I Need a Basic Cheap Computer - Beginner

Hey guys,

I'm looking for advice on buying a computer and heard this is the place to go. I've owned laptops the past 10 years, getting tired of the issues I've had and ready to get a desktop because I've heard they're more reliable - I already have the wireless mouse/keyboard combo with a decent Samsung 20-22' LCD I've been using on a laptop with a busted screen. It's an HD screen but I don't really think I need the HD capability on the desktop do I?

I don't do any gaming.

I sometimes watch movies/tv - I used to stream but I've gone back to downloading.

I use Chrome and Firefox - sometimes both at the same time. Upwards of 20 tabs open.

Dropbox, Itunes, Microsoft Office, etc.

Pretty standard stuff, but when you have Itunes playing music, Excel and/or Word and/or PDF open, Dropbox in the background, 10 tabs on Chrome and a few on Firefox all at the same time - things freeze.

I have a wireless printer so I'd need wifi or something, not sure that I need bluetooth for anything?

What should I be looking at - should I try to build my own or customize it? Or should I buy a pre-made computer from a big box retailer? (I've been satisfied with TigerDirect for my laptops and have friends that usually go to Best Buy)

As a beginner all I know (or think I know) is that bigger and more is better. All this stuff about dual-core and core 2 duo etc. confuses the *** out of me. I've heard Intel is better than AMD, and that AMD tends to overheat. Do I need 3, 4, 8 etc. Gigs of RAM? Do I need a video-card or can I go the integrated route. What's the diff b/w USB 2.0 and 3.0? Windows Vista, 7 or 8? What kind of optical drive? I figure 500GB Hard Drive is enough.

What kind of warranty should I look at with a desktop? It's been huge for me with laptops, had a 3 yr warranty on a Gateway laptop now in it's 5th year, after 2.5 yrs it needed some work, been great since. I had a Lenovo crash within the 1st year, they gave me a refund and let me keep the laptop - the screen doesn't work and in the past 6 months I've had to wipe it clean and re-install windows 4 times.....I'm giving up this time which brings me to the desktop purchase.

I'm from Toronto. Basically I'd like to know the best way to build the cheapest desktop. I'd like to keep it below $500 all-in.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Otherwise I'll probably end up at TigerDirect listening to whatever they tell me.
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More about basic cheap computer beginner
  1. You can check prices on Newegg Canada for prebuilt systems, for your price range you will be quite limited. And from the sound of it you should probably not build one yourself, but if you know someone who does a good job building computers, go for it.
  2. I'm not up to speed on AMD, having abandoned them when they fell behind Intel after Core 2 Duo came out, so I can only speak to Intel offerings.

    If you buy a pre-built desktop they usually come with a one-year warranty. I would not get anything beyond that, it's a waste of money. Besides, most anything that goes wrong with a desktop (e.g., hard drive failure) you can fix yourself.

    If I were you I would get the latest Intel (Ivy Bridge) dual core processor, I believe that would be an I3 CPU. A quad core would be nice but I don't think your budget can afford it and I don't see that you really need it.

    4 GB of RAM is all you need and is pretty much standard, although you can find some real inexpensive pre-builts (Dell, Gateway, etc.) that come with only 2 GB. Don't go there, it's not worth it, especially with all the windows you will have open at the same time.

    You don't need a video card, the Intel integrated graphics will be fine for movies and web browsing (and even light gaming).

    Some, possibly most, pre-builts come with wireless (I only buy them on occasion for relatives or businesses), if the one you want doesn't have it you can always purchase a cheap USB wireless dongle for around $20 or so.

    A DVD/CD writer is standard.

    I would go with Windows 7, although on a new machine you may not be able to avoid Windows 8. It's your call.
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