How do I chose a good budget desktop computer?

Started Nov 14, 2012 | Questions thread
Jim Cockfield
Forum ProPosts: 14,576
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Note that they use laptop processors....
In reply to FNorman, Nov 15, 2012

FNorman wrote:

I still have to make up my mind as to exactly what I want, but some of these offers seem like they're too good to pass up (I can buy 2 or 3 computers for what I was going to spend on one). Another post suggested I go with the Mac Mini, which I like, but I'm not completely sold on the idea that its the best option (as much as I like the form factor). It's also been suggested by various sources that Macs are in some way superior, but the PCs seem like they are a much better value. (No sales on Apple as far as I know, unless that changes with the upcoming holiday season.)

Also note that the Mac Mini uses a mobile processor. For example, the latest model with a Core i5 CPU is using a Core i5 3210M (the M suffix is used for mobile CPUs).

Basically, they're the same type of processors you'd find used in a laptop. Ditto for memory type (they use SODIMMs like a laptop would use) and hard drives (they use smaller 2.5" drives like you'd find in a laptop).

So, they're not going to perform as well as a similar desktop processor, because they're designed for lower power draw, meaning lower performance levels.

For example, the Core i5 3210M in a newer Mac Mini tests at 3878 on the passmark benchmarks:

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i5-3210M+%40+2.50GHz

The Core i3 2120 mentioned in the Dell you could get for $335 after a coupon code tests at a faster 3973

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i3-2120+%40+3.30GHz

Basically, unlike the Core i5 desktop CPUs which are Quad Core, the Core i5 Mobile CPUs are dual core (like you'd have with a desktop Core i3 CPU).

Now, the Mac Mini does have a newer Ivy Bridge CPU model, and it's built in graphics are faster (it uses the newer HD 4000 graphics). But, like a laptop, you've got limited internal expandability, whereas with a larger desktop model, you can easily add another internal hard drive, dedicated video card if desired, and more.

If you're a good shopper, you can also find some Quad Core desktop models that would keep you around $400. For example, I see an Inpiron 620 in the listings right now with a Core i5 2320 (which has 4 physical cores) with 6GB of DDR3, and a 7200rpm 1TB Drive in it for $489. So, after a 20% off coupon code, that would only set you back around $392.

That CPU tests at 5775 on the Passmark Benchmarks:

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i5-2320+%40+3.00GHz

Here's a screen capture showing one like that:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4536228/dell620.jpeg

But, in reality, for what you sound like you need a PC for (browsing jpeg images using Picasa, using MS Office, browsing), any of them would be just fine. You don't need a very powerful PC for those tasks.

Note that the 20% off coupon on Dell Outlet desktops is 48 hour special. So, if you're not planning on buying anything right now, I'd get on their mailing list so you'll get e-mails about future deals like that. They tend to have them on a regular basis (usually around once/month). I'd sign up for both the Dell Outlet Home and Business Deals (and you can buy from either Outlet, even if you're not a business). They just have two different product lines, and have specials that are independent of each other. For example, the Inspiron lineup is Dell Home's value line of PCs, whereas the Vostro line is the value line of PCs in their business lineup.

Here's where you can get on the mailing lists for both Dell Outlet Home and Business specials:

http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopic.aspx/subscription_landing?c=us&l=en&s=dfo

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JimC
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