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Need a new Computer! (1 Viewer)

David Norman

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Personally I hate typing on a Laptop Keyboards. I've never found one yet that was even close to a regular keyboard -- started with the original IBM M type, upgraded to a Northgate Ultra and after it broke I tried several options and eventually settled on a DAS mechanical ( still miss my Omnikey a lot adn wish I had mailed it to the Omnikey Whisperer when he was alive and repairing them)

I've tried the highly lauded Thinkpads and Apple and they're barely tolerable. Similar with Monitors -- even at 17 inches I find it straining compared to my 23 and 24 inch monitors esp if you have to hold the laptop on the lap to a laptop 'table' . I have a 25 year Big Executive style chair sitting in front of my computer area which is just about the most comfortable chair in the house anyway. Just decided I'm old and like the way I've always done it though obviously a big "everybody likes something different"
 
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Dennis Nicholls

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I find my 32" 1080P monitor just about right. My laptops were only suitable for "emergency use".

Although I have considered a 40" 4K monitor for replacement....
 

Bobby Henderson

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Around 15 or so years ago I had a pretty hard-lined stand against using notebook computers. Desktop towers provided far more bang for the buck. However my opinion changed in the mid 2000's.

I use a desktop setup all day doing graphics work at my day job. I started getting tired of sitting at another desk when I needed to use a computer at home. Notebooks are liberating from that. I can use the computer while sitting on the couch in the living room. Or I can take it other places, particularly on road trips elsewhere.

One of my big gripes about notebooks was small screen sizes and poor display resolution. That situation started to improve in the mid 2000's. I bought a Dell Inspiron notebook with 1680 X 1050 resolution; about 3 or 4 years later I replaced that panel with a 1920 X 1200 display. In 2011 I bought a Dell XPS 15 with a 1080p resolution display (and a built-in BD burner). My current notebook (and primary home computer), an Alienware X17, has a UHD 120Hz display. It's great for doing graphics work. Movies look excellent on that screen too. The Alienware X17 has plenty of ports for attaching external hard drives, larger external monitors and other devices. There is a big variety of "docking stations" available for using notebooks on a traditional computer desk. I spent a little extra for the Cherry MX keyboard. I love that thing. The key travel is very precise and has a kind of "metal" feel to it. The keyboard seems like something you would find on a military weapons system.

I have a fairly new Dell XPS desktop tower at work. I ordered it with a built in DVD-R optical drive. In retrospect I probably could have done better getting an external drive. The built-in ones are pretty cheap and flimsy. I'm thinking about getting an external UHD optical drive for my notebook computer. I still buy music CDs from time to time, then rip WAV files to external hard discs that hold copies of my music collection.

I'm split on the topic of Win 10 versus Win 11. I have Win 11 on my work desktop, but have stuck with Win 10 on my Alienware notebook at home. One thing I recommend is spending a little extra for the "Pro" version of the OS.

NVMe type SSDs are pretty awesome. Computer boot up times are in a matter of a few seconds. I can open huge graphics files pretty fast. Don't skimp on RAM. I have 64GB in both my desktop work PC and my personal notebook. I think 16GB is the bare minimum for Win 11 Pro. 32GB opens more "head space" for multi-tasking.

Thanks to the serious downtown in the crypto currency fad there is now a glut of very good video cards on the market at far more affordable prices. NVidia RTX 3000 series cards are much more affordable. The RTX 4000 series cards are now due for release in September.
 

Dennis Nicholls

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NVMe type SSDs are pretty awesome. Computer boot up times are in a matter of a few seconds. I can open huge graphics files pretty fast.
I bought a pair of used Dell Optiplex 3060s the past few months. The last one ($250) came with a dog-slow WD "Green" 1TB HDD. It was shocking how big the improvement was when I swapped in a WD Blue SN570 NVMe SSD (500GB now at $45).
 

John Dirk

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Not sure what your budget is, but this tower has a DVD+/-RW optical disc drive, an i7 processor, and a 256 GB SSD drive:
OptiPlex 5000 Small Form Factor

It comes with Windows 10 Pro installed, but includes a license to upgrade to Windows 11 Pro.
As configured anyway this would be complete overkill, processor-wise, even for me, and the hard drive is a paltry 256GB.
@Robert Crawford - I'd give MicroCenter a call. It might be worth the trip. Here is what I would recommend for you.

 

Robert Crawford

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Thank you for the suggestions. Please, keep them coming. I have a question regarding USB ports. Is a 3.1 USB port, backward compatible for say a 2.0 drive?
 

Walter Kittel

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Thank you for the suggestions. Please, keep them coming. I have a question regarding USB ports. Is a 3.1 USB port, backward compatible for say a 2.0 drive?

Yes. USB 3.1 is backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0. However, the drive will only transfer data at the 2.0 rate, since that is the slowest component in the chain. The other factor to consider when talking about USB ports is the letter designation which identifies the port type and corresponds to the physical connector. I believe in most cases there are adapters that will allow you to connect different physical USB connector types.

- Walter.
 

Robert Crawford

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Yes. USB 3.1 is backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0. However, the drive will only transfer data at the 2.0 rate, since that is the slowest component in the chain. The other factor to consider when talking about USB ports is the letter designation which identifies the port type and corresponds to the physical connector. I believe in most cases there are adapters that will allow you to connect different physical USB connector types.

- Walter.
I'm not familiar with this issue of physical connectors and adapters.
 

John Dirk

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I'm not familiar with this issue of physical connectors and adapters.
You've probably seen a few of these. Micro USB A and USB C are currently the most common. Micro B is seen mostly on high speed USB HDD's. Sadly, there's nothing "Universal" about USB.

1660442797352.png
 

Robert Crawford

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You've probably seen a few of these. Micro USB A and USB C are currently the most common. Micro B is seen mostly on high speed USB HDD's. Sadly, there's nothing "Universal" about USB.

View attachment 148614
Nope, this is the first time I've seen them. Again, my computer is over a decade old. Secondly, I have been retired since 2016, so I don't remember if I had been exposed to these different types beforehand.
 

BobO'Link

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I'm assuming these old 2.0 thumb drives I have for the last several years are Type "A".
Yes, those are Type "A".

Type "C" ports are more common on portable devices (laptops) simply because they're smaller and allow for smaller cases. The whole race-to-the-lightest/smallest-device trend that can remove compatibility in favor of "portability."

The adapters Walter mentioned are simply to be able to use "Type A" USB devices on systems with only "Type C" ports and vice versa. If you're an owner of a newer Apple computer you'll be quite familiar with these, and USB-C hubs, because of Apple's insistence on removing anything useful, in the way of connectivity ports, from their systems.

IMHO, the only "good" thing to have come out of the push for USB-C devices are hubs that allow connection of multiple devices of disparate types - USB-A, HDMI, Audio, etc. - here's an example:

1660488011234.png


Using USB-C for connecting chargers is also a fairly nice thing as it somewhat standardizes the whole "every laptop needs/has a different power connector" issue. But that's only a concern with laptops and some manufacturers take advantage of that to reduce the number of ports (removing the dedicated power port while *not* increasing the number of USB-C ports making hubs like I've pictured pretty much a necessity).

*Some* Windows desktops include USB-C ports but they're still rather rare in that build. For a desktop, you want as many USB 3.0 ports as possible (4-6 on the back and at least 2 on the front). Pay close attention to the total on the back of a case, especially if you have printers/scanners/external USB devices to connect as you want enough for everything. The desktop Robert posted has only 4 USB ports on the back, relying on PS/2 ports for the mouse/keyboard. While these actually work better than USB (usually better response time - important for gaming and not noticeable elsewhere) it's more difficult to find mice/keyboards that have this type of connector. And there are adapters for those, too, which reduces the compatibility issue.
 

Dennis Nicholls

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A tip: the plastic key in Type A USB 3 varieties is generally blue so you can simply inspect the ports to determine their version. E.g. see the photo in the post immediately above.
Not sure what your budget is, but this tower has a DVD+/-RW optical disc drive, an i7 processor, and a 256 GB SSD drive:
OptiPlex 5000 Small Form Factor

It comes with Windows 10 Pro installed, but includes a license to upgrade to Windows 11 Pro.
Robert may do better with a slower i5 processor but with more ram and a larger ssd. That OptiPlex 5000 comes with a pair of DisplayPort sockets but no HDMI socket so this may not work with Robert's monitor. I've not been able to determine whether current Dell DisplayPort sockets are "dual-mode" to support passive DisplayPort to HDMI converters. A similar OptiPlex 3000 has an HDMI and a DisplayPort. A tip: OptiPlex models with a leading "3" have HDMI, and with a leading "5" have dual DisplayPorts.

Win 11 still includes the backup utility "Windows 7 Backup". They never changed the name.

EDIT A closeup of that model 5000 shows the "dual-mode" logo so you would be able to use cheap passive converters to HDMI.
110px-DisplayPort_plus_plus.svg.png
 
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Bobby Henderson

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Just about any new desktop computer (tower, mini-tower, all-in-one device, etc) will have multiple USB ports on both the front and back of the machine. That is unless you're getting an Apple device, but even an iMac or Mac Mini has a decent number of USB ports on the back.

It is very important to know the differences between USB port types and the connectors. Just about any new desktop computer will have at least one USB type C port and one or more old fashioned USB type A ports.

USB type C ports are not all the same. Some run at USB 3.2 speeds and others can run at USB 4.0 speeds. Some USB type C ports can also double as Thunderbolt connectors. That's the case for Apple devices. One of the USB C ports on my Alienware X17 doubles as a Thunderbolt connector. Some, but not all, USB ports can also provide power share capability. That can be handy for things like charging a smart phone or connecting a bus-powered device that draws a higher amount of voltage.

The cables and adapter types are important. There are two types of ports on computers, but far more port types on external devices. Many bus powered external hard drives use those complicated USB Micro B Super Speed connectors. Some are starting to shift to USB type C connectors. Those hard drives usually include a data cable in the package. But the cables are often iffy in quality. They can get damaged over time and need to be replaced. I have back up cables for such a situation.

I can be tricky getting cables or adapters for older externally powered external hard drives. Some of those have used USB type B or USB mini B connectors.
 
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Nelson Au

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I’ve been lurking in this thread out of interest to see what people suggest for Robert and what his decision will be, I was going to just observe. But I had a lingering question, what are you using the computer for? Your usage could determine what you need.

In re-browsing the thread, I found this comment:
I don’t play computer games. I need a computer for this site and to browse the internet. Watch some sports and listen to some music.

My situation in the last decade has been moving away from my desktop for most tasks. I am in the Apple ecosphere and so I am a Mac user. But I find myself becoming bilingual and have been using Windows for work. I am in the design field and I just need to run CAD software in the Windows environment. For a time, I ran Bootcamp and successfully ran Windows on my MacBook Pro; worked great. But when I took my current job, I had to make a choice, hold my nose and use windows. I’m actually presently assembling a list of parts to build a custom PC that’s powerful enough to run my CAD engineering software for home use. But I still use my Mac Pro desktop for most everything else. And I have a MacBook Pro I use that is a work issued machine. I use that for email and Teams meetings. I wish I could use it more.

Where I am going is that other then for work and for personal projects I do in CAD, my main computer usage for browsing the web, watching videos and listening to music, is on Mac products. I do 99% of my home theater forum and other forum browsing and posting is on my iPad Pro. I’m doing it now. I have three that I use. And on my iPhone. I rarely print anymore. And if I do, I can do it from the desktop. But if I had a new printer with wifi, I figure I can print from my mobile devices.

I have been working on a project to convert my DVD/Blu Ray collection to digital files I can stream from my Mac to my Apple TV and view on my OLED and plasma displays. It works great! Works great from a Windows machine too.

I know Robert expressed no desire to go down the Apple Mac OS Route, so I know I may not be adding anything here. I just wanted to say, I’ve purchased nearly every iPad from their inception in 2010. It’s been a device that gets better and better, and because I’m in the design field, I can sketch and draw on it with the Apple Pencil. I really enjoy that I can have an iPad Pro with me in any room of the house and I can answer and send emails and browse and enjoy a video. I read books on it. There’s more one can do on an iPad, but I won’t get into it unless there’s interest.

I just wanted to toss this in the mix. I’m not encouraging it if it’s not of interest.
 

Robert Crawford

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By the way, I do own a iPhone 13 Pro Max and and iPad along with three 4KATV units so I'm not anti-Apple. I'm just used to having a Windows PC and don't see the need to change now at my advanced age.
 

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