I'm currently working on a project that needs to run a processor-intensive model that might very likely take about 2 years on my i7 machine. But I can parcel out the work to 5-6 small machines, so I'm looking for the best value system build in terms of processing speed per dollar.
I only really need each machine to have 4GB of RAM and USB3.0 (to process data off of external hard drives).
I don't need any other frills - no drives except a bare minimum drive (40GB is fine) for the software and Linux.
A small form factor and low power consumption are preferable since this would be in my house.
Pre-built would be nice, but I would mass produce them myself if that's what's needed. I'm looking for that "sweet spot" chipset processor, but I don't know if that's more on the high end (like an i5-i7) or on the far low end (like Pentium 4). And accordingly whether I should do 5-6 cheap machines or 2 higher end machines.
So, what I need are:
1) Smallest possible form factor case
2) Best raw value processor from a throughput perspective