Buying a new computer in 2011

Past Systems

I have a bunch of happy systems: (Well, really, the e7200 and e7300 are almost too slow these days, but they can hang on for another year.)

All my existing systems have Nvidia graphics cards... but now I need systems with AMD and Intel integrated graphics (since those are rapidly becoming the standard; only crazy gamers get separate video cards anymore).

New System #1: AMD Integrated Graphics

I've got a case, power supply, and dvd-r drive on hand, so I only need to get the basics. I need AMD graphics, but they don't need to be stunningly fast, so the new A8-3850 APU seems like a good bet. It's the top rated CPU at PassMark's price/performance benchmark, and it's only a tad slower (passmark: 5310) than the i7 920 (passmark: 5566) I bought last year, for lots less money. [EDIT: passmark now says the a8-3850 has a score of 3534. I must have been on crack.]

Tom's Hardware seems to think the El Cheapo ASRock A75M motherboard is Good Enough, so that's what I'll try. Here's the proposed system:

Grand total: $352 including $28 tax and $5 shipping.


The system went together without incident. The heat sink is MUCH easier to attach than the counterintuitive monstrosity that comes with current Intel CPUs. (I originally thought it was very loud, but silly me, the loud fan was the case fan, which I simply unpugged.) Supposedly, one can control the fan's speed, but I couldn't find a way to do it in Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 11.04 32 bits installed without a hitch, though I did have to download the latest Catalyst driver straight from AMD, and lm-sensors was unable to find any useful sensors on the cpu or motherboard.


What I mostly care about is how long it takes to build Wine. Here's how I measured: Results (plus or minus 20 seconds):
CPUSeconds to configure WineSeconds to build Wine
i7-920 32340
i5-430m 960
e8400 341000
e7300 38

In other words, the a8-3850 seemed dog-slow. However, as David Kiefer informed me, that's only true with the default cpu frequency scaling scheme. If you set all cores to 'performance' with e.g.
for core in `seq 0 3`; do cpufreq-set -g performance -c$core; done
the time to do configure drops to 42 seconds (from 77), less embarassingly slow. And the total time to do a full configure/make/test of wine (using warm config.cache and ccache, and -O0) dropped from about 11:15 to about 8:15, an improvement of about 30%.

New System #2: Intel Integrated Graphics

Over in Intel world, it seems the chip to get these days is the i5-2500k. 'k' for 'overclockable, and has HD 3000 graphics rather than HD 2000 graphics'.

A few milliseconds spent dredging newegg for cheap stuff (and reading about sound-deadening cases) produced this bill of materials:

Grand total with i7 2600: $468

Not yet ordered... still thinking.