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Author Topic: Specs for new pc?  (Read 4235 times)
jeromg
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« on: June 06, 2010, 03:54:11 PM »

Hi fellow dc-ers,

I'm looking to build a pc for my kids (email, web surfing and some gaming). I'm looking for some ideas in terms of cpu, motherboard, case, disk, memory... possibly tested configurations. The excellent guys at ArsTechnica used to have hardware guides with several configurations (budget box, hotrod and god box) but they've not been updated for quite some time (Oct 2009), any other good trusted source?
Thanks in advance.

Cheers  /jerome
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2010, 05:22:34 PM »

www.Maximumpc.com regularly publishes updated builds you might want to take a look at.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 05:24:54 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Innuendo
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2010, 07:10:48 PM »

Ars Technica is becoming more and more irrelevant since they were bought out by Conde Nast.

All the cool kids, including the ones who used to use Ars religiously for PC build guides now use www.tech-report.com. Here's a link to I believe the latest one - here.

Added bonus: Unlike Ars who didn't build a single build they recommended (which led to a LOT of non-working, buggy build complaints in their forums) Tech-Report builds it & only then recommends it.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2010, 07:44:08 PM »

www.Maximumpc.com regularly publishes updated builds you might want to take a look at.

What the heck? They've got an article on how to build a PC on your budget, and the two budgets listed are $1,500 and $2,000. That's not what I have in mind when I think of "budget."
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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2010, 10:23:19 PM »

www.Maximumpc.com regularly publishes updated builds you might want to take a look at.

What the heck? They've got an article on how to build a PC on your budget, and the two budgets listed are $1,500 and $2,000. That's not what I have in mind when I think of "budget."

The Tech Report has:
Quote
At the low end, our Econobox has now drifted closer to our $500 target price

Closer??
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Deozaan
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2010, 10:46:22 PM »

The Tech Report has:
Quote
At the low end, our Econobox has now drifted closer to our $500 target price

Closer??

Yep. $1,000 just seems too expensive for me for a new computer. Somewhere in the $600-$900 range seems pretty close to right.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2010, 10:50:17 PM »

By the way, for anyone looking, here's Tech Report's Spring 2010 System Guide.

I had a bit of a hard time locating it because I wasn't sure what to look for. Hint: Look for the New Egg logo.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2010, 01:06:04 AM »

Why bother building it for those simple needs? You're not going to save much money (especially if you include your time in the equation) vs. a system builder.

- Oshyan
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daddydave
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2010, 05:12:50 AM »

Why bother building it for those simple needs? You're not going to save much money (especially if you include your time in the equation) vs. a system builder.

- Oshyan
Mostly true, but a few advantages remain:

  • Off-the-shelf systems tend to bundle memory according to how high-end the other specs are. I would have paid a lot more for an off-the-shelf system with 8GB memory, but I didn't need a processor, graphics card, or audio that was on the high end.
  • It's nice to buy an OEM Windows disk instead of a disk with the manufacturer's crapware bundled with the OS.
  • Easier to fix the computer yourself using off the shelf parts instead of the manufacturer's parts deliberately overpriced to sell extended warranties (at least it was that way when I worked at CompUSA a long time ago)

Try starting with a Motherboard/CPU/Cooler combo that meets your requirements and go from there.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2010, 05:22:01 AM by daddydave » Logged
40hz
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2010, 07:34:25 AM »

Unless you have some specialist application in mind (i.e. DAW, server, etc.), I don't see many compelling financial reasons to roll your own PC if you're on a sub $1k budget.

T'was a time when I wouldn't own a PC unless I built it myself. But the cost/value ratio has shifted a lot over the last five years so I've been forced to rethink my earlier position.

A quick scan over at Newegg spotted one machine from a 'big name' that had an Intel i3 530 chip/6Gb RAM/1 TB HD/DVD Super-Multi drive/5-in-1 media card reader/ 1 available PCI-E slot/ Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit/ yadda-yadda-yadda...plus a 1 year parts and labor warranty...and all for $560.

Note that this is a fully assembled and set up machine - as in "known good and tested configuration."

There were several others that also looked pretty good.

So unless you're planning to build either for the enjoyment or educational experience gained by doing so, it really doesn't make much sense to scratch-build a general purpose low-mid level PC these days. Especially if you're only building one and not getting any volume discounts on the components.

That being said, it is definitely a lot of fun to put a new PC together.

Or at least it is for the first ten or twenty you build.  Grin

--------------
Quote
Easier to fix the computer yourself using off the shelf parts instead of the manufacturer's parts deliberately overpriced to sell extended warranties (at least it was that way when I worked at CompUSA a long time ago)

I think that's a thing of the past. Every PC I've looked at in the past 10 years uses standard components. While some may have manufacturer labels on them, they're all made by the same companies (Seagate, Intel, ATI, NVidia, etc.) So swapping components is not an issue these days.

The only possible problem areas are the power supplies and motherboards. But replacement power supplies are available from 3rd-party suppliers for every make and model out there.

Motherboards are a different issue due to case layout and mounting concerns - and the fact that many OEM versions of the supplied OS are keyed to only work with that manufacturer's motherboards and chipsets.

My feeling is that if you have to replace a motherboard, you might as well just get a new PC and recycle parts from the old PC into it. That, or use the salvageable parts as the basis for a new scratch-build.

One place where it does make sense to build your own basic PC is if you have a good collection of usable components on your junk shelf. Franken-PCs are great for appliance use, web browsing, and general productivity applications.

And it's a lot more environmentally friendly to recycle old PC parts into working machines than it is to further contaminate our landfills by tossing them. Discarded lithium batteries are already beginning to become an environmental problem in some areas. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In many locales, it's already illegal to put computer components in with the regular trash.

(Not that any DC member would ever do anything that irresponsible, right?  naughty)

Quote
It's nice to buy an OEM Windows disk instead of a disk with the manufacturer's crapware bundled with the OS.

With you 100% on that score, but that's the fault of Microsoft rather than the PC manufacturers. And maybe it isn't really Microsoft's fault either when you consider all the shenanigans and casual rip-offs that used to go on back in the days of W95/W2K when everybody shipped a genuine Microsoft CD with their PC.

One good trend is that many manufacturers have seen the light and are no longer loading crapware onto their machines.

But there are still some that do. The biggest offenders seem to be the machines you get at 'big box' stores. That's because these stores have their own deals with various crapware companies, and require the PC manufacturers to do a custom build of the installed software on machines sold through their store.

Basic rule of thumb - don't get a PC from a 'big box' store unless you absolutely have to. You can almost always get a better deal either going directly to the manufacturer or one of the reputable mail order suppliers. And best of all, you won't be provoked to murder some polo-shirted store employee who keeps trying to trick you into buying their overpriced "extended warranty."



FWIW, it's also not too difficult to get rid of that junk. It's certainly less work than loading a fresh copy of Windows, installing updates, loading drivers (and doing that in the correct sequence), updating those, installing recovery software, building recovery disks, running a...well...you get the picture.


Luck! Thmbsup
« Last Edit: June 07, 2010, 06:26:29 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Innuendo
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2010, 08:19:53 PM »

I had a bit of a hard time locating it because I wasn't sure what to look for. Hint: Look for the New Egg logo.

Or you could have saved some time and just followed the link in my reply above, Deozaan.  Grin
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Innuendo
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2010, 08:23:52 PM »

Why bother building it for those simple needs? You're not going to save much money (especially if you include your time in the equation) vs. a system builder.

If you build it yourself you have complete control over what goes into the PC. With a system builder you have to deal with what they think is best...and even worse, deal with what they think is acceptable to cut corners on.

Take, for example, ATI graphics cards. There are many brands out there - Gigabyte, Asus, Sapphire, etc. All the prices are very similar. However, the smart shopper will buy one made by XFX. You won't spend anymore, but you'll get a double lifetime warranty instead of a warranty as short as a year.
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daddydave
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« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2010, 04:36:23 AM »

If you build it yourself you have complete control over what goes into the PC. With a system builder you have to deal with what they think is best...and even worse, deal with what they think is acceptable to cut corners on.

Amen to that. You may not save any money making your own sausage, but you know what goes in it.

Cutting corners on memory is my peeve.  I will cut corners myself, but even then I have control over what I cut corners on.

Thanks for the tip about XFX cards.
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daddydave
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« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2010, 04:59:41 AM »


FWIW, it's also not too difficult to get rid of that junk. It's certainly less work than loading a fresh copy of Windows, installing updates, loading drivers (and doing that in the correct sequence), updating those, installing recovery software, building recovery disks, running a...well...you get the picture.

Actually I don't. Surely the easiest way to get rid of crapware is not to install it in the first place, is it not? On my own systems, I haven't had an issue with drivers having to be installed in the correct sequence since Windows 98 at the latest.  What recovery software are you referring to? I do have a curated list of software that gets installed on a new system, but if I had an off the shelf system, I would additionally have to have a curated list of software that gets uninstalled.

I'm glad there's less crapware on a standard install than there used to be. Guess how much crapware I would like. Also I don't have a lot of experience with choosing a vendor that bundles the fewest unwanted apps, but I do have a lot of experience installing and tweaking Windows from a bare install. A lot of it is about leveraging existing skill sets.

But I agree with a lot of what you say, nowadays it is not so much saving money or time as having control. And my thinking evolved in the formative years of the PC industry, where you had to think like a hobbyist, for me personally it is hard to give up that control. Kind of the same reason I don't want a Mac. (I guess Linux advocates would say the same about Windows.)
« Last Edit: June 08, 2010, 05:37:55 AM by daddydave » Logged
daddydave
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2010, 05:28:03 AM »

You can almost always get a better deal either going directly to the manufacturer or one of the reputable mail order suppliers.

Do you mean ordering from HP or Dell directly, is there a specific vendor you recommend?
« Last Edit: June 08, 2010, 07:25:40 AM by daddydave » Logged
40hz
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« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2010, 06:51:50 AM »

Actually I don't. Surely the easiest way to get rid of crapware is not to install it in the first place, is it not?

True. But there's always free tools like PC Decrapifier for situations where a machine is loaded with as much junk as you can shake a stick at. This utility has made getting rid of junk so easy that even a relative neophyte could handle it.

So yes, while it's better not to have it on your box in the first place, it's still no big deal to get rid of.

I haven't had an issue with drivers having to be installed in the correct sequence since Windows 98 at the latest.

Depends on what you're building. Today it's more about hassles with BIOS updates rather than driver issues. So yes, you won't encounter driver installation sequence issues too much any more. But it still does rear it's ugly head from time to time.

What recovery software are you referring to?

Anything that allows you to make your own disk image recovery set. Macrium Reflect is an excellent choice for Windows machines.

I really like Macrium. They even use the word "whilst" on their website. Grin Thmbsup

Clonezilla will do the same (plus a whole lot more) for for any OS, including Windows.

There's a DC thread running on this topic over here.

Also I don't have a lot of experience with choosing a vendor that bundles the fewest unwanted apps, but I do have a lot of experience installing and tweaking Windows from a bare install. A lot of it is about leveraging existing skill sets.

But I agree with a lot of what you say, nowadays it is not so much saving money or time as having control.

Agree. Mostly. But as I get older, I'm finding (for me) it is more about saving time. More about getting it done correctly with the least amount of unnecessary effort.

But I do this for a living. And I've been doing it for a loooong time! My first PC (not my first computer) was an IBM PC-XT with dual 5-1/4" floppy drives. So maybe I'm just getting a tad bit lazy about Windows machines now that I'm in my dotage. After you build better than a hundred and configure/tweak more than a few thousand machines, anything is likely to stop being as much fun as it used to.

Fortunately for me, the thrill is not completely gone. Thank heavens for Linux and BSD!  Kiss

Luck with your build. Thmbsup

« Last Edit: June 08, 2010, 07:36:55 AM by 40hz » Logged

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daddydave
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2010, 08:25:59 AM »

True. But there's always free tools like PC Decrapifier for situations where a machine is loaded with as much junk as you can shake a stick at. This utility has made getting rid of junk so easy that even a relative neophyte could handle it.

So many intangibles here. I ran that tool one time and was a little proud and confused that it didn't find anything.


Quote

Anything that allows you to make your own disk image recovery set. Macrium Reflect is an excellent choice for Windows machines.

I really like Macrium. They even use the word "whilst" on their website. Grin Thmbsup

Clonezilla will do the same (plus a whole lot more) for for any OS, including Windows.

There's a DC thread running on this topic over here.


Quote
Agree. Mostly. But as I get older, I'm finding (for me) it is more about saving time. More about getting it done correctly with the least amount of unnecessary effort.

I like to think that the bit about saving time is true for me as well, but it's surprising how easily it is for me to rationalize things that consume time as having educational value. For a while, I was making my own unattended  Windows install disks with my own preferred apps, drivers, and tweaks. I found a tool called HFSLIP that supported by habit along with Virtual PC, and even went as far as writing an AutoIt3 script to bulk edit INF files to help with driver slipstreaming. It became a time consuming hobby because I wanted to get everything perfect, when I went to Vista, which wasn't supported by HFSLIP, it gave me a chance to quit cold turkey, which I did. Recently I came to know that sadly the authors of HFSLIP had to kill it because they were getting harrassed by people demanding free support for use in their corporate environments! I'm going to give that a separate thread when I get around to it. I started making unattended install disks with HSLIP out of a desire to have one of those recovery disks the box store people had that would install my core list of apps instead of a bunch of things I don't need.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2010, 09:38:03 AM by daddydave » Logged
Deozaan
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« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2010, 12:58:59 PM »

I had a bit of a hard time locating it because I wasn't sure what to look for. Hint: Look for the New Egg logo.

Or you could have saved some time and just followed the link in my reply above, Deozaan.  Grin

Wow, I completely missed it! embarassed
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40hz
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« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2010, 03:33:56 PM »

I started making unattended install disks with HSLIP out of a desire to have one of those recovery disks the box store people had that would install my core list of apps instead of a bunch of things I don't need.

Unless I'm configuring multiples, I just do a clean install with all current updates. After that I tweak the appearance, settings, and menus just the way I like them. I've done it so many times I can almost do it in my sleep. It takes about ten minutes on a bad day.

Then I just take an image of the drive, label it GENESIS{DATE} and call it a day.

As long as I have that DVD, I can get back to right where I was when I first set it up.

I don't bother with apps since my list of favs is subject to change and updated constantly. Ninite takes care of installing the usual suspects quite easily. I also use Ketarin to keep my current preferred app installers folder up to date.

For post-GENESIS Windows 7 updates, I find AutoPatcher to be a major time saver. Info and link to download here.

 Thmbsup

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daddydave
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« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2010, 04:36:06 PM »

Ninite takes care of installing the usual suspects quite easily.

I was using AppSnap for the same purpose. Unfortunately I think it has been discontinued, I think I caught this on the author's twitter feed. It had a huge database of apps, whereas Ninite seems to have only a handful. Now I use the FileHippo updater for this purpose and trying to figure out a way to make those kick off install automatically and then delete the setup file after installing.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2010, 04:39:33 PM by daddydave » Logged
daddydave
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« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2010, 04:41:55 PM »

I also use Ketarin to keep my current preferred app installers folder up to date

Ketarin looks interesting, especially this part:

Quote
Run custom commands after downloading

Sounds like it could run custom silent installs.
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« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2010, 09:37:18 PM »

Wow, I completely missed it! embarassed

I figured you did, but I couldn't resist teasing you about it. Wink
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« Reply #22 on: June 10, 2010, 02:23:56 PM »

Personally, while I agree in general with what is said, I like TigerDirect's approach.  They will sell you a pre-bundled, pre-tested kit of hardware that you then build.  It is sort of in between the HP/DELL/WHOEVER machines that you buy and use, and the labor intensive research and determine what you want to build.  I learned a long time ago, building your own can look awesome on paper, and just have conflict after conflict that (if you are lucky) provides mediocre performance.  I once built a machine that spec'd twice as good as an off-the-shelf HP at about the same price, yet the HP out performed it because of the conflicts and issues between manufacturers.  It eventually got worked out and I still use that machine today, but it was a hassle and it never significantly outperformed the HP's & Dell's with similar specs, even after the bugs were worked out.

Now a days, I buy bundles that meet my minimum requirements and buy additional parts to fit.  For example, I recently looked at one of the TigerDirect bundles that had 2GB of Memory among other things.  I figured this, plus 2 more GB of memory and a video card (instead of the onboard video) was all I would need to make a machine I was looking for at the time.  Total cost, about $600.  About half of that was the video card. (Obviously not cutting edge stuff here, so that accounts for some too).  Just wanted to offer that as another option to the Newegg research and buy method....
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JavaJones
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« Reply #23 on: June 10, 2010, 03:17:17 PM »

Careful, I bought a bundle off TigerD about 6 months ago that did *not* work out of the box! And they wouldn't replace the PSU that did not have the right 12V connector for the motherboard unless I paid for the upgrade (reasonable in normal circumstances, but they sold it to me as a "bundle" implying it would work). They were even recommending some significantly more expensive PSUs, which I thought was crappy as there were cheaper ones that would do.

- Oshyan
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