Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

New computer time!

  1. Jan 12, 2005 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I've finally moved past the point of needing a new computer to the point of actually considering purchasing a new computer! I'm looking for some advice...

    First off, what do I want out of my computer? Mainly the ability to have 5 browser windows open, Windows Media Player running, and be able to work in eclipse, without having to wait 5 minutes every time I change windows! Being able to play The Sims 2 smoothly is a must. :smile: I think I might start getting into gaming again, but I'm not yet sure. It would certainly be nice for it to be able to play, say, Half-Life II reasonably, though I'm more likely to get strategy games.

    At the moment, I'm looking at the http://www.emachines.com/products/products.html?prod=eMachines_T3256 [Broken] from eMachines. At Beet Buy, It comes bundled with an LCD monitor (only 15", but I'd like an LCD monitor) and a Lexmark printer (I don't care that much... but my current printer is ancient) for $730, after rebates.

    The first thing that strikes me as a problem is the memory. Whatever I get, I had planned on upgrading to 1 Gb of RAM, because I've had a great deal of memory related headaches in the past, and I want to get it out of the way early. The memory is only PC 2700, though -- I'm worried if that might be reason to consider something else instead.

    I'm also curious how the CPU is -- I had planned on getting something that ran in the 3 GHz range, but I know that Athlons tend to perform better than their clock rate suggests. Any advice on that?

    And yah, I know I may be worried over optimizations that would be irrelevant to me, so I might as well save the money and go with this machine.

    And what about eMachines? I heard they're good at some things, but not good at other things. Are their machines good quality?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2005 #2
    The biggest problem with pre-built computers (Dell, eMachines, Gateway, etc.), as I see it, is the minscule memory. They always seem to be behind the times with that, and it leaves me scratching my head, especially when RAM is so cheap. (What good is a 2 Ghz processor with 128 MB RAM?) The second biggest problem is upgradability. They also tend to have worse performance than custom-built, which is why I recommend that.

    Other than HL2, most of the things you mentioned don't take anything cutting edge. For web browsing, etc., the key is more of not having a bunch of BS installed rather than quick hardware.

    For example, my parents eMachines 466 Celeron with 96 MB RAM and Windows XP (and a bunch of other unnecessary stuff installed) is probably about as slow (probably significantly slower at points, such as when the desktop first loads) for windowing as their Packard Bell Pentium 60 with 48 megs and Windows 95.

    I'd go for the gig (definitely no less tant 512) of RAM; RAM is so cheap.

    The number on the Athlon XP model is supposed to represent MHz of a comparable P4. For example, an Athlon XP 2200+ (which runs at something like 1.7 GHz) is supposed to be comparable to a Pentium 4 2.2 Ghz. From what I've seen, Athlons are more cost-efficient. I think that the fastest P4s are faster than the fastest Athlon XPs (at leat at stock speed, not sure about overclocked), and P4s supposedly are better at floating point operations...still, Athlons tend to be so much cheaper that you can get more MFLOPS/$ with an Athlon.

    With what you apparenlty plan to do, PC2700 shouldn't be a problem, but having PC3200 is comforting and allows you a faster FSB, and when you buy RAM by itself, PC3200 is just as cheap.

    BTW, 5 browser windows is nothing. I'm not sure of what Eclipse is.

    I hope that this was helpful.
  4. Jan 12, 2005 #3
    5 browser windows open? You can use firefox, or if you hate firefox, you can use crazy browser. Crazy Browser if an add on for IE that allows you to use tabs, and I just checked, and it is actually free (I used it a long time ago). http://www.crazybrowser.com/
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  5. Jan 12, 2005 #4
    From what ive seen in computer prices and quality, id say buy computer from ebay. I bought mine, 9200 Radeon, 1 gig ram, etc. for like $500, good price for that stuff it brings. Just my suggestion, if you afraid to buy stuff through net, what can I say. :wink:
  6. Jan 12, 2005 #5
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  7. Jan 12, 2005 #6
    Oh, NForce 2 boards are a good choice for AMD systems. I have one. (Actually, I have two, but one's in the box.) The onboard sound is suprisingly good on these, I've read, especially if you get one with Soundstorm.
  8. Jan 13, 2005 #7

    I always recommend that people who know a little a/b computers build their own systems. If you don't feel skilled enough to actually manually put it together, at least pick your separate parts and have someone build it for a hundred bucks; it's still worth it, in my opinion. Not only does it allow you the full customization (fans, PSU, case, and all) that pre-assembled computers just don't offer, you get a much better deal, especially with the crazy prices you can find on places like tigerdirect.com, and, my favorite, Newegg.

    Do you have a price range in mind? Make a wish-list of parts on Newegg and see what you can get for the money. I think you'll be surprised how much better your system will be than a pre-assembled PC for the same price. Generally, I would suggest you push for a 64-bit processor (depends on price range), definitely do the 1 gig of ram, and consider Linux if you enjoy multi-tasking stability. You should only need a mid-range videocard for your intended use, I think. I can be a little more specific with a price range.
  9. Jan 13, 2005 #8
    That computer looks decent, except for the video card. Geforce 4 MX? I don't think that would run half life that well, though I could be wrong. I would at least get a Geforece FX 5700, 5900, or a Geforce 6600/6800.
  10. Jan 13, 2005 #9
    An FX 5700/5900 will run it OK, at the lowest resolution and AA/AF settings, of course. A 6600 could take some higher res/settings, but again just ok. 6800 will run them all quite well. That gets expensive, though.
  11. Jan 13, 2005 #10
    What about the geforce 4 MX tho that comes with the system? I'm not thinking that will.....
  12. Jan 13, 2005 #11
    Hm...can't say for sure, I don't know much a/b that card, but if it's anything below 5700, it starts to get unlikely that you will have an enjoyable gaming experience with HL2. Look up some benchmarks online if you're interested...should be able to find something.
  13. Jan 14, 2005 #12
    Build your own, or find a site that lets you pick components and will assemble them cheaply like at this site:


    I had one of these built for a friend and I was able to select an extremely stable MB, and decent CPU and at the time they offered lifetime tech support for only $15.00.

    I got him a 2.4 Ghz CPU with a 800 FSB and 3200 RAM and HT technology.

    You may want to consider an Intel with Hyper Threading (HT) because you are talking about doing multitasking, HT works well for that because it creates a virtual second CPU. You would need an 800 or 577 MB that supports it and two sticks of 512 to get your 1 ghz RAM to really take advantage of it.
  14. Jan 14, 2005 #13


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Its integrated in the motherboard, so no, it wouldn't be that great (even though it does have dedicated RAM). It would probably work for the Sims, but not HL2. But since Hurkyl doesn't seem to be too worried about it, that can be dealt with later.

    And yes, Hurkyl, I'd suggest 1GB of ram.

    For the processor - its a good processor. AMD's "Performance Rating" system is pretty accurate - that 3200 is roughly equal to a P4 3.2Ghz. That said, you may want to consider an Athlon-64. It'll come with a faster motherboard and a better upgrade path (both software and hardware).
  15. Jan 14, 2005 #14


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well, I went with that machine. Problems already!

    It seems to be memory -- I can chronicle my usage of the computer thus far:

    Last night: Install 512Mb of memory, hook the computer and monitor up to power, install Sims 2, play for 4ish hours, unplug computer (because I hadn't hooked it into my power strip), go to bed.

    Today: Plug in computer, play Sims 2 for about 2 hours, uninstall Sims 2, reinstall Sims 2 --- *boom* it died here.

    Symptoms: it would not turn on -- it didn't even send a signal to the monitor (I tried my ordinary monitor too). I took out the new memory chip, and it boots up fine now. The new memory chip seemed warmer than the other one too.

    The actual memory I got was PC 2700, the same as is listed in the specs to the machine, and obviously it worked for about 6 hours.

    What can I do to test if there is a problem with the memory chip? Or should I just take it back to Best Buy to test it? I know I can try inserting the new chip where the original was (and maybe put the original back in)... anything else? And if it would make sense to test in my old computer, how can I check if my old computer accepts that kind of memory?
  16. Jan 15, 2005 #15
    I would not buy the crap memory that they sell at Best Buy. Go to newegg.com or zipzoomfly.com and get some quality RAM. Kingston, Corsair, Crucial, Micron, Mushkin, and Kingmax all make good-to-high quality RAM.

    I suppose you can also try inserting the old chip where the new one was. This, combined with inserting the new chip where the original was, will allow you to test whether's is the RAM or/and the RAM slot that has a problem.

    For your old comp, try to find the manual. If you can't find it, check the website of the manufacturer of your motherboard. Also, physically, the slots for DDR memory and old SDR memory are different. Usually, if it supports DDR, it supports DDR. Even if the spec says something like PC2100 - PC2700, it will still accept something like PC3200 and just downclock it into the acceptable range...and least, I think so. But it doesn't work for RAM that is below the listed range, because it won't be able to keep up with your front side bus.
  17. Jan 15, 2005 #16
  18. Jan 16, 2005 #17
    i would get a AMD , since it tend to be cheaper & better at gaming (RTS mainly). but anyhoo..the most important thing should be the video card. i suggest u get a radeon 9800pro .since its cheap cheap cheap & its awsome. Radeon is the fastest in the world btw.

    atm.the pc u have just brought only allow u to play like crappy games (in term of graphic that is). bte if ur into strategy games..get Rise of Nations : T&P , which is the most complex RTS game ever made (require lots of thinking). but since u didn't get a nicer video card. i doubt u can play AOE III, which is expected to come out in nov 2005, n is expected to be the best RTS ever made.

    last comment: u shoulda just go to ur nearby retail store, n tell them what type of pc u perfer (eg. gaming, design, etc), & tell them ur budget. atm ur pc is nothing special (no offense) since its contain some crappy stuff in it, which u have no idea what (eg. motherbroad).

    an advice: update ur window! update all ur drivers! (eg. videocard driver, soundcard driver, etc) this is a must!
  19. Jan 16, 2005 #18
    As indicated at the beginning, the OP puts more emphasis on multitasking than gaming. In light of that, I think a 9800 pro, which was the top card on the market about a year or a year and a half ago, is not worth it. It is very expensive relative to the approximate total price of a computer that Hurkyl would be willing to buy, I think. Keep in mind that the GPU has little to do with multitasking ability, which is most greatly affected by RAM and CPU.

    But now it's done, he's bought a computer, so too much more deliberating shouldn't be necessary. I hope I have been helpful.
  20. Jan 27, 2005 #19


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    I will never buy a Gateway, Dell or Emachine. Although my 3 year old Gateway with 128MB RAM and 20GB loaded with Windows ME (horrid OS) has only crashed once (very recently). I have heard that building a computer with 120GB HD, 512MB RAM and a Pentium IV processor can cost less then $500. If you live on the west coast or Texas, Fry's is a great place to buy computer components.

  21. Jan 29, 2005 #20
    You installed the RAM and played for a combined total of 6 hours. Then the computer died. It's not faulty hardware atleast as far as the memory is concerned. I'd take it back to the place of purchase. As far as the clockspeeds go. 3200 will clock down to 2700 but unless if you tinker with that stuff and switch motherboards it would be wasted money. I recently went to buy RAM and the salesmen spent so long trying to sell the 3200 to me for future upgrades. For me it was pointless. I won't change motherboards as finding one for PowerPC processors is tough and when I upgrade a board I upgrade the whole thing which is a new computer about every 6-8 years.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook