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Thinking about a new (desktop) computer

  1. Sep 3, 2007 #1
    Hello, I am thinking about buying a new DESKTOP computer, but I would like some advice.

    First my OS has to be either Windows XP or Vista. I already have a disc for XP and I have no problem installing it from scratch if it were to save a significant amount of money.

    Second I should probably tell you what I will be using the computer for: Mostly I use Firefox, Thunderbird, Winamp (or iTunes), Minitab (statistical software), LaTeX stuff, and maybe a little bit of programming. No video games, or movie editing or anything like that. Also, I don't download music or videos, so I am perfectly fine with a 40gb harddrive.

    Also, I should tell you that I want to spend no more than $800 US, realistically I don't want to spend more than $700, and I think I have already found a sufficient computer for $650. I should add that I want to get a Flat Panel/LCD monitor included in that above price.

    Basically my question is about where I should buy such a computer for as cheap as possible. I am a college student, and I know our school has some kind of deal with Dell that has some discount to it, but I am wondering if I can find something cheaper and/or better.

    I am looking for:
    OS: Vista or no OS installed.
    Motherboard: Don't really know, or care
    Processor: Don't really care
    Ram: 1-2gb ddr
    HD: 40+gb (should be easy to meet)
    Drives: cd/dvd drive (does not need to write, though writable is a plus), USB needed as well
    Graphics Card: Don't really care too much, just needs to be able to play videos decently
    Sound Card: Play sound decently, nothing fancy, (on board might be OK)
    Power supply: whatever is necessary
    Monitor: Flat panel/LCD 17 or 19 inch (or more if reasonably priced).


    I think this comes into play on the motherboard, but I would like to have the possibility of upgrading memory to at least 4gb, the hard drive to 200gb (shouldn't be a problem), and a better graphics card, if necessary.

    I don't think I want to at the moment, but if it would save me a lot of money, I would be open to building the computer from scratch.

    Sorry for the long post, any help would be appreciated, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2007 #2
    for less than $700 something from dell would be ok since you're not demanding alot from it.

    But upgrade ability from them....I think you could do the ram easily as long as you have either 4 slots that you can do 1x gig each which is ALOT cheaper than 2x 2 gig.
    You should contact them to be sure how many RAM slots you have on the motherboard.

    Also you NEED a 64x OS like Vista 64x or XP 64x to use 4 gigs of RAM, 3.5 gigs I think is max for 32x OS's. Vista 64x is alot more updated driver-wise though.

    Upgrading a graphic card on a dell? hm..I have no idea how that would go...it might be best for you to consider building a desktop later on for about $1,000-$2,000.
    Also in a year or two newer OS's/graphic cards/cheaper RAM will be around.
  4. Sep 4, 2007 #3
    I'd go with buying all of the components of a computer and putting it together your self. I prefer to do it that way vs buying a Dell or some sort. It ends up giving you more control and in the end you get a computer that will better support your needs in most cases cheaper and/or more powerful then something bought. However like Bob said you will probably end up spending a bit more money for the first build. Later builds will be cheaper because you can recycle parts (4 builds later I'm still using my first case, and 3.5 floppy drive, my optical are on there second build).

    For the CPU I'd go with a Core 2 Duo. It has two cores so it will be able to handle multi tasking nicely. I'd stay away from any of the Quads unless you plan on doing a tonn of multi tasking. Also there are current a very limited amount of programs out there that are able to take advantage of multiple cores.

    For the motherboard it really depends on how much money you want to save. If you are looking at extremely tight budget look for a MB with a built in video processor. However you probably won't be able to run VISTA with that MB. If you really want to run Vista you will need to look at getting a separate video card. The good news is that even a MB with a built in video card will be able to support a separate card if you decide to upgrade.

    For the video card I'd look into any of the NIVIDA 8X00 cards. They all support DX10 (therefore will run Vista with its fancy stuff) and even the bottom of the series has some good specs.
  5. Sep 5, 2007 #4

    Given everything that you have outlined...including the above, I would suggest you buy a Dell unit.

    Alternately, if you know and trust computer builders, then I would have a machine made to your specifications.

    By nature, I am a Mac OS X user, but am growing in appreciation for Linux based machines.

    I use all four systems. Windows, OS X, Linux and Unix.

    To that end, Dell also offer Linux (Windows free) machines that inevitably translate the same dollars (that you would have otherwise spent on Vista) into machines with higher specs into which you can load Linux.

    If I may be so bold, I think you will find most of what you need, for free...aka Gratis...with Linux.

    On that note, my recommendation is Granular linux.




    Or even Xandros.


    All of which handle Latex one way or another...

    Good luck

  6. Sep 7, 2007 #5


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    Have a look at the basic Dell Dimension 9200. It has on board sound and runs Vista. It also has 4 memory slots allowing a maximum install of 4 GB of RAM. Although before forking out for 4 GB it is worth realizing that a limitation of all 32 bit OS is that they can only address a total of 4 GB (=2^32) and some of this is needed by the system and by some peripherals. The Dim 9200 comes with a graphics card (needed to run all of the features of Vista) but for the reason given the graphic card's onboard memory is subtracted from the 4 GB of available RAM.

    For home users Dell only ships the 32 bit version of Vista. Probably because there are very few applications and drivers written for the 64 bit version.

    If money is a gating factor have a look at the Dell Inspiron 530 or 531 instead. Both of which meet all of your criteria.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2007
  7. Sep 7, 2007 #6


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  8. Sep 9, 2007 #7
    NEVER buy a dell desktop, they come with 250 watts of power and u get a lot of power issues, get Vista ultimate and a decent dual core or quad core, AMD is good and Intel is also.
  9. Sep 9, 2007 #8
    Yeah AMD dose make some good chips (about time). However I've always gone with Intel chips because of there superior ability to run math based programs (any simulation).
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2007
  10. Sep 9, 2007 #9


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    If you buy a Dell, better hope you've got good luck. Their customer support is the pits. They have outsourced support to foreign-based call centers staffed with people who are even less-skilled than the US-based script-monkeys they used previously, except now you have a language barrier to contend with. When I had problems with my Dell LCD monitors (bad color-shift from left to right, multiple stuck pixels, etc), I got nonsense "advice" like "download a new driver" or the really pitiful "degauss your monitor". If it wasn't happening to me, I might have gotten a laugh out of it - instead, I got a really quick lesson about Dell's commitment to its customers. If there is a local company with a good reputation building systems in your town, go to them and give them your business.
  11. Sep 9, 2007 #10


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    :confused: The PSU on my Dell is 375 watts.
  12. Sep 9, 2007 #11


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    It's not much use if you are looking for warranty support but for technical advise I have always found the Dell Forums, which are comprised solely of users, to be excellent.
  13. Sep 9, 2007 #12


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    When you have been shipped a flat-screen LCD monitor that has an obvious and unacceptable color-shift (left-to-right) that bisects the screen and have been shipped "refurbished" (read "re-boxed") replacements with numerous stuck pixels, including many that are contiguous, and create hot spots on any screen (and I do rely on visual quality for my astronomical research), you may be justified in questioning Dell's customer support. They ship replacements fairly promptly once you figure out how to get past the idiots at the first and second layers of "support", but they are a crap company, established to gain short-term dominance and profit and bail out. Beware.
  14. Sep 9, 2007 #13


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    lol I used to work for them a few years back and yet still like them :biggrin:

    Although quality might vary depending on what geographic area you are served by in europe I've always found them excellent and still buy my new systems from them.
  15. Sep 9, 2007 #14
    I quickly skimmed this so i'm sorry if this was allready answered, but have you ever built your own computer? I have always had bad luck with Dell. The power supplies always die and the hard drives tend to fail quickly. I just recently built a computer and it was inexpensive 600$ and it is dual core with a gig of ram which i will upgrade soon. In my opinion I would stick with XP for your OS, but its all just personal preferance.
  16. Sep 11, 2007 #15
    Yep I do, thanks for all the responses. I think I will wait until my current computer gets worse, and maybe I will have a little more money and the time to build my own.
  17. Sep 16, 2007 #16
  18. Oct 10, 2007 #17
    MMMM is This How you Like It!

    :surprisedi have a Compaq Evo-500D Window 2000 Professionl 1-2cpu,
    With a Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 1.70 GHZ Processer, 240mb (RAM) Memory SystemType 32-bit Operating System i gave $200 for it.
    Now the fun. i up it to a Windows vista Ultimate. first had to put a DVD Player in it. For Vista is on a DVD $199. DVD RW $25,
    When i play the dvd it say i need 550mb of Ram first.
    so i had to get 240mb Ram $20 & 120mb $10 out $454....That give me 575mb of Ram
    Now on that 20GB Disk i have 4GB of Free Space.....
    Boy i Love it its a good PC ...... Now i need to get a 40+GB Disk $40.
    But that ok i just be out $494. The Pc not New but work just as good as a new one!
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2007
  19. Oct 11, 2007 #18
    Had to sign up just to reply to this lol. Cant stand to see people waste money.

    Something like this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883114030 is more than enough for the things you described that you do. (Does not include monitor). You would also need to buy another 512 stick and pop it in there also since Vista is a POS that runs like crap with less than 1gig of memory. Same site has 512 sticks for 16 bucks + shipping though. Make sure you get DDR2 533 like http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231016

    Or if you can build your own and have spare parts from your last computer (Cd rom drives, Hard drives, Case, PSU, etc...) you could probably build one for even less.

    For the things you described that you do, 512 ram is enough (Depending on how heavily you multitask and how clean you keep your OS). Any processor 1ghz+ is good enough and same for video. All depends on how heavily you multi task though. IF you mean you run all of those programs at once you would probably benefit from 1 gig of ram and a proc 2ghz+.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2007
  20. Oct 11, 2007 #19
    http://www.itfactory.co.uk/images/photos/Compaq-Evo-D500.jpg [Broken]
    Compaq Evo-500D With a Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 1.70 GHZ Processer, 240mb (RAM)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
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