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Inexpensive Home PC Purchase

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December 3, 2009 7:00:19 PM

Looking to buy an inexpensive home PC for home/family use (primarily online use).....I don't really know what I should be looking for.....I've spec'd out the following Dell configuration.......just looking for any feedback on where I should maybe look to upgrade/downgrade:

Operating System Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit, English
Processors AMD Athlon™ II X2 240 (2.8GHz, 2MB) 546M240
Memory 4GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz- 4 DIMMs 4GB84
Video Cards ATI Radeon HD 4350 512MB AT4350 (based on feedback I received in the graphic card forum I may downgrade to an integrated graphics card)
Hard Drive 320GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™ 320S
December 3, 2009 7:47:06 PM

Those certainly would be functional for what you use it for. There's no need for upgrades, unless you're under your budget and would like to get more out of your purchase.

What is the price of the system you listed? What is your budget? What integrated graphics does it come with?
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December 3, 2009 7:50:57 PM

The setup is $470 (wo monitor).....I'd like to spend anywhere from $400 to $600 (wo monitor).

This is the Inspiron 546...the only thing I don't like is the size. But a smaller Inspiron (Zino or 547) with the same specs is about $80 more....and I can't come to grips with spending more money for the same specs in a smaller case.
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December 3, 2009 7:52:05 PM

the graphics card is ok for general use, but i'm guessing alot of negative feedback is probably people trying to game w\ it and i don't think it's really a high end card.

if that system is around $400-450 it's a good deal.
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December 3, 2009 8:05:11 PM

It's a little high priced for what you're getting. You could get a better system on ibuypower.com, but it's a gaming site. The cases are real flashy. Not sure how much that matters to you.

I just think the Dell is overpriced by $40 or $50.
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December 3, 2009 10:04:24 PM

I can get this setup in Dell Zino for $328.....would these specs result in a noticeable decrease in performance (from the Inspiron 546 specs at the beginning of the post) for general home use and internet activity?

Inspiron 400 Inspiron Zino HD ANGOBH
Operating System Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit
Processors AMD Athlon™ 2650e (512K L2, 1.6GHz)
Memory 4GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz- 2 DIMM 4GB82
Video Card Integrated ATI Radeon HD3200 Graphics UMAGFX
Hard Drive 250GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive 250S
Sound Integrated 2.1 High Definition Audio



Do I need 4gb of RAM to effectively run Windows 7 Home 64 bit?

Is a CPU at the bottom end of what Dell offers such as the Athlon 2650 good enough?

What would improve performance the most: a faster CPU or a dedicated graphics card?

Any and all feedback is appreciated
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December 4, 2009 1:41:29 AM

For simple online use, the zino is just fine. What will matter most is your network connection.

The hardware upgrades will come into play in all other aspects (boot time, response time, video quality...etc).

They both will improve performance in their own way. But improving one and not the other, can cause a bottleneck.

If you are simply going to use the PC for online use/word processing, the Zino is probably the perfect fit. It will not be a good all purpose PC.
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December 4, 2009 4:24:49 AM

While any of these builds is perfectly find for current online usage, you probably want to consider the intended longevity of the PC.

I've recently been considering a similar build for my father, and came to the conclusion that future PC usage will rely heavily on multiple cores, and 64-bit capability. He will never need a racing fast computer, but when newer software comes out with multi-core usage and 64 bit code the computer will still be useful--and I will not have to buy him a new one.

In order to maximize your buying power you want to purchase PCs of a certain heft. To explain--the lower the price of the PC, the greater percentage of the cost represents parts like the mouse, metal case, and other basic components. With a really cheap PC, most of what you are paying for are the basic parts--not for its actual processor+etc. This type of computer does not last very long, and is a poor investment--you will have to pay for a new case, a new DVD drive, etc, and etc all over again in a year or two when you replace it.

In short, a $500 PC that works for 6-7 years is a vastly better investment than a $300 PC that works for 2-3.


You do not need a fast and expensive graphic card, but you should get one. Graphics that are integrated into the motherboard are never very good--and sharing your ram with graphics is a large burden on your system. Anything with 512mb of dedicated graphics memory will boost your system a lot, and would be plenty for you.

I wouldnt drop below 3gb of ram. 4 preferred. My Vista computer is currently using 1.37gb to run firefox and some other stuff--and no matter what your computer usage you want a little room to grow.


More expensive options:

My first two suggestions, closer to the top of your price range--both have relatively powerful processors that vastly outpower the Athlon™ II X2 240

While you wont take full advantage of these now, these quad core processors will age much better than the skimpy dual core, 32 bit systems you see in stores. Also, ZT computers are built in the US.

$569 ZT Affinity 7345Mi-37 Core 2 Quad Q9300(2.50GHz) 4GB DDR2 500GB NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS Windows 7 Home Premium - Retail

$559 ZT Affinity 7343Ma Phenom II X4 925(2.8GHz) 4GB DDR2 500GB ATI Radeon HD 4350 Windows 7 Home Premium - Retail


Two cheaper options: These are the lowest I would go in power without starting to lose value as described above.

$419 Gateway SX2800-03 Core 2 Quad Q8200(2.33GHz) 4GB DDR3 640GB Intel GMA X4500 Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit - Retail (this might come with a windows 7 upgrade coupon.. not sure) (Also, If I bought this for my father I would stick a $25 graphics card in it.)

Comparable to this computer here would be the Dell Inspiron 546 that you have already found.

Were I configuring this computer for you or my father I would bump up the specs you chose a little. I would say your minimum should be: Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit, AMD Athlon™ II X3 425 (2.7GHz, 1.5MB) and 4 gb of ram. (the x3 is a triple core--a good bargain thats in between the dual core you picked and the quads I listed above)
This totals $458, or you can add the 4350 graphics card for an extra 60 bucks.

Best of luck! Let me know if you need an explanation of why different processors are better, or anything like that.
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December 4, 2009 4:35:34 AM

^That's a good theory for a general purpose PC.

But if the PC is mainly being used for internet usage, as stated, the quad cores are slower, and an unneeded added expense.
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December 4, 2009 4:53:07 AM

He also doesnt need more than a 2.3ghz core to run the internet programs he wants to run.

When prices are similar as shown above, I say he should get more cores as opposed to a higher clock speed. He doesnt need to pay for a 3ghz+ gaming processor like your e8500 or my e8400--so why not get cores?

Everyone SAYS they only want a computer for internet usage-- but all the little stuff running in the background like iTunes, adobe updaters, antiviruses, windows update, and stuff start to add up. A quad core will handle this crap better than a dual core when the computer becomes loaded up with software after a few years.


But either way-- I agree that you should be able to find a better deal than that if you are going dual core. I suggested the quads because they were in the price range. I'm just not certain where at the moment...
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December 4, 2009 6:04:38 AM

The difference is, the quad cores you mentioned are $150 - $200 more than the dual core systems the OP was looking at (though, they are within the budget listed).

Dual cores have faster cores than quads. Unless someone is multitasking, a dual core is faster. Very few single apps use more than 2 cores. And a PC for internet usage is not reliant on the cores at all.
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December 4, 2009 9:27:27 AM

Thanks all for the good info
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December 4, 2009 1:48:31 PM

{The original build he listed listed comes to $428 wo monitor. I consider my low-end comparisons to be within that range. My Dell suggestion was $458-500. I reject the Zino completely as a viable option unless you actually need to fit your computer in a 6inx6in space--its just smaller parts that you cant maintenance or replace if there is a problem.

I have to assume you asked us because you want the best value for your money--so thats the argument I'm making.

If you do decide to go with a dual core under $400, you might as well just pick up a computer in office depot/staples and not wait to pay for shipping and the custom build. The low end models you see on sale there in the $300s will be close enough to the bottom level specs on a Zino. (office stores will have much better prices than best buy)

Most computer makers sell stock low-end PCs in store--the only reason to buy online is if you wanted to customize it with a better part.
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December 4, 2009 10:04:55 PM

Ok, I took all the feedback I received from the forums....(I looked at Dell, IBuyPower, Cybermax, etc...). I came across this deal at Newegg and it seems like a solid deal:

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo E7400(2.8GHz)
Processor Main Features 64 bit Dual Core Processor
Cache Per Processor 3MB L2 Cache
Memory 6GB DDR2 667
Hard Drive 640GB 7200RPM
Optical Drive 1 DVD±RW
Graphics Intel GMA 3100
Vista Home 64 bit

$419

Any feedback is appreciated. Can someone recommend a discrete graphics card that will perform well and is easy to install?

Thanks again for all the help.
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December 4, 2009 10:40:11 PM

Hah.. we finally agreed on something. :-) (I added this before seeing yours)

You might want to investigate if this computer comes with a Win 7 upgrade coupon.
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December 4, 2009 11:20:27 PM

There's always room for a little disagreement.
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December 4, 2009 11:22:44 PM

No Win 7 upgrade.......good deal or should I keep looking?
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December 4, 2009 11:42:06 PM

It's a decent budget PC. It depends on how important windows7 is to you.

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December 5, 2009 3:16:26 AM

From what I can tell you cant match this price and specs in a new build at Dell or HP.

Essentially you are getting the 2 extra gigs of ram, and a bigger hard drive for $30 less than a similar E7400 dell 537s build that would have win 7. Newegg generally has pretty low shipping rates though...

Vista works fine... but windows 7 does have some nice features.
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December 9, 2009 11:48:37 AM

Ok, I'm making my purchase today.....it is down to a Dell Inspiron 546 or a Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 2019 (Newegg). They are the same price....and from what I can see comparable specs (below). Any opinions as to which computer will be more reliable? Thanks again to everyone for all the information and help.

Cyberpower:

# Processor: AMD Athlon II X2 245(2.9GHz)
# Processor Main Features: 64 bit Dual Core Processor
# Cache Per Processor: 2 x 1MB L2 Cache
# Memory: 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 800
# Hard Drive: 500GB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 7200RPM HDD
# Optical Drive 1: 24X DVD±R/±RW Dual Layer Drive
# Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4350 512MB PCI Express Video Card

Dell


Operating System Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit, English
Processors AMD Athlon™ II X2 240 (2.8GHz, 2MB)
Memory 4GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz- 4 DIMMs
Video Cards ATI Radeon HD 4350 512MB AT4350 [320-8163]
Hard Drives 320GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
Optical Drives 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
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December 9, 2009 3:09:37 PM

In all honesty, I think I would choose the Cyberpower system.

The Dell has a slightly slower CPU. I'm not crazy about the 4x1 DIMMS. It'd be better to have 2x2GB instead. It also has a smaller hard drive. If you were to upgrade those hardware specs on the Dell to match the Cyberpower system, it would cost more than if you were to buy a copy of windows 7 and upgrade the OS on the Cyberpower system.
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December 9, 2009 4:49:43 PM

Check out shipping costs. Newegg will be $30ish, not sure what dell is.

The 2019 seems to be unavailable at the moment. I cant tell if its just low inventory or if newegg stopped carrying it. If it reactivates I would choose it because of the slightly better numbers. Better processor, ram, hd etc. I have a year old cyberpower and I have had no problems (although i replaced the poor quality PSU it came with). You might be able to recreate this build at the cyberpower website or find it from another retailer.

Dell probably offers better tech support though--if thats something you think you will need it might be worth the small difference in power. Cyberpower does not have good tech support.
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December 9, 2009 4:55:32 PM

Overall though I think you have done an excellent job of narrowing down your requirements for value. Keep these specs in mind if you have to consider other options due to price/availability fluctuations.
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