question Current Best Value

Clocker

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Hey Guys,

Time to replace my brother in law's computer after 7 years. What's the best value in hardware these days? I may be tempted to keep him on Windows 7 home premium.

No gaming to worry about, now, but I'd like to be able to add a good gpu later if desired.

Plan on keeping him in his Antec 3700AMB case but will need a new psu. I've been too far away from the hardware scene to be up to date on the current hardware.

Thanks!

CxP
 

sedrosken

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I'd hook him up with a mid-end AMD APU based machine, and if he doesn't do very much in the world of 3D, keep him on the more-than-adequate integrated graphics. Either 4 or 8 GB RAM, but if you're going with 4, make sure it's only one DIMM so it isn't wasted if/when the leap to 8GB is made. Depending on his needs, you may want to consider going with a small SSD for booting/programs and a larger hard drive with all of his libraries re-mapped to the hard drive. Windows 7 Home Premium, provided it is the 64-bit variant, should do just fine. Listen to someone else's suggestion for a PSU, I've not had much experience in looking at those and would likely lead you wrong. In fact, listen to someone else's suggestion on everything - - I don't know how good my advice is, I've never had to take it in buying anything before. I've not had the money to be shopping for things.

No specific parts, because again, I really don't know what I'm doing. So unprofessional.
 

snowhiker

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What's the best value in hardware these days?
Your brother in law probably needs one (or 4) of those 18-core Xeons, 15 SAS drives in RAID-6 and 1.5 TB RAM. Oh and don't forget the 1.44mb floppy drive for OS/installs. Save some cash be getting Windows 3.11 on floppies instead of the CD-ROM!

LMAO.

Clocker if nobody here chimes in with a specific build, just hit up the HardOCP forums (specifically General Hardware sub-forum) and you'll have a complete system build with links PDQ.
 

Chewy509

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That depends, is he going to keep the new one for the same period of time?

I recently upgraded to a new box (see: http://www.storageforum.net/forum/showthread.php/10393-Small-case-build ), and I would consider the parts the best bang for buck at the higher end... There is a decent amount of advise in that thread that should point you in the right direction.

Latest model AMD A10's do offer excellent value, but I'm unsure of how well they'll last long term in regards to offering acceptable performance over the life of the PC. Otherwise an i5 with a H97 based board, 16GB RAM and a SSD will do most users extremely well with the expectation that the system will offer enough performance today to handle the new software in 5 years time. (Without a GPU that requires external power, a 450W PSU is perfectly fine as well).
 

CougTek

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Your brother in law probably needs one (or 4) of those 18-core Xeons, 15 SAS drives in RAID-6 and 1.5 TB RAM. Oh and don't forget the 1.44mb floppy drive for OS/installs. Save some cash be getting Windows 3.11 on floppies instead of the CD-ROM!
AFAIK, his brother isn't Santilli.

BTW, you currently can't put four 18-core Xeon inside a single system, unless the system is some kind of twin server with two separated motherboards. 15 SAS drives in a RAID 6 is a waste in my opinion because RAID 6 kills the number of achievable IOps. You'll get a better value by going for a RAID 10 of slower drives and even though the individual drives will be slower, putting them in RAID 10 should help your array to serve a comparable, if not higher, number of IOps. One last thing: you currently can't put 1.5TB of RAM on a single dual-socket motherboard that supports the 18-core Xeon E5 v3 because you need 64GB RAM sticks to do so and they are not yet available. You can reach 1.5TB on a single system, using 32GB LRDIMM, if you go the Xeon E7 v2 way, but not with the Xeon E5 v3. You're limited to 768GB until the 64GB sticks are out.
 
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Mercutio

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With no compelling reason to consider the GPU, I'd suggest a modern i3. I'll admit that I have a prejudice against AMD these days that stems from the frequency with which I wind up replacing motherboards for one platform versus the other. For a home system where modest gaming might be on the table, I'd probably look at an A8-5600k, which will do about 90% of what the i3 will at 2/3rds the cost.
 

Mercutio

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My new classroom machines are i3-4130s on Gigabyte GA-H81N motherboards, 4GB RAM, with 240GB Crucial M500 mSATA drives, sitting in Antec ISK300-150 enclosures. The only down side is that the motherboard I chose doesn't have a USB3 header, so I have to buy a $6 adapter for the front USB port. The whole box costs something like $425. I'm a little worried because the PSU in that chassis is something nonstandard, but the case was also designed to support a picoPSU and those are relatively inexpensive. I think they're fantastic desktops, though using one would limit you to two 2.5" hard drives and a low profile graphics card as far as upgrade potential.
 

Santilli

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I'd have a look here:

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_value_available.html

Come up with a cpu, yes they do show a low end Xeon as being a great value,;-) and the AMD 6 core looks pretty good as well, and is as fast as my 940 I7, for 1/5th the cost.

This is terrifying fast, and yet half the price of the competing intel chips.

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=AMD+FX-9590+Eight-Core&id=2014

Is electricity use an issue?

If it is, use Passmark to look at the power consumption.

I've also noticed that DD's motherboard/cpu/bus setup was nearly twice as fast as mine, so that might be a future proof issue.

SSD's are vital. Even bring life to old stuff like my Athlon Dual core 3800, and keep it running XP just fine.

Right now I'd be more likely to go for something that consumes half the power of this chip, and is twice as fast, like an i7. But, that may not fit in his price range.

GS
 

Clocker

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After looking at this build some more, I think I will just keep it as it is. It's only 5 years old. I will recommend a PSU refresh, new storage subsystem and maybe some more RAM.

Link to breakdown:

http://imgur.com/ey7ykhB

Otherwise, it really just needs a fresh Windows install. The daughter installed some stuff that really hosed the system bad.
 

Santilli

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I look at the value, then look at the performance of the cpu. Then cross reference that with what socket, what power draw, and category.

When you click on the link, it gives you the date the cpu first appeared, it's Passmark score, etc.

The question becomes is it worth trying to find a motherboard for 5 year old cpu that provides an excellent value, or are you better off with the latest cheaper cpu, with new technology?

It's been particularly helpful in situations where I have a motherboard, the cpu blows, like my Athlon 3200, and, for 25.00 I can buy a 3800 Dual Core that more then doubles the performance of the prior cpu.

Same with the Panasonic 51. I bought another one for 100 bucks, which has gigabyte enet, the cpu being a dual core, is twice as fast as the prior machines, and I can use all my old stuff with it.

Only problem is drivers, and after installing a SSD, it's still in the same century we are.

For instance if we knew what socket the cpu is, it might be possible to find a cheap, much faster cpu that might work in that socket.

Clocker:

Seems like those AMD chips went about 5 years, then boom. Wonder if they just got too hot? Maybe a better cooler? I know I tried a passive cooler on mine, and might not do that again. Went with power this time, since the chip is much faster. Looks like you went with a pretty decent cooler...

Is there another chip you might put in that motherboard that has lowered considerably in price? Last price in passmark for the chip you are using was 20.00.

In that era, when they went from single to dual cores the processors improved considerably, speed wise.

From a bit of research, these are the examples of AMD processors that would double, or more, the speed of the 545.

Don't know what socket your 545 uses, but these are close:

AMD Phenom II X4 20 AMD Phenom II X4 955 AMD Phenom II X4 980
 

Chewy509

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After looking at this build some more, I think I will just keep it as it is. It's only 5 years old. I will recommend a PSU refresh, new storage subsystem and maybe some more RAM.

Link to breakdown:

http://imgur.com/ey7ykhB

Otherwise, it really just needs a fresh Windows install. The daughter installed some stuff that really hosed the system bad.
That sounds like a good idea. My only concern is the age of the existing system...
 

Santilli

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After looking at this build some more, I think I will just keep it as it is. It's only 5 years old. I will recommend a PSU refresh, new storage subsystem and maybe some more RAM.

Link to breakdown:

http://imgur.com/ey7ykhB

Otherwise, it really just needs a fresh Windows install. The daughter installed some stuff that really hosed the system bad.

How about a SSD, and a removeable SATA drive bay?

I just notice from this:

http://imgur.com/ey7ykhB

That you have a AM3 Socket. I suspect with a bit of work, you might find a processor for a reasonable cost, that will double the speed of the 545. Possibly VERY cheap.

I run my Athlon dual core with 2 gigs of ram and XP on an SSD. It works fine. In fact, getting it to recognize more then 3.5 gigs is impossible, since I'm running 32 bit XP, since 64 bit
was driver deprived. So I just stay with 2 gigs, and with the SSD, it's PLENTY fast.

However, if you have 64 bit windows, and drivers for everything, why not? Do you need it? Probably not.

I currently had some ram go south, so I'm down from 16 gigs to 8 gigs on Windows 7. Do I notice any speed difference? No.

Same with going from 4 gigs to 2 with the Athlon.

Considering replacing the cpu with a newer one, anyway. I had the original single core go bad, and it melted closed a pin hole on the motherboard, trashing it.

I gather from Mercutio's comments that AMD chips from that era are not as reliable as Intels.
 

Santilli

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AMD Phenom II X4 830 AMD Phenom II X4 820 AMD Athlon II X4 620

The above are listed around 80.00, and near rate 3500 or so, nearly double the 545.

GS
 

Santilli

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Don't take the Passmark pricing as accurate. Sometimes it can be 100.00 off what you can get a used CPU on Amazon for.
 

Mercutio

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time

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Without a GPU that requires external power, a 450W PSU is perfectly fine as well.
With a graphics card that only needs PCIe power, a 300W PSU is perfectly fine, even technically overkill with most default-clocked CPUs.

An ATI 5770 was measured at an absolute maximum here of 108W, although it only needed a *peak* of 77W playing an actual game. A 300W PSU is entirely adequate for Clocker's existing combination.

I am of course assuming that it is a decent 300W PSU, at least 80 Plus certified, with 20-22 amps available on the 12V line.

Without an overclocked CPU, you could consider running two modern midrange graphics cards off a 450W PSU.
 

time

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Santilli said:
Seems like those AMD chips went about 5 years, then boom.
...
I gather from Mercutio's comments that AMD chips from that era are not as reliable as Intels.
Nothing wrong with the CPUs, I suspect it's just that many of the motherboards were designed as "value" solutions and proved to be less reliable. Good AMD systems are just as stable as Intel systems; it's just that some AMD systems weren't that great.

For example, I have two old AM2+ systems here that are rock solid. Problems I had with one turned out to be a broken Windows installation. Conversely, I recently binned an earlier, entry-level ATI/AMD motherboard that has always been a PITA.
 

Santilli

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Perhaps they also need better cooling solutions then we thought at the time?

IIRC, they both had Gigabyte Motherboards, and the boards seem to be designed to last about 4-6 years.

If I can find a 939 or 940 motherboard that works for cheap, new, I suspect finding one for an AM3 based chip would be possible.

While I can't prove this, the new boards, and chips, have bus speeds that hugely improve the cpu to ram, and to hard drive speeds.

IIRC, using a ram disk to test, my 939 bus speed was around 1200 mb/sec.

This 5 year old i7 did around 3000-3500, and DD's was around 5000 mb/sec.

This is a counterpoint to installing one of the double the 545 speed AM3 chips that I found, and some that are actually in the 5000 PM score arena, for between 100-150 dollars.
 

Clocker

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The system is fine, the storage system is old and the PSU could use a freshening so it should be good to go after those replacements and a fresh Win7 x64 install.

Got an MX100 256gb SSD with a Seagate 2TB for storage. Replacing a WD 640GB boot drive. Should feel like a brand new computer better than before to them.

If the CPU/MB die for some reason, the new parts will be easily transferable to a new system. 5 years isn't that old for those components, IMO.
 

LiamC

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I've been playing with some old systems - Athlon X2 and X4's, Core 2 Duo's and Quads on XP, Vista SP2, 7 and 8/10 lately and my entirely subjective opinion is that the days of dual cores being adequate are approaching the end. I'd guess for the sheer number of processes being spawned in later OSes. Booting any of these vintage CPU's on a modern OS with a mechanical drive feels way faster with a slower quad than a faster dual. I'll take a Q6600 over an E8400. Same goes for AMD. If you have enough RAM - 4 GB for 64-bit systems, 2 GB for 32-bit, then the quads seem to speed through the boot/resume process better.

An SSD will make any of the older systems noticeably better. I've got Win10 on a Q6600 with 4GB on an old Samsung SP2504C and it's a fine machine.
 

Santilli

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I've got 8 gigs of ram, and the basic stuff takes up 25%, with 7. 64 bit 7.
 

Mercutio

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I've been playing with some old systems - Athlon X2 and X4's, Core 2 Duo's and Quads on XP, Vista SP2, 7 and 8/10 lately
C2Ds are basically fine on 4GB RAM as long as they don't have heavyweight security crap (Kaspersky, McAfee) running, but what I'm telling people these days is that anything that didn't ship with a Windows 7 COA on it should probably have antivirus software removed if it's going to continue to be used.
 

sedrosken

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Remember that my Inspiron came with a 7 COA, and it has the... err, 'special' variant of the C2D. It wasn't terrible, but you really didn't want to leave any antivirus running in the background.

Santilli - Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure that 7 and 8 will take up that much RAM on boot regardless of how much you have, unless you've got more than you could ever realistically use. I imagine it's prefetching to fill in the extra memory, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Linux is better in general about RAM usage, but Windows is a lot smarter about it.

I hope in that case that Intel starts really pushing the quad-core Celerons -- and offers an upgrade for my system! Really hoping that's a socketed CPU, but from the name of the socket (FCBGA-1170) I can imagine that it's soldered onto the board. Oh well. Not like upgrading the CPU is a very fruitful venture anymore. Usually you can only replace it with a similar model nowadays, unlike when you could take a socket 7 Pentium 66 and replace that with a Pentium 200. Or even the difference between a Coppermine PIII-550 and a PIII-1000. Now you're usually locked to a specific range, with minor differences in clock speeds and maybe some larger amounts of cache as you move higher up. Probably not on the Celeron, though.
 

Santilli

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I guess I notice it, because prior to the death of 4 gigs of ram, the % was so small, it was no worry.
I might have been in the "More then you can use category" since I was doing normal stuff, and the SSD's make it absurd.

What I have noticed is, as a general rule, that upgrading, most of the time, without a motherboard change, and socket change, on the Intel side, unless you add cores, is a waste of time. Value wise, the only way to justify a CPU upgrade, or a linear cpu upgrade, is if the core number increases, the only thing that actually adds enough change in horsepower, to justify the price.

Apple likewise.

My 940 is an excellent example. The value was at the i7 920 @ 300 or so dollars. Mercutio was in.

The 940 was 200-more, with a minimal Passmark increase in score, for the 200-500 dollars, or more, cost difference. It was just at the time, DD setup the machine. For various tax reasons, sometimes it is best to spend money that would otherwise be taken, and spent by the IRS. I like being an unintended beneficiary ;-)

After having 12 gigs of ram, I can say I see no benefit from 8 gigs to 12.

That is 100% the reverse of my prior experiences with ram.
 

Santilli

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SD:

Looking at your sig,

The one, glaring spot is the hard drive. Wonder what that 500 Gig HGST would bring on ebay, and, what is the cost of an SSD for your system?

Or combine a usb external enclosure for the HGST, and boot from a SSD?

What is the foot print of your OS?

How much stuff do you need to store, and how much can you take to slower USB storage?

Even a 60 gig, or more, SSD boot drive will make a HUGE difference, and, they are now getting VERY cheap.

I'm using a obscure, Chinese SSD, ide, for a boot drive, 100 bucks, 30 gigs, XP, on my Panasonic CF 51, and, it's VERY quick. IDE.

Good news is an SSD is moveable to your next system.

I use a cheap, Vertex 2 30 gig as a boot drive in my HTPC. It makes an old Athlon 3800 dual core sit up, and speak.

Works with XP, and all the old, expensive hardware I have that have XP 32 drivers... not 64.
 

sedrosken

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I have more than 60GB to store, that's for sure. Whether I need to be storing it all on the main hard drive is up for debate, but at this point I have the space so I might as well use it. I probably won't have the money to do such a upgrade for several years yet. Long after this is painfully obsolete. I'd do better just to save my money and go with something better entirely.

It's not too painful to use a hard drive, especially since I haven't been exposed to the glory that is an SSD. I'm not spoiled like that yet.
 

Handruin

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I guess I notice it, because prior to the death of 4 gigs of ram, the % was so small, it was no worry.
I might have been in the "More then you can use category" since I was doing normal stuff, and the SSD's make it absurd.

What I have noticed is, as a general rule, that upgrading, most of the time, without a motherboard change, and socket change, on the Intel side, unless you add cores, is a waste of time. Value wise, the only way to justify a CPU upgrade, or a linear cpu upgrade, is if the core number increases, the only thing that actually adds enough change in horsepower, to justify the price.

Apple likewise.

My 940 is an excellent example. The value was at the i7 920 @ 300 or so dollars. Mercutio was in.

The 940 was 200-more, with a minimal Passmark increase in score, for the 200-500 dollars, or more, cost difference. It was just at the time, DD setup the machine. For various tax reasons, sometimes it is best to spend money that would otherwise be taken, and spent by the IRS. I like being an unintended beneficiary ;-)

After having 12 gigs of ram, I can say I see no benefit from 8 gigs to 12.

That is 100% the reverse of my prior experiences with ram.
Once you reach the 8GB mark for RAM there is usually limited advantage for the typical end-user to go beyond it. Unless you have specialized software that needs the extra RAM or run multiple virtualized systems, you'll never run into situations that need even the 8GB let alone more than 8GB. I've been running 8GB RAM in my i7-860 which I put together sometime around October 2009 and have rarely bumped into the limit. I've been using windows 7 and then windows 8/8.1 and it's not driven the memory requirement very high. Anytime I have is when I wanted multiple virtual machines doing different things. Nothing else has come close to maxing out the memory capacity.

This is what the resources typically look like. Folding @ home running the majority of the time and a Xubuntu 14.1 VM running under VMware workstation 9 with 4B RAM and 2 cores allocated.

Code:
Xubuntu free -m details:
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:          3946       1166       2779          5        127        618
-/+ buffers/cache:        420       3526
Swap:         4093          0       4093
 

Mercutio

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There are now a small number of AAA gaming titles that want more than 4GB RAM for an optimal experience. Content creation of any sort and particularly heavy web users will also find 8GB+ handy, though personally I don't see a problem sticking 4GB in a typical machine right now, either.
 

Santilli

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Anyway you can quantify the increase in file transfer speed from 7 Ultimate to 8.1?

It's the only real improvement in the OS: Yes/no?

Once you reach the 8GB mark for RAM there is usually limited advantage for the typical end-user to go beyond it. Unless you have specialized software that needs the extra RAM or run multiple virtualized systems, you'll never run into situations that need even the 8GB let alone more than 8GB. I've been running 8GB RAM in my i7-860 which I put together sometime around October 2009 and have rarely bumped into the limit. I've been using windows 7 and then windows 8/8.1 and it's not driven the memory requirement very high. Anytime I have is when I wanted multiple virtual machines doing different things. Nothing else has come close to maxing out the memory capacity.

This is what the resources typically look like. Folding @ home running the majority of the time and a Xubuntu 14.1 VM running under VMware workstation 9 with 4B RAM and 2 cores allocated.

Code:
Xubuntu free -m details:
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:          3946       1166       2779          5        127        618
-/+ buffers/cache:        420       3526
Swap:         4093          0       4093
 

Mercutio

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Anyway you can quantify the increase in file transfer speed from 7 Ultimate to 8.1?
I'm not sure what you're talking about. Buy a faster SSD if you really think you need that. You probably don't need that. 99% of the time it's access latency that you want to improve, not transfer rate.
I'm always moving a few terabytes of something around, and if it takes 16 hours to do that, I shrug and go about my day, but if it takes 15 seconds for my PC to reboot or sign in, I start getting annoyed.

Newer versions of Windows, those based on the 7/8.x line, are a little faster for network data transfers than those based on XP (on the same hardware), but we're talking about a difference that's not going to be noticed without a stopwatch.


It's the only real improvement in the OS: Yes/no?
The biggest improvements between 7 and 8.x come mostly from changes in prioritizing aspects of startup, login and file access so that the system seems generally more responsive to the end user. There are some management things I appreciate as an admin (I love how 8.x handles network printing, for example) and I suppose an argument could be made that the modern UI stuff and cloud-enabled accounts are improvements even if practically no one uses them.
 

LiamC

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Just dropped an FX-8320 into a system containing an Athlon X4 635 (150 GB Velociraptor as the boot drive, 8 GB DDR-3 1600 and Vista SP2). The FX-8320 was a noticeable improvement. Not like Whooh!, but noticeable. If you have an AM3+ motherboard then not a bad boost.
 

Mercutio

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Spend another $100 on an SSD and you'll have a machine that's essentially indistinguishable from a brand new system.

Speaking of value: I can't believe that, now that we have sub-$100 240GB SSDs, none of them are making their way into modest consumer hardware. A trip to the usual retail suspects shows that the only thing with a 120GB+ SSD and price tag under $850 is the cheapest Surface Pro 3. Probably some kind of conspiracy or something.
 

CougTek

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I know that a few months ago, I've searched how much it would cost to add an HP-rebranded SSD into an Elitebook laptop. ~700$ is what they asked. Of course, I ended up buying the SSD elsewhere, but OEMs still charge the same price for SSDs as if it was still 2008.

It's just as bad for servers BTW.
 
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