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Linux dream machine under 900 euro (v2)

29 Mar 2019 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'

My previous post of a Linux dream machine under 900 euro received quite some attention. Yesterday I have built an even more powerful machine and again under 900 euro. This built hits a sweet-spot between price and performance and that's why I've dubbed it "v2".

NB: This article is based on my own experience and not sponsored in any way.

Note: I'm a programmer, not a gamer. Read the original Linux dream machine under 900 euro for a little more background information on my use case.

Better specifications

This build has a 3.6Ghz quad core instead of a 3.2Ghz dual core CPU (2400G vs. 200GE). It has a (faster) QLC based 1TB NVMe instead of a (more reliable) TLC based 500GB SATA (Intel 660p vs. Samsung 860 EVO). Other than that I've chosen a less expensive (just released) AOC monitor with FreeSync technology that the Ilyama was lacking. The power supply is a bit more powerful (500W vs. 450W). This time I have chosen a RGB LED (instead of blue LED) version of the Sharkoon PureWriter keyboard and as a bonus it also costs less.

 15 EUR - Dell USB-Laser Mouse - Mouse
 49 EUR - Sharkoon PureWriter TKL RGB - Keyboard
 65 EUR - Be quiet! Pure Power 11 500W - Power supply
 69 EUR - ASRock AB350M Pro4 - Motherboard
 75 EUR - Edifier R1100 - Speakers 
 81 EUR - Cooler Master Silencio 550 - Mid-tower case
 89 EUR - Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x8GB DDR4 - Memory
118 EUR - Intel 660p 1TB NVMe - Solid state drive
139 EUR - AMD Ryzen5 2400G with cooler - Processor
199 EUR - AOC Q3279VWFD8 32" WQHD IPS - Monitor
--------
899 EUR (including VAT)

NB: The above prices are based on the offering of Dutch web-shops for PC parts, such as "Azerty" and "Alternate", at the time of writing of this post.

Feels 2x faster

The computer feels really faster, but that's no surprise: it has twice the processor cores at a higher clock-speed. The disk has three times the throughput on both read and write and twice the capacity. The money I've spent on a faster processor and disk was saved on the memory, keyboard and monitor. The memory and keyboard are less expensive for similar specifications, while the monitor is lacking a height adjustable stand. The other relevant trade-off is the disk with higher performance and lower durability. I feel it is acceptable, but please make sure you have a healthy backup strategy.

Reasoning

The laser mouse was chosen for it's ridiculous low price. The power supply is quiet and has limited capacity (500 Watt), but in this setup it will suffice. The processor is a trade-off between power and price (a quad-core at 3.6 Ghz). Note that the CPU also has a video card built-in and that it comes packaged with a decent CPU fan. The keyboard is not only one of the cheapest RGB back-lit mechanical keyboards, it also one of the thinnest, which is really nice for your wrist angle. The motherboard sports two M.2 slots (one for NVMe and one for mSATA) and also supports 64 GB of RAM. Note that WiFi and Bluetooth are missing (as I like it). The speakers sound and look good, are powerful (42W) and have a rotary knob for the bass level (I don't like heavy bass). The computer case is padded to be extra quiet. The SSD is big, super fast (1800MB/sec read/write) and inexpensive. This is possible because of the new QLC technology in combination with M2 NVMe slot. The memory was chosen for it's low price. The monitor has a WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS screen with great colors from all angles, while being large (32 inch) and even supporting FreeSync at a price that is just crazy low.

Upgrades

Potential upgrades are a AMD Ryzen 7 2700X octa-core 3.7 GHz processor (now 320 EUR) 64GB DDR4 memory (now 340 EUR) a Geforce/Radeon video card (around 300-500 EUR) and a Samsung 970 EVO 2TB NVMe SSD (now 480 EUR) and one or more Seagate 12 TB hard drives (now 430 EUR/piece). If you do these upgrades you probably also want to have the Seasonic PRIME Ultra Titanium 750W power supply (now 190 EUR) to feed this monster it's electricity. These upgrades could easily triple the price of this system and you can easily do without them (for now). It is expected that these upgrades are more affordable in a few years and that you can apply them when needed.

Final words

I had no trouble installing the latest Ubuntu 18.10 on this hardware. If you are trying older kernels, be aware that you are running on really new hardware that may not yet be supported.

With the above shopping list you should be able to quickly buy all the parts. Putting it all together took me an hour, but I have some experience building computers, so be warned.

It was a lot of fun to build the computer and I'm really impressed with the price/performance ratio of the machine. I feel that computers with similar specifications from premium vendors like Dell or HP are roughly twice as expensive.

Enjoy!