Computer Advice?

Anthony_J

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I need some help. I'm having a friend of a friend build a computer for me, and he gave me some details on pricing, components, etc.
Here's his suggestion:
Either an AMD Athlon 1700+1.47GHz, or a 1.7Ghz Pentium 4.
Either 512MB Ram with the Intel or 1Gig Ram with the Athlon.
Plextor 16x10x40x CD-RW
Leadtek WinFast TDH GeForce3 Ti 200 64MB DDR AGP
Hercules Game Theater XP Sound Card
Sony 16x DVD/52x CD-ROM
IBM 20GB HD (for applications)
Western Digital 80GB HD (mainly storage)
3Com Ethernet Card (for cable access)
The system would cost $1,750 for the box only with either processor (because the Intel box will get half the RAM).
The price seems rather prohibitive because I'll still need to get a monitor, and all peripherals, which can easily add up to another $600-$1,000.
I was hoping for some suggestions as to how I can cut the price by about $300-$500 without sacrificing tons of functionality (e.g., different sound card, video card, etc). I like the machine, but don't know if I'm willing to pay almost 3 grand (maybe I'll ditch the graphics/sound capability and get an X-Box instead)
I'll be using the computer mainly for business apps/games/CD burning. I have a dedicated home theater setup, so chances are slim I'll be using the computer to watch DVD's, although I'm not sure how much it will save me to swap the DVD drive for another CD drive. Also, I won't need any speakers because the sound card has an optical out that I can hook up to my receiver.
Thanks for any input.
 

Joel Mack

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Where are you getting your prices from? I just priced out the items you mentioned (the AMD/1GB RAM option), and came up with about $1100 from newegg.com...
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DaveF

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Anthony -- it would help if you gave your price limit for the total system. Also, what do you use your system for? The system you list is quite powerful, and really is overkill for word-processing type business uses and for occaisional gaming.
If you're not a serious gamer, scale back on the video card and sound card.
If you don't do video editing, high-resolution image editing, or install many large appplications, you could go with less than 100GB hard drive space.
If you don't watch DVD movies on your system, you could drop the DVD drive.
If you don't run many programs at once, or do memory-intensive tasks (image editing), you can reduce the RAM to about 256MB or even 128MB.
If you don't need the power that system provides, you can get a very capable system for about half the price. For comparison, here is a mid-range Dell system, including monitor.
Price: $1380
Dell Dimension 4300 Series: Dimension® 4300 Series, Pentium® 4 Processor at 1.7 GHz
Memory: 256MB SDRAM
Keyboard: Dell® Enhanced Quiet Key Keyboard
Monitor: 17 in (16.0 in viewable,.24-.25AG) P792 FD Trinitron® Monitor
Video Card: 32MB NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 4X AGP Graphics Card with TV-Out
Hard Drive: 40GB Ultra ATA/100 Hard Drive
Floppy Drive: 3.5 in Floppy Drive
Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition¹²
Mouse: MS IntelliMouse®
Network Card: 10/100 PCI Fast Ethernet NIC
Modem: 56K PCI Data Fax Modem for Windows
DVD ROM or CD-ROM Drive: FREE Upgrade! 16x/10x/40x CD-RW Drive with Roxio's Easy CD Creator®
Sound Card: SB Live! Digital Sound card
Speakers: Harman Kardon Speakers
Bundled Software: Microsoft® Works Suite 2001 with Money 2001 Standard
Digital Music: Dell Jukebox powered by MusicMatch 6.0 for XP
Digital Imaging Software: Image Expert®2000 for XP,Dell Edition
3Yr Ltd. Warranty- 3Yrs At-Home Service + Lifetime Phone Support
Choose Your Free or Discounted Special Offer: FREE! Epson Stylus C40UX InkJet (USB cable not included)

 

DaveF

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Also, what about warranty issues? If your friend builds it, will he also be your "technician / customer service"? If this is a business computer, and your friend might not be able to provide tech-support when you need it, it may be worthwhile buying a retail system, for the tech support.
 

DaveF

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Hope I'm not overwhelming you

Here's a power system, roughly equal to your listing. There are some benefits to building your own system, but this should give a sense of features for a similiarly priced retail system.
Price: $2,900
Dimension® 8200 Series, Pentium® 4 Processor at 1.9 GHz
Memory: 512MB PC800 RDRAM
Keyboard: Dell® Enhanced Performance USB Keyboard
Monitor: 19 in (17.9 in viewable,.25-25AG)P991 FD Trinitron® Monitor
Video Card: 64MB DDR NVIDIA GeForce3 4X AGP Graphics Card with DVI
Hard Drive: 80GB Ultra ATA/100 Hard Drive
Floppy Drive: 3.5 in Floppy Drive
Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition¹²
Mouse: Microsoft® Intellimouse® Explorer
Network Card: 10/100 PCI Fast Ethernet NIC
Modem: 56K Telephony Modem for Windows® XP
DVD-ROM or CD-ROM Drive: 16X Max Variable DVD-Rom Drive for Altec Lansing 995 Speakers
Sound Card: Turtle Beach Santa Cruz DSP Sound Card
Speakers: NEW Altec Lansing THX Certified ADA995 Surround Sound 5.1 Speaker System
Bundled Software: Microsoft® Works Suite 2001 with Money 2001 Standard
Norton Antivirus® at No Additional Charge: Norton Antivirus® 2002, 90-day introductory offer
Digital Music: Dell Jukebox powered by MusicMatch 6.0 for XP
Digital Imaging Software: Image Expert®2000 for XP,Dell Edition
3Yr Ltd. Warranty- 3Yrs At-Home Service + Lifetime Phone Support
Internet Access Service: 6 Month Dellnet® by MSN Internet Access for XP
THX® Certification: THX® Certified System Package
CD-RW Drive for 2nd Bay: FREE! 16x/10x/40x CD-RW Drive with Roxio's Easy CD Creator®
FREE! Epson Stylus C40UX InkJet
 

Anthony_J

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I haven't really priced the whole system myself, except for the areas that I thought would cost a lot of money (audio/video cards, DVD/CDRW drives) for the purpose of seeing if I could come up with places to cut some costs. (I priced at Amazon and other major retailers because I didn't know about newegg.)
He'd also use an Abit KG7-Lite AMD761 Socket A 2DDR UDMA100 ATX motherboard for the AMD system (and a heatsink and fan), or an Intel D850GBC Socket 423 Pentium-4 ATX board for the intel.
The Ram is Kingston, either 266Mhz DDR PC2100 CL2.5 RAM for the AMD, or PC800 RAMBUS RDRAM for the Intel. The case is an Aopen HX45 ATX MID Tower case with 300 W Power supply in either case.
I'll go to Newegg now and see how much the system would be if I were to buy the components myself. He might be charging some extra for himself, but from what my friend told me, he's supposed to do a great job (eg., he'd overclock the Athlon for me, and make sure each component is 100% efficient.)
I used to be into hardware, but haven't kept up to speed on the newest and greatest, and I don't really feel like relearning how to put this stuff together. When I was following this stuff, Internet retailers weren't a reliable option, no normal consumer heard of USB, and Pentium had just broken the 200 mhz barrier. That goes to show you how far removed from the PC arena I am.
Thanks!
 

Anthony_J

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Wow, thanks guys.
I was considering buying a Dell system, but there's some allure to having a "homebuilt". In terms of pricing, I'd like to keep it around $2,000, but that's negotiable.
I just figured that the days of the $2,000 PC were over and there'd have to be some ways to cut costs. I'm trying to have my cake and eat it, too. Although I'm not a die-hard gamer, I like having a system that can handle anything I'd like to play. Same with the DVD drive. That's why I'm looking for mid-level components with similar capabilities to the components listed (i.e., GeForce 3, digital 5.1 support, etc.)
Maybe I'm trying to get too much in one system. Oh well, the drawbacks of being a cheapskate who wants the latest stuff.
The way I figure, the less I spend on this computer, the more I have to buy DVD's, or new speakers, or a new TV...
 

Rob Speicher

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What games do you play? A GeForce3 might not be necessary, and could save you some money going to a high end GeForce2 instead. I got a Gladiac 920 a few months ago, and the improvement in the current games wasn't very noticable, with the exception of Quake3.
Quake3 gets 110+ FPS in 1024x768 32bit/full effects
Older engines like Half-Life and EverQuest get around 60 FPS in 800x600, 40-45 FPS in 1024x768.
If you're still playing older games like Half-Life, you probably wouldn't notice the difference between a GF2 and a GF3. So far, for some reason, it seems like the older games treat a GF3 like a plain old GeForce. If you play Quake3 pretty often, though, it's definately noticable, and probably worth it.
 

DaveF

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Actually, the best thing would be to tell your friend: "I've got $2,000 and I need a computer for these things primarily and those things secondly. What should I get?" It looks like he knows his stuff, for high-end. Let's see if he can cope with financial contraints

That said, here's more of my opinon...
That's why I'm looking for mid-level components with similar capabilities to the components listed (i.e., GeForce 3, digital 5.1 support, etc.)
High-end == GeForce 3
Mid-range == Geforce 2, or similar
I think you've got your expectations a bit askew.

The computer-pricing rule of thumb is still about what it has been for years:
$1,500 : Intro, basic use
$2,000 : Mid-range
$2,500 : High-End
$3,000 : Cutting edge
The difference is that now, even that $1,500 starter system will do anything you need.
Office apps, web browsing, and general purpose use can all still be done pretty well on a Pentium 90. (yes, 90. not 900).
You can play any current game with a PIII 800MHz and GeForce 2MX, and 128MB RAM.
Dial things back a bit all around, and you'll get what you need at a price you can afford:
Replace:
1700+ Athlon -> 1600+ Athlon
GeForce3 -> Geforce2 or GeForce3 Ti200
512MB RAM -> 256MB RAM
100GB HD (2 drives) -> 40 GB (one drive)
Herc. Sound Card -> mid range SoundBlaster or equivalent
Drop the DVD ROM unless you know you'll use it. (Is it worth $150 for something you'll use very rarely?) Two CD drives are nice, but not necessary, even for creating music CDs.
Spend the money for a good monitor; a Sony Trinitron or equivalent, at least 17".
I'm a firm believer in buying what you *will* use, and not what you *might* or won't use. Especially if, like me, you're a "frugal" man
 

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