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Thread: Buying a new PC

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    Default Buying a new PC

    Hi, I don't know if I should have gone to the 'computer help' forum, so if I've come to the wrong place...sorry? I want to buy a new PC but have no idea what's the best one to purchase, I wondered if maybe you could give me some pointers? I want it to be as close to my current PC as possible. My spending limit (my reasonable & common sense spending limit) is £500. I could go higher but I'd rather not. My current PC has: AMD Athlon 11 x4 640 3.00GHz processor, 4GB of Ram, with a 64bit operating system. 500GB HDD. I do a lot of research so I need the system to be very responsive, I want it to have a built-in wi-fi capability, I want to be able to watch films, play DVD's & music, and 'be fast'. I won't be playing any games, but I do want the system to be reliable, very responsive, and robust (I know....not that I want much)!! Any ideas please? Thank you for your time.

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    Just came upon this thread. £500 ($815) is a decent budget, especially if you can bring other things you already have to the table, like keyboard and mouse, speakers, and a monitor - things you can upgrade later a bit at a time when budget allows. This will allow you to buy a nicer machine from the start.

    Since you will not be playing games, you can forgo a system with a big graphics solution (add-in card). That's good for a couple reasons. For one, it means you can buy a motherboard with integrated graphics and that's good for several reasons in itself. Integrated graphics on today's motherboards are very good - even capable of good "game play" (with a decent supporting CPU and lots of RAM). They reduce the number of parts (potential points of failure), graphics cards are often the most power hungry devices in our systems so going integrated will allow for a smaller power supply. Integrated graphics also generate less heat than add-on cards. And of course, integrated is less expensive - which allows you to put more towards a better motherboard, more RAM and a nicer CPU.

    It is important to note that audio/videophiles use µATX and even smaller ITX motherboards with integrated graphics in HTPCs (home theater PCs) as PVRs (personal video recorders). This is because they do an excellent job at displaying quality graphics for every task (except "extreme" gaming). It does not take a lot of graphics horsepower to watch HD BluRays or surf the Internet.

    But lots of RAM will make everything move better. I recommend at least 8Gb of system RAM, but 12 or 16Gb would be great, especially with integrated graphics - which typically steal... err, I mean "shares" often large chunks of system RAM.

    I prefer Intel CPUs as they generally offer more performance, consume less power, and generate less heat than AMD. There are a few notable exceptions, of course and in any case, reliability is not an issue as both Intel and AMD make excellent CPUs fully capable of forming the foundation to a great computer.

    Intels do tend to cost a bit more, but it is important to note the CPU is but one component in your system. Once you factor in the price of the motherboard, RAM, case, drives, monitor, printer, keyboard and mouse, speakers and any other accessories or peripherals, the price difference in CPUs becomes almost insignificant.

    Wi-Fi capability built into the motherboard is nice, but note it is not expensive (or hard) to add a WIFI card to a motherboard/PC if you find a nice board that does not have integrated WIFI.

    If you were building your own, I would recommend something like this Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI motherboard and a nice Intel i5 CPU, with 16Gb of RAM.

    Regardless if integrated WIFI or you add a WIFI card, ensure it has external antennas - especially if the computer will be used at a distance and with walls, floors and/or ceilings between the computer and the WAP (wireless access point - typically these days, integrated into "wireless routers").

    And if me, I would use an SSD instead of a hard drive. If you really need more than 256Gb of disk space, I would get a SSD and a HD. SSDs still cost considerably more per gigabyte than hard drives, but clearly provide better performance, consume less power and generate less heat. They don't suffer from fragmentation problems, the latest generations don't have limited write issues the first generations SSDs had, and with no moving parts, they should last longer than the average hard drive.

    If SSDs are just not in the budget, I would recommend a hybrid hard drive. Standard hard drives have small RAM buffers (on board cache) to improve read/write performance. Hybrid drives use much faster SSDs for the buffer.

    One of the most crucial component in ANY and EVERY computer is the power supply. Sadly, many factory made, and self-builts by inexperienced builders are often powered by cheap, generic, barely adequate supplies. The power supply is the wrong place to try and save a few dollars - quid - in the budget. When you buy a nice new car, you don't run down to the corner tobacco hut and fill up with watered-down, generic fuel. A car engine can miss a beat and keep on running. Not so with high-speed digital electronics. A PSU from a quality maker is an investment and helps ensure a long, and stable life of everything connected to it. I prefer Corsair and Antec but regardless the brand, just make sure it is 80 PLUS certified to ensure efficient operation across the full range of expected loads.

    Also, ensure you get 64-bit Windows (since you want more than 4Gb of RAM) and I recommend Windows 8.1. It offers better security, better performance, better just about everything than Windows 7. If the new Windows 8 "Start Screen", formally called the Metro UI bothers you, not to worry. Start8 brings back the familiar W7 Start Orb and Start Menu and lets you boot directly to the Windows Desktop instead of the new Windows 8 "Start Screen" that so many people don't like. Then W8 works and looks and feels almost exactly like the familiar W7. It cost $5 (after a 30-day trial period), but is well worth it, IMO.

    Classic Shell is another alternative that brings back the Start Orb and menu, is free and very popular too. However, it has extra features and goodies that many (like myself) feel is unneeded "fluff". And perhaps because it is a free product it does not "appear" to have the "polished" feel of Start8. That said, it works very well.

    Getting all the above may be difficult if you go with a factory built system. Certainly building it yourself is much easier than most people realize, but still not something many want to undertake. The main downside to building your self is YOU are then your own hardware technical support, and software support - even with Windows (unless you buy the more expensive full retail license). But if you can find a local shop that will work for you to build a custom PC, you can get a PC build specifically for your needs, and still have someone [local!] besides yourself to yell at if you need warranty support or other help.
    Bill (AFE7Ret)
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    Heat is the bane of all electronics!
    MS MVP, 2007 - 2018
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    Hi Digarati, thank you for the advice & information. Following much research, I'm now considering (only considering) a HP Pavilion 500-141ea desktop PC with 1TB HDD, 3.5GHz AMD quad core processor with turbo boost, with an AMD Radeon HD 8570D graphics card. Any thoughts please...like, "don't do it", or, "brilliant - go for it"?

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    How much RAM? What version of Windows?

    If this one, it does not have a graphics "card" but integrated graphics, and that's fine.

    I don't like the RAM configuration of 1 x 2 GB and 1 x 4 GB. That makes no sense to me and suggests HP just has a bunch of RAM laying around and tossed them in. That motherboard has 4 RAM slots. That tells me the motherboard supports "dual channel memory architecture". To take advantage of "dual channel", RAM needs to be installed in "identical pairs". Not 1 stick of 2Gb and 1 stick of 4Gb. I would MUCH rather see 8Gb of RAM (2 x 4Gb) especially with integrated graphics, or 16Gb (4 x 4Gb).
    Bill (AFE7Ret)
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    Heat is the bane of all electronics!
    MS MVP, 2007 - 2018
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    The system is as the picture you sent me, yes. Also - it has 6GB Ram DDR3, and is running Windows 8. Anything else I should look for please? I can go higher than £500 but I'd rather not.

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    Member Digerati's Avatar
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    The big thing is the mismatched RAM. I would definitley demand 2 x 4Gb over mismatched sticks.
    Bill (AFE7Ret)
    Freedom is NOT Free!
    Heat is the bane of all electronics!
    MS MVP, 2007 - 2018
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    Thank you. I can certainly order 2x4GB sticks, that's not a problem at all. I trust your advice. And I think they said I can also add to the Ram if I wish.

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    For sure the mismatched 6Gb of RAM will "function" - but only in "single channel" mode. Dual channel allows the motherboard bus to effectively double the bandwidth (data transfer speed) between the RAM and the CPU. But again, that only happens when RAM is installed in matched pairs.

    I trust your advice.
    Thanks. For sure, not leading you astray here.
    Bill (AFE7Ret)
    Freedom is NOT Free!
    Heat is the bane of all electronics!
    MS MVP, 2007 - 2018
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    No problem, thank you. I will be making further enquiries prior to a final decision. And can I wish you, and your family, and all at 'help2go' a peaceful and blessed Christmas, and a successful 2014. And thank you again.

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    Really sorry but....the information (reply) submitted has come out as unfathomable.......sorry?