Advice on buying new desktop: paralyzed by all the choices!

<p>For the last 12 years, I've been using the same Dell Dimension desktop that I bought when my former spouse and I separated in 2000. Complete with state of the art 9GB hard drive, two USB 1.0 connections, and so on. Believe it or not, it still works just fine with my cable Internet connection, after adding as much RAM as was possible and an external hard drive. Especially after I installed Windows XP and changed from IE to Firefox years ago. But it's just so slow that it's essentially impossible even to watch YouTube videos, let alone TV shows, movies, etc. Which my son complains about bitterly whenever he's home!</p>

<p>So I do think it's time, finally, to buy a new desktop after all these years. Especially since I just bought a new printer (the old one died), and decided that maybe there isn't much point bothering to hook it up to the old computer; why not just wait to buy a new one? And I don't even need a new monitor; I bought a new one a year or so ago after the original dinosaur that came with the Dell -- which was about as bulky and heavy as an old TV with a picture tube -- stopped working.</p>

<p>I don't want to spend more than $500 or so for a new computer tower, and it doesn't seem I should have to. The problem is that there are so many similar machines that I simply don't know how to decide among them. I asked the IT person at my office, but he just started expounding on i-3 and i-5 and quad-4 processors, all of which is just Greek to me!</p>

<p>For example, the following all look good to me -- a Lenovo, an HP, and a Gateway:</p>

<p><a href="http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Lenovo+-+IdeaCentre+Desktop+/+Intel%26%23174%3B+Pentium%26%23174%3B+Processor+/+6GB+Memory+/+1TB+Hard+Drive/2677297.p?skuId=2677297&id=1218343869103#tabbed-customerreviews%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Lenovo+-+IdeaCentre+Desktop+/+Intel%26%23174%3B+Pentium%26%23174%3B+Processor+/+6GB+Memory+/+1TB+Hard+Drive/2677297.p?skuId=2677297&id=1218343869103#tabbed-customerreviews&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>HP</a> Pavilion p7-1202 Desktop PC | HP® Official Store</p>

<p>Gateway</a> - Desktop / Intel® Core™ i3 Processor / 6GB Memory / 1TB Hard Drive - DX4860-UB32P</p>

<p>Plus, the guy at my office told me that I could put together the equivalent easily enough from Dell. I have no problem going with Dell again, but it always takes a while for them to put an order together, and I'm tempted simply to order something that can be shipped right away.</p>

<p>I simply don't know enough to decide among all these choices; for the two that have a lot of reviews that I could find (the Lenovo and the Gateway), the reviews are all quite positive. And even apart from the different individual machines, I haven't been current on the differing reputations of these companies in a very long time. Lenovo desktops are what used to be IBM, right? </p>

<p>So. Do any of you kind people have any thoughts? Please assume you're talking to someone who isn't interested in a lot of technical details, and probably wouldn't understand much of it anyway!</p>

<p>Many thanks.</p>

<p>I would get a laptop, and only hook it up to the big monitor when I needed the space. ( e.g working on two documents at once.). Personally,I think desktop computers are too..stationary! ;)</p>

<p>But I don't wanna buy a laptop!</p>

<p>Our desktop is practically on life support right now, so I'm looking for a new one too. The advice we get basically falls into two categories:</p>

<p>1) Get a laptop instead! You can carry it wherever you want to in the house, and Dad would really like that, and then you could hand the old tower over to fill-in-name-of-computer-geek-buddy-here and he/she can rip out those old dead/dying parts and rebuild it and then we will have THREE computers here and everyone can be online all at once!!!
Sub category 1: Get whatever laptop is cheapest this week at Staples/Best Buy/Microcenter/fill-in-blank-here because honestly, they are all about the same.
Sub category 2: Mom! Get a MacBook like MINE and then I can give you all the software and everything and look you can get a re-conditioned one at Microcenter for only $XXX!!!!!!!</p>

<p>2) Get whatever PC tower is cheapest this week at Staples/Best Buy/Microcenter/fill-in-blank-here because honestly, they are all about the same.
Sub category 1: Get whatever reconditioned PC tower is cheapest this week at Staples/Best Buy/Microcenter/fill-in-blank-here because honestly, they are all about the same and they are even cheaper than the new ones.</p>

<p>When/if I decide on a model (or Happydad gets tired of my dithering and goes and buys one on his own) I'll let you know. Although in all honesty, that re-conditioned MacBook looks better by the day....</p>

<p>$500-700 should get you a very decent mid-high end desktop. However, it is best to use your IT person to guide you to ensure you're getting the most capability for the money. </p>

<p>Computer companies love to prey on consumers who don't know the technical details to confuse them with marketing-speak. </p>

<p>What are you going to be using that desktop for?</p>

<p>Also...DON'T BUY THE ABSOLUTE CHEAPEST computer unless you've had that model thoroughly vetted by your resident PC experts. Most tend to be really low-end garbage with a variety of problems that are aggravating to deal with...including hardware failures within the first year of ownership or just beyond it.</p>

<p>I have an HP Pavilion Slimline that I love. It has a 20" monitor, so I can have two documents up side-by-side. I've had it for two years and haven't had a bit of trouble with it. Note that I don't do gaming or anything, just email, web-browsing, and Word. </p>

<p>I always buy a middle-of-the-line computer, since I don't need most of the bells and whistles that come with the higher-end ones. For portability I also have a netbook, which I'll probably eventually replace with a tablet.</p>

<p>I have three desktops that I use that were purchased in the last three years. Two of them are Dell refurbs aimed at the small business market. These were in the $800-$1,000 marked down to $580 - they did not last very long in the refurb store. They were purchased two or three years ago and have a huge amount of compute power.</p>

<p>I built my home desktop this past January from components purchased at Newegg. Lot of power, expandability, very fast and quality components all around. The big manufacturers use commodity parts and buy them in huge quantities and sometimes you get a bad part or a bad batch and then you have to deal with repairs.</p>

<p>I avoid HP as they've been in cost-cutting mode for a long time. I have two desktops from them. One had the power supply go out after a year (so out of warranty). The other we still use but it's had some problems that I've had to fix.</p>

<p>I like Dell desktops. I like Lenovo products. I don't like Gateway.</p>

<p>Another consideration is power consumption. A green drive will reduce power consumption at a slight loss in performance. An SSD drive will reduce power and your computer will run a lot faster but they are more expensive. The Core i3 processor has plenty of processing power but i3s are lower-binned parts so they will use more power at the equivalent performance level compared to a higher-binned part.</p>

<p>Your old computer ran for 12 years. 12 years ago, the quality of parts was generally a lot better but you also probably spent much more money for that system 12 years ago.</p>

<p>You could order a Dell refurb that would go right out as it's already built.</p>

<p>DS is a computer geek. Just researched laptops, which I know you don't want, and gave me all the info. I bought two lenovo laptops for Christmas gifts. DS and DH both computer geeks, love them. One other item. You don't have to buy lenovo from best buy. If you set up an ebates account you and then go from their site to lenovo you will get about four percent back in a check from ebates.</p>

<p>Adding that Lenovo we bought was a solid state drive. DS and DH felt it was worth the extra money. Your mileage may vary.</p>

<p>Computer is such a commodities now a days, branding really don' make a lot of difference. However, there are things will differenciate one to the other:</p>

<ol>
<li>CPU speed. You can have choices depends the use of your computer. Try to get the quad core or better. Dual processor if needed.</li>
<li>Quiet Operation, the power supply makes a lot of differnece and a durable power supply makes the life easier. Do you need a water cooling power system for over-drive?</li>
<li>Option slots: Do you have some old card that you have to have? then you need to select the appropriate MB.</li>
<li>Display cards, An option card makes a lot of difference if you need a higher end board from the on-board.</li>
<li>The Monitor, the stock monitor comes with the computer may not serve your need, shop for one that works for you and buy a box only computer.</li>
<li>Network Card, can the on-board NIC fast enough to match your network?</li>
<li>Sound card, the on-board sound output may not be of your standard, if you were to watch DVD over it.</li>
</ol>

<p>Anyway, those are I can think of at this moment</p>

<p>Thanks for all the suggestions! BC Eagle, my IT guy -- who likes Dell a lot -- also suggested seeing what Dell refurbished desktops are available, so maybe I'll look at that too. It's not like I care about "cosmetic blemishes" on a computer tower, as long as it works well. The Inspiron 620 seems quite popular. And a lot of them seem to have i5 processors, which I assume is better than an i3 (based on nothing but the fact that it's more expensive).</p>

<p>It's amazing to me how huge the hard drives are in all these computers. How in the world would anyone ever begin to use up an entire terabyte, 1000 GB's? I don't download much stuff, but in 12 years I've only managed to fill up most of the original 9 GB, plus maybe another 15 or 20 on the external hard drive I bought!</p>

<p>By the way, I would guess I probably paid about $1000 for my computer back in 2000, because with Dell the base price included virtually nothing, and every single "option" -- like a CD drive! -- cost extra. But I've certainly gotten my money's worth. As I said, it still works fine; the only problem is that it's not fast enough to be useful for any kind of media. Not that either I, or my son, play video games, so the ability to do that isn't something I have to be concerned with. </p>

<p>The only bad things I've heard about Dell are that some of their laptops weren't that great (I bought my son one 4 years ago that was always having problems), and that people used to complain a lot about their customer service. But it's been at least 5 years or so since I've had any problem with mine that would have required calling customer service, and most of the problems before that came from using Windows Millennium and Internet Explorer, both of which I always hated.</p>

<br>


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<p>Some of their refurbs are unused. Customers order and Dell builds
computers for them but sometimes customers cancel the order before
it is shipped or return them for one reason or another. So in some
cases, you can get new systems. If there are blemishes, I beleive
that's indicated in the inventory screen.</p>

<br>


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<p>I prefer their business systems (not sure whether the Inspiron is
consumer only or both) as they are generally built a little better.
The i5 processors are generally quad-core. I believe that the i3
processors are dual-core or dual-core with hyperthreading (which
is a bit hard to explain without some background in computer
architecture). The i5 may have more cache memory too.</p>

<br>


<br>

<p>Video files take up a huge amount of space. If you take home videos
or purchase videos for download, they can soak up a lot of space. I
bought a TV series from iTunes and the 60 minute episodes are about
1.8 GB each. If you have movies or YouTube clips, you can use up a
lot of space. I've also downloaded a lot of MIT Open Courseware
videos and have about 400 MB of those video files.</p>

<p>Teenagers can accumulate a lot of this stuff.</p>

<br>


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<p>There was an industry-wide problems with video cards in laptops made
by nVidia four years ago and this affected HP, Dell, Apple and other
laptop makers. I think that Dell may have had some additional
problems.</p>

<br>


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<p>Retail customer service is off-shore. Business customers get domestic
customer service which is why I prefer to buy their business models.</p>

<p>
[quote]
It's amazing to me how huge the hard drives are in all these computers. How in the world would anyone ever begin to use up an entire terabyte, 1000 GB's?

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Donna, my main criterion is always speed, and one of the few things I know about buying computers is: Get as much hard drive as you can, more than you think you'd need in ten lifetimes. Two reasons: First, application size grows exponentially over time, so anything you install two years from now will be much larger than a comparable application today. Plus you install more than you think; every time you update, say, your anti-virus, you're putting something on the hard drive. And as BC notes, pictures and especially videos are bulky.</p>

<p>The second reason: As my own geek told me, "Computers run best when they have ALOT of elbow room, and if you want it to have elbow room a few years from now, you need to get massive amounts of capacity now." Extra capacity isn't all that expensive, and money well-spent for me.</p>

<p>My rule of thumb is to buy one level below what a serious gamer would buy. That always gets me a screamin fast computer.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I prefer their business systems (not sure whether the Inspiron is
consumer only or both) as they are generally built a little better.
The i5 processors are generally quad-core. I believe that the i3
processors are dual-core or dual-core with hyperthreading (which
is a bit hard to explain without some background in computer
architecture). The i5 may have more cache memory too.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>You're thinking of the Latitude which is Dell's business-line. I would agree as the Inspirons built after 2003 tended to have serious reliability and build-quality issues. </p>

<p>While I do have one....that was obtained free from a friend whose mother grew so fed up with it that after helping her set up her new laptop, she dumped the old one on me. Surprised the only issues with it was a bad power cord and a dusty heat-sink fan. Most of the inspirons that were of the same model tended to have video, motherboard, or LCD screen die within a matter of months due to bad hardware builds and buggy bios which caused overheating issues (Corrected on subsequent bios versions...but most people don't know about/don't want to deal with upgrading a computer's bios firmware). </p>

<p>Dealt with many which crapped out just after the one-year standard warranty ran out....such an aggravation for those affected. </p>

<p>While the Latitude does have better support and build quality, I've also noticed the later models also having some serious issues. Several friends working in other companies have had serious overheating and other hardware issues with their corporate Latitudes which meant lots of aggravations and calls to Dell business support.</p>

<p>If money's an issue, you will get faster speed and more memory dollar for dollar with a desktop than a laptop. Plus ergonomically, they're better if you're doing a lot of word processing (typing) because you have a free standing keyboard that's usually slanted so it minimizes stress on your wrist, and you're usually seated in a chair (vs. slouched on a couch or in bed which is how most people use a laptop). I had a Dell desktop and it was fine.</p>

<p>I need a laptop..primarily so I can run Excel...the home version...
The Ipad doesn't cut it...</p>

<p>That is pretty much it....so what should I get?</p>

<p>dstark - you definitely need a MacBook Pro, 13 inch model.</p>

<p>Lenovo :-). Awesome laptops (Thinkpad line) but expensive. DD1 and Mrs. Turbo each have a T420.</p>

<p>Mrs. Turbo has gone thru a bunch of work HP's (not so great) and Compaq's (worse), I've gotten a couple of Dell hands me down laptops for travel at work (mobile workstations) but for serious work, only a high-powered desktop will do. </p>

<p>I spent 20 years assembling PC's but my last couple have been Shuttles (Welcome</a> :: Shuttle Global Website). Awesome stuff, cute, compact, and very reliable... OK price.</p>

<p>Ok.....thanks....</p>

<p>Plenty of good desktops here</a>for under $300.</p>

<p>I bought my last one here 3 years ago and it is still going strong. And I bought a refurb!</p>