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Building a new desktop - want some advice



My current desktop is really showing its age. This fact really hit me when I was recently at a thrift store looking for books and maybe some old, cheap PC games and I found that the thrift store was selling two desktop PCs for $49 and $99 which were newer and more powerful than mine (they were assembled and turned on, so they were definitely in good condition).


My current desktop has an A7S333 MB, ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 9200, 1.5 GB RAM, a 500 GB PATA and 160 GB PATA drive. I'll leave out the other minor details, but that gives you an idea of what I'm working with. So obviously any modern machine - even a low-end one - will be better than this one.


I want to keep it reasonably priced even though I might gaze longingly at high-end gaming rigs priced around $6000. I think realistically I'd like to keep it in the neighborhood of $500.


I'm going to install Funtoo on it, though I still have a few  WIndows apps that won't run well or at all under Wine, so I'd like to install Windows (probably my copy of XP or eventually ReactOS if it ever matures) into an emulator and be able to run that at a decent speed.


I'm trying to plan for the long term, so I'm thinking that I should probably get a decent case, power supply, and high-end motherboard with plenty of room for future upgrades for RAM, CPU, video card, etc. and go with a reasonably priced CPU and video card and a decent amount of RAM.


The likely scenario for my usage will be casual internet usage, occasional gaming (including some 3D FPS games and such), and some light multimedia work.


So what would be a good motherboard to get that has a good track record of reliability (or even official support) under Linux? My old motherboard is buggy and so Linux doesn't support certain ACPI features like automatically powering off, and ASUS doesn't support Linux so they never fixed it. I'd like to not worry about such things with a new PC.


What CPU? AMD or Intel?


What video card? AMD or nVidia? I've seen several people in forums say nVidia runs cooler and quieter but AMD tends to be cheaper for the performance.


And can anyone recommend some sort of multimedia card/device with good Linux support so I can watch TV (or even pick up radio) on the computer and hook up my camcorder to it to transfer audio/video?


If there's anything I might have missed, please feel free to mention anything else I should consider.


And if anyone has any good ideas for what to do with the old computer, that would be appreciated too.

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You ask a lot of questions paddymac  :)

Since I have the second oldest equipment in the Funtoouniverse I feel qualified to answer  :D

I think you can pull it off easily for $500.

Emulator for windows (virtualbox works great), or you can dual boot easily enough too, so that's not an issue.

As far as the long term planning, it's a nice concept.  After many decades I've never seen it amount to much.  Things change too quickly and to try and hold on, it just doesn't work out much.  Welcome to the disposable western world.  You can make sure you have at least 4 or more ram slots, some m/b's just have two.  You can upgrade video cards easily enough, until they come up with the "next new bus".  You can upgrade cpu's for a couple of years, then they'll freeze that design too.  But perhaps others may have pointers that can help. 

Being an Asus fan (except for price) I'll pass on the m/b question.  That power off issue can be hairy I know.  And can be caused by many things.  In worst case scenarios you can often find or make a hacked bios, I run hacked bioses on two machines here, for other issues though.

I have been looking at the new stuff.  My impression: Intel won the race, lower power consumption, faster, cooler.  AMD higher power consumption, more cores (ergo higher power consumption) to attempt to compete.  I'm an AMD fan from way back, but I'd have to buy Intel now.  AMD was doomed from the start and now Intel has played the trump card (more bucks).  They just can't afford the super cutting edge equipment Intel uses to get those tiny, tiny lines.  And cpu optimizations, Intel loses them in the dust.  Didn't I see you say in another thread you are on Hughes Net?  So probably you'd be interested in power consumption like I am.  I'm trying to hang on for Intel to get even lower consumption and higher speed...

I have Nvidia here and remotely maintain a friend's AMD/ATI machine.  I'd have to pick Nvidia there too.  When AMD acquired ATI the development went into the dumper, although it's said lately they are trying to do something about that.  Time will tell.  After a long, long wait there was finally an updated video driver and it's said that the next driver will REALLY be an improvement.  Meanwhile Nvidia keeps cranking along like a well-oiled machine.  Even the manual that comes down the pipe with every Nvidia upgrade is quite detailed.  Don't get me wrong, I think they both stink, just Nvidia stinks less.  Once upon a time there were 15-20 video card manufacturers, now there's 2 (we won't count Intel)?  So it's a seller's market...Here's what Linus Torvalds thinks of Nvidia http://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/linus-eff-you-640x363.png

Really, that was his reaction in a discussion about them  :)

All that being said, your uses are pretty light, and if power consumption is not such an issue for you you can save some bucks going AMD/ATI.  When you think of a car purchase do you have to have the fastest on the block, or just one to get you back and forth from the store?  But even then you'll just be paying just as much or probably more on your electric bill to run the AMD, unless you really are tight for bucks it just doesn't make sense anymore.  AMD used to give you 90-95% of the performance for 50% of the price, I thought that was a fair trade.  But the performance rift is bigger now and you just end up paying the same or more in monthly installments on your electric bill.

Your old computer?  Put it in a big grinding machine, then take the pieces that come out and put them in a pot heated above the melting point of gold.  Carefully dump off the plastic & junk and recover the gold.  Ship the junk to Africa.  Or just take it to a recycler where he'll do all that for you and give you $3 for it.  Or give it to the thrift store and feel good about it.  Save the whales & all.

Seriously, at an average of about 105 watts it's not really much good re-purposed, unless you can find it a home somewhere where it's better than nothing.

Hey, where's that thrift store located?

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My thoughts differ slightly from sputnik above.


My desktop and fileserver boxes were both DIY's. They have been rather reasonable workhorses doing what I ask of them for the last ~3 years.


My only suggestion is just a touch of future proofing.

- Look at MB's that will allow you to step up to the next CPU (e.g. AMD - AM3+. Not sure if intel has equivalent).

- A low cost case with some room for growth ( mix of 5.25/3.5 )

- A respectable power supply

- A GPU card that will work with your monitor now + 1. ( and if you're thinking about upscaling monitor size - factor that into your gpu).


Having all-in-one solutions may not be the best option long term if you want to swap parts later.


I'm not sure what part of the world you're in, but newegg has some okay deals. And if you can time it right, buying piecemeal during sales may be an idea.


I have AMD Bulldozer CPU's. I don't have anyting bad to say about it. It does what I need it too. I was just disappointed when Piledriver came out shortly afterwards.


I use modest Sapphire - Radeon cards that were quite inexpensive. And I haven't had too many software glitches with FOSS. I just have to remember to grab linux-firmware for radeon blobs.


I can't recall if it was zdnet or tom's hardware site that have a yearly DIY for $x article series. That may give you ideas.


All for $500? Possible.

good luck! :)

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Some more thoughts on this.

Do you really need a new case and power supply?  That could help.  That 500gb PATA, heck, the stuff you're doing, that could do you for a while, you may need a card to run PATA, no big deal.  Can upgrade drive later.  Can replace power supply when it dies.

Nah, he can do it easily for $500 if he's cautious and the above stuff would help alot.

Might find some good deals with Black Friday coming up  ;)

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I missed the part about PATA. Skimmed too fast.

StarTech has bidirectionsl PATA/SATA adapters here $20 doesn't seem too bad.


Maybe the intel equiv( just a guess) MB would be an i3/i5? My wife's 2009 iMac has a 4core i5 and I find it a little clunky at times. May just be OS X Mavericks.


If you're replacing the MB and going with AMD - you could get away with AM3/AM3+ chipset. My only complaint w/ my current Gigabyte-990XF-UD3 is booting up w/ a USB drive. Its a know issue. I just remember to use one that is <2GB and formated with FAT and I'm good. I have 1 PCI , 2 - 16x PCIe, 2 -4x PCIe, and 2 - 1x PCIe slots. The MB + FX-6300 has a max power at ~95W. Same MB + FX-8300 max power is ~125W. Under low loads they hover <30W. YMMV


Video Cards - Go w/ a low AMD. I have a version similar to this in my boxes.


And power supplies for ~$50? Do-able.

Mid-Tower cases < $100? Sure. and some have PS included.

Cosair has some decent RAM - with a great lifetime policy. Had a 8GB fail memtest and they replaced it. No questions. Filed an RMA. Boxed it up. Shipped. And got a shiney new one back.


Your OP mentioned TV/radio input. With this I have little experience, but from past searches IIRC they didn't seem cheap.


Have fun shopping!

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I'm going to install Funtoo on it...


I'm trying to plan for the long term, so I'm thinking that I should probably get a decent case, power supply, and high-end motherboard with plenty of room for future upgrades for RAM.....


The likely scenario for my usage will be casual internet usage, occasional gaming.. and some light multimedia work.


I enjoyed your story about the thrift shop -- it'll happen to me some day.  For now I'm happy with my "old" Sandy Bridge (Gigabyte board with Intel i5-2405S, it caps the power draw, great performance, built-in HD3000 graphics serves me very well with smooth 1080p playback etc.).  16 Gb ram (in four slots) allows me to dedicate 8 GB to /tmp for fast emerging of packages.


While you have the chance consider building a super quiet system.  I find that it really adds to the enjoyment.  Getting rid of the power supply fan really silenced the system for me.  A Seasonic 400 W fanless unit (e.g. from Newegg) is adequate for me to power my board, dual Intel Pro pci ethernet, ssd, and 3 1TB hard drives, and the power supply is running near its most efficient loading, and dead silent.  I need only three 140mm fans in my case, all running at about 1000 rpm (silent).  I love silence!


Good luck on your new Funtoo system.

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My only comment is that Oracle VirtualBox may not run Linux guests that well, but it works really well with a Win7 guest.  I have some test study materials that are Windoze-only (and wine/play-on-linux won't run it in-spite of the fact that the .exe is written in java and needs Sun/Oracle java run-time to run - so much for portability), but the virtual machine even has a seamless mode.  I keep my linux dock on the bottom and the Win7 one on the top and both can share the desktop more or less seamlessly.  The linux dock only hides when its covered so it stays accessibly and the Windows task-bar only un-hides when you bump the screen edge, so it stays out of my way.  I can definately recommend it over a dual-boot unless you need Direct3D or games.  Then again, I have 8GB of RAM on my laptop so if you run with less RAM, the performance may not be as good.

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