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Need advice! Custom or Commercial?

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April 26, 2011 5:55:24 PM

All -
OPINIONS PLEASE. I don't think there's a right answer, but I'd love to hear thoughts from a bunch of interested onlookers.

I've always bought commercial (e.g. Dell) but have become pretty disenchanted with the vendors. (Dell's decision not to support a v. expensive 24" monitor with a clearly defective design was the last straw... fixed with a piece of scotch tape, but they won't even tell you that. I'm freaking done with Dell).

I don't want to build myself. I could do it, but it wouldn't excite me the way it clearly excites a lot of other folks. I'll keep those hours for other things. Also, I'd rather that the one throat to choke wasn't my own :-)

In general, I only buy new systems every 4-5 years - so my style is to buy relatively high-end figuring I won't be unhappy with it quite so quickly. (Generally, that works).

I'm not a gamer at all - so graphics and display power aren't the thing. That said, I want a system that is highly responsive and won't get dated soon. My tasks: all the routine stuff plus a little: Photoshop Elements (mostly organizing, but some editing), some audio encoding, probably a few GIS projects soon (but just a little of my time), maybe some coding soon, too.

Generally, I want a fast CPU, plenty of RAM, fast storage (but don't need that much - I have a small NAS), 2 monitors for large workspace, quiet (to the extent possible), no googaas on the case... simple and clean and smaller rather than larger.

Broadly, I'm looking at i7, 8Gb, SSD for boot, integrated graphics (again, no gaming)

I'm pondering whether to just go big commercial (say, HP) or with a custom builder. I've been emailing with the folks at Puget Systems. They seem decent and smartly focused to what they do. That said, there is a really significant premium to be paid.

So, questions to the crowd:
* Spend about $2k with Puget or about 1/2 that with, say HP, sac'ing USB 3, boot SSD (they don't offer it)
* Experiences with custom builders in general?
* Experiences with Puget in particular?
* Experiences with their ultra-quiet builds? Not sure I'll go that way, but tempting....

* A specific question re: Puget - they have STRONG feelings about parts. At one level, I like that - that's what I would be paying them for - knowing what works. At another level, are they overly biased against some things they shouldn't be? For instance, I see everyone here using Corsair memory - but they don't. Not that I care about the specific answer - but are their biases too strong?

* Anything in my description that raised your eyebrows? (For instance, anyone actually running 2 displays with integrated graphics? Does it perform?)


Have at it!
Eric
April 26, 2011 11:15:01 PM

"Broadly, I'm looking at i7, 8Gb, SSD for boot, integrated graphics (again, no gaming)"

This will give you what you want! BTW, high end computers do not have integrated graphics. So, you will need a Graphics card. A good GTX-460 or better. And, go with Puget or any custom builder that you like after reading reviews. I suggest custom builders over HP, Compaq, etc for the following reasons:

1) Custom builders in general, will use better parts, and you as the customer will have a say in this. HP, Compaq, Dell, etc., will use what is available and what is economical.

2) The business relationship between merchant and customer is better in the case of custom builders.

3) After sales service will be better.

Regarding Puget not using Corsair memory - this may be due to a negotiated deal between the builder and companies other than Corsair. Corsair might not have agreed to the builder's terms or vice versa. I trust Corsair for memory as well as for PSUs.

The boot SSD can be added by you at a later stage.

Ultra quiet computers? If I don't hear my computer running, I would think I went deaf!

All said, go with Puget!
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April 27, 2011 2:31:03 AM

I just built my first PC yesterday and honestly, it took me no less than 2 hours to unpack the components, remove the front and sides of my case, screw in the PSU, slide in the optical drive/hard drives, mount the CPU/heat sink, mount the motherboard, connect the front panel features to my motherboard, install the memory, and power up the components.

The only portion to the build that I found slightly confusing was figuring out where various components got plugged onto the motherboard. This was easily remedied by reading the manual that came with the motherboard. The only thing that I have no experience with is installing a GPU.

I don't know how much of a premium you're paying to have Puget build your PC but if it's anywhere in the 30-40 dollar range, it's worth building the PC on your own. I wouldn't say that building a PC is exciting by any means. The only thing that I could see anybody screwing up is installing the CPU. Even that is made extremely easy with ZIF sockets anyway. You have a better chance of buying the wrong components or getting a lemon that you do breaking something during installation.

Here is Tom's guide to building a PC - http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/build-your-own-pc,2...

I have no idea if you'll be able to view this wish list but here is what I plan on buying around September. My CPU/Motherboard choice is going to change because I am primarily waiting on AMD to release their new chip set series (Bulldozer). - https://secure.newegg.com/WishList/MySavedWishDetail.as...

Hopefully, when I purchase my machine it will be able to handle all the multitasking, movies and games that I can throw at it. I know you're not into playing games but buying a mid range graphics card with DX11 ensures future proofing for probably about 4-5 years. Your integrated graphics card however, will be obsolete within 2 years I'm sure not to mention it wont support two monitors.

From what I can tell, you are looking for a high quality workstation. I'd suggest:

Case - Antec 300 (Tom says this is a quiet case) - $60
CPU - i5-2500k (any i7 is a waste of your money. after the i5 2500k the scaling for performance/price is crap) - $220?
Mobo - ASRock P67 Extreme4 - $150?
PSU - Corsair 650TX - $90
GPU - A 6850 or 6870 of your choice - $150-$200
Optical Drive - Personal preference
Hard drive - Samsung Spinpoint 1 TB
SSD - A 64gb to put your OS on. - probably around $150
Monitors (if you don't already have two) - Asus VE228H 21.5" LED - 2x$160 for $320

That build is about $1275 and is probably more than what you'll ever need.

All in all, I think that is within your budget. The biggest advantage to building your own PC is you know how it goes together so if a component fails or if one becomes obsolete/outdated, you just buy a replacement rather than spend another $1500 or $2000 on a new system.
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April 27, 2011 2:48:37 AM

I say you build it yourself. I personally was looking @ Puget myself before. But I watched a single Newegg tut on how to build my comp and built it myself from the ground up. Lets just say I saved myself a few bucks (I believe I saved 100-200 dollars).

CPU+MB - i7 2600 + ASUS P8H67-M LE $385: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

RAM - G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 $70: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HDD - Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB $65: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SSD - OCZ 120GB Vertex 3 $300: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU - Antec BP550 80+ $60: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case - Cooler Master Storm Enforcer USB 3.0 $90: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $970

i7 2600, the i7 2600 is a great chip and has HT. It'll strongly benefit you in encoding and really help out during the video editing process.
You don't need a GPU because your gaming, with that said the integrated graphics on the i7 2600 is enough for you since you really don't require any power GPU.

That Vertex 3, it'll boot your system so fast and have your stored files load so quick. I'd love to have an SSD like that as my scratch disk or just to put my editing files on. If you can fit it in your budget why not get it?
Vertex 3 review: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/vertex-3-sandforce-...

The Enforcer is not the prettiest case, but it'll be quiet. The Storm series has been a real quiet series, litterally. I've used the Scout and it's absolutely wonderful. Quiet cooling, sleek and not to blinding with LEDs. Another great thing is the Enforcer has USB 3.0 so your set on the future.
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April 27, 2011 3:17:17 AM

aznshinobi said:
I say you build it yourself. I personally was looking @ Puget myself before. But I watched a single Newegg tut on how to build my comp and built it myself from the ground up. Lets just say I saved myself a few bucks (I believe I saved 100-200 dollars).

CPU+MB - i7 2600 + ASUS P8H67-M LE $385: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

RAM - G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 $70: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HDD - Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB $65: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SSD - OCZ 120GB Vertex 3 $300: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU - Antec BP550 80+ $60: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case - Cooler Master Storm Enforcer USB 3.0 $90: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $970

i7 2600, the i7 2600 is a great chip and has HT. It'll strongly benefit you in encoding and really help out during the video editing process.
You don't need a GPU because your gaming, with that said the integrated graphics on the i7 2600 is enough for you since you really don't require any power GPU.

That Vertex 3, it'll boot your system so fast and have your stored files load so quick. I'd love to have an SSD like that as my scratch disk or just to put my editing files on. If you can fit it in your budget why not get it?
Vertex 3 review: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/vertex-3-sandforce-...

The Enforcer is not the prettiest case, but it'll be quiet. The Storm series has been a real quiet series, litterally. I've used the Scout and it's absolutely wonderful. Quiet cooling, sleek and not to blinding with LEDs. Another great thing is the Enforcer has USB 3.0 so your set on the future.


I'm not positive he can run a dual monitor setup without a discrete GPU. He might as well get a 6850/6870 because they are easily within his budget. for a $1k machine, the i7 2600 is not needed. He should get the i5 2500k and get a GPU as well.
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April 27, 2011 3:21:28 AM

^ Please tell me why the i7 2600 isn't needed if Video editing and encoding as well as Audio editing and encoding are some of his needs and priorities? The encoding will take advantage of the HT at which point it would defiantly be better to have it. And it does not mean he'd have to get the 6850/6870. He could easily get the lower end 6xxx for his dual monitor setup.

6450 Review: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-6450-caic...

6450 $50: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Saves him about $120.
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April 27, 2011 3:45:54 AM

True, i forgot the i5 did not support HT. For some reason I thought he needed a higher level GPU for editing.
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April 27, 2011 4:00:34 AM

I agree with AznShinobi on his reasoning to get the i7. Build your own on the basis that you can get a much better pc for a lot less. Plus you get exactly what you want when you can choose each part. Like the other person said a noob can put togeather a computer in about two hours, it is rather simple. The places selling custom builds are a ripoff because they are charging a premium price for a $15 task. If you would like to be really satisfied with your pc for the next four to five years build it yourself.
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April 27, 2011 4:22:29 AM

^ Exactly. I hate how companies, even small ones like Puget, will rip you off. I know, as I said, because I checked them before thinking "OK I'm going to build it myself".
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April 27, 2011 6:57:13 AM

My best advice would be to listen to the people above and make a custom build yourself or experienced family member.

If however you truly dont want to do it yourself. Go the route with cheaper parts on things you dont mind putting in yourself. IE get a hdd instead of a ssd. Then on your own purchase a ssd seperate. clone the OS over or fresh install. And you just got basically a ssd and hdd probably cheaper than the single ssd would have cost going through a company.

Also, Dont get too hung up on the memory issue. Alot of people use corsair (generally at a premium in cost and not always the best) because it has had a great compatability rate, being certified with most boards as well.

Gskill, crucial are two other brands ive used and had no issues with.

Also and for the hp build not having usb 3.0, While not ideal, they do sell usb 3.0 add in cards that are a simple install.

Hope this helped a bit, sorry no experience with puget. but do remember if you dont build yourself or a friend. You are literally paying someone a good $200/hr if not more to assemble a pc. Most warranties are convenient but BS as most parts have a 3yr warranty. Only thing nice is tech support(about 10% of the time if knowledgable) and thats only if its something you use anyway.
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May 1, 2011 10:22:26 PM

Try emailling someone at custompcandrepairs.com, they do custom systems out of a shop in maryland. I have two systems from them and not a problem with either. They might not rip you off as much as puget will.
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May 1, 2011 10:45:39 PM

bdbeall said:
Try emailling someone at custompcandrepairs.com, they do custom systems out of a shop in maryland. I have two systems from them and not a problem with either. They might not rip you off as much as puget will.

If Puget (or anyone else for that matter) quotes a PC with specific components, and the customer accepts that price, it cannot be considered as a rip-off!
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May 1, 2011 10:51:17 PM

Ubrales said:
If Puget (or anyone else for that matter) quotes a PC with specific components, and the customer accepts that price, it cannot be considered as a rip-off!


whether accepted or not you can still get ripped off, you would just be a ripped off uneducated consumer.
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May 1, 2011 10:52:10 PM

OP Isn't even responding, bummer.
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May 1, 2011 11:00:37 PM

bdbeall said:
whether accepted or not you can still get ripped off, you would just be a ripped off uneducated consumer.

That's why more than 1 quote must be obtained for high ticket items, and services.
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May 1, 2011 11:03:31 PM

which is why i pointed him in the direction of an additional company
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