Forum Thread

How to pick a computer for my needs?

gypsy278 11 14 April 20, 2016 at 06:28 PM
I don't know which section to ask this in, please be gentle if this is the incorrect one. I am in need of a new computer to watch movies, play music, buy and sell on Ebay, emails, social media, web browsing, some word and excel, maybe a few games but not anything serious. I find I normally have multiple windows open and know that some systems have a harder time with that than others. My problem is I have no idea what numbers I need to have for what I need it to do and I am on a very limited budget. I have seen many deals lately for laptops but am not sure if they have enough speed and power for what I need. I would prefer a desktop as I am more familiar with them but am open to suggestions. The desktop I am using now is years old and slowing down. It is:

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Hewlett-Packard
Model CQ5814
3.00 GB RAM
64-bit operating system
Number of processor cores 2

Total size of hard disk(s) 466 GB
Disk partition (CSmilie 385 GB Free (455 GB Total)
Disk partition (DSmilie 1 GB Free (11 GB Total)
Media drive (ESmilie CD/DVD

Graphics
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Display adapter type AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics
Total available graphics memory 1462 MB
Dedicated graphics memory 384 MB
Dedicated system memory 0 MB
Shared system memory 1078 MB
Display adapter driver version 8.792.0.0
Primary monitor resolution 1280x1024
DirectX version DirectX 10

I can use the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers I have now so if it does not come with everything that should be ok. I need something for less than $400 but do I need something with 1TB or is 500GB suitable? I really don't know what most of the stats mean and don't want to end up overspending or getting something that is not fast enough for me. Any help would be appreciated greatly.

8 Comments

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#2
The good news is, you can get a LOT of computer for very little money these days. Your price range is very realistic these days and for $400 you can watch for deals right here on SD's and find them.

For $400, i just picked up a side dell laptop over the holidays for $379 and got..
15" Touchscreen, Intel i5 processor (4th gen), 4 GB ram, 1 TB HD, built in graphics and DVD-burner as the basics.

This style system should be more than enough to work with your specs and last many years.

I've been in the computer realm now over a quarter of a century now (man time flies!) and no need to overspend, especially at current pricing.

Certain details are a MUST..

1) Definitely go Intel on the processor and minimum i3 (4th gen or better) Do NOT even consider something like a Celeron .. total junk. Also, stay away from AMD. I use to be a huge AMD fan years back. For one on one applications, they rocked at a cheaper price. But about a year ago I tried the AMD A10 and was extremely disappointed. AMD does not come close these days to Intel (just a pure fact)

2) Definitely upgrade the hard drive to an SSD. Even a 250 GB at around $50-$60 is a very wise investment, because they smoke the old SATA drives and you can always just pickup a caddy and use the 500 GB or 1TB drive via USB for extra storage.

3) Max out the RAM. Typical lower end systems come with 4 GB and typically will max out at 8. Make sure the unit has TWO RAM slots, otherwise, you'll be tossing the single 4 GB and pay for the 8 GB, which is still not very expensive, but why waste it if yo don't have to.

These are the three main factors you will be looking at, since your's is pretty basic computing.

Also, one last tip. Buy your system with a good credit card. Most good credit card companies come with an added benefit of an extra year warranty on everything you buy (as long as it is new and has a standard 1 years warranty, as most new computers do these days). This way you get an extra years warranty coverage for free. Just make sure you keep a copy of your receipt (best to just scan them in, because thermal ink fades to blank after a year or so, in a month if left in sunlight) and keep you documentation in a safe place in case you ever have to use it.

At today's prices don't go "cheap", because saving an extra $50-$100 on "junk" is not worth the long term headaches. Go with a known brand from a reputable company and you should be golden for the price range of $400.

Hope this helps. Smilie
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Last edited by TuckFigerDirect April 24, 2016 at 06:51 PM
#3
There are a number of companies online that sell customized desktops and laptops. Do a Google search for "custom computer" and you'll get plenty of results. Even if you have no interest in buying from any of them, you can see what's available and customize the hardware to your preference. This will help you get a better idea of what's available for your price range. Is building a desktop something you've considered?

Regarding TuckFigerDirect's comments:

1. He's correct about choosing an Intel processor. AMD overall hasn't been able to compete in a long time. Your processor is the single most important piece of hardware when it comes to performance. It's also the most difficult one to upgrade down the line.

2. Definitely get a Solid State Drive (SSD). A 256gb SSD is big enough to run your OS (Windows, I'm assuming) and your other main programs with room left over. If you can afford one in the 500gb+ range, it's worth it if you're going to have a lot of programs installed. They've gotten quite inexpensive. Keep in mind that an SSD functions differently from a standard hard drive, you don't want to fill it up. Research them before you buy. If you have a huge amount media files, buy an external hard drive to keep them on, you don't want them clogging up your SSD. You can get a good 1TB external hard drive for around $60 these days.
For one reason or another, it seems that retail stores are always trying to push massive storage space on people when the vast majority of people have absolutely no need for it.

3. An 8gb stick of ram in one slot with a second slot open. Most likely that will be plenty for you, but if it's not then you can always add in another 8gb down the line. And as a side note, if you're using Google Chrome as your Web browser try switching to Firefox, Opera, or something else. Google Chrome is a notorious memory hog.

Another point to be made is that if you're not playing video games, don't bother with a dedicated video card. That will save you hundreds of dollars at the minimum. Not having a separate video card won't stop you from playing most games anyway. The integrated graphics processors in Intel's newer processors are fantastic. A dedicated graphics card can always be added on later if you change your mind. Read: http://www.intel.com/content/www/...05718.html

Overall, here are the two best pieces of advice I can give you:

1.RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH!

2. Look at this as an investment. Ideally, what you want is a computer that can still do in 10 years what it can do today. I built my last desktop 8 years ago and it can still do everything my year-old laptop can do (except for heavy graphics games, but that's the nature of the beast).

Here are two good sites to search for general information:
www.howtogeek.com
www.Tomsguide.com

Feel free to send me a PM if you have any more questions, I'd be glad to help.
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#4
A decent 4th gen or better i5 processor based desktop (do not pay a premium for a laptop for portability you do not need and also incur a lack of upgradability) with a mid to low range video board is all you really need imo. 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB, 7200 rpm hard disk will do just fine. Get a model with a decent sized case so as to have some room to expand\add on drives and boards and make sure the max memory the machine supports is at least 16 GB (i.e., you can add memory later if desired). You can get them in your price range from the Dell Outlet or other vendor when on sale, no problem. Just search for sales here.

You do not need to add an SSD as while it will speed up things, it simply is not needed and you can always add one on later anyway. There is no reason to be spending additional money for something that simply will make a fairly fast machine even faster for what you are using it for. Also SSD prices will continue to fall, so the longer you wait to add one on, the cheaper the add on will become.

You do not need to spend on some fancy graphics board if you are not into gaming or graphics\Photoshop work.

You will likely get many years of service out of such a setup and with the desktop, you can also upgrade the video board and add disks\an SSD if your needs expand in the future.
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Last edited by YanksIn2009 April 25, 2016 at 02:20 AM
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#5
Thank you all so much. (I will have to look up what half of the stuff you mentioned is or what it does but it will be great information to have) There are just way to many options out there and I was spinning in circles. Now I have specifics to shoot for and advice from people who have actual current knowledge instead of going off information from years and years ago which has all changed now. Some great mfg's from back then are now considered mediocre and some low end mfg's are now considered top of the line, etc I would have been in deep by the time I was done guessing. Thank you all again. This kind of thing makes me feel so old and out of touch and I'm only 40ish
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#6
Gypsy, I understand your confusion/frustration. I'm in the same boat. I'm looking for a laptop. I'm not a gamer, just want a nice computer for a decent price.

Every thread I look at has folks loving & hating stuff, bragging & complaining. Some folks that sound knowledgeable giving data that I have no clue what it means!

I'm not really worried about price if it's worth spending!!!

Even in this thread, there's contradictory info. SSD vs HDD. Don't get me wrong, folks that contributed info, I love the opinions. But, even among well-meaning folks trying to help things can be confusing!

Just looking at processors: i5, right? Well, apparently there are SEVERAL versions of i5!!! Jeez, Louise!!!

AAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!
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#7
Quote from gypsy278 View Post :
Thank you all so much. (I will have to look up what half of the stuff you mentioned is or what it does but it will be great information to have) There are just way to many options out there and I was spinning in circles. Now I have specifics to shoot for and advice from people who have actual current knowledge instead of going off information from years and years ago which has all changed now. Some great mfg's from back then are now considered mediocre and some low end mfg's are now considered top of the line, etc I would have been in deep by the time I was done guessing. Thank you all again. This kind of thing makes me feel so old and out of touch and I'm only 40ish
Quote from gypsy278 View Post :
Thank you all so much. (I will have to look up what half of the stuff you mentioned is or what it does but it will be great information to have) There are just way to many options out there and I was spinning in circles. Now I have specifics to shoot for and advice from people who have actual current knowledge instead of going off information from years and years ago which has all changed now. Some great mfg's from back then are now considered mediocre and some low end mfg's are now considered top of the line, etc I would have been in deep by the time I was done guessing. Thank you all again. This kind of thing makes me feel so old and out of touch and I'm only 40ish
I'm 33, built my first pc 2011. Before that I felt just like you both, confused and lost. But being in the 3D film industry and moonlighting as a freelance artist, I knew that tech was inevitable. It's worth keeping on your radar if you are in any way using it career or hobby-wise. Otherwise, don't get too worried about the details because basically any start pc these days will easily cover your browsing and basic media needs. Seriously.
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#8
$150 chromebox would suit your needs for the most part. So would an off lease dell/HP off eBay for $80-$150.
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#9
Thank you. I am not sure what off lease means and the more I think about it the more I think I better get one with the manufacturer warranty just to be safe. Lots of reviews out there even for new items that day they arrived not fully functional or only lasted a month. I have spotted an open box excellent condition from a large electronics store here and it comes with the warranty just like if it was unopened. It is a dell inspiron i3, 4th generation, With 8GB memory, 1TB, Windows 10, expandable to 16GB. For $335. Will that work? Any other options that I am forgetting to check? Have been looking for days and all numbers have begun to look the same 😊
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