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New PC purchase question

Posted on 2013-01-09
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
I am contemplating the purchase of a new PC.  The last computer I purchased was an upper-end Dell Laptop Lattitude D810.  It was good for it's time, but this was four or five years ago and is outdated now.

This time I am thinking of purchasing a desktop instead.  It is nice to have something you can easily take with you, but 98% of the time I work at my office home.  Additionally, I found my laptop limited in some ways.  For example, I do a lot with music and so I need an upper-end sound card.  I realize this a subjective question and everyone will have their own opinion, but rather than ask at a computer store, I thought I'd ask here for suggestions. I was pleased with Dell.  

I need something with horsepower and at least six gig of memory.  In addition to Music software programs, I write small database applications.  I obviously am looking for the most bang for the buck.  It would be nice to have a desktop machine that isn't extra large for those few times when I may need to take it with me to a client to demo an application.

Any suggestions?
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Question by:WoodrowA
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19 Comments
 

Accepted Solution

by:
RicBuck89 earned 36 total points
ID: 38759849
The age of the desktop is rapidly coming to an end, I would suggest you purchase a laptop with the capability of a docking station. Even tablets come with these feature these day. I wouldn't be to concerned about the audio output. What is your playback device? Headphone, stereo system? You should consider these when purchasing.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834131394

If your not concerned about video graphics then any integrated system will work.
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LVL 31

Assisted Solution

by:Scott C
Scott C earned 108 total points
ID: 38759900
For the most bang for the buck you can't beat building a PC yourself.

If you are not comfortable doing this, you might have a  computer geek buddy who will help you pick out the parts and assemble it for pizza and beer.

Here's an article on gaming laptops.  These typically have better graphics and sound.

They vary in price from sane to crazy insane.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2020688,00.asp
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LVL 23

Assisted Solution

by:Thomas Grassi
Thomas Grassi earned 72 total points
ID: 38759922
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LVL 40

Assisted Solution

by:als315
als315 earned 108 total points
ID: 38759950
Take a look at nettop. If you have HiFi receiver with digital input, you can connect digital audio from computer directly to this device and you will not need hi end audio card, because sound is transmitted without DA conversion.
Something like:
http://www.foxconnchannel.com/ProductDetail.aspx?T=NanoPC&U=en-us0000025#
It is limited to only one 2.5" HDD, but with internal SSD and external USB3.0 HDD you can have very good speed.
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Author Comment

by:WoodrowA
ID: 38760117
The kind of music I'm doing has nothing to do with a stereo system.  I do music notation (I write sheet music) with software tools like Sibelius and Finale.  I make some use of MIDI.  These are industry standards in the music business and TV and Movie studios.  They can be quite demanding in terms of memory, horse power and resources.

With my current Dell Laptop, because the internal audio card is not that great, I had to add an external USB audio device to my setup - a Tascam US-144MKII.  I have all kinds of external USB connections and it puts a drain on the system. I have a couple of external hard drives, and extra USB four port adapter, and yes, I do have a docking station.

I need a good fast, big hard drive or the music stuff doesn't load and run correctly. I'm thinking I'm going to pay a pretty penny to accommodate a laptop that does what I want. There are probably a number of desktop units that meet the criteria for considerably less,  or this would be my guess.
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LVL 23

Assisted Solution

by:Thomas Grassi
Thomas Grassi earned 72 total points
ID: 38760243
We use a HP Compaq 6200 Pro MT PC
I7
Intel Core I7-2600 CPU @ 3.40ghz

Works great

OS Windows 7 64 bit
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Author Comment

by:WoodrowA
ID: 38760399
I hear the term SSD thrown around some these days.  I heard about it more a year ago or so.  Is it (was it) a fad, that faded away or is there something to it?  Do they sell machines now with SSD?  Should I be looking in that direction.  Is SSD becoming mainstream?
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LVL 31

Assisted Solution

by:Scott C
Scott C earned 108 total points
ID: 38760417
SSD are Solid State Drives.  They have no moving parts and are extremely fast.  However, this speed increase will cost you 3-4x what a regular platter disk would for the same storage space.

Are they becoming mainstream?  They have their place but I don't see them passing traditional hard drive anytime soon.
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LVL 40

Assisted Solution

by:als315
als315 earned 108 total points
ID: 38760431
Yes, SSD now are not so expensive. SSD as system disk is very good solution. You can place SSD to old laptop and feel difference. Most HDDs in nearest future will be hybrid of SSD and HDD.
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Author Comment

by:WoodrowA
ID: 38760588
>You can place SSD to old laptop and feel difference.

Not sure what that meant.  Are you saying you can add SSD to an older laptop and see and feel a difference?  My Dell Lattitude D810 right now only sees 2 gig of memory, no matter how much more I add.  Is there something different with SSD?

With regard to a new computer. Is there some advantage to having, say, 50 gig of SSD (for fast immediate kinds of things) in combination with a 500 gig hard drive?
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LVL 31

Assisted Solution

by:Scott C
Scott C earned 108 total points
ID: 38760605
What he's saying is you can REPLACE your standard HD with a SSD and you will a performance increase.

How much memory your laptop sees is irrelevant as you are replacing the hard drive.

In regards to a new computer you can have an SSD for your boot drive and program execution and a larger slower one for storage.

This is where you will see a performance increase.
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LVL 40

Assisted Solution

by:als315
als315 earned 108 total points
ID: 38761726
Thanks,  ScottCha. Exactly what I meant. I have 5-year old Toshiba laptop. A year ago I was in your situation. I've decided to change HDD to SSD and now I think it will live few years more, despite of old SATA controller, which  doesn't support AHCI mode. 15 seconds to boot windows. Hard applications are started in few seconds.
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LVL 92

Assisted Solution

by:nobus
nobus earned 36 total points
ID: 38762075
i would suggest to use a  motherboard that supports ivy bridge, with an i-5 cpu
here a comparison of 32 of these :  http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/buying-advice/pc-components/3368057/tested-32-best-motherboards-for-ivy-bridge-pcs/

then you can put in any sound card you want

PS - for the SSD, i use also an Intel SSD -  very reliable and fast
my setup is a 160 GB SSD for the OS and programs, while all my data, and backups are on a 1 TB drive
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LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:garycase
garycase earned 70 total points
ID: 38762230
"...  It would be nice to have a desktop machine that isn't extra large for those few times when I may need to take it with me to a client  "  ==>   This tends to favor one of 3 form factors:
(a)  a laptop;   (b)  an all-in-one desktop;  or (c)  a small form factor (SFF) desktop.

For expandability, an SFF system would provide the most options;  but you can get some VERY nicely configured all-in-one's these days with touch-screen panels that would be very nice for demos.     I'd be inclined to look at those.

HP has some very nice all-in-one options.    Go here:  http://www.shopping.hp.com/en_US/home-office/-/products/Desktops/Desktops

Then filter to either All-in-One or All-in-One Touch, depending on whether you want a touch screen (adds ~ $250 to an equivalent PC).     Then filter to Intel processors; and select an i5 or i7.    Any system you buy with those specs will be VERY nice.      While I'd normally suggest a 23" unit, you may want to get a 20" one if you think you'll be transporting this with any degree of regularity.     Dell also has some nice all-in-one's with screens up to 27" (definitely too large for carrying around !!).
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LVL 7

Assisted Solution

by:Boilermaker85
Boilermaker85 earned 35 total points
ID: 38763321
And if you get an all in one, You may be able to swap out the standard HD with an SSD if it doesnt come with one. You can use a standard HDD for data/music storage/backups, attached via USB, but get a USB 3 interface for fastest speed.
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Author Comment

by:WoodrowA
ID: 38763370
Thank you for your responses.

I'm hearing that "heat" is sometimes a problem with the All in ones.
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LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:garycase
garycase earned 70 total points
ID: 38763445
Heat is less of a problem with all-in-one's than it is with laptops, since the all-in-one's have better orientation for airflow.    However, airflow is always better in a desktop, since there's more room for ventilation.     With the new 65w processors, however, there's far less heat being generated than with the previous generation of CPUs (which typically had TDP's of 95w, and some up to 130w).

I agree, however, that a desktop will run cooler -- the only reason I suggested an all-in-one was your comment r.e. taking it with you to a clients.    An All-in-One can give you a larger display and more flexibility than a laptop in a form-factor that's still reasonably easy to move.

Regardless of the form factor, if you get a system with a Core i5 or Core i7 you'll be very pleased with the performance.    If you're getting a desktop, and want some serious horsepower, look at systems that use the superb Core i7-3770.
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Assisted Solution

by:crgrindele
crgrindele earned 35 total points
ID: 38771348
I say build the new computer yourself, you will be much happier with it.

Motherboard: Go with Gigabyte, Asus, ASRock. The best advice I can give you and that I also tell my clients is to build for the future.

You can go Intel which is what I personally prefer, go with a Core i7 or Xeon CPU. Now there are different types of i7 and Xeon CPU's and are incompatible with some boards. They are dictated by the socket of the board, the socket types are 1155, 1366, and 2011. If you're on a tight budget go with the 1155, if not definitely get the 2011, or if you want something in the middle go with the 1366. The numbers have to do with the number of CPU pins in the socket.

Or you could go with AMD. AMD CPU's tend to run hot, but you can get a 6 or 8 core CPU for a reasonable price. Like with the Intel CPU's there are different types of sockets, so pay attention to the type of CPU you need for the board you have decided on.

And whatever you do, DO NOT FORGET THE THERMAL PASTE, it would not be good to over heat your computer because you forgot a $7 tube of paste. Arctic Silver is decent, but there are others you can choose from.

Video Cards: I kind of have a rule of thumb, if you get an Intel board go with nVidia, if you go with AMD go with Radeon. Now you can put a Radeon on an Intel board and vice-versa usually with no issues.

For you I would suggest a nVidia GeForce 630 about $70 or a Radeon HD 6670 about $50 - $60

Sound: Because you're working with music, for a sound card you NEED something that's ASIO compliant. I suggest getting a M-Audio or Presonus sound card. They range in price from about $100 and up, and you have external options.

Memory:  You will be using DDR3, I say max out what the board an handle. I bought 24GB of RAM for about $150 and go with a decent brand like Corsair, Crucial, PNY, Patriot, or Mushkin.

Storage: Figure out if you want a hard drive or a solid state drive. Personally, I still feel that Solid State is a little pricey, but they are very quick and great for boot speeds and getting things done. For are hard drive you'll want a terabyte at the least. Go with Western Digital, Seagate, or HGST.

Optical Drive: Go with DVD writer minimally, but I suggest a Blu-Ray writer, they are cheap now and can write 25GB on a single side, single layer disc.

Power supply:  800 Watts minimally and at least 80plus Gold Certified.

Case: Get at least a mid tower, and NOT the cheapest you can find. Sure you can get one for $25, but it will be flimsy and not very well built. I paid a $100 for mine.

And finally, a decent keyboard and mouse, nothing to cheap though.

I think that's about it.

The upside about building your own PC is that you know everything that's in it and it will be MUCH cheaper than a corporate built machine and you get a much better machine for your money. The downside is that you are your own tech support.  And all warranty work is done between you and the manufacturer for whichever parts are in the machine, it's actually easier than it sounds.
 
If you live in a dry area, for instance the Western U.S. GET A GROUNDING STRAP, in a humid area, it's not really necessary, but it couldn't hurt.

But if you decide to buy a computer, spend the money and get a Mac. You can run OS X and Windows on a Mac these days. And although the service still isn't that great, it beats Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.

I can't stress this enough, build for the future.
 
Good Luck

-C
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Author Closing Comment

by:WoodrowA
ID: 38815909
Thank you all
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