Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

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kjvmartin
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Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:04 am

I lost my laptop for a while, it's in the shop under warranty work. Instead - I'm using a borrowed Chromebook, my iPhone, wife's iPad, etc. All of these portable devices have me re-considering my computing needs. Normally I have a 13" MacBook Pro, and it's generally a fine device. The newest generation (i've owned for 3 months) has left me sorely disappointed for a lot of reasons I won't get into. Furthermore, I'm pining for more screen real estate, while wondering how important it would be to maintain a premium laptop. Our uses are simple - My wife and I take a lot of photos with our iPhones and DSLR (two kids). I track finances and do a lot of writing/studying.

Are people still buying desktops for home use? I'm pretty proficient and I like the idea of an upgrade-able/serviceable system. I think, if I did it right, I might be better served by running a nicer desktop in conjunction with a cheap Chromebook/tablet. I'm also a little tempted by discrete graphics, which would allow me to run some games nicely.

Another option I've considered is the new LG Ultrafine 4k or 5k display Apple is selling to pair with the MacBook Pro. These are not cheap, but do look very nice, particularly for photo editing. Thoughts?

kvjm
Last edited by kjvmartin on Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

daveydoo
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by daveydoo » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:14 am

kjvmartin wrote: Another option I've considered is the new LG Ultrafine 4k or 5k display Apple is selling to pair with the MacBook Pro. These are not cheap, but do look very nice, particularly for photo editing. Thoughts?
Agree. I hate laptops -- for typing, for just about anything. And nearly all that I "needed" a laptop for in years past I can now do on my phone or with a tablet when I travel. Nothing beats a big beautiful desktop screen for photo or video editing. Built a super-fast high-end PC with/for a relative a few years back -- unbelievable specs and cost-effective but I'm not a gamer. And I hate Windows boxes and always have. Recently got one of the new iMacs with the big screen (27" maybe?) and the hybrid drive. It's terrific. Not sure BH forum does it justice, though :happy
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kjvmartin
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:18 am

daveydoo wrote:
kjvmartin wrote: Another option I've considered is the new LG Ultrafine 4k or 5k display Apple is selling to pair with the MacBook Pro. These are not cheap, but do look very nice, particularly for photo editing. Thoughts?
Agree. I hate laptops -- for typing, for just about anything. And nearly all that I "needed" a laptop for in years past I can now do on my phone or with a tablet when I travel. Nothing beats a big beautiful desktop screen for photo or video editing. Built a super-fast high-end PC with/for a relative a few years back -- unbelievable specs and cost-effective but I'm not a gamer. And I hate Windows boxes and always have. Recently got one of the new iMacs with the big screen (27" maybe?) and the hybrid drive. It's terrific. Not sure BH forum does it justice, though :happy
That's a consideration of mine too, but they are very behind on updating this product line. I'll have to wait till a refresh - I feel like one is pending any day now. Does the 27" iMac seem to run as well (fast etc) as the Windows machine you helped build?

DSInvestor
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by DSInvestor » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:25 am

Do you have an external monitor at home? If so, you can try plugging it into your MacBook pro. I had to get a dongle to connect my HDMI monitor to the mini-display port on the MacBook pro.

According to the specs of my mid-2012 MacBook pro (non-retina), it can handle displays up to 2560x1600 which is less than 4K. Check to see if your MacBook pro can drive a 4K display at native resolution.

My MacBook pro's screen is 1280x800 native. A 1080p (1920z1080) external display would give quite a bit of extra screen real estate and it's cheap.

My wife and I each have a mid 2012 MacBook pro (upgraded to 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM) which is great. We also have a windows 10 desktop PC with an i5 CPU 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 4TB HD. This machine is really fast but we don't use it much. We just don't like windows very much after switching to Mac.
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by lack_ey » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:34 am

Every modern computer not running some ultra-low-power, low-cost processor will feel fast and breeze through most anything you throw at it, except
(1) loading stuff, in which case it's the storage drive that's the bottleneck and what matters most is if there's solid-state storage or not
(2) actually computationally heavy workloads like encoding, advanced video processing, hardcore number crunching, latest AAA games

Or if you're installing way too much junk on it and/or there's malware and it's bogged down on account of those things. But an iMac or any computer you build or buy is going to feel fast (the above two things perhaps not, depending).

You can certainly use a separate keyboard/mouse/screen with a laptop too but if you don't need the mobility a desktop will be cheaper, and if you're not using the laptop screen much all that form factor and extras are a waste.

There are 27" 2560x1440 IPS displays available these days around $200, especially off-brand Korean stuff. Sometimes even cheaper. Looks pretty good, at least compared to what's on most laptops. Or even HP sells 32" 2560x1440 for under $300. There's similarly priced 28" 4K monitors but those are TN-based, not the best for photos.

Note that if you go Windows, OS display scaling is still a bit iffy, particularly with 3rd-party programs. So unless your eyes are great, you may not even want the highest res / pixel density displays. On macOS that's not a problem.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by DSInvestor » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:35 am

For other readers, I found this apple page about mac models that are compatible with the LG UltraFine 5K display at native and lower resolutions:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207448
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:36 am

DSInvestor wrote:Do you have an external monitor at home? If so, you can try plugging it into your MacBook pro. I had to get a dongle to connect my HDMI monitor to the mini-display port on the MacBook pro.

According to the specs of my mid-2012 MacBook pro (non-retina), it can handle displays up to 2560x1600 which is less than 4K. Check to see if your MacBook pro can drive a 4K display at native resolution.

My MacBook pro's screen is 1280x800 native. A 1080p (1920z1080) external display would give quite a bit of extra screen real estate and it's cheap.

My wife and I each have a mid 2012 MacBook pro (upgraded to 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM) which is great. We also have a windows 10 desktop PC with an i5 CPU 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 4TB HD. This machine is really fast but we don't use it much. We just don't like windows very much after switching to Mac.
The new MBP can drive up to two 5k displays with Thunderbolt 3. I'm thinking of going that Windows route, or adding an external monitor/mouse/keyboard to my MBP, or maybe getting an iMac if it's cost effective.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:38 am

DSInvestor wrote:For other readers, I found this apple page about mac models that are compatible with the LG UltraFine 5K display at native and lower resolutions:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207448
The reviews on those new LG monitors are abysmal. This was a thought of mine long ago, but I just can't after reading the reviews.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by DSInvestor » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:41 am

kjvmartin wrote: The new MBP can drive up to two 5k displays with Thunderbolt 3. I'm thinking of going that Windows route, or adding an external monitor/mouse/keyboard to my MBP, or maybe getting an iMac if it's cost effective.
OK the new MacBook Pros can handle the 4K/5K displays but these macs are really expensive and you said that you're not a fan of these models. What kind of display will your current MacBook pro support. Which model MBP do you currently have?
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by DSInvestor » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:47 am

kjvmartin wrote:
DSInvestor wrote:For other readers, I found this apple page about mac models that are compatible with the LG UltraFine 5K display at native and lower resolutions:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207448
The reviews on those new LG monitors are abysmal. This was a thought of mine long ago, but I just can't after reading the reviews.
Thanks for letting us know about the poor reviews. Your OP was the first time I heard of these monitors. I was looking at which model macs can drive displays of certain resolutions.
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by sketchy9 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:48 am

lack_ey wrote:Every modern computer not running some ultra-low-power, low-cost processor will feel fast and breeze through most anything you throw at it, except
(1) loading stuff, in which case it's the storage drive that's the bottleneck and what matters most is if there's solid-state storage or not
(2) actually computationally heavy workloads like encoding, advanced video processing, hardcore number crunching, latest AAA games

Or if you're installing way too much junk on it and/or there's malware and it's bogged down on account of those things. But an iMac or any computer you build or buy is going to feel fast (the above two things perhaps not, depending).

You can certainly use a separate keyboard/mouse/screen with a laptop too but if you don't need the mobility a desktop will be cheaper, and if you're not using the laptop screen much all that form factor and extras are a waste.

There are 27" 2560x1440 IPS displays available these days around $200, especially off-brand Korean stuff. Sometimes even cheaper. Looks pretty good, at least compared to what's on most laptops. Or even HP sells 32" 2560x1440 for under $300. There's similarly priced 28" 4K monitors but those are TN-based, not the best for photos.

Note that if you go Windows, OS display scaling is still a bit iffy, particularly with 3rd-party programs. So unless your eyes are great, you may not even want the highest res / pixel density displays. On macOS that's not a problem.
Windows scaling is iffy *only* with 3rd party programs (and only certain ones at that). All native programs and any "modern" apps downloaded from the Windows 10 store will scale just fine.

I do the majority of my computing on a fire-breathing desktop with an overclocked CPU and GPU, lots of RAM, lots of fans, and several physical hard drives. I have a 4k monitor as well. Besides the usual web surfing, Office work, etc., I use it for photo editing (I have a 20MP "real" camera) and gaming (including VR gaming). I appreciate the machine for what it does, but if you're not going to use the horsepower in the system it's kind of overkill. Really ask yourself what you want to get done and if you think you're going to need all that processing power. I don't even own a laptop anymore-- I use my phone as an adjunct to the desktop and it's more than sufficient.

As an aside, a discrete GPU will also help with photo editing, as Lightroom is starting to offload more and more tasks onto the GPU from the CPU. If you do decide to get a desktop, I highly recommend building it yourself. It's not really that hard (plenty of online guides), you'll get the best value for components, and it can be a fun little project. The final bonus is modularity-- if you want to add a hard drive or add RAM, just pop it in.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:49 am

DSInvestor wrote:
kjvmartin wrote: The new MBP can drive up to two 5k displays with Thunderbolt 3. I'm thinking of going that Windows route, or adding an external monitor/mouse/keyboard to my MBP, or maybe getting an iMac if it's cost effective.
OK the new MacBook Pros can handle the 4K/5K displays but these macs are really expensive and you said that you're not a fan of these models. What kind of display will your current MacBook pro support. Which model MBP do you currently have?
Sorry for the confusion, I have the latest 2016 Macbook Pro base model. It has two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and that's all. It's in for warranty work right now, but I may sell it once I get it back, or I could potentially see if it grows on me after the repairs. I had a 2012 or 2013 that I sold to buy this new one, but it's the first time I've regretting doing that since I started in 2005. I was hoping for a discrete GPU this time around, but the relegated it to the 15" MBP with a touch bar, increased the price way too much, etc.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by traveltoomuch » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:00 am

Yes, some are still buying them, though I think most are now bought as gaming machines when one wants a separate, potent, and upgradeable graphics card. For your uses, I would be tempted by the NUC form factor or something similarly small. These will have upgradeable memory (though perhaps only in a single slot) and disk, but extra disks will need to be connected externally, as with a laptop.
kjvmartin wrote:I like the idea of an upgrade-able/serviceable system.
I think of Dell Latitude laptops as both upgradeable and serviceable, though upgrades are pretty much limited to memory and disk - you likely won't replace the graphics card in one.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by ether161 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:21 am

Desktops last longer than laptops, but they end up using a TON more electricity.
Fun fact: if you keep a desktop computer for more than 4 years you'll spend more on electricity than on buying it!

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by whodidntante » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:28 am

kjvmartin wrote:
Are people still buying desktops for home use? I'm pretty proficient and I like the idea of an upgrade-able/serviceable system. I think, if I did it right, I might be better served by running a nicer desktop in conjunction with a cheap Chromebook/tablet. I'm also a little tempted by discrete graphics, which would allow me to run some games nicely.
I like to build my own desktop and prefer it greatly to the handful of manufactured systems I've owned at work. I get higher quality components at a reasonable cost by shopping around on slickdeals.net and other sites. And when it's time to replace something, I just do it, without having to worry about whether the PC supplier threw in some weird compatibility landmine for me. Support is a dream (at least for me). Troubleshoot, recycle the bad part, and put in a new one.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by whodidntante » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:30 am

ether161 wrote:Desktops last longer than laptops, but they end up using a TON more electricity.
Fun fact: if you keep a desktop computer for more than 4 years you'll spend more on electricity than on buying it!
It's possible to build an energy efficient desktop PC, and the baseline is better than it used to be. Most people don't prioritize energy efficiency. The mobile processors and the mobile (or missing) GPUs that make a laptop power efficient, also make it significantly slower for some workloads. But if you're just using Excel and Chrome, it probably doesn't matter.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by just frank » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:44 am

I use a macbook for all my work and home needs, but have a big 2k screen at work, with a keyboard and mouse.

At home, I just got the same $2k Asus screen and a mid-range mac mini. Nice machine for a decent price, in mac.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:30 am

ether161 wrote:Desktops last longer than laptops, but they end up using a TON more electricity.
Fun fact: if you keep a desktop computer for more than 4 years you'll spend more on electricity than on buying it!
Wow! I have been researching power supplies, it seems they come in various levels of energy efficiency. Probably makes sense to go high end for this area for long term savings? I had never even thought of that, but it's a consideration. I think an iMac might be on the low end of the power use curve?

kvjm

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:32 am

traveltoomuch wrote:Yes, some are still buying them, though I think most are now bought as gaming machines when one wants a separate, potent, and upgradeable graphics card. For your uses, I would be tempted by the NUC form factor or something similarly small. These will have upgradeable memory (though perhaps only in a single slot) and disk, but extra disks will need to be connected externally, as with a laptop.
kjvmartin wrote:I like the idea of an upgrade-able/serviceable system.
I think of Dell Latitude laptops as both upgradeable and serviceable, though upgrades are pretty much limited to memory and disk - you likely won't replace the graphics card in one.
What's a NUC?

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by TroyMcClure » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:35 am

At the moment I do not have a laptop, basically same as OP, it is damaged but I've decided not to replace it.

I found that using a tablet instead for my "mobile" needs is covering most of the things I would be doing away from a desk, including music recording/jamming. And when I do need a desk then I much prefer having a desktop rather than having a laptop which would not leave my desk anyway. It may be fine if you're browsing the internet and maintaining some spreadsheets, but if you're doing anything a bit creative like photo/video editing, making music, etc., or you would like to play games, then you're definitely better off with a desktop.

Personally I have an iMac 27" which I use for the creative stuff: Photoshop, Lightroom, iMovie, GarageBand, AmpliTube.
I have a windows box which I built myself for gaming: overclocked CPU, good GPU, lots of RAM.
Do I need to have both? Definitely not. The Windows box is almost certainly faster than the mac, the GPU in particular will leave the mac in the dust but I certainly enjoy that 5k display and there weren't many options for such standalone display when I bought that mac.

esther161 made a remark about desktop requiring a lot more energy than a laptop, personally I don't think it's that clear cut nowadays with super efficient power supplies and motherboards / CPU and pretty much every component having energy saving modes enabled by default. Sure, my gaming machine will probably require 400W under full load. But just browsing the internet or doing office stuff I doubt it takes more energy than a laptop. I could pull some data on this since I had made some measurements on this a couple of years ago.
Depending on what you're doing, would you rather have your laptop consume 60W and take 3 hours to render a video, or would you have your desktop consume 400W and have it done in 20 min?

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:28 am

Both my kids have gaming desktops that we built from components selected for performance and value. Upgrades are a breeze and running many monitors is easy. My older son runs 3 monitors for driving games angled to mimic the side and front windows of a car with his laptop tied in to show the gauges. Younger son runs a 32" 1080 TV as his main monitor and another 27" computer monitor that the older son had leftover at some point. Both run realistic sound systems for game immersion. Either system would run circles around most any laptop on idle mode.

Now, if you're just doing excel files and email, you don't need any of this speed and can just go for cost. If you don't want to build, a bottom end desktop will do what you need. Be sure that the graphics card will support the number of monitors you want.
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by cantos » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:00 am

IMO a computer, like a car, is not an investment. It depreciates the second you take it off the lot.

I certainly have a desktop and build my own. Still great to work on writing, surfing, watching shows, doing taxes, etc. Wife only had a laptop before she met me. Now she uses the desktop all the time. It simply allows for ergonomically correct computing.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by dbr » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:36 am

We each have a desktop and probably always will. For us it is the most suitable machine by far. We don't use ultra high end machines. And, yes, we own a portable computing device or two. There has been no preference between Mac and PC.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by queso » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:47 am

I just looked and we have a MacBook Pro, a Surface Book, a Vaio, an Acer something or other, 2 Dell laptops (one small and one large) and an HP laptop. Almost none of those get used unless we're traveling for work. The machine that gets all the use at home is a Dell desktop that we bought from Costco with dual 24" monitors. That coupled with a couple of iPads are really all we need if it weren't for work related travel. IMHO, the sophistication of smartphones and tablets has rendered laptop ownership (at least for us) a non-necessity except for the work travel use case I mentioned above.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by DaftInvestor » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:52 am

Unless you have your heart set on a Apple/Mac I'd veer away from this expensive option.
If you want a 4K or 5K monitor for editing - you can buy a nice desktop for far cheaper and pair it with the monitor.
I don't believe desktops are irrelevant - if you do most of your work/play on it at home and don't need it to be stationary you get SO much more for your money. For instance - you can get an HP Envy with dual hard drives (1 SSD for quick OS/Apps and instant bootup and 1 7200rpm drive for large storage) along with a nice graphics card to drive multiple 4K displays (good to have in case you add another in the future) for 1/4 the price of a MacPro with similar specs.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:57 am

Jack FFR1846 wrote:Both my kids have gaming desktops that we built from components selected for performance and value. Upgrades are a breeze and running many monitors is easy. My older son runs 3 monitors for driving games angled to mimic the side and front windows of a car with his laptop tied in to show the gauges. Younger son runs a 32" 1080 TV as his main monitor and another 27" computer monitor that the older son had leftover at some point. Both run realistic sound systems for game immersion. Either system would run circles around most any laptop on idle mode.

Now, if you're just doing excel files and email, you don't need any of this speed and can just go for cost. If you don't want to build, a bottom end desktop will do what you need. Be sure that the graphics card will support the number of monitors you want.
Think I may need a bigger desk! I could see this getting out of hand :happy

Wife might resent me taking over half a room with a mega-desk situation, but it does sound a bit fun.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by DaftInvestor » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:00 am

ether161 wrote:Desktops last longer than laptops, but they end up using a TON more electricity.
Fun fact: if you keep a desktop computer for more than 4 years you'll spend more on electricity than on buying it!
I've read this propaganda somewhere and immediately didn't buy it. It "might" be true if you leave your desktop on 24x7 and remove all power-savings features (auto-sleep, etc.). Even then - I'm not sure I'd believe it as most articles I read that claim this also look at the computer's consumption at the worse moment (while the disk is spinning).
If this is really a concern - you could buy a desktop with some of the features that make a laptop more energy efficient (SSD, low-power processor) and save a bunch of money on both the electricity and the computer but I'd research this first - spending hundreds or thousands more on a system to save an extra $50 a year on electricity doesn't make economic sense - use the power-saving features of the OS to minimize electricity when not in use (or power it down).

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by Nyc10036 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:08 am

Last year I bought a small form factor Dell Optiplex on eBay.
Completely brand new.
The seller got a bunch when Sports Authority went out of business.

The DVD drive is like those found i in laptops. Onboard video. 1 hard drive.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by T-Wrench » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:15 am

whodidntante wrote:
I like to build my own desktop and prefer it greatly to the handful of manufactured systems I've owned at work. I get higher quality components at a reasonable cost by shopping around on slickdeals.net and other sites. And when it's time to replace something, I just do it, without having to worry about whether the PC supplier threw in some weird compatibility landmine for me. Support is a dream (at least for me). Troubleshoot, recycle the bad part, and put in a new one.
I do the same. I have big hands, and so any laptop keyboard is too small and cuts down on my ability to type fast. I build computers using last year (or the year before)'s high-end items, and I build a computer that lasts for years and does what I want it to do. I use a desktop at home exclusively; at work, they handed me a laptop, but it's hooked up to a full-size keyboard and monitor, which works for my purposes.

Besides, laptops have less ability to mitigate heat than a full tower, so the components wear out more quickly, and I don't want a set of jeweler's tools in order to fix my laptop.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by Wakefield1 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:48 am

"ATX" means a full size tower case? If so then would having an ATX case mean you could reuse it to build a new system whenever you decide you need a "new computer"? A new motherboard would have whatever docking slot for the up to date type of video card? Other special slots for certain cards instead of the generic slots that something like a sound card or phone modem went into? Matched motherboard and CPU/"chipset" from the same brand?
My going on 15 year old Gateway "midtower" is larger than most new "desktop" computers I see but I don't think it is full size ATX
has replacement low end video card and replacement memory maxed at 2 GB-still works on original hard drive-I don't think Solid State HD is available for this thing as it has the old wide flat ribbon cables running between things
A desktop to me means an old IBM XT or something that actually sits on the desk with the keyboard and/or monitor on top of it
A good tower will usually be a few years ahead of the latest large laptop or "all in one" in power and speed?
Any motherboards out there still being sold with bad capacitors?

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by Youngblood » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:54 am

ether161 wrote:Desktops last longer than laptops, but they end up using a TON more electricity.
Fun fact: if you keep a desktop computer for more than 4 years you'll spend more on electricity than on buying it!
Empirically, this certainly isn't the case with my four year old pc desktop. It can sleep or hibernate when not in use. Our average electric bill is approximately $55 and our 1950 sqft condo it's total electric.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:59 am

Absolutely I would not be without a desktop PC. Mobile devices are fine for content consumption, but not so much for content creation. Also, I confess that as I get older it gets harder to focus on a small screen or to type on that tiny phone keyboard.
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lack_ey
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by lack_ey » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:55 am

kjvmartin wrote:
ether161 wrote:Desktops last longer than laptops, but they end up using a TON more electricity.
Fun fact: if you keep a desktop computer for more than 4 years you'll spend more on electricity than on buying it!
Wow! I have been researching power supplies, it seems they come in various levels of energy efficiency. Probably makes sense to go high end for this area for long term savings? I had never even thought of that, but it's a consideration. I think an iMac might be on the low end of the power use curve?

kvjm
At (relative computational) idle, sitting in a browser, spreadsheet, or similar, even a relatively high-end desktop computer with powerful discrete graphics, multiple drives, etc. might use something like 40W from the power supply (the box itself, not including monitors, which don't draw power from the computer's power supply). At a low load like that, a modern switched-mode power supply used in these computers might have an efficiency of say 78%. The most efficient, highest-end model costing well over $50 more, maybe 87% (though probably less). With 78% the power supply is wasting 11W as heat, so total draw from the wall would be 51W. With 87% the power supply is wasting 6W as heat, so total draw 46W.

A 5W difference is 1/12 of an old incandescent 60W bulb.

Efficiency is higher at 100W+ draws (where say a $60 power supply may run at 87% and a top model over double the price around 94%), but you'll only see that if doing some intense processing or gaming as mentioned earlier. Of course efficiency isn't the only difference between models but all this may make less difference than you think.
kjvmartin wrote:
traveltoomuch wrote:Yes, some are still buying them, though I think most are now bought as gaming machines when one wants a separate, potent, and upgradeable graphics card. For your uses, I would be tempted by the NUC form factor or something similarly small. These will have upgradeable memory (though perhaps only in a single slot) and disk, but extra disks will need to be connected externally, as with a laptop.
kjvmartin wrote:I like the idea of an upgrade-able/serviceable system.
I think of Dell Latitude laptops as both upgradeable and serviceable, though upgrades are pretty much limited to memory and disk - you likely won't replace the graphics card in one.
What's a NUC?
A NUC is a Next Unit of Computing, just a small-form-factor design by Intel, who sought since a few years ago to push the concept of small desktop computers.

Personally I think there's usually more utility (and cost savings... this is Bogleheads, right) in a larger computer that is more user upgradeable. With a lot of the smaller designs you're probably not going to be replacing the mainboard.

If you're looking at mini desktop computers, aside from say the obvious Dell, check ZOTAC's ZBOX series, Gigabyte's BRIX, and ASUS's VivoPC lineup. These usually use laptop components and are about as upgradeable as most larger laptops but not more. At a bit larger, HP makes a trash can-lookalike with the Wave.

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gtownsend
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by gtownsend » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:54 pm

I'm using a MacBook Air, purchased refurbished a year ago, as a desktop computer. It runs plugged into the wall with its lid closed. I was really hoping for an updated Mac Mini from Apple but one never emerged. I use USB-connected mouse, keyboard, and external drives (for overflow and for Time Machine backup) along with a wireless Apple "Magic Trackpad".

For a display I'm using a Samsung 40" UHD TV (UN40KU6300), and I'm really happy with it. Think of a 2x2 arrangement of four 20" full-HD displays tiled together seamlessly for a 3840x2160 display. This is a very cost-effective approach to adding a large display, because it leverages the much larger size of the consumer TV market vs high-end computer displays.

I'm using the Moshi 4K adapter to connect HDMI to the Mac's display port, and I'm sure you could find an adapter for your 2016 MacBook Pro. I use this system for mail, web browsing, programming, and everything else, and in particular I've done a lot of photo editing in Adobe Lightroom. To my surprise I didn't have to do any tweaking of color settings on either the Mac or the TV set.

The only very minor glitch is that the Mac thinks I have a 61" display. As a consequence, windows and web pages can be too small by default, such as a PDF file of an 11" page that opens in a window 7" high. It's legible, with my glasses on, but I usually want to resize it larger. According to Apple's "TimingSnoop" diagnostic, the Samsung is reporting the correct screen size over the HDMI cable. I'm still trying to convince Apple that this means the problem is in their software.

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dumbbunny
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by dumbbunny » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:09 pm

Consider a 2012 Mac Mini - the last model year to be able to upgrade. Connect a monitor of whatever size you desire. Done. I did this last month. I use Google apps instead of Photo, iTunes, iWorks, etc. No regrets.
Last edited by dumbbunny on Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“It’s the curse of old men to realize that in the end we control nothing." "Homeland" episode, "Gerontion"

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kjvmartin
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:17 pm

dumbbunny wrote:Consider a 2012 Mac Mini - the model year to be able to upgrade. Connect a monitor of whatever size you desire. Done. I did this last month. I use Google apps instead of Photo, iTunes, iWorks, etc. No regrets.
Interesting. Since you're using the Google suite, are you not tempted to jump into Google hardware as well? What keeps you on the Mac mini?

misterno
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by misterno » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:27 pm

I bought a Dell OptiPlex used

It has intel not the Celeron but the better one

It has 8GB RAM and Windows 10

works perfectly

Comes with mouse and keyboard

$75 delivered to your door

Fastest most responsive pc I have ever used

I will never buy brand new again

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Dutch
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by Dutch » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:41 pm

I got a "desktop computer" for $150 that's the size of a packet of cigarettes. It's permanently plugged-in to the TV. I use it from the couch with a wireless keyboard/mouse combo.

Originally it was meant for Netflix/streaming and it does a fine job at that. But I find myself using it for everything else as well: browsing, email, word, and even excel.

Surprising what those low-powered devices can handle these days. Provided of course that you're not a gamer or a video creator.

DVMResident
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by DVMResident » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:50 pm

These days the functional and price difference between laptops and desktops is small and shrinking. The desktop's major advantage is not price anymore, but rather heat control, which is important for protracted heavy load actives like games and graphic renders.

You can always buy a laptop, hook up peripherals, and treat it like a desktop. The price spread is so small.

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telemark
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by telemark » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:03 pm

I wouldn't describe any computer as an investment, but I did buy the best external monitor I could find and pair it with a keyboard that suits my typing style. I share them between two desktop computers, an old Mac Mini and a Mintbox running Linux Mint.

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Toons
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by Toons » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:20 pm

I have found you can get so much "desktop",processor etc for so little money that it is good to have one around.
I use the chromebook and phone most of the time but still have a need for Windows 10 computer on occasion. :happy
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windrider
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by windrider » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:34 pm

Wakefield1 wrote:"ATX" means a full size tower case? If so then would having an ATX case mean you could reuse it to build a new system whenever you decide you need a "new computer"?
Yes. Some cases boast newer features (external hookups for USB, etc.) but my husband and I have been using the same large case for the last 15ish years through multiple upgrades to each of our systems.
Wakefield1 wrote: A new motherboard would have whatever docking slot for the up to date type of video card? Other special slots for certain cards instead of the generic slots that something like a sound card or phone modem went into? Matched motherboard and CPU/"chipset" from the same brand?
This gets dicier. Usually in five or more years I go between upgrades, CPU and RAM have changed so I upgrade motherboard, CPU, and RAM together. Hard drives and the power supply often can be reused. For non Mac PCs, there are often many motherboard manufacturers, and you buy a motherboard for the particular processor you want with the particular features you want -- e.g. # of RAM slots, # of PCI slots, onboard graphics or not, overclocking ability, monitoring tools, etc. etc. Then you look to see what types of RAM it will support..

The cards nowadays seem to be built to fit in 'PCI' slots which have different widths. Many things (network, sound, sometimes video) are often integrated into the motherboard, though you may want to pay extra for a good video card if you have specific video processing tasks you want to be better with.

windrider
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by windrider » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:43 pm

kjvmartin wrote: Are people still buying desktops for home use? I'm pretty proficient and I like the idea of an upgrade-able/serviceable system. I think, if I did it right, I might be better served by running a nicer desktop in conjunction with a cheap Chromebook/tablet. I'm also a little tempted by discrete graphics, which would allow me to run some games nicely.
Yes, I prefer desktop for most uses. I've got an older laptop and can connect to my work or home desktops as needed if I really need portability plus processing. It's generally a bit more annoying for me because I don't have a docking station set up when I do this, so I lose my full size keyboard and dual monitors but it could be worked out if it really mattered to me.

It really depends on use cases though. If you're price conscious but want a lot of processing or graphics power, a desktop generally gives you more features per $ spent. (at least for windows systems, I don't know about Mac.). If you're constantly and/or would prefer to do work from the couch or dining room table, a laptop might work better.

I find desktops easier to customize, and for my use case -- photo editing, some gaming, application development -- I like the ability to choose the features I want and build the desktop that optimizes what I want to use it for. Each new device -- phone, tablet, laptop, desktop -- has a specific niche that it is very good with, and looking at your current system, and deciding what you like about it, and what you wish it did better will help make the decision on which way to go for the next time.

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dumbbunny
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by dumbbunny » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:54 pm

kjvmartin wrote:
dumbbunny wrote:Consider a 2012 Mac Mini - the model year to be able to upgrade. Connect a monitor of whatever size you desire. Done. I did this last month. I use Google apps instead of Photo, iTunes, iWorks, etc. No regrets.
Interesting. Since you're using the Google suite, are you not tempted to jump into Google hardware as well? What keeps you on the Mac mini?
My Chromebook is my daily driver. I bought the $400 Mac mini on eBay so I could use TurboTax and run what-if scenarios which you can't do with the online version of TurboTax. When there is a TT Chrome with what-ifs capabilities, I'm done with Apple.
“It’s the curse of old men to realize that in the end we control nothing." "Homeland" episode, "Gerontion"

lack_ey
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by lack_ey » Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:04 pm

windrider wrote:
Wakefield1 wrote:"ATX" means a full size tower case? If so then would having an ATX case mean you could reuse it to build a new system whenever you decide you need a "new computer"?
Yes. Some cases boast newer features (external hookups for USB, etc.) but my husband and I have been using the same large case for the last 15ish years through multiple upgrades to each of our systems.
Wakefield1 wrote: A new motherboard would have whatever docking slot for the up to date type of video card? Other special slots for certain cards instead of the generic slots that something like a sound card or phone modem went into? Matched motherboard and CPU/"chipset" from the same brand?
This gets dicier. Usually in five or more years I go between upgrades, CPU and RAM have changed so I upgrade motherboard, CPU, and RAM together. Hard drives and the power supply often can be reused. For non Mac PCs, there are often many motherboard manufacturers, and you buy a motherboard for the particular processor you want with the particular features you want -- e.g. # of RAM slots, # of PCI slots, onboard graphics or not, overclocking ability, monitoring tools, etc. etc. Then you look to see what types of RAM it will support..

The cards nowadays seem to be built to fit in 'PCI' slots which have different widths. Many things (network, sound, sometimes video) are often integrated into the motherboard, though you may want to pay extra for a good video card if you have specific video processing tasks you want to be better with.
To expand on it...

ATX is the standard for motherboards and power supplies. You see it with respect to cases as well because obviously you need a case designed to hold an ATX motherboard if you're using an ATX motherboard.

Also, there are smaller standards (most notably microATX and mini-ITX) that are otherwise equivalent except they may have fewer ports and slots.

But not all cases supporting ATX motherboards are necessarily full towers. Some cases that are designed for mini-ITX boards and can't support anything larger are bigger than some cases that support ATX boards.

I have this case myself, the Lian-Li PC-Q33 (fitting a mini-ITX system):
http://www.lian-li.com/en/dt_portfolio/pc-q33/

Stock photo on left, inside of mine on right:
Image Image
9.0" (W) x 9.5" (D) x 12.9" (H)

Most of the non-tiny computers you buy off the shelf use microATX or ATX boards, standard power supplies, etc.

patrick
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by patrick » Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:09 pm

Wakefield1 wrote:"ATX" means a full size tower case? If so then would having an ATX case mean you could reuse it to build a new system whenever you decide you need a "new computer"? A new motherboard would have whatever docking slot for the up to date type of video card? Other special slots for certain cards instead of the generic slots that something like a sound card or phone modem went into? Matched motherboard and CPU/"chipset" from the same brand?
For the most part, you can indeed use a modern motherboard in an old case. The ATX standard defines things like the size of the motherboard and where the mounting screws and expansion slots go, which have mostly stayed the same . The case is probably the most reusable component there is. If you get a modern motherboard, you can indeed install a modern video card even if using the old case -- even though the connector on the motherboard is different the position of the back of the card in the case is the same. Note that with a modern system you probably don't need a separate video card unless you are a hardcore gamer, and almost certainly don't need a separate sound card -- these are built in to the motherboard. The specific motherboard you choose will determine which CPU and RAM types you can use (though motherboards aren't actually from the same manufacturers as CPUs).

Note however the following possible issues:

- The power supply in an old case might not be suitable for a modern system. Even if the wattage is sufficient, it still may not have all the connectors needed for a modern system, and may not have enough power specifically on the 12V lines.
- Some old computers use non-ATX case types.
- The front panel connections (power button/reset switch/power light/disk activity light/etc.) might be hard to connect. When I put a motherboard from 2010 in a case from 2000, I found the case had all of the connections on one connector that had them all in a row, and not in the same order as the motherboard expects. I was still able to plug it in and had the power switch working correctly, but it lights the disk activity light to indicate the system is powered on and nothing shows to indicate when the disk is active.
Wakefield1 wrote:My going on 15 year old Gateway "midtower" is larger than most new "desktop" computers I see but I don't think it is full size ATX
has replacement low end video card and replacement memory maxed at 2 GB-still works on original hard drive-I don't think Solid State HD is available for this thing as it has the old wide flat ribbon cables running between things
You can usually tell by looking at how many expansions slots there are on the back of the case -- 7 slots for full ATX, 4 for micro ATX. Plenty of modern motherboards are micro ATX size (micro ATX motherboards can be installed in a full ATX case, but not the reverse). Sometimes the cases have "extra" slots so you might see 8 for full ATX (in which the last slot isn't directly over the motherboard).

Edited to add: You usually won't be able to connect a hard disk using a ribbon cable (PATA) to a new motherboard either. As you might have guessed, the same problem will happen with the floppy drive too!
Wakefield1 wrote: A good tower will usually be a few years ahead of the latest large laptop or "all in one" in power and speed?
Many of the "all in one" systems use desktop processors. Laptops processors are generally a bit less powerful than their desktop counterparts -- laptop Core i5 and Core i7 processors (except HQ series laptop processors) are generally comparable to desktop Core i3 processors. On the other hand, if you get a low-end desktop system (e.g. Celeron J series) then your desktop will be slower than a typical laptop.
Wakefield1 wrote:Any motherboards out there still being sold with bad capacitors?
That seems to have been fixed a decade ago.

691175002
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by 691175002 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:18 pm

I've always divided computer use into "creating" vs "consuming".

If you are purely a content consumer then a phone, tablet, or tv is sufficient. If you create (whether that be writing, video editing, programming, CAD) then you at the minimum need a laptop + mouse, and probably want a desktop. The productivity boost provided by multiple monitors alone makes the cost worth it.

I spent a few years with a Thinkpad. I had two monitors, a mouse, and a keyboard at my desk for serious work. I recently built a desktop since hardware has gotten so cheap and its been good as well.

Gaming sits outside of that classification scheme, if you game you already know what you need.

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kjvmartin
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:33 pm

Has anyone had experience with the PowerSpec lineup at Micro Center?

http://www.microcenter.com/product/4741 ... p_Computer at $799 seems like a buy?

linenfort
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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by linenfort » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:42 pm

I love Mac minis. Not exactly serviceable, but solid.
A lot of people like Dell all-in-ones.

If you go the serviceable/upgradable route, check out pcpartpicker.com.

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Re: Desktop Computer - Still relevant? Good investment?

Post by madbrain » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:50 pm

DVMResident wrote:These days the functional and price difference between laptops and desktops is small and shrinking. The desktop's major advantage is not price anymore, but rather heat control, which is important for protracted heavy load actives like games and graphic renders.

You can always buy a laptop, hook up peripherals, and treat it like a desktop. The price spread is so small.
You would lose a lot in the process in terms of expandability - a huge point of a desktop is that you can upgrade it so much in ways that are not usually feasible with a laptop.
For example, among the things I have done with desktops over the years :
- upgrading to a better/faster GPU or to accommodate more displays. I use a triple monitor setup and this is not possible with most laptops. Or using multiple GPUs for gamers
- upgrading to RAID
- adding new technologies - eg. going from USB 2.0 to 3.0, or from 3.0 to 3.1
- having significantly faster devices - internal SATA3 SSD vs external USB3 ; internal PCIe video capture vs USB, etc.
- having all your drives inside one case vs a bunch of external drives . One of my desktops has up to 10 drives currently
- adding more RAM - the upgrade possibilities are usually more limited on a laptop
- using properly sized input devices like a full size keyboard and full size trackball - the ones built in to laptops are very frustrating

Desktops have options for much faster CPUs also, with far more cores and higher clock speed than a laptop can. If you do any type of video editing, this is crucial. Even for photography, it can be quite helpful.
Yes, desktops will use more energy, but you do get a benefit out of them.

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