Need a new PC, HELP

Hello everyone,

I have just found this site randomly, as I have been trying to compare computer choices for my family. Our present PC is just an older Dell Dimension E520 (I am 43 years old; not a gamer, and as I work for a company that has had a bit of a discount on Dell for years when one wears out I just buy a new Dell that meets my basic needs) So in looking up various deals and trying to figure out which components are for me, I have stumbled on this site and noticed that on average this group is pretty solid when it comes to builds and buying advice.

For other items (cars, guitars, sporting goods, wine, etc) I read reviews, study, etc on all purchases. But buying cars, etc is more in my wheelhouse not PCs, I am lost. At home and in the office, the wife and I use Excel, Access, Word and such as we are both business folks (Actuarial and product marketing). I like photos, music, searching the net for guitar lessons or watching the occasional game if it isn’t being played on TV so computing and general surfing not gaming.

I can’t build my own (wish I could but I haven’t a clue even though there would probably be a savings $ and better quality; if I knew how). My previous Dell’s have been ok, some better than others but they crap out within a few years and this last one with Vista has been really less than acceptable so I will get another if I have to; but I am interested in hearing if there is an option that is cheaper and better. Current PC is crash central lately so I am keeping a close eye on discount codes and deals (even from Dell) as I need a new one sooner rather than later.

Again, mainly we use for Excel/Access, web, Photoshop, music and would like to do some video editing if I can get a class on that later.

Since I have been reading this site recently many talk about over clocking and such, don’t know what, how, etc? So, this probably won’t be happening

I would like to stay under $800 approx

System can’t have Vista (sucks) so Windows® 7, 64Bit
Don’t need a monitor my present flat screen from the old Dell is still fine I think.
Don’t need speakers – still ok with base Harman/kardon tulips + small sub that I have had for few years from previous pc
Had a TV tuner and it was pretty cool until cable went digital and now it barely works, so I guess I won’t get that again

Option 1 *suck it up and buy a Dell or other packaged PC (like HP, Lenovo)
Price around $700
Inspiron Desktop 580
Processor: Intel Core i5-650M Processor (3.20GHz,4M cache)
Operating System Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium
Hard Disk Drive 1 TB SATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/ 16MB DataBurst Cache
Memory 8 GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz (4 DIMMs)
Media Bay 16X DVD +/- RW w/dbl layer write capability
Video 1024MB nVidia GeForce GT 220
Network Interface Card Dell 1525 Wireless-N PCIe Card
Hardware Upgrade Dell 19 in 1 Media Card Reader
Thermal Module Heatsink,73W
125V Power Cord
Office Software Microsoft Works 9.0
Software Upgrade 64BIT Operating System DVD

Option 2 *buy an Apple and start fresh there
Price $??

If I understand what I have read so far… it comes down to a few things (within budget)
Processor?: I5 vs i7?
Memory?: 4GB, 6GB, 8GB [?Dual Channel ?DDR3 ?]
Video: nVidia vs ATI HD

This isn’t my area of expertise so your knowledgeable thoughts/opinions would be appreciated helping me with my purchase!

P.S. I think it would be sweet to have a PC that could be your home entertainment hub, (i.e. hook up to the home TV – Sharp LCD and use it instead of ‘or’ in conjunction with cable etc – you know watch movies, sports ESPN3, etc) but have been told that it doesn’t yet work very well. Is that the case? Seems like it should be the norm now and just use a wireless n router to let other computing happen around the house on laptops and such? Oh well

Thanks so much for any help you can be, sorry the skill set just isn’t there…
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  1. If you are Irish, you may get lucky with Dell.

    I see you have lots of questions and I have noted that your present Dell is 'crash central'. BTW, have you observed that the "E" in DELL looks very much like the Enron logo?

    You are right on the good expertise available at this site.

    In order to make a good informed buy decision, and be happy in the short term (all computers are short term items because of technological obsolescence), I suggest that you follow some of the posts across a broad spectrum on this forum. Do this for about 2 months and familiarize yourself with various aspects including overclocking, even though you have no intention to overclock.

    Another good place for information is reviews on Newegg. Almost every component that goes into a computer is available at Newegg (and MicroCenter, TigerDirect, Fry's. etc) and the purchasers post reviews on the items. This source gives me good information. All product manufacturers claim that their products are the best in the world, and as a result, consumers should ignore such claims.

    Now for some tidbits of information.

    Intel's i7 CPUs have generally more computing power than the i5 which is also a great processor. Best CPU prices at MicroCenter

    RAM: The current standard is DDR3 and will be with us for a few years even though DDR4 is coming out soon (2011?) - 6GB or higher will be great and will address some future needs.

    Graphics: I have a soft corner for NVidia. ATI is just as good.

    The choices available are endless! Good luck towards making an informed decision!
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