16 December 2012

Budget Office Computer Build

We've built 4 new computers in the office (to replace core 2 duo windows xp based machines) and having spent some time researching the different options we decided to pair a low end AMD CPU (based on the "Trinity" architecture) with an Asrock motherboard and Intel SSD.

We wanted a low cost system that could encrypt files reasonably fast, with a future proof upgrade path and low power consumption and we think the build detailed below hits the mark for our specific workloads.

AMD A4-5300 CPU€37.00
Asrock FM2A75M-DGS Motherboard€53.00
Fractal Design Core 1000 case€28.80
Intel 330 120GB SSD€71.50
1 x 4GB Dimm ddr3 memory -1600MHz€15.00
Antec Earthwatts 380W Power Supply / Be Quiet! 300W psu€35.00

Total Hardware cost: €240.30 *Notes: No CD ROM, Build time approx 20 minutes, Price net of 23% Vat and delivery charges


  • AMD Trinity CPU's come with the AES-NI instruction set and better multi-threaded support (as Intel disables Turbo boost on low end CPU's and only provides AES-NI support on the much more expensive Core i5 and i7 CPU models). This means that for specific workloads like any kind of encryption and for some multi-threaded apps (e.g. 7zip) - there will be a considerable lead from our A4-5300 CPU compared to the Intel equivalent. For specific benchmarks where the AMD option excels.
  • AMD's Trinity processor has a 65W thermal envelope and lower idle power consumption than most of Intel Sadybridge/Ivy Bridge CPU's; *source Anandtech. This means for light small office workloads like our own office (and most small business workloads -Excel, Word, CRM, Chrome, Accounting/ Payroll software) CPU usage rarely goes above 10 - 20%, the AMD option should run cheaper or equal to a similar Intel setup.
  • Clear upgrade path. Either to swap in an extra 4GB of RAM or a faster processor when AMD releases "Richland" the successor to "Trinity". Richland has been confirmed to support the FM2 platform and will be released late 2013.
  • Excellent integrated graphics and compares extremely well with Intel's IVY Bridge and Sandy Bridge integrated graphics - HD4000 etc.. For example with Trinity you have the ability to run 2 monitors without increasing power draw significantly.
  • AMD will cut prices on entry level FM2 processors from Jan 2013, so expect the A4-5300 to go as low as €30 net of VAT and AMD also has better moterhboard chipset options compared with low end intel with the A75x , A55x and A85x chipsets.
  • The hard drive and I/O subsystem is a much greater bottleneck for performance than the CPU speed or graphics card for modern office workloads - and that is why we went with an excellent and extremely fast Intel SSD - the Intel 330 120GB, making the system very responsive.

Windows 8 - Windows Experience Index

Processor; 6.3
Memory; 5.9
Graphics; 4.7
Gaming GFX; 6.3
Primary Hard Disk; 8.1

Intel also have excellent budget options (with higher single threaded performance) and I would recommend the Anandtech value system buyers guide by Zach as a good place to start.