Suggestions for affordable developer workstation


Jan 1, 2004
I've been doing some research on a base platform (CPU, Motherboard) for a new developer box I wish to build, at an affordable cost. I'd like to enlist the expertise of anyone who wants help.

I'll be doing a lot of compiling and running, as most developer boxes should; in particular, developing the Eclipse IDE using the Eclipse IDE (so at least two massive programs running at all times). This machine is linux machine and will participate in a compiler farm. I'm trying to get this base (CPU, Motherboard) for under $500. If it's a single proc machine, I'd like to do it for a lot less than that.

I've been looking into Athlon MPs, a) because they are fair in price right now (at least up to 2600) and because they of course can do SMP. The disadvantages I've discovered using this route are that they have little upgradability, the motherboards are expensive, and no MP platform can use PC3200. Also, AFAIK, no MP platforms do serial ATA. On the other hand, I wouldn't be opposed to converting two XPs->MPs if that is recommended, which could save significant cost.

Upgradability is not really a problem, as this would probably be a one-time purchase (I don't usually upgrade my machines, except for GPUs).

The AMD 64-bit stuff is very very expensive (for my standards) right now and so isn't really an option, and if it were, I'd like to do SMP, in which I need registered RAM, adding to the budget. I'd like to buy 2x1GB PC3200 sticks, as they can be had for ~$100 each right now, which is not bad.

So, considering that, a single-proc machine wouldn't be out of the question if the wisdom of these forums thinks that is where the value lies. I know you can get an Athlon XP 3200+333mhz mobo on pricewatch for ~$110, which is sick. I would probably want something nicer like an nforce2, but honestly single-proc AMD seems to be the lowest price in town.

I haven't been researching the Intel platforms because I am quite unfamiliar with them. If someone could recommend a starting point I will continue my research looking at what Intel has to offer, but it is has been my experience that, when you need to meet a price point (in this case, $400-$500) Intel usually doesn't cut it.




Feb 4, 2004
hmmm tough question. on the one hand id say go straight for amd 64 chips if you cant afford opterons, becuase benchmarks have shown that amd 64 chips do wonders in compiling. id say if its in your budget , and if 500 is oyur budget for cpu/mobo it is, then id aim for a amd 64 2800+ or 3000+ with maybe the new msi k8n neo or asus k8v deluxe mobo. that combo wont set you back more then 350-400. i even think it would out perform dual ahtlon mp's simply becuase of the memory controller and hypertransport speed compared to the less then steller athlon mp with a 333 fsb. i would seriously consider the athlon 64 chip. remember, its not about the 64bit potential, its the exceptional 32bit performance.


May 16, 2002
For what you want, I would say get a P4 with Hyperthreading, but I have no idea how well Linux supports HT.

I use a P4 2.8C here at work and develop in Delphi using Firebird under Windows XP. I really do notice the advantage of Hyperthreading when comparing this PC to my home one (in my sig). As you can see the two are quite similar in spec (both got 512Mb of DDR400 RAM), and my Oced AXP should give performance <i>fairly</i> close to this P4, but the P4 just seems smoother for running many things at once, and switching between applications.

Epox 8RDA+ rev1.1 w/ Custom NB HS
XP1700+ @205x11 (~2.26Ghz), 1.575Vcore
2x256Mb Corsair PC3200LL 2-2-2-4
Sapphire 9800Pro 420/744


Feb 6, 2004
I would reconsider the A64. Its not too expenise really, the 2800+ costs $173 (pricewatch), a good motherboard like the <A HREF="" target="_new"> AOpen AK86-L </A> not more than $100.

For someone developing software, running Linux, I really could not recommend anything else than a A64 (or dual opteron, but that would exceed your budget). I would even consider the 3000+ over the 2800+, as the price premium is very moderate. This rig will most likely significantly outperform a more expensive dual Athlon MP for your needs, offering 64 bit capabilities, SSE2, NX, etc as well, which, for a developper ought to be interesting at least. And using Linux, you can try the 64 bit capabilities right away if you like.

A64's are also stellar performers when it comes to compiling, even the 2800+ would probably be faster than a $1.000 P4 3.4 Extreme Edition. Check <A HREF="" target="_new"> this </A>

Now, if you want an SMP setup, not for the performance, but to check your code on SMP capable systems, you could possibly consider a dual AMP, but for performance or price/performance, I really recommend against it.

= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my wife. =