(If you can't be bothered to read the whole post: (skip this if you can) There's quite a lot of information below, because I want to get the most out of the experience you guys have, so if you can take the time to read it, great. If you can't, in a nutshell, we want to build a computer for about £500 or less with the best specs we can get for the money. Easily upgraded parts are less important, and we have a few bits and pieces that might be salvageable from an old dell. See below for more information.)
This post contains: (colour coded for clarity)
2. What I Want From the Computer (for your information)
3. What I Already Have (not much)
4. What I Would Like to Know (the important bit. I have lots of questions about hardware. Please help answer them.)
5. A Rough Budget
My brother and I are planning on building a shiny new computer. The main reason is for the experience (and for a bit of fun), but we also want to be able to use the result, but, as I'm sure many of you have experienced, choosing hardware is very difficult. There's so many choices, and to the inexperienced (such as myself) it can be really quite challenging trying to work out exactly what you need and where you can get it for a good price. So, I've decided to turn to the ever-so-helpful community here at BC for some advice. You guys have helped me before, and I'm sure you'll help me again.
2. What I Want From the Computer
First, I'll tell you a bit about what we want from this new machine. We don't have a great deal of money, and we know we won't be able to afford a state of the art gaming rig, but we want to try and get the most out of our money, considering that we can upgrade in the future (so things like the motherboard that aren't as easily upgraded as, say HDDs and graphics cards, might be a little more important for now). Below is a quick summary of what we're trying to achieve (mostly just for your information):
Approximately £500 (that's GBP, me being English). There is some leeway, because we haven't set out an exact budget. I know this isn't much, but we don't need a fantastic computer and there is room for us to upgrade some bits later, when we have a bit more money. The goal is really just to build a computer (how good it is is kind of secondary).
It will mainly be used for (roughly in order of importance):
- Web Browsing
- Mid to low-end gaming (see gaming requirements)
- Programming (I'm learning Python at the moment)
- Video editing (recorded gameplay. Not necessarily HD)
- Image editing
- Audio editing
To save money - Linux. Ubuntu is the most likely.
A quick summary of necessary software:
- Web browser - Firefox
- Puzzle Pirates
- Steam (Could be a problem under Linux, but that's OK for now)
- Programming IDEs
- Video editing
- Image editing - the GIMP
- Audio editing - Audacity
- Office suite - OpenOffice.org
Will mainly be used for Puzzle Pirates - a 2D MMO where you're a pirate and you do puzzles to represent piratey activities, like swordfighting. No big hardware requirements.
May also be used for Steam with Source games like CSS. This requires some basic 3D graphics.
Higher-end gaming capabilities may be added at a later date, but for now, the graphics do not need to be particularly good.
Not much - listening to music while working, or having audio, image and video editing open at the same time. Generally, applications will be closed after use, and most applications would be closed before intensive applications are run, for example, playing a game.
Not intended to store much. May store some music, pictures and video, but a small hard drive should suffice.
We don't have any. We can manage a basic USB keyboard and a mouse, but a monitor is required. For now, we can make do with a spare TV, so this doesn't have to be included in the £500 budget. I'd like (the potential for) a dual monitor set-up, which I believe would affect the graphics card.
We already have a wireless home network. Ideally, the system could connect through WiFi to the LAN, to save running cables to it.
I hope that's not too much to take in.
3. What I Already Have
Next, I'll let you know what we have already. I managed to get an old Dell from my parents since they're no longer using it. When I say old, I mean old. It blue-screened about every 30 minutes when it was running XP.
It's since been gathering dust (it was dusty enough to begin with). It's a Dell Dimension 8400. Here's a quick summary of what it's got (I just cracked open the case quickly):
- 1 very old, very dusty, rather ugly case
- 160GB Maxtor SATA HDD
- 512MB RAM
- An Intel Pentium 4 processor @3.20 GHz
- An unidentified motherboard covered in dust.
- An equally dusty display adapter (I'm not sure what is).
- A Broadcom network adapter (an Ethernet port, nothing special, again, I'm not sure the exact model)
- DVD-ROM and DVD-RW drives (I don't think there's any problems with these)
- Floppy drive - not been used in a long time.
- Unidentified PSU
That's all we've got so far.
4. What I Would Like to Know
What I need now is a list of the parts I'll need to finish the project and roughly how much I should expect to spend on each part. Then I can look at individual parts. Here's what I've come up with so far:
- Motherboard: Size isn't much of a restriction (dependant on the case). Is there an advantage for AMD or Intel? What features should I look for? I'll probably choose a processor first.
- Processor: Again, AMD or Intel? The AMD Athlon II X2 250 seems to be passable for it's price, but the Intel Core i5 750 might be better suited to our purpose. Recommendations?
- CPU Cooler: Presumably the retail CPUs will come with a heatsink and/or fan? What should I look for if I get an OEM CPU that doesn't come with one?
- Thermal Compound: Would this come with the processor/cooler? What would be best if it doesn't?
- Memory: I was completely overwhelmed by the types of RAM available. Presumably it depends on the motherboard. Any help choosing a good amount and type?
- Case: Anything will do. Cheap is preferable, but should be large enough to fit everything, with a bit of room for expanding. Mid-tower? It should be able to house the MoBo, a fairly decent graphics card (when I can afford one) a few HDDs and a DVD drive or two, the PSU, and enough fans to keep the whole thing cool. Should I consider a built in PSU?
- Power Supply: Quality is important here, from what I've read. I don't really know how to determine how much power I would need, but I saw a 430V Corsair supply for £36. Any good? Again, is a PSU built into the case worth considering?
- Disk drives: I've got the old dell DVD drives, but I think it's fairly easy to pick up a decent one for less than £20.
- HDD: Again, I've got an old 160GB Maxtor HDD from the dell, but then I see 1TB for £50. Maybe a new HDD is a good idea.
- Video Card: Another overwhelming choice. Are there any preferred brands? NVIDIA vs. ATI? What would you recommend for my purposes? High-end gaming isn't necessary. Dual monitor capability is preferred. I've seen cards from £30 to £1000.
- OS: Linux.
- Monitor: Any suggestions? I can make do with a spare TV for now, but a monitor would be nice. If you see any good buys, I'd love to know.
- Network Card: This might be necessary to connect to WiFi. Does this Edimax PCI-E adapter look any good? I guess this also depends what PCI/PCI-E connections are available on the motherboard.
A lot of questions, but any help is much appreciated.
5. A Rough Budget
I've drawn up a rough budget of what I might expect to spend on each component. Let me know if this looks alright.
- Motherboard: £100
- Processor (and cooler): £100
- Memory: £80 (depending on size and type, but I saw 4GB for £70)
- Case: £30
- PSU: £40
- Disk Drives: £20
- HDD: £50
- Video Card: £60
- Network Card: £20
- Total: £500
Hopefully this budget is realistic enough to work towards. I guess I could expect to pay a small fortune in delivery costs as well.
Sorry about the huge wall of text above. I wanted to let you know as much as possible to help you help me.
What I'd like to know now: any suggestions for what I should look for in the hardware, any specific component suggestions, and anywhere I could buy them for as little as possible (remember, I'm in England and I use pounds ).
Thanks in advance for any help or advice you might give me. I look forward to hearing what you guys think.
(finally the end)