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Looking for tips on a pre-built system w/ upgrades

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August 24, 2010 7:23:09 PM

Hi folks, looking for some expert advice here!

I am looking to upgrade my circa-2002 IBM thinkpad notebook with a pre-made machine. (I don't really have the expertise to build my own). I'm looking for value- something that I won't have to replace for another 8 years or so. As you can probably guess, I'm not crazy for speed, I just want to be able to do the stuff I want to do- web browse, office productivity, photoshop and maybe play a game or two without super high refresh rates. I don't do any CAD work and hardly ever do anything in 3D.

I'd like to spend about $850 on a system (including a 22-23" monitor). I don't mind shopping refurbished and I'm trying to figure out if my money was best spent on getting a 40 gig SSD, RAM, better graphics card or processor. Right now I'm looking at a refurbished Dell XPS 7100 w/ AMD Athlon™ II X4 630 + ATI Radeon HD 4200. Any thoughts? I appreciate it!
August 24, 2010 11:14:55 PM

Your budget is not big enough for an SSD. Any good one is going to cost $200+. The older/cheaper ones are not anywhere near as good. You possibly cant even use one in a Dell as they sometimes hide propriety junk in their boot recovery disk so you cant install the OS on a third party drive.

There are games that the onboard graphics just cant handle so it depends on what you mean by "play a game or two". There are plenty of games that it will work with so if you dont have specific titles in mind it should be fine for you.

Ideally you want Windows 7 64, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, three or 4 core CPU. You can probably find a new Acer at Frys with that for $500 or less. Dell tends to be way overpriced for pre-builts.
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August 25, 2010 7:59:51 AM

I got a £750 PC from uber-ware.co.uk has sorted me out fine for Starcraft 2 :D 
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August 25, 2010 1:22:22 PM

Thanks for the tips!
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August 25, 2010 1:52:44 PM

One word of advice. This is my opinion, but stay away from the prebuilts. Slowly back away and do not touch. I have worked on some in my time, a lot of them seem to use low end parts. Best bet, go to your local computer shop and get them to custom build one. Yes it will probably run more. But when you see prebuilts running ecs motherboards, and cheap power supplies. Sorry, not a good combination.

Thing is this man. In the states, you might be able to go to walmart and spend say 400 dollars to get an emachine or something. But if that thing breaks down in say a year or so, say like with a power supply issue, by the time you pay 50 bucks for a decent power supply, and then 25-30 dollars in labor to install one, you are nearly back up to what you would have paid to have someone custom build one. If the motherboard goes out, you are usually talking about a system rebuild.

Another guy at a shop explained it to me this way. He said prebuilts are made to last 13 months. In other words, what he was saying is those prebuilts are made to get you out of the warranty period. If you have problems and your computer dies at 14 months, what does the company care? Because they've got your money, and it's time for you to buy a new computer. So they may make more from you.

If you go to a reputable shop to get one built, they should pick good off the shelf parts. Intel or AMD chips are standard. But then probably like an MSI, Asus, or Gigabyte board. Corsair, crucial, kingston etc for memory, list goes on. They are more likely to pick good parts. That's what I like to do.

Like my computer is a homebuild, but it's going on 3 years old, has not had any major problems. Only major issue is that I bent some pins on a processor because I was going to repaste it with artic silver, and pulled the wrong way. Had I left it alone, it would have not had an issue. But for under 60 dollars, grabbed a similar processor, back in business. And on a 3 year old machine, I'm running 3 gb of memory. But it's got the feature if I want to use a quad core down the road, all I do is flash the bios, pop in a quad and I'm good. So for say 150 dollars, I can up the memory to 4 gb, drop in a quad and maybe a better dvd drive, and I'm in business for another 2-3 years. You don't get that on a prebuilt system.
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