Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

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Metcarfre
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Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 13:33

So we're pondering buying a off-the-shelf PC. Obviously, as a habitual Mac user, I have no idea whats good or works well or whatever. Or where is a good place to purchase it (in Canada).

There's a couple different 'levels' of requirements to consider. First, the primary reason we would purchase a new Windows-based machine is that my wife has a few Windows-only programs that she needs to use for school that would be helpful to be able to use at home. These are pretty resource-minimal (statistics programs and the like) but will only run on Windows. So our ultimate budget option is Bootcamp + Win 7 for her Macbook.

The next step up would be for me to be able to use it as a modest gaming computer. I'd say the baseline here would be ideally mid-range specs to play, say, Battlefield 3 (especially as my brother appears to be picking up BF3 on the PC as opposed to Xbox).

Ideal features for the system are to have an ample screen size (easier to do work and school on, but also obviously for gaming - lets say minimally 20"), affordability, reliability, and possibly expandability.

Budget, roughly $1000 CDN max, but that must be all-in, including Office, hardware, tax, etc. We would much rather it be much cheaper than that.

Any other questions? Any suggestions?
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Tim » 11 Sep 2011, 14:00

Wander Future Shop a bit to get an idea of price ranges. Honestly I think the best option might be to check out Dell.com or a similar site and use their setup where you start with a default setup and customize the cpu, ram, hard drive, etc.

You can get way better deals on a monitor from NCIX or Tiger Direct too, by the way.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby taza » 11 Sep 2011, 14:33

A giant "nooo" on Dell.

Also preferably a "no" on off the shelf entirely. A much better option is to pick parts and let a local computer shop assemble it.

Off the shelf, your budget and requirements? Won't happen.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Jamfalcon » 11 Sep 2011, 16:07

You aren't likely to get anything that will run BF3 decently off the shelf in that price range (I'm guessing, I don't know if the requirements are even out yet) but if you're willing to put in a new video card yourself you can probably go to somewhere like Future Shop, Buestbuy, Walmart, or Staples and buy a pretty good computer with a monitor for about $600. For $100 to $150 you should be able to get a decent video card. They aren't hard to install, just make sure it's compatible with the motherboard.

I'll also second Tim's suggestion of NCIX. I've never been into their stores, but I bought most of the parts to assemble my PC through them and they were great about everything, including price matching all of the parts with other stores.

Edit: This page might be a good place to look. I would think these should be able to handle BF3 decently at very least.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 16:30

Minimum requirements for Battlefield 3

* OS: Windows Vista or Windows 7
* Processor: Core 2 Duo @ 2.0GHz
* RAM: 2GB
* Graphic card: DirectX 10 or 11 compatible Nvidia or AMD ATI card.
* Graphics card memory: 512 MB
* Hard drive: 15 GB for disc version or 10 GB for digital version

Recommended system requirements for Battlefield 3

* OS: Windows 7 64-bit
* Processor: Quad-core Intel or AMD CPU
* RAM: 4GB
* Graphics card: DirectX 11 Nvidia or AMD ATI card, GeForce GTX 460, Radeon Radeon HD 6850
* Graphics card memory: 1 GB
* Hard drive: 15 GB for disc version or 10 GB for digital version
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Tim » 11 Sep 2011, 17:00

Bear in mind, metcarfre, that on a forum like this you'll be getting advice from mostly power-users, so take what is said with a grain of salt.

Dell is not a great brand, in general, but I had a Dell for about three years during my undergrad and it held out fine for me. I gamed on it (after upgrading the video card) just fine. My siblings all have Dells, and my brother uses his for occasional gaming. YMMV, of course, but I'm just saying it's not as bad an option as its reputation might suggest. It's like buying a Chevrolet instead of a Honda or Toyota, IMO.

I should have said that you'll probably want to add a video card, though. The newer Intel processors come with passable video cards built in, I think, but that's never as good of an option.



All of this being said, Jamfalcon's link is almost definitely a better way to go, especially if you can find a sale. I didn't realize NCIX let you customize your rig on their site like that.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby goat » 11 Sep 2011, 17:07

I'm voting for buy parts and assemble it yourself (though some parts retailers will put it together for "free" if you spend enough there). There are cheap build guides floating around that will make "a 300$ gaming PC". Plus, being able to build a machine is a valuable skill.

Also, I don't think I have to tell you this, but make sure to buy a student discount license of Office. Universities will often have made deals where you can buy Office for like 30$. Same with OS.

Basically, you're weighing two sets of factors: performance and complication vs price and ease. If you want a good computer for cheap, build it. If you want something that you can order and have within a week, but may be only "okay", go completely OTS.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Lorithad » 11 Sep 2011, 17:15

I'll vote for NCIX as well. For 1000 bucks, you can get a pretty decent machine that will certainly be able to support battlefield 3.

Shopbot + ncix price match can save you hundreds of dollars as well, so make sure to make use of that. Also, consider open office instead of MS office. Or libre office. That alone can save you a hundred bucks that could go to getting you a slightly larger monitor, or what have you.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 17:18

Not gonna build it.

I'm fairly sure we need a legit copy of Office as she'll be using it for real work.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby taza » 11 Sep 2011, 17:21

I'll clarify what I said - you won't get an off-the-shelf machine running BF3 acceptably within your price range. If you're building from parts and getting OEM or Student versions of the software you might be able to get one, but even that is a tight fit.

If you skipped everything but the main unit, 1000 CND would be plenty. It's the software and excess hardware that's the problem.

Assembling the system from the parts at a hardware retailer isn't expensive - but installing the software would be. I'm assuming you're capable enough to install Windows.
Last edited by taza on 11 Sep 2011, 17:22, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 17:22

I hardly consider having a monitor for my computer 'excess'.

And that assumption may be incorrect as I've never done it before.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby taza » 11 Sep 2011, 17:23

Real men use sounds over PC speaker.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Master Gunner » 11 Sep 2011, 17:36

Installing Windows 7 consists of entering "next" a bunch of times, and putting in your name and CD key. If you've ever installed any piece of software before, Windows is now pretty much the same process.

On the hardware side, I have no suggestions though. Being far too long since I've built a computer from the ground up.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 17:37

Yo dawgs whatcha think about this one?

Dive into my piggy bank for a Geforce GTX 450, 460? Snag a ~20" monitor somewhere?

Thoughts? Am I missing something? Crappy mobo or ps?

Heh. now you think I understand PC lingo.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby theDreamer » 11 Sep 2011, 17:41

I believe you mean PSU.

Also, looks decent, though I know nothing of the Mobo.

I strongly recommend doubling up on RAM though.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 17:47

Dammit. You found me out.

RAM is relatively cheap, though, right?
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Master Gunner » 11 Sep 2011, 17:49

Quite cheap.

Kingston is my preferred brand, but I've being out of the game for a while.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby theDreamer » 11 Sep 2011, 17:50

The site had an upgrade for 70 bucks to double it up.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 17:58

Not incidentally, I appreciate the help guys. I really do.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby goat » 11 Sep 2011, 18:04

That... is actually not bad. I officially withdraw my advice re: build it or it's going to suck. Drop the appropriate upgrades on that thing and you'll have a pretty decent rig.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 18:06

So pretty much slap 2x 4Gb RAM, a graphics card, and Bob's your uncle?

Any preference re: card?

Also, yeah, I was surprised to see an i5 at that price point - even with my limited knowledge. I'm trying to see if somebody can drop the other shoe for me.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Jamfalcon » 11 Sep 2011, 18:13

I'm happy to help :)
With the video card upgrade that should be very good. I would guess the $30 extra for the 460 is worth paying, but I'm not really up on my GPUs. 4 GB of RAM is more than adequate, but 8 GB should be enough to keep you up to date for years.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 18:17

Yeah, OTOH I figure I can always drop in some more RAM later.

So I guess this is cheaper due to small HD or something?
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby theDreamer » 11 Sep 2011, 18:22

500 GB is larger than either of my computers' HDs.
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Re: Help me buy an OTS desktop PC?

Postby Metcarfre » 11 Sep 2011, 18:28

Well, yeah. Me too.
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