I need a new computer
October 13, 2009 1:52 PM   Subscribe

I need help with trying to buy a new computer online. I've narrowed it down but have questions.

I'm looking for something high-performance for internet use and that can support 2 monitors. Here are the specs I'm trying to get.
  1. Just HP/Compaq
  2. Supports dual monitors (need not be included)
  3. CD/DVD Rom & Burner
  4. Fast - able to run 4 or 5 programs + browsing without slowing to a crawl
  5. $1000ish (or less)
  6. Configured for multiple program & internet use
  7. Should I get Windows 7?
  8. Get mega ram with purchase, or buy later & DIY?
I'm not sure what kind of processor or RAM I should aim for without canceling things out. By that I mean having the processor not even be capable of making more ram even matter. I know how to buy ram and install it, but I don't know how much to buy based on processor speeds. I also don't know how to tell, when purchasing online, if it supports dual monitors. Other times I see what looks like a good deal, but then I see someone mention how some processor or part is completely outdated. I'd talk to the HP/Compaq folks, but I don't necessarily trust them to tell me the truth or really even be all that knowledgeable.

Help! The old computer is compromised, shuts down when it is having a bad day, runs slower than dirt and has one port in the grave. I'll be buying the computer online.
posted by cashman to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A couple twists to consider, skipping what I don't know anything about...

1. Many will suggest you build a "white box" no-name machine, but I have also had good luck with HP-Compaq, so I'll endorse that. From towers to notebooks, they've lasted longer than any other non-Mac PCs I've had. Build quality?
2. Because of your "need not be included", everything supports dual monitors. You just add a second video cards, or use a single "double-headed" video card. There's nothing about the motherboard that dictates the number of monitors. It's a software ability, and WinXP, Win7 and any modern Linux can support at least two.
3. Consider a Blu-ray burner.
5. That's a fortune. You should be able to get a very high-powered machine for that budget.
4 and 6. That's just a memory issue. Get 4Gb of RAM and you will be fine, based on the kind of user you appear to be. Windows XP is much faster than Win7, in my experience, and OS X and Ubuntu faster still.
7. I find it ugly, sluggish and awkward, but many people love it. I'll stick with XP as long as I can.
8. No real downside either way as long as you get the right specs. Compare the price. Easy to install, as you say.

Other more Windows-y people here will give you good processor advice.
posted by rokusan at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2009

For under $1000 you can get some pretty impressive performance. Dual monitor support is available on any computer with a good video card ($25 for a cheap one).

RAM is cheap and will help performance more than anything else. I would definately get 4GB+ and Windows7, you'll love it.

Go to the DELL website, build a computer with the specs you want (just pick mid-range everything) and use that to comparison shop.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:41 PM on October 13, 2009

More than 4gb of ram is only actually useful if you run a 64bit operating system for various mathematical reasons. On the other hand, the processor speed doesn't really help the kinds of things RAM is useful for so get loaded up to the max allowable (eg only 4 if you're going for 32bit windows whatever, definitely more than 4 if you go 64bit)

That does create the question of whether to go for the a 32bit or 64bit capable machine. 64 is futureproofing but a little pricier, so think about what kind of applications you're going to run on it. Will you need the extra horsepower for heavy duty grunt? Are there 64bit compatible versions of applications you use regularly available yet?

There's a good article on the subject here.
posted by Sparx at 3:01 PM on October 13, 2009

If you are buying a name-brand PC that has 4gb+, the vendor will have installed the 64bit OS, so that's a non-issue if you indeed go compaq/hp.

That being said, for the type of computing you sound like you would be doing, while more ram is preferable to faster processor, 4gb is probably sufficient.
posted by nomisxid at 3:28 PM on October 13, 2009

RAM's the cheapest performance boost; I get a new PC every 2-3 years and I always max-out the RAM.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:08 PM on October 13, 2009

The HP Pavilion p6180t looks like it will do exactly what you need and more. Go with the "Recommended Configuration" from the right sidebar and go with everything default, EXCEPT the video card. Bump that up to anything above the default and you should have dual-monitor support. That's an excellent computer, and you should be able to get away for under $850.
posted by joshrholloway at 5:12 PM on October 13, 2009

It might not be quite what you're looking to hear, but...

If you're willing to try a new OS, it might make sense to give Ubuntu a spin on your current machine before plunking down a $1000 for a new machine. Linux machines tend to last 4+ years longer than machines running windows, for a variety of reasons; you may be able to extend the life of your current machine quite a bit.

It also has the advantage of reducing the amount of ewaste in the world.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:35 PM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Newegg has tremendous deals on HP Pavilion systems that are pre-configured. The only necessary addition would be a PCI-Express video card for about $50 to get dual-monitor support.

If you start with the same base model and customize it at HP's website, expect to pay a premium and not get it as fast.
posted by ijoyner at 10:02 PM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: I'm building my own system with parts from Newegg, under $1000 with a Core 2 Duo 3GHz CPU and 6GB of RAM. If you need help with "is this motherboard compatible with this CPU" questions, the people at the Neowin forums (in the hardware hangout section) are great.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:00 AM on October 14, 2009

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