I have invested in a couple of cheap computers in the past couple of months. I bought a PC stick computer called an Iview and a second more robust rig called a Egreat i6. Both run Intel 2 watt quad core Atom processors with 2 gb soldered in RAM and 32 GB of eMMC SSD. Both came with Windows 8.1 legally licensed, pre-installed and activated. The cost was somewhere in the $130-140 range for each computer, about the cost of windows 8.1 alone. Many of these cheap computers floating around are using a "trial"version of windows and the license then needs to be purchased at pretty much full price so you HAVE to pay close attention to exactly what you are buying. If you do search diligently you can find a hell of a deal. The best part of these little gems are totally silent! NO FAN. I don't mean a quiet fan I mean NO FAN. They use a heat sink. The processor and chipset together generate less than 4 watts THD.
Shortly after buying the Egreat, my shack computer died. I had a i7 that was pretty fast but it generated 70w processor power plus whatever else on its own and although the fan wasn't horrible it was very much present. I decided to look around and see what was out there in a more powerful fanless computer. It turns out you can spend thousands on fanless computers. If I'm going to spend thousands it's going to be on radio gear not computers. Generally my thousands these days go to pay for my kids college so I'm even more behind the eight-ball!
It turns out China has been manufacturing high performance laptop boards into desktops. The little Atom computers in fact were actually a version of a cheap laptop boards without screens. In this country we feast on big deal computers whose cost probably equals several months of salary, for consumers in emerging markets. They want cheap and complete and they are not super interested in terabytes of storage and fire breathing gaming. The higher end desktop made from a laptop board is also quite cheap to build.
The above computer has 2 nics, 3 slots for storage, 2 slots for up to 16gb memory, 300 mb dual band wifi (blue tooth is 4 bux more) 4 usb 3.0, 2 usb 2.0 dual HDMI, Intel HD pro iris video, mic and phones, and a i5 dual core 14nm 15w processor and its fanless! The cost of this box? $255 with free shipping.
It was easy to set up. Memory
I found 4 gB of fast 1600 cas 9 memory for $24 on NewEgg. Get as fast as the chipset can handle and as low a cas as possible since some of the memory is donated to the video.
120 gb Samsung module 500mbs speed $35
Windows 8.1 OEM with COA off ebay for $35.
So for $350 I have the latest Broadwell i5 with iris pro HD graphics (also the latest)
I installed all of this loaded and activated windows. I installed the Intel drivers from the driver DVD they included at my request. Make sure you ask f or a driver DVD. There is nothing funny in this computer. The processor is Intel, the chipset is intel, the wifi is Broadcom, the NIC is realtek, Audio is realtek. All of these are mainstream chips and all of these drivers are readily available but it's nice to have them in one place. You know what I mean if you ever tried to get some drivers from the Intel site.
I immediately upgraded to windows 10 for free. I would do this before installing anything else if you are going to do it. Also you don't need to worry about backing anything up since the install is fresh. Once windows 10 is installed it will lock itself to your machine and you can do an install off a win10.iso file for a truly pristine installation if you want but the only way that can happen for free is through the win 7 or win 8.1 path because your machine won't be locked to the windows data base otherwise. Ya I know, it makes me nervous to be locked to Microsoft too. The update went without a hitch and the latest win 10 Intel drivers and Realtek drivers were downloaded and updated as well.
my new desktop
Listening to the WPE contest remote from my office on my new computer
Running SmartCat, SSDR, DDUTIL, FRStack SDR-Bridge and skimmer
Resources utilized to accomplish all of that. So far flawless.
The 6500 is connected to the router through a switch and 120 ft of Ethernet cable. My computer is connected through a switch to 50 ft of cable to the router. The computer may be fanless but I'm very much a fan!! This is my office computer since about a week after the shack computer died the office computer also bit the bullet. I put a i7 version of this in the shack, with more memory and bigger SSD, but this little gem runs the radio just fine.