Need Advice On Choosing A Computer

I am going to buy a new computer and am at a loss about what to buy. I had my last computer “built” and I didn’t choose anything myself. I really only use my computer for the internet and want to have a fast connection for this.

Anyone who has any advice on what is the best on the market I’d be grateful.

Oh baby. Honey, what you really need to do is go down to the public library and check out their back issues of PC magazine (that’s PC as in Popular Computing, not Politically Correct). Every 6 months or so they do an excellent update on “Best Computers”.

Next thing you need to think about is what you want a computer for, what kinds of software you want to run. Are you really, really sure that you only want fast Internet access? What about games, word processing, spreadsheets?

Then start thinking about price. Bear in mind that computers have no, that’s zero, zip, nada, resale value. It’s not like a car, where you can put an ad in the paper and at least recoup some of your investment if it doesn’t work out. That $1500 you spend on a new computer is gone, baby, down the rabbit hole.

Also, realize that in at least 2 years, whatever computer you buy will probably be obsolete. The Pentium chip that’s in it won’t be fast enough for the latest, greatest software.

So do some major research first, before you get out the VISA card, 'cause you’re gonna drop a big chunk of money on something you’re gonna have to live with for a loooong time.

And may the Force be with you, sweetie… :smiley:

Doesn’t sound like you need to get the most powerful computer that money can buy based upon the general requirements that you gave in your OP. You have a lot of options available to you for well under $1000, not to mention under $500. I will tell you up front that you probably don’t want to consider buying the current crop of “internet appliances”. For what they cost you’re better off getting a lower end PC to get the job done.

A good place to start would be to check the clearance or refurbished pages at major manufacturer web sites such as Gateway or Dell. (I won’t get into which manufacturer is best since I haven’t bought a Gateway PC yet. I do know that my employer buys Dell and they seem very satisfied with what they’ve purchased.) You could probably get by with an Intel Celeron or AMD K6-2 based machine, but you would probably be better off getting something built around a Pentium III or Athlon processor. Try to get a machine with at least 64MB of memory. Almost all of the machines you will find include a 4 GB or larger hard drive, 32X or higher CD-ROM drive, sound card, mouse, keyboard, and probably a 56K modem. (If you will be downloading a lot of MP3s or fooling with graphics you will want to get a larger hard drive.)

As far as fast internet connections go, you will probably need to use something other than the 56K modem to get the job done. Once again you have several choices you can make. ISDN, DSL, and cable are the fastest ways to go nowadays, but the cost will definitely be greater than what you would pay for dial-up access. If you are a student and lucky enough to live in a dorm with network access be sure to get a network card so that you can take advantage of it.

Other posters will probably disagree with my low end approach to you problem, but it doesn’t sound like you will be doing anything very taxing on your PC.

I recently bought a Dl computer, and it is nice. It’s just a certain OS called W***s ME that sucks @$$. I got a P4 pretty much decked out (no monitor) for $1700 inc. shipping. The “lower-end” P3 systems could be had for <$1000. I think that a P3 is the best value today, and so far I’ve had a good experience.

My last computer was a G*****y P2, and it was very reliable as well.

I would specifically dissuade you from buying a Ht-Pd though. They do have great customer service - I got to know everyone on a first name basis becuase their products were, um, not very well put together.

All-in-all, I think most computers are pretty much the same these days in terms of capabilities, but I would insist that your new computer comes with Win 2k and not ME.

Sorry if I’m rambling; it’s definitely bedtime. :o

I’ll throw in a good vote for the Gateway people. I’ve had wonderful customer (the one time I needed it in the past 5 months simply because they forgot to ship me something). I got a 600mghz Celeron w 14 gig hard drive scanner printer monitor all under $1000. They made me a great deal. My computer is awesome I wouldn’t trade it for the world. it never freezes up on me and the software that comes with it is great. It’s pretty fast whenever I used a dial up connection (only do that when I am at home I’m at college right now) but I’m permanently attached to a T1 connection and I’m loving it. My computer has plenty of power to do many things at once and not run slow as molasses. If your wanting a very good deal and a nice PC I’d recomend Gateway.

As for Hewlett Packard ughhhh I wish not to recognize them as a computer producer. My friend bought one of the mass produced models that they sell at Wally World and boy did that thing absolutely friggin’ suck. I spent a good half hour every day fixing that sun of a bitch computer for her. I pleaded with her and convinced her to use my PC if she needed a computer that bad (considering I live with her).

Also I have no personal experience with Dell but I’ve heard nice things about them also. So you might want to try either them or Gateway and see what fits you best. I hope that helps some.

I used to do support for HP Pavillion computers. They were marginally better than the Compaq Presario line (which I supported before them), but not much. If I was limited to buying a name brand computer, I would go with a Gateway - they have good support, and since you want a fast connection they currently have some kind of deal with the ISP I work for, we provide DSL to them and have a support department especially for Gateway customers.

I personally am hooked on having computers built for me - it’s a lot cheaper, you don’t waste money on stuff you don’t need, and a system that only has stuff you want installed on it is easier to troubleshoot yourself - but then, I have been in tech support for 5 years so I don’t care about having a support department I can call.

If most of what you use your computer for is internet access, if you aren’t into producing music or high-quality art, or playing all the newest games, you should be able to get a computer that does all you need built for $500 or less - even the 1.2 Ghz Athlon processors are around $200 now, you could find a decent processor that was state-of-the-art 6 months ago for well under $100, everything else you need is going to be cheap.

I would recomend against Gateway. from what I heard from a radio consumer show (also there were many problems with gateway’s customer service and return policy (i.e. paying shipping both ways). Dell is a soild machine.
For internet and word processing (no gaming) skip the high end. Get a cheaper computer, good monitor (at least 19") and spring for a cable modem or DSL.

remember a 486 or pentiumn 133mhz hooked up to a cable modem or dsl can kick a dialup’s 1Ghz (1000mhz) pentiumn/atholon’s butt all over the internet.

what you save on the computer put twards your internet access.

Badtz Maru do you think I would be better off just upgrading the computer I already have? I had it built so that it could be upgraded. It’s 3 years old now and just doesn’t have the speed or memory I want. My son wants to put games on it all the time and that causes it to crash and not work as well when I’m on the net.

The only thing I want a computer for is internet and building web pages. Which I had to give up doing because there isn’t enough memory with all the games on this one to store my pages and work on them. Also a second computer would stop the “fighting” over who’s turn it is.

Maybe I should buy a new cheaper computer and give that one to the boy and just stick some money into this one. I’m happy with all the other parts of it just not the speed and memory. And I wanted to have a cable connection to the internet. That was the point of having this computer built after all. To be able to upgrade. I just don’t know. Decisions, decisions.

Thank you all for the advice. I have a lot more to consider than I thought.

Buy the second computer, but make sure you clearly define to your son that the new one is for your use only.

I agree with one of the other respondents who suggested not blowing your budget. If all you are going to do is build web pages, then it is possible that your existing box is quite adequate. Therefore your new box can be very modest in performance, but still an improvement on what you already have. Just don’t spend any more than you have to - the damn things devalue much too quickly.

Miss Pippi, what type of computer do you have now? I would try to read your mind but it’s too early in the day.

Used iMac, $500 eBay.

If you and your son are not fighting over using your computer at the same time, you could just buy a new tower and keep your old peripherals. I already had a good scanner, printer and 19" monitor (a must in my opinion) so I bought a Compac Presario 5000 Model 5WV254. It has D700/64/20GB/40x/V. I paid $700 at our local Office Depot. The graphics card is 8MB Nvidia TNT2, and though I don’t do much in games, it seems satisfactory to me. I do a lot of photography work with my digital camera and the speed I get with the 700Mhz chip does a very good job. The 20GB hard drive is adequate. I purchased the tower in December and have had zero problems. A great feature of the Presario is their built-in User-Backup. There are many things to consider in buying a new computer, so do your homework. A trip to your library to consult PCWorld magazine is a great place to start. Good luck!!

I really hate to do this but D**l pisses me off sometimes. Do NOT read the following link sethdallob unless you want ot be seriously upset. For those who don’t know Tom’s Hardware Guide is a well respected source of information among the IT community.

I will say that I think D**l has the best laptops on the market.

On to the OP…

If your son wants to play games then you will want a very different system from one that is just good enough to surf the web and send e-mail. Games in general tend to be the most stressful programs run on a home computer. They max out the CPU’s processing capability, the video subsystem’s processing, gobble memory and so on. If you want a decent gaming rig it will cost significantly more than a simple $500 PC.

I won’t steer you towards a specific system so much as what to look for:

  • A computer with a Duron processor (AMD) is MUCH better than a system with a Celeron processor (Intel). These systems are cheaper and perform noticeably better than equivalent Celeron systems. Intel just juiced up the Celeron some to try and meet the Duron’s potential. While it comes closer it still falls well behind Duron on a clock for clock basis.

  • Stay away from Pentium 4 systems like the plague. They are expensive or severly handicapped to make them seem cheap (see article above). In addition they use a special case, motherboard, memory system and socket size for the CPU that will ONLY exist on the Pentium 4 line. Intel’s next chip iteration will work on an entirely different subsystem.

  • In general AMD systems are cheaper than Intel systems but Intel is more widely supported. AMD has come a long way so they are a viable choice now anywhere from the low-end market to the high-end, high performance market.

  • Get at least 64MB memory in whatever you buy. Try and make sure you get PC133 capable RAM if possible. PC100 is still out there and works fine but is rapidly fading into the background. A system with PC100 RAM will fall behind the power curve much faster than one with PC133.

  • Avoid Intel systems with the i810 chipset (motherboard) if at all possible. It really stinks. Go for the i815 if you can get a sales person to fess-up what’s inside. (This is for Intel systems only)

I hope this helps. If I was going for an off-the-shelf system I’d seriously look at Micron. They seem to do a good job building their systems. You also might look at Falcon Northwest. They build customized PC’s generally geared towards power-gamers (and as you might guess they are similarly expensive). However, I believe they have a few ‘budget’ systems that they offer as well. Falcon does an excellent job of putting quality components in their systems as well as matching appropriate parts together (i.e. no castrated Pentium 4 systems). Since they are somewhat small their tech support is actually quite good. I have a Falcon system and they still answer my questions three years after the fact (well out of warranty time). Alienware is a competitor to Falcon and I’ve heard very good things about their systems as well but I do not know if they offer entry-level PC’s. It’s worth checking them out as well. You can NOT go wrong with either of these two and can be well worth a few extra bucks.

Hope that helps!

I’ve had great experiences with GamePC. Plus, you’re not stuck with Intel, so you can generally pick up a faster system for much less.

This topic isn’t really suited for this forum. Advice requests are better posted in IMHO. I’m going to move it there.

To add to what Jeff said, you might be better off buying your son a computer, having him clean all his games and whatnot off yours, and keeping what you have. Strictly speaking, you don’t need much power to make a web page unless you’re using a whole bunch of flash or shockwave. I’d say that your current comp should be plenty good enough, and RAM’s cheap enough that you could pick up another 64-128 megs, and this should solve any speed problemes. As for fast internet access, all you need is a $20 NIC (network interface card), and you’re good to go. (Still need to get a DSL or cable provider, but that’s external stuff.)

As far as computers for Junior goes, I’m a big fan of Alienware. My current comp (a couple years old now) is one of their Area 51s (though I’ve added and removed a bunch of stuff) and has been rock solid from day 1. Their ‘entry level’ computer is about $1100, and is pretty robust considering. On the other hand it is $1100, so it’s a weighty decision. My recommendation is to do what my friend’s mom did with her when she was looking to buy a car. Have your son do his own fundraising and match whatever he comes up with. This way you can have him do his own computer shopping, which’ll save you some time, and he can get the computer he wants, tempered by the fact that he’ll have to work for it.

Well, good luck.

I just bought a new (to me) refurbished computer from A mere $400 for a Pentium II, 333mhz, 4.5Gb harddrive, cd-rom, sound card, modem, windows 98, etc. It doesn’t include a monitor, but it sound like you already have one. (They have refurbished monitors too for around $100.)

Along these lines I just (this past weekend in fact) did a major overhaul on my system bringing it back up to screaming speed demon levels. Till then, however, I had a P-II 400, 128MB RAM, and 6GB harddrive. Very similar to what Gazoo mentioned above. Frankly this machine is (was) still quite acceptable. I got this PC 3 years ago from Falcon Northwest and it has been a rock with never even 1 problem (at least non I didn’t cause my self by messing around but that was all software related). The only upgrades I did in that time was adding an additional 64MB (bringing it up to 128) and upgrading the video card to a GeForce. This still made it a very solid gaming rig (although keep in mind that the video card cost around $300 at the time) and super capable in the web surfing/e-mail/Microsoft Word categories.

I just want to give you an idea of where you want to be in your purchase. If you don’t read the article I linked in my post above let me summarize by saying, “BUYER BEWARE!” Dell, Gateway, IBM, etc. all make perfectly acceptable systems but for marketing purposes they also sell some ridiculously configured systems. In the article above they show how a $1600 system can outperform a $2700 system when bad decisions are made with components. I can drop a Lamborghini 600 HP engine into my Chrysler but that doesn’t mean my Chrysler will perform like a Lamborghini (or anywhere close). This is basically what is being done with the computers.