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Need a new computer....need opinions

 4:37 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

My computer has been messed up forever and I cant seem to fix it. I am a freelance web designer and I obviously need a good computer. I am giving up and getting a new...I need a something new anyway. Are there any good deals on a good reliable computer right now. Where and which brand? I figure someone on here has had a good experience with a computer recently.

Does anyone recommend a dell or Sony Vaio. I believe it has come down to one of these two.

I dont feel like building my own....even though everyone tells me to.

Thanks for your input!



 5:04 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

The reason that everyone tells you to build your own is that you always end up with a significantly better machine for about 50% less cost than if you go with a name brand, that's cost based on the same quality component choices that is, although in many cases it's not possible to find components as bad as those used by the name brand pc makers on the after market unless you really look hard.

Dell's are adequate but nothing more, they cut everything to the bare minimum, the basic models for example have room for only 1 hard drive.

If you use a decent quality Abit, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI etc motherboard you will end up with a superior machine, especially if you go with SATA harddrives and dual DDR, those things are FAST.

If you go with an AMD processor with 512 kB of L2 cache, or a good pentium 4 the machine will be very fast, and you can use good quality namebrand memory like samsung, micron, kingston, or corsair.

There's no comparison, a friend of mine just got a dell box, came with a 2.4 gigahertz celeron processor, the thing is significantly slower than a pc I built for myself using an amd xp 1800 chip, that's only about 1.4 gigahertz.

Almost all cases you buy aftermarket are superior to the cramped cases name brand companies give you, if you go for something like an Antec case, it's about 5 times higher quality in power supply and case construction, there is simply no comparison.


 6:14 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Isitreal is 100% correct
I build mine by using a black Antec case; server size.

since I have lot of room I added a couple of almost
"over clocker" size fans and can run the machine without AC and still blowing out cool air

built it! you will know each part of hardware and software therefore so much able to fix any kind of problems


 6:37 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm happy with my TigerbySystemax. But I'd still advise build your own. I didn't have time when my old box died, but as I get to retire again in August, I WILL have time next time....


 6:48 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

What's your budget? The best you can buy are an Apple G5 (desktop) or any Apple laptop. Soooo much better than any PC.


 7:13 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Load RH
the only item to be added will be PHPmyAdmin


 7:18 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

The best you can buy are an Apple G5 (desktop) or any Apple laptop. Soooo much better than any PC.

I recently built a friend a pc that basically duplicated the current g5 hardware, except for the dual processor (not needed since I could get a very fast amd for only about $90) and the box cost less than half what the apple cost, and that's with an antec case, which is very high quality, no comparison to any pc/mac box. I've built Mirrored sata raid boxes with dual ddr, all the very fastest, and the hardware came out to still half or less what a new mac cost. These machines are VERY fast.

I'll give apple credit for putting out very good quality hardware, but you pay a MASSIVE premium to get that quality, pretty much 100% more. Tigerdirect is one of the few companies out there I've seen that seem to actually put together very good quality boxes for a reasonable price, haven't checked them recently.


 7:26 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>My computer has been messed up forever and I cant seem to fix it. I am a freelance web designer and I obviously need a good computer. I am giving up and getting a new...I need a something new anyway. Are there any good deals on a good reliable computer right now. Where and which brand?

Interesting... I hear a lot of people tell their old computers got trashed over time because scumblah, spyblah, trashblah and securityblah, but they are willing to buy the same garbage under a different brand just to repeat the same mistake over and over again...

I just cant get the logic behind this.

You want a computer? Just Google 'computer', it works.


 9:32 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

I feel like Sony Vaio's are the best... I am always hearing so many good things about them plus Sony is a very reliable brand IMO... just my 2 cents


 10:22 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Build it. Everything comes plug-and-play these days so there's little chance of real problems.

The most difficult part is researching what motherboard, cpu, memory, etc., to buy. But there are loads of reviews available to help with this.

I'm running on a multi-boot Abit / PentiumIII 800 that I put together a couple of years ago. It's due to be replaced, but I would never consider buying one of the shelf.


 11:00 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Building one is always the better option although I have to admit that I go into ##### and buy the highest spec machine they have when my existing one ones out of grunt as they aint that expensive nowadays.


 11:01 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)



 11:56 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have just bought a new computer a month ago, i had a normal desktop computer before, this time I bought a laptop from fujitsu siemens wide screen 15,4 its as sitting with a 17" screen, feautures 3.2Ghz, 512MB ram, DVD burner, 128MB Radeon Grafic card, 3 USB 2.0.

I had no complains yet and I work alot with grafics, the computer just dont care, its a quick mother...



 12:07 am on Jun 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Laptops of course can't be built from parts like desktops, I had a friend who had a fujitsu, it had multiple screen failures, was in and out of the factory service, finally was ok more or less, but only because she had purchased an extended service contract. I have a gateway, that's total junk, sceen always half goes out then comes back, still works but not high quality. Dells are also said to be not that great.

I'd only buy an IBM or Toshiba laptop, good luck with yours.


 3:03 am on Jun 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

cyberpowerinc - For $700, I had them put together a nice system running at about 85% speed of a top of the line ($2500-3000) system. Cases are exceptional as are choice of internal components. Why do it yourself when you can get a years free support (in home) at same price?


 3:19 am on Jun 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I am sure there are a couple places around where you are that sell all the parts to make your own computers. Many of them will also build it for you for a very reasonable price or have ready build systems (build from there components).

The place that I go will put them together make sure it works and hand it over without an os. Thats how I like them when I get them.


 6:37 pm on Jun 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi jtmoney77,

Over the years, I've built several computers for myself, friends and family, and I've also helped people purchase name-brand systems. Before deciding on build vs. buy, or Dell vs. Sony, you need to take a step back and get a good understanding of what you want to do with your new computer and how much you can spend on it. Now, I'm going to make some assumptions here which may not be correct, but hopefully this advice will help you out.

Since you've narrowed your choice to Sony or Dell, I'm assuming your a windows user, which would rule out OSX. Apple makes outstanding products, but unless your budget allows for all new software, we'll stick with a PC. I'll also rule out any Linux variation. As a freelance web designer, you probably do a lot of work with Flash, which isn't available for Linux. Besides, IMHO, Linux is not a very good platform for web designers (web developers, sure, but not for the designer types). So, one decision down, Windows XP. If you need to do work with ASP or .NET, you should spend the extra $100 or so for XP Professional.

Now, on to hardware... This is primarily where the budget comes into play. You said you are a freelance web designer, so this computer would be vital to you putting food on the table. So, I'm hoping your budget is in the 1,000 to 1,500 USD range. If you're budget is less than 600 USD, your only real choice it to buy. Dell does a great job of servicing this price point, especially through their factory outlet section. Refurbished Dell systems are every bit as good as new (same warranty, even), but can often save you a lot of money. Be sure to google for Dell coupons to get the best deal.

If your budget is in the 600-1,000 USD range, build vs. buy is sort of a toss up. But, the closer you get to 1,000 USD, the more attractive building your own becomes. Anything beyond 1,000 USD, I'd strongly recomend building your own. Why? Several reasons.
First, an off the shelf system will almost certainly contain compromises. Usually you wind up paying for hardware/software you don't want in order to buy a system that has what you do want. Most manufacturers no longer include the original software CD's, but instead use a backup partition on the hard drive. Customizing/expanding an off the shelf system is often a lot more dificult, too.
Building your own system is more time-consuming, but is surprisingly easy, and will save you money and give you exactly what you need. Unless you also play a lot of computer games, don't waste your money on the fastest processor or video card. Spend your money on lots of memory, lots of storage, and the best monitor(s) you can get. I have a dual output graphics card running 17" and a 19" CRT monitors which make me a lot more productive than a faster processor would. Spend your money on a good computer case, too. It will really pay dividends down the road.

Finally, another advantage of building your own... It will force you to learn more about what makes your computer run. That will really help you from messing up the new system.

If this still doesn't convince you to build your own, then go to Dell, find a nice refurb with plenty of memory and a graphics card that supports dual monitors. Dell at least includes original CD's for all installed software and is a much better value than Sony.


 7:19 pm on Jun 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

Sony Viao laptop. Works great for me. Have had it since 2001 and although its had a bigger hard drive put in, along with more memory and a wireless card. its still doing well and holding its value for me.

My next one will be a Sony(or a dell if its seriously more powerful and tricked out).

Its not 1996 anymore and so, most computers you buy will be good enough to do most anything you throw at it. But if you're doing graphics/web stuff, then make sure you have 512mb Ram minimum, everything else is personal choice.

my .02 (which, amazingly, is still worth .02!)

Patrick Elward


 1:11 am on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thank you everyone for your input. Some of you gave a lot of useful information. I have another question though, is the graphics card vital for me (since ill be using Flash)? Would a Intel integrated graphics card not handle the job the way I would want it to?

By the way girz_fan, you were pretty accurate at your guesses. I would prefer to use Windows XP. Also, I would like to spend anywhere between $1000 and $1400. I dont play video games on my computer, mainly use it for work. I agree building one would teach me a lot about my computer, but also agree it would take some time.

Ill let u all know what I did..... after I do it :-)



 4:03 am on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you don't want to take the time to make the box, think about taking weebie and dudermont's advice, use a place to build one, that will still be a much superior case/motherboard/processor than a generic dell box.

If you aren't doing games you don't need a good video card, the intel onboard processor is fine, video cards are so massively overpowered when all you need is 2d desktop rendering like photoshop/flash that basically all video cards are more than enough, including onboard ones, although having two video outputs is nice if you want to dual monitors, but if you get an onboard video you can always add a $30 video card for the second monitor later.


 7:53 am on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

I, too, am a web/interactive designer and faced your dilmma a few months ago. I 'm not much of a 'build-it yourself' person, but no way would I buy another Dell. dell is crap! I'm not a gamer but gaming machines are optimum for multimedia and design. so, I bought an ABS and I love it!

somebody recommended a Sony Vaio--which os great if you're an accountant or a stockbroker, but is inadequate for graphics and mmedia.

but don't take my word for it about ABS. go online and read all the rave reviews by the PC magazines.

a warning, however, gaming machines aren't cheap! I decided to forego a sound system, fancy keyboard, glowing cords,plugs and fans for 2.5 gigs of ram instead. Ialso upgraded or added on every graphic and mmedia enhancement I could afford. including the 21 in monitor I HAD to buy to replace my old one, I paid just under $3K. if you dont need that much ram,video capture, 64-bit amd processor, firewire drive, 2 dvd machines, and 2 - 120g hard drives, you can still get an ABS that runs circles around all the mainstream brands for around $2300.

my only gripe is that it's a bit noisy with all those fans to cool down all that power, but otherwise, it's been terrific.

hope this helps.


 12:11 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

These machines are VERY fast.

isitreal, I'm also in the market for a new computer. Speed and reliability are the two main concerns. Could you share what components you used on those machines, and what the approximate cost was to build them?

My budget for a new computer is around $400 or so, little enough, but then my demands on it aren't too high at the moment. I want to get as much performance out of my money as possible, so I'd appreciate any advice people can offer.




 2:25 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

As if there aren't enough comments on this I have to throw in my own .02. Buy a Dell, BUT don't buy the consumer level, buy the business level - Optiplex. You do own a business don't you?

I don't work only in Web, I have worked thoughout IT, including as an IT Director for a very prestigious Graduate School. I can tell you the best decision I have ever made was to begin buying Dell's. I have worked in white box shops (custom builds) and because those systems are piece built, rather than choosing parts based on how they operate with each other, without an incredible amount of research, it's quite difficult to get a good custom built, or even build it yourself (which I did until Dell.) I now own two Dell Optiplex's and am looking to purchase a third. Here are a few suggestions in buying your new computer:

First, the slowest part of the computer is the Hard Drive. The faster the hard drive, the faster the computer will be. Get a Seriel ATA hard drive, actually get two. Make sure that you store your important data across both, either through RAID or through back-ups. Don't worry about the size as much as you worry about the cache. Make sure you get at least an 8MB cache which will make things run much faster than a hard drive with a 2MB cache.

Your graphics card really isn't important anymore as what is now a really bad graphics card will blow away the best from 3 years ago. I would be sure to get a graphics card with at least 64MB of RAM, and then forget it from there.

As far as processors go...Someone mentioned earlier a slow computer that had a Celeron processor, which is no suprise. Stay away from the Celeron, make sure to get a P4. Just about any speed will do, because no mattter how fast the processor is, the bus and hard drive won't be able to keep up.

RAM - Make sure you get at least 500MB of RAM. As cheap as RAM is there is no excuse not to, and it will ensure that you can open your graphics program, flash, and dreamweaver without problems. I personally recommend 1GB of RAM, but it's really not required. The more RAM you have (up to about 1GB) the less you have to use your hard drive, which means things run at bus speeds, not hard drive speeds.

Beyond hardware there are alot of things you can do to make your system faster.

First: Uninstall all programs which you are not using, including any junk that comes with your new computer. I personally, like to do a fresh install even with a new computer to be sure I know how everything is set-up.

Second: Get Adaware Spyware Remover. Update the definitions, just like you do for your virus protection and run a scan once a month. This will get rid of anything that is hogging resources. If this program breaks another uninstall the other, it was junk.

Third: VIRUS PROTECTION! My personal favorite is Symantec Antivirus, but that is up to you. Symantec loads the new definitions to thier servers for updates Wednesday afternoon unless something major comes out. Set up LiveUpdate to automatically update each Wednesday evening.

Fourth: Defragment Some people say that with the newer hard drives it doesn't matter whether you defragment or not, but I think these people rarely load any large files. I defragment once a month, just to stay on top of things.

No matter what type of computer you get, those four things will keep everything running as fast as your system will allow.


 2:44 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Speed and reliability are the two main concerns. Could you share what components you used on those machines, and what the approximate cost was to build them?

You can't touch this level of performance/price with any namebrand box, including a Mac. The trick is to use 1+ year old top of the line parts. I made several of these recently, one is an office server, which runs 24/7, and has as far as I know never crashed since september '03', running W2K.

All prices are current, from zipzoomfly.com, who I've never had any trouble with:

Gigabyte GA-7N400 Pro2 nForce2 Ultra 400 Athlon(XP)/Duron SktA DDR ATX Motherboard w/Audio, Gigabit LAN, IDE RAID, Serial ATA Retail
$106.50 [don't skimp on motherboard, processor, or memory, you'll always regret trying to save that extra $20-50.]

AMD Athlon XP 2600+ 1.91GHz 333FSB 512KB [512 kB L2 cache is the critical component here, it's one of the things that made there processors able to meet the much higher gigahertz Pentium 4s, that parity stopped right at this point, xp 24-2600+, but you can't beat the price/performance]
$89.00 [this is the boxed cpu, comes with fan and 3 year amd guarantee]

Memory {check mobo manufactorers website for memory recommendations and follow them}:
256 x 2 Corsair VS256MB400C3 256MB DDR400 PC3200 CAS3 Value Select Memory
$88 (double this if you want 2 x 512 mB)

Antec Solution Series SLK3700AMB Super Mid Tower w/ 350 watt power supply (don't use less power, and don't use a cheap power supply). I use the server cases, which cost about $85, because they come with two extra case fans, which cost about $10 retail each, so it ends up being the same price for a bigger case with enough room for any drives you'll ever need.

Liteon LTR-52327S / LTR-52328S 52x32x52 E-IDE/ATAPI CD-RW Drive [top rated for ripping copy protected cds, which means it has a very high quality laser/logic circuitry.]

Floppy drive {needed to install Sata drivers/ raid drivers on Windows 2000/XP
$10 [though you probably have one lying around]

Video card, any $30 card with 32mB ram, if you're not gaming this doesn't really matter as far as I'm concerned.

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 6Y080M0 80GB Serial ATA 7200RPM Hard Drive w/8MB Buffer and Serial ATA Signal Cable Bundle
total: $510

This is roughly equivalent to a $1200-1500 Dell, and is only slightly slower than a $3000 gaming box (minus the extreme video card)

You will never regret spending the extra $100, the only real decision is whether to use 2 sticks of 256mB DDR32200 or 512mB (don't skimp on memory speed, get the fastest the board will support, prices are very low right now, and will never get lower, they'll rise soon)

Make sure to update the BIOS and MOBO drivers with new ones from the Gigabyte website, gigabyte boards come with a windows utility to let you update the Bios in windows, no flashing the bios, very cool.

There are comparable ABIT boards, ASUS sort of dropped the ball in this generation but might be coming back. Gigabyte SATA boards may not work with some linux distros, check the forums to find out for sure.

If you installed the raid drivers, you now have 2 SATA channels, a single Raid mirrored data IDE channel (recommended, hard to set that up after installing windows), plus two standard IDE channels. You will never use up the capacity of this box.

rather than choosing parts based on how they operate with each other, without an incredible amount of research,

I did that research, what's above is the result, so don't worry about that part of things.

I now own two Dell Optiplex's and am looking to purchase a third.

It's funny, a company I work for has an optiplex and a few of the above boxes, and just yesterday I was talking to a new admin assistant there and she asked me why her dell optiplex was so sluggish compared to the boxes I'd made, even though it cost 2.5 times more, with P4. What can I say to that except to tell her that dell stuff are just generic office machines, ok, adequate, but nothing more, and if you go for performance, forget it in terms of price/performance equation.


 4:33 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)


Great list. But any recommendations for an Abit/Pentium 4 based system?

Perhaps it's brand loyalty, but I'm thinking of building a new machine using the manufacturers that I am used to. If you've already done the research it would save me a lot of time. :)


 4:46 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

No, sorry, I've always done the research on price/performance, and AMD always beats Intel in that area, by about $100 roughly, for example, a 2.4/2.6 P4 with 512 kB of L2 cache costs almost $100 more than the amd chip above.

However, I remember it was a tossup between a high end Abit and the Gigabyte mobo, the deciding factors were lack of onboard gigabit networking, etc, listed below. The important thing to study is the chipsets used on the mobos, that takes some research, for example SIS was pretty consistently putting out low quality but cheap sets, but this can change anytime a company decides to go for high end boards.

But if the price doesn't matter, then Intel is very good. All I know is that low end mobos give low end performance, even on good brands.

It takes a long time to do the research for any particular product, but sometimes it becomes a no brainer, for example the gigabyte board was one of only a few with built in gigabit networking and firewire support and usb 2 support, along with having ide raid/SATA, they were built for a gigabit network (amazingly fast by the way, that network transfers 100 megabyte files almost as fast as they open internally on your own machine...

I did try using some other components recently, a computer store 'sale' cdr/rw unit, didn't work worth @#@, returned it and got the liteon unit, now my friend's 300megahertz pc burns cds at 52x..., on the 'cheap' {which actually cost more than the liteon!) unit it crashed or failed at half that speed, made me realize that every component matters if you want a quality box. That box is an old high end server box, with a good ASUS mobo, good memory, and it still works fine. This is by the way one of the real advantages to spending a bit more on the mobo, you extend the service life of the box by several years.

I made my box around 2001-2002 and can see no reason to upgrade it, not now, and not in 3 or 4 years, it's totally fast enough, though I wish I had known the advice I gave above, spend the extra 50 on the mobo and you'll never regret it, try saving it, and you'll always regret it. My local computer store geeks tried to tell me to go with a raid mobo but I wouldn't listen, now my box is full, no more room for drives.

WARNING: never ever ever buy the ECS k7s5a boards, or any ECS board, unless you like headaches and system failures, those are often packaged with processors for amazingly low prices, but don't fall for it.


 6:29 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

"WARNING: never ever ever buy the ECS k7s5a boards"

-- ha ha, actually that was one of the first boards I used to build a system with amd 1ghz cpu. It was acutally pretty stable for me until I upped the cpu to 2200+ 1.8(specs said max cpu) and had random shutdowns which are anoying.

Since then I have build 15-20 pc's for friends/family/clients and prefer the performance and reliability of custom builds but have troubleshooted a Asus P4P800 Deluxe, from reloading the system to replacing ram trying different Sata HD, and it was finally the OnBoard NIC conflicting with something(fresh XP Pro Install and only system drivers loaded from CD and New from Asus website). It was causing random lockups on Boot or shutdown, in the OS things were fine.

For small time builders "minor" system issues can be a pain in the @$$. Currently I am building 2 AMD 3000+ systems on MSI-K7N2 Delta board, 512 ddr400. CPU seem to run a bit warmer than I am used to and tried couple different Heatsink fans/thermal paste. Researching RAM and Mobo is absolutly necessary for insuring compatibility with todays performance boards.


 6:41 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

one of the first boards I used to build a system with amd 1ghz cpu. It was acutally pretty stable for me until I upped the cpu to 2200

That board made a lot of claims, it actually maxed out at around 1200 mghertz, claimed to do dual pc133 ddr memory but crashed if you tried using pc133.

Claimed to run at 266 mghz front side bus but crashed if you tried running it at more than 200.

The Ecs site used to have a forum where people posted their ecs mobo problems but they finally took it down because all the comments almost were negative. Ha ha.

When you make a new box make sure to also update the bios, sometimes that can be the cause of system instablity, bios and mobo os drivers, update both with most recent versions, take some time to read the manufacturor specs. Asus took a downward dip, gigabyte, abit, aopen, msi, epox, intel, all very solid boards if you get the high end versions, ideally one step down from the top of the line of 1-1.5 years ago is the best value/performance.


 8:25 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

Nice list, isitreal, but I would suggest a couple of changes. Surprisingly, you came pretty close to describing my PC, same case, processor, CDRW. The one area where I'd disagree with your assessment is the graphics card. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, dual-monitors are the way to go, especially for design work. For arround $60, you can pick up a low-end ATI or Nvidia card with VGA and DVI outputs. Spend another $8 for a DVI-to-VGA adapter, then pick up a couple of good monitors. You can get a nice 17" and 19" CRT monitor for less than a good 21" monitor and have a lot more screen real estate to work with. When doing design work, I'll have Photoshop on my 19" screen, and all the palletes, email, IM, etc.. on my 17" screen.

Another important thing to note how easy it really is to build your own PC. While it may sound intimidating, it's a lot easier than it looks, and there are plenty of online resources to walk you through the process. At the end of the day, you'll have a much better computer, built specifically for your needs, with a lot more upgrade options, all for less money.


 8:41 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

spend the extra 50 on the mobo and you'll never regret it


My Abit BE6-II was top of the range when I bought it. I think its original design max was about 600 MHz. I originally ran it with an over-clocked Celeron 266 at 400, but when new releases of the bios came out upgraded the Celeron to a PIII 800. I think the last bios release catered for a PIII 1GHz.

The point of all that is if the board had been one of the cheaper ones, it would have done the job at the time, but I would have had to replace it to upgrade the cpu. The reason of course is because it had a good chip set.

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