Small Form Factor PC in NYC?
January 19, 2008 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Where can I buy a small form factor PC system in New York City? (I'm not interested in a Mac Mini.)
posted by Pinwheel to Technology (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
J&R has stuff like this.

You should tell us what's wrong with the Mac mini. What kind of specs are you looking for that (fore example) the mini doesn't have?
posted by neustile at 11:21 AM on January 19, 2008

I've always thought Shuttles are quite cool. Whatever the equivalent of Fry's in NY is should have some.
posted by Nelsormensch at 11:23 AM on January 19, 2008

Ah, good suggestion. Thanks. I want to install Linux on it and though I know that I could feasibly do this with a mini, I just don't want to pay the assumed cost of an operating system. I suppose that's another requirement - no OS.
posted by Pinwheel at 11:25 AM on January 19, 2008

I really do think the mini is the cheapest built solution, even if you will be throwing away the OS. Shuttles go for $300 ish and you then need a hard drive, RAM, processor and optical. (As well as the time/knowhow to put those things in properly.) If you get the $599 mini you get all those parts, a year warranty, and you can have it today.
posted by neustile at 11:28 AM on January 19, 2008

A shuttle system would be perfect. So what is the NY equivalent of Fry's? It doesn't look like J&R is a Shuttle vendor.
posted by Pinwheel at 11:30 AM on January 19, 2008

Neustile, another hitch: I need room to put in a small PCI video capture card.
posted by Pinwheel at 11:31 AM on January 19, 2008

Being in Seattle, I don't really know where you could go to walk into a store and buy a micro pc out of the box in NYC, but I do know you'd pay about twice as much as you would if you bought online and snapped it together yourself.

Also, Shuttle cases are larger than HTPC (Home theater) cases, and more expensive, so if you want something of comparable size and price as a Mini, go for the HTPC.

Anyway, here's what I priced out on Newegg in about 5 minutes. You could surely do better if you spent 6 minutes or more.
  1. Antec Silver/ Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel/ Aluminum plate front bezel Veris Fusion 430 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
  2. BIOSTAR GF7050V-M7 LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 7050 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
  3. Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 Conroe 1.86GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
  4. Western Digital Caviar SE WD5000AAJS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
  5. CORSAIR ValueSelect 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop
Total: $570.95

Hard disk, memory, and graphics are far superior to the Mini, but note no onboard wireless.

(And on the subject of the Mac Mini: I have one and I like it very much. If you absolutely do not want to build your own PC (and I wouldn't blame you if you don't), the Mini is actually a comparatively inexpensive and painless way to go, since in my (limited) experience, prebuilt HTPCs are overpriced. I know you said you don't want a Mac Mini though, so that's why this paragraph is in parentheses... you can ignore it!)
posted by Hildago at 12:23 PM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't know the name off the top of my head, but there's at least one place in midtown that builds custom PC's to spec. You wouldn't get it today, but they'd put together Hidalgo's machine for you.
posted by mkultra at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2008

Flashtech in Hoboken was really knowledgeable and coherent on the phone and they do custom builds using Antec cases. I'm getting closer here.
posted by Pinwheel at 12:53 PM on January 19, 2008

Bear in mind you could fit six Mac minis in that HTPC case. Another factor if you can't go and see it and read reviews is the noise level: you don't really know what the heatsink, powersupply and case fans are going to sound like until you hear them. I have a tiny Shuttle Zen (smaller than the standard Shuttle form factor) the enjoyment of which is reduced by its single loud (though not unpleasantly breezy rather than whiny) fan.

The mini is nearly inaudibile unless you're within six feet of it in a dead silent room.

If you like the mini form factor but want to build it yourself, there's always the AOpen MiniPC. It's just barely possible to get it to come out as inexpensive as a base Mac mini, though.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:10 PM on January 19, 2008

Shuttles go for $300 ish and you then need a hard drive, RAM, processor and optical. (As well as the time/knowhow to put those things in properly.) If you get the $599 mini you get all those parts, a year warranty, and you can have it today.

First off, the OP specifically stated they didn't want a Mini.

Second, $599 is for the base system. If you want the 2 Ghz system with 2 Gb of RAM... that's $899!. Apple actually has the nerve to charge you $150 for a single Gig of RAM, when you can get eight gigs for the same price if you shop non-Apple! And the premium for a measly 160 Gb hard drive? Another $150! When you can 500 gigs of storage for $99! Crazy.

Third, Shuttle systems aren't averaging $300. Here's one for $230, supports Quad-Core cpus, native 1333MHz front-side bus, Intel 3100 graphics, and most importantly: a PCI x16 slot and an additional regular-PCI slot. You can put any SATA drive you like in the thing, which these days means a terabyte of space at your fingertips.

In contrast, the Mac-mini only comes with a 1.8 or 2.0 Ghz. dual-core cpu, 667MHz frontside bus, anemic Intel 950 graphics, 160Gb maximum hard drive space, a maximum of 2 Gb memory, and no expansion capabilities.

Now it's true that once you get your 2.6 Ghz. CPU, four gigs of memory, half-a-terabyte of hard drive space and your optical drive, the price tag rises a tad... to $625--more than $250 less than the Mini, but twice as powerful, with twice as much memory, and more than twice as much storage space.


For recommendations: I would suggest staying away from J&R and just go to your local Best Buy. Or, more sensibly, just get it online through NewEgg.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:13 PM on January 19, 2008 [4 favorites]

A Dell vostro slim tower is quite small and quite reasonably priced unless you have exotic hardware needs.
posted by gjc at 1:27 PM on January 19, 2008

c_d, in my defense, the OP gave me nothing to go on. He only (annoyingly) mentioned that he needed a PCI slot after I spent time looking for closed SFFs for him. The only thing I assumed was that he wanted to walk somewhere and pick up a machine today. I stand by my recommendation for the mini as the cheapest closed SFF box you can buy in a store.
posted by neustile at 1:36 PM on January 19, 2008

...That you have to pry open with multiple putty knives.
posted by Orb2069 at 4:26 PM on January 19, 2008

Last year I bought a small form factor/quiet pc from Puget Systems and can't recommend them enough. Their customer support is stellar and the computer is performing flawlessly. I'm never building my own again as long as these guys are around. When all was said and done, I paid about $300 more than a similarly configured pc from Dell, but it was worth it not to have to deal with Dell's shoddy workmanship and legendarily bad customer service.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:13 AM on January 20, 2008

One more thing, in case anyone is still reading this.

The best deal in the whole world when it comes to pre-built computer systems? Not Best Buy. Not Circuit-City. Not J&R. Not CompUSA. Nope.

The absolute best deal, hands-down, is to buy the parts from a Taiwanese dealer and have them assemble it for you. The Taiwanese dealers operate at ungodly-low margins--maybe a percent or two. You can get all the latest and greatest stuff that you'd get from a place like NewEgg, for roughly the same price. They don't just sell you the three brands they're allowed to sell you because of some corporate deal--like the chain stores. No, you can get basically anything from them.

But here's the beauty: if you buy all the parts from them, they almost always will offer to assemble the system for you for free. No operating system, naturally, but they'll slap it all together for you and make sure it boots properly.

I've found this to be true of every Taiwanese dealer I've ever dealt with. They expect you to come in and buy a single component... so when you give them all your business, they return the favor. It's an awesome deal.

You can find out the Taiwanese dealers because the names of their businesses are all kind of half-stupid generic-sounding names like "Luck Star Computers" or "First Pro Computers, Inc." Unfortunately, these days the one-family Taiwanese shops are going out of business because of the big-box retailers, but they almost always make it out to the computer show circuit. And lucky for you, you're in the heart of Computer Show Country!

There are two big computer show groups: Tri-State and MarketPro (Ken Gordon's KGP was the third, but he's out of the business these days). The concept is simple: a bunch of small dealers get together, rent space, and sell components at cut-rate prices. You pay an entry fee (usually around $5 or $6 bucks) and peruse the merchandise. Here's a listing of upcoming shows for Tri-State in your area, and here's the MarketPro list. Look for two-day shows instead of single-day shows--they'll have more vendors. The upcoming MarketPro show at the Meadowlands on Feb. 2nd/3rd should be pretty big.

As you can see, there are shows basically every weekend. You don't need to buy anything at all... just look around and get the vendor's information. Though, I'm sure they'd be happy to build you a system to your liking right then and there. That's just the kind of guys that go to those shows--these folks have been doing this since the early 80s. The grand-daddy of them all is the Trenton Computer Show--something like 3 acres of computer equipment. My dad used to take me when I was a wee-youngin' back in the day, and I will always remember it as one of the most magical parts of my childhood.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:01 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

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