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Thread: Decent Computer Idea Maybe

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Re: Decent Computer Idea Maybe

    OK so here's the deal: PC manufacturers, especially the ones who sell at big department stores like Wal-Mart or similar, are not making the world's greatest computers. They often use substandard components and when you try to use those components on a Linux system, you wind up buying a new component anyway, at least if you care about that component.

    Here's what I recommend: Don't buy a full PC. Start with your end goal. What do you want to do with it? You can leave things blank, but if you're looking for a cheap PC then you need to be careful not to get carried away.
    1. CPU family/socket type
    2. Memory needed now, and max memory.
    3. Video requirements? Probably if you're after bargain basement you'll want a built-in card that's good enough.
    4. Extra monitor ports?
    5. Disk interface (sata2/sata3/??), how many ports? Software RAID?
    6. Number/speed of USB ports
    7. Sound card?
    8. ...

    Number these and anything else you can think of by how important it is, maybe a note about it. As in, "Needs to have one but don't care what"

    Now, start price shopping. And for any price you put down, make sure it's supported under Linux or don't even write it down.

    Personally, I look at the box at Wal-mart or whatever, and then build something that winds up being 2 or 3 times (or more) of the Wal-mart box. They just don't carry anything that's interesting for me.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    Re: Decent Computer Idea Maybe

    Thanks for the advice!
    I probably will look forward to that.
    The main things I really care about are the CPU, and the RAM.
    That was a great reply, thanks again!

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    San Diego, CA, USA

    Re: Decent Computer Idea Maybe

    I concur with the comments, such as 1clue and sammiev, that say building your own computer costs more, as long as you're doing it right. If you want to dabble in buying a prebuilt computer that you know will work with Linux, then I think System76 is supposed to be good, but I haven't used them. I'm a laptop guy myself, so all of mine are prebuilt. Aside from my Linux test computer, which was a low-end Toshiba model, I have paid money to get good gear. It's the tradeoff that we all have to make. In that case, I have wished for more processing power, and honestly Ubuntu taxes that POS more than I wish it would. I use distros like Simplice5 on that machine though, and it works great. If you're stuck with a low-end model, then my recommendation is find a light distro and tailor it to what you need.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Land of fire and drought

    Re: Decent Computer Idea Maybe

    The main thing people should care about and they always overlook (almost) is the power supply. I wouldn't go near a generic silver box PSU. They are dangerous, inefficient and you run the risk of taking the rest of the components out (and worse) if and when it pops.

    I build my own and the first item on my list is always a name brand, 80+ at least efficient PSU. If you were to buy something like the Walmart special to upgrade, I would grab a decent power supply. I don't see anything low spec about an i5 with 3Gb of RAM.

    I build my own, BTW, and wouldn't have it any other way. I do it for one of the reasons I use Ubuntu: customisation. I can have a machine that is perfectly suited to what I do/need/want, and in my own experience, it has never been more expensive to what I would get off the shelf because what I want isn't on the shelf in the first place. I would have to get it custom built and that would be more expensive than building it myself.

    For a custom machine, you choose the parts, the builder charges for putting it all together.

    If you were going to build a machine exactly the same as the one in the store, of course, why would you bother? It would always be cheaper from the store. It's a no-brainer.
    Last edited by Bucky Ball; November 24th, 2013 at 07:00 PM.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Highway to hell
    Ubuntu Development Release

    Re: Decent Computer Idea Maybe

    Quote Originally Posted by fakefly2 View Post
    Thanks for your reply! Exactly what components of that model were low-end (assuming it an an intel i5 processor with 3ghz). I am not trying to prove you wrong at all, I'm honestly desperate to know. Maybe I could find a low-priced component to improve that! Thanks
    You keep mentioning 3GHz, but the thing is, frequency is not the measure of power, otherwise the AMD FX 9590 would be the world's most powerful CPU. CPUs make more or less work per cycle based on architecture, so a 4.2GHz quad-core Piledriver will make much less work than a 3.4GHz i5.

    Now for components.

    First off, the PSU itself. Low-end builds usually house the cheapest possible PSU that can only provide adequate power to the pre-installed components. Not good, you want some headroom for future upgrades (like the CPU) so a larger PSU (350-450W should be good) is alright, and you want a quality product like Seasonic-manufactured power supplies (XFX uses Seasonic components in their Core Edition PSUs).

    Second, the motherboard. I recommend 8+2 power phase motherboards for i5s and i7s, it's practically mandatory for AMDs 125W FX-series. Mobo needs to support the CPU you intend to install there, low-end mobos tend not to support i5 and i7 processors (cause they'd likely burn out the VRMs). Low-end mobos also tend to support only low-speed RAM like 1066/1333MHz. VRM heatsinks on the mobo are a must-have for i5/i7 due to increased power draw, aftermarket cooling is advised since Ivy Bridge and Haswell heat up like crazy and can overheat on a stock cooler. Then you have the socket type, 1156 is for Nehalem/Westmere, 1155 is for Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge, and 1150 is for Haswell and next-gen Broadwell which will come out in about a year or so, buy the wrong CPU generation and you have a useless CPU you can't plug into anything.

    Third, the RAM modules. Low-end builds have cheap low-speed RAM, that has low frequency and large latency, I've even seen DDR3-1066 CL9 in those. That's a big no-no, you want low latency and large frequency. Plus, the RAM voltage is also important, Ivy Bridge needs 1.5V or low-voltage 1.25/1.35V modules, get 1.65V ones and you can end up with a fried CPU after a while. Intel CPUs house the memory controller on the die, not on NB, and increased RAM voltage increases on-chip memory controller voltage as well.

    Fourth, the HDD. HDDs in low-end builds are slow, I've even seen WD Green in there. What's used in those machines are usually low-speed drives with long seek time, while you need to look at high-speed drives with low seek time.

    Fifth, the case. Housing an i5 requires decent case airflow, which cheap cases on low-end builds lack. They even lack the fan mounts so you'd likely have to make the mounts yourself. Cases are also ATX midi towers or mATX cases, sometimes with custom-shaped PSUs and/or motherboards (Acer PCs pop into mind immediately), so they can also limit your selection of components you can put in there. Not to mention that they are built with thin metal sheets that conduct vibrations from the fans/HDDs inside and can be quite noisy. I know that because I have such a case which required extensive modifications.

    Finally, if you buy a pre-built machine, you void the warranty as soon as you pop the side-panel off. Meaning that if something dies after a month, you'll have to pay for repairs yourself. All of the above is the reason I avoid pre-built machines like the plague, they aren't worth the money you pay for them and you'd be better off building it yourself, at least you know you built something that'll last. And it's not like it's hard to build a PC yourself, one phillips screwdriver is all you need, and sometimes it's cheaper than a pre-built configuration.

    As a sidenote, I googled "Gateway Silky Silver" and everything I get are laptops, and you did mention a laptop in the OP. If it really is a laptop, you can forget the idea immediately because there is no way in hell you can install a desktop CPU in a mobile platform, or any other CPU than stock one. There is only one of those with a Pentium, and that's an Ivy Bridge Pentium, meaning that even if you find a Haswell mobile processor, you still wouldn't be able to fit it inside. Plus, laptop motherboards are designed for specific CPUs, any other won't be recognized by it's BIOS and even if it is, you'd have a dead laptop soon if the CPU has a higher TDP (you don' have power-draw tolerance like you do on desktop motherboards).

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