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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
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.
- $56 120GB SSD Silicon Power S60
- $80 120GB SSD Intel 530 Series SSDSC2BW120A4K5
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:
- $68 ASRock H81M-ITX/WIFI 
- $88 ASRock H97M-ITX/ac
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:
- $65 Antec ISK 110 VESA 90Watt (maybe RF interference)
- $65 IN WIN BQ656T.AD120TBL 120Watt
- $50 In Win BP655  200Watt
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.
- $40 DIYPC HTPC-Cube-BK
- $55 LIAN LI PC-Q01B This is the one I’d like to get.
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.
- $34 SeaSonic SSP-300SE
- $37 SeaSonic SS-300ES
- $38 SeaSonic SSP-300ST 
- $38 SeaSonic SS-300ET
- $40 CORSAIR CX series CX430
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 / Price breakdown by merchant
|CPU||Intel Pentium G3250 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor||$55.99 @ SuperBiiz|
|Motherboard||ASRock H97M-ITX/AC Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard||$87.98 @ Newegg|
|Memory||Crucial 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory||$50.99 @ SuperBiiz|
|Storage||Silicon Power S60 120GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive||$50.44 @ Amazon|
|Case||Lian-Li PC-Q01B Mini ITX Tower Case||$54.98 @ Newegg|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic 350W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply||$39.98 @ Newegg|
|Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts|
|Generated by PCPartPicker 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.