In the third week of my CSIT1110 “Introduction to Information Technology” class, I ask my students to try to make a workable plan for building their own computer. They end up posting blog entries containing detailed plans for cheap computers, incredibly fast gaming computers, quirky computers with case modifications and sometimes even supercomputers.

This semester (Spring 2011), while explaining the process and trying to make it as interesting as possible to my students, I went too far and got myself excited about building a computer. I’ve built two computers before, the last being about 10 years ago. I had great fun building them and learned many things about computers in the process.

I intend to run the open-source operating system Ubuntu on the system. Here are the components:

I already have a 40-inch TCL 1080p HDMI TV/Monitor mounted on a dual-arm articulating wall mount along with a Logitech gaming keyboard and Apple’s Magic Trackpad (although I’ll need to add a bluetooth adapter to my system to make the trackpad work). The total system cost is $804.94 (plus tax and shipping).

The following are detailed descriptions of the components along with my reasons for purchasing each item:

APEVIA Black Aluminum MicroATX Computer Case with 420W Power Supply ($79.99)I recently purchased a Mac Mini as my home entertainment system controller and have gotten accustomed to the small desktop footprint. I decided to try to build a small but extremely powerful computer.

I started by selecting this MicroATX case which has a sleek look in stylish black. The reviews say that the case looks and performs well, but is somewhat flimsy. I think that it will work for my purposes.

I already know that the built-in 420W power supply only has one SATA connector, but my assumption is that I can just use an adapter on my internal Blue-ray player.

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz Six-Core Processor($199.99)I chose the AMD just because I’ve never had a computer with an AMD processor and wanted to try this one out. This was the fastest processor in my price range. Six cores running at 3.2GHz should give me plenty of power to render video files (or just to play WoW).
ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard($104.99)I’ve used ASUS motherboards in the past with varying success, but I liked the look of this board and it seems to be one of the best (for my purposes) in the Micro ATX form factor. It supports a maximum of 16GB of dual-channel DDR3 RAM running at up to 1333Mhz (up to 2000Mhz with overclocking). It has an onboard ATI Radeon HD 4250 video chipset which I’m not sure will be enough graphics power, but I’ll give it a shot before purchasing a separate video card.  The board was advertised as “Six-Core Ready,” has 2 USB3 ports, 4 USB2 ports and supports up to 6 SATA devices at 6Gb/s.

This motherboard is different from the one I originally planned to purchase. After looking over my build plans, a  student in my Blount County CSIT1110 class suggested I get a mother board that supports USB3.

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1333 SDRAM($109.99)8GB of superfast 1333Mhz dual-channel DDR3 RAM with a CAS (column address strobe) latency of only 7 clock cycles! I actually ordered slower set of RAM and plan to send it back. When I changed my mind about the motherboard, I didn’t notice that the new board I ordered supported faster memory, so I ordered this set, too. NewEgg said they would let me send the other set back unopened for a full refund.
Crucial RealSSD C300 2.5″ 128GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive($239.99)This is my first solid state drive and is one of the components that I am most excited to check out. I plan to put the OS (Ubuntu) and applications on the SSD and connect traditional external drives for additional storage and backups.
SAMSUNG Black Blu-ray Drive SATA ($69.99)This is also my first Blu-ray player. I don’t yet own any Blu-ray disks, but I suppose that once I get this drive installed, I’ll have to buy some. As I mentioned before, I’ll need an adapter to get power to this unit since the power supply that comes with the case only has one SATA power connector and I need that for the SSD.

I should have all of this equipment in some time next week and plan to post entries on the build. I am very excited to see just how fast this machine is going to be!