Well, I knew it would happen some day. We now have more PCs than people in our house. I’m not counting the laptop from work or the XBox 360. These are PCs that we purchased and stay in the house all the time. I recently accepted a contracting gig that will have me working from home for a while. We live in a relatively small, 4-bedroom house and my study has become my son’s gameroom. It has a large Ikea desk covering two walls on which two computers sit that are capable of playing most games reasonably well. One of those computers is theoretically mine but is usually used by a whoever’s over hanging with my son to play games. For the last several years, I’ve had a work provided laptop so I could always find some other place in the house to get some work done when I had to.
Now that I will be working from home, I need a computer and a quiet space to call my own but I didn’t want to ruin my son’s fun either. So we bought a Tromso bed and workstation to create space in his room for two computers so I could have the study to myself. Since “my” computer would be moving into his room, I needed to order another computer that would actually be mine.
The last computer I bought was a Dell about 1.5 years ago. The four computers I purchased prior to the Dell were all home-built. I bought the Dell (E510 I believe, but their system was “undergoing routine maintenance” when I went to look at my order) for several reasons. I had become frustrated with the noisiness of the last couple of systems I had built. The power supply, hard drives, case fans, display adapter fans, and cpu fans were getting out of hand. With age, some of these systems had become so loud I felt like I was on a runway. In addition, some friends of mine had recently purchased Dell systems and were happy with them. I was able to find a 40% off coupon for systems over 1K. I was able to get 18 months same as cash. The Dell I ordered has turned out to be a good machine.
Given all of the above, when I was looking to pick up yet another PC, possibly a laptop, I first looked to Dell. Without the 40% off coupon, Dell’s prices stink. So I looked at Puget, Velocity, and a couple of other places. I wasn’t finding any deals that really turned me on. So I looked at putting together my own system at NewEgg.com. I have ordered systems from NewEgg in the past and I really can’t say enough good things about them. I spent about four hours at their site and others, putting together a non-cutting edge but solid performing machine for a reasonable price (~1200 USD).
As I mentioned, I was considering a laptop, but I just couldn’t stomach the price/performance tradeoff, particularly since this would be a development machine and I was paying for it personally. I ended up getting a micro-atx board and putting it in a “lan party” case with a handle on the top. Throw in a wireless adapter and you have a pretty nice 23 lb “laptop” minus the battery, display, or keyboard. I may end up buying a cheap laptop just so I can keep surfing the web while I’m on the throne.
The parts got here a couple of days ago and I am composing this post on my new machine which is quite quiet except for my video card fan. Overall, I am very happy with this box. A comparable box from Dell would have been ~3500 USD. Velocity and Puget were also in that price range.
Sure, you could put together a cheaper machine by cutting corners on the case, power supply, or the motherboard. But it will only cost you more later in both time and money. I usually get 3-5 years of useful life out of my home-built machines — the last couple years as hand-me-downs to relatives. I’ve had some bad experiences with AMD rigs (I know, tons of people love them) and some bad experiences with non-Intel mobos using Intel CPUs (can you say VIA 4 in one?). I am not trying to squeeze the very last ounce of performance out of my dollar. You can’t go wrong with Intel mobos and Retail CPU kits (better, quieter fans) IMO for a build-it-yourself box. Particularly if you are more interested in solid, quiet performance without hassles than that last 5% of performance or price savings.
To summarize, this is a box with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo CPU , 4Gb RAM, 640Gb RAID 5 storage, 520W Corsair PSU, and Geforce 8600GT GPU in a portable aluminum case for 1200 USD shipped. Here are the exact parts, if you are interested.
Thermaltake VF1000SWA Silver Aluminum MicroATX Desktop Computer Case – Retail
CORSAIR CMPSU-520HX ATX12V v2.2 and EPS12V 2.91 520W Power Supply – Retail
Intel BLKDQ965GFEKR LGA 775 Intel Q965 Express Micro ATX Intel Motherboard – OEM
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6600 – Retail
A-DATA 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model ADQVE1A16K – Retail
Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive – OEM
XFX PVT84JUDD3 GeForce 8600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card – Retail
PHILIPS 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with 12X DVD-RAM Write Black IDE interface (ATAPI) Model SPD2413BD – Retail