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Building a PC for my sister

#1 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 11:24 AM

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I'm building a new PC for my sister over winter break. Here's the parts I have so far.
(EDIT: I should probably mention the use case. General-purpose use, plus a few games including the Mass Effect series. Nothing too demanding for new systems, but the Intel GMA X3100 in her ThinkPad SL410 can't handle it.)

  • Windows 7 Pro OEM (ordered it last weekend because it was $46, and there's no way in hell I'm using Windows 8+)

Parts I have on my Amazon list:

CPU: Not sure if I should get Haswell or Skylake. Skylake's new and has more USB3 ports; Haswell's older and has more options for boards and stuff. From what I've seen, comparable Haswell and Skylake CPUs cost the same, so that might tilt it in Skylake's favor.

Exact motherboard and RAM are dependent on CPU, but here's the minimum specs:
  • Onboard gigabit Ethernet
  • 4x RAM slots
  • At least 1 PCIe x16 and two PCIe x1 slots
  • At least 1 PCI slot just in case
  • At least 2 USB 3.0 ports and 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • At least 8 GB RAM. (Not sure about 2x4GB or 1x8GB, though the former supports dual-channel.)

GPU: I'll probably stick with the Intel iGPU initially. We can upgrade to an nVidia later if needed. (Not bothering with AMD until they get their act together.)

LCD: Minimum specs are 24", 1920x1080, IPS, VGA and DisplayPort.

Other required components include a wireless card (802.11n or ac, preferrably PCIe) and a Bluetooth adapter (if it isn't included with the wireless card), plus keyboard and mouse. (I'd get a Model M, but she wouldn't like that. :v:)

Any suggestions for parts to get here?
This post has been edited by GerbilSoft: 17 December 2015 - 11:37 AM
Reason for edit: +use case

#2 User is online winterhell 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 12:00 PM

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In regards to RAM, single channel 1333MHz saturates all games and programs out there and wont be a bottleneck.
You can go with 1 stick of 8 GB if you really really expect to upgrade the PC to >16GB.
I'd go for a cheaper option and looking only at the amount of RAM, disregarding the number of channels or frequency.

Might be a stupid question, but does she really need an optical drive? Especially BD Writer? If you are going to watch BD movies on the computer then alright. I haven't had an optical drive for 6 years now. Once a year or two I dump a CD from another machine and transfer it via the net/usb drive.

As for the CPU, I understand the performance increases about 5% per clock every generation the past several ones, so its your choice. Depending on discounts you might get more power for the money from an older model.

#3 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 12:46 PM

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She definitely wants an optical drive. Standard DVD burners are $20, and $50 is really cheap for a BD writer. (Plus I'd like to use it to rip some BD movies sometime. :v:) The writer part isn't too essential, but for $50, it's still pretty cheap.

#4 User is offline Overlord 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 01:38 PM

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Speaking as someone who has a BD-ROM sitting in his optical drive right now, yes, you want to keep the Bluray drive. I'd also recommend bumping the RAM up to 16GB simply because of how cheap it is right now.

#5 User is offline rata 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 04:07 PM

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I would suggest you to move to Skylake. Socket 1150 and DDR3 will not be supported by much longer (DDR3 has more lifetime since AMD is not releasing Zen anytime soon). In case that something fails, it will be easier to find replacement for a 1151 motherboard than a 1150 one. I am assuming that your sister is not going to OC, right? Because that's a huge determinant for the motherboard, cheaper H170 chipset or Z170 for OC, plus K processor.

As for monitor, do she want 4k, or just 1080? Asus PA279Q looks nice though I don't know it's response time, price and if it is Ultra Low Motion Blur or not.

#6 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 04:10 PM

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1920x1080 is fine. What isn't fine are TVs that claim to be monitors and end up overscanning the fuck out of HDMI signals.

The Asus PA279Q looks similar to some Dell 27" displays I've seen before. No VGA, but I could always get a VGA to DVI converter if I absolutely needed it for some reason.

EDIT: $737 on Amazon. That's a bit on the high side.

EDIT 2: VGA to HDMI converter, $35; supports most common PC resolutions and has 3.5mm audio input as well. I might get this for myself, since my ThinkPad T60p only has VGA output. (It has DVI on the dock, but I don't know where I put it and that's a pain to bring around with me, plus I need to find my DVI to HDMI cable.)
This post has been edited by GerbilSoft: 17 December 2015 - 04:23 PM
Reason for edit: +VGA to HDMI

#7 User is offline rata 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 05:00 PM

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Dell P2414H sounds like a good option then. 24", DP, VGA, IPS and half of price.
MSI H170A Mate looks like the motherboard you're looking for if no OC is intended.

#8 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 17 December 2015 - 05:58 PM

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View Postrata, on 17 December 2015 - 05:00 PM, said:

Dell P2414H sounds like a good option then. 24", DP, VGA, IPS and half of price.
MSI H170A Mate looks like the motherboard you're looking for if no OC is intended.

That monitor looks pretty good. It's a 6-bit panel using FRC, but apparently they only use 8-bit panels in really expensive monitors nowadays. One interesting thing is that it does support component video (YPbPr) over VGA.

H170A PC MATE is $105 on Amazon, so I'll consider that.

EDIT: TIL the USB-IF decided to retroactively rename USB 3.0 to "USB 3.1 Gen1". Proper USB 3.1 (10 Gbps as opposed to 5) is now called "USB 3.1 Gen2". :argh:
This post has been edited by GerbilSoft: 17 December 2015 - 06:03 PM
Reason for edit: +USB shenanigans.

#9 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 21 December 2015 - 01:07 PM

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Here's what I ended up going with.

  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A PC MATE - slightly better than the H170A version, and slightly cheaper than the H170A on Newegg. Win/win.
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6500 - 4-core, 4-thread. (The only Haswell and Skylake desktop CPUs that have HT are either i7 or 2-core i3/i5, so not a big deal.)
  • RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 2x8GB DDR4 2400-MT PC4-19200 - probably overkill, but more RAM is always better. Has a heatsink, too. (Also probably not needed, but memory can get hot, even when not overclocking.)
  • SSD: Crucial MX200 M.2 250 GB - I got the 2.5" version for my mom's laptop and it works well. I also have a Crucial M500 (240 GB) in my laptop, and a Crucial M4 (256 GB) in my brother's laptop. Not the highest performance SSD, but good reliability in my experience and a reasonable price.
  • HDD: WD Green 1TB (WD10EZRX) - I went with the Green version for lower power usage and heat generation. Even though the performance of Green drives is lower than Blue or Black, the primary drive is an SSD, so it shouldn't be that much of a problem.
  • PSU: Corsair CX600M - was only $3 more than the CX500M, so this gives me extra headroom for high-power devices.
  • ODD: LG WH16NS40 - only $49, so I went all in and got a BD writer. :v:
  • Card reader: StarTech.com USB 2.0 multi-format reader - ...actually now I just checked a previous purchase order for a PC for my grandma some years ago, and that had a Rosewill card reader with the same card slots plus more USB ports and an eSATA port for around the same price. Oh well. (She probably won't care about the eSATA port at least.)
  • Monitor: Dell P2414H - 1920x1080, IPS, LED backlit, VGA, DVI, DP. Only thing it's really missing is an option for HDMI black levels when using a DVI to HDMI cable (required for proper color on Wii U), but it does support YPbPr over VGA, which makes up for it.
  • Case: Deepcool Tesseract BF - decently priced, and not horribly ugly like some "gamer" cases I've seen. The top of the front of the case is angled and has the power/reset buttons and LEDs, plus 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, and audio.
  • Fans: 4x Rosewill 120mm fans - the case includes one 120mm fan, but has space for 6. Probably won't add all four; there's enough sockets on the system board for three.
  • WLAN: TP-LINK TL-WDN4800 - 802.11n, 3-antenna, dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz. We currently have a FiOS 2.4 GHz 802.11n router with 50 Mbps service, so this should be fine. (802.11ac cards were significantly more expensive.)

No dedicated GPU initially; we'll get an nVidia 960 or 970 or similar if the need arises later.
This post has been edited by GerbilSoft: 21 December 2015 - 01:24 PM
Reason for edit: +WLAN, GPU, SSD sizes

#10 User is offline rata 

Posted 21 December 2015 - 01:25 PM

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Is the Head Parking already fixed on the green HDDs? I remember that many of them suffered from an unnecessary short head parking time, wtich could cause premature death. You may want to check that and if it's not already fixed, do it yourself.

#11 User is offline GerbilSoft 

Posted 21 December 2015 - 01:56 PM

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View Postrata, on 21 December 2015 - 01:25 PM, said:

Is the Head Parking already fixed on the green HDDs? I remember that many of them suffered from an unnecessary short head parking time, wtich could cause premature death. You may want to check that and if it's not already fixed, do it yourself.

From what I've read, it seems to be fixed, but there's a program 'wdidle3' that can be used to disable it anyway. I'll make sure to run that.

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