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Mom wants a new PC, is this thing any good?

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December 3, 2010 11:32:40 AM

Sometime back in 04 (I think), I built my mom a PC based on an Asus shuttle. I added an AMD Thunderbird CPU, 256 megs of ram, a HD, and a 17" NEC monitor that weight a few pounds more than my Mini Cooper. That system sat around until last year, when she retired, and now she's started using it.

Of course she has now found this system wanting, so she's been hinting at a new PC. Since January will be her 75th birthday, I'm thinking of getting her another one as her b-day present. Her needs are simple: Surf the web, send and read email, and play a few flash-based online games.

I was checking out prebuilt systems on Newegg, and ran across this:

lenovo IdeaCentre Q150

It has good reviews, and seems like it would give her what she needs. The thing is, they have another Acer system with a similar setup, more ram, different CPU (though still an Atom) for a lot more. I'm not sure if it's worth the extra cash for the difference.

My mom would really be into the compact design though. She already thinks the shuttle is too big and ugly!

Does anyone have any experience with these "compact" systems? Would the lack of upgradability be a huge issue?

More about : mom thing good

December 3, 2010 12:17:03 PM

Lack of upgradability wont be an issue if you plan to use the PC for another 4-5 years anyways.

The major difference between the Lenovo and the Acer is the extra RAM and the new Windows 7 in the Acer.

Also I don't see a DVD drive in either. I've never used pre-builds myself let alone compacts, so I've no idea as to whether this is normal. Of course, if your mom doesn't need it, it wont matter anyways.

You didn't specify your budget ceiling, but if you're ready to build one yourself, you can get a very decent one for under 350 with a (close to) 3 Ghz dual-core processor, rather than a 1.6Ghz single-core one, which is what the Atom is. A micro-ATX or mini-ITX build should be inexpensive enough. Of course, you'll have to get the Operating system from unofficial sources.

But as long as you don't feel the need for an ODD, don't think your mom can go wrong with the Lenovo for it's price. XP will have official support till 2014, and using it a year after that shouldn't be a problem either I don't think.

But if you're looking at the Acer, you can get a much - much - more powerful system for the same 370 bucks if you choose to build it yourself.
December 3, 2010 12:38:15 PM

Yeah, thanks for the advice. The main reason I wasn't thinking of doing a build was that she desperately wants the smallest possible physical case possible, and I don't think the old Asus shuttle is very upgradable (not even sure what form factor it is). I can add an external ODD for not very much money if she ends up needing one.

As far as the OS, I'm totally not ruling out Linux as an OS, because she's infected her current PC with virii twice this year. I have been using Linux at home since 06, so I can get her pretty well set up.

If I can find a really small, unobtrusive (black) case, I might look into a build instead.
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December 3, 2010 6:18:40 PM

you might look into HTPC cases, which are about the size of an old VCR.

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December 3, 2010 8:11:22 PM
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Here's a nice little Antec case:

Antec ISK 300-65 Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel Mini-ITX Desktop Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $79.99

I put together a full build using that case. It might be more than you want to spend, but it might give you some ideas:

Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale 3.06GHz 4MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80616I3540
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-H55N-USB3 LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $201.99 (CPU + motherboard combo)

Antec ISK 300-65 Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel Mini-ITX Desktop Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $169.98 (Case + OS combo)

Western Digital Scorpio Black WD1600BEKT 160GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $49.99

G.SKILL NS 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-4GBNS
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $47.99

SAMSUNG Black 8X 2MB Cache SATA slim CD/DVD Burner - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $29.99

Total - $499.94 - $10 using promo code HARDOCP12X1B for the CPU = $489.94
December 4, 2010 3:17:15 AM

Wow, that Antec case is perfect! Thanks!

I'm going to play around tommorow... errr, actually today by now, and see what I can come up with. Would definitely be more future-proof than the lenovo I was looking at.
December 4, 2010 6:27:57 AM

^ Hi cydeways, that's why you needed to have given your budget at the first place :) 

That one's gonna be pretty sick if you can afford the extra cost. Not that anyone will ever need it for surfing the net and checking E-Mails. Using Ubuntu on it - as you said you intend to - will definitely keep costs down as well.
December 4, 2010 2:28:46 PM

Don't forget that the case is so small you have to use a 2.5" hard drive and a slim optical drive. I would love to build a nearly identical system as my new HTPC.
December 4, 2010 3:50:45 PM

calguyhunk said:
^ Hi cydeways, that's why you needed to have given your budget at the first place :) 


The budget is actually whatever I want to spend. The only reason I'm placing a limit is because it's easy for me to get carried away and build a system that I'd want, but I know she doesn't really need anything that's all that powerful. The only motivation for spending more is to keep her from needing to upgrade too soon. If I can put together something that lasts for 4-5 years, I think she'll be in good shape.
December 11, 2010 1:00:02 AM

Best answer selected by cydewaze.
December 19, 2010 10:05:25 PM

btw, I was at Micro Center picking up a monitor for mom's new PC, and ran across this. It was too good to pass up, considering the specs, the hardware, and Win7 instead of XP. I teamed it up with an Asus widescreen. Even though it's way bigger than she wanted, I figured I could always return it.

Well, I set it up last night, installed AV, imported her bookmarks, and the thing is SWEET! I'm not sure I could have gotten a better deal. And she ended up not minding the size at all, because the black blends into the other stuff in the room.

So, mom's happy and I'm happy. Whee!
December 20, 2010 12:25:41 AM

The Athlon II 160u features one operational core, but it has, in fact, two physical cores on a die. The second core is disabled, and can be unlocked using BIOS ACC or similar feature. When unlocked, the processor is identified by BIOS as AMD Athlon II X2 260u Processor.

While your mom won't ever need that, try to see if you can get the second core to unlock to make that a sweet dual core processor.

It's not really guaranteed though. There's a reason they sell these as single cores, really, going through the trouble to disable the 2nd core.

But really, even if you can't /don't want to do that, for the money, I think to get 500GB storage, DDR3 memory, - which means you've got an AM3 board, making possible future upgrades easier :)  - Gigabit LAN, Card reader and Home Premium :pt1cable:  (Not Basic!!)

I can understand why that was too good to pass up :) 
!