$500 workstation build slightly over budget

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$500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 12:36 pm

It's time to update my girlfriend's aging/ailing athlon x64 X2 workstation. I was hoping to keep the build at $500. Sounds easy enough for a workstation, but wanted to add an SSD and didn't want to skimp on any of the components. I want it to be current for as long as possible, so I'm stubbornly bent on going with an Ivy Bridge quad core. Perhaps a bit overkill, but she does do some statistical analysis with larger databases, so the processing power comes in handing once in a while. She already has a Win 7 license. Also she's got a 1TB HDD for storage and an old optical drive that should still work fine.

This is what I arrived at. (Prices rounded to nearest $)

Case: SilverStone TJ08-E $90 (Really like this case. Could have gone for a cheaper one, but I haven't seen a better m-ATX for the money)
MB: Asrock H77 Pro4-M $102 (won't be overclocked, so Z77 seemed pointless)
CPU: i5-3470 $196
8GB DDR3 1600 $41
SSD: Crucial M4 128GB $96
PSU: PC Power&Cooling Silencer Mk III 400W $58 ($38 after 20 MIR) (I know they are OCZ now, but this one is supposedly a Seasonic rebrand)

Total $578 ($558 after MIR)

Edit: I should disclose that I'm in Canada (no access to Microcenter or Newegg.com). Just was curious to see if anyone thinks I've needlessly over specced anything.

Any obvious way I'm missing to get this closer to the $500 goal? Thanks for looking!
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 1:30 pm

I can't speak for you but if I was building that I would switch to a mini-ITX and go with this:

Case: Bitfenix Prodigy
MB: ASRock H77M-ITX

The case has enough room for a dual slot video card if you ever feel the need to add one later on.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 1:38 pm

I think going with a Phenom II X4 and an AM3+ mobo will get you under your budget.

The potential downside is you're counting on AMD fixing the performance issues with the Bulldozer core if you want an upgrade path without replacing the mobo. But at least you'd be able to move up to a competent quad core for under $500 today.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 2:53 pm

Could you reuse the case from the current workstation? That would put you under your budget immediately.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 3:17 pm

grantmeaname wrote:Could you reuse the case from the current workstation? That would put you under your budget immediately.

Good point. There are also some pretty reasonable cases you can get for less, like this one. Not enthusiast class, but quite functional with good ventilation, and not ugly or garish. The words "utilitarian" and "understated" come to mind. My current desktop system at work is in in one of these. (Yup, they let me build a DIY desktop at work... probably because they don't have a stock workstation config for people who need to run Linux!)
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 3:19 pm

EJ257 wrote:I can't speak for you but if I was building that I would switch to a mini-ITX and go with this:

Case: Bitfenix Prodigy
MB: ASRock H77M-ITX

The case has enough room for a dual slot video card if you ever feel the need to add one later on.


The Prodigy is a nice looking case, but I don't know if I prefer it over the slightly more understated look of the TJ08B-E. They are also about the same size (the Prodigy is slightly bigger if you count the spoilers/handles and slightly smaller if you don't). I think most standout feature of the TJ08B-E is the ginormous 180mm front intake fan. This should make for a nice cool/quiet setup. Also, the thing about going ITX is you give up any future expansion (ITX only has 2 DIMM slots, mATX has 4; ITX has only 1 PCIe slot, mATX has 4). And there is practically no price difference.

grantmeaname wrote:Could you reuse the case from the current workstation? That would put you under your budget immediately.


Unfortunately no. The old one was a custom slim case that had a mini power supply and could only accommodate 1/2 height cards, and only had 1 80mm exhaust fan. Basically not very nice to work with. I'm quite happy to spend the money on the Silverstone. So yeah. I guess I have my answer.

just brew it! wrote:I think going with a Phenom II X4 and an AM3+ mobo will get you under your budget.

The potential downside is you're counting on AMD fixing the performance issues with the Bulldozer core if you want an upgrade path without replacing the mobo. But at least you'd be able to move up to a competent quad core for under $500 today.


Aside from the uncertain performance issues with the Bulldozers, I'm actually a little afraid that she's a bit too much of a snob to be satisfied with an AMD :lol: . And coming from one (Athlon x2), I think she wants to try some of the newer Intel goodness she's been hearing about and using in here laptop.

just brew it! wrote:Good point. There are also some pretty reasonable cases you can get for less, like this one. Not enthusiast class, but quite functional with good ventilation, and not ugly or garish. The words "utilitarian" and "understated" come to mind. My current desktop system at work is in in one of these.


Yeah. I spent a long time looking at cheaper cases and just felt that I couldn't get something that she'd be happy with for years at a much lower price point. The NZXT looks like a good case for the money. Even has a front USB 3.0. But it's quite a lot larger than the TJ08-E and, well, just doesn't have tha 180mm front fan, dust filters, aluminum front panel, and a bunch of other nice interior features that the TJ08-B has. I suppose I don't mind spending the extra $40 on those things.


Thanks for the replies. Think I'm just going to go ahead as planned and secretly kick in a few more $.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 3:32 pm

cynan wrote:Aside from the uncertain performance issues with the Bulldozers, I'm actually a little afraid that she's a bit too much of a snob to be satisfied with an AMD :lol: . And coming from one (Athlon x2), I think she wants to try some of the newer Intel goodness she's been hearing about and using in here laptop.

Yeah, that's certainly a concern from a perception standpoint. But the Phenom IIs are still solid performers, and quite affordable since they're last-gen tech. Up to you to decide whether the $ tradeoff is worthwhile; my take is that if you're on a budget AMD is still worth a look.

cynan wrote:Think I'm just going to go ahead as planned and secretly kick in a few more $.

Heh... I guess my only question here is why are you doing it secretly? I think you'd win some brownie points by *not* keeping in secret, unless there are some issues with your relationship I'm not grokking here... :wink:
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sat Aug 18, 2012 3:58 pm

just brew it! wrote:Yeah, that's certainly a concern from a perception standpoint. But the Phenom IIs are still solid performers, and quite affordable since they're last-gen tech. Up to you to decide whether the $ tradeoff is worthwhile; my take is that if you're on a budget AMD is still worth a look.


Agreed. The best explanation I can provide goes something like: When we first met 6 years ago, I built her the Athlon X2. Even back then she was more of a laptop person and has had one ever since (though now likes to use the desktop for work). She saw my love for my desktop and thought that she might like one... I built it on a shoestring (due to my finances at the time) and made compromises (part of the reason I feel bad skimping out on this system). Frankly I'm surprised it's lasted 6 years. Now, somewhere in the back of her mind, she associates compromise with AMD (not that their current market performance helps this image). My desktop at the time was an Athlon 64. Then a couple of years later, after being a little more flush I upgraded to an X48 quad core system, which sort of compounded the stigma...

just brew it! wrote:Heh... I guess my only question here is why are you doing it secretly? I think you'd win some brownie points by *not* keeping in secret, unless there are some issues with your relationship I'm not grokking here... :wink:


One would think... Has something to do with a commitment to be more open about finances, which involves agreeing to budgets and sticking to them. Long story... (but aren't there in every relationship? :wink: )
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sun Aug 19, 2012 8:07 am

Sounds like both of you have set some standards that don't allow for the build to fit in the budget, so what's the harm in being open about it? (Not really expecting an answer from you on that, just posing the question!)

The build looks good, and probably worth keeping as it is rather than cut something to get under a budget unless it's dire that you stick to it. Pay a little more and be happy with what you get, if you can.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:48 pm

And if you don't want to secretly kick in a few extra dollars, just drop down to an i3. Unless she's compiling or encoding a lot, you don't really need a true quad - 2+2HT is going to be pretty decent for the sort of work you describe.

Another minor point is that the HD4000 in the 3470 supports one screen and wireless display tech, whilst the older sandy bridge i3 supports two displays with the IGP. Working on database analysis, I'd take two screens over the occasional longer loading bar.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:02 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Another minor point is that the HD4000 in the 3470 supports one screen and wireless display tech, whilst the older sandy bridge i3 supports two displays with the IGP

That seems counter-intuitive, I have a hard time believing that HD4000 only supports 1 monitor. Can you prove this statement?
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:18 pm

I said HD4000 earlier but actually the 3470 includes an HD2500 IGP. I don't think this matters though since the feature set is identical to the HD4000, it's just half the number of execution units.

DPete27 wrote:That seems counter-intuitive, I have a hard time believing that HD4000 only supports 1 monitor. Can you prove this statement?

Unfortunately yes :(
The official Intel ARK indicates that HD2500 IGPs do not support dual displays (halfway down the table under Graphics Specifications).

The "up to three displays" involves using Intel's Wireless Display tech for the second and third screen, which ends up being far more expensive than a discrete graphics card; Pretty pointless unless you're desperate for wireless for some reason....

Now, It could just be that the table is plain wrong. There are enough reports of people running two screens off an HD4000.
However, most of those threads are people with problems using multiple monitors off an HD4000. I guess it depends on the drivers and how the motherboard manufacturer has chosen to implement the ports for the onboard graphics. My guess is that it's not officially supported but that motherboard manufacturers find workarounds that get the job done. This is the way it has always been with Intel and their vendors ;)
Last edited by Chrispy_ on Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:29 pm

I suggest bumping down to an i3 and get a MSI B75MA- P45 and get normal 1333Mhz value ram since 1600mhz don't really offer much boost
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:32 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:The official Intel ARK indicates that HD2500 IGPs do not support dual displays (halfway down the table under Graphics Specifications).


Just because the i5-3450 doesn't have a checkbox for "Dual Display Capable" doesn't mean you can only run 1 monitor in my book....I may have to do a little experiment tonight...
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:39 pm

DPete27 wrote:Just because the i5-3450 doesn't have a checkbox for "Dual Display Capable" doesn't mean you can only run 1 monitor in my book....I may have to do a little experiment tonight...


Ah well, if you have an Ivy Bridge on hand, then you can answer your own question ;)
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:43 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:I said HD4000 earlier but actually the 3470 includes an HD2500 IGP. I don't think this matters though since the feature set is identical to the HD4000, it's just half the number of execution units.

DPete27 wrote:That seems counter-intuitive, I have a hard time believing that HD4000 only supports 1 monitor. Can you prove this statement?

Unfortunately yes :(
The official Intel ARK indicates that HD2500 IGPs do not support dual displays (halfway down the table under Graphics Specifications).

The "up to three displays" involves using Intel's Wireless Display tech for the second and third screen, which ends up being far more expensive than a discrete graphics card; Pretty pointless unless you're desperate for wireless for some reason....

Now, It could just be that the table is plain wrong. There are enough reports of people running two screens off an HD4000.
However, most of those threads are people with problems using multiple monitors off an HD4000. I guess it depends on the drivers and how the motherboard manufacturer has chosen to implement the ports for the onboard graphics. My guess is that it's not officially supported but that motherboard manufacturers find workarounds that get the job done. This is the way it has always been with Intel and their vendors ;)


Talk about Irony. The relatively ancient AMD 690G chipset onboard graphics in the old workstation I'm replacing/upgrading was able to support dual monitors (only one digital though). Lol. Way to go Intel (they're like 1 step forward, 2 steps back with their graphics). Oh well, I've pulled the trigger already. I've got an old Radeon sitting around somewhere that I can throw in if she needs dual displays.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 2:17 pm

The 780V northbridge even supported dual digital. My old M3A78-CM can run the DVI and DisplayPort ports together in dual-head.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:51 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:DPete27 wrote:
Just because the i5-3450 doesn't have a checkbox for "Dual Display Capable" doesn't mean you can only run 1 monitor in my book....I may have to do a little experiment tonight...

Ah well, if you have an Ivy Bridge on hand, then you can answer your own question


On second thought... If Ivy Bridge graphics didn't support dual monitors then none of the new laptops and ultrabooks without discrete graphics would have any need for a monitor output. Every new laptop I've seen at least has an HDMI out including this Acer that my brother just bought. I find it improbable that plugging an external monitor into one of those would make the laptop screen go black. Since I don't have a second monitor readily available to test, that's good enough for me.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Tue Aug 21, 2012 7:11 am

He said that they did that via a workaround and it wasn't officially supported, not that they were totally incapable.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:14 am

grantmeaname wrote:He said that they did that via a workaround and it wasn't officially supported, not that they were totally incapable

The only thing that is "officially" stated on the ARK Intel page is: "# of Displays Supported - - - - 3"
I thought my laptop analogy was sufficient, but now I think that even if I post a picture of my 3570K running 2 monitors from the IGP that people will say "the motherboard manufacturer did that via workaround" Wouldn't you think that if Intel had indeed castrated HD2500/4000 graphics to supporting only 1 wired display that all the reviews of Ivy Bridge would have pointed that out? That's a pretty significant negative change if you ask me.
I'm not saying I'm right here, but I still haven't seen any hard evidence that says/shows you can only run 1 display without using Intel's wireless display technology.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:29 am

Well, since I haven't personally tested it, I'm going to go with the intel website being wrong, since even people with problems using two screens on Ivy Bridge IGP's have at least got it working in some way.

It's not really a big deal, was just trying to point out that dual screen support is a specifically listed feature of the Sandy Bridge IGP whilst they seem to omit that feature for Ivy. Whether it works officially or not is irrelevant. I've had combo motherboards that make DDR3 work with a processor that only officially supports DDR2.

My guess would be to try it. If it works, cool. If it doesn't work - $10 used graphics card from eBay will sort the issue.
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Re: $500 workstation build slightly over budget

Postposted on Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:53 am

Chrispy_ wrote:It's really not a big deal....If it works, cool. If it doesn't work - $10 used graphics card from eBay will sort the issue.

Definetly, and it sounds like cynan has a spare discrete card laying around to do just that. I wasn't trying to make a big deal about it or get offensive to anyone. The only reason I brought it up was because the OP looks to have his answers and has made the purchase so I figured I'd drag the thread off on a tangent.
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