What's cheaper, Windows based MBP-equivalent desktop computer?
August 22, 2009 11:42 AM   Subscribe

In lieu of buying a tricked-out MacBook pro, I'm thinking about taking the advice in this comment and picking up a mostly equivalent, Windows-based desktop for around $500. Can you give me advice?

I'm going to school for Computer Science and minoring in Graphic Design/Media, so (once I have the money) I've been planning to pick up a Mac Book Pro and using Boot Camp and virtualization software for Windows.

I've realized that I can save a lot of money by sticking with my current low end laptop (just picked up a new battery so it doesn't have to plugged in 24/7), and buying a nice desktop.

I really only need to be able to run my IDEs, other development software, and Adobe CS4. My current laptop can only handle the graphic design software in CS4, not the video software such as Premiere and After Effects.

I'm completely comfortable putting a machine together, but I really don't know how to spec out hardware. My main concern is getting something that will run After Effect so I can finally start doing more video work. Will something like this do the trick? I suspect the video card is under powered.
If the HP doesn't cut it, where is it lacking? Do you have any recommendations for what hardware I should get?

I have some sort of cold, so I apologize for any incoherency or wordiness.
posted by niles to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Ars Technica System Guides are a good place to start.
posted by heeeraldo at 11:56 AM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Any decently specced dual or quad core computer will run After Effects. FYI, GPU acceleration is only with Quadro cards, which arent cheap, and don't usually come with <>
Adobe After Effects® CS4 features a variety of creative visual effects accelerated by NVIDIA Quadro GPUs

It looks like only Photoshop CS4 can use the GPU on Geforce cards.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:15 PM on August 22, 2009

You should have no problem running After Effects or any of the other software listed with that desktop hardware. However, I don't see what relation a $500 refurb HP desktop has to a brand new MBP. Not saying one is better than the other but they are completely different products. Think long and hard about what you need, and don't forget to budget for a nice monitor if you go with the desktop.
posted by sophist at 12:42 PM on August 22, 2009

However, I don't see what relation a $500 refurb HP desktop has to a brand new MBP. Not saying one is better than the other but they are completely different products.

Right, absolutely. While a MBP is high on my wish list, if I can save money buy getting a desktop PC that does a good job of running the video editing software that I need, that's what I'll go with right now.
posted by niles at 1:19 PM on August 22, 2009

It probably depends what quadro card is required as to how expensive they are. In the UK you can get basic quadro cards for cheap
posted by JonB at 2:13 PM on August 22, 2009

You can build a pretty awesome desktop system for very cheap, but you pay for it with your time. You do gain a lot of knowledge about how your system works, so that you will have a better chance of fixing things when they go wrong. As a CS major, building your own PC will be a great learning experience.

You might even want to add a cheap netbook for portability.

The MacBook really makes sense when you are able to trade money for portability and overall ease of use. It took me about two weeks to debug a high temperature issue when I last built a desktop. The most time consuming part of getting a new mac up and running was finding the edges of the transparent plastic wrap so I could get it all off in one piece.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:31 PM on August 22, 2009

If you are careful with the components you choose for the PC, you can pretty easily make it a dual-booting Hackintosh. That way you get the best of both worlds.

i second the idea of taking the leftover cash and getting a cheap netbook. They are great to haul around campus since the battery life is stellar and they weigh practically nothing. I have a Dell Mini 9 that I'm quite partial to but I think they are all pretty much the same.
posted by jtfowl0 at 4:05 PM on August 22, 2009

i second the idea of taking the leftover cash and getting a cheap netbook.

That's why I bought a new battery for my laptop. Not quite the size of a netbook, but it'll do the trick.
posted by niles at 4:12 PM on August 22, 2009

If you want to go the Hackintosh route, here's a thread that will help you find the hardware cheap.
posted by jtfowl0 at 4:24 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

One alternative you may want to look into is building a desktop that mirrors MacPro desktop power and an EFI-X chip that allows you to install OS X seamlessly without dealing with some of the annoyances of a generic hackintosh. They list the most compatible components on the site to help get you started.
posted by liquoredonlife at 2:27 PM on August 24, 2009

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