Budget win7 desktop build
January 17, 2011 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Replacing my dinosaur desktop PC, can you do better on a $385.00 budget?

I'm too embarrassed to even say what I'm running as my home PC - but I've filled the HD and it's been up for replacement for a while. It will hold backups for my new primary.

I do very little gaming [newest game I own is Age of Empires II], however I do some digital photography and would like to explore photoshop again in the future after a several year hiatus. Aside from that mostly internets and listening to pandora or my small collection of MP3's. I do, however want a system that is current and will be upgradeable when needed in the future. Budget is $480.00 minus $95.00 for win7 pro so I've got $385.00 for hardware. Don't need a new monitor, and keyboard/mouse/speakers are fine from my old system.

From browsing older questions, I found this link to somethingawfulforums that was very helpful.

Everything is free shipping except for the case [as noted].


Cooler Master Centurion $49.99 + $16.99 shipping

Power Supply:

Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W $39.99

AMD Athlon II X3 445 Rana 3.1GHz 3 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core $77.00

ASUS M4A77TD AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD $74.99 [with a $15 rebate]

Video Card:
SPARKLE SX84GS256D2LDPP GeForce 8400 GS 256MB 64-bit DDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 $29.99

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9S-4GBRL $40.99

Hard drive:
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" $54.99

ASUS Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 24X DVD Burner $16.99

So the total ends up [with shipping] to $416.92
minus the $15.00 promo on the Harddrive
= $401.92
plus $95.00 for Win 7 pro
= $496.92
and the $15.00 rebate for the MoBo brings the total down to $481.92

Are there any compatibility issues or anything that looks bad? All the reviews I've found on the major components are very favorable. Or can you do better than I can on price?

I have a little flexibility on the price, another $20.00 won't kill me but if a suggestion requires the build to break the $500 mark it needs to make a significant difference. I also strongly favor reliability and affordability over small differences in speed - I'm confident this will far exceed my needs for a good long while and I want it to last that while.
posted by cheesyburgercheese to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get thee to the techreport forums, create an account and post in the System Builders Anonymous section.

The moderator there, JustAnEngineer is absolutely flipping fantastic at digging through deals and combos at newegg and the community in general is really helpful in answering your questions and concerns about building a system.

I was very skiddish and uncertain about building my own system and they helped me pick out the bits that I needed for the budget that I had.
posted by royalsong at 6:13 AM on January 17, 2011

Amazon has the case for $55 and free shipping.
posted by valkyryn at 6:25 AM on January 17, 2011

I'd recommend buying the motherboard, processor, and ram as a combo rather than assembling yourself. The retailer then does a burn-in, and you're guaranteed that the parts work together...plus it's cheaper than individual components a lot of times, too. I look at Pricewatch for deals, although there are some discrepancies between what's on PW and what's on the retailers site, so keep your eyes open.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2011

I'd say unless you have a specific desire to build your own computer, just buy a cheap one around that price from a major manufacturer. Having built computers before and seen them built, there's a lot of potential for various kinds of incompatibilities and errors that could drive you nuts down the road.

An HP or Dell could get very close to your specs at around the same price. They've tested the configuration. Just go with them and give yourself peace of mind. The computers are plenty powerful enough.
posted by shivohum at 7:58 AM on January 17, 2011

I would go with dell.I have had them both and they are both good machines,but if you can buy off of dells small business site you will get to talk with people with mostly american accents.Also you will get more for your money by buying a package.
posted by bswartzel at 9:21 AM on January 17, 2011

I'm biased towards Dells via the fact that I did field repair for major computer manufacturers for a couple of years, and Dells were by FAR the easiest to fix in the field -- I often didn't even need a screwdriver. So bearing that in mind, I'd check out the Dell Outlet site and just hang around refreshing until you find something that meets your needs at your price.
posted by KathrynT at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2011

You can consider getting a motherboard with built-in graphics. You can find a good one for the same price, and you can knock off the $30 you have slotted for the card. You'll be able to add the video card in later pretty easily if you think you need an upgrade.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:02 AM on January 17, 2011

I'd search for an open box vid card, such as this one to save another 30% on that piece..
posted by Glendale at 10:34 AM on January 17, 2011

I'd say the only reason to build it yourself is if you have specific ideas about what you might want to upgrade. It seems odd you'd choose a motherboard with three old-school PCI slots; those are pretty useless these days. Unless you have some specific old-school PCI cards you plan on using, that suggests you're choosing the motherboard based on its price; in which case, I'd say get a prebuilt system.
posted by Rat Spatula at 10:59 AM on January 17, 2011

I followed the recommendations at Hardware-Revolution.com with much success when choosing the parts for my new system. Based on the parts and price target you listed here, you might be interested in his Web PC build. All the parts are ensured to be compatible and are selected for the best performance for the price, so it's a great way to ensure you're getting the most bang for your limited buck.
posted by platinum at 11:30 AM on January 17, 2011

So, you might have already seen this, but Tom's Hardware has a semi-regular feature called the "System Builder Marathon," where they try to create the most balanced/well-rounded systems they can within a given price point. Their December 2010 $500 PC looks a lot like your build, but with a nicer graphics card: so that's a sign that you're pretty close to the right idea. The only thing I'd say about your build is that it feels like your graphics card is weaker than your other components, and thus (in some situations) might be a bottleneck; I'd probably save up to get something a bit more powerful, but that's just me. (In particular, if you're sure that your interests are going to stay with strictly running photoshop/mp3s/pandora/internet stuff, like you say, you really won't need much in the way of graphics: those are all pretty much cpu-centric apps.)

Also, if you're a student at most any college, you can usually get Win7 with a student discount for about $65, from windows directly (here: it also bears noting that the upgrade version can work as a clean-install version. Directions on how to do this come up if you google for "how to clean install windows 7 with an upgrade disk" or somesuch phrase.)

and have fun! building a system is really enjoyable, and gives you a really tactile feeling of having assembled something solid for yourself.
posted by Chionophilia at 1:40 PM on January 17, 2011

If you don't care about looks and can wait for a deal you can regularly get cases off newegg for $30 shipped.

Also, if you don't mind 2x2gb vs 1x4gb, you can get 4gb of ram on Amazon for 19.99 after rebate.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:56 PM on January 17, 2011

I was going to recommend Ars Technica's 2010 Budget Box specs, but that comes in over your budget. Still, there may be something in there that sparks your interest, and their forums can be helpful too.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2011

Craigslist is going to beat any homebrew you can come up with. So are a lot of manufacturers options. The days of building a cheaper computer are long gone.
posted by zug at 3:55 PM on January 17, 2011

Response by poster: okay.... well I posted over at the Techreport here

I've sinced changed my case selection tentatively to this Rosewill Blackbone that not only shaved some money off the build cost, but has 4 USB ports in the front of the case! Woot!

Another point I guess I should mention is that where I am on a budget, and trying to stretch my dollar on this... part of the build is the fun of it for me, too.

I'd consider a prebuilt system from Dell or HP or whoever if it was a very good deal and was very similar to what I was getting.... but one holdup I have about that is many of them seem to come with Win7 Home, and I very much prefer Pro so that I have the Virtual XP. That being said, if someone has a specific link to a system that is a great deal and close to what I've put together here - I'd be willing to check it out. Many of the systems I started looking out with I've dismissed because they always seem to have one problem component in them [for example an unreliable HD or factory crippled CPU] that makes them unappealing to me.

Thanks a bunch for the awesome feedback [and links!] so far!
posted by cheesyburgercheese at 5:27 PM on January 17, 2011

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