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Hardware Thread, Spec request: Workstations in Technical; Hey all, I've been so ruddy out of the loop thanks to the baby and having to spend inordinate amounts ...
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    contink's Avatar
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    Spec request: Workstations

    Hey all,

    I've been so ruddy out of the loop thanks to the baby and having to spend inordinate amounts of time firefighting issues rather than planning ahead that my normally close eye on hardware spec's has slipped to the point that I couldn't tell you if an i3 was some kind of Apple product or a pair of glasses... Soooo, I'm asking for a little advice/help on what a reasonable specification would be for a workstation PC.

    For use in Primary schools as the main whiteboard machine with the option to buy with or without a screen...

    These things are going to need to survive for at least 5 years given current budget constraints (ie: there is no budget in future!) so longevity in terms of quality components over cheap/disposable is a must.

    I doubt very much we'll be moving on to Windows 7, if at all, over the next 3 years but obviously the ability to move on to that would be a plus... WinXP is required though....


    Thoughts... and just as a thought for suppliers.. Can you recommend systems based on merits rather than stock/sales please. Ta

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    contink's Avatar
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    Nobody got any ideas? I'd have thought you'd all have dream machines or are you all trying to avoid torturing yourselves?

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    DMcCoy's Avatar
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    Like the HP small form factor (not usff) DC 8000s. Good airflow design and can fit a half height PCIE graphics card if required.

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    contink (18th May 2010)

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Dual-Core processor preferably 64bit (that's all of em) with hardware virtualisation support. AMD's are always good for this. Intel needs to pretty much be a Core2 Duo or better. Speed tends not to matter in my opinion. Ram, 4Gb if I could get it - no less than 2Gb though. Hard Drive, the smallest I could get away with. Still not built an image that needs more than 20Gb after all the apps have installed. Graphics card, yeah it needs one. Sound, if the teacher insists. Price, change from 400 - with monitor.

    That's roughly my current thought process when buying new desktops.

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    contink (18th May 2010)

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    We got a load of Intel Core2Duo E7500 SFF PCs on Intel G41 boards from Stone not too long ago. We got 5 Year warranties, delivery to desktop and imaging included in the unit price. The PCs'll take most things in their stride, short of Premier Pro video editing, and they can take low profile gfx cards if needs be. We're running XP, but will move to 7 soonish. The guys they sent to set em up were good, and the very few occaisons we've had problems they've sent their own engineers out too - not sub-contracted independants. They even recycled our old junk. Have a word with their education team and I'm sure they'll fit something to your budget. Way cheaper than HP/Dell/Fujitsu Siemens alternatives at the time, and IMO a better product.

    Based on that I think they owe me a cut! What can I say - they did a good job, so I'll recommend them.

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    contink (18th May 2010)

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    We've gone down the same route as Alexsanger and tmcd35 in terms of spec. The guys at Stone are very helpful (we dealt with a guy called Jake, he was extremely helpful). This is Stone's bread and butter, and I would think they will certainly be very competitive and be able to customise their machines where you need them to (ie to adjust specs or to reduce/increase price where necessary).

    We bought ours from Ergo though in the end, same specs, 5 year warranties (although I think it's 3 as standard) and they came in at less than 400 per machine including monitor. Again very helpful, support has always been first class. They've even provided us with a buffer stock of spare parts for our machines, so that if we have a fault we can do the swap ourselves and post back the faulty item, rather than having to wait up to 24 hours for an engineer to come on site.

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Given your requirement that they last for a bit I would be suggesting i5 based ones as these have more room for expantion of requirements due to their 2 real + 2 HT cores, these also use DDR3 RAM and so will be much cheaper and easier to upgrade or get replacements for in the future. I agree with others that on a network unless you are doing heavy video stuff then a smaller 80GB sata drive is sufficient.

    The spec that I have been using personally for general primary use is:
    Core i5 CPU @ at least 2.6GHz
    4GB DDR3 RAM
    80GB+ SATA HD
    SATA DVDRW drive
    GPU able to handle DirectX 10
    19" LCD
    USB Optical mouse
    USB keyboard
    3 year warrenty

    This is a general spec chosen to last the distance as best as possible. We are running 7 and Office 2010, could get away with 2GB of RAM for the moment and upgrade later if needed.

    Other things that are heavily favored are things like big brand support (HP etc) which generally have much better product and driver support for the life of the product and managment technologies like vPro to allow for better tools in the future to increase efficiency when it comes to repairs.


    I did recommend AMD stuff a few years ago as it is generally much more upgradable and rugged in my experience but they have fallen behind. There are also many showstopping issues with their supported chipsets which can cause problems when imaging with Vista/7 and sometimes stability issues under XP. I do hope that they get back on track soon though.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 18th May 2010 at 02:11 PM.

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    contink (18th May 2010)

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    contink's Avatar
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    Thanks for the suggestions all, particularly Synack as that intel on the future expandability aspect was one I particularly needed..

    We'd much rather have machines that cost more now while we can actually buy them, compared to cheaper, die sooner and unable to replace when we have nothing but the shirt on our backs...

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    We have just purchased intel core i3, 4gb ram, 160gb hdd on an intel chipset from stone for a very good price, and also the machines themselves are very good from the 90 we have had delivered. They did try to rip us of to start but then we told them where to put it and the next quote came back 200 cheaper per machine! We also got quotes from novatech in portsmouth who where same price but couldn't deliver the quantity of machines we wanted in the timeframe we had.

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    Im about to go out to quote, something on the lines of:

    2.7ghz dual core processor
    4Gb DDR3 ram
    entry level HDD
    USB Keyboard/Mouse
    4 year warranty
    No monitor

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    I'm surprised people are putting i3 and i5 processors into school computers already considering the cost of them compared to the still very quick core 2s, we've bought boards of: 2GB memory, microATX Gigabyte G41 chipset motherboard, E5400 CPUs for 115 a go, which is cheaper for all 3 than a single i5 processor!!!! The performance/cost ratio of an i5 processor miles off compared to the cheap and quick efforts you get out of a core2

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbios View Post
    I'm surprised people are putting i3 and i5 processors into school computers already considering the cost of them compared to the still very quick core 2s, we've bought boards of: 2GB memory, microATX Gigabyte G41 chipset motherboard, E5400 CPUs for 115 a go, which is cheaper for all 3 than a single i5 processor!!!! The performance/cost ratio of an i5 processor miles off compared to the cheap and quick efforts you get out of a core2
    I3's are cheaper when you buy 240! we paid less that the cost of this machine for what i have mentioned above.

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    That's still nearly double the cost we spend per PC mind for not a huge increase in performance, the iX series processors aren't a huge step over the core2s in day to day use terms

    I can understand an increased spec on PCs which are specifically going to be used for highly intensive programs, obviously i don't know what yours are used for, but i know that apart from 1 classroom that uses visual studio 2008 + mediator and 1 classroom that uses photoshop we would never be able to justify almost doubling the cost of our PCs

    (that compaq PCs way over priced for what it is...then again all prebuilts are unless you haggle like your life depends on it)

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    Yeah that was just the first machine i found on misco for more then we paid. We are introducing the new machines for a media diploma suite where we are installing Video/music editing and the likes of photoshop. We are futurproofing ourselves as we know we are going to move to windows 7 and the machines we buy now have to be able to run win7 plus the editing stuff in 4/5 years time before they are replaced. but i do agree at the moment for most teachers use it is over specced but its again the 4/5 year thing.

    I must add we are a technology college hence why we have over 1000 machines but replace a quarter of them each year if we can.
    Last edited by glennda; 18th May 2010 at 10:22 PM.

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    @mrbios - it also depends on how often you get the chance to get new pcs and how long you need them to last.

    @contink - We are actually also thinking of putting in a couple of i7 systems running Multipoint Server 2008 shortly as well. About $320 a year under our agreement for 4 screens + hardware costs actually makes it an attractive option in some of our implementations. They should be quite snappy with each user getting in the worst case one real and one HT CPU along with a moniter attached to a propper GPU.

    Depending on your situation this may be another thing to look into but I think that it is only avalible to Volume License customers.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 18th May 2010 at 10:24 PM.

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