Help me decide what budget Windows computer to buy
June 10, 2015 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I need a new or refurbished Windows computer. Please help me to choose one.

Here is what I want:

Needs to come pre-installed with a recent version of Windows.
Works out of the box.
Not noisy.
Would prefer something small.
I want to store files locally. So not a streaming PC that forces everything on the cloud.
I have a monitor, laptop, speakers and keyboard, so I don't need these things.
I don't have any plans to buy a lot of peripherals, so I don't need a lot of slots for that.
I'm not fussy about sound quality or video quality, as long as things more-or-less work.

I want to use Firefox, Skype and an IM program.
Having Word and Excel pre-installed would be a plus, but is not essential. I think I can use Google Docs instead for my needs, or open source versions of these programs.
I want to play games on it, but the only games I play are really old. So performance is not important.
I want to switch to Linux someday, so I would like this to be possible, but it's not critical.
I'm not planning to hook this up to a television or use it as a media center.

Other information:
Refurbished is OK.
I live in the United States and will order online.
It's important to me that I deal with a quality company and that the computer works OK out of the box. I have health issues, and dealing with tech support or sending something back is a bigger deal for me than for most people.

I don't want to spend a lot, as my needs seem pretty minimal. There seem to be a some very cheap computers on the market now, but most people seem to be using them for media centers, and this is not what I want. I'm not sure as to whether one of these cheap computers would meet my needs.

I really just want to keep using my computer the way I was using it five or even ten years ago, but my computer now is so old I can't run modern versions of programs like Firefox, so I have to get a more modern computer.

Any guidance is greatly appreciated.
posted by Cinnamon Bear to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My son had a birthday, and he loves two things: Minecraft and World of Warcraft.
We bought him this new desktop, and he loves it.
I've heard it described as a laptop in a box, insinuating that it wasn't a flamethrower when it comes to speed, graphics and storage, but again - he loves it.
It was the easiest set up I've ever done and he was running in 10 minutes or less.
It has a small footprint compared to the desktops of old, and looks nice and black and shiny.

Hope this helps!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:47 PM on June 10, 2015

I've had good luck with refurb desktops from MicroCenter.

The selections changes over time (because: refurbished) but any of the things I see on that page right now meet all your criteria except (in some cases) small, quiet and (in all cases) Word and Excel pre-installed.

If it were me, and I could comfortably budget for it, I might go for one of the Intel Core i3 or i5 choices, with the idea that it could carry me a couple extra years before replacing it again.

Make sure to look at what video input types your monitor supports (VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort) and get a computer with a video output that's easy to connect to it. (There are cheap cables and adapters to go between most of the above options.)
posted by sourcequench at 12:51 PM on June 10, 2015

I'm pretty sure that any of these at newegg would do what you want.
posted by H21 at 1:07 PM on June 10, 2015

I was also popping in to suggest the desktop Major Matt suggested.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2015

Are you looking for a laptop or a desktop? Laptops are the quietest, usually. But they're also still usually a little more money, especially if you want some decent storage (i.e., not cloud-based). There are budget laptops, but they're all streaming and cloud-based, and have very little local storage.

Desktops can be loud, especially budget ones. I got a new Dell desktop and compared to my last desktop that we built from newegg it's almost completely silent. Maybe there's a slight sound compared to most laptops, but it's pretty good. That line is probably more expensive than what you have in mind, but maybe someone could weigh in on the noise from Dell's lower end desktops (the Inspiron group). My XPS is pretty large, also -- you mention you'd prefer small. I believe the Inspiron model is a bit smaller.

Unfortunately the Dells mostly come with Windows 8.1 right now, but some time after the end of July users are supposed to get a free Windows 10 upgrade. 10 should be much better, from the looks of it.

Microsoft is trying to emulate the Adobe model and go with cloud-based applications, too. Be aware of that -- if they tell you a trial version is installed, it's probably Office 365 they've installed and not something permanent.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2015

There's just not a lot of decisions you have to make anymore, it's not like it used to be where if you got the wrong chipset you could never play X kinds of games. All computers do the same thing now, it's just a question of which extra fancy bits you want or need.

How much do you want to spend? Here's a $300 Lenovo that probably has the power of 5 of your current computers. $379 for a little bit zippier machine.

Desktops are no longer superior in performance to laptops, offices don't buy desktops anymore except when they don't want the users taking them anywhere so the market is very nearly gone, so laptops actually have the superior technology unless you're trying to build a monster gaming rig.

You could buy anything but a Chromebook and get everything you need, and you're going to get approximately the same working life and support no matter what you buy.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies. I will consider them all carefully.

I was planning to buy a desktop, but I would be open to buying a laptop if I could hook it to my monitor. I don't have much need for the mobility of a laptop at this time, but that could change.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2015

All laptops will have at least one monitor port. I would guess that 80% have some form of HDMI port, but there are adapters if your monitor isn't HDMI.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:41 PM on June 10, 2015

Fyi, there's an acer identical spec-wise to that dell available for significantly less at newegg. It's actually on sale for $129(!!!!) right now which is just... so absurd for a pretty decent refurbished computer. 4gb of ram! 500gb of space!

I can't figure out if it's the version of win 8.1 some systems come with that includes a year of office, but most budget systems do include that.

You will not get a laptop as good as that desktop for $129. Maybe like, $249. If you have a monitor and everything, it's a no brainer. I'm actually going to forward that link on to several people still on XP right now...

On preview, that system will be nearly entirely silent since it's using an extremely low wattage processor. I've played around with modern celeron/atom desktop systems, i'm pretty sure the fans don't even spin unless you're doing seriously intensive stuff.
posted by emptythought at 3:14 PM on June 10, 2015

Also, just found after i posted, if you miss the newegg deal walmart(i know, ugh) is selling it for $10 more. I think this is going to be my go-to recommended budget system now.

As a side note i missed above, the GPU in these is surprisingly good. Like, it can even play newer games along the lines of starcraft 2 and minecraft perfectly fine. I also managed to play 4k video on the lower-spec tablet version of this CPU without dropping any frames(!!!!). It's not some uber awesome gaming rig, but the performance is a lot better than the price would imply. If by older games you mean early 2000s half life 2 era stuff, this will not stutter the way some older intel integrated graphics would and can really handle most pre-2009-10 or so games. Me and a friend got systems with this processor when it came out at a microsoft store deal and really abused the hell out of them.
posted by emptythought at 3:23 PM on June 10, 2015

Dell Inspiron Desktop
Intel® Core™ i3 Processor
4th Generation Intel® Core™ i3 Processor
Windows 8.1
8GB Memory
1TB Hard Drive

In an ideal world I'd have a core i5, discrete graphics card and SSD - but that would bust the budget.

A SSD would be a nice upgrade but millions of people manage just fine without one and I'm sure you will too.
posted by mr_silver at 3:27 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

don't get an AMD processor: i3 is the way to go. 8 gig memory to be safe, terabyte hd, SSD with any spare money because it makes everything amazingly zippy and delightful.

so, ^, basically
posted by Sebmojo at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

I got the super-low priced computer recommended by emptythought.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 5:52 PM on June 11, 2015

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