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Please help with XMAS gift decision: build or buy Dell?

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December 6, 2006 9:51:14 PM

I am giving my wife a new computer for Christmas. She will use it in the kitchen to listen to internet radio, music, news, web surfing, email, etc. I'm sure my two little kids will use it as well for their light web games.
I own a couple of Dells already and was thinking of buying an XPS410, but realize that Dells are very limited in upgradeability. So, I thought I'd see what kind of system I could build for the same budget. So, here's what I've got.
For comparison, here are the Dell specs:
Dell XPS 410
Intel E6400 CPU
250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz - 2 DIMMs
Single Drive: 16X CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) w/double layer write capability
256MB nVidia Geforce 7300LE TurboCache
Genuine Windows® XP Media Center 2005 Edition with re-installation CD
IEEE 1394 Adaptor
Total: $904 delivered via AAFES

Here's my proposed homebuilt:
Ultra Wizard Blue Mid Tower Case Free shipped AR
Ultra V Series 500W Power Supply Free shipped AR
ASUS P5B-E Socket T (LGA 775) Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail $151
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 Conroe 2.13GHz 2M sharing L2 Cache LGA 775 Processor $218
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (Perpendicular Recording) ST3250820AS 250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM $75
CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail $280
SAMSUNG Black 18X DVD+R.... with LightScribe Technology - OEM $33
Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2b w/Upgrade Coupon for Vista - OEM $110
Total: $910 delivered

I would add the following items with either machine:
Buy.com: XFX GeForce 7600GS 256MB PCI Express x16 Video Card -PV-T73P-UDJ3 $50 shipped AR
Logitech Cordless Desktop EX110 967561-0403 Black 102 Normal Keys 12 Function Keys USB + PS/2 RF Wireless Standard Keyboard Mouse Included - Retail $30
NETGEAR WG311 IEEE 802.11b/g PCI Wireless Adapter up to 54Mbps Data Rates 64/128-Bit WEP - Retail $31
SAMSUNG 941BW Black 19" 4 ms (GTG) DVI Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 500:1 - Retail $190

I tried to make the homebuilt comparable to the Dell. How do you think they compare? Should I build or buy the Dell?
I am attracted by the overclocking potential of the homebuilt, even though I've never done it before. You guys inspire me!
If I build it, how are my component choices?
Do I need to spend that much on RAM or can I buy a cheaper brand?

Thanks!
December 6, 2006 11:03:12 PM

With what you are planing to use it for, i would be leaning towards the dell. There may not be as many upgrade options for you, but if you are only using it for surfing the net and music, you won't really need anything more.

On the other hand, it is verry satisfing to build your own system. Expecialy if you plan on overclocking it or gaming on it.

If that intices you, I could recomend very few changes to your list.

First off... Overclocking requires a better cooler for your cpu.
My current fav is the Zalman 9700 which can be had for $60.

Your mb and cpu choices are bouth good values and offer great overclocking potential.

Good ram is a must, so yes, spend the extra money on it.

The video card is a little on the light side, if you plan on gamining it that is. That is a great price you found on the GS, btw.

All in all, good hardware choices. If this would be your first build, be prepared. You will probably be spending some time setting it up and overclocking it.

All in all...
Building your own system is rewarding, but for what you are planing on using it for I would lean towards the dell. You will not have to wory about any build or stability problems, and have a warinty + tec support.

Good luck!
December 6, 2006 11:10:55 PM

I agree with most of the previous post except for the Ram, IF you are going to OC then DDR2-800 ram is required but really.... this is for surfing the net and simple games, I would not screw with this machine, save that for your own. Your wife will not appreciate you screwing around and possibly breaking something on a machine that you bought for HER!

If you don't OC then get OCZ or Mushkin 667 ram, cheaper and all you really need.

Also, don't like that power supply, things are supposed to get fried in your kitchen but your psu, mb, cpu and video card should not.

Oh, I don't like Dell so....
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December 6, 2006 11:31:46 PM

well one thing is for sure you better hurry as xmas is coming fast.

goodluck on what ever you decide to do.
December 6, 2006 11:46:36 PM

Something that came to mind as I reviewed the two builds you listed: you don't need anywhere near that much computational horsepower for "internet radio, music, news, web surfing, email, etc."; an old Pentium 3 system from years ago could do all that just fine.

A cheap dual-core Athlon X2 or Pentium D build would be capable of everything your wife needs and still be very responsive under multitasking, and you could probably get one for about $500 with parts from Newegg.

If you're looking for the upgradeability of Intel's newest CPU socket, or for something that will be more future-proof, then by all means go with the Dell or custom Core 2 Duo build you outlined, they'll do that nicely.
December 6, 2006 11:51:31 PM

You're asking a technical forum of homebuilders whether to build or buy?

Hmmm. I'll get back to you on that...
December 6, 2006 11:55:35 PM

I would have to agree with tirefire. For what you plan on using it for all you really NEED is the cheapist emachine you can find.

But building your own system is just fun :D 
December 7, 2006 12:45:09 AM

The ironic thing is, with a high-speed Internet connection even the K6-2 in my sig could do all of that you require, with the exception of Internet gaming, or course. :lol:  Your builds are utter overkill for their intended purposes. If I were to build a computer for the kitchen, I'd want it to be small, quiet (silent would be better), and inconspicuous (or if it must be noticed, it must at least look attractive). With those criteria in mind, as much as I'd hate to say it, a Mac Mini may be a better idea for your wife (or if you want to build, go mini ITX).
December 7, 2006 12:52:45 AM

True That.

The MiniMac would be a Gr8 choice.
December 7, 2006 1:18:38 AM

Thanks for all of the comments!
I know that these machines are overkill, for the uses I mentioned. The cheapo machines seem to be throwing away money to me, though. I would like to run Vista. Also, the kids will eventually want to play more games. So, I was trying to get a system that would be cost effective yet upgradeable. I probably wouldn't overclock it anytime soon.
So, am I really risking ruining my CPU and MB with that PSU? Or is that only if I overclock it? I was going to buy it because it is basically free and I figured if it broke, I'd just replace it.
December 7, 2006 1:34:34 AM

As other posters have noted, your proposed build is serious overkill for your proposed uses. The DELL is a little over the top too.

What you may want to consider as a serious option instead of the DELL is one of thos mini systems fron Shuttle or MSI that does double duty as a computer or media centre. These will do all the commputer stuff you want as well as having a tuner radio and TV, not to mention a MP3/DVD player built in that does not neeed the computer to be booted up. And the price of these systems is less than $500.00 where I live. You will also need a set of speakers (2.1 at least ) and a reasonable good monitor.

I would suggest geting a really good screen like the fancy Apple 30?" widescreen.
December 7, 2006 2:02:49 AM

Quote:
So, am I really risking ruining my CPU and MB with that PSU? Or is that only if I overclock it? I was going to buy it because it is basically free and I figured if it broke, I'd just replace it.


I'm sure someone else will also answer but "if it breaks" it may take something else with it. The psu may be free but you may have to replace the mb, cpu, video card... I don't understand why you think that paying $280 for ram is good but paying money for a psu (a psu that powers everything in your computer) is bad. I will bet that nothing else you own is powered by something cheap... do you own a car with a free lawn mower engine in it? is your flashlight a crank type? does your TV run off of AA batteries?
December 7, 2006 2:03:50 AM

Quote:
Thanks for all of the comments!
I know that these machines are overkill, for the uses I mentioned. The cheapo machines seem to be throwing away money to me, though. I would like to run Vista. Also, the kids will eventually want to play more games. So, I was trying to get a system that would be cost effective yet upgradeable. I probably wouldn't overclock it anytime soon.
So, am I really risking ruining my CPU and MB with that PSU? Or is that only if I overclock it? I was going to buy it because it is basically free and I figured if it broke, I'd just replace it.


As far as the power supply is concerned, it may or may not work well. Some people swear by them, while others swear at them. One thing to keep in mind though, is that Ultra is not a pleasant company to do rebates with. Friends of mine who have purchased Ultra products in the past have been burned by their rebates. I'm just saying it's not a sure thing like it should be. Even if you fill out all the forms correctly and send it out exactly the way they tell you, you're still not 100% guaranteed to get your rebate. A little food for thought at least.
December 7, 2006 2:19:06 AM

No changes to recommend really.But I would suggest building it as a woman always apreciates something more when they know you built it for them yourself.I know,I'm married.Grinzzz.Goodluck.

Dahak

primary gaming rig
AMD X2-4400+@2.4 S-939
EVGA NF4 SLI MB
2X EVGA 7800GT CO IN SLI
2X1GIG DDR IN DC MODE
WD300GIG HD
EXTREME 19IN.MONITOR 1280X1024
ACE 520WATT PSU
COOLERMASTER MINI R120

secondary gaming rig
GYGABYTE MB AGP
AMD X2 3800+ S-939
2X512 DDR IN DC MODE
X1650PRO 512 AGP
17IN.MONITOR
MAXTOR 120GIG HD
450WATT PSU
December 7, 2006 11:03:41 AM

This system is powerful, but I find that surfing the web these days maxes out the cpu on my one year old Dell 9300 with a 256MD Geforce 6800 video card. Web pages seem to becoming more and more complex with a lot more video content.
What power supply would you recommend for this? I don't know what to look for as far as specs go.
I wasn't too concerned with size because the case will go under the counter of our breakfast bar.
Thanks!
December 7, 2006 1:15:10 PM

A 500 watt psu should be more than adequit for your needs.However,if you feel that it is not going to be enough,then grab a ThermaTake Tough power 650 watt psu with 4-12volt rails.This will deffinately meet and exceed all your needs for the time being as well as future proofing your machne.At least until you start getting into the 8800 and R600 graphics card running in sli and cross fire.Then you might need to up it to a 800watt psu.Seriously though,I would not worry for the moment,just clean your cookies and temp folder and history and temp. internet files. and you should be fine.P.S. You 6800 will handle any webpage for the next ten years.It's games that will require more and more gpu power,but even then your 6800 should be good for another year.

Dahak
December 7, 2006 2:07:05 PM

Just to put a different idea in your head, how about 'upgrading' one of your current machines that you have. The reason I suggest is that her requirements dont exactly demand cutting edge technoclogy.

By upgrade, I mean (and this depends on what you already have) buying a new case (maybe an HTPC case with Media Centre so that it suits her needs more). For this, you'll probably need to get a micro-ATX board; but get one on the same socket for the chip you already have. The you can then essentially reuse all of your older components.

Im talking about my Mrs here rather than generally, but she couldnt give a monkeys whats under the bonnet so long as it lets her surf (ie shop), listen to music and email. And if it doesnt look like a PC, even better.

This then frees up your budget to either;
a) build yourself an new PC that you can overclock to hell;
b) spend the rest of the money on a romantic trip away.

I vote a). :lol: 

Quote:
This system is powerful, but I find that surfing the web these days maxes out the cpu on my one year old Dell 9300 with a 256MD Geforce 6800 video card. Web pages seem to becoming more and more complex with a lot more video content.

Well, I'd be really surprised if it was your cpu thats getting maxed out. Mor elikely your internet bandwidth, or RAM, or even an old windows install that needs a cleanup / reinstall.
December 7, 2006 2:11:08 PM

Yup, Mini Mac is what I'd say too. (And it's even cheaper!)

If it's going to be visible in a "public" place like a kitchen, there are few more "socially acceptable" computers fashion-wise than the Mac Mini's.

Think of your kids using both a Mac and a PC makes them bi-lingual, lol.

If not, you don't need a Conroe for surfing the net. But do spend quality money on a stylish and STURDY case. Kitchen + kids + cheap case = broken computer.

And what's all this talk of "overclocking"??? Is it HIS toy or his WIFE's? My neighbor thought he could tinker and improve his wife's car - good intentions. His wife didn't want him to touch anything, as it was working fine....he sleeps in the shed now.

Lesson - unless it's yours, don't play with it (this only applies to inanimate objects).
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
December 7, 2006 3:39:37 PM

Quote:
Also, the kids will eventually want to play more games. So, I was trying to get a system that would be cost effective yet upgradeable. I probably wouldn't overclock it anytime soon.
By the time the kids are ready for the more challenging games you'll probably need a more powerful system anyway. Why can't you just admit you're really buying this system for yourself? :wink:
As for the buy or build question - you only have to look at the topics here in the forum to know that not all home builds are a smooth ride. There is a lot to be said for thinking of a basic PC as a replaceable commodity to be replaced every couple of years.
December 7, 2006 4:30:26 PM

Quote:
Also, the kids will eventually want to play more games. So, I was trying to get a system that would be cost effective yet upgradeable. I probably wouldn't overclock it anytime soon.
By the time the kids are ready for the more challenging games you'll probably need a more powerful system anyway. Why can't you just admit you're really buying this system for yourself? :wink:
As for the buy or build question - you only have to look at the topics here in the forum to know that not all home builds are a smooth ride. There is a lot to be said for thinking of a basic PC as a replaceable commodity to be replaced every couple of years.

Jazz may be like many of us...he doesn't like going cheap with the thought of a little overkill goes a long way, so he'd rather get more than he needs than less. I resemble that myself.

On another note from further up in the posts in regards to the PSU... I put an Antec TP II 480 watt in the Xeon 3060 that I just built with the thought that I'd replace it with the ThermalTake TP 650 watt that was being shipped at the time. Since everything seems to work fine and I'm only running the specs in my sig, I'm thinking why take everything apart to use the 650 watt?

I really think the MacMini is the way to go for the kitchen-wife build...she's gonna likely like that way better than a PC...women like things that look great, computers included and you may not even want to put the MacMini under the cabinet. It'll be quiet, it'll be quick enough, and it will be more trouble-free, less virus prone, yada-yada.

...for the wife and kids in the kitchen...get the Mac ...if it's really for you, build it ...and they will come.
December 7, 2006 4:59:11 PM

I would build it. Since this is for your wife you should either let her pick the case or else choose something that you know will please her. Otherwise she'll resent you for building an eyesore. If you get her the Dell then she'll resent them and not you. :wink: On the other hand any gift that's self-built is always better (IMHO) than something prebuilt because your own efforts will always be a significant part of the package. It will cost you $900 but to her it will be priceless. So you get to have fun building it and she'll love you more for it so it's a win-win situation in my view.
December 7, 2006 6:00:14 PM

Wow! Now my head is spinning!
Your opinions are all appreciated.
I originally offered my wife a laptop, but after discussing the limited expandability of a laptop, she chose a desktop. So, I wasn't too concerned with looks. I have to admit, the MacMini is amazingly small and unobtrusive. I've even looked at some more affordable Dells following the "replaceable commodity" philosophy. I can see the validity of that approach.
I think the whole family would learn a lot if we built a system together.
I'll talk to my wife and see what she prefers.
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
December 7, 2006 6:05:56 PM

Quote:
I'll talk to my wife and see what she prefers.
Always a wise philosophy.
Quote:
I think the whole family would learn a lot if we built a system together
An admirable goal. One that can be met nearly as well by just opening up the case, talking about the components, upgrading video and RAM, etc. It's all there, just as in a home build and you can always un-build the PC to show how it's done :wink: if you want to go that far.
That course has a much better chance of the lesson not including "bad words".
!