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New Computer: Black Friday Deal

Hi I'm Vee!Hi I'm Vee! Formerly VH; She/Her; Is an E X P E R I E N C ERegistered User regular
edited November 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
So I've been looking to get a new computer for a long time now. My plan was always to buy the components to the "bang-for-the-buck box" in the OP of the computer build thread in G&T. However, the Black Friday sale has changed things a bit, and I'm considering purchasing a pre-built computer (I know, I know).

Specifically, this one. It has twice the RAM of the computer mentioned in the computer build thread, as well as having 3.0 GHz vs. 2.5 GHz. It doesn't have as much storage (250 GB vs. 500GB) but I don't care as much about that. It doesn't include a monitor, but I already have a pretty decent one, and all in all it's almost $200 cheaper.

My problem is the video card. I don't know much about video cards; it says something about having Integrated Graphics, which I'm told is what my current PC, a Dell Dimension 2400, has that prevents me from being able to upgrade it. I'm also not sure how good the video card in the Cyberpower is (Intel GMA 3100 I guess?), which could be an issue if I can't upgrade it.

So...what's your advice? Go with the pre-built, or hold out for the bang-for-the-buck box?

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Posts

  • Kate of LokysKate of Lokys Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    The video card is shit and will be incapable of running anything the slightest bit modern. The version in that computer is the 3100, which is ancient; the X3500, a considerably newer version, runs Crysis at 4 frames per second. So, right off the bat, you would absolutely need a new video card. The motherboard on that thing does have a PCIe expansion slot, so you could toss in something fairly decent for $125-150 (on the low end), but still, that's $125-150 tacked directly on to the cost of the system.

    It also has a shit case (seriously, the case by itself sells for $30 on Newegg, it's not quite the cheapest thing they have but it's pretty close), and since they didn't specify any sort of brand name for the power supply, you can assume that's shit too. You can work with a lousy case, if you don't plan on doing any tinkering with the thing, but power supplies are not something you want to gamble on. For another $125, you could get an Antec Sonata III, which comes with a rock-solid 500W power supply (which sells for about $80 on its own), but, again... add that to the cost of the pre-assembled one.

    Now factor in the lack of monitor, the small hard drive, the cost of the upgrades, and that $450 bargain-bin PC ends up costing you $700 for something you can actually game on. At that price, building your own is a way better option.

    Kate of Lokys on
  • Hi I'm Vee!Hi I'm Vee! Formerly VH; She/Her; Is an E X P E R I E N C E Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I guess my question, then, is if I'm looking for Black Friday deals, how do I compare components? Almost none of the actual items in the computer build thread are on massive sales right now, but equivalent components might be. Unfortunately, aside from RAM and hard drives, I don't know how to compare performance. What should I be looking for in a video card, or a case, or a CPU, to "match" them to the components listed in the computer build thread?

    "This is way too complicated a question to answer in an H/A thread" is an acceptable response, if that's the case.

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  • webguy20webguy20 I spend too much time on the Internet Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I think it would be safe to say that any prebuilt "bargain" on black friday would not be a bargain for a gamer. I would instead watch newegg and see if they have any specials on the hardware itself. You might be able to score some sweet components and a great price that way.

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  • Kate of LokysKate of Lokys Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Generally speaking... Black Friday deals aren't the place to look for a new computer, unless you're

    a) just wanting to pick up a $200 laptop to check email with, or
    b) gifted with detailed knowledge of exactly what components in any given system can be upgraded to provide maximum performance for minimum cost.

    Back in September, my boyfriend and I picked up a new computer for him - Dell was having a great deal on their bottom-of-the-line business desktops, we ended up paying about $400 plus tax and shipping for a 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM and Vista. It had a solid case, and the RAM was actually good-quality stuff, so he spent $50 on another 2GB, $100 on an XFX 9800GT video card, and $80 for an Antec power supply, and he ended up with a sleek little system that beats the shit out of the custom rig I built myself last year. In fact, with the addition of a $15 network adapter and a few hours manually writing drivers, he was even able to get OS X working on the damned thing, and his tiny Dell Hackintosh outperforms everything except the top-end Mac Pro desktops using Apple's benchmarking software.

    If you do know what you're looking for, it's possible to turn a mass-produced HP or eMachine or Dell into something beautiful... but if you don't, you're really better off building your own. The business side of Dell tends to use pretty good parts, but when you start getting into other brands (or Dell's Home line), that's when you start having to worry about slow RAM and cases with completely inadequate ventilation and useless power supplies.

    Just to give you a few general rules, though...
    • No pre-built bargain PC will have a video card worthy of the name. Pretty much all of them will have integrated cards, which are terribad. Assume that you'll need to buy a new video card for any pre-built system you look at, and budget $100-125 for it (again, on the low end). Make sure whatever computer you're looking at has a PCI Express x16 expansion slot available, because that's the slot all modern video cards use.
    • If the power supply is under 450W, assume you will need to replace it. If it's 450-500W, you should probably replace it anyway.
    • The quality of cases can vary wildly. Again, a dedicated PC manufacturer will probably use half-decent cases, at least. Be wary of anything that has more LEDs or acrylic windows than expansion bays. Steel is fantastic, but heavy. Paper-thin aluminum will dent and buckle if you breathe too heavily on it.
    • As far as CPUs go, Core 2 Duos are pretty much where it's at in terms of value for money. 3.0GHz will keep you going for a while, and they're supposedly great for overclocking.

    Kate of Lokys on
  • pacbowlpacbowl Los AngelesRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Reviews and user feedback. You can find reviews on almost anything these days and chances are you can find user reviews and benchmarks on almost any piece of hardware available. Google the item name and compile your own opinion, then build your computer. Finding Black Friday deals on good components will take some time though.

    i would consider picking up the newegg deal and throwing the $200 savings toward a 9800GTX or an ATI equivalent, but if the motherboard and memory are crap it's like throwing a v8 into a Pinto.

    pacbowl on
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  • saltinesssaltiness Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Pretty much what Webguy said. Black Friday is not for people looking serious computers. It's for the walmart junky types who just want a new computer because their old one is full of malware and running slow. You probably aren't going to find anything worth a damn. I think you should stick with your previous plan and build a good gaming machine.

    saltiness on
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  • vonPoonBurGervonPoonBurGer Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I wouldn't buy this without asking some detailed questions about what's inside it.

    The motherboard is listed as an Intel G31 chipset. That doesn't tell us who made it. I bet it's a budget manufacturer like Foxconn or Biostar or some crap like that. I wouldn't trust a board from one of those makers as far as I could throw them. If it's not from a quality maker like ASUS, Gigabyte or Microstar, stay the hell away. Getting an iffy mobo will mean system stability issues down the road, it really pays to buy from a reputable manufacturer.

    The video card isn't a video card at all, it's the integrated video portion of the Intel G31 chipset. Should be no problem to drop in a decent video card and disable on-board video, but don't expect any game performance whatsoever until you do.

    The power supply is listed as 420W, which is maybe a bit low, but probably acceptable. What we don't know is who makes the power supply. Is it a reputable manufacturer, or is it a Chinese mystery special? I'd bet it's a mystery special that puts out iffy voltage levels on one or more rails. Again, this can lead to system instability, and it can also shorten the life of your system.

    In general, prebuilds from parts stores like NewEgg are the vehicle shops use to dump parts that knowledgeable hardware monkeys normally won't touch. I'd go with webguys advice, look for sales on individual parts instead.

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  • tsmvengytsmvengy Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Looking at the pictures on Newegg it looks like it has a Biostar motherboard with a PCI-E slot (please correct me if I'm wrong.) Power supply is probably a RaidMax or some other crap brand.

    If you slap a $150-$200 video card in that machine you're probably going to get an ok machine out of it. I would worry a little bit about the motherboard and the power supply...

    tsmvengy on
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