I picked up a Celeron G1610 CPU last week and I’m using it to build a Linux box. Yeah, it’s a Celeron. But it performs like a 2011-vintage Core i3 or a 2010-vintage Core i5, consumes less power than either, and costs less than $50. It’s hard to go wrong with that.
I would have happily gone AMD of course, but I really wanted a micro ATX motherboard that could take 32 GB of RAM, and I wanted to keep the cost of the motherboard plus CPU under $150. To get all of that with AMD, I would have had to have made more compromises. I ended up with a Gigabyte GA-Z77M-D3H-MVP motherboard. The Gigabyte was an open-box item priced at a deep discount. A comparable Intel board would have cost $20 more, and a comparable Asus more like $30 more.
I outfitted it with a pair of 8 GB DIMMs from Crucial–I’ll get another pair later this year–and a vanilla (not Pro) Samsung 840 SSD. I want to play with huge ramdisks and virtual machines, and I want to use a Linux box running on something powerful enough that I’d be willing to run Windows on it. The last time I had that was in 2000 or so, when I had an Abit BP6 motherboard with a pair of 500 MHz Celerons on it (I was one of the 12 people who bought a BP6 and then didn’t overclock with it), a 10,000 RPM Quantum (of course) SCSI drive, and something like 320 MB of RAM.
See a pattern? I’m much more apt to spend money on fast storage and truckloads of RAM than on the CPU. Other than transcoding video, I don’t do much CPU-intensive work, and I don’t think many other people do either.
So what about this Celeron?
It has the lowest clock rate of any Socket 1155 chip still in production. It has two cores but no hyperthreading, and less cache than a Core i-series chip or even a Pentium. And you have few or no options as far as overclocking it. Since I’m not interested in overclocking, that doesn’t bother me. This is the CPU that Intel wants to sell to the most casual of casual users.
Surround it with the right parts, though, and it can still fly. With no tweaking whatsoever, the current version of Debian boots to a GUI login prompt in eight seconds. Libre Office Writer loads in three seconds. My biggest gripe through the years with Open Office (and Libre Office by extension) was its slow load time, so color me impressed. It still takes 3/8 as long to load as the entire operating system, but I’m not certain any post-2003 version of Microsoft Office could do much better than that.
Installation was dead simple, as Debian is perfectly happy with the Intel Z77 chipset on the Gigabyte board. It all just worked, accepting the defaults and just giving it names and passwords for its user accounts.