A post only a mother could love.

May 27, 2015

Cheap, Gadget, Lloyd, Prototype

Speaking of mothers, it was my mom’s birthday yesterday.  It was also my dad’s birthday three days before that, but he doesn’t believe in the internet, and doesn’t want Al Gore to know when his birthday is, so we won’t mention that.

Lauren said that I had to write a post, but what she doesn’t know is that I already wrote one. One that is guaranteed to put you all asleep. I hope you enjoy your naps; there is a summary at the end.

We are replacing 30 computers in our PC lab at school. The current machines were built by students six years ago (to save money and also as a learning experience) and I thought we would do the same thing this time for the same reasons.

Here are my goals for these machines:

  1. They should be relatively future proof. That is to say, they will probably be in service for 5-6 years and so I have to build them a little faster than they really need to be for today’s use. They will be used for Microsoft Office, some Adobe Creative Suite, and for a little programming. No CAD classes.
  2. There should be a little “nice” factor when students see/use them. I am not above having students think, “Oh, they updated this lab, what we do here must be a little important to them.”
  3. They should be fairly easy to maintain. I’m looking for quality parts that seem to last (at least in my price range). I need a case that spastic 7th grade boys won’t idly break pieces from. I will have to remove the hard drives occasionally to reimage them, and would like that to be fairly painless.

I have about $350.00 to spend per machine. I would be happy to spend less than that, because that money would be used for other technology projects at school, and I could probably come up with a little more money if that would make the machines significantly better. I’ll be purchasing these in the United States.

One of my concerns is finding good prices for parts. I really can’t do rebates (MIR prices), because I don’t have 30 people to purchase these. I could have 6 people, so limit 5 offers are okay. Maybe someone knows more than I do about getting bulk discounts.

Here are the parts I’m considering and why:

It didn’t look like AMD had anything better than Intel in my price range, so I didn’t really look at AMD processors closely. I don’t have anything against AMD (current machines have Athlon X2 4850e), so feel free to point me toward a comparable AMD processor. I do not see us doing any overclocking.

  • $58 Intel Pentium G3250 (I am strongly leaning this way)
  • $110 Intel i3-4150

Onboard graphics only. I can’t see any reason to put a graphics card in these machines.

  • $0.00

It seems to me that 8GB is better than 4GB if I’m aiming 5 year out, but memory is easy to add, so I’m not above starting with 4GB and adding another 4GB in a few years if that seems reasonable. My preference is to use Crucial. I have had memory from them go bad over the years, but they have always been very good about replacing it.

  • $27 4GBx1
  • $52 8GBx1

I would really like to just put a smaller SSD in these. My current school disk images are about 64GB, so I’m looking at a 120GB SSD. These drives are not used for storing student data. I don’t know much about SSD reliability, so could use any help picking a good brand/model.

I’m leaning strongly toward a mini-itx motherboard, because I’m leaning strongly toward some mini-itx cases. I would not be opposed to another size motherboard, but you’d have to sell me on another case as well. I really don’t know what to do here. I usually buy an open box mother board for my own computers, but that won’t work with 30 of them. reliability is probably my highest priority here. Other than that, I really don’t know where to spend my money. There was some talk of wanting the computers to be wireless, but that’s not necessarily a requirement. I’m going to just throw out the ones I’m currently looking at:

I’m a little up in the air here. I could save some money by buying a case with a built-in PSU or with an external PSU. I’m tempted to do that, but my impression is that those PSUs are never very good. Here are the options I’m looking at with built-in/external PSUs:

I actually like the cases below a lot more, but pairing them with a decent power supply raises the price. Notice that they don’t have any external drive bays. Apart from liking the looks, I think they will continue to look good longer in a lab setting.

The cheapest, reliable power supply. I think I would like an 80+bronze PSU, but I could certainly be convinced that that’s not a good place to spend money. I think my absolute max load would be 138Watts. I would be very interested in knowing the difference between the various Seasonic PSUs listed below. I couldn’t find that information.

My current thoughts
Below are the choices that I would currently make from the above options. The prices shown here are a little low, because lots of these are special offers that I wouldn’t qualify for with 30 units.

PCPartPicker part list[15] / Price breakdown by merchant[16]

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Pentium G3250 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor[17] $55.99 @ SuperBiiz
Motherboard ASRock H97M-ITX/AC Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard[18] $87.98 @ Newegg
Memory Crucial 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory[19] $50.99 @ SuperBiiz
Storage Silicon Power S60 120GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive[20] $50.44 @ Amazon
Case Lian-Li PC-Q01B Mini ITX Tower Case[21] $54.98 @ Newegg
Power Supply SeaSonic 350W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply[22] $39.98 @ Newegg
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $340.36
Generated by PCPartPicker[23] 2015-05-26 23:43 EDT-0400

Any thoughts you have about any of the choices would be greatly appreciated.

Need to build 30 reliable school computers. Money is an object. Obviously looking for help in quality parts, but also in getting good prices when MIR and Open Box isn’t an option.

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About Lloyd

Lloyd Sommerer is a middle/high school teacher who likes to build websites, read books, grow beards, make fun of Lauren’s prototypes and eat the sauce of the picante.

View all posts by Lloyd


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8 Responses to “A post only a mother could love.”

  1. Lauren Said on:

    That is a lovely picture of your mom. 🙂

    I was right with you until you started your paragraphs with bold text, then I was lost.


  2. Deborah Said on:

    Going back to sleep now . . .


  3. Lloyd Said on:

    I actually posted this to reddit.com/r/buildapc and to Anandtech.com. I got some responses that were useful.


  4. Dad Royuk Said on:

    Z-Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z Now what were you talking about??


  5. Peggy Said on:

    My finger needs a rest from all that scrolling.


  6. Brad Said on:

    I find this extremely useful. In fact, I am preparing a list of questions to ask a seasoned Computer Class teacher like you. Plus, I want to eventually become the IT guy at my school, so I’ll have some questions about that too.


  7. Mom Said on:

    Hi, I liked your picture. I read all the way to the bottom and was impressed with all that knowledge. I hope your school knows that. Wish I could send you some strawberries. Thank you for the Birthday Greetings.


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