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Seek's avatar

Can you recommend me a desktop computer? (Details follow)

Asked by Seek (34769points) July 11th, 2010

I haven’t paid much attention to recent developments in hardware. The last processor I rooted for was the Athlon X2.

The Dinosaur (as I affectionately term my desktop) is an ‘05 model HP Pavilion a1320n. Suffice it to say, I want something newer.

Since money’s not on our good side right now, I need to save the pennies, so this is a recommendation for the near future.

I’m looking for:

1. Price. To jump the gun on the fanboys, I’d love to have a Mac, but they’re too damned expensive.

2. Some video and photo editing. I’m not making movies, but I do mess with home videos from time to time.

3. A little light gaming. The compy I have right now is incapable of running Fable (yeah, the first one). This is unacceptable.

Would I need a Desktop? Would a lappy be just as good? Intel or AMD? Does it matter?

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21 Answers

HungryGuy's avatar

I’d recommend something like an eMachines ET1831–07. It’s a desktop that comes with a dual-core 2.7 GHz Pentium processor. 4 GB of ram. And 650 GB hard drive. Not a heavy hitter by today’s standards, but plenty capable of photo editing and light gaming. When you turn it on, you’re at the Windows 7 desktop in a matter of seconds. I’m really impressed by that! It runs MS Train Simulator without lag, which speaks well for the machine as a gaming machine. The base machine is about $350, but I sprung for a wide-screen monitor and external 1.5 TB hard drive which put my bill at a little over $600.

I love laptops too, but all things being equal you’re going to pay more for a laptop than a desktop due to the extra complexity for miniaturisation of everything. Until last weekend, my old HP laptop ran XP, which was physically painful to use. I converted it to Ubuntu after I got my new machine set up.

jaytkay's avatar

Unless you really need/want to carry it around, I would forgo the laptop. You get more bank for the buck in a desktop. And laptops make future piecemeal upgrading (RAM, hard drive, video card) tougher or impossible.

Does assemble-it-yourself have any appeal? Something like this?
System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $550 Gaming PC

Aster's avatar

I have been very happy with my walmart brand desktop (but replaced the monitor with a 19” one).

dpworkin's avatar

A laptop is more convenient but more expensive for the same specs. Check out the specials at NewEgg.

beccalynnx's avatar

I have the Dell Inspiron model from last year. I do all of the above. plus LOTS of photo editing.
I love this thing. It’s light portable, got a HUGE screen, and isn’t a zillion pounds heavy.
I live for Intel, but that’s a just my opinion. I think Intel is great when you want a just little bit of everything and for it to run smoothly. Inspirons run from 500 to 900 buckaroos.

And like jaytkay said, don’t go for a laptop if you really don’t need it to be portable. There’s a desktop verion of the Inspiron too, btw.

dpworkin's avatar

Dell has been shipping bad stuff and then denying it lately.

jerv's avatar

I got a Gateway DX-series desktop with a Core i3–530 (vastly superior to any Core2 Duo), 6GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive for about $500.
Even the integrated graphics on it are fair (on par with my old Radeon 9800XT), and can run Fable:The Lost Chapter well enough at medium detail. I slapped a $100 GT240-based video card in there and it now rocks pretty hard for a $600 mostly prebuilt system, but if you are only going for light gaming them you don’t even need that.

My laptop cost about the same, but is less than half the computer that my desktop is, so unless you really need the portability then forget it. Besides, many people with laptops (especially 17” or larger) pretty much anchor it to their desk anyways.

jerv's avatar

@jaytkay One thing I have noticed is that nearly every such build omits the cost of the OS. While that may be fine for a Linux box or a builder who is likely to already have a full version install disc, it really doesn’t help the vast majority of people who only have Windows to to a non-transferrable OEM license on a pre-intalled version that is tied to a particular set of hardware.
In other words, your first DIY Windoze box will cost an extra $300 or more, though that cost won’t have to be paid again until there is another major version of Windows.

Or you could just insall Linux and configure WINE…

jaytkay's avatar

Windows 7 Home Premium (which is the best choice for most users) OEM is $99.99 at That gives you the same license as an off-the-shelf model.

So yes, the DIY project I linked is really $650.

jerv's avatar

@jaytkay Re-read the OEM license and you will see why I don’t consider that an option unless you plan to keep the same computer for at least 5 years or however long it takes Microsoft to replace the replacement for Windows 7.

From Microsoft’s lips:
“The software is licensed with the computer system on which it was originally installed and is tied to that original machine. OEM licenses are single-use licenses that cannot be installed on more than one computer system even if the original machine is no longer in use.”

I agree that Home Premium is the best version for most people though.

jaytkay's avatar

@jerv Isn’t that the same license you get with an HP, Dell, Gateway, etc?

HungryGuy's avatar

I heartily recommend Linux if you’re buying “bare metal” without an OS. Linux has grown up in recent years, and is as easy to install as Windoze. Ubuntu, for example, gives you a series of GUI screens for you to enter your time zone, lanuage, etc, and that’s it. It comes with all the common apps preloaded, AND it’s a wonderful delight to have only one media player rather than a gazillion different media players for all your different media files like MPG, AVI, MOV, FLV, etc., and only ONE IM app and all your friends listed in one place.

The downside is that if you’re into serious gaming, most games, unfortunately, are designed for Windoze. Linux has WINE (Windows Emulator) and DOSBOX (a MS DOS emulator), but not all games run well on an emulator. The emulator takes a hit against the game’s framerate, etc.

jerv's avatar

@jaytkay Pretty much, though there isn’t any software code that will abort the install if it detects “wrong” hardware like there is in factory-supplied OEM install discs like the ones that used to come with computers before they started moving to “recovery partitions”. However, when you go to activate an OEM copy of Windows on a new (different) computer, Microsoft will know that you are activating the same copy on a different computer since part of the activation process involves a hardware inventory, and they may not be happy about that.
By contrast, a full version is transferrable, so long as only one copy is active at a time. I have a full retail version of XP Pro that saw five different PCs over six years using the same license key and it passed validation every single time since there was never a time when two copies were active.
OEM versions make sense if you want to keep the box for a while, or if you plan to sell it with an OS installed, but if you upgrade frequently and try to use the same OEM license then you’re not only violating the EULA, but it might fail to even validate.

@HungryGuy You forgot to mention all of the cool stuff in the repositories ;)

liminal's avatar

ZaReason offers linux and ubuntu based systems that rival most of what is out there. They are a young company who stands by their products and builds what they can locally. We have been impressed with their customer service and we think their Open Hardware Warranty rocks! (They encourage you to lift the lid they even send you a little screwdriver.) Getting used to a new operating system is a simple transition. The whole linus and ubuntu community of users offer some great tools for teaching kids how to understand the computer world.

Seek's avatar

Oh, gods. I would love nothing more than to get Linux and an emulator.

However, I am married, and am having a hard enough time trying (and failing) to convince my husband to use an operating system other than AOL.

This is common in our home:

“ALYSON! Myspace isn’t working!”
~“What’s it doing?”
“It’s not showing this page.”
~“Didn’t that page tell you six months ago that it wasn’t supporting AOL anymore?”
“They always say that.”
~“Well, they meant it this time”
“So fix it.”
~“Sure. See that little beach ball looking thing (Google Chrome)? Click on it. Use that.”
“But I like AOL.”

jaytkay's avatar

Desktop reviews are tough to find, because models come and go so quickly.

The Gateway SX2840–01 rec’d a good review at both CNET and PCWorld. And it’s discontinued,

However, the SX2850–01 looks very close. Less memory (4GB vs 6GB) but they add in a wireless card and a marginally faster processor.

CNET Editor’s choice
PC World Top 10 Budget Desktop PCs

Right now the SX2850–01 is $549.99 at Newegg & Amazon

Seek's avatar

^^ Above, “operating system” should read “web browser”. Brain drain. I swear I’m not an idiot.

HungryGuy's avatar

@jerv – Oh yes! A wonderful feature of Linux! There’s a central software repository. Each Lunix distro calls it something different. Ubuntu calls it the Software Center. You can browse it and search by keyword or by category, and download to your heart’s delight. Most are FREE in the real human non-commercial sense of the word! Most have no EULAs. And no viruses! You do have to have some technical smarts to install some of the more complex stuff; Linux hasn’t quite achieved the idiot-proof software install as Windoze has. But it’s a wonderful feeling to use software that (1) doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of making one person insanely rich, and (2) you don’t need to agree to draconian legal gibberish for permission to use it. It’s yours! You own it! Install it as many times as you want on whatever computer(s) you want. Hack it! Take it apart. Customise it! Give your customised version away without worry! Do whatever you want with it!

liminal's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I understood you, notice I typed linus instead of linux the second time. I just showed my partner your AOL story, she laughed, and is putting that Picard pic on her desk. She finds it particularly funny because I am generally the one going “honey, make this work”. Thanks for the laugh.

jerv's avatar

@jaytkay That is the same specs as my DX4831–01e, right down to the MSRP. And as I type, the SX 2840–01 is still listed on the Gateway site. Personally, I prefer the DX’s full-sized case and ability to mount dual optical drives, but the SX is nice if size or lack thereof matters.

Currently, Best Buy lists the DX 4831–01 as “Out of Stock” at $529.99 while Microcenter has the SX 2840–01 for $419.97 .

jerv's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr My wife knows better than to try that with me and finds it easier to just learn a new browser than to deal with me bitching about why [random thing] is inferior. Of course, even as non-tech-savvy as she is, even my cat knows that AOL is utter fail.

BTW – I prefer the implied facepalm .

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