What Cheap Computer Would You Recommend To A Newbie Family?

So my coworker, very nice lady, has never had a computer and has a family with three kids in jr. and high schools. They desperately need a computer, but they don’t have a lot to spend. So far, I’ve consulted with my computer-geek exhusband, who recommended they buy this and a cheap monitor. There’s also this and I’m not sure what this is, but I think I want one!

Any of these you’d recommend, or anything not in my post you’ve found?

BTW, did you know Circuit City was back online? With some smoking deals, too. I just bought my graduate a 16" lcd tv for 150 free shipping! Check it out, man!

I just went to check the price against my go-to computer supplier and I think I found out who operates CircuitCity.com!


That one looks like a decent starter kit.
Don’t forget to budget for highspeed internet, too. Pretty much a musthave.

Personally, I’d stay away from Acer. After the original 30 day warranty at a store you have to pay to ship the computer back to them if you want it fixed. They take weeks to get it back to you and that is when it is still under warranty.

If they really want to skimp, I would tell them to check craig’s list. There are plenty of good computers to be found there. If the insist on a new computer, and they have fairly knowledgeable about them, I would check the following websites:


Dell often has good sales in desktops with everything you’d need for around $350. Microsoft Bing also has cashback for many stores, and rumor is they are gonna double it soon.

There’s really not much right now on Craigslist for cheap. Plus I really want her to have a new one. The reason I can’t really just search for a good one myself is that while I’ve had computers for well over 10 years, I’m not that knowledgeable about them. Between a computer geek exhusband and two computer geek teenaged boys, I get my own related needs met. I’m just trying to help my coworker, but I don’t know what’s really a good deal and what’s not. The ideal would be to get my ex to set them up with something, but that would be inflicting him upon them, and they’re too nice for that. Nobody deserves that.

No advice of my own, but I did think of this recent thread.

The Circuit City online store was bought by Tiger Direct, which has had a somewhat shady reputation with respect to quality and honesty. Beware.

I’ve always had good luck with Newegg and Dell.

Why do they need a computer? What do they need it to do? What peripherals - printer, screen, etc - do they need?

Answer those questions and you’ll be well on your way.

Do you have any local white-box system builders? If they can get a custom-spec machine put together, they should be able to get a decent value that will be expandable if necessary.

Does anybody know anything about those super-cheap laptops they have now. Not the tiny ones, but the regular-sized ones that run less than $300. I desperately need to replace my ancient desktop.

I’m not a newbie, but my computing needs are minimal–web surfing, ordinary photo management and editing, regular MS applications like Word and Excel, but nothing huge or complicated. I don’t care too much about the video stuff. I’d like to be able to burn photo and music CDs. (I have high-speed internet and a new-ish monitor. No wireless router, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I could pick up somebody’s wifi)

So does anybody have any thoughts about the suitability of a cheapie laptop for me? And would the mini ones work?


IMHO you are going to get less power, less speed, less space and less value out of a $300 laptop than a $300 desktop - UNLESS your main goal is to have a portable computer. In which case, it’d be worth the money.

Also, laptops are harder to troubleshoot hardware-wise than desktops. The components aren’t as easily replaced so if you have issues you will probably end up paying more for having it fixed.

One other thing … I am not sure what cheap laptops you are referring to, but a lot of the very cheap computers come with Linux instead of Windows. You may have problems figuring out Linux, I dunno.

In the thread sugar and spice linked to, I recommended off-lease Dells to PlainJane. She did buy one and we never did hear the final results of how her friend liked the computer but she DID start a Pit thread about billing. Me, I’ve had no problem with billing at the DFS Direct Sales site (3 purchases now) but I’d feel bad if you got into the same predicament as PlainJane on my recommendation.

Does anyone have an opinion about Dell refurbished computers?

Also, I’m having trouble navigating the Dell website - got a link to their offerings?

Here you go.

These refurbished computers would be good for the family too. They generally look and feel new, they have been checked for major malfunctions, and will be cheaper than a brand new computer. There are a number of computers there for $329 that will be able to handle most people’s needs. If you want a specific suggestion, let me know what they will be using the computer for, their level of expertise, and their budget.

I’ve had a refurbished HP/Compaq for over a year now; it works fine and was very much worth the money. IME, if something is going to break on a computer, it’ll break very soon after you buy it; if it lasts a week, it’ll probably last several years before things start breaking again. (By which I mean that many refurbs are new computers that just needed one thing swapped in, and they come with warranties. So I’m happy with refurbs in general; YMMV.

I think HP/Compaq and Dell have good reputations, but the other major brands are probably just as good (and perhaps I just don’t hear about them). However, if they can get over wanting a new computer, you or they might have one or two (dozen) computer geeks in your circle of friends; you can get some really good deals from them, as they’re frequently looking for any excuse to buy themselves a new computer.