Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Budget Build for multitasking, hobby electronics design & development

Last response: in Systems
Share
November 16, 2012 4:59:52 PM

I make robots. :D  I need a new PC.

My current system is a sad little Pentium D 2.8GHz Dell Optiplex 520 with 3.5G ram, XP Home. It gets my by... barely.

I haven't built my own PC since the days of the 486DX100, I am hoping for advice from the gurus here. :D 

What will I do with it? Design electronic circuits, draft drawings of robot parts, write documents, do spreadsheet calcs, write software for myriad micro-controllers as well as desktop Java app development, take pictures and videos of robots, post them on my blog. I listen to music while doing all this. :)  I'd like to a virtual machine (one at a time) with XP Vista, Win7 and Linux for testing apps. The hobby (and family life) leaves no time for gaming. :D  It must run Windows to run all of my primary apps.

Budget? Around $300 to include only the OS, case, mobo, CPU, memory, graphics. Not including -- HDD, PSU, optical drives. I spend a lot of money to build robots leaving little to build a PC :sarcastic: 

Other Goals? I'd like the system to be tolerable in 4-5 years, sort of like how my Optiplex is tolerable now. I'm fairly tolerant and tend to run older systems ok.

What apps? Eagle circuit design, Sketchup, OpenOffice, iTunes, Foxit PDF viewer, Google Earth, Picasa, GIMP (8-15MP images), Octave math simulation (math calcs on big arrays), Windows Movie Maker / video file conversion (often HD video, usually for upload to YT), NetBeans (Java, C++), Eclipse (C++), various other embedded developer IDEs, most fairly lightweight compared to NetBeans let alone Eclipse. No games. I may do some simple 3d simulation in the future.

Multitasking? Usually have a dozen Chrome tabs and a half-dozen or more memory intensive apps running. 3.5G makes that livable now. I tend to switch between apps rapidly. The extra mem helped. Sometimes the PC can't keep up with my rabid searching for datasheets, example code, etc. :) 

Noise/Overclocking/Cooling/n-stuff I sit next to it ALL DAY LONG so a roaring fan is a no-go.

What works right now most everything is livable and I can run a lot of apps at once with only 3.5G. The PC is painfully slow on certain tasks. I'd rather jump up the curve to instant response on most stuff and livably slow on the rest.

Particularly slow things my circuit CAD loads and processes lots of libraries (XML files) from the disk on a regular basis and it takes way too long for my tastes. Launching big apps like NetBeans is rather delayed. Video import takes forever as does any significant editing/processing. Compiling is usually good enough but faster would make me more productive in my firmware development. YouTube is on the slow side particularly for full screen, high res.

I already have a HDD, optical drives, and 400W ATX PSU.

Here's my initial sketch for the rest of the parts based on my very limited knowledge. http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nWYD

Thoughts, options, opinions?

Thanks much for taking the time.
November 16, 2012 5:26:36 PM

Not sure what what will a good recommendation according to your needs, but considering my own recent experience upgrading my old system, be aware that many new mobos no longer support ide connectors (now only sata). So if you plan to use your old HDD and optical drives, take a look on this.
Just my 2 cents.
November 16, 2012 5:31:55 PM

Thanks! Good tip. Thankfully my hdd is SATA. Whew.
Related resources
November 16, 2012 5:39:40 PM

Hi :) 

$300 for a cad machine just is not enough...my company builds machines for similar business users who use Autocad etc... they cost thousands...you are going to have to increase your budget...

All the best Brett :) 
November 16, 2012 5:40:22 PM

This topic has been moved from the section CPU & Components to section Systems by Mousemonkey
November 16, 2012 5:55:01 PM

"I spend a lot of money to build robots leaving little to build a PC"........... that will be your downfall. keep saving. you want too much for too little.
November 16, 2012 6:56:41 PM

$300 does not really leave room for a $100 operating system like Windows, but you could run Ubuntu which is a free Linux operating system. And it also does not leave enough for a graphics card, but if you get a good AMD processor they have pretty good built in graphics. Here's what I came up with for close to $300.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor ($129.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: ASRock N68C-GS FX Micro ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($44.98 @ Outlet PC)
Memory: Corsair XMS3 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill CHALLENGER ATX Mid Tower Case ($39.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($19.98 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $284.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-11-16 15:54 EST-0500)

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nXPY
November 16, 2012 7:09:10 PM

In this build I used your motherboard and memory you had listed, they are probably a little better than the ones I had. I added the 6 core cpu, removed Windows, and replaced the case with the Rosewill Challenger. It looks like a really good case and has 3 pre installed fans. I've been tempted to buy one myself even though I don't need one. :-)

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz 6-Core Processor ($129.99 @ NCIX US)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3 54.8 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($16.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-78LMT-S2P Micro ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Kingston Blu 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill CHALLENGER ATX Mid Tower Case ($39.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Sony AD-7280S-0B DVD/CD Writer ($18.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $285.94
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-11-16 16:06 EST-0500)

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nXUI
November 16, 2012 7:38:47 PM

Here's the best I can do including the OS. I didn't leave any for a video card, but you might be able to find a Radeon 5450, etc, for $10-20 after rebate sometime if the onboard isn't good enough. It should be fine if you don't game at all, period.

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nY9G
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nY9G/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nY9G/benchmarks/

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($89.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-78LMT-S2P Micro ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Kingston Blu 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill FBM-01 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($34.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Rosewill 350W ATX Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $309.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-11-16 16:38 EST-0500)
November 16, 2012 7:55:35 PM

Thanks for the replies so far, very very helpful!!

I changed the title of the thread; I shouldn't have said "CAD" -- I'm not doing high end cad work. Folks may not be familiar with how lightweight my "cad" software is.

Eagle is a very lightweight circuit design and pcb layout program. I use Sketchup for drafting. Nothing really intense in that tool, most of the time. I've taxed it, but basically anything from where I'm at is up.

Windows is a hard requirement because of the software I need. Unfortunately, a couple of key items are unsupported natively on Linux and are too important to mess with Wine or VMs or whatnot.

@moderator: sorry for posting in the wrong spot :( 
November 16, 2012 8:00:46 PM

You said you didn't need the PSU, right? So take that out of my build above and use that for a cheap video card and you are set.
November 16, 2012 8:33:30 PM

Triple Core cpu!

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD Athlon II X3 450 3.2GHz Triple-Core Processor ($54.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3 54.8 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($16.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-78LMT-S2P Micro ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Kingston Blu 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Rosewill CHALLENGER ATX Mid Tower Case ($39.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Sony AD-7280S-0B DVD/CD Writer ($18.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) ($91.99 @ Amazon)
Total: $302.93
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-11-16 17:31 EST-0500)

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/nYx3
November 17, 2012 4:11:36 AM

Again many thanks for all the input...

The Microcenter mobo/cpu deal is looking good. Somewhat debating between X4 and X6 version of Phenom II, same price each. I suspect I'd rather have faster cores (3.6GHz x 4) than more cores (2.7GHz x 6). The APU options would otherwise be a great but for that incredibly tempting mobo/cpu combo.

I'm going to pony up a little extra for the Diablotek EVO Mid Tower ATX Computer Case (http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...) to ensure plenty of cooling for the X4.

I already have a copy of Vista laying around somewhere as well as XP and can apparently upgrade online for $40 so that saves $60.

Basically I'm out the door for $220 for the hardware incl. tax + $40 for the OS. That ain't half bad.

And I get to take it home from the local store.

!