Yet another "Help me build my computer" thread...with cross-border savings!

OK, I’ll be stateside in a few weeks and have two options:

  1. Buy a laptop and bring it back.
  2. Buy components, bring them back, build a computer here.

I have an idea to digitize every old media I own - DVDs, CDs, 8mm, VHS, ??? - My daughter has scratched a few DVDs of mine and I realized that at about $15 to $20 a DVD, storing my movies on a HDD might be a good backup plan. Plus we have a few gigs of photos, and a box of camcorder tapes, etc.

So I need a system that I can burn everything to the HDD(s), and then play them back (read good media components - good, not great) and maybe do some slight manipulations of photos before printing them and sticking them in Photo albums.

Prices here are much higher than in the USA. For example, this simple desktop:
Aspire T135, Sem 3100, 256MB, 80GB, DVD-RW DL, Lnx, repro, VGA onboard

Has a range of $282 to $397, here it costs $450.


AcerPower S285 Cel D352 3.2 GHz , 512MB, 80GB SATA, Combo, XPP is listed as $428 to $505, costs $650 here.

(I use Acer as an example only because their model numbers are consistent and I could find comparison prices).

As for laptops:

Aspire 5672WLMi, T2300/1.66GHz, 2x512MB, 80GB/SATA/DVD SM DL/15.4’'WXGA, XPh, X1

Goes for $1,050 in USA, and for $1390 here.

(I use Acer as an example only because their model numbers are consistent and I could find comparison prices).

OK, so…which should I do? Buy a notebook for around $1000 and a NAS storage device while in the USA and be done with it…OR Buy the expensive memory, graphics cards and HDDs in the USA, and then come back here and build the desktop? Like buy a stripped down desktop for a $300-ish, then pop in all the extras I bought, turning it into an uber computer (I’m leaning this direction). If I do buy components, is there anything I should look out for? I plan on walking into a Best Buy or similar, grabbing a few boxes of stuff and flying back with them.

OK, I wouldn’t build it, but my friend and a few liters of beer would.


In general it is better to buy a desktop than a laptop unless you have specific need of a laptop (i.e. portability). On a bang for your buck scale you get more for your money in a laptop than a desktop. Further, desktops are more easily upgradable to keep it moving along for small investments of money. Or, put another way, you would need to fully replace a laptop before a desktop. Generally you get better performance out of a desktop as well (laptop HHDs are slow for one thing).

If you buy all the pieces of a desktop and taking them back consider the effort to ship or carry all that back. Further, I expect going through customs a full computer worth of stuff would see your government nailing you with taxes. In the final analysis you may not find it cheaper.

As for digitizing all your stuff that is cool but think of the storage requirements. A standard DVD movie takes about 6-8 GB of space. Depending on how many movies you have that can add up. Once on your hard drive you will want to back that up as well in case of a hardware failure. That will mean a tape backup system and/or RAID (1 or 5). If the things you put on are of particular importance you’ll want some kind of removable media that you can stick in a lockbox at a bank (or friend’s house or something). RAID won’t help if your place burns down (and yeah if your place burns down you have other major issues but losing all that would be just one more awful thing to add to the heap). Suck to put all that stuff on and lose it down the road.

Whoops…got that reversed. Should read:

*On a bang for your buck scale you get more for your money in a desktop than a laptop. *

The best deals on large portable storage I have found are these 500 gig WD external USB units (which are on sale at Best Buy this week) the sale prices range from 200 to 230). I picked one up for $ 200 @ Best Buy then reduced it further with a 10% discount coupon a few weeks ago (sweet!).

If your savings on the notebook is only 300 I’d buy the unit in your home country as it (assumedly-don’t know ) will come loaded with an OS tuned for your language, and the VAT tax or similar tax/tariff will have to be paid when re-entering your country anyway.

The best and most powerful ripper/burner I’ve seen for DVD video to hard disk image then back againis this one

It’s worth noting that, in the US at least, the breaking of digital encryption on products like DVDs is a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The OP should check his home laws about this sort of thing if he’s at all worried about legal issues.

Another option, find a US based pc shop that has no problems shipping internationally. As long as you are willing to wait for money orders to clear and such you might be able to get some decent deals on components shipped directly to you. Some of the prices you quoted aren’t too far off the mark for non internet retail here so you might not be saving as much as you thought.

As far as worries of damaged DVD’s just get the appropriate software to copy them then tuck away all the originals in a binder so if one gets damaged, just burn another one. One of the nice things about DVD’s they store far better than hard drives for things you will rarely access for alot less money. A spindle of 100 DVD’s and a nice binder will run you less than a HDD and will be far less sensitive to shock damage and more platform portable.

You say the cost is cheaper. Have you counted the import duty? Carriage? And you should look at Dell for cheap PCs.

I’m not thinking of bringing a whole computer back, just a few of the most expensive components (e.g. memory and HDDs and maybe a graphics card).

I’m allowed to bring back a certain amount of stuff legally without declaring (that amount is not known by me, I admit). But still, 9 years and I have never been stopped by customs…so…(said while looking down and shuffling feet)…

If I have things shipped, then I will have to pay duties.

I know about the HDD backup idea for my DVDs is a bit inefficient…but…I can still burn backup DVDs once they are ripped.