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Budget PC Build for High School Use

Question asked by Andrea Valenzuela on Aug 21, 2013
Latest reply on Aug 22, 2013 by Jeff Holliday

Hello! I am a mentor on a FIRST robotics team.
I am an apprentice machinist, and this was my first year with this particular robotics team. Before I was there they mostly a drill press and hand tools, they owned a lathe and mill but did not know how to properly utilize them. Despite this they were still a relatively successful team.


When I got there I introduced them to CAD, more specifically Autodesk Inventor
As a machinist I expect to have drawings to go by, and I could not fathom how students are supposed to learn how to use the machines without proper drawings to go off of.


Anyways, with CAD we were able to design the most efficient, compact, and successful robot to date. It took us to worlds where we could have seeded 1st in our division if it wasn't for some ill timed bad luck in one match. At IRI the most prestigious off season event(invite only) we seeded 3rd and captained the 2nd seeded alliance setting the highest winning score in the quarters, AND the highest losing score in the finals. Needless to say the students saw the difference and they now see the light! We want to amp up our cad production in the future.


I leant them my i5-760 with 4gb of ram and a gtx550 to run Inventor, it handled the software just fine. However we need more computers, with only one workstation it took us longer than desired to design the robot, build season is only 6 weeks long.


Next year we are switching to solidworks, and we want to step up our cad production. We are looking to build at least 2 computers with $1000(Canadian) or less which ends up being $850 once you take tax into account.
We can get Nvidia gtx 550's donated, next year it might be a newer/faster card. I know this isn't a workstation card, but is it good enough for 50-100 part assemblies with another 150ish fasteners? Or should we splurge and go for a v3900? These are high school students, so they wouldn't be doing any crazy stress analysis.


To give you an idea of scale and complexity here's our a video of our robot



I know that I want at least:
8gb of ram
64 GB SSD ( Enough for windows and solidworks how much space would be left?)

cheap matx mobo than can handle 6gb/s,

400w power supply at least
aftermarket CPU cooler
no frills case


That brings me up to $265 right there.
Below are the CPU options, in order from cheapest to most expensive


AMD Athlon X4 750K Trinity 3.4GHz(overclockable to 4ghz) quad core - $85

Intel Core i3-3220 Ivy Bridge 3.3GHz- $120

AMD FX-6300 Vishera 3.5GHz (4.1GHz Turbo) Six-core- $120

AMD FX-8320 Vishera 3.5GHz (4.0GHz Turbo) Eight-core -$160

How much of a difference in performance are these processors? I have been reading more cores is better for solidworks, but how much of a difference will it make?

Thanks you for reading my huge post