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Old Jan 19, 2006, 6:02 PM   #1
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I just recently checked up on my post from a month or two ago wherein I asked your advice on what system I should put together for my home computing in general and PSing of high-resolution photos specificallyI guess I shouldn't be surprised at the lively debate that post sparked, much of it Mac vs PC-related but it wasn't limited to that.

To recap, I'm a computer novice (I thought about wording that: "I am not one of you"). What I am is a surfing photographer (digital) whohas beenmaking due with about a 5 year-old system with an Athlon 1100 mhz processor and 256k of RAM. (I think I just used all my computer lingo in that one sentence.) All I know is that my computer works okay but is quite slow at times. I edit LOTS of photos, sometimes a hundred or more each day depending on how good the surf has been. I haven't ever shot in RAW mode with my 20D because according to the pamphlet my system doesn't meet the minimum requirements. Overall, I think I'm just ready for an upgrade.

A lot of you mentioned budget. IAM on a budget, yes. I want to stay in the $1000 range. By the way, let's forget Macs and just talk PCs. Nothing against Apple -I drool over that all-in-one design whenever I see one in a store - but I think I'll keep it simple and stick with a PC.

I found your responses to be extremely helpful and have taken a lot of notes. One thing though, you guys did go over my head most of the time. You know a lot, I don't, so that part was inevetiable for sure. What I took away from your posts as a whole was the fact that I'm probably not up to "building my own" as it were unless you think that is really necessary. It's ironic becauseotherwise I am ado-it-yourselftype, but with computers I'm just not competent enough to tackle that. So I figure I will try to find/outfit a system from a major manufacturer (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) instead. You guys didn't touch on this very much, which is the primaryreason for this rambling post.

And so my question is this: If you were to put together a fast yet affordable system and buy it pre-built from a big company, which one would you go with? Does it even matter?

As a reminder I'm talking about something with specs like this (and excuse me if I say it wrong):

hyperthreading technology

dual core processor (AMD 64x2 or Intel D or 4 or other)

64-bit whatchamacallit

1-3 gigs of RAM

7200 RPM drive(s)

250+ gigs storage

dual dvd reader/writer

Any and all input is tremendously appreciated! You guysare great!


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Old Jan 20, 2006, 12:37 AM   #2
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My personal experience goes like this:
I build my own systems. Always have.
Work doesn't (no shock there) and they buy only dell. My experience with them has been quite good. So I recommend them.

I would go for the Optiplex line (there "small business" division) but there is nothing wrong with their "home" systems (that I know of.)

A quick check of their systems seems like they bundle the "media" or "home" editions of XP with their "dimension" systems. I've only ever used the professional edition and I also need it (for networking, remote desktop control and IPSec reasons.) I would stay away from the home edition . Not that it is inherently bad, but a while back MS laid out the end-of-service lifetime of their OSs. As of right now the home edition ends first-line service later this year. The Professional edition goes awhile longer. They might extend this, but right now, I wouldn't touch the home edition for this reason.

Look at what you can spec out and tell us what it is. I don't believe I can send you a link to a configured system that I would build for you (i.e. a suggestion.)

Get a reasonably powerful CPU. If they list the FSB speed, get the highest you can.. 800 or more. Get 1G of ram as a minimum. At your budget, that is the best you can probably do.

Then send us the info and we'll go from there.

Unless you really, really care about specific parts it is very hard now adays to build it your self and save lots of money. You can get better performance by specifically choosing parts, but you won't save money that way. This wasn't true a few years ago, but it is now.

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Old Jan 20, 2006, 2:13 AM   #3
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I built my own systems for many years and now (mostly) I don't anymore.

About 5 years ago I realised that I was tired of fixing hardware and that Dell usually could sell me a system pre-assembled for the same price as I could assemble one from components.

In order of importance:
1. Get as much RAM as you can (1Gb minimum).
2. Get as big a HDD as you can. (photos take up lots of space)
3. DVD writer.

If budget is a concern, sacrifice processor speed for the above items.

I would also recommend Dell, not because their machines are any better, but because in my experience they will send someone to fix you machine when it breaks under warrantee. I have found this to be true in UK, HK, NL, ZA, so I presume they are just as good in the US.

The 3 year on site next day warrantee is HIGHLY recommended.

I would also agree that the extra few bucks for XPPro is definitely worth it.
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Old Jan 20, 2006, 8:21 AM   #4
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I just got a New HP Tower back in August '05. It came with an Intel Celeron 345D processor(I know a lot of people don't like those, but I have no qualms), 512MB Ram(I added another 512 in December), 160GB Hard drive, Dual layer DVD+/-RW with Light scribe technology & XP home. I also have a Western Digital 120GB external HD which is where all of my photos are backed up - original unaltered files. I also burn the same filesto a CD & they are in the lockbox at my local bank. For what small amount of overnite traveling I do, I jut bought a Toshiba Satellite Notebook/Laptop. So far, it does the job.

I could not deal with Dell, although a lot of people like them. I DO recommend buyinga ViewSonic monitor. I have a 17" ultra brite from 3 years ago & it looks a lot better than my girlfriend's 19" Sony. I eventually plan on buying a 19" Flat CRT from ViewSonic. I personally do NOT like Flat LCD computer monitors nor LCD Televisions. I also recommend the Canon i9900 printer.
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Old Jan 20, 2006, 9:38 AM   #5
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I don't want to confuse you, honest... I'm a geek (system admin and Databas Admin is what I do in order toenjoy myphotography) :G. I agree with what's been said, where I work we use Dell's very good product, very good service. I've built my own but can't do it for what I can buy them for any longer.

My only advice is this... AMD's dual core is a true dual core and Intel is not. If you want Dual Core AMD is the way to go. Many applications won't take advantage of it yet but that is changing. (CS2 will since Bridge is it's own application so in essence you are running two large apps at once and you can have Bridge doing things while you still work in photoshop).

For what it's worth, I've always purchased Intel until a few months ago when I really did my homework for my current PC. Everything I read showed that AMD beats Intel for Dual Core.

What I got is out of your price range but it's the fastest PC I've ever used, around

www.Ibuypower.com AMD 64 x 2 4400+, 4gig or Ram, SATA drives (1) 80Gig for Windows XP Pro, (1) 120gig for Applications. ATI 800 256Meg video card.Pioneer dual layer DVD/CD RW combo drive. (no monitor).

I've since added another 160gig SATA drive for backups(interanl), the 80gig internal drive from my old system and an external 80Gig (that IArchive the photo'sto also).

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Old Jan 20, 2006, 4:18 PM   #6
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I used to build my own PC's but have gotten lazy. I had one built locally last time and still was able to choose all the components. If I have any problems, I just bring it in to his shop which is 10 minutes away and it will be fixed within an hour or two. One thing I chose aside from what has already been mentioned is an Antec True Power supply. It is so quiet that sometimes I don't realize my computer is on. The Dell machines that I have been exposed to are so noisy that it is irritating... They have also been very unreliable and shipping either DOA or significant other problems. Before they will send you service in home, you usually will have to spend a few hours on the phone troubleshooting with a tech that often has difficulty with English. They also have been known to return computers with refurbs... Suffice it to say that I won't get a Dell. Though they tend to be priced well, their quality and support has gone way down in recent years... At least here in the USA.

Lastly, you might consider setting up a RAID mirror with two big hard drives. The price of hard drives have fallen quite low and this is a very good way to keep your data backed up on the fly. Many motherboards support RAID now and its easy to set up. Performance is barely affected and with the speed of today's processors it isn't an issue.


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Old Jan 23, 2006, 2:23 AM   #7
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I used to think Dell had great service. I purchaced a Dell, but I bought a server, with no operating system as it cost me about $25 more than I could buy the processor for alone. I had to add some more memory and a better vidio card, but I have less than 500 or so in the system. (I did not have to "pay" for my windows and I feel a bit guilty about that but I only use windows while using Photoshop anyway and use linux the majority of the time.) This was the cheapest way to go at the time. I have not had to call Dell service for anything on my system at home.
I support computers for a living and some of them are Dell and I dread having to call support now as it is mostly done out of India. I have nothing against India or the people from Inda, but I find it insulting when some one with a very thick Indian accent says "Hello my name is Bob, how may I be helping you?... Have a good one." The problem is Dell is trying to hide the fact that they have outsourced hundreds of jobs to Inda. If you are going to do it at least admit it and let them use there real names. Also most of the surpport techs know how to fix the problems, but stick to a script that more often than not does not help. They seem to have spent more money teaching them "American idioms," than they have spent training on how to fix the problems. I have found the numbers to call to get some one in the US.
Sorry to rant, but it is frustrating when my mother bought a Dell on my recomendation and when she had to call for support she could not understand the person she was talking to. There support has gone from legendary to poor at best, unless you happen to get some one from the US. I do not know of any majior brands that have any better support, just do not believe that Dell has good service. They HAD good service, but not any more.
My point is get the cheapest machine you can find, just do not expect good support. The only way to get good support is to buy a locally made machine (very hard to find anymore, but shops that cater to the gaming crowd do still exist) or get an Apple, perhaps even a Apple Mini.
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 1:07 PM   #8
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I don't think that anyone who wants customer service should consider Dell anymore. They've gone way downhill. And I'm speaking from the experience a friend of mine had very recently. She has spent a lot of money on Dells for her personal business (IT) in the past and it was recently time to upgrade a couple machines. 50% failure within the first month. It took an act of congress for her to get the support she deserved, regardless of the fact that she just spent many thousands of dollars with them. Apparently they have now outsourced their customer service to India, and this was a large factor. She has a business to run and can't spend all day (literally) on the phone with tech support. They did not care about their cusomer. She now swears that she will phase Dell out forever. They just lost tens of thousands of dollars.

Looks like this is in line with bigboyhf's and miatapaul's experience, too.

My point is that they are no longer any better than HP/Compaq, Gateway, Toshiba, etc.
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 1:53 PM   #9
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So this leads quickly to the question:
If Dell's support has gone down so much, who else would people recommend? Not for the quality of the computer, but for the quality of the service?

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Old Jan 24, 2006, 2:37 PM   #10
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The only other experience I have is from my Father-in-law, who just got an HP and had to contact service. I don't know the details but he was content with what they provided.

Maybe you could check consumers reports? I know they rate customer service.

If you buy from a local computer shop (NOT CompUSA, BesyBuy, etc), then they are in-person and you will probably talk to the person who will be working on your machine if need be. Talk to people and find the best local computer shop for service?
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