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I am in the process of looking for a new computer (most likely a tower) and wanted to hit up this subreddit since people seem pretty legit here and a lot of good advice has been shared.

Personally, I'm looking for something with decent enough specs to do dev work and other data science related projects. Thinking this will land in the realm of:

1) 16/32 GB of RAM

2) 4 cores, 2 threads

3) Anything from 3.0Ghz and above

4) And definitely an SSD of at least 512 GB for storage. I would like the ability to run any VM if desired

5) Would be willing to shell out $500, but I'm a frugal person by nature, so if there are some dope deals out there, I wouldn't be opposed.

I am pretty hardware naive (something that I am working on ;) ), and the past few days of searching has revealed to me that I know next to nothing about anything haha. If anyone has any suggestions, I would be more than interested. Also, any hardware related books, because if I'm working in software, I should at least have a better understanding of my machine.

All responses and help is much appreciated!

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I would aim to build the rig that would be easy to extend in the future by adding more RAM, SSD storage, graphics card, changing CPU for stronger and what not. Therefore, the Mo-Bo (Motherboard) is the most important component. It will either provide additional connectivity, multiple PCI-e lanes and modern CPU family, or you will have to throw it away when upgrading anything. The CPU family is a thread in itself: would you like to go red or blue (AMD/Intel)? Which generation? This dictates the Mo-Bo choice. But I will try recomending couple of things. Just looking at logicalincrements and swaping the GPU for better storage:

  • AMD Ryzen 5 1500X - it has a nice 150-ish $ price tag, 4 threads, very good overall performance, comes with stock cooler and the platform on Mo-Bo for Ryzen will let you upgrade in the future to ex. used Ryzen 7.
  • MSI B450-A Pro - very decent Mo-Bo. Or even cheaper MSI B350 PC MATE. Also good. Keep an eye for: M2 slot or slots, with NVMe support (superior speeds), USB 3.1 support and type-C, number of USB ports, chipset, RAM slots no. (prefer 4) and audio quality.
  • 8 GB of DDR4 ram - single stick. Unless you really really need 16 Gigs of RAM ASAP, I'd try living for some time with just 8 and buying more later, when it's cheaper, and having better SSD. RAM is probably the easiest component to add to a PC. Do not go with 2 * 4 GB - you have 2 or 4 slots for RAM (hopefully 4), so upgrading would be possible only to 16 GB vs 32GB. (~80$)
  • SSD - Samsung 500GB 970 EVO M.2 or ADATA 480GB M.2 PCIe XPG (cheaper) - these are not your usual SSDs - they are couple of times faster, as disk I/O is the no.1 bottleneck for developpers. Go with good one drive at the beginning for OS and critical apps, and buy other traditional SSD drives or HDD for archiving later. Drives scale very well - having more not only increases storage, but also I/O times, even without RAID. (130-180$)
  • GPU - unfortunatly, Ryzen has no integrated GPU, so just buy used GTX 960 or 1060 for 100-150$ and you will even have decent gaming experience on most titles in 1080p. Or go cheap and buy anything that lets you plug DP / HDMI. Radeon RX 550 is also a good choice - it's cheap, yet you will be able to play more than tetris.

Overall cost of components from above: 400$ - 550$. If you do not have PSU and case, you'll need at least PSU. Use this calculator to get Wattage when you will decide on components: https://outervision.com/power-supply-calculator . PSU is quite important so do not go with shady brands.

This was team Red. Now Intel build:

  • SSD - the same: Samsung 500GB 970 EVO M.2 or ADATA 480GB M.2 PCIe XPG
  • GPU - none (!). You save buck here and have empty slot for future. Nice.
  • 8 GB of DDR4 ram

And now for the fun part:

  • CPU - Intel i5-8600 3.10GHz 9MB. It has 6 physical (!) cores and costs around 240$. CPU is the no. 2 bottleneck for dev work, so you will appreciate this CPU a lot. It has a neat Intel UHD Graphics 630 integrated, though this GPU has 4-7 times lowe performance than the ones suggested in Red build. But you can always buy dedicated GPU, would you like to play some new tripple A titles. If money are the issue here consider i3-8350. Both CPUs come with stock cooler.
  • Mo-Bo: ex. MSI Z370-A PRO. But as usual: take into account: 4 slots for RAM, M2 slot with NVMe support, USB ports number and version, audio card and chipset. If you do not plan on overclocking consider chipset H370 like in ASRock H370 Pro4. As you can see, the 8th generation of Intel processors is complemented by 3xx Mo-Bos. The higher the letter (B, H, Z) the better the chipset is = the more PCI-e lanes you have and more customizable the build is.

  • Overall cost of components from above: 470$ - 650$. And again - at least PSU. Case can be handy though too. Do not worry buying used case or RAM. Do NOT buy used PSU.

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