770 in ability
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October 20, 2012 3:09:22 AM

ScrewySqrl said:
you might also consider waiting just a week or so. The newest AMD chips are supposed to release on the 23rd -- the CPU versions of the A10 APU.

even without it the 7660D is great for streaming video and lightweight gaming. throw n a $60 HD6670 and you get a gaming system with power beteen a 7750 and 7770 in ability


Yes, I can definitely wait. But will the new AMD chips also have the graphics? I guess I'm asking, what would you recommend:

1. Wait for the new chips, if so, what should I get then? New Chip + 6670? Or new chips has a 7660D on it?

OR

2. Get the current A10 APU

Also: I have a 5.1 surround sound system for my current computer that I plan to use with my new build. Will that 5.1 system work? It has three audio cables that plug into my computer (orange, black, and green)..
Its this one: http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c...

If not, can you recommend me a mobo that will work with these speakers?

Thanks,
-DV
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October 20, 2012 11:14:45 AM

the new chips will *not* have the 7660D, but will have higher speeds and more modules, so you'll need a gpu.

The AS Rock motherboard I listed will work with the 5.1 surround.
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October 20, 2012 12:37:21 PM

ScrewySqrl said:
the new chips will *not* have the 7660D, but will have higher speeds and more modules, so you'll need a gpu.

The AS Rock motherboard I listed will work with the 5.1 surround.


Dear ScrewySqrl,

Thanks for all your help! Follow up questions:

1. I see, so would you (in your experience and opinion) go for the new chip + GPU or simply opt for the current APU? Or is it too soon to tell, and we new to wait for them to come out and then look at benchmarks and price/performance charts?

2. My audio system has three audio cables coming out of it (green, orange, and black). The motherboard you listed only has one audio jack (the other two are for the microphone, etc). How will I connect my audio system to your listed mobo? Is there a cable that converts my three audio cables into one?

Thanks much,
-DV
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October 20, 2012 12:43:21 PM

Also, are the USB 3.0 ports on the Motherboard backwards compatible with USB 2.0?

Thanks,
-DV
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October 20, 2012 12:51:49 PM

I would wait and see how they turn out. The A10 will be the same price as the FX-4350, so:
If you want better CPU performance at the expense of the IGP, get the FX-4350 (You could always add a 6670 to it).
If you want a good IGP with the expense of a bit of CPU performance, get the A10.

I think you shouldn't decide on a mobo till you first decide what CPU you want. But, I would opt for a better mobo so it doesn't limit your audio experience.
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October 20, 2012 1:40:33 PM

After doing some extensive google searches, it seems I have learned this:

The listed mobo has 6 channels, where the microphone, front speaker port, and the line in port each have 2 channels, and this is where I can connect my orange, green and black speakers. The problem is that if I want to use a microphone, then I will have to unplug one of those to use my microphone. BUT the case also has a microphone port on it, so I can just connect the case's microphone jack to my mobo, and then I'm good to go.

Also, the adapter to convert my three cables into one, will ruin the 5.1 as it will just make the speakers all the same.

Is this all correct information?
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October 20, 2012 2:15:22 PM

obsama1 said:
I would wait and see how they turn out. The A10 will be the same price as the FX-4350, so:
If you want better CPU performance at the expense of the IGP, get the FX-4350 (You could always add a 6670 to it).
If you want a good IGP with the expense of a bit of CPU performance, get the A10.

I think you shouldn't decide on a mobo till you first decide what CPU you want. But, I would opt for a better mobo so it doesn't limit your audio experience.


Hello obsama1,

It seems that the FX-4350 you listed won't be released until December. Which CPU is coming on Oct. 23rd?

Thanks,
-DV
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October 20, 2012 3:18:33 PM

college_student_14 said:
After doing some extensive google searches, it seems I have learned this:

The listed mobo has 6 channels, where the microphone, front speaker port, and the line in port each have 2 channels, and this is where I can connect my orange, green and black speakers. The problem is that if I want to use a microphone, then I will have to unplug one of those to use my microphone. BUT the case also has a microphone port on it, so I can just connect the case's microphone jack to my mobo, and then I'm good to go.

Also, the adapter to convert my three cables into one, will ruin the 5.1 as it will just make the speakers all the same.

Is this all correct information?

Yup this is common on cheaper boards.
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October 20, 2012 3:31:56 PM

Gentlemen, we have come to a compromise:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A10-5800K 3.8GHz Quad-Core Processor ($119.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock FM2A75M-DGS Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard ($60.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: Patriot Intel Extreme Master, Limited Ed 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($30.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($29.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $326.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
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October 20, 2012 5:22:55 PM

basically similar to my post above. but with a 500gb hdd instead ofa 28gb ssd, nd a slightly different case
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October 20, 2012 10:16:57 PM

ScrewySqrl said:
basically similar to my post above. but with a 500gb hdd instead ofa 28gb ssd, nd a slightly different case


I think I have settled on getting the OCZ Vertex 4 128GB SSD.

But I'm gonna wait until Oct. 23 as you said to see if the CPU version of the A10 + GPU is a better deal than the A10. Do you know the name of the CPU being released on the 23rd?

Thanks,
-DV
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October 21, 2012 2:25:39 AM

I think its just the top-ed chip, the 8350, but I'm not sure. Vishera is what is supposed to come out
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October 21, 2012 3:01:40 PM

Actually, AMD pushed the date back to the 24th. I think they will release the full lineup. It would be dumb of them not to release the lineup on one day.
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October 21, 2012 10:40:46 PM

obsama1 said:
Actually, AMD pushed the date back to the 24th. I think they will release the full lineup. It would be dumb of them not to release the lineup on one day.


I see. I think I'm pretty much set on the A10..they aren't releasing an updated A10 right? So I'm good to go for my build?

Thanks,
-DV
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October 22, 2012 6:09:50 AM

no, not an update to the A10, that only came out just last month. The new chps will be the same basic processor, but no built-in-GPU.
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October 22, 2012 11:46:49 AM

I have been looking on other forums and people really seem to think the i3-2220 > A10 for normal everyday tasks. While it is also said that A10 graphics >> i3; but I wonder if for my needs (all non-gaming), the i3 is the way to go?

Any thoughts on this?

Thanks,
-DV
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October 22, 2012 12:39:33 PM

For normal everyday tasks i3 == A10.
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October 22, 2012 5:17:07 PM

FinneousPJ said:
i3 == A10.


False
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October 22, 2012 7:40:02 PM

well, in normal everyday tasks, the i3-3220 and the A10-5800K trade blows. the A10 a little faster in multithreaded apps, the i3 a little faster in single threaded apps, but both within a small percentage of each other at anything.


thus the A10 is roughly equal to the i3-3220.
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