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I am looking at purchasing a new computer within the next few months, for use in work applications. I am an IT project manager (read groupie for programmers/DBAs/engineers), and have multiple clients with different needs. I need to be able to compile with Visual Studio 2015, maintain like 40 browser tabs across multiple instances simultaneously, run multiple instances of Excel, Access, and SQL Server each at once (Office 365/2016), Outlook, Project, Remote Desktop Connection, sandbox MS IIS, and similar productivity stuff. I will need to stick with Windows 10.

Currently, I just use the HDMI port to output to an LCD TV. I would probably continue that practice, but I assume VGA and DVI cords would work just as well on this and similar screens. I only use one screen right now, but I really should have multiple video output ports for future use. I also use a cheap USB wireless mouse/keyboard. I have a preference for 1) maintaining wireless, and 2) not paying for another mouse/keyboard. I seldom (3-4x/month) use USB, and doubt I would use more than 1 (besides my mouse/keyboard) at a time. I would like to have a CD-ROM (writable) drive, partially because I miss my cup holder, but I also get CDs about 5x/year.

I would like to have the option to be able to run additional OSs in order to replicate user environments at some point, and a virtual environment would be useful for other reasons. Neither would be common occurrences.

I plan to pay my ISP (once I am set up) to allow me to log into this machine remotely with one of my laptops, so I can still use it for processing and file serving while on site at a client. I am not a networking guy, and SE will undoubtedly be helping me to get that set up. I care little for the actual display quality during such a setup, but I will need to be able to open multiple very large (150x1,000,000) size spreadsheets, and do sort/filter on that data, displaying the result through remote desktop to my laptop. Probably nothing more intensive during the remote connection.

Building the computer myself would be cool, but that is about where the benefit for that (probably) ends. I remember installing a second 5.25 floppy drive on my first computer, and later an entire 20MB HD in the same computer (there was no one cooler than me in the whole world, at that point), but that is about where my building skills peaked. I soldered my brother's Playstation, installed multiple 4MB RAM sticks, and even took apart the power supply once. Now a days, I should be considered a novice at best in hardware matters. But, my wife's brother has a friend who knows a guy who says he could probably build a computer, so there you go.

This will definitely 100% be a business expense. That said, it might be nice to know I could do some leisure stuff, in case I ever get my work caught up. The most advanced game I have ever played is Civilization 4, and I can't imagine getting much more advanced than Civ6 within the next 4 years, and would probably be content sticking with Civ4, low graphics settings (I like what I like).

I don't really need to worry about any more expansion capability beyond what I have already mentioned. If my business is doing so well that I need to upgrade in less than 5 years, I can afford to buy another machine.

So, knowing that I need to purchase a Windows10 Pro license, are their any scenarios where buying the pieces and putting it together myself would be cheaper? (I doubt it)

Do different manufacturers have different track records, at the amount of computing power I will be doing (not much)?

I don't need to consider any special cooling, right?

And most importantly, what is the cheapest way to get a box that can fulfill those requirements?

  • What sort of budget? Desktop or Laptop? – Journeyman Geek Oct 28 '16 at 11:50
  • Question's awesome, tags are cool as they are. If that's the kind of experience you've had building computers, you won't have any trouble building an entire computer - I managed it based on no experience at all, so I'm sure you can. – ArtOfCode Oct 28 '16 at 11:54
  • Thanks @ArtOfCode for cleaning and justifying my post. I was obviously nervous. It has been so long since I have looked at computer parts, I don't know if they are more or less complicated to install. But I also know that my needs are relatively basic, and some of the reasons for building your own (getting the water cooling just right, making the super cool lights flash in the right order) are invalid for my use case. If I can save $10 but takes 20 hours to build, better to just get one made in the factory – CWilson Oct 28 '16 at 13:37
  • @JourneymanGeek Budget? Cheapest! Seriously though, if it costs $1100 to get what I actually need, then I will grudgingly do that. But, I really can't imagine it costing that much. Regardless, if I walk into <bigbox retail> or <boutique shop> and tell them that, I will get 'you-are-my-commission speak' instead of real information. – CWilson Oct 28 '16 at 13:49
  • So, what I am seeing is: max budget of $1100 though less expensive the better, max ram should be high to allow for multitasking with large programs, at least able to play Civilization VI @ minimum settings. Ill see if I can come up with a decent AMD and Intel build for a suggestion. – NZKshatriya Oct 28 '16 at 15:45
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I would suggest the following: pcpartpicker.com: AMD build rev 3

  1. Under the budget maximum.
  2. Suitable for business applications, and light gaming Civ series as specified
  3. Memory has changed a bit. Note: Single DDR3 16GB DIMMS exist, but they are expensive....and single DDR3 32GB DIMMS are ludicrous.
  4. Changed HDD to a 3TB for storage, and added a 120Gb SSD for use as the OS drive.
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  • I noticed the 32GB you suggested would actually occupy all 4 slots, right? Other than that, the $900 price tag is more than I expected. But maybe that is what it takes. I was told once that more than 4 cores is unlikely to bring any actual benefit, because most software can't use that many, even Office. If that were true, this build would only give me 2GHz, which probably wouldn't give me any benefit of remoting in while at the client site, and I would need to upgrade my laptop. The hard drive and video card are probably more than I need, but there probably isn't anything much cheaper, right? – CWilson Oct 28 '16 at 17:52
  • you know, you are correct in the ram situation, was a bit asleep while working on that.........Editing post – NZKshatriya Oct 28 '16 at 21:09
  • Honestly, with everything OP is talking about doing... He is going to need larger mass storage for the virtual machines, an SSD for the boot drive.. And even then I'd consider another 32gb of ram lol. 40 tabs lol. – BigElittles Dec 28 '16 at 21:03
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NZKshatriya didn't spec out your machine for today but instead projected the machine to last you at least 4-5 years.

Quad core is a minimum, 8 core would be best. My desktop runs an 8 core processor.

As far as the video card, yes, that's about right. Nothing extravagant but that will get the job done for any display you wish to push to. Furthermore, I cannot recommend DVI cables. Seen FAR too many of them just fail and require replacement. HDMI or DisplayPort would be ideal.

The only thing I would change from his build would be the hard drive. An SSD is now my standard for every machine I get due to such a fast reduction in start up times and speed of operation. I'm seeing 400-500GB SSD's for less than $130.

As a business, you should have an external storage arrary for data retention and only keep a year or less of data on your local to reference.

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    Totally agree with this assessment. I can go back through the build and see if there are less expensive options, but I tend to try and build based on manufacturers with good reputations, items with good warranties, and then go by price after narrowing that down. – NZKshatriya Oct 28 '16 at 21:30
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I'd actually consider a good business-centred PC - We run the small form factor versions of the HP Elitedesk 800s at work, though I personally am biased towards a full desktop formfactor. Thinkstations are the lenovo equivalent and dell probably has one too. Avoid consumer models - they're uniformly crap.

There's a few nice things about this. When its under warranty, they'll handle it for you. I'd personally consider getting the processor I want with a baseline amount of ram, and upgrade the storage (to an SSD) and ram (to the max it would handle) myself but weight the minor amount of work vs getting someone to do it for you.

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