Author Topic: Help purchasing a home computer  (Read 2178 times)

bikebum

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Help purchasing a home computer
« on: February 10, 2013, 01:35:45 AM »
Hello Mustachians,

I'd like some help choosing a computer to buy for home. I don't know much about different brands or models. I plan to mostly use it for internet browsing, listening to music, watching DVDs and online videos since I don't have a TV, and Microsoft Word or similar programs. I don't need a fancy gaming computer. I want to avoid computers that are not very compatible with software and hardware (I know that is vague; I want to have options for other future uses that I haven't thought of). Wireless internet capability would be nice, but is not necessary as long as I can plug in an ethernet cable.

I'd also appreciate advice on places to get a good deal.

Thanks

JT

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2013, 03:08:34 AM »
Hi Josh

I would recommend you check out Macbooks.

Mine was bought in 2008 and is still going strong.

My preference for Macbooks is because they work on an integrated system with DVDs, music, calendar, internet and you can use things like facetime.  And, they're cheaper than Macbook Pros!

I used to use PCs but this Macbook of mine is better, faster, more reliable and has lasted longer.  Plus we've had no problems with viruses (yet!).  One thing to keep in mind is if you want things like word and excel, you'll have to buy the Mac version and install it.

If you're wondering about internet use - I tend to sit at the kitchen table and use internet wirelessly.  Or the bedroom, or outside, or downstairs ...  I can print wirelessly too!

Hope this helps :)

PS:  apparently ipads are quite useful too at home!


Prof Penny Pincher

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2013, 05:58:47 AM »
Hi Josh. I'm not normally one to say someone else's advice is bad, but I have to completely disagree with JT. You have listed your requirements as needs which could be met by the most basic machine even one a few years old.

My advice would be as follows.

Whilst laptops are nice, unless you have a need for it to be portable, then you are paying for an inferior product. Laptops tend to break more easily, often have overheating issues after a few years, and typically need to be replaced when a single component fails.

Stick with a desk pc. If the mouse breaks, get a new one. If you spill a drink on the keyboard get a new one. It's no big deal.

Get a 2nd hand one and it will like have ms office installed anyway, which can be a substantial saving. Apple do nice products but in most cases people don't need them. Especially tablets. It's easy to be swayed by the instant boot but you have no need to spend more than $100

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2013, 06:11:21 AM »
Hello Mustachians,

I'd like some help choosing a computer to buy for home. I don't know much about different brands or models. I plan to mostly use it for internet browsing, listening to music, watching DVDs and online videos since I don't have a TV, and Microsoft Word or similar programs. I don't need a fancy gaming computer. I want to avoid computers that are not very compatible with software and hardware (I know that is vague; I want to have options for other future uses that I haven't thought of). Wireless internet capability would be nice, but is not necessary as long as I can plug in an ethernet cable.

I'd also appreciate advice on places to get a good deal.

Thanks

The two best places for good deals are the refurbished computer sections of Microcenter (here) and Newegg (here). Many of the listed computers are Pentium 4s -- if you can go just a bit newer, to something like a Core 2 Duo from Intel or an Athlon 64 X2 from AMD, you'll get a faster machine as a result. Even a Pentium 4 is not that slow for what you're doing, though. You could also try buying on craigslist, but any savings would come with a higher risk of something breaking and you needing to fix it.

Software and hardware compatibility aren't a problem as long as you buy a computer with an Intel or AMD processor, which is all of them -- they all run the same instruction sets so programs are interoperable. Unless you really want a laptop, go with a desktop -- they run consistently cooler, and the cooler computer chips run the longer they last before they start to die. They're also easier to repair and upgrade parts -- just go ebay the part you need, and you're set (e.g. "Dell Dimension 520 power supply"). Lastly, you can always add Windows 7 or 8 (or Ubuntu Linux!) to an older computer, and you can always buy a cheap USB dongle to put the computer on the wireless network if you want to move it to a room that's not wired for ethernet.

TomTX

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2013, 07:27:24 AM »
When you can get a brand-new, perfectly capable laptop for under $400 with a 3 year warranty and the newest version of Windows - I wouldn't look at refurbs, unless they were in the sub-$200 range. The battery may be iffy, or it may have other issues which caused the return but weren't really fixed. Refurbs also often only have a 90 day warranty.

As posted in the other thread in response to JT - my 2009 sub-$400 laptop is still working great. Has a calendar, plays DVDs and all that other stuff. Mac stuff is pretty, integrated, doesn't have the virus issues of Windows - but it is EXPENSIVE for equivalent equipment.

Desktops may be a better deal, especially if you want a larger monitor.

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2013, 08:01:09 AM »
I agree, don't go with a Mac. You're just paying for eye candy.

If I may differ slightly from the other advice here, I would suggest you build yourself your own desktop PC. You can save quite a bit doing the labor yourself, but the best part is you'll know exactly how to fix it once something goes bad. Most people don't build their own computers because they think they are too complicated or magical or something. This is not the case. If you can play with legos, you can build a computer.
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swiper

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2013, 08:16:24 AM »
You need to decide how important a mobile computer is to you. If it isn't very important stick to desktop computers.

For used:
Ask your friends/co-workers/family if any of them wants give/sell you an older machine.

For new or refurbished:
Checkout newegg.com or ncix.com for deals on entry level pre-built machines. Ideally find a tech savvy friend to help you, or post more specifics here and I'm sure someone can put together a package for you that will meet your needs and price point.

Generally speaking, Apple's Macs will be more expensive hardware-wise than a comparable windows or linux PC. (although they generally will also have better build quality, which IMHO isn't all that important in an entry level desktop). Additionally, Apple is a more closed ecosystem, which limits you in terms of software/hardware compatibility.

From your original post, i'd recommend an entry level PC running windows 7 or perhaps 8.


Software and hardware compatibility aren't a problem as long as you buy a computer with an Intel or AMD processor, which is all of them -- they all run the same instruction sets so programs are interoperable.

The operating system choice (windows, OSX, ubuntu) will play a more practical role in software/hardware compatibility. And given OP's simple requirements, I think windows 7/8 will give him best hassle -free compatibility coverage.

rtrnow

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2013, 08:41:53 AM »

Checkout newegg.com or ncix.com for deals on entry level pre-built machines. Ideally find a tech savvy friend to help you, or post more specifics here and I'm sure someone can put together a package for you that will meet your needs and price point.

Generally speaking, Apple's Macs will be more expensive hardware-wise than a comparable windows or linux PC. (although they generally will also have better build quality, which IMHO isn't all that important in an entry level desktop). Additionally, Apple is a more closed ecosystem, which limits you in terms of software/hardware compatibility.

From your original post, i'd recommend an entry level PC running windows 7 or perhaps 8.


Pretty much this.

I love my macbook air (but work payed for it :) ), but an entry level pc desktop makes the most sense for your needs. I would not recommend building one. Based on your post, I doubt you really want to deal with comparison shopping for parts, assembly, and then installing the os and supporting software. I used to build all my desktops, but I don't even see the price advantage anymore unless building a high end machine. Even if you get a good deal on hardware, then you'll have to buy windows, office, etc.

About six months ago after a lot of comparison shopping, I ended up buying a refurb HP desktop from Bestbuy for about $375 online with the ship to store option. I'm a big Newegg fan, but BB beat their price. It has been a great purchase. We use it for almost exactly what you describe. Ours is actually attached to a 32" LCD tv and easily streams netflix and hulu and can handle downloaded HD movies with ease. My one extra splurge was a wireless keyboard/mouse combo from Amazon. It makes a great remote and I still have a traditional mouse and keyboard on the desk if I really need to do some word processing.

TomTX

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2013, 09:18:18 AM »

The operating system choice (windows, OSX, ubuntu) will play a more practical role in software/hardware compatibility. And given OP's simple requirements, I think windows 7/8 will give him best hassle -free compatibility coverage.

IMO, ubuntu went off the rails awhile back. Linux Mint is notably better, particularly for new users. I'm using the Cinnamon UI for my desktop.

TomTX

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2013, 09:19:52 AM »

I love my macbook air (but work payed for it :) ), but an entry level pc desktop makes the most sense for your needs. I would not recommend building one. Based on your post, I doubt you really want to deal with comparison shopping for parts, assembly, and then installing the os and supporting software. I used to build all my desktops, but I don't even see the price advantage anymore unless building a high end machine. Even if you get a good deal on hardware, then you'll have to buy windows, office, etc.

++ For an entry level machine - particularly with a for-pay operating system (Windows) - you cannot beat the big assemblers.

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2013, 09:42:09 AM »
I'm surprised at the number of folks here running Linux. Maybe not that surprising considering engineers are clearly over-represented around here.
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BlueMR2

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2013, 10:46:43 AM »
If you're going to want mainstream compatibility and good value (maybe not best price, but something solid that will last forever) and absolutely require a laptop, I'd go with a Lenovo Thinkpad.  Not the regular Lenovo, it needs to be from the Thinkpad line.  The prices are higher than most others, but they simply are the best laptop you can get (yep, even better than Apple.  I use both and Thinkpads are better machines for a better price).

Desktop, grab a friend that knows a little bit about computers and order the parts you need from NewEgg to build your own.

I.P. Daley

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2013, 11:30:08 AM »
I'm surprised at the number of folks here running Linux. Maybe not that surprising considering engineers are clearly over-represented around here.

I'm not, however I am surprised by how many people still try to immediately suggest purchasing an overpriced Apple for basic day-to-day computing around here. If you've hit FI or get a really sharp deal on it, it's one thing, but even from a purely philosophical standpoint... how anyone can without good reason defend purchasing hardware from a company who deliberately designs machines to not be user serviceable and repairable, values form over function, is built with planned obsolescence in mind with a closing, proprietary ecosystem and sold at a price premium for their implementation of mostly low-to-midrange consumer-grade hardware in these parts is a bit beyond me. And do keep in mind that this is coming from someone who had his own mother on Apple hardware for over a decade to keep support and ownership costs low before switching her to Ubuntu.

I'm not saying they don't design nice equipment or even functional equipment, nor am I saying that OSX doesn't have its value and place as a potential platform in certain users workflow, or that reasonable bargains can't be had on used Apple equipment; what I am saying is that their design philosophy deliberately greases overinflated consumerism, wasteful and frequent spending and decidedly anti-environmental behaviors in most Apple customers who then somehow get suckered into thinking that theirs is the only way to get some sort of simple and robust end-user experience.

Intelligent mustachian computing should be mostly done on cheap business-class refurbs from manufacturers like Lenovo and Dell or built custom to your own needs, where you can learn how to service and repair the equipment yourself. If you just want disposable tiny sealed appliances designed to not be serviced and have a certain level of planned obsolescence, save your money and buy a "disposable" $50 Android-on-a-stick system or a Chromebook. If you want low-maintenance and easy to use but with some flexibility, learn how to use Ubuntu. Education and flexibility with your own computational skills only makes you more badass with time. If you're not technical enough to pull that off and just want something that works no matter the cost, then you might have reason to consider a Mac, but remember that Windows 7/8 mostly fits that bill now as well...
« Last Edit: February 10, 2013, 11:31:53 AM by I.P. Daley »
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bikebum

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2013, 11:55:38 AM »
Thanks for all the help everyone! I should have mentioned that mobility is not a concern of mine, so it sounds like desktop is the way to go.

I started out leaning towards  PC over Apple products and think I'll stay with that. Based on the comments that is more what I'm looking for, but I do appreciate the input from the Apple users. I'm going to check out Newegg for a refurbished entry level PC, sounds like a good place to start. There is a lot of information here. I didn't absorb it all with the first read, but I think I have enough to start shopping around.

Thanks everybody!

Dee18

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2013, 12:47:03 PM »
In January I bought a friend a new (not refurbished) Dell Inspiron 15 inch laptop for $380.  The tech guy at my office recommended it after I gave him the parameters (about what you said--internet, word processing, etc).  It is a great computer, has wireless, built in camera, etc.  I recommend a laptop--it's so nice to just put the computer away in a drawer sometimes and it's great to be able to take it on a trip.

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2013, 02:54:09 PM »
As far as PC v. Mac, I completely agree with I.P. Daley here. Macs carry a major price premium, especially at the low end. Their laptops are pretty decent in terms of dimensions, battery life and available system specs on the high end, but these are specifications you don't care about and carry an enormous price premium. Mac users have been consistently brainwashed into believing they are better people for buying Macs, but in the end it's just the same junk.

At this point, any standard laptop will meet your needs and accommodate anything and everything you intend to do and more, wifi, HD playback, etc. I'd suggest getting the cheapest new Lenovo laptop that's of the screen size you want.

grantmeaname

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2013, 03:56:44 PM »
Again - no reason to accept the laptop drawbacks if you don't need the advantages.

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2013, 04:15:45 PM »
Never realized how opinionated everybody gets about computers these days...
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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2013, 05:51:02 PM »
Daley, your views on computing hardware as a commodity reflect mine pretty well, but I think that's mostly because we're both techies and love tweaking the crap out of our distros, hence the outrage at a hardware premium from Apple.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on mid-to-high consumer hardware though. I like the diretion Samsung seems to be taking with their ultrabooks and trying to compete in the $1000-1500 laptop space. Limited number of models, simple-ish branding, etc.
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grantmeaname

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2013, 06:12:52 PM »
Never realized how opinionated everybody gets about computers these days...
Nonsense... we get that opinionated about everything, all days!

Daley, your views on computing hardware as a commodity reflect mine pretty well, but I think that's mostly because we're both techies and love tweaking the crap out of our distros, hence the outrage at a hardware premium from Apple.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on mid-to-high consumer hardware though. I like the diretion Samsung seems to be taking with their ultrabooks and trying to compete in the $1000-1500 laptop space. Limited number of models, simple-ish branding, etc.
Dell, HP, and Asus are doing more or less the same. Here's the logic: people like apple computers, apple offers few options, therefore we should offer few options. Bleh.

I do like the simple design and branding, but less choice is not a good thing.

bikebum

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #20 on: February 10, 2013, 10:05:09 PM »
Thanks again for the help guys.

I'm thinking about getting a HP DC7800 from Newegg for $170. It has Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Windows 7.

Anything I should know about picking a monitor? What do you guys think is a good one for that computer?
« Last Edit: February 10, 2013, 10:07:03 PM by Josh »

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2013, 10:11:36 PM »
I would also check out the website slickdeals.net - they are website that list deals on a variety items, computers being one of their specialities.

Folks in the forum seem to be pretty informed about what makes a good deal.  This is a recent example.  You can use this place to find a moniter as well.  Pretty much any electronic purchase I have made has been on sale and I found the deal on this site.

http://slickdeals.net/permadeal/89282/staples-lenovo-h430-desktop-core-i3-2130-3.4ghz-4gb-ddr3-1tb-hdd-dvd-burner-windows-8?page=12#comments

I.P. Daley

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2013, 12:16:35 AM »
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on mid-to-high consumer hardware though. I like the diretion Samsung seems to be taking with their ultrabooks and trying to compete in the $1000-1500 laptop space. Limited number of models, simple-ish branding, etc.

I think you'd get a pretty fair idea with the post I just left over in this thread after someone casually suggested only a $200 hardware upgrade to a broke college student... maybe add on a little extra, "If you're genuinely in the market for $1000+ of modern hardware, you'd better have a dang good reason for it, and if you do, I sincerely doubt the quality and design of even $2000 consumer grade krep will sufficiently meet your needs and match your tool requirements."

I know my roots, and with the exception of HD video and complex real-time 2D/3D vector rendering, humanity has been selling computers in the first world that hit their functional threshold with minimal returns as a mainstream productivity and communications tool at around the 1GHz x86 CPU and 512MB of RAM era. That marks close to a decade and a half of forced upgrades and electronic waste via code bloat, eye candy, shoddy manufacturing, and entertainment demands for the majority of casual users. That should give you a pretty decent idea of what I think about stuff like the $1500 Ultrabook.
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Ben Johnson

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2013, 09:14:24 AM »
Buy a lowe-end Windows desktop at your local big-box electronics retailer.

I've built my own computers for thirty years.  For a non-expert, the potential financial loss of gambling on a rebfurbished computer from Newegg is not worth the $30 you might save.

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #24 on: February 11, 2013, 09:32:47 AM »
I've built my own computers for thirty years.  For a non-expert, the potential financial loss of gambling on a rebfurbished computer from Newegg is not worth the $30 you might save.
I doubt the financial loss is very high between the warranty and the remarkably low probability that the refurbished computer won't work.

JamesAt15

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #25 on: February 11, 2013, 05:17:30 PM »
That should give you a pretty decent idea of what I think about stuff like the $1500 Ultrabook.

IPD, I am curious - what would you think about a super-cheap/$100 Android laptop? (e.g. one like this?)

I am not actually thinking of buying one. (Well, I guess I am thinking of buying one but don't feel like spending even $100 when I still have a working laptop that still does its job just fine.) Never having used Android on a phone or tablet, I have no idea what it would be like to use one as a laptop OS. Any idea?

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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #26 on: February 11, 2013, 05:20:28 PM »
That should give you a pretty decent idea of what I think about stuff like the $1500 Ultrabook.

IPD, I am curious - what would you think about a super-cheap/$100 Android laptop? (e.g. one like this?)

I am not actually thinking of buying one. (Well, I guess I am thinking of buying one but don't feel like spending even $100 when I still have a working laptop that still does its job just fine.) Never having used Android on a phone or tablet, I have no idea what it would be like to use one as a laptop OS. Any idea?

I think that thing stars veering into "a poor man can't afford to buy garbage" territory. It's a fine line... even the cheapest of technology can do so danged much for us these days, but it's not worth much if there's no quality and reliability to the build.

Also, Android's a good tablet OS, not so much as a laptop with keyboard OS.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2013, 05:22:47 PM by I.P. Daley »
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Re: Help purchasing a home computer
« Reply #27 on: February 11, 2013, 06:05:26 PM »
Fair enough, thanks.