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Old Sep 4, 2011, 9:09 PM   #11
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JimC, sounds like you keep your ear to Tom's hardware. I'm using PSE, which sounds like it is set to a 32 bit system even if installed on a 64 bit machine. The real crunch occurs when running Topaz, so I imagine the extra ram will benefit me greatly. Honestly, the bigger issue I have is video work, so I'm looking forward to the sandy bridge architecture.

All my software runs well in Vista, so I don't anticipate any problems in Win7, especially after receiving comments about the photo software. My biggest concern was the 64 bit OS, but that's been answered.

I've got 4x4gb of ram in my cart for $105. I'm not as worried as I used to be about the latency given the overall system improvements I'm receiving. That, and 2x4gb of CAS9 is $50, but CAS7 is $95. It's be worth it if I needed it. That might be my upgrade in 2 years along with a bigger/better video card.

I agree with your position on the OEM versions of the software. It doesn't last long enough to worry about. I have tried open office - not bad at all.
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Old Sep 4, 2011, 9:56 PM   #12
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I'm in negotiations on that topic as we speak. I'm replacing the mobo, cpu, ram, OS, and boot drive, but if I get another power supply and video card I can set up the kids with their own system. I already have the case and monitor we'd need. Not a really easy choice as the power supply + video card = $350.
How old are these kids and do they need a video card capable of gaming or something?

You could buy an entire machine with something like a dual core E5800, 4GB of DDR3, a 500GB Drive, CD/DVD burner, keyboard, mouse, and 64 Bit Win 7 Home Premium for $309 right now from Dell Outlet, including a 1 year warranty and free shipping (Dell has free ground shipping on refurbished machines from Dell Outlet, and you get the same warranty you get with a new machine).

See some listings for one of their less expensive models (Inspiron 560) here:

http://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineS...=1071&fid=1072

I see some with 6GB of DDR3, 1TB Drive, 64 Bit Win 7, CD/DVD Burner, and a dedicated video card for around $379 right now. Here's a screen capture of one like that:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4536228/refurb5.png

They've got some cheaper models with dual core AMD CPUs for even less (around $289 for an Inspiron 570 with 64 bit Windows 7, 500GB drive, 4GB of DDR3 and an AMD Athlon X2 245).

Those models have a low end PSU (usually either 300 or 350 watts with no extra connectors for video cards). So, you'd need to stick with entry level video cards with Dell's entry level machines. But, if you're just looking for a box the kids can use for internet browsing, homework, etc., I don't think I'd spend $350 for a PSU and Video card for them to use an old system board, etc.; when I could get an entire refurbished machine with a newer Operating System version, more memory, and a 1 year warranty for less. ;-)

But, if you need to use a video card that draws more current and needs a separate PSU connection, then you need to move up to the more expensive XPS 8300 in the Dell Lineup. Those have a 460 Watt PSU in them with Sandy Bridge chipsets. They start out at around $699 now (new) for one with a Core i5 2310 and 6GB of memory.

http://www.dell.com/us/p/xps-8300/fs

If you go refurbished (and that's what I do if buying Dell), they start out for around $549 right this minute from Dell Outlet, and you can usually find one with a Core i7 2600 with 8GB of DDR3 for around $700 (versus around $849 after discounts for a new one). Get those refurbished boxes here (but, they don't have much in stock right this minute, so I'd check back later to see what they've got):

http://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineS...=2202&fid=3628
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Old Sep 4, 2011, 10:30 PM   #13
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I've got 4x4gb of ram in my cart for $105. I'm not as worried as I used to be about the latency given the overall system improvements I'm receiving. That, and 2x4gb of CAS9 is $50, but CAS7 is $95. It's be worth it if I needed it. That might be my upgrade in 2 years along with a bigger/better video card.
Personally, I'd worry about the amount of memory, not the timing. Unless you're trying to squeeze every last drop of performance out of a machine, the cost/performance ratio doesn't warrant spending much more to get less latency on the memory side.

Video, huh? What software are you using?

Note that Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 has what Adobe refers to as their Mercury Playback Engine that makes use of CUDA, so if you plan on using that software at some point, going Nvidia makes more sense. See the list of supported cards on the bottom of this page:

http://www.adobe.com/products/premiere/tech-specs.html

Also note that there are some "hacks" to make other Nvidia cards work with GPU Acceleration with the Mercury Playback engine.
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Old Sep 5, 2011, 3:00 AM   #14
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The $350 for a new PS and video card would be for me - a 650 watt Antec and an NVidia 560 Ti would allow me to roll the entire old computer over to the kids. The prices you mention are intriguing, though.

For my upgrade I'm looking at the i5-2500k for $220, 16gb Ram for $105 (I remember shelling out $200, eagerly, for 8 mb of RAM because it was such a good price...), Gigabyte mobo for $150, a WD hard drive 1.5tb 7200rpm SATA 3 for $100, and Win7 Home Premium for $100. Add in an aftermarket cpu cooler and fans and I'm just over $700. I'm not comfortable with SSDs given their reliability issues and price to make the jump at this time, but they would make one sweet boot drive.

I'm using Pinnacle Studio for video editing. I've looked at the Sony lineup but for my needs Pinnacle works well. CS5 is a bit too spendy given my needs. I remember transcoding 1 hour of 1080p video from the original apple format into avi, and my machine ran for something like 28 hours to get it done (with color correction, lighting enhancement, croping, etc.). Based on some benchmarks I've seen, the new system should do that in 7 hours for the cpu upgrade alone.
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Old Sep 5, 2011, 1:59 PM   #15
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I checked a comparable build from Dell and it was $1700. I couldn't believe that they wanted $440 to go from 6g ram to 16g.
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Old Sep 5, 2011, 2:12 PM   #16
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Nope... you don't want to buy many upgrades from them. Stick with the best deals and add more later yourself if you need it. ;-)

Going new, it looks like you can pick up a box with a Core i7 2600 with 8GB of memory and a dedicated video card for $849 right now. See here:

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellsto...el_id=xps-8300

They're using all 4 slots (4x2GB DIMMs). So, you'd have to throw it away if you want 16GB (or throw half of it away and replace two of them with 4GB DIMMs for 12GB Total). 8GB is probably the "sweet spot" anyway though (you'll see diminishing returns going more than that).

The extra threads you'd get with a Core i7 2600 over a Core i5 2500K do appear to help with video transcoding. Note some of the video related benchmarks showing how much better a 2600 does here:

http://tinyurl.com/3ukpdqu

You can't OC the Dell. But, you'd have a more powerful CPU to start out with going that route ($849 for a box equipped with a Core i7 2600, 8GB of memory, 64 Bit win 7, dedicated graphics card).

You can get one like that for around $700 from Dell Outlet (or even less when they have a coupon code sale going for them). But, the listings are pretty bare right this second (probably sold out because of orders placed over a long weekend with nobody adding returning stock back to the listings). Chances are, they'll list a bunch of them over the next few days after they get back to work. Just watch for them here:

http://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineS...=2202&fid=3628
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Old Sep 5, 2011, 2:20 PM   #17
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You may also want to look at cyberpowerpc.com. Sometimes you can buy a box already assembled from them for about what the parts would cost you (and they'd give you a 3 year warranty on them). For example, start with something like this one. Then, tweak as desired, depending on whether the parts for addons are cheaper at newegg.com or from them. I'd upgrade the PSU for starters.

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/Gamer_Xtreme_2200/
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Old Sep 5, 2011, 3:43 PM   #18
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...You can get one like that for around $700 from Dell Outlet (or even less when they have a coupon code sale going for them). But, the listings are pretty bare right this second (probably sold out because of orders placed over a long weekend with nobody adding returning stock back to the listings). Chances are, they'll list a bunch of them over the next few days after they get back to work. Just watch for them here:

http://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineS...=2202&fid=3628
Sometimes you'll find vendors that stock them like that, too. For example, here's one for $699.95 with a Core i7 2600, 8GB of memory, a 1.5GB Drive and a dedicated video card:

http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?InvtId=XPS-8300-I734-R

But, the best way to get them is using a coupon code for more off, buying them directly from Dell Outlet instead. You see Dell Outlet coupons for 15 or 20% off on a regular basis. So, if you buy direct from Dell Outlet with a coupon code, you could get one like that for under $600. They had one good through Friday for 20% off. But, it's expired now. Here's one place to find them:

http://www.twitter.com/delloutlet

Again, keep an eye on the listings at Dell Outlet for that model, and they'll probably have a lot of them back in stock this week. If I notice any coupons for them anywhere, I'll let you know.
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Old Sep 5, 2011, 6:09 PM   #19
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Every time I have thought of building a PC, after pricing out everything from mobo to o/s, I find I can buy one ready made, with o/s installed, and often including s/w which I would have to buy anyway, for less money, making my time and effort worth negative dollars.
Here is one I ran across: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...sku=G180-13103

The last time I bought from Dell, the PC was DOA. Not a hard fix - one of the connectors got knocked loose in shipping. Fixed it myself after the customer service rep wanted me to return it and wait for them to do the repair. OTOH, the last time I had a problem with something from TD, I called and they shipped me a replacement along with a prepaid return label to send them back the defective unit.

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Old Sep 5, 2011, 7:44 PM   #20
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That happens (shippers knock something loose). I don't know how Dell handles a DOA. But, all of their desktops include in home service after remote diagnostics anyway (basically, they troubleshoot them, ship the parts and send a tech out to install them). With laptops, they do it both ways (some of them have a "basic"service plan that's mail in, with in home service running a bit more, depending on the laptop model).

I've bought multiple refurbished machines from Dell Outlet and they've all arrived looking and working like new. But, I've never needed to use their service.

Yep.. price wise, you usually won't do any better than you can do buying a machine from a major manufacturer if you're a good shopper, unless you need something more than a typical desktop.

I always go refurbished and wait for a coupon code to get more off. For example, a system like the one I mentioned above at geeks.com ($699.95 for a refurbished Dell XPS 8300 with a Core i7 2600, 8GB of DDR3, 1.5TB Drive, Win 7 Home Premium, 802.11b/g/n Wireless Adapter, HD 5770 video) would only run about $595 with a 15% off coupon code directly from Dell Outlet, and they have those on a very regular basis. They had one for 20% off on Friday. They're just low on stock right now at Dell Outlet. They should have more listed next week (and you'll usually find them equipped in a variety of ways, depending on how the customer originally ordered them).

I stay on their mailing lists for coupon codes, too. They have separate lists for the Home and Business Dell Outlet coupons. Sign up to get the e-mails from them here:

http://www.dell.com/content/topics/s...cs=&l=en&s=dfo

That Gateway at tigerdirect.com looks like a good deal. It's got roughly the same specs as that Dell, only it appears to be new instead of refurbished. The video card in that Gateway is nowhere near as fast as the ATI 5770 card in the refurbished Dell I just posted a link to. But, the Gateway does use 2x4GB DIMMs (leaving 2 slots open for more), whereas the Dell is using all 4 slots (4x2GB), making it harder to upgrade later since you'd need to throw some of it away to add more using larger 4GB DIMMs.

But, you don't get the quality of components with those types of boxes that you can get building one yourself or ordering from a Custom Builder. The BIOS is also "locked down" pretty tight with the major retail brands (forget overclocking).

There are pros and cons to both approaches. If you want a really high end box with more than a few internal disk drives and want to overclock and use higher end graphics cards, then you're probably better off using a custom build. But, if you're looking for good "bang for the buck" at a lower price point, the major brands are usually going to save you some money, especially going refurbished using coupon codes for even more off.

I've bought 4 Dell machines that way so far (refurbished from Dell Outlet using coupon codes for even more off). I'm typing this post using one of them now (I'm sitting in a recliner in our den using a Dell Inspiron 1720 laptop that I bought in refurbished condition from Dell Outlet in December 2007). It still works fine. I'm running SimplyMEPIS 11 on it, which is a Linux distribution using a KDE 4.5 desktop with a Debian Stable base + lots of updated software from community repositories.
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