Need some advice on a new desktop.

My current desktop is three years old, more or less: more to the point, the case is a total piece of garbage and pretty much all of my USB ports are totally shot.  I’m starting to get to the point where I’ll be actively planning to replace the blessed thing, but: with what?  It’s gonna be a PC – I use this rig for games, with a side order of video editing (yes, I know that Macs are good for the latter; they kind of suck for the former) – but beyond that, I dunno.  I don’t want to have to replace it again any time soon, and I’m not down with spending insane cash money on this.

This isn’t a pledge drive, by the way*. I’m just a little out of touch when it comes to the state of the art right now.

Moe Lane

*Although the button’s on the sidebar, of course: ———–>

23 thoughts on “Need some advice on a new desktop.”

  1. I’ve bought both a HP desktop and laptop in the last couple of years. I was very happy with both price and quality.

  2. Sounds like your first order is to figure out what your budget is, and secondly whether you are willing to make your own, or not.

      1. It’s definitely the way to get the most bang for your buck, if you have the time and patience for it.

      2. It’s easier now than it used to be. Almost all the assembly is purely plugging small cables into small sockets and jumpers are a thing of the past. For a good mid tier system that should still last you years, I’d follow this formula:
        – Spend $200~300 on the cpu (preferably an Intel with as many cores as you can get)
        – Spend $200 or so on memory (this should get you 16 GB or so)
        – Get a Solid State Drive for you OS and any programs you want to run real fast (180 GB runs about $180 or so)
        – Get a second HD to serve as your bit bucket. A 2 TB Western Digital Black drive (with a 5 year warranty) runs about $200
        – You’ll need a CPU fan or cooler of some kind. Good ones run around $30~$60
        – Your graphics card is where you have the most wiggle room on price. Your 3 year old card can probably be out performed be even the cheapest new cards available now, so it you’re ok with that you can get away with spending about $200 or so. If you want something really nice, expect to pay about $400~$500. Nvidia makes the most trouble free cards right now, so I’d stick with them. The graphics card is the part you’ll most likely be upgrading in the coming years, so don’t go overboard unless you don’t want to upgrade for a looong time.

        – Reuse your current case if you can. If not, that’s another $100 to $200
        – Reuse your current power supply if you can (Does it output 500W or so? If you’re not planning on running multiple graphics cards, keep it). If not, buy as much power you can. 850W goes for ~$150 these days.
        – If you’re currently running Win 7, stay on it. Win 8 isn’t really ready for the desktop yet.

        So that formula makes for a $1000 ~ $1900 price tag. Smart shopping can improve those numbers and you can always skimp on the graphics card now and buy something better later. Note I didn’t list a sound card. The onboard audio on most motherboards is plenty good and the CPU hit is microscopic. Only get a soundcard if you find you hate the onboard’s quality.

          1. I know I’m having sticker shock.
            And a desire to increase my income to where that is affordable.

          2. Building your own PC isn’t the bargain proposition it used to be, or at least, building a whole machine at once isn’t. The real value in building your own is in the ability to swap out parts and upgrade over time. If you drop some coin on the parts that don’t need to be refreshed every upgrade cycle, then your 3 year refreshes are more around the $600 level. (add some ram, maybe swap in a new motherboard and or a new CPU)

            If it’s all too intimidating or too hard a sell for your spouse, Dell and HP make fine desktops with warranties and support, but you’ll still run in to $$.

          3. Apparently so *G*, but then my kids are long gone and I get that you’re in family raising mode. Look at the Alienware X51 it’s around $650 for enough memory,storage, a decent vid card and power supply to game…and as Heartbrek sez down thread pick up the Dell coupons and discounts online.

            The thing I dislike about HP is their driver hell…especially 3rd party drivers.

  3. I’m partial to building my own, but then I’m kinda picky about my hardware and I have a high tolerance for troubleshooting and enough knowledge to do it.

    If you buy from Dell/HP etc you should at least get support, but a lot of their consumer stuff is built by the lowest bidder, so it can be kinda hit or miss.

    1. I used to, when friends asked “what should I get?” direct them to the Dell closeout Optiplex boxes.
      The nice part about the Optiplex (business-grade) machines used to be that, for a given model number, it was guaranteed to be *exactly* components X, Y, and Z, every time… and because it’s the corporate line, Dell guarantees to have spare parts available.
      In contrast, the Dimension (home-grade) machines could be X, Y, and Z, or A, B, and C, or any combination thereof, regardless of model number.
      I discovered this working for a cheap bastard when two supposedly identical Dimensions, same spec, same model, had very different performance. Turned out, the cards and drives were completely different.
      As for why the closeout Optiplex .. always cheaper to buy last year’s model.
      I don’t know if this is still true, but if I were in the market for a non-Mac, it’s what I’d be looking at.

      1. At one time one could buy refurbed from Dell for a pretty decent price. As in 100, 150 for an okay desktop. No monitor.

      2. The Optiplex is fine if you want a good desktop for writing, surfing and such, but the sound card, video card, cooling and power supply just don’t cut it for gaming. Today’s games run a machine really hot.

    1. Note that while you can run Windows on a Mac – I run Vista and Windows 98 on mine – there can be certain compatibility issues, especially around external (video) hardware.
      Tread careful.

    2. I initially thought of this as the best of both world solutions until I remembered all the time Moe complained about not being able to hack his iPad

  4. Check out the Alienware Aurora..I bought one a few months ago for exactly the same tasks. My config came in a little under $2000.

    This is the second Alienware I’ve had, my Area-51 ALX was handed down in the family and is still kicking ass.

    I seriously considered the small form X51 but by the time I upgraded a few components there wasn’t much room money-wise between the X51 and the medium build Aurora….I f*cking drooled over the top end Aurora but I’d like to keep both my kidneys.

    I was skeptical after Dell bought ’em…but this puppy is solid…the 4GB GDDR5 NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 690 rocks two 24″ screens…and they ship with Win7.

    1. I have bought several Alienware, and always via the Outlet (and using coupons from their twitter account) so I end up paying about two thirds of the new price.

  5. I’d look at the documentation, and see what hardware the USB depends on. Perhaps replacing the MoBo, or the case, or both, would be enough to keep the system functioning well enough. It might be possible to find compatible alternatives for cheap somewhere, maybe amazon. That said, I may have a bias towards throwing time and brainsweat at things to get them functional while spending as little cash as possible.

  6. So the last couple of gaming rigs I’ve bought came from I liked them because they let me customize absolutely everything on the box, and the prices were fairly reasonable. I haven’t actually bought one for a couple of years, but a reasonably top of the line box in terms of components was about 2 grand (well, you can get to 3 or 4 grand if you really want), and a box equivalent to what that was 18 months ago is about a grand. A gaming laptop is going to run you $1200-1500, but that always seemed a waste to me because it’s too bulky to be a reasonable laptop, and won’t game well either.

    1. THIS! I used to build my own from scratch, but last year I decided to look at what was out there already put together, (I had Frankenstein’d my old Pentium 4 as far as it would go, but it lasted 8 years, yes I said Pentium 4…) because I finally couldn’t play some of the newer games *cough* Diablo 3 *cough*. Bought an ibuypower machine from Costco for $800 with a decent Nvidia video card in it. I priced out the components for if I wanted to do it myself, but with the deal (I think it was $200 off sale) it was cheaper to go this route.
      When the time comes, I’ll start adding on to this one. I guess that’s the plan for me going forward – buy a totally new machine once I can’t upgrade anymore.

  7. I’ve mostly purchased their laptops, but I’ve been happy with Acer and Asus. I usually look for refurbished ones from or

  8. What’s the budget? $500? $300? $700? $900? For video editing you’re probably going to want a high capacity (1TB+) traditional hard drive and an SSD followed by more RAM. An Intel i5 would likely be enough for the CPU.

    Gaming pretty much depends on the graphics card, but you can get a system with the intention of installing the card next year.

    Build vs buy: there are several companies that will give you maximum say in what exactly goes into the computer so that you can “build” without having to do assembly yourself. I’ve used in the past, and will likely use it or in the future.

    I would recommend waiting until early June before making a decision. Intel is releasing a new generation of chips that week, so its likely you can get great deals on the older systems.

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