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Looking for advice on buying $500-550 computer that can play PC games

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December 7, 2009 7:20:30 PM

I'm looking to replace an old Dell (no reusable parts, though). Looking to spend about 500-550 max on the computer itself, excluding the monitor (will buy separately). I don't know much about choosing hardware, which is why I'm here. :) 

Generally, my computer use involves Photoshop, playing video files (downloaded and streaming), torrenting, and playing games. My old computer was absolutely awful at playing games, virtually nothing post-2001 would run on it, which is why I'd like to catch up with more recent games such as Left 4 Dead, but I definitely don't need to specially pick the parts with a specific game in mind -- in general, I'd just like to be able to play new games without hassle. It doesn't have to be absolutely top-of-the-line performance, but I'd like this computer to last a good 5-6 years if possible. Get the most bang for my buck, you know?

Mostly, what I'd like advice on is what processor(s) would suit my needs, what video card(s) would be a good choice, and any specific models to look for that Dell makes. Of course, if a different company makes something closer to what I want in my price range, don't hesitate to tell!

Thanks for any advice!
December 7, 2009 9:17:30 PM

Do you want something already built (with advice just on key parts) or do you want us to pick all the parts and you build it?

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December 7, 2009 10:19:02 PM

Sorry if that wasn't clear, I am looking for advice on key parts for a pre-built computer. :) 
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December 7, 2009 11:21:34 PM

Try this. I configured it from ibuypower.com

$559.00

Intel Core 2 Duo Configurator
Case ( NZXT Gamma Gaming Mid Tower Case - Black )
Processor ( Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E7500 (2x 2.93GHz/3MB L2 Cache/1066FSB) )
Motherboard ( Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2H -- Intel G41/ICH7 Chipset w/ 7.1 Sound, HDMI, S-ATA 3Gb/s, USB 2.0, PCI-E MB )
Memory ( 2 GB [1 GB X2] DDR2-800 PC6400 Memory Module - Corsair-Value or Major Brand )
Video Card ( ATI Radeon HD 4850 - 512MB - Single Card )
Case Lighting ( None )
Power Supply ( 450 Watt -- Standard Power Supply )
Processor Cooling ( Certified CPU Fan and Heatsink )
Video Card Brand ( Major Brand Powered by ATI or NVIDIA )
Primary Hard Drive ( 500 GB HARD DRIVE -- 16M Cache, 7200 RPM, 3.0Gb/s - Single Drive )
Data Hard Drive ( None )
2nd Optical Drive ( None )
Optical Drive ( 22X Dual Format/Double Layer DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Drive - Black )
External Hard Drives [USB 2.0/eSATA] ( None )
Sound Card ( 3D Premium Surround Sound Onboard )
Speaker System ( iBUYPOWER 2.1 Channel Stereo Super Bass Subwoofer Speaker System )
Network Card ( Onboard LAN Network (Gb or 10/100) )
Floppy Drive ( None )
Monitor ( None )
Keyboard ( iBUYPOWER USB Keyboard - Black )
Mouse ( iBUYPOWER Internet Mouse - Black )
Operating System ( None- Pre-formatted Hard Drive Only )
Warranty ( Standard Warranty Service - Standard 3-Year Limited Warranty + Lifetime Technical Support )
Rush Service ( Rush Service Fee (not shipping fee) - No Rush Service, Estimate Ship Out in 5~10 Business Days )
Video Camera ( None )
Power Protection ( None )
Headset ( None )
Printer ( None )
Meter Display ( None )
Flash Media Reader/Writer ( 12-In-1 Internal Flash Media Card Reader/Writer - Black )
MP3/MP4 Player ( None )
USB Flash Drive ( None )
2nd Monitor ( None )
iBUYPOWER Labs - Noise Reduction ( None )
iBUYPOWER Labs - Internal Expansion ( None )
Netbook / Notebook Bundle ( None )
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December 7, 2009 11:21:58 PM

The problem is that you are unlikely to find even a decent low end gaming machine in that budget range.

One option is to try to find a system locally on sale - but most likely you will then need to upgrade both the PSU (very few low end machines have a PSU sized to handle anything but the smallest non-gaming graphics cards) and a better video card.

Are you up to considering that?

Do you live near any major computer stores - Frys, Microcenter or such?
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December 7, 2009 11:48:56 PM

The ibuyPower rig above looks good for the price, although I know nothing about the vendor.

Here are couple of PC's from Newegg. The first two have an adequate PSU - you only need to replace the video card with something like an ATI 4670 for about $50. The third one you will need to add a PSU for about $50 as well as the video card.

yberpowerPC Gamer Ultra 7214 Athlon II X2 245(2.9GHz) 4GB DDR2 500GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220 Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit - RetailyberpowerPC Gamer Ultra 7214 Athlon II X2 245(2.9GHz) 4GB DDR2 500GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220 Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit – Retail - $550 plus shipping
Has GT220 and 420w PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


CyberpowerPC Gamer Infinity 3315 Core 2 Quad Q8200(2.33GHz) 4GB DDR2 500GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220 Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit - Retail - $580 plus shipping
Has GT 220 and 420w PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


eMachines ET1831-03 Pentium dual-core E5300(2.60GHz) 4GB DDR2 750GB NVIDIA GeForce 7050 Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - Retail - $390
Has only 250w PSU and onboard video
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Do any of those options look interesting?
Be aware that replacing the PSU may create issues with the warranty and if you call the vendor for service and he knows the PSU has been replaced he may not help unless you reinstall the old PSU - or might even consider the warranty void if a power related issue.
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December 8, 2009 12:56:53 AM

rockyjohn said:
The problem is that you are unlikely to find even a decent low end gaming machine in that budget range.

One option is to try to find a system locally on sale - but most likely you will then need to upgrade both the PSU (very few low end machines have a PSU sized to handle anything but the smallest non-gaming graphics cards) and a better video card.

Are you up to considering that?

Do you live near any major computer stores - Frys, Microcenter or such?


I figured it was probably hard to meet my needs with my low budget, but I appreciate the advice! Not many electronics stores are in my area, it's really just Best Buy. I'm willing to go off the beaten path to get a good deal, but I'd rather not mess with the PSU. Replacing the graphics card sounds very doable.

I like the looks of the first two computers you linked -- do you have any opinion on which is better or more suited to my needs? Thirty bucks isn't a dealbreaker, so it comes down to quality.

TheViper, thanks for the build, I'll take it into consideration as well :) 
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December 8, 2009 4:25:28 AM

Here is a comparison of those two plus two iBuyPower from newegg. I picked them up since another listed a PC from their site above, even tho I know nothing of the vendor.

On paper - on the specs - the iBuyPower on the link below for $560 looks the best - not only does it already come with the 4670 video card installed, but also a 680w power supply. Compared to the one listed above, the one above has a much better video card - at least 50% faster - but a much smaller PSU. With the 680w you could install just about any graphics card you wanted - although you would not want to outreach the CPU but you get the idea.

Of the two Cyberpower, I would go with the less expensive one. It only has a dual core CPU but its faster speed gives it better game play. Also the mobo has slots for 4 stick of memory (with 2 still open) while the other only has 2 filled slots.

So I guess the big question is how good is iBuyPower and that I really don't know. Lacking any further info, I would go with the Cyberpower to be safe - but you might want to spend some time googling for reviews on iBuyPower.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...

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December 9, 2009 4:21:16 AM

The iBuyPower and Cyberpower computers are tempting, but after googling for reviews, there's so many horror stories. :??:  Even if I didn't have to worry about getting anything from my warranty, it seems like so many people receive their tower with stuff knocked out of place or broken. Sounds like a little too much of a risk, at least for now.

Now, maybe this is a dumb question, sorry if it is, but I was messing around with builds on Dell's site and got an Inspiron 546 together with 4gb RAM, Athlon II X4 630, 500gb hard drive, and an integrated graphics card for $500. (A friend's employee discount helps -- I think that same build with no discount is slightly more.) It has a 300 watt power supply, and the 4670 graphics card you recommended says it must have a 400 watt power supply. Is that absolutely final? I'd rather not risk harming my theoretical brand new computer but I just wondered. :)  And if that card's out of the question, what's my next best bet with that power supply? I tried scoping out other recommended cards and saw no mention of power supply recommendations. I know the 300 watts is low compared to the computers you were recommending, but I'm not adverse to replacing it later after the warranty has ended if it's not too difficult or risky. I'll probably replace the card within a few years anyway, I suppose!

Sorry, that's a lot of words for some dumb questions. :lol:  Thanks for the help, I appreciate it!

edit: hold on, is the 400-watt thing only for the 1gb version of the 4670? I don't see that warning on the 512mb version of the card on Newegg's page. Confusing!
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December 9, 2009 4:27:16 AM

You can safely run the HD 4670 on a quality 300 watt PSU and I believe Dell has improved the quality of their PSU's lately.
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December 9, 2009 1:27:22 PM

butterbrickle said:
The iBuyPower and Cyberpower computers are tempting, but after googling for reviews, there's so many horror stories. :??: 


I have never owned a Cyberpower PC so I cannot claim first person experience - but then any first person experience is only anecdotal and not a good source of evidence about a system used by thousands if not hundreds of thousands. Instead I refer you to Cyberpower's list of awards from many sources:

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/awards/

PC Mag used to do an annual customer satisfaction survey. The latest I could find was for 2007. It shows customer satisfaction with Cyberpower ranking ahead of Gateway, Dell, HP, Lenovo and others - although below Apple, self-built, and Sony.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2182831,00.asp

After seeing others protest the choice of Cyberpower based on online complaints, I pointed out that using anecodotal information to make a decision was not wise, especially when more comprehensive survey information was available.

But just for grins, I typed the search terms one suggested – “Cyberpower PC reviews” and clicked on the first link offered – it was for resellerratings. Here are the store ratings they report:

Cyberpower......................8.34
Dell................................2.07
HP.................................1.82
Gateway.........................5.0


http://www.resellerratings.com/store/CyberPower
http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Dell
http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Hewlett_Packard
http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Gateway

Or another one of the links on that search took me to newegg which sells Cyberpowerpcs. On the model in the link, all 18 buyers rated it tops - 5 stars.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N...

This was a deactivated item so I went to the list of Cybepower PCs - newegg sells quite a few - and checked the lowest price on listed - under the assumption that the cheapest is the most likely to have problems. All 5 ratings were again tops - 5 stars.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Well that is it for me. I have more than satisfied myself that the anecdotal evidence is not the best source of information here. I encourage people to build their own - but if they choose not to - which is a valid and reasonable choice - then I think Cyberpower is an excellent choice for a manufacturer.

I bet if you search for any PC manufacturer you are going to find a host of unhappy users that have posted complaints on one forum or another. The unhappy speak up while the satisfied just quietly use their PC.

Finally – I came across some reviews at Anandtech:

I7-920 system
http://www.anandtech.com/systems/showdoc.aspx?i=3524

Older review of an AMD system from CyberPower:
http://www.anandtech.com/systems/showdoc.aspx?i=3384

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December 9, 2009 10:39:27 PM

rockyjohn, I do agree with your point about reviewers, but I don't know, I'm still not sold. Will keep it in mind, though.

TheViper said:
You can safely run the HD 4670 on a quality 300 watt PSU and I believe Dell has improved the quality of their PSU's lately.


Sorry for my lack of knowledge, but what would happen if I did install that card on a 300 watt PSU and something went wrong? Would it be a "kill the whole system" sort of reaction or would it simply be the card wouldn't work? I just don't have a feel for this sort of thing.
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December 9, 2009 10:55:14 PM

The most common problems would be the system simply won't power on, you'll see graphical errors on your screen, system will freeze up, crash and reboot.

At worse if the PSU is of poor quality, it can kill the PSU. It won't harm your other components unless something really crazy happens.
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December 10, 2009 1:52:25 AM

How about this option - Dell with integrated video + add Video card

Dell Studio Desktop = $469 before shipping
Basic Studio Model (mini-tower) includes:
2 GB RAM – 800MHz
500 GB HD
DVD+/-RW
350w PSU
plus upgrade:
Core 2 Duo E7500
(Note: If you get this I suggest upgrading with 2x1GB memory when you can. Also note that it is a small case so make sure it has room for whatever components you might want to add.)
From Dell.com – just start with Studio Desktop $399 and select CPU upgrade option above

Video Card – Pick one of two

BFG Tech BFGE98512GTGE GeForce 9800 GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card - Retail - $90 AR with free shipping
Note this is the low power version and will have slightly lower performance than standard benchmarks – but only requires 350w PSU
(By the way – I just recently bought one of these cards when it was on sale for $70 AR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

MSI R4670-MD512 Radeon HD 4670 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card – Retail - $55 AR plus shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Comparison of Performance (see note above on 9800GT)
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-char...


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