Advice on Buying a PC for Sister's Christmas Gift

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In summary, the conversation discusses the speaker's sister wanting a new computer for Christmas and the speaker considering giving it as a gift or helping her choose one. The sister's primary uses for the computer are email, internet surfing, and saving pictures and movies. The speaker also considers the computer's longevity and its ability to handle educational children's games and software. They mention looking at inexpensive Dell computers and the need for at least 512 MB of RAM for photos. The conversation also touches on the differences between Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition, and Windows XP Professional Edition. The speaker recommends an AMD Sempron with 512 MB of RAM and a 52x CDRW (or DVD+-RW for home videos
  • #1
Moonbear
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Okay, with Christmas coming up, my sister wants a new computer. Depending on what the price comes up to be, I'm considering giving one to her as a gift (so I can set it up at home on the hi-speed internet to download stuff like spyware protection, etc...I'm pretty sure her current computer is completely infested with that stuff, and she's on dialup, so really hard to download stuff from her place)...if I don't get it as a gift for her, I'll still be helping her choose one.

I'm trying to get an idea though of what to recommend to her. She's not by any means a "power" user. Her primary uses are for email, some internet surfing, and saving pictures and movies from the video camera. For some reason, she thinks she needs a DVD burner, but I'm not sure she really needs that (I need to inquire more about why she thinks she needs it...she just might be clueless about how much she can store to a CD, or knowing her, she might think only music can go on a CD). Once in a while she needs to write a letter.

The other thing I want to consider in offering recommendations to her is that my nephew is currently about 2 1/2, so given the length of time my sister goes between upgrades, this computer will last at least through his early primary school years. That means I'd want it to be capable of handling educational children's games/software. When he gets old enough to play more than that and/or need it more for school, it'll be time to upgrade to something newer.

I was looking at some of the inexpensive Dell computers. A lot of them come with only 256 MB of RAM (the cheap ones with good deals right now)...for photos, I think she'd have to get at least 512 MB, right? I also noticed a strange footnote on their CD/DVD+/-RW combo drive...
1 Discs burned with this drive may not be compatible with some existing drives and players; using DVD+/-RW media provides maximum compatibility. Special media required, and third party software may also be required.
Does that mean you need to get additional software that's not included if you get the drive? And what is it compatible with? If she sends me a DVD, will I be able to view it on my computer? If it's that much of a hassle, I might just recommend she hold off on the DVD burner and get an external drive for it.

Basically, if I was buying for myself, when in doubt, I'd go with more memory, faster processor, etc, to keep a little ahead of my needs, but she's a very different type of user than I am, and price is more of a factor for her, so it's important to figure out what the minimum is that she can get away with for her uses.

Oh, one other question...other than price, what's the difference between Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition, and Windows XP Professional Edition (just the boiled down explanation please)? I'm only familiar with XP professional edition, so don't know what will be missing or different in the other versions. From what I've described of her uses, is the Home Edition sufficient?
 
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  • #2
1) What's your budget?
2) Have you considered a Mac Mini?
3) 512MB is good
4) The CD/DVD burning software almost always comes with the computer.
5) XP Home should be fine. Windows media center is a gimick and Pro is for advanced networking options.

My suggestion:

AMD Sempron
512MB RAM
52x CDRW (DVD+-RW if she wants to make home videos)
 
  • #3
Moonbear said:
I was looking at some of the inexpensive Dell computers. A lot of them come with only 256 MB of RAM (the cheap ones with good deals right now)...for photos, I think she'd have to get at least 512 MB, right?
Windows XP requires a minimum of 256mb, but since memory is so cheap nowadays 1gb isn't too shabby. To load programs faster get as much memory as you can
The other thing I want to consider in offering recommendations to her is that my nephew is currently about 2 1/2, so given the length of time my sister goes between upgrades, this computer will last at least through his early primary school years. That means I'd want it to be capable of handling educational children's games/software. When he gets old enough to play more than that and/or need it more for school, it'll be time to upgrade to something newer.
Educational games/software aren't graphics intensive. A 32-64mb videocard will suffice.
I also noticed a strange footnote on their CD/DVD+/-RW combo drive...
1 Discs burned with this drive may not be compatible with some existing drives and players; using DVD+/-RW media provides maximum compatibility. Special media required, and third party software may also be required.
It could mean that the data burned in the cd/dvd drive that came with the pc may not run on a regular dvd player drive.
If your drive is a DVD+/- then you will be able to run any dvd in it.
Does that mean you need to get additional software that's not included if you get the drive? And what is it compatible with? If she sends me a DVD, will I be able to view it on my computer? If it's that much of a hassle, I might just recommend she hold off on the DVD burner and get an external drive for it.
The drive comes with a basic cd/dvd burning program. If she sends you a dvd
whether a movie or a burned dvd it will run.

If she gets an external burner she'll end up paying more for it, such as me. So I recommend buying it together.
 
  • #4
Moonbear said:
Oh, one other question...other than price, what's the difference between Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition, and Windows XP Professional Edition (just the boiled down explanation please)? I'm only familiar with XP professional edition, so don't know what will be missing or different in the other versions. From what I've described of her uses, is the Home Edition sufficient?

XP home is pretty basic for home users. Although, it comes with movie maker if you want to create slideshows/home movies with effects and background music in it.

XP media center is designed as an entertainment hub. It has a simplified gui that allows recording/playback of tv shows, viewing photos and playing music.

If you want to burn movies use dvd decrypter
 
  • #5
dduardo said:
1) What's your budget?
I'm not sure yet...I'll talk to her later in the week. I'll probably kick in around $500 toward it...but I'm not sure how much more she'd want to spend...she might not have gotten it quite so soon if I wasn't helping.

2) Have you considered a Mac Mini?
:biggrin: Of course I did! But by the time you're done adding on a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and modem adapter thingy (it comes standard with ethernet, but not a modem...she's still using dialup...baby steps with her) it doesn't end up being any better of a deal. If her monitor is still good, and she's okay with the size of it, it's still a possibility.

3) 512MB is good
Okay.
4) The CD/DVD burning software almost always comes with the computer.
That's what I thought, which is why that footnote confused me. I think they're trying to phrase things so you're tempted to buy more than you need with them.
5) XP Home should be fine. Windows media center is a gimick and Pro is for advanced networking options.
Okay, good to know. Yeah, she's not going to be doing any advanced networking...she's one of those people who will leave everything exactly as it arrives with the default settings unless someone sets it up differently for her. She's worse than my mom when it comes to trying to troubleshoot things, which is why I'm leaning toward buying it for her so I can set it up myself before I give it to her and then just show her where to find what she needs.

My suggestion:

AMD Sempron
512MB RAM
52x CDRW (DVD+-RW if she wants to make home videos)
Thanks.
 
  • #6
I wish i was getting a computer for Christmas! I already have three and i don't really need one but i love the big box with all the little things, and the smell, my god the smell... :smile:
 
  • #7
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16883102229
That as the computer would be far more than she would need for now, but in the future it may be useful to have the extra memory, faster processor, blah blah.
It costs about $600 though...

I am assuming that you are buying a complete computer and not putting it together yourself.

For the monitor, I've heard great things about
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16824208003So bassically, you would have a computer with
Athlon64 3200+ (2.2GHz) 64 bit Processor
a 200GB hard drive
1GB of RAM
One DVD writer, and another CD drive

it also does have some modem on it.However, if you want a dell, you will not get an AMD processor

Going the Dell route, you could have a slightly worse PC for less than 600 dollars with monitor included... the Dimension B110
 
  • #8
At work my boss buys a lot of these cheap computers from Dell which i set up for the employees. In my opinion they're quite decent, nothing outstanding (though Dell can make some top of the line stuff) but pretty good. You probably won't find cheaper PCs than at Dell (especially with Christmas sale prices) unless you build one yourself which is not that hard, you should know.
One thing i like about Dell is the inside of their computers. Everything is very neat and organized so it's very easy to remove/add hardware. At work sometimes i just open up the server and stare at it.
 
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  • #9
I don't have to go the Dell route, I just heard of their Christmas specials, so thought I might get the best deal with them (since they bundle in the monitor too and I'm not sure what type of monitor she currently has...I might not need to get the monitor though, so that could give me more flexibility). I also think if I purchase through Dell, I can get a educator's discount, though not sure if that's going to be enough to really matter.

Moose, I don't think it's necessary to get her 1GB of RAM! I don't even have that much. :biggrin: Honestly, it would be a waste of money to get her more than she needs...until my nephew is old enough to need it for schoolwork, which is quite a long way off, her needs won't change much. If it weren't for the pictures and home movies, she really wouldn't even need a new computer at all, just cleaning the spyware and adware crap off the old one, and updating her to a word processing software someone has actually heard of (she can't send anyone documents, she has to copy and paste the text into email, because whatever she has, I've never heard of before and it's not compatible with anything commonly used). If it's a little slow, that really isn't going to be an issue for her...she can pop a CD into record and walk away for a while, unlike those of us using the computers for work where that would be a frustrating slowdown in productivity.

I'm not building it...I have no time for it or knowledge of how to do it, and I suspect it's actually cheaper to buy it with the OS/software bundled than to buy it all separately.

I'm still thinking about the Mac mini too...since she's too clueless about security, it might be better to get her something that's not running Windows if her monitor is still good enough. Plus, I can help her troubleshoot stuff on a Mac better than stuff on a PC since I have a Mac myself. But, realistically, she doesn't need a Mac (see, for all of you who thought I'm over-zealous about Macs, I am reasonable about getting a PC when it's the more appropriate choice for a person's needs). I may wander over to Best Buy today and test drive some of what they have on display...they sell stuff with the AMD Sempron processor that dduardo recommended. (How does that compare to the Intel Celeron processor? That's the other one I see in the "low-end" machines). I'm hesitant to buy a computer there (not exactly happy with my experiences with their customer service), but they're close and I can play with them there to help me decide...of course, if they have a deal that blows me out of the water, I'll live with their customer service.

Edit: Well, I stopped at Best Buy while out Christmas shopping...that was pointless. I thought you could play with their display computers. All they have is some screen with a demo that tells you all the stuff Best Buy offers (warranties, etc.), so you never even see what's installed on the computer, let alone try starting up, opening applications, etc, to see how it performs. What's the point of having a computer on display if you can't test drive it? Otherwise, you're just looking at a case...big deal.
 
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  • #10
If there are any frys electronics stores near you, it would be a great place to go!
 
  • #11
moose said:
If there are any frys electronics stores near you, it would be a great place to go!
Not that I know of. There aren't many big stores/malls around here...it's a bit of the middle of nowhere.
 
  • #12
I can't say enough good about Dell. Their tech support and warranty policies are as good or better than any I've ever seen. Unless a person is a career PC nerd, I recommend Dell.

Tsu's laptop had a power supply failure. Dell sent a special courier who came with a shipping box in hand and then waited for Tsu to pack the computer. It was delivered the next day to Dell, repaired in one day, and returned by next day delivery to us at no charge.

My computer, which takes a lot of abuse though work, has been almost completely replaced under the extended warranty. It was worth every penny.

What more can one ask? I have been absolutely blown away by Dell's support. Once the diagnostic disk gives you the secret code for a hardware failure, that's the end of your problems.
 
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  • #13
Ivan Seeking said:
I can't say enough good about Dell. Their tech support and warranty policies are as good or better than any I've ever seen. Unless a person is a career PC nerd, I recommend Dell.
Tsu's laptop had a power supply failure. Dell sent a special courier who came with a shipping box in hand and then waited for Tsu to pack the computer. It was delivered the next day to Dell, repaired in one day, and returned by next day delivery to us at no charge.
My computer, which takes a lot of abuse though work, has been almost completely replaced under the extended warranty. It was worth every penny.
What more can one ask? I have been absolutely blown away by Dell's support. Once the diagnostic disk gives you the secret code for a hardware failure, that's the end of your problems.

That's good to know. I much prefer if someone else who is getting paid to take tech support calls is trying to talk my sister through any problems she has rather than me doing it. :biggrin:
 

Related to Advice on Buying a PC for Sister's Christmas Gift

1. What are the most important specifications to consider when buying a PC as a gift?

The most important specifications to consider when buying a PC as a gift are the processor, RAM, storage space, and graphics card. These components determine the speed, performance, and storage capacity of the computer.

2. Should I buy a pre-built PC or build one myself?

This ultimately depends on your budget and technical expertise. Building a PC yourself can be cheaper and allow for more customization, but it requires knowledge of computer hardware and assembly. If you are not comfortable with this, purchasing a pre-built PC may be a better option.

3. How much should I spend on a PC for my sister's Christmas gift?

The price of a PC can vary greatly depending on the brand, specifications, and features. It is important to set a budget and consider the needs and preferences of your sister. A mid-range PC can typically cost between $500-$1000, while a high-end PC can cost over $1000.

4. What are some important features to look for in a PC for general use?

For general use, it is important to consider the operating system, display resolution, and connectivity options. The operating system should be user-friendly and compatible with your sister's needs. The display resolution should be at least 1920x1080 for a clear and crisp display. Connectivity options such as USB ports, HDMI, and Wi-Fi are also important for connecting peripherals and accessing the internet.

5. Is it necessary to purchase additional accessories with the PC as a gift?

This depends on the specific PC and your sister's needs. Some PCs may come with a keyboard and mouse, while others may not. If your sister will be using the PC for gaming or video editing, additional accessories such as a gaming mouse or monitor may be necessary. It is also important to consider purchasing a warranty or insurance for the PC to protect against any potential damages or malfunctions.

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