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Small budget office PC

Budget (including currency): 500 CHF

Country: Switzerland

Games, programs or workloads that it will be used for: web browsing, office suite, specific applications for a vet practice (based on the software company doesn’t require lots of resources)

Other details

  • existing parts: I prefer saying none, as all PCs are between old and archaic. Will only be keeping monitors (all have either HDMI or DP), keyboard and mice at this point.
  • Upgrading from PCs with intel core i5-4570 (at best) with either 4 or 8Gb ram and standard hard disks. All are pre-builds.
  • when: the coming weeks/months
  • Resolution: Full HD 30-60 FPS
  • Why:
    • everyone in the practice is complaining that the computers are super slow.
    • I’m afraid that one of them will give up any time.
    • We need to upgrade the Windows OS on them and I’m uncomfortable upgrading (because this needs to be up and running 6/7 days a week and cannot have assistance on Sunday).
  • OS: Windows 10 or Windows 11

 

Here is what I had in mind to keep a small budget but without going into to cheap. I would like something sturdy enough to stay in the practice for at least 5-7 years:

  • CPU: something with with integrated graphics like the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G (but difficult to find here) or eventually an AMD A-Series or Intel core i3-12100?
  • Mother board: Gigabyte B450M H
  • Ram: 16Gb with a reputable brand
  • SSD: Samsung SSD 980 (512Gb)
  • PS: Be quiet! Pure power 11 350W
  • Case: any cheap not to ugly case and ideally stay in something quite small sized.

With the AMD Ryzen 3 CPU I've been able to manage a computer that would be under the 400 CHF mark, if I swap that for a Ryzen 5 5600G it's an extra 70 CHF.

 

I've had a look around for pre-builds, but there are 2 things I don't like (maybe this is a bad conception of mine):

  1. you never know what you get exactly and there is often a flimsy part
  2. they're more expensive from what I see
  3. they're more difficult to fix in case you have a faulty part

 

Any ideas on how to make this cheaper but keeping it a good computer is very welcome, or maybe you have suggestions on what could be done better? We need to get 4 of these so we won't be able to go over the 500 CHF mark per unit.

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47 minutes ago, Danid said:

you never know what you get exactly and there is often a flimsy part

Depends where you buy it from. Dell and Lenovo tend to be fairly good with their low end, office focused machines. 

 

48 minutes ago, Danid said:

We need to upgrade the Windows OS on them and I’m uncomfortable upgrading.

If you're uncomfortable upgrading Windows, odds are you shouldn't be building computers in the first place. 

 

49 minutes ago, Danid said:

they're more expensive from what I see

Depends where you look. For the most part they are actually cheaper to get prebuilt, at least on the low end. 

 

Anyway, what I'd do is look for used prebuilts that were pulled from a lease from schools and small businesses. They are usually pretty well maintained machines, and they're dirt cheap. Try to find something 8th gen and newer, and try to find it with an i3 at the minimum, preferably i5 and up. Plus, since it sounds like you're buying a lot of computers, you can probably negotiate a bundle discount, and for redundancy sake pickup an extra 2-3 to be used as spare machines or spare parts. This is likely your best bet. 

 

If you want to go the new route, the 12100 is a much better CPU than the 3200G and if you can fit it in your budget, do it. Get a cheap H610 board to go with it, get whatever the cheapest 16GB kit of DDR4 you can find is, get a different SSD than the Samsung 980 (that drive is very expensive for the performance it offers, it's a straight downgrade from the old 970 Evo that it "replaces", look at drives like the SN550 and Crucial P2), and call it a day. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Danid said:

Budget (including currency): 500 CHF

Country: Switzerland

Games, programs or workloads that it will be used for: web browsing, office suite, specific applications for a vet practice (based on the software company doesn’t require lots of resources)

Other details

  • existing parts: I prefer saying none, as all PCs are between old and archaic. Will only be keeping monitors (all have either HDMI or DP), keyboard and mice at this point.
  • Upgrading from PCs with intel core i5-4570 (at best) with either 4 or 8Gb ram and standard hard disks. All are pre-builds.
  • when: the coming weeks/months
  • Resolution: Full HD 30-60 FPS
  • Why:
    • everyone in the practice is complaining that the computers are super slow.
    • I’m afraid that one of them will give up any time.
    • We need to upgrade the Windows OS on them and I’m uncomfortable upgrading.
  • OS: Windows 10 or Windows 11

 

Here is what I had in mind to keep a small budget but without going into to cheap. I would like something sturdy enough to stay in the practice for at least 5-7 years:

  • CPU: something with with integrated graphics like the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G (but difficult to find here) or eventually an AMD A-Series or Intel core i3-12100?
  • Mother board: Gigabyte B450M H
  • Ram: 16Gb with a reputable brand
  • SSD: Samsung SSD 980 (512Gb)
  • PS: Be quiet! Pure power 11 350W
  • Case: any cheap not to ugly case and ideally stay in something quite small sized.

With the AMD Ryzen 3 CPU I've been able to manage a computer that would be under the 400 CHF mark, if I swap that for a Ryzen 5 5600G it's an extra 70 CHF.

 

I've had a look around for pre-builds, but there are 2 things I don't like (maybe this is a bad conception of mine):

  1. you never know what you get exactly and there is often a flimsy part
  2. they're more expensive from what I see
  3. they're more difficult to fix in case you have a faulty part

 

Any ideas on how to make this cheaper but keeping it a good computer is very welcome, or maybe you have suggestions on what could be done better? We need to get 4 of these so we won't be able to go over the 500 CHF mark per unit.

This screams low end office prebuilt or SaaS to me.  A dGPU isn’t required.  All that is needed is for the thing to be able to do what it does and not break.  The non-atx prebuilts are great for that, and their limitations aren’t relevant to to this application.  Maybe something with good filters because pet hair, and I would also avoid an all-in-one because I don’t trust monitor tech not to change.  Or go SaaS and do it on a thin client.  Or a phone for that matter (they make mostly viable thin clients these days)   This is potato stuff though.  A whitebox is not needed.  There is even low priced used stuff out now that could do a $100 machine is not impossible.  As for flimsy parts I haven’t seen it but it’s not impossible.  #3 is an issue though.  I consider the things close to disposable.  If you want to buy new there are $250 laptops that do what you need. Which implies there are also $250 desktops.  Laptops have the all-in-one problem but they’re so cheap it may not matter.  Remember to include assembly cost.  It’s gonna eat at least 20 minutes but more like an hour or more of someone’s time to assemble a white box.  This is why businesses don’t buy white boxes even though they could.  They’re a hobbyist thing.  If you’ve got to pay someone to put it together they stop being cheaper.

Edited by Bombastinator

Life is like a bowl of chocolates: there are all these little crinkly paper cups everywhere.

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The 3200G is hardly an improvement over the i5-4570. Simply replacing HDD with SSD would achieve similar results.

 

The case is perhaps more expensive than you want, but it is worth the cost. It includes two fans, has dust filters, and is a robust enclosure.

 

I've used de.pcpartpicker.com to approximate local pricing. As you will note this is well over the 470 CHF you can achieve with other options. It does offer best performance in a small package with quality components.

 

PCPartPicker Part List

CPU: Intel Core i3-12100 3.3 GHz Quad-Core Processor  (€142.99 @ ARLT) 
Motherboard: Gigabyte H610I DDR4 Mini ITX LGA1700 Motherboard  (€135.89 @ Caseking) 
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 CL16 Memory  (€61.89 @ Alternate) 
Storage: Samsung 980 500 GB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive  (€51.87 @ Amazon Deutschland) 
Case: Fractal Design Define Nano S Mini ITX Desktop Case  (€78.29 @ Amazon Deutschland) 
Power Supply: be quiet! Pure Power 11 300 W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply  (€49.67 @ Computeruniverse) 
Total: €520.60
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2022-05-23 22:28 CEST+0200

 

80+ ratings certify electrical efficiency. Not quality.

 

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https://pcpartpicker.com/list/JNBnpH

 

I personally would go with something like this, all good quality parts with good reviews. The i3 here is not a bad office solution with integrated graphics. Case is just a generic one that you could substitute.

 

Hope this was helpful !

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9 hours ago, RONOTHAN## said:

Depends where you look. For the most part they are actually cheaper to get prebuilt, at least on the low end.

The cheapest I've been able to find on their websites is over the 500 CHF mark and would be clearly less powerful than what I've selected in the first place (Celron CPU, 8Gb of ram). Unfortunately Switzerland is a quite expensive country to live in.

9 hours ago, RONOTHAN## said:

If you're uncomfortable upgrading Windows, odds are you shouldn't be building computers in the first place.

Maybe let me rephrase this part, I'm uncomfortable upgrading Windows OS on the PC where there is all the client data when I only have a Sunday to work on it and it that were to fail I'm a dead man. I rather have a new PC where I van install everything, test everything, have the external contractors install all the apps needed for the pratice to run and then simply exchange the PCs. 😉

 

@Bombastinator and @RONOTHAN## have suggested SaaS, I would love that but there are specific equipment that need to be connected to the computers (lab machines) that apparently won't work if not directly connected. I know of another practice that is studying the option of going off-site server + thin clients and it's seems they're haveing trouble with that.

 

Concerning the CPU everyone seems to point towards the Intel core i3-12100, how would it compare to a AMD Ryzen 5 5600G? I'm more of a AMD type of person 😋. Also those can be found at a good price here once you consider the Motherboard + CPU combo.

 

9 hours ago, brob said:

The case is perhaps more expensive than you want, but it is worth the cost. It includes two fans, has dust filters, and is a robust enclosure.

Oh my goodness, yes! I hadn't thought about that but this would be a good idea to go with a case that has good dust filters for security! Clearly taking that in account when I'll choose the final case.

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31 minutes ago, Danid said:

Concerning the CPU everyone seems to point towards the Intel core i3-12100, how would it compare to a AMD Ryzen 5 5600G? I'm more of a AMD type of person 😋. Also those can be found at a good price here once you consider the Motherboard + CPU combo.

12100 is slightly slower in multi core but in single core tasks the 12100F is noticeably faster. For what you're doing the 12100 is quite a bit faster. 

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Probably the ain thing I would focus on is a good ssd. That samsung drive would be fine, I would make sure whichever SSD you get has a dram cache (WD SN550 doesn't). As has been mentioned, an i5 4570 is fine for office work. If you are going to upgrade, amd cpus with onboard graphics tend to cost a little more and have slightly worse cpu performance, so I would go for intel

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Based on what has been said earlier I either go for an AMD 5600G or Intel core i3-12100 as a CPU depending on price and stock at the moment of buying.

 

SSD I need to check it has dram cache on it for better performance.

 

I’ll choose a case with filters as to avoid having pet hair clogging everything up and allow for easier cleaning.

 

Thank you all so much for your help and ideas already! This helped me check out things I wouldn’t have thought of.

 

Any other tips?

 

Also, I forgot to answer a couple of ideas that I’ll try to resume here:

  • second hand isn’t an option from my point of view. Schools and offices tend to keep computers till the very end in Switzerland, meaning higher risk of defective parts (one of the reasons I am changing the computers).
  • the price of building the computer isn’t an issue as I will be building them (my time is free of charge 😉)
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2 minutes ago, Danid said:

SSD I need to check it has dram cache on it for better performance.

 

 

In this use case SSD DRAM cache doesn't matter. O/S (driver) caching should prove more than sufficient to maintain performance. (Presumably users are not writing MB of data without pause to their SSD.)

80+ ratings certify electrical efficiency. Not quality.

 

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