PC purchase advice

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daggerboard
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PC purchase advice

Post by daggerboard » Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:26 am

All,

I am a fairly sophisticated PC user and am in the market for a new device.

I am looking for a no-frills desktop with a fast processor, decent graphics card and an the ability to install a good amount of memory. Don't need monitor or peripherals.Probably looking to spend $800-1,000 on the box.

I want to set the machine up as a dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows box.

Browsing websites like Dell I am frustrated by the amount of unwanted software they pre-load (I guess I would wipe it and just reinstall) but also by their lackluster and very hard to determine CPU selection.

I guess I would prefer a clean box with no software so I can buy and install whatever I want (seems to be no price delta from retail to the OEM versions anymore).

Where should I look to buy? In the olden days (college) I would buy components and put together the PC myself. Should I do that? Or is there a retailer that caters to weirdos like me?

Thanks!

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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by SnapDuck » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:05 am

Have you looked at newegg or tigerdirect? They have components for the build your own route and pre-built towers. If I needed a new desktop pc, I would build my own using newegg. Maximum PC usually puts out a budget pc build every so often. Here is the latest I found http://www.maximumpc.com/article/featur ... s_500_2000. It gives some ideas of what cpu, gpu, memory can be had for each budget.

MDfive21
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by MDfive21 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:12 am

frys or microcenter should be able to help you out with the hardware. or check newegg.com if you prefer to shop online.

as for the pre-loaded software, when i bought new PCs recently, i wiped the drives and started out with a fresh copy of win7 on both. it's expensive but well worth the lack of headache to have your own OS.

my personal philosophy is to pick a price point and get the quickest processor and most ram for that price. hard drive can be a consideration, but you might want to buy your own drive based on your needs, which is why going to a frys or microcenter would be a good idea.

Khanmots
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Khanmots » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:31 am

daggerboard, I'd suggest that you hit up hardforum's general hardware forum and repost your question there (or poke through a bit to see if anyone else has similar requirements). They're a great community that works hard at working within a budget. Now, they will push you to build your own, but if you'd really rather not they will likely help make a few suggestions as well; in the past the hardocp website that the forums are attached to has done reviews of independent boutique PC builders so they're not just a build-your-own crowd (just mostly :D ).

Personally I'm a build your own type, so I've got no clue about what's available prebuilt, although given that you're wanting graphics, I'm doubtful that you'll find a well-balanced machine at a decent price; my limited poking around websites has led me to believe most prebuilts seem aimed at having very limited gaming capabilities or being really expensive for what they offer.

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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Mudpuppy » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:35 am

I personally build my own machine, but at work I can't do that. We use Dell at work, so I know that you can get Linux on Dell, which greatly cuts down on the amount of bloatware installed. They do a good job of hiding this option if you navigate in from their main website, but it's the n-series of their desktops, laptops, and workstations. It's a bit easier to find the n-series models in the workstation line (Precision), which would also have the higher-end components.

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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by pochax » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:39 am

you can buy DIY barebone kits at newegg.com and tigerdirect.com. Hardcore PCers may post deals at forums like fatwallet.com (check hot deals forums). but you will likely need to have your own OS (they seldom come with the kits - although some do come with Windows 7).

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prudent
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by prudent » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:41 am

Given your wants, definitely build your own. You'll have a better quality system and spend less. I've done it twice and I don't consider myself a hardware guru by any stretch.

hardforum and anandtech forums are great resources for information (I prefer anandtech). I spent a LOT of time reading reviews on newegg also. I focused on CPU-motherboard-RAM compatibility first. Look at the price differences between the top of the line CPU and the next step down. Huge difference in cost for a very tiny sacrifice in performance. Make sure your CPU/motherboard combo has been out there long enough so any big problems have been fixed by a BIOS update.

The best part is since you have a $1k budget in mind, you can get high quality stuff and not worry about breaking the bank. Don't skimp on the power supply.

Smartest thing I did was to buy a great case. Made a huge difference in how easy it was to put the system together. I got a Lian Li midtower and I love it.

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BigFoot48
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by BigFoot48 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:12 am

Check Costco stores and online. They have a good return policy and the HP desktop we bought for the MIL had minimal software that was easily not installed or removed. Paid about $550 for it which did not include a monitor. Was way, way over-kill for an email user but was easy to do.
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Toons
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Toons » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:20 am

Fairly sophisticated computer user here,,,,,,I have owned Dell computers myself.The last several years I have gone to Wal-Mart and purchased several Acer laptops at VERY reasonable prices,,,,return policy is great (15days if not satisfied.)No complaiants , I use my laptops all day every day
I-3 processor and 6 gig of Ram is sufficient for my needs. :happy

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Sidney
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Sidney » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:34 am

Tiger Direct has this

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... &CatId=119

It looks like you can configure it the way you want it and then load an OS of your choice. I usually re-load the OS on a new system to clear off the OEM clutter.
I always wanted to be a procrastinator.

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mike143
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by mike143 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:55 am

When you buy from Dell Business side you do not get bloatware. You do not have to have a business to by from their business side. It will ask a business name and you can just use your name. This is a good site to check on Dell deals: http://www.gotapex.com It's not Dell's fault that AMD and Intel keep people confused with their CPU naming practices. If you can provide a list of what you will be using it for I can give you a solid recommendation. Usually any $400 Dell special with 4GB of ram is suitable for 95% of people for the next 3 to 5 years. I would only build yourself if you are a hardcore gamer. You can't beat the quality for the price when purchasing from Dell/HP/etc, especially when it comes to Windows licensing. I have been paying about $450 for a Dell "business" desktop with 3Ghz dual core processors, 2GB RAM ($22 to upgrade to 4GB aftermarket), 250+GB 7200rpm HD, DVD Burner and Win 7 Pro. Don't worry about the Pentium, i3, i5, i7 stuff, look for at least dual core and near 3Ghz.

It amazing what people believe they need when they only use their computer to use the Internet and process Office documents. Modern day CPUs with integrated GPUs can play many modern games just fine at lower resolutions and graphic settings.
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archbish99
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by archbish99 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:33 pm

Alternatively, consider the Microsoft Store. Prices are a bit higher, but the "Microsoft Signature" basically means they prohibit the OEM from installing bloatware on the PCs they sell. You get Windows, Security Essentials, and the Live Essentials programs. That's it. (And consequently, the prices are higher by the amount the bloatware vendors would have paid Dell/HP/whomever to install their software.)
I'm not a financial advisor, I just play one on the Internet.

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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by abuss368 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:35 pm

Go with the Apple systems and platform.
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thebogledude
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by thebogledude » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:41 pm

you will probably do well with a mid-to-high-end PC from any major retailer like Dell, HP, Gateway.

they tend to have the same configuration base since they are competing for the same cost-conscientious, desktop power user.

As for CPU and memory, I tend to budget more than what I need.

the only issue then is the pre-load ware that's bundled with the operating system, all of them will have it.

if that's a show-stopper then you'll have to go the DIY route. it is amazing how expensive a custom DIY

will get compare to buying stock from a retailer when you price things out.
Last edited by thebogledude on Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:44 pm, edited 3 times in total.

rocket
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by rocket » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:43 pm

I bought a HPE 8 at Sams Club recently. 10 Gig memory, Intel i5, for $700, very quiet, That is the best deal I found.

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mike143
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by mike143 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:45 pm

Windows 7 runs great on 4GB of RAM, Windows 8 uses a little less. The only way I can use up all of my 4GB is by running a virtual machine and giving it 2GB of memory or more. There are very few instances that someone would need more than 4GB of RAM. About the best thing you can do performance wise would be add a quality SSD (Intel 520).
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cjking
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by cjking » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:42 pm

I find 2 Gig more than enough for anything I want to do in Windows 7. This is on a home-built PC that's about 4 years old. I can't forsee any future need for more power. I don't play games, I do use Excel reasonably intensively, watch HD video, and have also used this PC for developing SQL Server based web applications.

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mike143
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by mike143 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:06 pm

pochax wrote:you can buy DIY barebone kits at newegg.com and tigerdirect.com. Hardcore PCers may post deals at forums like fatwallet.com (check hot deals forums). but you will likely need to have your own OS (they seldom come with the kits - although some do come with Windows 7).
Here is a thread on slickdeals for DIY computers: http://slickdeals.net/f/553826-Build-Yo ... ed-6-28-12

I use to build computers (both personal and for work) but unless you need the top echelon CPU or GPU than Dell and HP usually make the most sense. I have even overclocked and overvolted Dell computer with the BSEL and VID CPU mods.

Here is a good deal I am about to purchase 5 of for a new project: http://www.provantage.com/dell-469-1599~7DELL29V.htm

It comes with one 2GB stick of RAM so for $11 I can add an additional 2GB for a total of 4GB. Should come in just under $400 with shipping. I need Win 7 Pro on mine so that usually limits my choices.
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dziuniek
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by dziuniek » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:52 pm

I've been building my own PCs since I was 12... YES - it's that easy. Then again at age 10 I was pretty good with using DOS, because windows was a pain.

Now for you budget of $800-1000 you can get a really fast PC if you build it yourself.

If you do buy the parts, I recommend www.newegg.com due to the price. Anything you might find at Best-buy (for example), is horrendously overpriced!

Compare graphic cards or hard drives on www.newegg.com and Best-buy, you will be pleasantly surprised.

I've done so many times in the past.

THY4373
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by THY4373 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:05 pm

It is possible to do a clean install on most major OEM systems without buying a new copy of Windows. Most major OEMs, HP, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, etc have SLIC 2.1 BIOSes and these allow OEM versions of Windows to be installed and activated using the Windows serial that comes with the laptop. The problem is getting your hands on an OEM DVD of the version for Windows you are interested in. Luckily if you Google you can find instructions on installing from a retail version of the Windows DVD and then converting that install to OEM (you basically install a certificate and then enter your serial number). This gives you a nice clean install that activates. I have done this on my two Lenovo laptops when I bought them and it works great.

MoneyBagsRx
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by MoneyBagsRx » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:50 am

Daggerboard,

Check out http://www.digitalstormonline.com/

Reputable place that builds computers for you. I've bought from here in the past and loved their work. I priced out the components and basically paid $100 for them to put it together for me (on a $1,600 rig). But what made it worth it, was the 4-year warranty plus free shipping. After they put it together, they actually run your computer for a period of time to make sure all of the components work and the build is stable.

No BS added software on these computers.

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linenfort
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by linenfort » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:21 am

Although I think Linux works better on dedicated machines like those built by ZaReason (personal experience) and System 76 (I've heard),
you might want to check out Polywell Computers (polywell dot com).
They make a good product for your budget of $800-$1000.

No bloatware.
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Cacapon
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Cacapon » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:34 am

This is a good site for help building your own: http://www.hardware-revolution.com/

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Frugal Al
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Frugal Al » Thu Jul 26, 2012 2:50 pm

To the OP, there's nothing in your usage that would necessitate your own build. Gamers and other overclockers, or those wanting a home theater PC can probably justify a build for the exact spec's and case that they want, but there's little or no money to be saved doing so. Sure, you might get better components, but that probably won't extend the longevity much over a prebuilt unit provided you choose a machine with a decent power supply. Your price range can put you into a reasonably well appointed i7, which is probably overkill but should be future proof for quite a while.

The bloatware with Dell isn't as bad as it used to be and many of their machines are fine if spec'd out properly. Some of the Dell units have 460w power supplies which is fine unless you're running dual GPUs. I find their spec's frustrating because of the way they load up on huge hard drives or unnecessary ram, and their video card selection leaves a bit to be desired, but they're fine for most users.

There is some self satisfaction in putting a machine together, but there is often some frustration as well if things don't boot up as they should--glitchy motherboards are no fun to deal with and can waste time.

Khanmots
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Khanmots » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:46 pm

Frugal Al wrote:Your price range can put you into a reasonably well appointed i7
One of the reasons to recommend building your own PC is because of this mentality. For almost any home-use, including gaming, an i7 is overkill and will provide no benefit over an i5. For example my personal rig that I game on at 2560x1440 with cranked settings and high fps is built around an i5. Unfortunately the manufacturers will shove a $100+ "upgrade" into an i7 on most higher end systems such that to obtain the other upgrades you want you're drastically overspending on the processor.

What you want is a system where upgrading any one component won't make a noticable difference but downgrading one would. That's when you know that your $$$ has been spent effectively. Unfortunately, this isn't what you're going to get from most manufacturers.
Some of the Dell units have 460w power supplies which is fine unless you're running dual GPUs.
If these are true 460w supplies.

Sadly in the world of power supplies there are *many* that do not live up to their rating. It's almost an unregulated market in this respect. Every once in a while a hardware review site will do a roundup of lower-end PSUs and test them to see if they live up to their specs. Many melt, catch on fire, or otherwise spectacularly fail. I have no clue if the Dell-sourced supplies are truly 460w or if they're just ones that will handle what is in the Dell case.

That said, a dell PSU will work for what is in the case as-delivered. They have no desire to burn out supplies and have to be replacing them; don't be worrying about that. However, if you're going to be adding anything to the system, realize that the PSU will likely not be able to handle much if any extra load as Dell has no incentive to size the PSU larger than is needed (and drive up costs).

Building a machine isn't for everyone, but once you're out of budget builds it's no longer the more expensive route.

lightheir
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by lightheir » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:04 pm

I actually seriously question whether you can build your own ground up for cheaper unless you go used for a lot of the parts.

Computer assembly is now mostly automated, and when you throw in the nonretail bulk cost savings of the parts when prebuilt, I doubt you can buy the individual parts for less than the assembled computer. (Bicycles work the same way - you will spend a lot more buying the individual new pieces of a bicycle rather than getting the whole thing at once.)

If you're going to build it yourself, do it for the enjoyment and satisfaction of having something exactly to your spec. That's great.

Otherwise, you should think about what the intended application is. I consider myself a pretty serious computer user for a typical consumer (meaning my job isn't in IT) but a $500 laptop has provided everything that I want in a PC, with the exception of high-end gaming (which I can live without on my PC.) Plus it's portable.

detroitbabu
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by detroitbabu » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:39 pm

This is a good site for DIYers.
http://www.tomshardware.com/

THY4373
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by THY4373 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:58 pm

lightheir wrote:I actually seriously question whether you can build your own ground up for cheaper unless you go used for a lot of the parts.

Computer assembly is now mostly automated, and when you throw in the nonretail bulk cost savings of the parts when prebuilt, I doubt you can buy the individual parts for less than the assembled computer.
I agree building your own can be cheaper only in very rare instances. Mostly if you hunt the deal sites, find especially good deals, are flexible with your requirements, are willing to deal with rebates and value you time at $0 (hey it is a hobby). And then probably only if you do not need to buy a copy of Windows (e.g., you are running Linux, already have a copy or what have you). The only other way I can see building your own coming out ahead over time, dollar wise is the parts can be reused. For example I am still using my original Cool Master Stacker case for my home server. It has been through three hardware rebuilds and I doubt I will replace it any time soon and the power supply has been reused as couple of times as well. This is much harder to do with pre-built machines since many of the parts are non-standard to one degree or another.

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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Khanmots » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:35 pm

lightheir wrote:I actually seriously question whether you can build your own ground up for cheaper unless you go used for a lot of the parts.

Computer assembly is now mostly automated, and when you throw in the nonretail bulk cost savings of the parts when prebuilt, I doubt you can buy the individual parts for less than the assembled computer. (Bicycles work the same way - you will spend a lot more buying the individual new pieces of a bicycle rather than getting the whole thing at once.)

If you're going to build it yourself, do it for the enjoyment and satisfaction of having something exactly to your spec. That's great.

Otherwise, you should think about what the intended application is. I consider myself a pretty serious computer user for a typical consumer (meaning my job isn't in IT) but a $500 laptop has provided everything that I want in a PC, with the exception of high-end gaming (which I can live without on my PC.) Plus it's portable.
Problem is that once you start looking for higher end systems they aren't built to be well balanced. They're built to sell to the uneducated consumer. Try to find an i5 3750 paired with a GTX 670 for example. You can't. You'll find a high-end i7 that costs at least $100 more and won't perform any better for the intended use. (If you were doing heavily multi-threaded 3d simulation for an animation department on the other hand... then that i7 might be handy, but games? They don't use what it offers)

Also, they way overcharge for some items, especially ram and HDD. I just checked Dell, to go from 8 gigs to 16 gigs of DDR3 1600 they want an extra $150. I spent literally 30 seconds and found 8 gigs of high-quality Corsair memory at the same DDR3 1600 speed for $50 shipped. They work off the premise that their educated consumers that make up a small fraction of their buyers might skip, but if they make 10 times the profit margin off the other 90% that aren't they're well ahead.

At the high-end system builders profit wildly off of ignorance. Same as investment advisors getting high NW investors into hedge funds and all sorts of other totally inappropriate wealth-suctioning "investments".

Now all that said, if all you need is an email, web, word processing machine. Go pre built! That's the ultra-competitive area where you can come out ahead; just don't overbuy processor. And do the RAM and HDD upgrades yourself.

lightheir
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by lightheir » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:22 pm

Agree - but if you have such specific computing needs that you NEED a high end processor and GPU, you wouldn't even be asking the OPs question in the first place - it would be pretty clear the types of hardware you have to acquire or build.

Assuming you're not a graphics or animation professional, there's really no need for such a powerful computer nowadays. Even folks working as web professionals in Silicon Valley mostly use cheap laptops for their work for the most part. (For sure at all startups.)

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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Khanmots » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:32 pm

lightheir wrote:Agree - but if you have such specific computing needs that you NEED a high end processor and GPU, you wouldn't even be asking the OPs question in the first place - it would be pretty clear the types of hardware you have to acquire or build.

Assuming you're not a graphics or animation professional, there's really no need for such a powerful computer nowadays. Even folks working as web professionals in Silicon Valley mostly use cheap laptops for their work for the most part. (For sure at all startups.)
He's asking for a system with a decent graphics card. I'm assuming that's because he wants to game. I've yet to find a decent prebuilt gaming system that has a balanced build so you're not overspending on one bit and underspending on another.... haven't looked too hard, but still.

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Frugal Al
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Frugal Al » Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:17 am

Khanmots wrote:If these are true 460w supplies.
Actually Dell conservatively rates their power supplies.

As for most people not needing an i7, I agree. I was just stating what the OP could buy given his budget. I don't know what Dell buys them for, but it's a lot cheaper than I can buy them for. Dell thinks people want "the best and fastest," which sadly, many do--even if they don't need it. My point is that you're not going to save money building it yourself even if you spec it right. If the cost is having a slightly unbalanced system, so be it.

I understand that if the OP is a hardcore gamer he might have to switch out a gpu for a better one. So just select the cheapest one and change it out, and it will still be cheaper and less hassle. Still, most hardcore gamers will probably want to build their own.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against building a box oneself. Just don't think you'll save money or time doing so.

Dealmaster00
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Dealmaster00 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:47 am

You should build your own PC. It's fun, you've had experience in the past doing it, and you can get an incredibly fast computer for about $400 or less if you wait to buy everything on sale. I built my computer 3.5 years ago (bought the components over the course of a month, checked sites like slickdeals and fatwallet to get some things very cheap or even free). Had AMD5000+ dual core, 4GB RAM, 640GB WD black, radeon 4850, mobo/case/powersupply. I could have spent ~$700 at a store for a worse PC. I only spent $250 on the above components. If I didn't like to game this PC would have only cost $200.

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Frugal Al
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Frugal Al » Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:16 am

Windows 7 runs about $100, so let's add that in for most of us as well. There's no doubt deals can be had on perfectly serviceable generation old technology, that might be fine for many people. Part of my problem if I'm going to build my own is I'll be using a modular Seasonic power supply, quiet case, a modern MB, and there goes my budget. You're just not going to get a great deal on componentry compared to what HP or Dell can get it for. And if I'm going to take the time to buy the parts and build a unit I'm not going cut-rate. Easier just to accept a lesser spec and buy prebuilt.

neo09
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by neo09 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:30 pm

Just helped a friend buy a fairly stable, small form factor Lenovo. It hides behind the monitor yet has everything most users need.

It has all the modern IO, HDMI etc. and I can't imagine it to be slow for any reason. I am using a similar, but older machine as media center with ubuntu (single boot) on it, back then XP wasn't doing well on anything less than 2GB RAM.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6883108712

An expensive, more bells-and-whistles option could be a full fledged desktop, but I certainly won't build anything anymore. With the competition in desktop space, you ought to find a great pre-made desktop far less than what it costs to buy hardware and time put it together.

I am moving away from desktops altogether for power consumption reasons.

HTH

Edit:
If you go the route of an off-the-shelf machine, you can always use decrapifier to get rid of any and all unwanted junk.
http://pcdecrapifier.com/

neo09
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by neo09 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:41 pm

mike143 wrote:Windows 7 runs great on 4GB of RAM, Windows 8 uses a little less. The only way I can use up all of my 4GB is by running a virtual machine and giving it 2GB of memory or more. There are very few instances that someone would need more than 4GB of RAM. About the best thing you can do performance wise would be add a quality SSD (Intel 520).
a 32 bit version can only address about 2GB RAM, so stacking the machine with a bunch of RAM is not going to do much in terms of performance.

You should look into a 64 bit version of Win 7, it can take a LOT more RAM, if that's the concern. On most systems, putting your OS on an SSD drive makes much more sense for improving speeds than doing anything else, dollar-for-dollar.

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mike143
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by mike143 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 3:07 pm

This is a good start: http://www.provantage.com/dell-469-1599~7DELL29V.htm

Only upgradeable to 8GB, but nothing describe requires more. Add a SSD and a decent graphics card and you will be set at least through Windows 8.

On-die GPU (CPU integrated) have come a long way, most can play modern games at reasonable settings and resolutions. Might make more sense to see if the on-die GPU is enough and upgrade when needed and cheaper.

You can't build for the quality and value you can buy for, especially when you need a legitimate/legal Windows license. There are very few instances where this is not true.

I have the option to build computer at work but buy Dell, they have been highly reliable and have had many in service for 5-8 years on the desktop side and over 10 years on the server side. Now with virtualization it makes sense to consolidate and upgrade equipment sooner, when it comes to business IT.

I have bought 6 of the computers referenced above, added a second 2gb stick of RAM and we are good to go with Windows 7. They come in right under $400 after shipping.
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Tabulator
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Tabulator » Sat Aug 25, 2012 3:42 pm

I recently bought a (brand new) Lenovo ThinkCentre tower, loaded with Windows 7, from Newegg. Probably one of the two smartest computer purchases I made in the last fifteen years. Even with Windows included the ThinkCentre was less expensive than any dirt-cheap DIY project I could come up with. (I know because I did the math.)

I ordered the Lenovo box after reading a review that said it runs "cool and quiet". Indeed it is so quiet that I cannot tell when it is running. For me that's important because I hate fan noise.

I added my own internal wireless card with an antenna that sticks out the rear. When I installed Ubuntu it immediately gave me a list of available wireless networks. (In other words: "Hello, I am working and you didn't have to do anything except plug it in.")

The tower even has an internal speaker that sounds much better than the speakers built in my Chromebook and my former MacBook. Ubuntu sets the speaker to "mute" by default but once unmuted it sounds quite nice.

rgd55
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by rgd55 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 4:43 pm

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Last edited by rgd55 on Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rgd55
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by rgd55 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:07 pm

I don't post often,but do have a passion for topics like this,so here is my take.
I have been the Hewlett Packard and Dell routes in the past and these companies do make a good product and probably necessary if you need a laptop.The downside is most of the components
are proprietary and not easily replaceable.You would also need to get their tech support involved to troubleshoot problems,a real turn off for me.
I went with building my own and have never looked back.I have HTPC that records hd content and skips commercials.I have another pc that I am using now that was recently ungraded from Windows XP.A closer look at this gem is a solid state 64 gb solid state hard drive for Windows 7 and two more 2
terabyte hard drives for music cd's.
It has 4 gb of ram.The motherboard is highly rated,Gigabyte GA-G-31M-ES2L.
This pc "dual boots" your choice of operating systems.I boot to Ubuntu (linux) when doing anything like banking(more secure).I am also into audiophile pc music,so use the Windows os for that.
If you choose the self built pc(my recommendation),I will be more than happy to help if you have any concerns.I think building your own would be the best solution.
Try this,go to the Newegg site and look for the highest rated components(motherboard,case,ram,hard drive,power supply and processor)and add up the total cost.Don't forget the OS(Ubuntu is free).I think you will be under your budget with this approach.
You will probably need some support at some point in the build process(booting to the bios,etc),so find a good forum for this.This is not a difficult process.The plus side of building this yourself is that you will gain the knowledge to do it again when you need another pc.This learning curve was easy for me and I believe you can get the same satisfaction.

enc0re
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by enc0re » Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:13 pm

If you want a clean system, unmolested stock Windows ("Signature"), an a decent design without stickers all over: I'd recommend Vizio. Buying a Mac and putting Windows on it is also ironically one of the nicest Windows experiences around. Of course both of those make only all-in-ones, so you'd have to buy a monitor with it.

I DIY. It isn't hard. Post your build on Hardforum.com before buying the parts. Those guys are really good at giving advice.

rgd55
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by rgd55 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:30 pm

I'd recommend Vizio.
Yet another recommendation for a pc that can be had with a 2nd party.You would be better off building your own pc.It's not that big a deal.

daggerboard
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by daggerboard » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:10 pm

Everyone, thank you for the passionate and useful input - very much appreciated!

I think I will build my own - originally I wanted to act upon this ASAP but the household Prime Minister declared a temporary unilateral spending freeze on hardware and gadgets (after years of zero spending in this category until we got just her an iPad - of course). I think I will get green light / budget approval in 1-2 months and then assemble my own computer.

Again, thanks!

DualIncomeNoDebt
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by DualIncomeNoDebt » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:59 pm

daggerboard wrote:I think I will build my own
Smart. Visit Tom's Hardware, there is an absolute ton of information there about builds, lots of up-to-date information about best price-to-performance materials. Also, go with a name-brand motherboard like ASUS. I use Apple, but I also built myself a PC recently, the mobos have gotten much, much better and assembly should be easy.
originally I wanted to act upon this ASAP but the household Prime Minister declared a temporary unilateral spending freeze on hardware and gadgets (after years of zero spending in this category until we got just her an iPad - of course). I think I will get green light / budget approval in 1-2 months and then assemble my own computer.
Now this sounds horrible. No woman will ever tell me what I can or cannot do with my loot, be it significant other, girlfriend, fiance or wife. I get depressed when I see these types of postings by men. Or the incessant advertising barrage of inept males who can't do anything, or they need approval from some woman to do something or go somewhere. Man up dagger, go out and get your computer parts and have fun!

lightheir
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by lightheir » Sat Aug 25, 2012 9:10 pm

Im more than happy to sit down with the wife to discuss what we should or shouldnt spend pur money on. It's often a joint decision even for small things.

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Sunny Sarkar
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Sat Aug 25, 2012 11:11 pm

I recently built my first DIY desktop* - it was so much fun that now I fear I might end up with more PCs than I need. It was much much cheaper than anything similar I could buy from Dell, Lenovo, and the like. It's really easy, and I highly recommend it.

Best,
Sunny

p.s. *it's a Sandy Bridge Pentium g620 with 8gb ram and a 64gb SSD primary drive - total approx $200. It's the SSD that makes it fast.
"Cost matters". "Stay the course". "Press on, regardless". ― John C. Bogle

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Frugal Al
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by Frugal Al » Sun Aug 26, 2012 4:52 am

Sunny, the G620 chip is a good choice for a budget build, and with the 1155 socket on the right MB you have options for the future if you need or want them. I'm having a hard time comprehending your $200 price point, though, particularly with the SSD. CPU $64 +MB $50 +RAM $45 +PSU $40 +Case $50 +HDD $70 +DVD $20 +SSD $64= $403. These are all low to moderate specification price points. I take it you're using Linux for the OS. Many of us would want to add $80 to $100 for Windows.

The G620 is year old technology now, but probably suits most people just fine. They are not available in new commercial builds for the most part, but are readily available in refurb for around $250, including a Win7 OS; you'd have to add your own SSD.

Reasonably priced, prebuilt, computers are available if you look for them, as mike143 and others point out. It is fun to build your own computer, but if you really look for deals on prebuilt, it's doubtful you're going to save anything building your own. There is little labor to be saved, as pros can throw a machine together in less than an hour. The attraction to me is to build a higher quality machine, but that too is not really cost effective unless I need/want special specs--most of us don't need special specs.

For those of us that tend to be tinkerers and customizers, I definitely understand the allure. I'm wondering if some of us might be rationalizing that we're saving money just to justify scratching that techie/hobbyist/DIY itch we seem to have. For the AVERAGE user the computer has become an appliance. You can also buy all the parts needed to build a toaster, but that won't be cheaper either.

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nisiprius
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by nisiprius » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:04 pm

daggerboard wrote:Browsing websites like Dell I am frustrated by the amount of unwanted software they pre-load (I guess I would wipe it and just reinstall) but also by their lackluster and very hard to determine CPU selection.

I guess I would prefer a clean box with no software so I can buy and install whatever I want (seems to be no price delta from retail to the OEM versions anymore).
I believe if you buy a "business" system from Dell it comes without bloatware. Maybe even their "small business" system. Explore that option.

This is not a joke: Microsoft's retail stores are now offering something called "Signature Service," which costs $99, for which price they will remove all the bloatware from your PC and restored to its as-shipped-by-Microsoft state. They also sell "Signature" models in their retail store, according to Walter Mossberg, who says "I've been testing three Signature models and comparing them with the same machines as sold elsewhere without the Signature modifications. I found the Signature versions much cleaner and easier to navigate and faster in a variety of tests. I'd recommend that prospective Windows PC buyers who live near a Microsoft store, which are mostly in the West, or are willing to shop at the company's online store, consider a Signature machine." Not a joke. Amazing. Microsoft puts all sorts of restrictions on what OEMs can do if they want Windows licenses, why don't they just tell them not to load the crapware?
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archbish99
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by archbish99 » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:27 pm

Because then the OEMs would have no profit margin, rather than having almost none. Microsoft can "require" very little, but can offer kickbacks for meeting certain standards as incentives. Most of an OEM's profit margin comes from what the crapware vendors pay them to preload their software. Buying the Signature PCs from the MS Store is more expensive precisely because you have to make up what is effectively a subsidy from the software vendor. No different than why an unlocked cell phone costs $600 when you can buy it with a two-year contract for $50.

I suspect (but don't know) that it's one of the reasons Windows 8 ARM devices don't support third-party Desktop software -- if no one can install a Desktop program, then the OEM can't either. And the pre-loaded stuff has to meet the Store's requirements and exposes really simple uninstall options.
I'm not a financial advisor, I just play one on the Internet.

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magellan
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Re: PC purchase advice

Post by magellan » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:35 pm

neo09 wrote:a 32 bit version can only address about 2GB RAM, so stacking the machine with a bunch of RAM is not going to do much in terms of performance.
A 32 bit OS can actually address a maximum of 4GB. With 32 bits of address space, you get 2^32, or around 4 billion (4 GB) bytes of address range.

In reality, the amount of memory a system with a 32 bit OS can handle depends on its hardware design. The biggest factor is the amount of ram in the video card, since all of the video ram is mapped into the cpu's memory space. So if you have a 512MB video card installed, the max possible memory the system could handle is 3.5GB (4GB-.5GB). In reality it would be slightly less to allow space for other memory mapped hardware devices.

PS - This post was lifted from this earlier post on the same subject.

Jim

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