My preference is to start with a barebones system, with motherboard and power supply already installed. This is because I feel pretty comfortable installing components into a system, but I feel a little uncomfortable starting entirely from scratch. (Also, I don't want to pay Microsoft for the privilege of running Linux, and I want to avoid Secure Boot like the plague, so a PC from a big manufacturer like HP isn't looking good.) Last time around I got a Shuttle, and since it's lasted this long, I'm inclined to get another one. (I also like the form factor: smallish, but takes standard 5" optical drives.) I'm not using the system for gaming, mostly just web browsing and word processing and such. As for my budget, I'd like to stay around the 400 - $450 range.
I really know nothing about hardware these days, so I'd appreciate it if anyone would like to critique my choices. Here's what I've come up with:
Barebones system: Shuttle SH61R4 $200. The next step up is the SH67H3 at $240. The main difference I can see is that the latter has 6 Gb/s SATA, and the former has only 3 Gb/s SATA. Is that worth $40? Is that worth more than adding more RAM and a better CPU would be for the same price?
CPU: Intel Pentium Dual-Core G860 3.0 GHz 3 MB Cache. $70. I've been an AMD guy for a long time, but I understand that the days of paying the "Nobody got fired for buying Intel" tax are at an end. There are lots of confusing choices here; I just picked one that people seemed to be using with that Shuttle box and that seemed to be at a reasonable price point.
RAM: 4GB DDR3 1333 $20. Should I go to 8GB?
SSD: 64GB SATA 6GB/s $75.
Hard drive: 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" $60 (It sounds like the thing to do these days is put the OS and programs on an SSD drive, and anything that either takes up a lot of space or will be frequently rewritten on the HD.)
Optical drive, keyboard, mouse, wifi adapter, and monitor will be scavenged from existing components. No graphics card, I'm planning on using the on-board graphics. OS will probably be Linux Mint. $0
That comes out to $425, right in the middle of my range. The prices are mostly Amazon's, except where Amazon doesn't carry something (which is only the cheaper Shuttle box.) Specific types of criticism I would like would be answers to the following: Where should I pay more to get more? Where should I pay less to get less? Should I care about which brand I get for the items where I haven't indicated a brand?