Seeking Geeks

April 1, 2007 at 6:05pm By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

I know there are a few computer types out there who visit this site. You geeks – you know who you are -  I need to get a new desktop this month because my current system is teetering on the edge. I use my desktop at home really pretty often, both for typical work stuff and web surfing, but also watching videos, listening to music, and casual gaming. Pretty normal home use, although I would say that the gaming aspect requires something with kick (and something that won’t be obsolete in a year – I want to be able to play “high end” games effectively in the next few years without having to suffer from poor performance – but I am not such a nut that I would pay more than $2000 for a hardcore gaming system. You could consider me a casual gamer, but not so casual that I would make do with a system that won’t perform).

I am looking at something along the following lines:

Windows OS (xp or get vista?)
2 gigs of RAM at least
A dual core microprocessor with at least 2.2 GHz capabilities
256 MB video card at least
At least 320 GB for a HD, preferably much larger (500 GB)
A couple of DVD drives

The problem is that everytime I configure something at the Dell site, there is always something about the limitations that bug me a bit. I have looked at the high end dimensions and low-medium XP models. The optimal builds are usually the medium end XPs, but then that’s putting me in the $1700-2000 range even with the discounts they typically offer. Obviously, I would like to spend as little as possible. I would prefer not to go over $1500 if that is possible. $1700 would be the absolute maximum I would want to go to. And I can get an OS and your typical office software pretty cheap through my employer. So I am basically just thinking of that money for the hardware.

I am considering having a local vendor build one for me (I wouldn’t want to do it myself but have a pro do it for me/consult on parts, etc.). I feel it would provide me with a lot of flexibility, and be cheaper, but I also worry about not having a warranty or service then. Any advice on my situation? What would you do? Any specific types of hardware you would recommend? And if I did go with a local vendor/build my own route, I don’t know what local vendors to use (thus I would appreciate tips on this too). Thanks in advance. Feel free to zip me a PM too.


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The Comments

beerorkid April 2, 2007 at 1:26am

oh man.  So many options.

Few things to consider:
1. one of them best buy / circuit city / etc… ones that have a rebate can be pretty good fixer uppers.  That is what I did.

- but maybe you want a full size motherboard and case instead of the micro ones you get in those rebates.

2. everything is PCI express and buying the vid card from newegg or another reputable and dependable source will be much better.

3. you can always add storage.  250 GB drives are so cheap compared to larger drives.

4. optical drives are cheap, 2 GB of ram is darn good.

I run a 74 GB raptor drive as my main OS drive, 10,000 RPM and well it kicks butt.

Sometimes going through dell or others, specially BB or CC, you get a pretty basic motherboard.  Building from scratch will not build the cheapest PC, but it will be solid and be very flexible.

Heck might look into apple and dual boot iffin you want a killer PC.  I plan on going that way in the next year.  Still gonne get a new chip for my 939 AMD socket to get me by though.

Karin April 2, 2007 at 4:29pm

I would look for a good base system and then add the video card and memory (make sure the memory isn’t proprietary! I hate that) I agree that buying multiple smaller hard drives is better than one big one- you’ll probably partition anyway, and this way if one dies you’ve still got the other. I have seen some awesome ads in the Sunday circulars. DVD burners are dirt cheap anymore. The big advantage of buying pre-built is that it comes with the OS, which is expensive if bought separately.

I keep thinking I need a new computer as well. I can’t decide whether to go the pre-built route- financially, it makes sense, but it’s just not as fun!

Swid April 2, 2007 at 6:08pm

I know it’s probably not anywhere on your list of possible solutions, but the Apple whore in me requests I point out that the 20” iMac comes VERY close to satisfying your requirements as-is.

Since I’m kinda masochistic, I’ll probably calculate how much a DIY system that meets your requirements would cost on Newegg, and post the results here later on this afternoon.

Swid April 2, 2007 at 6:39pm

OK, back from Newegg.


Mr. T April 2, 2007 at 11:40pm

Thanks for the feedback all!

Swid (and others) - what do you think about this build? Additionally, today someone was telling me that I should actually have 3 HD. One is a smaller “boot drive” (120 GB) with all my applications and then 2 larger storage drives (500 GB each - one being basically for backup). This would add on another $100 or so.

Swid - What is your take on the AMD athlon vs Intel Core Duo line? The athlon I found is cheaper and has a higher processor speed but a smaller level 2 cache I noticed. How does L2 cache affect performance?


Motherboard         $80

GIGABYTE GA-M61P-S3 Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 ATX AMD Motherboard

Processor         $260

AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ Windsor 2.8GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Processor

Video Card         $110

ASUS EAX1600PRO SILENT/TD/512M Radeon X1600PRO 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express x16 Video Card

2 GB RAM   $240
2 x Kingston ValueRAM 1GB DDR2 KVR533D2N4/1G -

1st CD/DVD Drive     $40
Pioneer Black 18X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 10X DVD+R DL 18X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 16X DVD-ROM 40X CD-R 32X CD-RW 40X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA DVD Burner


2nd CD/DVD Drive       $30

LG Black 18X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 18X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache IDE Super-Multi DVD Burner - OEM

Case+Power supply     $129

Antec PERFORMANCE TX TX1050B Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 500W ATX12V v2.0 Power Supply

2 Hard Drives         $320
Western Digital Caviar RE2 WD5000YS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM

Fletch April 3, 2007 at 12:09am

Sounds bitchin’

Swid April 3, 2007 at 2:23pm

I *strongly* recommend going with an Intel Core 2 Duo over anything AMD makes at the present time; the Core 2 Duo line destroys comparable Athlons in terms of performance.  (Of course, it only took Intel about 4 years to retake the performance lead from AMD, but when they did, they didn’t mess around.)

Ars Technica has an excellent, recently updated, system buyers guide online.

beerorkid April 3, 2007 at 2:26pm

even though I have been hardcore AMD for all of my computing career.  Swid is correct.

Still both offer some excellent chips and you will be set.

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