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I need to buy a new computer, what should I be looking for?

I would like to buy a desktop PC which would be mostly used for internet, a bit of gaming, some photo and video editing, and watching DVDs   What type of CPU, RAM, hard drive capacity and video card should I consider for good performance. I would like to be able to use it for awhile before having to upgrade again. I'm looking to spend between $600-1000 (I don't need a monitor or any peripherals).
Thanks


Thank you for your advice, I've already bought a computer!

Please don't tell me how much better a Mac is, I am not interested!


Picture of I need to buy a new computer, what should I be looking for?
frollard3 years ago
Presuming you want a windows machine:
I just built a new gaming-centric machine and it set me back about 800.

These days I've switched to intel chips - amd let me down too many times, but thats personal opinion. For a given price point you'll achieve very similar results with either.

If you want it to last a generation or three, get quality parts from real brands with real reputations/reviews. Fact is nVidia or ATI simply make the GPU chips, and its up to resellers to put those chips into video cards or motherboards. I recommend msi, asus, gigabyte, corsair to name a few respectable brands. I currently have an Asus Nvidia GTX 460 with 1gb onboard ram -- ~200 dollar video card that can handle most games on high or ultra settings. In the nvidia line, the 400 series is the everyday model, and the 500 series are the pro uuber models.

Windows 7 these days isn't as big a hog as vista was for RAM, but its still good to have plenty and again quality is important. I'm running 4gb of corsair ram, and I never have slowdown problems.

Hard drive is a point of contention: The price/gb these days is constantly dropping, and with different interfaces, colours, and architectures it can be hard to decide. Everywhere you go you will find wildly fluctuating reviews of different drives because they have the highest failure rate of any computer component.
I have a 2TB Western Digital Green (low power) drive. It won't knock your socks off with speed but it is quick enough. To supplement it I use windows' Readyboost feature on an 8gb thumbdrive and my computer outperforms my friend who uses a solid state drive.

A thought; drives are getting cheaper these days, consider 2 in a mirrored raid array for redundancy - Drives being so big its really like all your eggs in one basket so its important to safe, or backup often.

Motherboard: Compatability these days is MUCH better than it was a decade ago - now if the chip physically fits theres a good chance it will work. Most computer places will guide you in what exact chip and motherboard you should aim for.

Processor: Intel currently has a wide array of chips - There's the i3 series, the i5 series, and the i7 series which you will find most often. I got a Core i5 quad core Socket 1155 LGA. It's the SandyBridge chipset @ 32nm and I run my 3.2ghz chip up to 4.2ghz (very overclockable) Also in the 200 dollar range...
It uses 100 watts and likewise needs a suitable cooler. Since I overclocked I picked up a bigger cooler but that probably wasn't necessary as stock coolers have also vastly improved.

The i3 series is lower speed, lower power, lower awesomeness, but more affordable.
The i7 series will set you back double the cost but have double the fun (speed, etc).

Lastly, power supply: you have to total up the requirements of all your components to figure out how big a power supply you need. MOST cases with a single processor and single video card a 500 watt supply will do just fine - and it's not much more expensive to go with a quality brand which will pay dividends compared to a cheap psu that may fail and destroy your motherboard. My machine as I described it draws 350 watts at the mains and I have a 500 watt corsair builders series supply; perfect!

Optical disk drive: el-cheapo dvd for when I need to load a driver disk, really I don't need it. Everything is already digital in my multimedia world.

I've not included the cost of windows OS in the above, but I have win7 ultimate, another few hundred dollars.

ChrysN (author)  frollard3 years ago
Cool, that was very helpful. I just bought something very similar. They had a deal on it a NCIX, they are putting it together right now so I have to wait a few days to get it though.
iceng frollard3 years ago
Impressive !
frollard iceng3 years ago
It wasn't until I hit submit that I realized I wrote a freakin book... :)
Buy an apple, windows sucks
he said no comments about mac/apple.
not when I answered
NE patsrock3 years ago
a mac is the best it is the fastest uploading and great every thing i even have one rite now
fastest uploading. are you serious. thats not something to describe a computer.
and macs are not as fast as a well built pc, like a high end alienware.
Ooo yes they r!!!! Don't think ur gunna outsmart me
I have already outsmarted you. I use proper grammar, and spelling.
thats the badthing
as in SPACES...hint hint...
OMG SPACES
...and not upper casing every word.
ok
Vyger3 years ago
Do you want to try doing it yourself? If that sounds interesting to you I can help you with ordering the components you will need and could help walk you through it.
ChrysN (author)  Vyger3 years ago
I'm okay with putting in the drives, video cards and ram, but I'm a bit nervous about the motherboard and cpu, I've never done that before.
make sure to get thermal paste when attaching the heatsink to the cpu!
iceng3 years ago
I go to a local computer build what you want store (been around 15 yrs )
and have them load widows XP. A
ChrysN (author)  iceng3 years ago
I'm using XP now and quite like it, do you recommend sticking with that rather then going with Windows 7?
i say both :D. no, i am serious dual boot them.
Vyger ChrysN3 years ago
XP is good but it has some limitations. The new hardware that has been coming out is designed for Winds 7 and they are not making it backwards compatible so if you want to take advantage of those things you will need to move up to Win 7, The 64 bit version is best.

You might want to think about a notebook. Some of those are really good now. Here is one with a 17.3 inch screen.

http://sagernotebook.com/index.php?page=product_info&model_name=NP5175
XP is on the way out for sure. for example, one of the computers I'm working with at work only has drivers for windows 7 64 bit on the dell website. Several of the others don't even have windows vista 32 bit support, only 64 bit or windows 7. There is definitely a big push to get people off XP. Silly Microsoft could lose out in the OS battle if they don't realize businesses like XP/similar, simple more than than new, flashy stuff made to awe the sheeple of the world...I mean the sophisticated consumer. There is also the whole Windows 8 being in beta and planned for 2012 release issue. (who knows how long that could really be, but it's coming down the pipes for sure)

As to the topic, if you only want to do "casual" computing and are not looking for the build from the ground up experience, I would suggest buying a mid-level preassembled computer. I hate to say it because of long built prejudice, but Apple has some nice wares if you want to be doing multimedia as well. You should have little to worry about as far as gaming because of their growing market share for personal computers.
You shouldn't need top end components with the exception of having a RAID mirror is a good idea, especially if you still go with a sizable hard drive for a large archive. You would hate to lose photos and videos.
frollard ChrysN3 years ago
Go with the new OS. XP is still widely used, primarily because it is relied up on in corporate environments to run older software on older hardware.
Step up to the new technology!
fischer993 years ago
buy a mac mini. i just bought one. First time i've moved away from windows and probably wont go back. Has the horse power and will last you a a long while. Upgrade the RAM. I bought mine stock from apple for about 699 i think. HDMI capability. Running XBMC for my movies and have it attached to my 46" LCD TV. For the money you can go wrong. Much of the movie, photo editing is included.
nowadays it does not have decent horse power, mabe 12 years ago it would have been a beast, but now, you get much better stuff. HDMI capability is almost standard now, and in windows, if you get the right stuff, ie vlc media player, and/or photoshop, you have a much better movie/photo editing experience.
acarlson53 years ago
Newegg.com i built my computer off of there and its pretty awesome, nothing to brag about, pretty fast and quite reliable.

Note: AMD processors are cheaper than Intel for the same thing. Just saying.
westfw3 years ago
I would say that an important thing is to make sure you get one that can have its RAM upgraded above 4GB. That's one of those "cliffs" that separate the advanced systems from the cheap systems; "only 4G" is good enough for most things, but if that's the top it means you're not going to get a quick speedup in a year by upgrading to 8G. At least two CPU cores these days.

Watch your displays. Standard HD-res monitors are cheap and common now, but they're quite a few pixels short of the old high-res monitors (typically 1920x1080 instead of 1920x1200. But then you can get two of the 1080p monitors for the price of the "graphics standard" monitors. Which might be worth looking at.

Check number of USB ports. Yeah, you can add hubs, but it's nicer if you don't have to.

Raid is somewhat disrecommended. Last I checked there was much anecodtal evidence that RAID increased complexity without actually improving reliability much. Two separate drives and the appropriate backup software should accomplish nearly the same thing is a more understandable way.

A built-in flash card reader is nice, if you take a lot of pictures.
If you never have purchased a computer before, you might want to check out some resale shops. Goodwill (computer specific center) has some pretty decent systems (sans monitor) for about $50. I would say start with one of those to get a feeling for what you really want. You can always either turn it into a server or keep it as a backup system. Your first computer is never your first computer.
ElvenChild3 years ago
Well you should look for a computer with 2-6gb's of ram and a 250 gb hdd or a 160 gb ssd to save on money you could by a computer without an os and install Linux such as fedora core 15 on it. As for graphics nvidia geforce is fine but if you want hd and high end video editing you will probably want ati. If you want to use it with multiple displays get one with multiple video outs. Screen real estate is a big issue when it comes to video editing so you do not want a net book. However if yor willing to spend a little bit more you could get a MacBook with 4 gb's of ram or you could seenif you apply for the education discount. However you never said whether or you wanted a desktop or a laptop if you wanted a desktop on that budget you could trick out a Mac mini however do it yourself as apple will charge you an arm a leg and if you want an iPad two a kidney (a Chinese boy recently sold his kidney to get one).
Rich993 years ago
chrys... i have another idea. go to mal-wart like i did and pick up an acer suitcase for $400. my old winxp refurb was just fine, and i have another use for it. it had a p4 1.6 and .5g ram.

now, the acer has an athlonii dual core 3.1, 8gigs ram, and a terabyte hard drive,, i already have 3 external drives totaling 750g for back up. any way, it's FAST!

i had resisted win7 for far too long, and the acer/win7 provides just enough challenge to keep it interesting. it's not a very steep learning curve going from xp to 7.

good luck!
nanosec123 years ago
this may sound too simple, but I looked at building my own setup last year, I have done it before and done it on a semi-profesional basis.

My BEST recomendation is to google for the 'dell outlet' store and look around there. They have some unbelievable deals on refurbs, cancelled orders, and some scratch&dent items. I was able to save so much on what I wanted (bought one for $997 that would have costs me $1450 to build) that I bought a second one as a gift for my Dad for Christmas.

It's worth checking out for the savings, but if you want to do it yourself I would follow the other ideas.

Along the lines of doing it yourself, you can also search for a 'bare bones kit' that has the case/motherboard/ram/power supply already inside, and then add the drives and video yourself. Amazon has a decent selection of BB kits.

Hope this helps.