Practical new system for the grandparents

I offered to replace my parents (in their 60's) outdated Pentium-4 system when I visited for Mother's Day.
But... I'm having a hard time choosing components, since all the stuff I'm familiar with and all the reviews I find focus on gaming performance - which they DON'T need.

Purchase Date: within next couple of months
Budget: $600-800

E-mail, internet, MS Office.
No 3D gaming required at all. Grandkids aged 5-10 may play some internet-based games, but no true gaming system requirements.

I will be getting them a new 22" 1680x1050 monitor, which will probably be the only part they really notice.

As for CPUs, motherboards, and integrated vs. discrete graphics... well, that's where I'm stuck. I want to give them a good solid computer for the next 3-4 years, but also don't want to waste a few hundred bucks on components that won't help Mom shop on any faster.

I would appreciate any advice on those 3 items for non-gaming systems:
-gpu options

I'm kinda leaning toward an AMD Athlon II or Phenom II 3 or 4 core CPU.
A 780G or 785G mobo might be what I need, but I've never used onboard graphics before and don't know how much of a limitation they are. If it is worth an extra $50-75 for adding discrete graphics, what would be a good buy?

One more thing - is there any place to look for component reviews that aren't totally focused on gaming performance? Or is an e-mail/internet only system just so basic that even the very low end stuff on the market is still overkill?
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  1. This is the perfect time to look into a cheap prebuilt from either HP or Dell (or someone else). They don't need anything special, and that way you don't have to play tech support if something goes wrong.

    If you just wanted to build it yourself, I'd find the cheapest dual core (like the X2 245), a cheap AM3/AM2+ board with onboard graphics and 2 to 4 GB of DDR2. After that, throw in a cheap normal looking case, a small reliable PSU (around 300-400W) and either a Seagate 7200.12 500 GB or Samsung Spinpoint F3 500 GB HDD. That's really all you need. Don't forget that you'd likely need to buy an OS, which will cost $100.
  2. Definitely just go for an Athlon II x2 or x3 system with integrated ATI graphics. ATI's IGP is the fastest there is, and can handle some amount of actual gaming. It will be perfectly fine for that use. (and, in fact, alot of people use regular intel IGP which is generally a joke in comparison) As such don't bother with a actual card. In fact there are gaming cards in that price range.

    Also don't bother going phenom, for this they're just more expensive.

    So you probably only need 2 gigs of RAM, but you could go for 4. I'm not sure it will matter at all if you go DDR2 or DDR3.

    Really besides that you just need the basics, like a case and hard drive. If you're like most of us, you probably have some or all of the rest of it sitting in a corner somewhere at this point of stuff since upgraded out of. I just built a computer for my grandad and all I needed to buy was a motherboard 2 gigs of DDR2 (both from ebay) then a case from microcenter for $25. I put in my old generation 1 raptor since he won't need any sort of space but would appreciate the speed as opposed to some of the other stuff I have laying around. If so this could be a dramatic decrease in the budget. That budget is generally for mid-range gaming systems, if you spend anywhere near that you're spending way too much for that system's uses.

    e-mail and internet can easily be done still with anything rated to be as fast or faster than pentium 4 3.0 gigahertz. Not even hulu at 480p is enough to finally topple that. Benchmarks for this aren't needed. Heck, it's people like that that I try to convince them to attempt using linux, in some cases it's actually easier for them to use.
  3. EastonGreen said:

    I'm kinda leaning toward an AMD Athlon II or Phenom II 3 or 4 core CPU.
    A 780G or 785G mobo might be what I need, but I've never used onboard graphics before and don't know how much of a limitation they are.

    For non gaming - fine, in fact for low 1024 x 768 gaming it could chug along too! I would hit the Rana 440 seeing its price drop $10-12 USD and just the 2GB DDR3 on a 785G hehe
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