Holiday Pre-Built Systems Guide

by Matt Campbell on 12/19/2008 5:00 AM EST
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21 Comments

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  • strikeback03 - Monday, December 22, 2008 - link

    That you would bring up that systems are for sale at Newegg that state the recommended usage is Gaming, and have only GMA3100 for graphics. Reply
  • Dadofamunky - Saturday, December 20, 2008 - link

    I have! I think their config is overpriced, though. Reply
  • crimson117 - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Why spend extra for a core i7 on a midrange machine? The CPU itself may be well priced at around $300, but there's no motherboard under $200 and the ram is pricier as well.

    For expandability in the future, it's one thing, but for price/performance today the core i7 platform is not worth the premium.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - link

    I think expandability in the future is key for this particular price segment. You're not at the point where someone drops $8k without thinking, and you're also not at the disposable PC price range either. So figuring that someone buying this is not comfortable building their own system (or they wouldn't be shopping for this in the first place) probably does not have the technical ability to replace a CPU in the future. Much more likely then would be the buyer to simply replace the GPU in a year or two and still have a fantastic gaming system.

    I mean does anyone honestly think the core i7 will be hampered (in games) in the next 2-3 years? GPU definitely, but the cpu I highly doubt it.

    Putting yourself in the mindset of what a typical buyer of this system wants (a prebuilt system with longevity of the main core componenets (mobo, cpu, etc.), while offering an easy upgrade path for the GPU when additional power is needed), it is a very wise decision.

    And actually for the system builder that doesn't want to rebuild every 12 months (I typically go 3-4 years between builds and am still on my Athlon64 3200+ and GeForce6800GT) I take the same methodology. I normally will splurge a bit on the cpu/mobo combo that is slightly above the $/performance sweet spot to hopefully have an extra year or two while doing 1-2 gpu upgrades during the life of the system.

    My biggest regret was my last system build. It was right as PCIe came out and the current mobo's were similar in price to those for the i7 cpu's. It was also the very early beginning of DDR2 ram. Actually it was almost a mirror image of right now (where the core2 and DDR2 are very inexpensive but the future looks dim). Instead of having a nice upgrade path to get one of the last 2 generations of GPU (which would have been an inexpensive upgrade path that would have kept me happy the last year or two), I've been stuck with the 6800GT because it's AGP (few newer cards had AGP, and they were overpriced for the performance increase). Along the same page 2-4gigs of DDR2 ram can now be had for $10-20 with some of the great sales/rebates out now. Guess how much an extra gig of DDR ram costs? More than the extra "performance" would justify for me.

    So I'm stuck wanting to build a new system but the writing is on the wall that I should go with the i7 and DDR3, but will have to shell out quite a bit more money up front, in the hopes that the decision was the smart one to make.
    Reply
  • aeternitas - Thursday, December 25, 2008 - link

    Some bizzar logic here.

    What did you expect to happen waiting until the beginning of a new architecture launch? Generally the MB will follow the CPU. You will get new MB designs incorporating new tech like PCIe about the time a major new CPU comes out. Common business. You will always see legacy but that is not the norm and is a grace period for people unwilling to upgrade old-ass hardware.

    News of i7 has been out for well over half a year. Where were you then? Still lugging away with your 6800GT? Come on. You only have you to blame here.

    You complain about how much $$ it all costs, when you're talking about skipping two whole generations of CPU die shrinks! Its like you're upgrading TWICE.

    The smart people that dont want to spend alot, buy the previous CPU gen right before a new gen. Thats where the biggest jump in price per dollar comes from when upgrading. Im on a Venice 3000+. If money matters to me and am low on it, im not going to jump to i7, im going to jump to a 45nm DuelCore2 and OC it like a bitch because they are cheap as hell on the lowend.

    C2D does not have a bleak future. It will last even longer than the AMD 64s in terms of before-next-upgrade. They are some of the best CPUs the industy has ever mad. Its a perfect time to build a system around them. Let the teh same people that tossed 1,500 at a CPU 2 years ago do the same again. I'll be at 90% of their performance for 110$
    Reply
  • JohnMD1022 - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    One has to realize that the On-site service is viewed by Dell as a VERY last resort.

    A friend's Dell had a bad hard drive. "Well", he said "Ive got a 2-year on-site service policy. They'll send someone out to fix it."

    My reply was a bit cynical. "Lotsa luck on that one." But I was wrong, for...

    Sure enough, they did... After seven months and several traumatic (for him) re-formats performed at Dell's urging via phone support.
    Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    There are two aspects to Dell's support. If you bought the system as a "home user", they will think nothing of wasting hours of your time diagnosing with them. Even if you have already diagnosed the HD with a much more respected tool than their own, and have found not only lots of bad sectors, but lost files as a result. I have had customers with obviously bad hard drives told to reinstall from the Dell image, often without being told that this will destroy all data on the drive. Then, 2 weeks later, they are calling me because the problem is back.

    In contrast, even if you tell them you have a small business that you are buying the machine for, they will have you do about 5 minutes of grunt work before sending someone out or sending a part.

    They have acknowledged to me that their standards are different when dealing with consumers vs. business. But it is bad business to abuse customers with 4 hour phone calls, especially when I am calling in for a warranty part and they try to waste my time.

    Dell's problems cannot all be blamed on Vista. Most of their wounds are self-inflicted, after years of customer abuse have finally caught up with them. It is wrong to support them with further purchases.
    Reply
  • Matt Campbell - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Everyone's experience is of course different, but I happen to have had one very recently that I was pleasantly surprised with. Just 3 weeks ago my father's V200 Slim had a BSOD and then failed to boot. I was cynical as well, the on-site guys usually take care of everything, but getting to that point means going through the customer service rep. and their massive "try this" spreadsheet. I decided to try Live Chat online, and it took 11 minutes from start to finish with an open ticket for a site visit. This was a Friday, and sure enough they called next Monday and showed up Tuesday with parts in-hand. I liked the Live Chat as well since it was pretty low-key and they can retain a record, in my own words, of the problem so there's nothing lost in translation.

    This can get lodged in the "for what its worth" pile, but I was surprised how easy it was.
    Reply
  • tacoburrito - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    You might want to double-check the ease of replacing Dell's weak PSU with a more powerful one. Dell uses a propietary motherboard with a propietary power connector that connects only to Dell's own PSU. Not sure about the Vostro model but that is the case for their XPS models. There are companies that manufacture Dell's motherboards-compatible PSUs, but the max. supply is about 450W. Reply
  • eyeguy - Saturday, May 02, 2009 - link

    they do use a standard ATX power supply - on proprietary BTX motherboards. So you can replace the PS, but when the MB goes, so does the case. They have a ribbon cable for the reset button and front connectors, which is unique to dell. The PS 24 connector is as short as it can be to only work on a dell MB. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Actually, that is *NOT* the case anymore. Dell specifically talked to me about this at last CES: for sure on their XPS models, they now use a 100% standard ATX power supply. It's possible that decision doesn't extend to the Vostro line, but I do know for a fact that the XPS 620 I have uses a standard ATX PSU. In fact, I think even my old XPS 410 used a standard ATX PSU, and that was ~3 years ago. Reply
  • tacoburrito - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Some XPS models (possibly all?) use the BTX-form motherboards. I have the XPS 410 myself and it has a BTX MB. XPS models with the BTX MB might use a different power connector that only Dell suppled PSU can connect. This question was posed in a computer publication (I don't remeber which; it might be Smart Computing) less than 6 months ago and the reply from the magazine editorial was Dell's MB might not work with any standard PSU.

    it is also very possible that Dell is now using standard parts for all their newer systems. If that is the case, this thread is moot.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - link

    BTX in this case is merely an arrangement of internal parts; BTX motherboards still use ATX power supplies, unless the vendor decides to make something proprietary. Dell has told me outright that they have moved away from using proprietary PSU connectors, and as far as I can tell the PSU in the XPS 410, XPS 620, and XPS 720 H2C I looked at, and quite a few other non-XPS systems all use normal ATX PSUs now. (Thank goodness!) Reply
  • Matt Campbell - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    I searched through some forums before writing that, and several of them all stated that the Vostro 220 uses a standard ATX supply. I can't be 100% sure since I don't have one myself, but our Inspiron 530 has a standard ATX supply, and as Jarred says I believe they've been moving towards that in general. Reply
  • Pr1mus - Tuesday, December 30, 2008 - link

    I've done PSU swaps on many of them, and both the Vostro 200 and 400 series use standard ATX PSUs. We generally throw Corsair PSUs in when we can. Reply
  • Matt Campbell - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the update! Helpful for those looking. Reply
  • MalVeauX - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Heya,

    Largely the reason there's no HTPC extravaganza is because exactly what was just mentioned. There's just too many codecs, hardware problems, questionable means of digitizing a media source, software issues for playback (it's hard to have a single piece of software that can do it all; not even VLC can do it all perfectly). A lot of the software is open source, but a lot is pay as well; and in the end, building a HTPC might be cheap hardware wise, but it gets costly when you start to use real software (compared to pirated/freesource).

    Then there's this one thing: simplicity. HTPC's are never simple. Someone who wants to sit back, click on the tube, and browse their collection while watching some HD content at the same time will have to keep maintenance, fix it, and make sure all the new things work with what they have. It's not nearly as simple as just putting in a disc or tuning into an HD channel with a hardware solution.

    HTPC's are generally for the enthusiast who is willing to put in the time and effort to know the system, know the hardware, know the media, and be able to fine tune and cope with codecs and `ripping' of sources. Not everyone can do that confidently. And that's why you don't see massive tech sites displaying new cases and systems for HTPC. It's a tiny market. There is however big forum communities for it (google will reveal them).

    Very best,
    Reply
  • The0ne - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    For reasons you've mentioned already this is why I still use my main PC to output all music/video content. It's just not as simple I would like it to be and I really don't want to spend my weekends keeping maintenance or debugging problems. My co-worker has a fantastic setup but using myth-tv but when things don't work right it's a nightmare. I wish they were simplere but they're not. For now a Phillips DVD upscaling player that allows attachment of USB drives is easier :) Reply
  • QChronoD - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Is there a good option out there for a powerful but QUIET playback machine. Doesn't necessarily need space for tuners, but something small that can handle 1080p H.264 or anything else you could throw at it.

    Also hope that you guys put together a guide on HTPCs in all its glory. The net is severely lacking in a competent comparison of all the 10-foot interfaces, and the bazillion drivers and codecs needed to get anything more than .avi and .wmv to work. Please, please, please, look at the extenders and tell us if any can actually handle what formats (i.e. do they work with all my .mkv anime? can they play all DVD backups [yes i own the discs])
    Reply
  • aeternitas - Thursday, December 25, 2008 - link

    Here are my steps to create a silent system that can play just about anything you throw at it at 1080i/p.

    Its complicated and long so try and pay attention.



    1. Build a silent cheap ($500) dual core system.
    2. Search "Community Codec Pack" online. Download. Install.


    The reason there isnt many guides for this is the fact it is not complicated. Plug the PC into a TV.
    Reply

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