Author Topic: I need a new computer - any suggestions?  (Read 13658 times)

tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2196
I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« on: August 31, 2012, 10:30:25 AM »
I don't need heavy computing all I use the home PC for is pics, internet, music and occasionally videos.  The computer that we are replacing is a notebook that I got for about $300 a couple of years ago.  I am inclined to go that direction again but would appreciate the tech savy folks here to weigh in.

Macs are definitely user friendly for the above applications but IMO they are too expensive and I am one of the few that had problems with macs in the past so I am skeptical anyway.

thanks

smalllife

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 983
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2012, 10:40:58 AM »
When my current one (6 year old Dell) dies I plan to replace it with a mid range Toshiba for about 600-700 on sale.  I might go a bit cheaper, but I want the speed to be able to keep up with technology upgrades for at least 4 years.  I had a close call and did a lot of research and that's what I came up with.  Toshiba had a good cross section of reliability and environmental sustainability.

jpo

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 518
  • Age: 32
  • Location: North Carolina
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2012, 10:50:43 AM »
You might consider keeping an eye on tech.woot.com.

Sparafusile

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 333
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Indiana, USA
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2012, 10:56:31 AM »
Learn to build your own. Seriously, it's the same as learning to work on your own car except in the comfort of your own living room. You could build yourself a computer that more than meets your needs for about the same as your netbook cost you.

tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2196
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2012, 11:16:21 AM »
Learn to build your own. Seriously, it's the same as learning to work on your own car except in the comfort of your own living room. You could build yourself a computer that more than meets your needs for about the same as your netbook cost you.

Interesting idea - any suggestions to look into it.  I can work on houses and cars, but I am such a tech idiot and those tiny screws scare the crap out of me. 

I should also point out that even though my computer was acting up in general I played a role in accelerating its demise - the power and USB ports weren't working so I thought I could take it apart and fix it (like I fix everything else).  Ummmm...needless to say when I got it back together the power port worked but the computer wouldn't turn on.  I must have pulled a wirer or connection or something.  I still will try to fix it but need to get (or maybe build) a new one anyway.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 11:22:01 AM by tooqk4u22 »

JohnGalt

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 481
  • Age: 34
  • Location: TX
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2012, 11:18:55 AM »
Learn to build your own. Seriously, it's the same as learning to work on your own car except in the comfort of your own living room. You could build yourself a computer that more than meets your needs for about the same as your netbook cost you.

Interesting idea - any suggestions to look into it.  I can work on houses and cars, but I am such a tech idiot and those tiny screws scare the crap out of me.

I think it's a lot easier to put a PC together than it is to work on cars.  I've put together 10 or so over the years and it's usually just a matter of looking at the diagrams that come with the mother board to see where everything needs to connect up.  I'd imagine there are plenty of ehow type articles or youtube videos that could walk you through it as well.

kisserofsinners

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 381
  • Age: 40
  • Location: San Francisco
    • Monkey wants a house
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2012, 11:26:08 AM »
I also think building your own is the "cheapest" bet, but maybe not for everyone.

Toshiba-I've owned a couple and work in AV connecting computers to various systems. Price for power it's the best value in pre-built laptops. My mom is still using the one i bought in 2003. I've had to re-install the OS a couple times, but it's still going strong.

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3957
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2012, 01:30:22 PM »
I've been doing IT work for nearly a decade and a half now and I don't even really bother with building my own much anymore unless I know there needs to be a specific need met. With the availability of well-powered, quality refurbished machines these days, you can't even build one cheap enough to compete.

Check out newegg.com and look at their refurbished machines, stick with business/enterprise models from Lenovo and Dell... ignore the rest. There's some seriously cheap hardware there with decent specs. If you want another laptop specifically, go to outlet.lenovo.com and thumb through their Thinkpads.

Sparafusile

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 333
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Indiana, USA
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2012, 01:48:18 PM »
... those tiny screws scare the crap out of me. 

They're not as small if you build a desktop. Laptops have agonizingly small screws for sure.

darkelenchus

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 290
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Akron, OH
  • True wealth comes from good health and wise ways.
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2012, 04:42:04 PM »
www.geeks.com and www.techforless.com are also good sites for refurbs.

jawisco

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 194
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2012, 08:56:18 PM »
Here is what I did recently and am very pleased:

-(2) year-old Lenovo T-400 with LED screen and Windows 7 (awesome keyboard, LED screen is great out doors, good battery, very durable).  Off ebay for $250 with another year of warranty...

-purchased 128gm Solid-state drive for $100. 

This computer is great - the SSD is by far the biggest bang for your buck in terms of responsiveness.  You click and you are there.  For $350 an amazing amount of computing power with a great screen and portability.  YMMV.




Lars

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 105
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2012, 10:41:26 PM »
If a desktop is an option, I've had good luck with used computers via classifieds and garage sales. With some patience, I've found lightly used computers for reasonable prices (family downsizing to RV and college dropout). For work, I typically buy them from a local shop that sell off lease corporate computers for our low usage workstations. If your willing to give up the portability, I think a desktop will have the lowest ownership costs.

However, I have not bought a laptop used since they seem to have a distinctly shorter lifespan than desktop (from personal experience) and were harder to find 3 or 4 years ago. However, if I liked laptops more I would be very tempted by jawisco's ideas - find a used one and fix its weaknesses.


dahlink

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 83
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2012, 01:45:27 AM »
Another site you can check for deals is slickdeals.net 

This was posted and unfortunately the cheapest deals are now out of stock on newegg.com but it gives you a good idea of what can be had if you find the right deals:

http://slickdeals.net/permadeal/79300/newegg-lenovo-ideapad-z580-core-i5-3210m-2.5ghz-15.6-ledbacklit-1366x768-6gb-ddr3-500gb-hdd-nvidia-gt-630m-hdmi-usb-3.0-dvdrw-wifi-n-6cell-webcam-win-7-prem

I however, have become a style whore and do own macs.  If you need a laptop I would definitely stay PC to keep the price low.  However, you could possibly pick up a mac mini as a mac desktop option.  Not the cheapest or the best but I had not yet seen it suggested.  You would have to bring your own monitor and keyboard though.  I would also argue that macs retain their value however a good counter argument is that extra money save by buying a PC could be used to earn interest  from investments rather than be tied up in a mac.

I also used to build my own computers but as I.P. Daley stated, its not really all that necessary or cheaper anymore unless you want a home server or badass gaming rig. 

Super cheap ideas:  http://www.raspberrypi.org/ or  http://apc.io/  buy a case for it and hook it up to your TV viola!...keyboard and tv not included


Good luck on the computer hunting!

grantmeaname

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4759
  • Age: 27
  • Location: NYC
  • Cast me away from yesterday's things
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2012, 07:32:02 AM »
Desktops last longer than laptops. Even omitting the fact that it's way harder to spill on or drop a desktop, there's the fact that you can replace just a peripheral when it breaks instead of the entire unit. (Yes, you could replace a laptop screen or keyboard, but expect to pay out the ass for it.) Finally, desktops keep their components at a much lower temperature, which means the RAM will go flaky later, for example. It also means that you can buy processors at the 45-80W power consumption range, instead of the 10-35W range, so you'll get more performance for any given amount of money. If you actually need to use it as a laptop, by all means get one, but if it's going to live on a desk all its life anyway you may want to consider a desktop instead.

Regarding building your own: it's fun, and it's important for anyone who uses a computer to know how to do. It's a skill that you can trade the neighbors for beer. It's easy, it's great fun, and it helps you understand the most revolutionary tool of our age. But, at the very low end, the margins of system builders are thinner than their volume license discounts, so you'll actually come out ahead by buying something already assembled (especially if you're a windows user, as the windows license has got one of the biggest volume discounts). That savings can be increased further by buying something refurbished, as everyone above already pointed out.

For my next computer, I'm likely to get a desktop and accompany it with a dirt-cheap tablet so I still have a mobile device and many of its benefits (reading on the couch or at the table for homework), without the increased cost and decreased life inherent in a laptop. My new tool (toy) is a Google Nexus 7, which crams an unbelievable amount of functionality into its $200 price point.

jawisco

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 194
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2012, 10:46:12 AM »
With all due respect to Grant, I cannot even imagine wanting a desktop in this day and age with awesome laptops available for a low price point.  If you want to do consistent work at a desk, you can easily set up a system to use your laptop as your computing power and have it hooked up to  external monitor, external mouse and keyboard.  Desktop can give you more computing power for each $ spent, but whether you will ever notice this difference is an open question (unless you are video editing or a gamer).

I don't know if laptops don't last as long as desktops, but I have owned 7 laptops (for me and employees) and I have never had one fail on me (I have had one hard drive fail) and I do not baby them at all and take/use them in a variety of environments (plenty of laptop using at construction sites with dust and dirt everywhere).  I only typically use them for 3-4 years before passing them on - I am sure some have failed by now (everything fails eventually) I do buy somewhat rugged laptops though, whether I buy new or used...

At this point in time, a computer is a major part of my life - I love being able to take that anywhere.

Another Reader

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5013
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2012, 11:39:19 AM »
In the last 10 years I have had two desktops and 4 or 5 laptops.  The laptops were slower, more difficult to use, and more expensive.  Something broke on all of them, making them useless and difficult or impossible to retrieve the data.  I keep the most recent laptop for travel, but I live on the desktop.    Big screen, easy to use mouse, and fast.  I bought the cheapest Compaq/HP desktops and had no problems for at least 5 or 6 years with the first.  Maybe longer, because I have only had this one for two or three years.

mindaugas

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 367
  • Location: Littleton, CO
    • Mike Says Meh
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2012, 01:29:35 PM »
I've been in IT for 12 years as a sys admin which means I work with a lot of different hardware. Yes, laptops will be slower and more prone to failure than a desktop, plus you can really only upgrade the RAM and hard drive. A desktop will be faster for the same price, easier to upgrade and repair. The only reason to get a laptop is mobility.

You can go used, but you will probably need to spend more money to get a new battery, bigger hard drive (or ssd), and maybe RAM. It depends on if the previous owner already upgraded it. Stick with business models as well, Dell Latitude or Lenovo. You'll get more bang for your buck with Intel right now, even the Core i3 will work great for your needs. I recommend sticking with the Core-i procs and steering away from AMD. Desktops you can save some money with an AMD proc and you probably won't notice the difference but if I were buying right now I would still go with Intel.

You can easily build a nice PC to meet your needs for $300, a laptop will be much harder. You'll have to stick with older gen laptops with older procs in them. The benefit of building a PC too is that you can customize everything. Don't care about gaming, get a mobo with built in graphics. Want HDMI out? no problem. Put in a SSD for the OS and a bigger HDD for storage. Put in two HDD for mirroring to protect from hard drive failure and as a backup (always backup your data though because this only protects the hardware, not if you get a virus or accidental deletion). Lots and lots of possibilities. Feel free to PM me with any questions.

rugorak

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 382
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2012, 06:00:13 AM »
I see 2 options for you.

1. Build your own. It may cost you a little more than $300 but it will last for ever and you can just upgrade bits and pieces as you go.
2. Consider a tablet. Even for a higher end you could get the Nexus 7 from google for $200.

It all depends if you never will use it for much more or think you might. The tablet probably will cost you more in the long run regardless I would imagine based on current trends of usefulness. With the PC you can make it last ages. I need something more robust than your off the shelf PC because I play some games on it. But I still don't go all out. My current PC was built 3 years ago for about $800. I've spent around $100 since then on some additional RAM, a headset, and a webcam so that I could skype/video conference. I still could buy more RAM for it without a new motherboard and could replace the video card if need be for far less than a new PC. Plus since I bought each part myself I know the warranty information, the specs, and could easily fix the vast majority of things. Before that I made it almost 6 years. I was gaming even more heavily on that one. I replaced the video card on that one and got another 2 years out of it. Cost for the vid card was $80. So it really does work well.

So I would say if you have any free time at all go for the build your own. Even if that is buy used where the case allows for good upgrades and piece-mealing a solution over time. If you are working multiple jobs and just have zero spare time the tablet may be better.

Paul der Krake

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4570
  • Age: 11
  • Location: USA
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2012, 05:39:07 PM »
I write software for a living and spend 7+ hours staring at a screen on virtually any given day. I like the comfort of a big monitor and the liberty of switching positions in my chair as I see fit. Laptops tend to lock you in one position where your hands and eyes are roughly always at the same distance from the screen, which can't be good.

Building your own machine *can* be fun, if that's what you're into. I can lock myself up and entertain myself for an entire weekend with as little as a 90s machine, a router, and a compiler. On the other hand, hearing about the latest advances in graphic cards bores me death. YMMV.

As dahlink suggested, the mac mini is a good option if you want the advantages of a desktop but need to move it around. I have a mini at work, but if for some reason I need to work on something from home, it fits easily in my messenger bag and I can hook it up to a monitor at home and boot it up in minutes. I would check if that's still possible, but at least in the model I have you can upgrade the RAM yourself (it's easier than changing the air filter in your car), which means you don't have to go through the Apple Store racket and pay $200 for RAM that costs $50.

As far as laptops go, I used to believe that paying extra for a "business" laptop (thinkpads and square-ish dells) was worth it for my peace of mind. Now, would you rather buy a consumer-grade clearance machine for $300 every 2-3 years or a $1000 thinkpad every 4-6 years? Most laptop vendors won't even sell you anything with less than 4 gigs of RAM today anyway. The machine isn't important, your data is. Which brings me to...

...backups. Computers fail. All the time. Make backups. And then backup your backups.

menorman

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 178
  • Location: SoCal
    • Marven's Money Musings
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2012, 10:15:30 PM »
How much longer can your current computer last? You might only need to throw a new HD/ram into it to revive it for another few years. Otherwise, the holiday season is coming up. I don't regularly buy a new computer at all times, so I don't know how pricing trends tend to go (i.e. are Black Friday sale prices really great prices). With that being said, great deals can usually still be had on good equipment. Also, I replaced my laptop last year. The laptop I replaced had cost me $1200+ back in 2007 IIRC. The laptop that I replaced it with cost me ~$400 last year and outperforms the one from 2007. Lesson learned (finally). You can probably find similar results. A machine in the $500 range is probably overkill for a great number of buyers, and it sounds like you're no exception to that. Especially if it's 15" or bigger. I realized that if I really need significantly more computing power than my laptop can provide, I could set up remote access to my desktop then use it via remote connection on my laptop. So far, my desktop has rarely come on since I built it, except for when I get in the mood to play some games or when my laptop isn't working.

tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2196
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #20 on: September 04, 2012, 09:23:31 AM »
Thanks for the opinions.   I thought more about it and I don't think I have the full desire to build my own right away but neat project when time permits and kids need a computer (could be a good family project).   

I think I will go with with one of the lower end laptop/notebooks (HP, Toshiba, etc) that for a few hundred dollars will give me at  least 3x the computing power/memory that my last one had. 

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #21 on: September 04, 2012, 10:37:17 AM »
- the power and USB ports weren't working so I thought I could take it apart and fix it (like I fix everything else).  Ummmm...needless to say when I got it back together the power port worked but the computer wouldn't turn on.  I must have pulled a wirer or connection or something.  I still will try to fix it but need to get (or maybe build) a new one anyway.

Never open a computer or other device with electronics in it without wearing a grounding wrist strap.  Simply touching a microchip or harddrive can irreparably damage it if you happen to have any static electricity build up on you (and you probably do at any given moment).  Grounding straps are like $2, and can prevent destroying hundreds of dollars worth of motherboard.  Alternatively, leave the computer plugged in, and touch the metal frame of the case before touching anything else, and periodically thereafter (if not constantly).
Last time I opened mine I made the mistake of not grounding my static, and while I was able to save the laptop (it wouldn't turn on either at first, it needed chips replaced) I never got my wired ethernet to work again

grantmeaname

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4759
  • Age: 27
  • Location: NYC
  • Cast me away from yesterday's things
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #22 on: September 04, 2012, 01:11:00 PM »
RAM is especially notorious for that, and you're right to mention it as a disclaimer: 30V is enough to ruin your RAM, and you won't even feel a shock of less than 3,000V.

Jamesqf

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4047
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #23 on: September 04, 2012, 01:30:30 PM »
I write software for a living and spend 7+ hours staring at a screen on virtually any given day. I like the comfort of a big monitor and the liberty of switching positions in my chair as I see fit. Laptops tend to lock you in one position where your hands and eyes are roughly always at the same distance from the screen, which can't be good.

Two words: docking station.  I do software as well.  My main development machine is a laptop (Thinkpad T61 - several years old, but fine for coding).  It spends most of its time in the docking station, displaying to a large monitor and using standard keyboard & mouse, etc.  However, I can take it with me to remote locations when I need to, which used to be every other week.

For me, the only reason I even have a desktop is that a lot of the software I write does compute-intensive stuff on the GPU(s), so every once in a while I have to fire it up for testing...

MrSaturday

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 138
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #24 on: September 04, 2012, 01:50:12 PM »
...and you won't even feel a shock of less than 3,000V.

This is shockingly false info.

Take it from a guy who has to work around 26 VAC aircraft wiring.  It hertz.

kisserofsinners

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 381
  • Age: 40
  • Location: San Francisco
    • Monkey wants a house
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #25 on: September 04, 2012, 07:43:02 PM »
- the power and USB ports weren't working so I thought I could take it apart and fix it (like I fix everything else).  Ummmm...needless to say when I got it back together the power port worked but the computer wouldn't turn on.  I must have pulled a wirer or connection or something.  I still will try to fix it but need to get (or maybe build) a new one anyway.

Never open a computer or other device with electronics in it without wearing a grounding wrist strap.  Simply touching a microchip or harddrive can irreparably damage it if you happen to have any static electricity build up on you (and you probably do at any given moment).  Grounding straps are like $2, and can prevent destroying hundreds of dollars worth of motherboard.  Alternatively, leave the computer plugged in, and touch the metal frame of the case before touching anything else, and periodically thereafter (if not constantly).
Last time I opened mine I made the mistake of not grounding my static, and while I was able to save the laptop (it wouldn't turn on either at first, it needed chips replaced) I never got my wired ethernet to work again

In the absence of a strap, working naked helps.

Russ

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2213
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Boulder, CO
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #26 on: September 04, 2012, 08:59:47 PM »
...and you won't even feel a shock of less than 3,000V.

This is shockingly false info.

When we're talking about the static electricity being carried around by your average person, it is true.

from the Wikipedia article on static electricity
Quote
For modelling the effect of static discharge on sensitive electronic devices, a human being is represented as a capacitor of 100 picofarads, charged to a voltage of 4000 to 35000 volts.

W=.5CV^2, where:
W = Energy stored in a capacitor (Joules)
C = Capacitance (Farads)
V = Electrical potential (Volts)

so, using maximum values from the article above:
W=.5*100E-12F*(35000V)^2=.06125J

So there is at most .06125J of energy stored in us that can be released as a static shock at any time. To put this in perspective, that's about the potential energy of a grain of rice at a height of 30 cm. Approximating that for an electric potential of 3000V, that's about the potential of a grain of rice at 3cm. Imagine a grain of rice falling on to your skin from a height of 3cm. Depending on how dense your nerve endings are at that point, you really may not feel it. I, for example could feel it pretty easily on my fingertips, but would have no clue if it hit my knee (true story, just tested it in the kitchen)

Of course, when we're talking about higher (and continuous) currents in aircraft wiring, that's different story. I would believe that just about anything in there would shock you if you weren't careful.

riskystartup

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 4
  • Location: Canada
  • Hi!
    • www.RiskyStartup.com
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #27 on: September 04, 2012, 09:00:34 PM »
Try visiting your tiny neighborhood computer store. If you make friends with one of those nerds, you will always get best advice, best deal and best service. They can build you new or refurbished system for any budget, and they will stand behind it.

If you are really nice, they will add freebies you want, and they will never install the junk bloatware that you do not need.

I have been using local computer shops for 15 years now (and I used to own one in the days of PC XT and Commodore - this dates me pretty well :) and I would never buy anything from a big-box store, even if I can get a better deal.

Try them out next time you need a PC and you will be pleasantly surprised.

onehappypanda

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
Re: I need a new computer - any suggestions?
« Reply #28 on: September 04, 2012, 09:52:50 PM »
Others have good suggestions re: buy your own or befriend a computer nerd.

I'm not at all tech savvy but I'll throw in my recent purchase: http://www.staples.com/Toshiba-Satellite-R945-P440-14-inch-Laptop/product_931106

A few computer nerd friends told me it was a decent computer for the price, so I picked it up. The current price is $550 which is only okay, but right now Staples is giving students $100 back if they can show a current ID. So it's primarily a decent deal if you are a student (or know a student who can pick it up for you). The $100 is a rebate and it's a Visa giftcard, but those are generally accepted anywhere Visa is, so you can just use it for groceries or whatever (unlike other gift card deals, which annoy me if they're to a store I wouldn't frequent).

Probably not as cheap as building your own, but I figured it was still worth sharing. I'm using mine to replace a slightly nicer (and thoroughly beat-up) old Toshiba. My experience with Toshibas has been that they last a decently long time, aren't as prone to overheating/slowing down as my old Dell was, are more reliable than most of the HP computers I've had to use, and are reasonably priced for what you get. So they're not a bad choice if you want to buy new.