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Recommendations for general use desktop computer?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Bob McLaughlin, Dec 9, 2009.

  1. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Well-Known Member

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    Hi, time to upgrade my 9-year old klunker of a computer. This is NOT for HTPC and would be a general usage computer, except for some minor video editing.

    Budget: under $1,000. Around $800 would be even better.

    Needs:
    -Desktop computer
    -Flatscreen monitor
    -DVD burner
    -Protection/maintenance program: automatically updated antivirus, firewall, etc.

    Intentions:
    - general internet usage
    - minor home office: word processing, spreadsheets, email
    - minor digital video editing (non-HD home videos)

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also, are there any models I should avoid like the plague? I'm hoping to be able to get this at Best Buy so I can spread the payments out over a year or more, depending on the financing.
     
  2. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Have you considered the 20" iMac? It's a bit above your budget but comes with a world class screen panel and all the goodness that OSX brings...

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/294375/new-imac-thread-please-post-thoughts-experiences-here
    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/294147/10-20-new-products

    If you are stuck on going with a PC I would get a Dell Studio XPS.
    http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/desktops/desktop-studio-mini/pd.aspx?refid=desktop-studio-mini&s=dhs&cs=19&~ck=mn

    If you go that route be sure to follow either Slickdeals or HardOCP to get the final price down significantly.
     
  3. Hanson

    Hanson Well-Known Member

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    For the workstation, a $399 system like this will be more than enough:

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=5267492&Sku=SYX-2036

    I have a dual core system with 2GB of RAM running XP Pro, and it has more than enough horsepower to convert files with autogk and the like.

    A 23" monitor like this only sets you back $149:

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4893179&Sku=A204-2300

    Between the two, it's under $550 plus shipping (probably around $600, TigerDirect does not charge tax to ship to PA).

    Get Avast free, which automatically updates virus files, scans emails and blocks malicious sites automatically. Your router/gateway is your firewall. You don't need anything else on that front.
     
  4. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    That system's service plan starts at $65 and requires mailing components back and forth when something goes wrong... And it might be a bit anemic for video editing. Specifically the 320GB hard disk and bare minimum of 3GB RAM are small by todays standards. I have not personally used Systemax machines but have read many mixed reviews over the years.
     
  5. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Bob:

    I picked up an HP Pavilion Elite e9220f desktop a couple of months ago and have enjoyed it a lot.

    Stats:

    • • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
    • • AMD Phenom II X4 910 processor (2.6GHz)
    • • 8GB PC3 8500 DDR3 SDRAM
    • • 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4350 graphics
    • • 1TB 5400 rpm hard drive
    • • SuperMulti DVD burner with LightScribe
    • • Wireless LAN 802.11a/b/g/n
    • • 15-in-1 digital media card reader on front panel
    • • HP MediaSmart software

    I like it because it has Windows 7 (which I would get over XP as Microsoft will stop supporting it with software upgrades over the next year or two). You can either get it shipped to via HP or Best Buy (their model number is the e9220y) has it for around the same price. With the Quad Core AMD, 8G of RAM, 1TB HD, built in wireless lan and the ATI Video card with built in HDMI out this desktop should last you for a couple of years at least. And at $749 hard to beat for the price. They also sell a 20in monitor to go with it for around $150 that is very nice.

    Parker
     
  6. Hanson

    Hanson Well-Known Member

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    Personally, for a $399 system, I wouldn't even bother with a service plan. We have a lot of these Systemax systems deployed in the office, and they haven't given me any problems. The problem with Dell is that after the little bells and whistles you feel like you need, you end up over a grand. Like the Dell system you recommended -- it has 2GB RAM for the base model. Upgrade to 3GB, plus tax and shipping, and it's somewhere north of $500. HDD's are cheap these days (2TB for $140!) so a 320GB internal isn't that big a deal since Dell charges an arm and a leg to upgrade the HDD size (to go from 500GB to 1TB, it's $150 or so). From all reports, Windows 7 run lighter than Vista did, so I really don't think 3GB RAM is going to slow anyone down. Besides, intalling extra RAM is cheap (unless you add the RAM upgrade at the Dell site, then it's above market price). Like I said, I run a dual core system with 2GB RAM and 32bit XPPro, and do HD video editing and conversion all the time. If that's not the main purpose of the system anyway, it doesn't really matter if it's a little slow. Look, $600 shipped for a Windows 7 system and a 23" monitor is a fantastic deal. Add to it those Systemax systems aren't as gunked up with bloatware as the Dell systems are.

    I see a lot of people with a budget blowing it because they think they might need this do-hickey or doo-dad (like 16GB RAM -- what are you running, Exchange Server?) and in the end, it's a waste of money. Buy the extra memory if you need it. Buy the extra HDD if you need it. Why are you overbuying for a "surf the net" system?
     
  7. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Quote:
    The HP elite was actually going to be my next suggestion but a quick TigerDirect search didnt find a good compromise of features and prices. PAcky's suggestion is spot on tho I would probably personally go for an Intel based one over AMD but both are fine. I like ATI/AMD just fine for video cards but I've always stuck with Intels processors for my own systems.

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=5296615&CatId=4925
    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=5296613&CatId=4925



    Totally agree on the service plan for my own self but that's not what was in his list of needs. He needs someone to help if something goes wrong. Personally thats why I suggest Apple to everyone who asks, you can't get better service than what Apple provides. Period. Full stop.

    As for Dell's price you are absolutely right. Except for the whole 20-40% off coupon thing which puts the prices on a better than level playing field and which are available every day of the week if you know where to look.
    http://www.techbargains.com/dellcoupons.cfm

    I always suggest people buy more computer than what they think they need. You will always find more stuff to add on to what you want to accomplish and its better to have it up front than being pissed off you bought an underspecced machine that seems like its sucking wind as soon as you bought it. Again, the 20" iMac is a 40% premium over the budget specified here but destroys the chintzy components that can be gotten at that price and comes with a suite of software that real people can use to get stuff done with plus world class support.

    You can pay it up front or pay it over time, but eventually the costs even out in my experience...

    Sam
     
  8. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys. Parker, I couldn't find the e9220f on the Best Buy site but they do have a e9220y that seems to have the same features and is $50 more than the price you quoted. Sounds like a nice machine.
     
  9. Will_B

    Will_B Well-Known Member

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  10. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Not sure how HP does it but no matter what PC you buy be prepared to:
    -Probably have to clean out a bunch of crapware
    -Probably not have a full installation disk for Win 7. These days they seem to put an image of the install media directly on a hidden partion on the base hard disk. Sucks but thats the way the world has gone for big box PCs.
     
  11. Hanson

    Hanson Well-Known Member

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    Restoring from the partition is really easy to do and is a huge convenience. Depending on the manufacturer, it's sometimes a ghosted image and not an from scratch OS install, so you're ready to go rather quickly.

    If your HDD dies however... tough noogies.
     
  12. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I was in Office Depot and I noticed one of their "premium services" when you buy a computer is to clean out all the bloatware. Nice deal for them. They make deals with computer manufacturers who put it all in, and then they want to charge you to take it all out!

    I miss the old days when you got an installation disk with the computer. It made things a lot easier in case you had to wipe things clean and start all over again.
     
  13. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Yeah, you know who still does that, right? =)
     
  14. jtpryan

    jtpryan Member

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    The HP system mentions would be a good choice. HP has a nice product and good build quality. You want 64 bit Windows 7 with as much memory as you can afford. 6Gb should be well within your budget. I doubt HDD space will be an issue, most are more then you will ever use. Clean all the stuff off of it and get AVG Free (or Avast) for AV. Your Cable modem or DSL modem and router are NOT a firewall, but they do provide NAT which should be sufficient. Openoffice or Google Docs should give you what you need for writing and spreadsheets, for free. I would thing $800 would get you a very nice system. Don't bother with any extended warrenties unless it really gives you a comfort level you need. Better to spend the money on an external HDD and backup regularly. Another thing that wouldn't be expensive would be another HDD and configure it as RAID 1. You could do that for the money.

    If you have a small, reputable, computer store near you they could build what you need and then you have a place to go to when something goes wrong which is nice.

    -Jim
     
  15. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Bob yes the e9220y at Best Buy is the same system as the e9220f. HP just sells it for $50 less. Best Buy is good if you want to return it, pick it up same day and get it with an 18 month purchase plan.
     
  16. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Well-Known Member

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    I ordered a Studio XPS 8000 on November 17th, because I've always had good luck with Dell. When they have a good deal, you can get one with the monitor for well under a grand. I can't tell you whether I recommend it or not, however, because the thing still hasn't shipped yet. At this point, I'm dubious as to whether it will make it here in time for Christmas. If not, I'm going to be really disappointed.

    What drew me to the system is the Core i7-8xx processor. Intel has lept ahead of AMD in a really big way since the Core line was unveiled. For your purposes, it probably won't matter either way: either processor will be lightning fast compared to a nine-year-old system. And since the whole architecture is shifting to a 32 nm process, all the processors on the market today will be obsolete soon anyway. What that means is that you can get pretty decent deals on the 45 nm processors out now.
     
  17. Alfonso_M

    Alfonso_M Well-Known Member

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    Adam, I'm also considering one of those Studio xps 8000, especially now that I received a 30% off coupon in the mail,(I think Dell is keeping track of my browsing in the Dell site) I upgraded the system to the i7-860 cpu, and the Nvidia video card, but I'm trying to decide if i should upgrade and increase the memory size, and get the Blu burner now or do this later from a third party at a more reasonable price.

    I do coloring in Photoshop and need to start scanning the art at 600dpi, and my current system is very slow to handle this large files..also editing and rendering DVD video is painfully slow...

    I'm going to start crunching some numbers on this components at other sites, to get a better idea if it's worth the effort and/or savings to do it myself or if I should just get it from Dell directly, but any advice/suggestions are welcome and appreciated.
     
  18. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Buy it bundled in if you can if all you are going to be doing is viewing packaged media. If you want to burn Blu Data disks well get in line with the rest of those waiting for those to get to a reasonable price. =)
     
  19. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Well-Known Member

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    It's kind of hard to fail when buying a general purpose PC these days. Assuming one leaves out the desire to game on it and has the patience to wait for things like a hard drive churning instead of going with a solid state drive, basically anything with a dual-core or better CPU, 2 gigs or more of RAM and a graphics solution of some kind from nVidia will perform. You can buy that for $5-600 including a honking huge screen these days.

    iMacs are nice and the OS is possibly marginally better than Windows 7, but it's hardly night and day - whereas the pricing surely is.

    Not arguing that Mac quality and Mac support etc isn't good, but I am more or less arguing that a basic desktop is nearly a throwaway item these days. Just keep backups and if the $300 machine dies in a couple of years, toss it out and get a new and faster one for about the same money or less, probably.
     
  20. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Well-Known Member

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    Mine shipped on the 17th: one month to the day from when I ordered it. Dell (just like the other big OEM manufacturers) has been having supply problems with high-end components. It's scheduled to be delivered on Thursday, so I'll post my thoughts once I have it up and running.


    I bought online because I got a 25 percent off deal through a Dell Direct email, and because I wanted the Core i7-870 processor. If you're looking at the still-excellent Core i7-860 processor, Best Buy is selling a Studio XPS computer with very similar specs at a very competitive price. If you decide to order online, my guess is that the supply problems will be cleared up by January once the Christmas rush has abated.
    Apple makes really great hardware with an elegant look and has top-notch customer support. Dell makes really great hardware that isn't quite as elegant, and has truly abysmal customer support. (I'm less sold on HP hardware, but I know many that swear by it)

    The difference? As you say, hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
     

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