How do I chose a good budget desktop computer?

Started Nov 14, 2012 | Questions thread
Jim Cockfield Forum Pro • Posts: 16,333
corrected link...

Jim Cockfield wrote:

Note some of the listings I see right this minute (checking the boxes on the left side to see the listings for the Inspiron 660, 2320 and 2330):

If I click on the listing for boxes equipped like that (Core i3 2120, 1TB Drive, 6GB DDR3, etc.) priced from $459 to $539, I see a number of them for $459 in Scratch and Dent condition, and a number of them for $509 in refurbished condition. So, after the 20% off coupon code, some of those should keep you around the desired budget (and you'd have a 23" display).

Oops. I included the wrong link (I used a link showing some laptop models instead). I just renamed the old link to show the newer screen capture. So, it should work now:

In any event, you could pick up a Dell Inspiron 660 Mini Tower with a Core i3 2120 (dual core Sandy Bridge CPU running at 3.3Ghz with support for 4 threads via Hyperthreading), 6GB of 1600Mhz DDR3, 1TB 7200rpm Drive, Wireless N, 64 Bit Win 7 Home Premium, with a 1 year warranty with in home service after remote diagnostics for around $335 now after a 20% off coupon code.

That should work great for what you use a PC for (browsing jpeg images, web browsing office suite work), at a cost of under $400 delivered. The built in HD 2000 Intel Graphics is also fine for HD video playback purposes (watching movies on it, etc.)..

Or, if you wanted an all-in-one including a 23" display, you could pick one up for not much more equipped the same way (Core i3 2120, 6GB of 1600Mhz DDR3, 1TB 7200rpm drive, Wireless N, 64 Bit Win 7 Home Premium, 1 year warranty with in home service after remote diagnostics), as I see some for $459 in scratch and dent condition, or $509 in refurbished condition (*before* the 20% off coupon code).

But, the Mini Tower has better expandability (so you can add a video card if desired, another optical drive if desired, another internal hard drive if desired, etc.)

In any event, for how you use a PC, a system with a Core i3 2120 like those should work just fine, as it's a very fast CPU compared to most older generation models (even when comparing it to older Quad Core CPUs).

But, if you can find one with a Core i5 2xxxx or Core i5 3xxxx CPU for a bit more, it wouldn't hurt to go faster for a bit of "future proofing".

But, I were going to go faster than one of those, I'd probably just move into a Dell XPS 8500 instead of the entry level Inspiron 660, as the XPS 8500 models include a dedicated video card by default, have a higher wattage PSU capable of supporting higher end video cards, lots of extra ports, mSATA slot for an SSD without using a drive bay, etc.

Of course, I wouldn't spend a lot more than you need for the forseeable future unless you see your needs changing from how you use a PC now. Just like buying a camera, you can find models with a lot more features. But, if you're not going to take advantage of them, why spend the extra money.

IOW, I wouldn't spend twice as much money for a negligible increase in performance for how you use a PC (and with the apps you're using now, I doubt you'd see a lot of difference moving up to a much more expensive box, as an app like Picasa is probably not going to take advantage of more CPU cores, etc.)

Personally, I tend to buy the cheaper models, then upgrade more often if needed, *always* buying refurbished, and *always* waiting for coupon codes for more off the already discounted refurbished pricing (like the current 20% off deal they have right this minute on machines from Dell Outlet)

That's because technology changes at a rapid pace (so a few years down the road, you will probably be able to buy a machine that's twice as fast for the same money you spend now, and still be at less after buying another machine later, than you'd spend for the latest "top of the line" high performance model right this minute. IOW, I'd buy a $400 box now, and another one that's much faster in a couple of years, versus buying a $1K machine to start out with that a cheaper box will outperform in a couple of years. But, each user will look at that kind of thing differently, depending on how long they want to keep a machine.

If I did want to start with a higher performance machine to begin with, I'd probably look at the XPS 8500 right now.  The listings are a bit "sparse" on the refurbs right this minute.  But, you can find some pretty good deals on some of the new configs.  For example, this config with a Core i7 3350P, 8GB of 1600Mhz DDR3 (leaving two slots free for more, Nvidia GT 620, Wireless N, 64 Bit Win 8, 1TB 7200rpm Drive, DVD writer, etc., with plenty of USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, card reader, and more is $649.99 right now, and you can use a $50 off coupon code to bring the price down to $599.99

See the $50 off coupon on systems $599 or higher on this page:

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