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Old 2011-10-08, 15:49   Link #1
Kaijo
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Time for a New Computer... Suggestions?

My current one is almost 10 years old, and last last me well. But I think it's time to upgrade. It's developed an issue where it powers on for 2 seconds, then turns off, forcing me to plug the power cord in somewhere else before it will attempt to power on again. Eventually, it stays on for good. I think it's a PSU issue, but don't believe it's worth the time or money to try for a new PSU. And I need to upgrade anyway...

With that in mind, let me list some of the things I am looking for:

Able to stream and play 720p and 1080p video
To hook it up to my TV at times to stream video to it
Relatively quiet as can be
Possibly wifi enabled (or ability to add wifi capability later)

I'm not any sort of gamer, so I don't care about high end stuff or being able to play any of the top games on the market. I mainly use it for writing, browsing, and watching stuff. My budget is about $500, give or take. I'm not entirely comfortable putting something together on my own; mainly looking for advice of what to look for in specs, make, models, company, etc. And what to avoid.

I plan to get a new monitor, too, but that's a more future thing. I'd rather get a decent computer now, before my current one dies on me.

Thinking something with a 2-3ghz processor, 2GB+ RAM, and 500GB+ HDD. Any suggestions? Good deals? Things to avoid?
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Old 2011-10-08, 17:55   Link #2
SeijiSensei
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You might want to take a look at the small form-factor machines designed to be used as a media center PC. Newegg has a bunch of these, all under $500, like this, this, or this. If your TV has an HDMI port, you can connect these directly to it. Add a wireless keyboard and mouse, and you're good to go. They're also considerably quieter than a traditional desktop PC, though I must say I don't really notice my full-sized Acer which sits next to my TV, even with its NVIDIA card with a separate fan.

The ASUS models don't generally have an optical drive, so if you're intending to use it as a DVD player, the Acer is a better choice. (You can also buy a USB-enabled outboard DVD drive for about $50.) The NVIDIA ION platform supports hardware-accelerated decoding of H.264 video. My ASUS netbook has an ION processor and works well with 720p and even 1080p material using Linux, mplayer, and the VDPAU driver from NVIDIA. (There are Windows equivalents as well.) Atom-powered machines like these may have trouble with the new 10-bit encodes our friendly fansubbers have started to roll out since they can't decode the video using the graphics hardware.

In the regular desktop market, here's what's available at NewEgg in the $400-500 range. These Lenovos look like a pretty good deal in comparison to the others in that list. One has an Intel i3, the other an AMD Athlon II, and both come with 4GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive. These should have the CPU horsepower to decode HD video natively, even with 10-bit encodings.

All of these come with wifi adapters built in.
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Old 2011-10-08, 18:38   Link #3
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You sure about not wanting to put something together on your own? Generally it would seem that pre-built computers have a lot of air in their prices for the parts they have and it would be either : cheaper to build it on your own, or pay the same ; gain more power.

Can't say much about graphic cards for the usage you need them but those Lenovos Seiji suggested are just awful. Really, a dual core? For your budget you can get quad core with 8GB ram and 1TB HDD as well as a MB with HDMI for PC => TV (though even if there wasn't HDMI, you can use DVI => HDMI adapters).

This is all assuming you would build it yourself. 500 bucks for dual core and 4GB ram, or 500 bucks for quad core and 8GB ram (There are other differences too, but these would be the main ones).
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Old 2011-10-08, 19:14   Link #4
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Well, I feel a bit confident to open up my computer and do something like replace the side fan (did that once) or plug a card into a PCI slot. And I know a little about the innards of a computer from some college classes years ago. But actually putting the components together myself, makes me a bit nervous(making sure everything is compatible and won't lead to shorting issues down the road, etc.). I might have a person or two around here who could probably do that, but they tend to be busy and I hate bugging people for favors like that.

We'll see, though.
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Old 2011-10-08, 20:23   Link #5
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So you assemble the computer from parts, and it doesn't work. What happens then? At least if you buy an machine from a manufacturer there's this little thing called a warranty.

I think you should give Kaijo's concerns a bit more respect, Dist. Most of us don't want to assemble our own computers. We want to buy something that either works or, if it doesn't, can be easily replaced.
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Old 2011-10-08, 22:18   Link #6
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Thanks, Seji. I was looking at what you linked, and they seem a bit underpowered. But your links led me to others, and I think I found three that might suit my needs. They all have decent feedback, and some differences between them, so I'll put them up to see if anyone has any comments on the specific models or parts:

Acer Aspire AM3410-UR22P - Has quad core, extra HDD bay, PCI slots for graphic upgrade
Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022 - dual core and a bit slower, but more PCI slots, it looks like. Comes with more initial RAM, but that shouldn't be a big issue
Lenovo IdeaCentre H405 - not too sure on this... no PCI slots listed (and no addl HDD bay); about the only thing that seems better is the HDD is 7200 RPM.

Next is comparing what each has to see what I need. It was pointed out to me that the two Aspires have 300w PS's, and that I might need more than that. But that's something I can probably upgrade later.

Edit: Did some comparing, and leaning toward the first Acer Aspire. Slightly faster(with quad core instead of dual), comes with slightly better graphics (although I can upgrade that). Just the 300w power supply that I may have to change later, but I think I can do that.

Last edited by Kaijo; 2011-10-08 at 22:55.
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Old 2011-10-09, 00:05   Link #7
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Concerns for problems I understand, but most OEMs will rip you off when it comes to non-laptop, non-premium mass market desktops. Until you get into boutique gaming desktop territory, you're better off building something yourself.

That said, I do have a few suggestions:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4360/w...ing-on-a-grand
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4299/d...kstation-class

If you don't care about PC gaming, Dell business desktops are probably a good idea purely because you get all kinds of support. The Warfactory Sentinel is a really good deal for a prebuilt machine, though.

Alternatively, you can buy a laptop. Look at HP ProBook, Lenovo Thinkpad or Dell Latitude if you're not interested in gaming. Asus G Series or MSI's G Series if you're into gaming.
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Old 2011-10-09, 01:55   Link #8
0utf0xZer0
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If you were in Canada I'd probably recommend something along the lines of this:
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=58462&...nufacture=Acer
$350 for 3.1ghz AMD Tricore. Since I don't think you're in Canada, I'll just leave it here as a reference.
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Old 2011-10-09, 03:24   Link #9
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I'd strongly advise against buying anything Acer ever.
The first of synaestethic's suggestions is way overkill for what you want and the second is a bit ???.

It is unfortunate that you're not comfortable with building your own computer, because with your specification of requirements and budget you could really get a lot better (or a lot cheaper) results by custom-building it and improving certain areas at the expense of others. You could get a lot more bang for your buck that way; not only because of the customization but also because there's usually a >25% markup on pre-assembled systems when compared to their off-the-shelf parts (for example, if you take a look at Newegg's DIY Combos category in the $300 - $400 range, you'll notice several options that are either comparable to or faster than either of the Acer's you linked but cost $100 - $200 less).

Either way, given your specification of requirements, I'd say your priorities should be as follows:
  1. HDD's
  2. Quietness
  3. Getting a graphics card with HDMI or DisplayPort output
  4. Getting either a Core i3/i5/i7 or Phenom CPU
  5. Getting 4GB of RAM (more is overkill, but 2GB isn't really enough these days)
  6. Everything else

The reasoning for this is that basically any decently modern multi-core CPU that is sold new today (i.e. Intel's Core i-series or AMD's Phenom series) will be able to decode even Hi10p 1080p H.264 in realtime without too much trouble, so you can basically pick the cheapest one you can find (or the least power-consuming, since more power => more heat => more cooling needed => louder fans) and you'll be just fine. If you're not playing games or fooling around in Photoshop etc there is really no meaningful difference between the different options. Paying more for a faster CPU will gain you nothing beyond a certain point.
Wifi is not a concern, really, since a wireless network card costs around $15, and you said you're comfortable with installing PCI cards. If you don't want to do that either you can just get a USB dongle for the same price, and that's that.
Hence, what you should look for, IMO, is big HDD's to store your animu on (and expansion slots for adding more), a quiet chassis and quiet fans.
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Last edited by TheFluff; 2011-10-09 at 03:42.
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Old 2011-10-09, 04:13   Link #10
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I've been the happy user of a back-then-brand-new Acer Aspire 8910... until it broke after 25 months. Afterwards it took me 3 months in send-in service until they diagnosed that they couldn't repair it since they didn't have the required spare part, so it took 3 extra months and a pretty ridiculous repair bill before I got it back. On the plus side, the open-ended wait caused me to buy another laptop (Alienware) with which I'm fully content.

So, Acer is toss-away cheap stuff. If you're prepared to dump it after warranty, go ahead. Otherwise, I'd suggest to stick to other brands. So far I've been pretty impressed with the Dell service, so if you want to go for a laptop, I'd give them my recommendation.

As for the rest: Pretty much every box you can get nowadays will have a CPU capable of playing back 1080p easily, so you're good. I subscribe to what Fluffy said. If you have the time to invest, narrow down your choices to 2-3 setups, and then google for user and test reviews. You can find out ALOT this way, and sometimes even get suggestions for good alternatives.
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Old 2011-10-09, 12:47   Link #11
Random32
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Any modern desktop should be able to play HD video.

My last experience with consumer grade hardware left a very bad taste in my mouth. Low quality, and when it breaks, bad support. Business stuff comes at a premium price or a performance loss, but I personally think its worth it to have a high quality product with support that isn't a pain to deal with. If you don't mind spending more or getting less performance (they should still all handle HD video just fine, even the Hi10p), my recommendations.
-ThinkCentre M71e
-OptiPlex 790
I'm pretty sure they both have DisplayPort + VGA rather than HDMI since DP tends to be more popular in business environments, so you will need an adapter to hook it up with your TV since most HDTV's use HDMI. They both have 3yr onsite warranty standard which feels like overkill until you actually need it.
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Old 2011-10-09, 13:29   Link #12
Kaijo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFluff View Post
You could get a lot more bang for your buck that way; not only because of the customization but also because there's usually a >25% markup on pre-assembled systems when compared to their off-the-shelf parts (for example, if you take a look at Newegg's DIY Combos category in the $300 - $400 range, you'll notice several options that are either comparable to or faster than either of the Acer's you linked but cost $100 - $200 less).
You know, you're really pushing me into DIY, and I have to say it's looking more like an attractive option, heh. I could probably put something together with those parts, as long as it's not too difficult (I mean, I can plug RAM chips in, and work a screwdriver). But I feel less comfortable if I have to fool with circuit board switches, or worry that particular brands or models are incompatible with each other. If it's just a matter of plugging everything into the board(and being assured all the parts will play nice together), and screwing the board into the case, I can probably do that.

Having said that, I looked over that DIY list you linked, and picked out a few with specs that seem to fit what I'm looking for:

Phenom II X4 VISION SuperCombo - cheapest, 3.0GHz quad core, 1.5TB HDD
Phenom II X6/880G/4GB/1.5TB SuperCombo - 2.8GHz six-core, 1.5TB HDD
Phenom II X6/880G/4GB/1TB WiFi SuperCombo LE - 2.6GHz six-core, 1TB HDD(7200rpm), wifi adapter.

I currently have a cord stretching across my condo, so wireless does look advantageous. It's just that I'd have to deal with securing issues (I already have a router that has wireless capability, just can't use it due to old computer). Although if I drop that, I think six cores might be more than I need, which makes the first one look more attractive due to cost and bigger HDD (although, to be honest, I'd probably find I have trouble filling up a 1TB HDD, let alone a 1.5TB one).

Just noticed: "Newegg.com cannot guarantee the compatibility of Combo items. Please contact the manufacturer(s) directly if you have issues or concerns regarding compatibility."

Which leaves me nervous, and wondering the best way to confirm that everything will play nice together... And they don't have feedback on the combos. Hmm...
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Old 2011-10-09, 13:54   Link #13
0utf0xZer0
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For your purposes six cores would be overkill, and you can add wi-fi to a computer for like $20.

Also, I think it should be noted that a large part of why these DIY combos are cheaper is because they don't come with an operating system. If you need to get Windows with it, the price gap between the DIY kits and the Lenovos narrows significantly.
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Old 2011-10-09, 14:18   Link #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0utf0xZer0 View Post
Also, I think it should be noted that a large part of why these DIY combos are cheaper is because they don't come with an operating system. If you need to get Windows with it, the price gap between the DIY kits and the Lenovos narrows significantly.
This is a good point. However, if you have a valid .edu email address, you can get Win7 Professional for $65 via Microsoft's student discount program. If you don't have that, Win7 Home Premium is $99 new.

On a side note, if you go with a pre-built system you usually get over 9000 pre-installed trial versions of shitty software you'll never use with your Windows install.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaijo View Post
Just noticed: "Newegg.com cannot guarantee the compatibility of Combo items. Please contact the manufacturer(s) directly if you have issues or concerns regarding compatibility."

Which leaves me nervous, and wondering the best way to confirm that everything will play nice together... And they don't have feedback on the combos. Hmm...
I don't think you should worry too much about that, really. These days, off-the-shelf components use very well established standards, and incompatibilities between different parts are extremely rare.

If you want to go the prebuilt road, I think the Dell Inspiron 620 might be a decent alternative. Dell usually has decent build quality and decent support (and unlike some OEM's they're usually pretty conservative with how many shitty trial versions they ship pre-installed), and while the CPU is a bit slower than what you could've gotten for your money otherwise, it'll still do what you want. Going this road does however have some downsides if you ever want to upgrade the system (it'll void the warranty) and I have no idea what that chassis looks like inside.

edit: also, check the Dell Outlet
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17:43:13 <~deculture> Also, TheFluff, you are so fucking slowpoke.jpg that people think we dropped the DVD's.
17:43:16 <~deculture> nice job, fag!

01:04:41 < Plorkyeran> it was annoying to typeset so it should be annoying to read

Last edited by TheFluff; 2011-10-09 at 15:08.
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Old 2011-10-09, 14:25   Link #15
Random32
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Everything in the combo should work together. If it doesn't, you can complain to MSI and ASUS that their mobos doesn't work with components they explicitly list as supported on their website.

Win7 Home Premium OEM costs $99, which is much cheaper than the retail version, but has less support and can not be transferred to a new machine in the future.

The only warning I would give about Ph2X6 is that VSFilter (CCCP's subtitle rendering) is single threaded and inefficient, and single core performance on the X6's tends to be lower than that of the X4's at the same price. You should be fine with 99% of the fansubs out there though, but there is the occasional group that makes ridiculously heavy subs (especially flashy karaoke stuff).
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Old 2011-10-09, 15:15   Link #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
So you assemble the computer from parts, and it doesn't work. What happens then? At least if you buy an machine from a manufacturer there's this little thing called a warranty.

I think you should give Kaijo's concerns a bit more respect, Dist. Most of us don't want to assemble our own computers. We want to buy something that either works or, if it doesn't, can be easily replaced.
He said he does not feel comfortable doing it, not that he outright refuses to build his own computer. The main thing here was the fact that you'll get more bang for your buck if you build it yourself. You do realize that whether you build it yourself, or buy it as a pre-built, they both have warranty? Only if you build it yourself you have to only send the defective part to warranty. In some cases this can be considered a plus if you have old parts lying around ex. Kaijo's old computer and use those meanwhile so you wont be left without a computer.

As for parts being compatible, we could just suggest parts here (those that are knowledgeable), or could ask elsewhere.

Anyone can build a computer if they look at the manuals and it will work if you do it properly. I totally understand where you're coming from though, Kaijo. I was like that too (and a bit still..) so I had my friend help me and we built my current rig together. Next computer I should be able to build completely on my own.

Anyway hey, it was just a suggestion that I threw in the air if you wanted max. '' bang '' for what you pay. If you're gonna buy pre-built that's cool, though unfortunately I can't suggest anything then as I've no experience in that field.
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Old 2011-10-09, 15:56   Link #17
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The problem with the warrenty on self-builts is that you need to be able to diagnose which part is the problem before you can send it in for service. That can be tricky if you don't have spare parts to test with - and since his current PC is so old, I doubt he could use any parts from his current machine as spared.

Also, while a lot of stuff is easy to figure out from manuals, my friend and had to resort to tracking down an Intel tutorial video for how to install a socket 775 heatsink, since both of us got it wrong even after reading the manual.
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Old 2011-10-09, 17:18   Link #18
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Ugh heatsinks.. Well if you're not building a gaming computer the boxed one should do just fine and it's installing is easy as pie. Custom coolers in the other hand.. It took 2 hours for me and my friend to install my Scythe Ninja .. We read the manual wrong, thrice -_-. Aside from that, it was hard as hell and not one man's job.

Good point about the parts though. Generally you can diagnose the problem with a bit of software or googling, though if the problem is as far as computer not starting up it's another story. Guess wrong and the part will be sent back with a bill from the warranty.

With that said I guess it's best for you to buy pre-built. There's another option though, not sure about the cost around there though ; If you buy all parts from the same shop (one that specializes in comp parts), they usually offer a building service that gives you 1-3 years of warranty. It costs some money but it still makes the computer better than a pre-built would. My previous computer was done like this and it was like 2x better than a pre-built would have been.
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Old 2011-10-09, 18:02   Link #19
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Just get a Macbook Air, starting at $999 + Apple Care!
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Old 2011-10-09, 18:31   Link #20
Random32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0utf0xZer0 View Post
The problem with the warrenty on self-builts is that you need to be able to diagnose which part is the problem before you can send it in for service. That can be tricky if you don't have spare parts to test with - and since his current PC is so old, I doubt he could use any parts from his current machine as spared.

Also, while a lot of stuff is easy to figure out from manuals, my friend and had to resort to tracking down an Intel tutorial video for how to install a socket 775 heatsink, since both of us got it wrong even after reading the manual.
Heatsinks tend to be nasty offenders in the "ease of building" category. Actually, cooling in general is like that. Otherwise, everything should be pretty self explanatory.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArrowSmith View Post
Just get a Macbook Air, starting at $999 + Apple Care!
Or Thinkpad with 3 yr same day onsite support with accidental damage coverage.

There are very few reason to buy consumer grade computers. Either build it yourself for less or cough up for something that actually offers an improvement over self builds for non-idiots.
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