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Putting together new PC
Hard drive, graphics, and power supply questions
Robert Charlton




msg:1566899
 8:23 am on Oct 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm about to get a new PC, long overdue. Am going to the local clone-maker who built my last one quite a few years ago. They offer a suggested package, and I'm specifying (or supplying) some different components where it makes sense for me to do so. I have questions mainly about hard drive brands, graphics cards, and power supplies. I'm just learning about what's available.

Priorities... reliability and data safety are extremely important. I'm not a power user, not a gamer, and not into overclocking. Price is a factor. I'll be running mostly office applications... also Photoshop etc.

Here's where it starts getting complicated... eventually, I might want to do some video editing at home (I've always used studios for this or rented an Avid), and I'm pretty sure I'll eventually (but not for a while) want to be able to burn DVDs.

One of my big concerns is the horror stories I'm hearing about how crappy most components are these days... hard drives failing in less than a year and the like.

What I've got in mind right now is an Intel Pentium-4, 2.8C processor; an Intel D865 PERL motherboard; 512 mb RAM (anticipating 1 Gig eventually); 2 optical drives (1 Sony DVD-ROM and, for now, 1 CD-RW); integrated audio; two say 80Gb 7200 rpm hard drives of? brand;? graphics;? power supply and mid-tower case. Will be running Windows XP Pro.

Question areas...

Hard drives... I've heard horror stories about Western Digital drives failing in less than a year. I'm leaning toward Seagate or Maxtor... with two drives so one can serve as a backup... either a mirror drive or just a backup for data. If I go to video editing, I'd have room for a much bigger third drive, but I might need a larger power supply. Any recommendations about brands, models, cache size? What about drive size and failure rate?

Graphics... am almost thinking of staying with the integrated video until I can either afford a second monitor (would eventually like to run two simultaenously) or I go into fancier graphics applications. Or, is there a card I should consider getting now?

Power supply and case. I hate replacing fans in power supplies. My current PC Power and Cooling Silencer has run well for a lot of years (replacing the failed supply that came with the machine originally). It's not silent but it's pretty good. The Silencer 410 is $85, but it's been suggested I get the Silencer 425, which is $149, to allow for expansion. Plus, their case (w/o power supply) with an extra fan in the back is $49, so that's a big outlay.

I'd appreciate thoughts and recommendations.

 

mincklerstraat




msg:1566900
 9:11 am on Oct 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

Getting the better power supply now is probably worth it if you already see yourself doing video work in the future.

I went on a big investigation spree when I put together the specs for the system I'm running now and there were quite a few people, 'hardware guru' types included, who seemed happy with the WD drives - I've got a Maxtor 120MB SATA with 8MB cache and it does me well. SATA drives cost the same or just a little more than ATA drives, and are supposed to be better in mirroring combos (RAID).

The best place I've found on getting your computer to quiet down is [silentpcreview.com...] - look in the left menu under 'sections' instead of the articles on the front page, which are more 'the latest and coolest' sorts of news articles for the hardcore enthusiasts. I ended up getting myself an Antec Sonata case - nice 12cm fan in the back that will push enough air even when it's rotating slowly, rubber grommets, fairly quiet power supply that regulates fan speeds according to load - and a Zalman Al-Cu cooler for my processor - you can use the 'fanmate' rheostat thingie to make it go pretty slow, and this can also be connected to the case fan input so that also goes slower. If you're thinking about expanding to video later, get a rheobus for the front of your case so you can easily adjust the fanspeed when you fire up your video editing software.

I would have gotten the Antec SLK3700-BQE if it had been available - cheaper, bigger, better airflow, and not quite so 'designey'.

Intel boards are very, very stable, but expensive. My Asus P4P800 Deluxe uses the same chipset as the Intel you're looking at, but is probably a whole lot cheaper, and it also does the fancy fast-memory stuff that the next-line-up Intel chipsets do. I chose it because there's just a passive heatsink on the northbridge, no fan on the mother board, and it got great reviews for speed and stability. It's been nice and stable. It's got built-in support for RAID (the hd mirroring thing) if you wanna go that route.

I'm not an expert on video stuff but I'd get a board that doesn't do integrated video, since 'offshoring' your video can result in better performance. In your shoes I'd probably go for a cheaper video card and then think about upgrading the video card at the moment I'm considering the video stuff. Video cards have a faster development cycle, so a video card you buy today will seem like pretty old stuff to a videocard junkie in about 8 months time. You can get dual head cards (for two monitors) for pretty cheap now, I've got a Sapphire Radeon somethingruther which I chose since it's also passively cooled (no noisy fan).

jam13




msg:1566901
 9:42 am on Oct 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

We used to custom build PCs for clients, but the price and reliability of the stuff that Dell are doing now means that it's impossible to compete unless you are looking at high end gaming machines or power workstations. I don't even bother building my _own_ machines now - I just get an off the shelf Dell at base spec and then upgrade it with third party components (half the price of the Dell parts).

(I'm not a huge Dell fan BTW - I'd much rather support a local or at least UK based company - but when they sell a PC at less that I can buy the component parts for, _including_ a 3 year warranty, then it's time to lie down.)

If you are intent on a custom build then stick to component manufacturer's with a good track record - especially on the mainboard. Failure of cheap mainboards (particularly highly integrated ones) is one of the most common faults that we see. And don't buy "boxed" cpus (with a fan included) - the bearings on the included fans always seem to fail after about 12 months.

Regarding hard disks, _all_ the manufacturers have had their bad days - there have been problems with certain models from Seagate, Maxtor and WD over the years. At the moment we are seeing a lot of failed Maxtor Plus 8's, some not even a year old, but I still stick with Maxtor because they have generally good reliability and a good RMA system.

One of the things that really seems to extend drive life is to keep them cool - this is especially important with the 10k rpm drives which can run _very_ hot. Make sure the airflow over the drive is good, or if you can bear the additional noise, get a HDD cooler/heatsink. Keep your PC off the floor too - it sucks in less dust which prolongs the life of mechanical parts.

If you are just doing 2D office stuff then don't bother with a state of the art graphics card - they are expensive, noisy (many have additional fans) and can be tempramental. Stick to the integrated VGA, or if you want dual monitors then get a mainstream card with analog + DVI output and use the DVI-analog convertor if your second monitor doesn't accept DVI.

Macro




msg:1566902
 10:53 am on Oct 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

>> I might want to do some video editing at home

That's where it gets tricky. The Matrox RT.X100 doesn't work with some creative Audigy soundcards. The DVStorm doesn't work with several different graphics cards. Pinnacle Edition is fussy about what software and drivers you install before you install Edition. Certain editing software doesn't work with certain versions of DirectX and/or certain versions of other software. SP2 has it's own issues with editing cards and software. And, trust me, there are a million other incompatibilities, patches and workarounds that you know nothing about.

Build your own home PC if it gives you kicks. For a professional machine my sincere advice is make sure you have one-butt-to-kick if things go wrong. If price is a factor it makes all the more sense to get it done by someone who does this for a living. Just my $0.02.

Robert Charlton




msg:1566903
 12:49 am on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Build your own home PC if it gives you kicks. For a professional machine my sincere advice is make sure you have one-butt-to-kick if things go wrong. If price is a factor it makes all the more sense to get it done by someone who does this for a living.

Macro - I hear what you're saying. If I were getting a dedicated professional video editing setup, I wouldn't go to a clone builder (great for office and gaming machines)... I'd go to a dealer who specializes in professional video systems, and I would run my business apps on a separate machine. I probably want something in between. Maybe it's simplest to make the two-machine decision now and focus on business and web apps on this machine, but that's a frustrating thing to do if I can choose wisely now and keep the door open.

I hope I made it clear, in any event, that I'm not considering building my own machine, but I am trying to make sure I get some industrial strength components in places where the clone builder might be into skimping. At the same time, it's hard to tell them that I value dependability without then having them try to sell me the moon in all components.

Thanks for all the information. I surf with Active-X off, and most of these power user sites are into glitz, so I can't get silentpcreview.com to load, but I was able look at Antec reviews on other sites. Are there guidelines anywhere for computing how large a power supply I need?

The hard drives the clone maker recommends with this system, btw, are the WD Ultra 100s... 60, 80, or 120Gb, or the 120JB. I don't think these are SATA.

I've gotten several recommendations for the ASUS P4P800, but the clone builder doesn't like them because there are too many options that are hard to configure, and I'm getting a sense that I don't really need what the board offers. I've been running an ASUS board on my current system for years.

Re Dell, I've heard several warnings from friends who should know that, in underpricing everyone else, Dell has had to sacrifice quality.

One graphics card I've been considering for the interim is the nVidia GeoForce FX5200, which would let me play an occasional game to see what it's like, which I know is all the gaming I'd ever be doing; but I'm not sure I need even that much of a card.

mincklerstraat




msg:1566904
 8:46 am on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ha ha. I did that, bought the graphics card so I could 'see what it's like to play a game' (and have dual monitors). A year and a half later, I still haven't played a bloody game yet with this machine, so I don't know what 'playing a game' in this century is like, the only games I really enjoy are old Apple II games. The linux partition has had troubles with the ATI drivers, and I really haven't bothered, so it's just running on some kind of basic VGA thing that doesn't need special drivers (don't ask, I don't know). As far as I know the drivers installed ok in the Windows partition, but I'm never there - shelled out for XP Professional only for ie debugging so far.

Macro




msg:1566905
 9:09 am on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

>> If I were getting a dedicated professional video editing setup
I'm not talking dedicated, pro setup. I'm talking amateur home videos but with the right gear (Use a car to ferry the four children to school instead of using a motorcycle and making four trips).

>> I am trying to make sure I get some industrial strength components
That doesn't make sense. That would suggest you're willing to put a top notch hard disk in there but live with a cheap motherboard that develops an IDE controller problem that trashes your hard disk (just an example). Either it's tough, or it's not. One weak link and all that...

>> Are there guidelines anywhere for computing how large a power supply I need?
If you find a clone builder who can do that... treat him like gold. I've yet to meet one who can. (The good guys) usually bung in something far in excess of what you need and keep their fingers crossed. Sticky me full details of the exact components you need the calculation for and I'll do it for you if you want. You can't calculate PSU requirements accurately without knowing exactly what devices are drawing power, how many devices there are, how much of er, "power" they are drawing, on what lines (5V/12V) they are drawing it on etc. Even your PS2 keyboard draws power (a small, small fraction of 1 amp on the 12 Volt line). And those calculations are hardly ever done nowadays anyway. Besides, even if you have the ideal PSU requirements one manufacturer's 350 W PSU won't give you the same "power" as another manufacturer's 350 W PSU. Without going into details - don't trust the figure printed on the box.

I don't see any need to go for IDE when SATAs are available at pretty much the same price.

The P4P800? Hmm. That's the ideal "con" motherboard. PC builders love it because there are several versions some costing half the price of others. So you list a PC in an ad with a P4P800-E Deluxe but use the P4P800-MX in actual builds. In any event, those are 478 pin motherboards and the market has now moved over to LGA 775.

I don't know exactly what budget you're on but it looks like your best bets are to either wait till you can spend some more... or - I never thought I'd say this - buy a Dell, as suggested by a previous post. Their quality is as good as you are going to get in that FX5200/entry level 80 GB hard disk/budget motherboard market. That's core Dell territory and what Dell does best.

There are a lot of good sites on silencing computers. www.silentpc.se is great. Even www.nonoise.org has an article on cheap ways of silencing PCs. Try Google.

Oh, and there's nothing difficult to configure on any P4P800 board. My suggestion: dump that clone builder. Find someone who knows something about PCs. :)

jam13




msg:1566906
 7:50 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Re Dell, I've heard several warnings from friends who should know that, in underpricing everyone else, Dell has had to sacrifice quality.

Dell can underprice everyone else because they:

1) Have massive economies of scale.

2) Only prebuild common configs and hold minimal stock - everything else is built to order.

3) Have a very close relationship with Intel so they get good prices - they only use Intel processors and certainly the last time I studied them their mainboards are all Intel OEM too, which although not the fastest are _very_ stable.

4) Don't support an extra tier of dealers that HP/Compaq and IBM do.

We've installed around 100 Dell PCs and 15 servers over the last year and I think we've had one hardware fault in all that time, which was a HDD failure.

I'm not saying that Dell are the fastest or best quality, but most of their stuff is well designed and reliable and they can't be beaten on price.

... or - I never thought I'd say this - buy a Dell

My feelings exactly...

Robert Charlton




msg:1566907
 6:33 am on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

That would suggest you're willing to put a top notch hard disk in there but live with a cheap motherboard that develops an IDE controller problem that trashes your hard disk (just an example).

Actually, I've been agonizing about the motherboard too. ;) All sorts of different opinions about whether Intel motherboards are as good as they used to be before they started making them in China, etc etc....

At the least, any component failure wastes my time. Data is top priority, of course, and I can't afford to lose that at all.

I'm sure I'll have more questions, particularly if I don't go with Dell. Thanks for all comments thus far.

mincklerstraat




msg:1566908
 8:00 am on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've heard that it can be more difficult to get extra hardware for Dell computers than 'clones' (this name is so outdated and makes no sense - Dell would seem more 'cloned' than the box that I 'cloned' here next to me). Is this true? jam13, what kind of third-party components do you get, and what are the restraints / considerations in buying? Can I just, e.g., buy an extra stick of Kingston memory, a new HD, a DVD writer, etc., and stick them in the Dell without probs?

bcolflesh




msg:1566909
 8:08 am on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've heard that it can be more difficult to get extra hardware for Dell computers than 'clones'

This hasn't been an issue for a couple of years, and was only really a problem w/their old 'server' offerings - they were using non-standard power supply couplers and other annoying little differences to stop upgraders - It was a strategy that tanked pretty quickly.

jam13




msg:1566910
 7:44 pm on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've heard that it can be more difficult to get extra hardware for Dell computers than 'clones' (this name is so outdated and makes no sense - Dell would seem more 'cloned' than the box that I 'cloned' here next to me). Is this true? jam13, what kind of third-party components do you get, and what are the restraints / considerations in buying? Can I just, e.g., buy an extra stick of Kingston memory, a new HD, a DVD writer, etc., and stick them in the Dell without probs?

The upgradable components on the dimension range are pretty standard - hard disks, memory, cpu, CD drive etc. - and you shouldn't have any real problems. I normally use Kingston and Crucial memory as they are model matched which saves trying to work out the memory timing/speed requirements.

The only real exceptions are the power supplies, which are sometimes non standard in form factor or wiring, and mainboards.

Servers can be more complicated (drive caddies etc.), but drives and memory should still not be a problem.

The other thing to bear in mind if you use third party components is how it affects your warranty.

mincklerstraat




msg:1566911
 4:36 pm on Oct 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thanks for this info bcolflesh and jam13. I'll look into Dell then for putting together the box for my friend. This info is great to have - since I love their prices, but then end up gawking at the final price in the 'configurator' when I see what the box is going to cost me with everything in it I want.

Robert Charlton




msg:1566912
 6:35 pm on Oct 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

...but then end up gawking at the final price in the 'configurator' when I see what the box is going to cost me with everything in it I want

I can't find their "configurator." Thought there had to be one, but all I'm seeing is default packages that don't fit the bill. Where do I look for custom options on the Dell site? I've been browsing in the home/home office area.

claus




msg:1566913
 8:23 pm on Oct 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

Good tips on silencing here, thanks guys. Where were you when i started this thread [webmasterworld.com]? :)

As for the GeForce FX 5200, i've got one. It has a small fan, about one inch wide, and it makes a very annoying noise. It's not loud, but it's very high pitched (high frequency) and constant. Personally, i'll be taking it out of the case completely, i'm not into 3D games or anything, so i've got no use for it, really. After that, i'll just have to figure something out allowing passive cooling of the CPU.

All this said only to make the point that you should consider noise. It's your work environment, after all, and having a noisy PC sitting right next to you for something like hours just isn't good.

jam13




msg:1566914
 10:47 pm on Oct 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

As for the GeForce FX 5200, i've got one. It has a small fan, about one inch wide, and it makes a very annoying noise. It's not loud, but it's very high pitched (high frequency) and constant.

Smaller fans have to spin faster to shift the air, which makes more noise for the same amount of cooling.

After that, i'll just have to figure something out allowing passive cooling of the CPU.

You can get some very good solid copper passive heatsinks designed for rack mount servers. As long as you have a good airflow through the case they work well.

All this said only to make the point that you should consider noise. It's your work environment, after all, and having a noisy PC sitting right next to you for something like hours just isn't good.

The thing that gets me is that you don't notice it until you switch the thing off, and then the silence is deafening :)

mincklerstraat




msg:1566915
 9:16 am on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'd skip the completely passive cooling method. Chips can warm up pretty hot these days, and you don't want to wreak havoc on your system, or have your processor burn out prematurely. Zalman has got really nice heatsink / fan combos - I've got an AlCu7000 that I'm real happy with - fan fairly big so it can push a lot of air when going fairly slowly and quietly - nice big flower-like radial heatsink. AlCu is also fairly lightweight; the Cu only model does a tad better as a heatsink, but comes in above the intel specs as to how heavy your heatsink on your processor should be (though many think this is no biggie).

You don't need the LianLi (expensive) - the Antec SLK3700-BQE should do you just fine, and has better airflow. Go with the LianLi if you want to put it in your livingroom and keep coffeetable books on top of it, or you're a real interior design freak.

Ditch the graphics card like you're planning to. Zzzzzzzzzzz!. Next time you buy, try to find one with a passive heatsink if you ever get the game or 3D-modelling itch.

That biggie Zalman TNN heatsink case: it might be the only case you ever need, I'm guessing no though. Intel and others are working on a new spec case/motherboard design with better airflow (and a noise spec!). The old 'ATX' case / mobo design has been good for 30 years. The next should also last a long time. I'd wait on the Zalman case until we see if the new spec becomes standard, and when they have a case that fits the new spec. Otherwise you might have to ditch this huge lunker case next time you want a new PC. At the moment, it's max compatibility is: Intel P4 (Socket 478) : Up to 3.2GHz
Socket 478 is already being replaced.

Pabst fans are real quiet; panaflos also, but significantly cheaper. Cases in general with 12cm fan outlets do a good job at moving air around fairly quietly.

jam13




msg:1566916
 11:07 am on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'd skip the completely passive cooling method. Chips can warm up pretty hot these days, and you don't want to wreak havoc on your system, or have your processor burn out prematurely.

Whilst I admit that with the ever increasing power consumption of the faster CPUs, passive cooling _is_ becoming impractical, I still think that passive component cooling with good case airflow (ducting) is preferable to the heatsink + fan per component approach in most situations. Clone PCs have far too many fans in these days due to:

1) Cost - a small heatsink + fan is cheaper than a good passive heatsink.

2) Smaller PC assemblers and home builders don't want to worry about designing a system with good thermal performance - it's easier to just cool each component in isolation and hope for the best.

The problems with this approach are that you end up with a noisy system because of all the little fans, and you also introduce several potential mechanical points of failure. Big manufacturers have been using passive cooling even on the CPU for years in servers and workstations because it's more reliable (bigger/slower fans last longer) and more efficient. The reduction in noise seems to be something that has only become important more recently.

Unfortunately it's hard to get hold of passive CPU heatsinks - most of the available ones are low profile designs for 1u racks. And you can't just take the fan off a normal cooler - the fins on the heatsink are designed for forced cooling (fast airflow) and won't work without it.

The old 'ATX' case / mobo design has been good for 30 years.

30 years?!

mincklerstraat




msg:1566917
 12:07 pm on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm also for ducting and passive heatsinks when feasible; I'd been considering a ducted single-big-fan design for my current PC, but was warned at the work and risks involved on the forums of silentpcreview.com, compared with the nearly-silent Zalman processor cooler alternative. Dell also had a desktop that used a ducted heatsink on top of the processor which connected to the case fan; don't know if they still use this, but they've been known for fairly quiet PC's. The Aldi's Medion PC's have recently used some kind of special ducted system, [forums.silentpcreview.com...]

You are indeed so right about the aweful effect the cooling-per-component approach that most PC's use; a unified airflow model is so much better - but component manufacturers have to take into account the possiblity that their cards might be stuck into boxes with bad airflow, and so try to create some more themselves. Often even with the result of turbulence and counter-productive airflow that heats things up more. And of course, noise, noise, noise.

>> 30 years?!

No, big mistake of mine, this number is an exaggeration from what I had supposed to be the ATX form factor's introduction with the IBM PC in '81 - wrong, confused here with AT form factor, which it's hard to find a date for. The ATX form factor was introduced in '95, making it less than 10 years old. Still, an impressively long time. Hopefully the new BTX form factor will last as long. It cuts down on the need for extra fans by placing heat-producing stuff in the line of a single, well-thought out airflow instead of having a bunch of gizmos with their own teeny fans and a bunch of holes, with the general hope that enough air will travel in and out of those holes to keep things cool.

jam13




msg:1566918
 2:49 pm on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

The ATX form factor was introduced in '95, making it less than 10 years old.

That sounds about right - I was working for a Taiwanese component manufacturer at the time and I remember all the arguments about who's responsibility it was to provide the I/O gaskets!

It cuts down on the need for extra fans by placing heat-producing stuff in the line of a single, well-thought out airflow instead of having a bunch of gizmos with their own teeny fans and a bunch of holes, with the general hope that enough air will travel in and out of those holes to keep things cool.

I'm a bit out of touch with new developments in the hardware domain at the moment, but that does sound interesting - I'll have to do some reading :).

isitreal




msg:1566919
 5:48 pm on Oct 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

<<< Re Dell, I've heard several warnings from friends who should know that, in underpricing everyone else, Dell has had to sacrifice quality.

Reading this thread made me wonder, hmm, maybe Dell's are better now? So I went to the dell site, took a look at the specs, still the same story: you can build a superior machine for about 50-75% less if you do it yourself.

You really have to look around to find a mobo that is as stripped down and the stuff dell uses, it's actually hard to find stuff that limited.

Things the specs don't tell you:
The bios is generally totally stripped down from a standard quality mobo bios, probably to avoid tech support issues.
PCI slots. 2-3 versus 5-6
Extra slots for hard drives and cd rom units are almost non-existent, these machines are not built to be upgraded.

For the price of a dimension 8400 you can build a high end Opteron 64 bit processor system, with a superior case, a superior mobo. As always dell pockets the economies of scale and uses those to generate its profits.

You can build a machine that's twice as good as their low end celeron things for exactly the same money.

The mid level offerings are a slightly better deal.

Dells are quiet, that's their big plus.

jimbeetle




msg:1566920
 7:04 pm on Oct 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

Re Dell, I've heard several warnings from friends who should know that, in underpricing everyone else, Dell has had to sacrifice quality

The differences, externally at least, between a 6-year-old machine and a 2-year-old one are pretty dramatic. The older one is very solid, connectors feel good, power button has nice response.

The newer one is just plain chintzy, almost afraid to plug anything into it for fear of breaking a connector. The door to the front ports was so cheap I just decided to break it off instead of waiting for it to go.

When recently it came time to replace the old machine I took isitreal's advice in this need a new computer [webmasterworld.com] thread. This is a nice, solid, and if I may say, a very well-made machine. With what I learned I don't think I'll ever buy an off-the-shelf machine again.

In fact, I spent some time this morning researching components so I can recycle the old machine's case. As soon as I figure out what the heck I can use it for, I'm off a'building again.

jam13




msg:1566921
 10:40 am on Oct 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

Reading this thread made me wonder, hmm, maybe Dell's are better now? So I went to the dell site, took a look at the specs, still the same story: you can build a superior machine for about 50-75% less if you do it yourself.

You can build a machine that's twice as good as their low end celeron things for exactly the same money.

Maybe you _can_ build a Celeron 2.6GHz CPU; 256Mb DDR; 160Gb HDD; NIC; DVD-ROM; 17" Monitor; and Windows XP Pro PC for under 350. But you've got to go to the effort of sourcing the components, putting the thing together, and troubleshooting it if something doesn't work properly. Plus that price includes a 3 year NBD onsite support warranty too.

I know this is a low spec BTW, however for 80% of small office environments that we come across it is perfectly adequate.

IMHO building your own PC these days is just not worth the time and trouble unless you want something that's not available off the shelf.

isitreal




msg:1566922
 2:08 pm on Oct 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

We'll have to agree to disagree. Change the celeron for a AMD XP 25-2800 barton core processor, change the cheapo dell mobo for an asus, gigabyte, abit, etc mobo, change the junk dell case for a high end quality pro level case, it's about the same price for the parts, and the machine will be significantly superior.

A lot of people I suspect think that one mobo is the same as another, this isn't the case, even with the same specs there's a really wide performance gulf between high end mobos and generic or clamped down mobos.

For any generic installations I'd agree, for office rollouts where really who cares about the quality of the machines and you're never going to go in them and change stuff, and let them sit as long as they work, I'd agree, for your aunt or grandmother I'd agree, but if you are getting a personal machine, or any type of quality workstation, the numbers simply don't add up.

It just comes down to your time, the performance you want to get for your money, versus how much you can spend. Currently you can build yourself an amd opteron 900 series 64 bit processor based box with an asus mobo, 1 gig of ram, high end case and power supply, for around 7-800 dollars. Price that with Dell and get back to us.

claus




msg:1566923
 4:20 pm on Oct 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

<OT>
and then there's open/free software too - if you go for generic hardware you'll have no problems with current linuxes...
</OT>

jam13




msg:1566924
 8:45 pm on Oct 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

For any generic installations I'd agree, for office rollouts where really who cares about the quality of the machines and you're never going to go in them and change stuff, and let them sit as long as they work, I'd agree, for your aunt or grandmother I'd agree, but if you are getting a personal machine, or any type of quality workstation, the numbers simply don't add up.

Exactly.

If I wanted a high spec workstation, games machine or simliar then I would (probably) build it myself. In fact I've never bought an off the shelf machine for _myself_ - I've always built from components.

However most people (including me) don't _need_ high performance workstations - they need a reliable workhorse PC for running standard office applications.

Don't get me wrong - It's not that I _like_ Dell, or their systems very much, in fact I spent years trying to persuade myself that I was saving money by building from components. But now I've seen the light and realised that I've got better things to do with my time :)

isitreal




msg:1566925
 9:32 pm on Oct 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

<<< However most people (including me) don't _need_ high performance workstations - they need a reliable workhorse PC for running standard office applications.

It's funny, that's what a friend of mine said recently, I wasn't around to build his new pc, he's not a power user, just standard office apps. So he got a $450 dell. The next thing I hear is, man, this thing is slow (2.5 gigaherz machine), windows xp runs like crap on it.

That's the cheap mobo, the cheap processor really showing that there's no such thing as a 'computer' per se, all of them are collections of parts, and the big assemblers like dell are expert in choosing just the right cheap combination for your system.

Anyway, those people who want quality stuff will make their own if money is a question, if not I'd recommend anyone else but the big guys, there's a lof of people who put boxes together, and many do it much better than the big guys, by a wide margin.

It's about 3 years down the road that you really start seeing the difference, I'd estimate a well put together group of components will give you between 1-2 years more useful life from the box, that's something that's hard to quantify, for me that's major, since recreating everything I have on my box would take weeks of time, I'd much rather just start with something really really good, then not think about it for about 4-5 years.

that's another place time comes in, spend 5-10 hours on the front end, save a few years, I like the math.

jam13




msg:1566926
 10:41 pm on Oct 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's funny, that's what a friend of mine said recently, I wasn't around to build his new pc, he's not a power user, just standard office apps. So he got a $450 dell. The next thing I hear is, man, this thing is slow (2.5 gigaherz machine), windows xp runs like crap on it.

I've not really noticed that the low end machines are particularly slow _unless_ they don't have enough memory in them - some of the base specs are a bit stingy. Crucial and Kingston both sell compatible modules for half the price of the Dell stuff though.

Anyway, those people who want quality stuff will make their own if money is a question, if not I'd recommend anyone else but the big guys, there's a lof of people who put boxes together, and many do it much better than the big guys, by a wide margin.

Maybe the systems from smaller assemblers in the US are better than here in the UK, because my experience in this part of the market is generally not good (and I've worked for a few of them).

isitreal




msg:1566927
 10:50 pm on Oct 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yeah, you could be right, prices here are very low, no VAT, that's like 20% or something, right? That would be very hard to work with. Many things really really suck about the USA, but at least you can buy lots of stuff for cheap.

In this case it wasn't a memory issue, it was the celeron processor, plus probably a fairly slow mobo.

And when you go into BIOS, man, you ask yourself, where are all the configuration settings? They are almost naked, barebones. That goes for almost every namebrand box I've looked at, IBM, HP, Dell. All the same.

I met one guy here who in about 2 years time, working with only a few helpers, bought two houses, a very expensive car, just by building boxes. Once you get into economies of scale, and find out where to get your stuff, you can realistically build the same boxes dell sells, with superior mobos, for probably $100 less than they charge. That's for the cheap ones. Once you get midrange, it's not physically possible to spend even close to as much as dell etc charge, and when you go high end, you're probably looking at close to a $1000 difference. And in all cases you will always have a superior mobo, a superior case. The rest of the stuff is pretty generic, but even with something as simple as a cd burner, a top rated one can be gotten for about $35 now.

For example, last I checked, tigerdirect was selling some boxes with Antec cases and power supplies, an antec case is in my opinion roughly 3 times better, at least, than a dell case.

The dells I took a look at before posting, for example, don't have built in firewire in the mobos. So add about $40 to the cost right there, plus you just used up one of the 2-3 PCI slots they give you. Bad deal all around.

<<<< Maybe the systems from smaller assemblers in the US are better than here in the UK

Buyer beware here, you need to know what you are getting, in terms of namebrand memory, motherboard, processor. If you know what you want, and find somebody who does it, it can work out, but in general I'd recommend against it, your odds of being ripped off are very high.

eggy ricardo




msg:1566928
 5:04 pm on Nov 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yeah VAT is 17.5% here in the UK.

I've seen and worked with quite a few Dells recently, mainly intended as bog standard office machines, and i have to say they seem very sluggish and the build quality of the cases etc seems very poor. Even simple things like the standard keyboards seem poor and the keys start jamming very quickly.

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