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Need a cheap computer - with potential

ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
So this morning my wife tells me that the laptop is acting funny. It just keeps rebooting. It's an older laptop that has had issues periodically for a while now. The laptop was the last functioning computer in the house. Which is ironic, considering my job is IT work.

So here I am at work, surrounded by computers, and I don't have a working computer at home.

I'm thinking that for Christmas, I will probably get something in the ballpark of $300. I could probably toss in another hundred, maybe two, depending on how finances go and how much we spend on Christmas presents.

What would you guys consider to be the minimum specs for a decent computer (gaming would be pretty much limited to the Sims and Popcap style games. Perhaps Viva Pinata, but it wouldn't run on the laptop)? I'd like to run Vista, and I'd like the motherboard to have the potential to move into the gaming realm (so while I don't need 4GB of RAM or a really nice PCI-Express x16 graphics card now, I'd like the option).

I don't care if it's a prebuilt or if I build it, it just needs to be cheap. I already have all the peripherals I need, as well as a 500GB SATA drive, I just need the box.

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ArcSyn on

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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I'm going to have to say that it's hard to get anything for $300 that will be able to support a "really nice PCIe x16 card" due to lack of both physical space and PSU overhead.

    I'd say Dude, You're Getting (Her) A Dell - and then you can just swap the PSU and drop a shorter card (9800GT) into it.

    PeregrineFalcon on
    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
    Can trade TF2 items or whatever else you're interested in. PM me.
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    HranjHranj Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yeah, its sounding like Dell might be the way to go. If not, you are really limited. As far as I can tell, if you were to go the route of newegg.com you would me limited to last gen processors like pentiums with integrated video and such.

    Hranj on
    Zune: Pirate Monkey
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    mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Hranj wrote: »
    Yeah, its sounding like Dell might be the way to go. If not, you are really limited. As far as I can tell, if you were to go the route of newegg.com you would me limited to last gen processors like pentiums with integrated video and such.

    Yeah, at that price point your best value is going to be a pre-fab...I recommend not only Dell, but maybe taking a look at a Dell refurb. The only problem is that I think the minimum for free shipping might be $400...but the extra $400 will buy you a lot of computer (plus keep you from wasting $50 on shipping). $400 bought me, over a year ago, a computer capable of meeting the minimums on Bioshock. Not exactly impressive, but I'm basically a GPU upgrade away from halfass decent gaming.

    Note that I'm assuming you already have a monitor. If not, then I think the better deal will be found on a new system, with some pack-in monitor.


    Look for one with a full-height case. Dell has a lot of models with half-height cases, and while expansion cards are available for such cases they're sometimes a pain in the ass to find, and/or more expensive. Plus a smaller case will probably mean heat issues if you upgrade the GPU. Also, to my knowledge Dell sometimes like to fuck around and throw in non-standard PSUs....making drop-in replacement a pain.

    mcdermott on
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    ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Yeah, Full size is a must, and I do have a monitor (22" wide LCD that was a gift about a week before my desktop decided it wouldn't work anymore) :( It's been sitting around for about 6+ months now, mocking me.

    I guess I'll go peruse Dell's site. Fortunately I get a Dell discount through work, but I thought that there might be an option to go custom built but from what I'm hearing it's probably not feasible on such a budget.

    ArcSyn on
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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    ArcSyn wrote: »
    Yeah, Full size is a must, and I do have a monitor (22" wide LCD that was a gift about a week before my desktop decided it wouldn't work anymore) :( It's been sitting around for about 6+ months now, mocking me.

    I guess I'll go peruse Dell's site. Fortunately I get a Dell discount through work, but I thought that there might be an option to go custom built but from what I'm hearing it's probably not feasible on such a budget.

    Not for $300, but the Bang-For-The-Buck box in the first post of the Computer Build Thread might be moddable to your ends if you can convince another Benjamin to join the party.

    Downgrade to an E5200 (save $30), get a motherboard with onboard video, lose the video card for the moment (save $170), bring your own hard drive (save $75) and you're left with a system at around $375-$400.

    But really, if you've got a Dell discount, I'd go that route - since that also gives you the OS, which you don't get free with a DIY.

    PeregrineFalcon on
    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
    Can trade TF2 items or whatever else you're interested in. PM me.
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    mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    ArcSyn wrote: »
    Yeah, Full size is a must, and I do have a monitor (22" wide LCD that was a gift about a week before my desktop decided it wouldn't work anymore) :( It's been sitting around for about 6+ months now, mocking me.

    I guess I'll go peruse Dell's site. Fortunately I get a Dell discount through work, but I thought that there might be an option to go custom built but from what I'm hearing it's probably not feasible on such a budget.

    Yeah, I used to have one of those discounts through work too...and it sucked.

    Just warning you.

    Better than nothing, but hardly impressive.

    Anyway, for refurbs start here.

    Looks like a decent selection of Inspiron 530s in the $300-$400 range. Like I said, I think $400 was the minimum for free shipping, though I know that's about $100 more than you wanted to go. Looks like $409 will get you a Core 2 Duo 2400 with a 500GB hard drive and 3GB of ram...but on-board video. Really, though, it sounds like you might want to stick with on-board for now anyway...Dell seems to think the Radeon x1300 Pro is the bee's knees for their budget desktops, even though it really kinda sucks (it's what I have). Plays Civ4 and TF2 handily, as well as shit like Lego Indiana Jones, but chokes on a lot of newer games. Better to spend that money elsewhere for now, then pick up a better GPU later when you have the money.
    But really, if you've got a Dell discount, I'd go that route - since that also gives you the OS, which you don't get free with a DIY.

    This is my primary reason for suggesting Dell over DIY. Yeah, you can put together a capable system for $300-$400 from parts, especially if you can salvage a few...but you simply will not put together a computer with a legit copy of Windows for less than Dell can. So if you don't have a spare copy of Vista or XP laying around, Dell is the only sensible option.

    mcdermott on
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    ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    My Dell discount is 7%, which about negates the sales tax, so that's at least nice. I don't seem to be triggering free shipping though, so that's another $30. I'll keep searching around, perhaps it's a coupon code.

    Here's what I was able to put together - not refurbed - looking there next:
    Inspiron 518
    Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor E7200 (3MB L2, 2.53GHz, 1066FSB)
    Vista® Home Premium
    2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz (2 DIMM)
    Dell Entry Keyboard and Dell Optical USB Mouse
    Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3100
    250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM)
    Dell 19 in 1 Media Card Reader
    16X DVD+/-RW Drive
    Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio

    I could have done it $80 cheaper, but I really don't want to settle for less than a Core 2 Duo. Those are already old enough tech-wise, seems stupid (unless tech has really changed where it doesn't matter?) to go with a Celeron or Pentium Dual Core.

    I also tossed in a media reader just because. I can always remove it if it becomes the breaking point. I just would rather not have to keep my huge USB adapter plugged in all the time.

    Total after s/h and discounts and tax: $489

    Looking at reviews, I now see the 518 is not capable of 64bit Vista. This kinda irks me.

    What models are 64bit capable? Anything on Dell's site? It seems stupid they keep making computers that aren't compatible with 64 bit.

    EDIT: Apparently there is a version of the 530 which is 64 bit capable.

    ArcSyn on
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    BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I'd go with a 530.

    It does use a standard PSU, but not a standard mobo layout. The 350w PSU that comes with the Core2 Q6600 (listed as Core 2 Quad 2400) can handle a 8800gt/9800gt pretty easily without upgrading. Your real worry with the Dell will probably be temperatures since the inside is pretty cramped.

    $500 is average for a 530 new with 3GB RAM, 500GB HDD, and no monitor. If you don't need one until Christmas, you should be able to at least get down in the $400 range - especially since 15-30% coupons are pretty common, including for refurbs.


    Some things to consider

    Dell's 10 days of deals promo

    Microsoft's Live.com search cashback pays up to 30% back on eBay purchases.

    BubbaT on
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    ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I did not know of the 10 days of deals. Good find.

    ArcSyn on
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    EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You said you have non-working machines at home, can you scrounge anything out of them? At that budget any pieces you can migrate to a 'new' machine will save you money. Specifically, do you think you can use a hard drive, optical drive, and/or PSU from your old systems? Because at that point you're pretty much just buying a cpu, mobo, memory, and maybe a case, which in your budget is totally do-able.

    Anyway.

    On a real budget, you can nab a very full featured AMD motherboard for 50 to 90$ (expect 75$ or so) that will have a built in IGP along with a PCIx16 slot and four memory slots. Usually support for blu-ray decoding, too, and lots have HDMI (this is nice cause you can turn your system into a media center pc one day if you get a new faster one.) It'll also support the lowest and highest end AMD cpus being offered right now, and future releases (as coming AMD cpus will be backwards compatible with AM2+ --though you won't get to take advantage of DDR3.) Note however that the highest end AMD CPUs right now match up with the lowest end Intel quad cores in terms of performance. Price too, pretty sure.

    A CPU for the board will run you 30$ and up.

    Here's just some quick newegg work:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131318 (I prefer the M3N78-PRO, but newegg has it kind of overpriced.) 82$

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103256 is a 60$ dual core cpu in a retail box (saves you buying a HSF.)

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103189 is a 33$ single core CPU in a retail box if you want to spend just that much less. But I would recommend you dual core it.

    Either way you should always tack on a 10$ BIOS fan for these things and stick it over the chipset heatsink, because ASUS likes to passively cool them, but they get hot as hell AND your IGP is under there too.

    So anyhow if you spend 80$ on a mobo and 60$ on a cpu, you're at 140$. Tack on 60$ for 4gb of memory and you're at 200$. That leaves you 100$ to get a PSU+case, hard drive, and optical drive if you weren't able to scrounge any of those things from your non-working computers.

    What you end up with is a dual core 2.3ghz-ish machine with 4 gigs of memory and an integrated 8200 chipset (enough to play WoW at lowish resolutions) with considerable room for upgrades through a video card or a faster CPU. If you like overclocking, you'll probably be able to push the CPU to roughly 3ghz on stock cooling, getting that much faster of a machine for the same price.

    People will tell you that AMDs stink for gaming, and they definitely lag behind Intel's offerings in that category, but gaming is so GPU-limited right now that it hardly makes much of a difference --your video card will be what makes or breaks your system. My 'little monster' secondary rig is an oc'd (3.1ghz) Athlon X2 with 8 gigs of memory and a 4850, and trust me, people don't complain about it's gaming performance. When I put the same card in my primary (intel) rig, I'm hard pressed to say I can actually tell the difference the cpus bring to the table.

    Ego on
    Erik
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    ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Thanks for the input. I'll check that out.

    EDIT: I have Vista (legit) now, so the OS no longer matters.

    So I guess what I have now is Monitor, peripherals, DVDRW, HDD.

    Just need mobo, proc, and RAM. (possibly PSU)

    ArcSyn on
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    DaedalusDaedalus Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    ArcSyn wrote: »
    Thanks for the input. I'll check that out.

    EDIT: I have Vista (legit) now, so the OS no longer matters.

    So I guess what I have now is Monitor, peripherals, DVDRW, HDD.

    Just need mobo, proc, and RAM. (possibly PSU)

    Yeah, you might want to go AMD then. I'd recommend a 780G-based motherboard over the GeForce6200-based one that the other guy recommended, but either way it's still the best choice for a budget non-gaming rig.

    Daedalus on
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    EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    8200 ;) just nitpicking.

    Ego on
    Erik
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