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Cheapest build with upgrade potential

Last response: in Systems
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January 16, 2013 4:47:15 AM

Hello,

I'm looking for advice on what the minimum hardware I can get is that has upgrade potential.

[feel free to skip this next part if you're prone to tl;dr]
I'll start by saying I haven't built a computer in around 15 years. I haven't had the money to, and what I have gotten were hand-me-down bottom of the line eMachines, Dells and the like. Before my girlfriend and I moved, we had 3 computers. An eMachines from around 2004 that had an AMD Athlon XP 3000+ (single core running at 2 GHz). A Dell from around 2004 that has a Pentium 4 single core running at about 2 GHz, and another Dell from around 2004 running another Pentium 4 at 1.8 GHz. The latter Dell has 1.5 GB of ram, and is almost maxed out for what it will handle. (The other Dell only has 768 MB and the eMachines is no longer with us). Only one of them has a video card, and it's from about the same era. Recently my girlfriend got a chance to play some of her Facebook games on my Mom's computer (I think an E2xxx series Celeron), and she commented on how it was one of the fastest computers she's used in a long time.

I'd like to spend some money to get something new that has upgrade potential. The reason I mention the shitboxes we have is to prove the point that the lowest CPU is going to be a pretty decent upgrade to what we have now.

I want to get everyone's advice as to what would be a good start to being able to upgrade in the future. I would imagine with Intel, I could get the cheapest 1155 socket processor (it looks like something in the Pentium G4xx or G5xx series), find a cheap motherboard, HDD, PSU, case, etc... and go from there. Unfortunately, things seem a little more complicated with AMD and I'm not completely sure what would be a good start for upgrading, and what sockets are compatible with what, etc.

I'm not too concerned with how old these things are, as long as there's room to move upward, I just want to get something newer in this house ASAP.

Hopefully this isn't too long. Thanks for reading!

January 16, 2013 5:03:10 AM

You can get a Celeron that works off the latest LGA1155 socket for around $45 boxed with fan. That can later be upgraded to a 3rd gen i7. You can build this system for around $250. $50 for case/PSU, $50 for processor $50 for motherboard, $60 for hard drive, $10 for memory (2 gb ddr3) and then spend what you have to for the O/S. I was looking at a similar build myself to hook up to the television.
January 16, 2013 5:04:29 AM

If you spend more for a better motherboard you can up the ram to 32 gb in the future. But a $50 motherboard could be later upgraded to an I7.
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January 16, 2013 5:09:23 AM

I would skip the AMD build because although it can be upgraded the path is a little less certain. But, if you want AMD I would suggest finding an chip that uses the AM3 socket. The problem with AMD is that they are running off of 2 chipsets. The FM2 board is for the A series with the integrated GPU while the AM3 is for the more expensive chips without the integrated GPU. Because of this, if you want upgrade potential you would need to go for the more expensive AM3 based chip from the beginning.
January 16, 2013 5:33:40 AM
January 16, 2013 4:51:53 PM

Wow, thanks for all the responses and links.

No kids (unless you count a couple of dogs). The girlfriend mostly plays flash games on facebook (which is probably what this build is going to be for). I do a some embedded and desktop programming, and have recently been roped into WoW (for which I have a laptop from work running an i5). Aside from possibly streaming videos online (which both of us do), that's about all they would need to do. I don't play any really graphic intensive games or anything....

Given all that, I think I'm leaning towards starting with an old Celeron and going up from there, as I don't think I have enough of a use for some of the features that make AMDs chips more attractive.

Thanks for the help!
January 16, 2013 5:01:32 PM

This topic has been moved from the section CPU & Components to section Systems by Mousemonkey
January 16, 2013 5:09:59 PM

dragonlord12832 said:
I would skip the AMD build because although it can be upgraded the path is a little less certain. But, if you want AMD I would suggest finding an chip that uses the AM3 socket. The problem with AMD is that they are running off of 2 chipsets. The FM2 board is for the A series with the integrated GPU while the AM3 is for the more expensive chips without the integrated GPU. Because of this, if you want upgrade potential you would need to go for the more expensive AM3 based chip from the beginning.


If going with an AMD phenom/fx build, you'll want an AM3+ board, not AM3. Also, the FM2 chips are basically phenoms anyway. They're no slouch - The CPU portion of the 5800k is roughly equivalent to a 965 black.
January 16, 2013 5:19:59 PM

What do you want to use the computer for? Listing uses in order of priority would help as well.
January 16, 2013 7:28:24 PM

Sorry about posting in the wrong place. Thanks for moving it.

As for priorities, I have my laptop for all of my stuff, so for her they're probably:

1. Play flash games on facebook smoothly
2. Watch (stream?) HD videos smoothly
3. Run Windows 7 (64 bit) smoothly...

If each of us have a computer, I can save for myself in the future. But after I upgrade something on this one, I'll probably keep it for my desktop, where I basically just want it to be able to watch HD videos and run a Linux OS smoothly...

I'm really not very picky, I just want something that can concurrently run an OS and a flash game (or video) smoothly, that I can upgrade later.
January 16, 2013 8:22:41 PM

Take a peek at the $200 and 300 gaming builds in my sig as a starting point.

The $300 build is the cheapest fully upgradeable system there. The 6670 video card is a bit of overkill for just facebook games & HD video, but cards below that lose a lot of performance while only saving a little cash.

The motherboard supports the entire line of current intel processors, so you can drop in an i5/i7 later should the budget & mood strike you. You can put in a second 4gb stick as well as swapping out the video card for whatever you want.

The $200 build is somewhat upgradeable as well, you'd be able to put in an A10-5800K later, which is a powerful processor (though not as strong as the mid-upper i5/i7's). You can add more memory to this rig as well.

The downside is the video part of the APU's. While they are much better than any other integrated video solution, they're still nowhere near as good as a discrete card. The 5800k's intergrated video isn't even as good as the 6670. You can add a discrete card to this build, but there is a compromise in that you'd either have to use low end cards (for dual graphics with the APU), or disable the integrated video to use a more powerful card.

However the APU in the $200 build is still plenty for Win7, facebook games, HD video playback, & whatever flavor of Linux :) 


enjoy!
January 17, 2013 12:33:47 AM

Microcenter has a Celeron G550 processor on sale ($35), so it looks like I might shoot for something like the $300 build you have, and maybe leave a few things out initially.... which brings me to my question.

If I go with the G550, is a video card required, or would Intel's integrated graphics be able to handle everything on the list? I only ask because from what I've gathered, everything else being equal, Intel is a bit less capable than AMD when it comes to integrated graphics. Also, I have no clue how much gets passed to graphics processor to run the OS's windowing system, video decoding, and the like.
January 17, 2013 2:58:02 PM

The catch to the microcenter prices is they are only available in store, and there are only a couple dozen microcenter locations. If you're lucky enough to live near one, get the processor there for sure.

I recommend a video card with the G550. The "intel HD" graphics on the celerons are weak even by intel standards It *should* handle facebook games well, but it can struggle a bit on HD video playback. That having been said, you can always add a discrete card later.

If you don't mind mail-in rebates, this radeon HD 5450 ends up being $20.58 including shipping, and can handle everything you've listed with ease. the 6670 at $50 is still better value for your money, but if you don't need it, you don't need it :) 

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
January 17, 2013 5:06:01 PM

Yeah, I'm lucky enough to live within about 45-60 minutes of two. :sol:  (Chicagoland)

Eh, I don't have a great history with mail in rebates, but the price is good, so I'll definitely consider it... (especially if it looks like Intel's graphics can't pull its weight).

Looks like I'm gonna go with the G550 then.

Thanks everyone for the help, you especially quilciri!

!