Computer shopping, what do I need?
November 24, 2013 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I have a Dell Computer desktop that runs with Windows XP now. It is 11 years old and has been a good one but is running slow so it is time for a replacement. I just need the tower, I have been looking at Dell's website but am willing to try another brand if they are comparable. I do not do any gaming on computer, just internet surfing and some Microsoft Office Word and Excel work. I have Internet through Dish Network Satellite. I have read if you are not into touch screens to get Windows 7 Home Edition. I don't think I want to go with refurbished computer and Amazon seems to be a popular choice for computer shoppers. I have no idea really what to look for, the Dell Inspiron 660 is priced at $529 with 1 TB Hard Drive, 8 GB RAM, 6 M cache/up to 3.3 GHZ Intel Core i5 - 3340 processor. There are other towers with 1 TB Hard Drive and 4 GB RAM - would this be a good choice? Any suggestions appreciated.
posted by just asking to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The home computing landscape has changed a lot in the last 11 years. The desktop tower has changed the most. And Dell is no longer the go-to brand that it was in the late 90s and early 2000s.

You can get a lot of computing power in a much smaller box that runs much more quietly, with lower power consumption. You'd be sacrificing some upgradeability, but since you had your last Dell for 11 years, that's not an issue here. You could conceivably get an all-in-one from Dell with a bigger display for that $549. Don't worry about the comparable numbers here: anything on modern hardware is going to make your existing PC look like it's running in treacle.

Or you could go with something really tiny like this Lenovo model.

I suppose there's a pre-question here, which is to ask whether you're comfortable with the idea of changing things that radically. Are you still using a big CRT monitor? Do your keyboard and mouse have round PS/2 connectors or rectangular USB? Does the idea of freeing up desk/table space appeal to you?

My gut sense is that replacing one tower with another is not necessarily the best use of your money in 2013. It's the kind of upgrade that's increasingly relegated to office environments.
posted by holgate at 10:08 AM on November 24, 2013

The 660 would be a fine choice for you if you really want a desktop. Poke around the Dell site for deals or different configurations. Be open to considering a laptop.

For most purposes, the rule of computer shopping is never to buy the bottom-of-the-barrel configuration, because those are disposable machines meant for parents to buy for their 7-year-olds to keep them off of mommy's computer. Anything else will be good for 90% of shoppers, and high-end machines are for people who know they need them.
posted by sageleaf at 10:17 AM on November 24, 2013

Try an iMac? Go to an Apple store and give them a test drive.
posted by dubious_dude at 11:39 AM on November 24, 2013

I hate answering in these types of threads because a lot of the information is based on subjective things and it just gets more confusing with everyone putting their lot in. Nevertheless.

Most PCs are held back by terrible hard drives. An SSD is the single best upgrade you can get for any system. I can put an 840 EVO into a five year old laptop and make it feel like it was bought yesterday. A 128GB SSD will go a hell of a long way to responsiveness. People who complain about write endurance are, to be blunt, misinformed luddites.

The problem is that people usually want a stupid amount to upgrade them from the factory. For instance Lenovo wants an extra $220 when I can pull one of the best SSDs available from Amazon for $99.

Buy a new machine but then get someone to clone the new hard drive to the SSD, install it and format the old one for bulk data storage. Should run $230-$250 for a 128GB variant.

Alternatively, you can build something based off an NUC or BRIX style configuration. If you're in the SF bay area send me a memail and I can help you out with it.
posted by Talez at 12:22 PM on November 24, 2013

I'd agree that an SSD is a good investment, but I'd disagree here:

Buy a new machine but then get someone to clone the new hard drive to the SSD, install it and format the old one for bulk data storage.

The OP is running a 2002-vintage PC running Windows XP. XP hits End of Support next April, which means no more security patches and updates. There's also the question of whether a clone is going to support (or even boot on) newer hardware without much fiddling with drivers and whatnot. So it's time to take advantage of an installed copy of Windows 7 with the new machine and migrate files and programs across.
posted by holgate at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2013

No you clone the new PC's Windows 8 installation to the SSD not the old Windows XP machine.
posted by Talez at 1:49 PM on November 24, 2013

Newer systems are indeed faster and cheaper, but ... have you explored what is slowing down your old system? I have two older XP laptops that I use for similar things - basic word processing, internets, no gaming - and for other more snowflakey reasons I want to keep them in good working order rather than upgrade and replace.

Two things slowed both of them down to a crawl lately: virus updates and Windows updates. Uninstalling then reinstalling the newest Avast solved the former. For the latter: because XP support ends soon, I manually updated what I could, then turned automatic updates off. That last step restored both systems to speeds almost indistinguishable from my very- modern work computer. Microsoft wants you to upgrade - but you don't have to.
posted by Dashy at 4:23 PM on November 24, 2013

Consumer Reports gives a good review to the Dell XPS 8700. On the Dell site you can still get one with Windows 7.
posted by gudrun at 5:43 PM on November 24, 2013

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