Cheap i3 Build

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Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:39 pm

I'm putting together a desktop with someone on a budget. It will be used for the basic stuff, like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and emailing. But she also wants to get into basic audio editing, which could be a bit more demanding. (And the only thing keeping me from recommending a processor like the G3220.)

She says she doesn't care about gaming that much, but the capability to add a GPU later for medium settings at 1080p seems like a benefit to me. There's a fair possibility I'll bequeath her my HD 5870 when I upgrade in the next year. So perhaps a case with enough room for it and a compatible motherboard would be worth while, as well as a PSU with enough juice.

I know the System Builder just came out, but do I really need a $60 case? Or a $105 motherboard? Also, I'm within driving distance of a Micro Center. That changes everything. :)

They have a sale on motherboards if you get a specific processor. They sell the i3-4130 for $100, and the i3-4340 for $130. Most of the cheap motherboards are $30 off if we go with the i3-4340, but the deal doesn't extend lower to the i3-4130. So I view that as a free upgrade for a processor 10% quicker. All of the compatible motherboards are listed here: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/f09 ... 09f9daf/33

So why do I need the $105 motherboard that TR recommends? Why not a $60, $70, or $80 motherboard?

And what cases do you recommend that are cheaper than the Corsair 200R? And will they be able to fit the HD 5870?
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:51 pm

Have you looked at the combo deals on microcenters websight I believe you can get a 4670k and a MSI z87motherboard for 230$
» 4th GEN CORE i5-4670K PROCESSOR BUNDLES
4th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 4670K 3.4GHz LGA 1150 Processor
4th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-4670K 3.4GHz LGA 1150 Processor
$189.99
583302

Save $30
MSI Z87-G41 PC Mate LGA 1150 ATX
MSI
Z87-G41 PC Mate LGA 1150 ATX
614982
$229.98
BUY this BUNDLE
http://www.microcenter.com//site/brands ... ndles.aspx <<<<<<<<bundle page

Hell for $439 you can build a Ivy bridge -e system starting with a 4820k cpu and a GA-X79-UD3 Socket 2011 X79 ATX for $440 Heck that is cheaper then buying a good z87 MB and a 4770k from the egg. And while you are there check the price tags on every thing you might want they have in stock....you just might find a 119$ sound card for 30$ :)
Last edited by vargis14 on Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:01 pm

Of course you don't need a $xx motherboard if it has unnecessary features that would go unused. Just figure out what will be useful and find a motherboard that meets the requirements. For an i3, a Z chipset isn't necessary because i3s can't be overclocked, but at the same time there might be features you do want that a Z87 motherboard has. Plus, you may not want to limit yourself to the discount motherboard list 'just because discount' if none of them meet the needs, or are unnecessarily expensive, but if it gets you a 'free' CPU upgrade and there's a suitable motherboard, great. To check the differences between the chipsets, check Wikipedia.

As for a case, you may want to consider future expandability a bit more unlike the chipset. Additional hard drive bays, optical bays, front USB ports, and of course overall quality. There are so many choices in cases it's hard to say, but once you get much below $50 (aside from sales) quality can drop off pretty fast, but if you get something inexpensive from a decent brand the main compromise will just be material thickness.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:38 pm

vargis14 wrote:Have you looked at the combo deals on microcenters websight I believe you can get a 4670k and a MSI z87motherboard for 230$
» 4th GEN CORE i5-4670K PROCESSOR BUNDLES
4th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 4670K 3.4GHz LGA 1150 Processor
4th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-4670K 3.4GHz LGA 1150 Processor
$189.99
583302

Save $30
MSI Z87-G41 PC Mate LGA 1150 ATX
MSI
Z87-G41 PC Mate LGA 1150 ATX
614982
$229.98
BUY this BUNDLE
http://www.microcenter.com//site/brands ... ndles.aspx <<<<<<<<bundle page

Hell for $439 you can build a Ivy bridge -e system starting with a 4820k cpu and a GA-X79-UD3 Socket 2011 X79 ATX for $440 Heck that is cheaper then buying a good z87 MB and a 4770k from the egg. And while you are there check the price tags on every thing you might want they have in stock....you just might find a 119$ sound card for 30$ :)

The subject said i3. Why are we looking at i5's? With a low budget any so-called "audio work" is not going to be that professional.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:11 pm

Milo Burke wrote:She says she doesn't care about gaming that much, but the capability to add a GPU later for medium settings at 1080p seems like a benefit to me. There's a fair possibility I'll bequeath her my HD 5870 when I upgrade in the next year. So perhaps a case with enough room for it and a compatible motherboard would be worth while, as well as a PSU with enough juice.

I think that's a fair reason to pick up a case with room, but if she really doesn't want to do any gaming, the convenience of a smaller case has a higher value, IMO.

I know the System Builder just came out, but do I really need a $60 case? Or a $105 motherboard? Also, I'm within driving distance of a Micro Center. That changes everything. :)

First, thank you for confirming that you live near a MicroCenter. Second, of course you don't need a $60 case or $105 motherboard. The System Guide is really targeted for systems that can play games, and even the budget options are meant to offer a strong upgrade path.

Are there any other budget limitations? Do you have a copy of Windows for this? Remember that Dell and HP machines often come with a "free" copy of Windows (since it's cheaper for them to buy them by the hundreds).
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:04 pm

I would say get the cheapest setup you can get with a Pentium G3220 and an H81 or B85 board that has the connections you need. Audio editing doesn't really need all that much horse power from my experience, but then there are many different types audio editing, and a pretty wide range of software for doing it.

My sister does some basic audio editing for poetry and youtube videos with an old Athlon X2 4200+ (socket 939 with DDR) and it handles Goldwave just fine for several minute long audio tracks. If you're talking about doing serious music\video mixing work with multiple tracks of 24bit audio, you'd certainly be looking at a system with more power and more memory, but then we would also be talking about getting a good sound card and a set of expensive speakers. Since neither of those were mentioned, I'd recommend just going with the G3220 and a basic board. They can handle pretty much anything with ease aside from gaming (simply because of the GPU). Plus, if you decide to donate your 5870 to the cause at some point, its a lot more justifiable to upgrade from a $70 Pentium to a Core i5 Quad core later to balance out the system... as opposed to upgrading from a $130 i3 that was never fully utilized.

EDIT: That said, if there's a smoking deal on an i3, it certainly won't hurt to have a faster GPU and hyper threading. I just wouldn't bother spending nearly twice as much for the CPU if it isn't really going to be noticed.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 10:49 am

Don't be afraid of lower cost mobos. Most of the price increases on mobos come from the necessities of overclocking and additional features that she may or may not ever need/use. Something like the Gigabyte GA-H81M-H ($15 after $30 discount at Microcenter, $60 at newegg) might be all she needs. Keep a strong eye on needed features.

Good quality cases don't have to break the bank.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:30 pm

So many great replies! Thanks!

- I wasn't aware of the bundle deals from Micro Center. Excellent. :)

- By audio editing, I don't mean splicing together two tracks to back a YouTube video. She's seen the sessions I've been working on in Pro Tools, generally 20-30 track sessions heavy with virtual instruments. And while my setup isn't a pro setup, it does have its expenses: Pro Tools, an audio interface, virtual instruments, and processing plugins. I started researching cheaper options and Tracktion is looking pretty good: $60 for a fully featured DAW that has most of the abilities pro DAWs have, but with a super easy learning curve. Also, I'm pretty sure it comes with a plugin suite with all the basics covered. Additionally, it supports VST plugins, which seem to be the standard for free and next-to-free plugins and virtual instruments the world over. I suspect we can track down some free virtual instruments for all the basics: synths, drums, and piano. And if there doesn't seem to be any worthwhile free options for a piano, for example, then we look at paying for only a virtual piano. As for headphones/soundcard/speakers/interface, of course good equipment is necessary for great results, I expect this mostly to be a learning tool for her. Just like you don't give your twelve year old a $3,000 guitar when you don't know if he'll stick with it more than a month. You get the $150 kit with the guitar, amp, strap, strings, and pick all included. If she wants to record vocals or real instruments for her music, I'll have her do it with my gear. And if she wants it properly mixed, I'll probably import the session into Pro Tools where I'm comfortable and have the right tools.

- By audio editing, I mean music creation with plugins and virtual instruments. That's why I was looking above the G3220 (unless you don't think I need to?). On one hand, that seems to be asking for a quad-core processor with some brute force. Then again, I used to run Pro Tools on an AMD X2 5000+ with 4 GB of DDR2 (on Vista, no less), and I used virtual pianos, synths, and drums. It was rather slow, but it didn't seriously dog until I started creating microfades for manually shifting half of the drum hits in an entire session. If she does end up hitting the IO or processing ceiling, I can teach her to print effects and bounce the virtual instruments so it no longer has to calculate those in real time.

- I think I'll leave the case decision up to her: "This one costs $60 but is easy to work in, durable, and looks pretty. This one costs $40 but gets bad reviews for durability and doesn't look as nice. You decide."

- I don't have an OS to give her. I'm aware Dell and HP and the others have incredible buying power and make a very compelling case at the low end of the market. My plan is to figure out what hardware she needs, compare prices between full system and component prices, then chip in the $50 or so extra it will cost to build as an incentive to learn. She seems interested in building, and I think it will give her pride of accomplishment, and also a much deeper understanding of what each component does and why she needs it.

- Budget is tight overall. She's a student working three part time jobs. No luxury items, no bling.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:46 pm

Milo Burke wrote:- Budget is tight overall. She's a student working three part time jobs. No luxury items, no bling.

Do you have a number? To some $500 is tight, others think $200. If it is towards the low end, it may not be possible unless you go HP/Dell/Lenovo or you manage to find a lot of free parts. Have to be realistic. Set a number, and then we can talk.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:51 pm

Flying Fox wrote: If it is towards the low end, it may not be possible unless you go HP/Dell/Lenovo.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:12 pm

Milo Burke wrote:I think I'll leave the case decision up to her: "This one costs $60 but is easy to work in, durable, and looks pretty. This one costs $40 but gets bad reviews for durability and doesn't look as nice. You decide."

Ummmm, the list of cases I linked earlier are all in the $40 range with 5-star newegg reviews.... Durability? Is this going to be a LAN box? Sounds like you're making up her mind for her.

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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:21 pm

Flying Fox wrote:
Milo Burke wrote:- Budget is tight overall. She's a student working three part time jobs. No luxury items, no bling.

Do you have a number? To some $500 is tight, others think $200. If it is towards the low end, it may not be possible unless you go HP/Dell/Lenovo or you manage to find a lot of free parts. Have to be realistic. Set a number, and then we can talk.


THIS. You might even find a decent-pre-built machine for your budget from Dell / HP etc., complete with OS and support. Custom builds aren't as cheap as they used to be, unless you have parts on hand and / or are mixing old + new parts.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:57 pm

JdL wrote:
Flying Fox wrote:
Milo Burke wrote:- Budget is tight overall. She's a student working three part time jobs. No luxury items, no bling.

Do you have a number? To some $500 is tight, others think $200. If it is towards the low end, it may not be possible unless you go HP/Dell/Lenovo or you manage to find a lot of free parts. Have to be realistic. Set a number, and then we can talk.


THIS. You might even find a decent-pre-built machine for your budget from Dell / HP etc., complete with OS and support. Custom builds aren't as cheap as they used to be, unless you have parts on hand and / or are mixing old + new parts.

Seconded. There are lots of nice systems out there for dirt cheap these days. If you're on a super tight budget, you can even look around craigslist or other places for a cheap (free?) system to upgrade. People are throwing away 2007-2010 systems already, thinking they are useless because they got a virus.

I won't say that this is common, but a coworker of mine gave me two of his "old" Dell systems in exchange for me getting the pictures off of the hard drives for him. One was an Inspiron 530 from late 2007 running Vista, the other was a Inspiron 560 from 2010 running Windows 7. They were rough cosmetically (the 530 was actually missing the front bezel), but I cleaned them out with a shop vac, found a new bezel for the 530 on ebay for $20, and commenced with the upgrades. The 560 had a Pentium E5700 3Ghz, 4Gb of DDR3 (yeah, DDR3 in a Socket 775 system), a G43 chipset and a 500Gb WD Blue SATA drive. I modified the CPU socket to take modified Socket 771 Xeons (takes about 10 minutes), threw in a Xeon L5420 2.5Ghz 50 watt Quad core with 12Mb cache that I had on hand ($20 on ebay last year), a Seasonic 350W 80+ PSU ($15 on ebay) and a Quadro FX 580 512Mb GDDR3 card ($13 on ebay, equivalent of a 9500GT). It pulls around 45 watts at idle, maybe less, and tops out at around 110w under a full prime95 load on all four cores. Total cost? $48 for the upgrades, and I still have the old CPU and power supply. The CPU manages about 3900 in passmark, and the GPU a little over 300... not that passmark matters much, but to give a rough idea, the CPU score is similar to an i3 2120 (Sandy Bridge 3.3Ghz), and the GPU scores similarly to Intel HD 3000 graphics.

In fact, I just sold that 560 today with a BenQ GW2255 21.5" VA 1080P LED screen and a new logitech keyboard and mouse for $500, and the customer is very happy. It will make a very solid multimedia and business machine... and I made around $330.

For a custom built Haswell based Pentium system which wouldn't have been as fast in multithreaded applications I would've had to charge $700+ to make the same profit.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:16 pm

All good thoughts. I appreciate it.

I lean on Dell Outlet heavily for work purchases. Very competitive.

Hard numbers can be hard to get. I think $500 is a safe starting point. I think she's used to looking at the cheapest computers listed and imagining all computers perform the same. She showed me an add for a Chromebook the other day, haha. I suppose I need to help choose beefy enough hardware to not be making a mistake, yet to not pass along my upgraditis to her.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:22 pm

Do you have an idea how much hardware that DAW app requires? I'm sure whatever you have in mind should make the minimum requirements, but at what level of frustration? You need to set realistic expectations with her.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Fri Mar 07, 2014 5:07 pm

Tracktion recommends 4 GB of RAM and a Core 2 Duo. But it would probably appreciate more.

Her current computer can't play YouTube videos smoothly enough to be worth watching. Anything will be an upgrade.

My thought is that any i3 or higher from Sandy Bridge or later (later meaning "batterier") coupled with 8 GB of RAM perfectly fulfills every need a consumer has. (For pre-built, 8 GB generally implies dual channel.) And adding a cheap SSD makes it darn near an enthusiast computer. I tell the uneducated, "This is a good computer, but one extra part can make it a great computer, effectively doubling the speed. Tell me what you store on your laptop and I'll tell you if the part will cost $85 or $150."

But prices have been trending up, especially on RAM, but across the rest of the system too. A year ago, I bought two laptops from Dell Outlet on a coupon, 8 GB of RAM each, one an i3 and one an i5 on Ivy Bridge. The i3 was $395 shipped, tax included. And the i5 was $415 shipped, tax included. The i3 got a 128 GB Samsung 840 EVO as soon as it was released, and it's a fantastic machine. But now, even with a coupon, Dell Outlet machines are $100 more expensive but only come with 4 GB (single channel). Finding the cheapest model with 8 GB is several hundred more, but upgrading from Newegg costs $70-80 too. Sucks.

And yeah, I know many consumers don't need 8 GB of RAM. But the price used to be right. And that should (in 2014) be enough for even the lazy ones who leave 70 browser tabs open. And dual channel really makes a difference.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Mon Mar 10, 2014 2:33 pm

4GB or 8GB does not mean single-channel or dual channel. It may be that the PC has 2x 2GB or 2x 4GB memory sticks. Regardless - dual channel does not make THAT much difference, certainly not enough to notice in everyday web browsing etc.

That said, if you are doing any kind of video or sound editing, the more RAM you can put in there the better. 8GB should be a minimum for any kind of multimedia editing.
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Re: Cheap i3 Build

Postposted on Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:01 am

Do yourself a favor and look at the refurbished desktops at Microcenter.
For 350-480$ you can get a i3 to i5 system with 12gb of ddr1600 mem etc. OS included

What microcenter store are you close to?

Depending on what store you are close to will give you different options...like a $329 i3 system with 6gb of memory etc and windows7:)

They say refurbished, and they probably are but I bought 2 Gateway systems a good 2+ years ago. One was a slim tower with g530 4gb of ram...dual channel 500gb7200 HDD, a wireless card etc for $229 and I added a Asus LP HD6570 for $50 so that machine cost me $279 and was snappy quick....I later added a i3 2120 for $50 cash plus a gift card.

The second Gateway refurb was a short fat tower with a i3 2125 6 gb ram, 1tb sea gate drive, wireless, card etc for $329 and $80 for a HIS HD 7750 iCooler for a total of 409$ and it works fantastic also.

They both came like brand new computers, not a spec of dust or a fingerprint anywhere. They also has the protective plastic covering every panel like a new PC.

I just never could build a PC's this capable for that little bit of money when 2 operating systems would have cost 170-200$
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