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What counts as a "good computer"?

cooljammer00cooljammer00 HeySmall Christmas-Man!Registered User regular
edited February 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm looking through these Best Buy, and Circuit City catalogs and whatnot, and my parents keep pointing at computers and asking me "Hey, is this a good computer?". Now, I know those computers from Dell and other companies are kinda pricey (ripoffs), but I still can't answer my parents. What makes a "good computer"? Bare minimums, stuff like that.

I need a general idea of what a "good computer" is.

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    Magus`Magus` The fun has been DOUBLED! Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    What makes a good computer depends on what you want it for.

    If it's basic stuff like websurfing and writing, then a 3-5 year old computer is 'good'.

    If you wanna play the latest games then you're gonna need something more recent.

    Magus` on
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    frittfritt Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    I want it to run WoW :(

    fritt on
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    kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    a good computer is one that does what you want it to. buy the cheapest dell desktop when they give away monitors and you are good to go.

    kaliyama on
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    WylderWylder Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    WoW isnt all that big of a resource hog.

    You probably wouldn't run it on anything with only onboard video. But as long as it has an actual graphics card in the machine, WoW can probably handle it as well as the next machine.

    Wylder on
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    robaalrobaal Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    For new systems:

    The CPU should be either an Athlon 64 or Core 2 Duo, though the specific speed isn't that important - even the slowest ones should play games and decode high resolution video fast enough. Semprons might also be acceptable from around 2GHz, though not all of them are 64bit and even though they might have a higher number by the name, most A64s should be a better choice.
    The more recent Pentium 4 CPUs are especially to be avoided, as they run hot, use a lot of power and don't perform that great.
    For laptops any mobile Intel CPU would be good, this includes Pentium M, Celeron M, Core Solo, Core Duo and Core 2 Duo; I think mobile Athlons will use more power and have lower performance than the Intel chips.


    The chipset the motherboard uses can cause problems with drivers and stuff, so you should check that out. I believe Intel chipsets to be least problematic, and nVIDIA makes some good ones for the AMD platform. ATI and VIA might be more problematic, but their present chipsets tend to offer decent performance. SiS or ULi and earlier VIA chipsets I wouldn't trust to much.
    More than 2 memory slots are nice to have, so that you can add more RAM to it instead of replacing it.
    A PCI-E x16 slot is very important for video card upgrades; you might want to have it in even a web browsing type of PC, as the need for a DX9 card in Vista might make 3D acceleration used in mainstream applications, possibly for other things than just pretty window effects.
    AGP or motherboards with both, AGP and PCI-E should generally be avoided. They often are very picky about what video cards will work in those slots and tend to hinder video card performance.
    If the motherboard has integrated video and the user will want to play even simple 3D games then integrated graphics from nVIDIA or ATI will perform much better than those from Intel and you'd probably want to stay away altogether from IGPs from S3/VIA.


    The system shouldn't have less than 512MB of memory if you intend to use XP on it, and 1GB will speed things up a bit. For Vista you'd want at least 1GB and it supposedly speeds up with 2GB. Games are starting to make use of more than 1GB of memory, but you can still play most of them fine with 1GB; you shouldn't have less than that for gaming though.
    I'm told that the AM2 Athlon 64 CPUs benefit from DDR2-800 RAM, but Core 2 Duos seem to work just as well even with the older DDR400 modules.


    If you intend to use a gaming video card in the system then you'll want a decent PSU, with a lot of Amperage on the +12V rail. I believe that buying the video card separate and installing it yourself will turn out cheaper and you'll have a greater selection.
    If you do choose to get a system with a video card, then you're pretty much entering a minefield; basically, check if the core and memory frequencies are the same or not to far from the defaults and with the lower-end stuff also look at the card's memory bus width (you can find the specs listed on Wikipedia).
    DO NOT judge the video card solely by the amount of memory it has - it's very often exploited by the manufacturers and they place more memory of slower memory on the card, for example.


    To evaluate the quality of monitors I think you'd have to google some reviews of the specific model.


    If you want to upgrade that system in the future then it's important for the components to be standard, as eg. Dell used to use non-standard power supplies, so you couldn't swap it out for a normal ATX one.

    Lastly, cooling is somewhat important, but a single 120mm fan at the back should be enough; of course you'd want the grills to not impede the airflow too much.

    robaal on
    "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra when suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath.
    At night, the ice weasels come."

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    DerrickDerrick Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Shit son you can pretty much run WoW on a toaster.

    My system (old)

    AMD 64 3200+
    1 gig DDR RAM
    6800 OC Nvidia Card


    And I can crank up all the settings and run it just fine.

    My roommate's comp which is pretty much a rock at this point ran it with comparable Ram and I believe a Radeon 9700.

    [edit] also - http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/faq/technology.html

    WoW system req.

    Derrick on
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    DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    I'm not sure why you consider 'pricey' computers from Dell and similar companies 'ripoffs.' In my experience, Dell's prices are quite competitive given what you get, and in the business line of systems you get higher quality, more stable parts. There's a reason those Acer and HP machines are cheaper sometimes, and it's usually in part quality.

    DrFrylock on
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    frittfritt Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    I spent a little while browsing and I am considering a Dell Dimension E521.

    dell.gif

    There's not really much information that I could find on the power source, or on upgrade slots. The price is about $960 Canadian before tax, $800 US.

    fritt on
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    japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    DrFrylock wrote:
    I'm not sure why you consider 'pricey' computers from Dell and similar companies 'ripoffs.' In my experience, Dell's prices are quite competitive given what you get, and in the business line of systems you get higher quality, more stable parts. There's a reason those Acer and HP machines are cheaper sometimes, and it's usually in part quality.

    I think there's a predisposition on these forums towards self-building over buying off-the-shelf. When you look at it like that, most pre-built machines are suspiciously expensive for the parts they contain, and those parts tend to be the cheapest possible generic parts which -while not necessarily of lower quality- do tend to have fewer features than the equivalent branded parts.

    It also used to be the case that the big manufacturers used a lot of non-standard parts, making their systems really difficult to repair or upgrade* Dell used to be one of the worst offenders in this regard, but they seem to have improved in recent years, and their business line is pretty good.

    Lastly, if you're a geek, you probably own a non-OEM retail copy of Windows XP. It's practically impossible to get a pre-built computer without paying for Windows over again, which is irritating.

    *Just as an example, I have here an old Advent P4 rig that I was planning on using as a test server, so I wanted to fit quieter fans, pull all the optical drives, stick in a couple more hard drives and replace the power supply. Turns out that the PSU and the DVD drive are also structural parts of the case, so I need a new case, which is OK because there are only mounts for one 3.5" drive (in a full tower case). So I need to pull the motherboard and cpu, but can't reuse the cpu cooler, because it's some kind of ducted monstrosity that's also built into the case. I can't make the thing quieter because it uses 65mm fans, which are a non-standard size. Then, of course, the motherboard (which is the correct size for a micro-ATX motherboard) has all of it's mounting holes in non-standard locations, so it can only be fitted to the case it came with. The only useful parts are the RAM and the CPU (sans cooler).

    japan on
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    robaalrobaal Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Derrick wrote:
    you can pretty much run WoW on a toaster.

    My system (old)

    AMD 64 3200+
    1 gig DDR RAM
    6800 OC Nvidia Card


    And I can crank up all the settings and run it just fine.

    My roommate's comp which is pretty much a rock at this point ran it with comparable Ram and I believe a Radeon 9700.

    The problem is that a lot of the new low-end cards are actually slower than the ones in your examples.



    fritt: that video card isn't very good, though I suppose it might be good enough to run the undemanding WoW. Still, newegg has some 7300GTs at only $30 more than dell's "upgrade" to 7300LE, that should be much faster, so I suggest investigating if the integrated graphics option still comes with a PCI Express slot, and if it does, purchasing the video card separately and installing it yourself.

    You can also downgrade to the slower X2 3800+ as it's unlikely to impact WoW/desktop performance noticeably.

    robaal on
    "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra when suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath.
    At night, the ice weasels come."

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    tsmvengytsmvengy Registered User regular
    edited February 2007
    Yeah, I would suggest not getting the 7300LE - since it's very low-end. I guess I would suggest the same thing as robaal - find out if it comes with a PCI-E slot (I suspect it does but you definitely need to check), and if it does go with integrated graphics and buy your own card (you could go with a 7300GT or a 6600GT). That way you can get a better card for less than dell will give you one.

    tsmvengy on
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