I've been thinking about rebuilding my linux box for sometime now. The old box was about three (3) years old (I know, ancient in computer terms), running a Pentium D 805 processor. Performance really wasn't that bad at all, but I was itching for something new, and something on a budget. The computer does two things for me: a) it runs my wiki-forever-in-construction for my progressiverock.com website, and b) runs my Slimserver (whoops, that's Squeezecenter now). I do a bit of CD ripping, sftping, and some desktop use as well. So no, I don't need a quad-core monster, and yes, energy efficiencey is a priority.
For a processor, I went for the Intel Pentium E5200, a dual-core model running at 2.5Ghz, but using a modest 65w of power. Microcenter had it on sale for a super low $49.99. For the motherboard, I had decided on the Gigabyte GA-G31M-E2SL. It's a "rock-solid" model using the Intel G31 chipset. Nothing too fancy, and carrying a $52.99 price tag (price matched with NewEgg), a nice low-end solution for the E5200 processor. Finally, I purchased a 2GB RAM kit from Cosair, $24.99 after rebate. Total spent: $140, including tax.
I always have a degree of nervousness when assembling a new computer from parts. Will they all work? Are they all compatible? Reading reviews at NewEgg.com about DOA parts, etc is depressing, especially if you have to mail back for replacements. But Microcenter had everything in stock, and as I mentioned, was even willing to price-match NewEgg on one of the items. I used the rest of the parts from the old box: Wizard case from Ultra, Western Digital SATA hard drive and Sony IDE DVD-RW optical drive, and an Antec Earthwatts power supply (80% efficient, 380 watts). I didn't get a video card; the old board had an AGP card, but I really didn't know what to get – so it's on-board graphics for now*. Good news, everything was quick to assemble, especially when you learn how to mount those Intel stock CPU fans, and I even had a bit of Artic Silver 5 for the heat sink. The computer posted on first boot, and I had a clean install of Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope in no time.
Next up, I'll post details about getting all my data transfered, software setup, and getting the box back into use.