New PC recommendations? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 10-11-2006   #1
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
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New PC recommendations?

So the semi-state-of-the-art machine I bought in 1999 and have been upgrading as component prices dropped is finally ready for the scrapheap. Its time to go shopping for a new machine and pick up a flat-panel monitor while I'm at it...

Video games will NOT be one of my main applications, though I may be running some computationally intensive stuff (numerical groundwater modeling). I hope to be able to salvage a 120 GB HD and DVD player immediately from the old system, which would give me 2 hard drives on the new machine. Will those home installations blow most warranties and is there a way around it?

I'm also thinking of running Linux and would like to hear about that, have heard that 2 HDs is a good way to go for running a dual OS for XP and Linux. Open to suggestions, my company's also got a deal with Dell that may bet me a good deal.

Any recommendations for a quiet, upgradable machine with good warranty and support that I can pick up new for about $700 - $800?


--Andy H.

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 10-11-2006   #2
pnw, Colorado
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I bought a Dell around xmas last year. its been a good machine.
"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 10-11-2006   #3
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Obviously, you want at least a DualCore processor. This will give you a good basis for running some intensive programs. They're (not sure who but I know it's happening) coming out with a new config with Quadcores but it'll probably cost a pretty penny. You want to be Vista capable, especially since it sounds like you'll be doing a lot of upgrading. Dell and HP both make good machines (unless you're getting a laptop). 120G is good for memory. Personally, I have only had bad experiences with Linux and like my Windows much better. But they say if you can get it set up right and learn to use it well Linux is great, maybe even better. I use XP Professional and really like what I can do with it. Groundwater mapping? Are you in geophysics or hydrology?

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Old 10-11-2006   #4
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I've been psyched with the Dell Precision line for thier expandability and lack of smile-and-paint bullshit preloaded. You can slap in a new hd on the precisions in an instant, no warranty problems. I think they tend to run around $1000 - $1200 for just the box, but you get what you pay for. I ordered up a few dell opti plex and have been equally pleased. They're a bit cheaper. Order from Dell Small business, cheaper, less cartoony crap preinstalled. For flat pannels, I'm looking at a 19" LG that I got for about $200 right now and I like it. Check out Sun Open Office as an alternative to Microsoft Office, I've been really impressed with it's spreadsheet and word processing prgrams. With respect to G.W. modeling, most computers these days will be fine for most applications. I have been running most MF models on a 1.73 Ghz centrino laptop with no problems...recent model is MF2K 3 layers, 144 x 132 row/column, 12 stress periods, 30 to 100 timesteps per sp. Say 30 second to 1.5 minute run time. It gets slow for inverse modeling, but that's just because the model is being run over and over again. I haven't found 3 ghz machines to be a whole lot faster, maybe 2x at best.

Good luck!
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Old 10-11-2006   #5
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i just bought a higher level pavilion that works great. 2 gig of ram, 250 gig hard drive, two dvd/cd-r's, dual core, and like Dan said, order from the small business place, i got mine through HP Small Biz Solutions or whatever its called through my work and it came with just the basics, none of the extra free games and free aol offers. HP, dell, compaq, are pretty good...gateway ive heard lots of problems regarding issues with the machine (hardware, software, periphrials, everything) and ive heard a lot of emachines fail pretty quick. ive never owned one of those so i cant say. ive always had great luck with the compaq/hp line, and im now on my third machine from them.
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Old 10-11-2006   #6
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I'm also looking for a new computer at the moment so read this thread some interest. I've got you beat though - haven't bought a computer since 1995.

I'm also looking at Dell mainly because of discount through business and have used Dell at work without too many problems (I also priced a HP with a work discount, cost was about the same with a slight nod to Dell). Dual Core processors seem to be the way to go if you're willing to spend the extra couple hundred bucks, however, from what I've seen you probably won't get the Dual Core processor + the full setup for 700-800 (unless, possibly, you cheap out on the monitor). So you might want to just go Pentium 4 or AMD equiv. - your modeling software (I'm guessing) won't take advantage of the dual core ability anyway, so you won't get much gain there unless you want to work with other applications simultaneously. I'd go at least 1GB on memory - esp. since you want to do some computationally intensive work. My understanding is unless you're a big gamer or making professional videos, go cheap on graphics card.

I find all the different lines these guys offer an annoying way to sell computers. I priced XPS line, Precision, and Dimension from Dell. Cost is all about the same for equivalent setups. It's all about what options you want available to you, but the only way to figure that out is going through the customizatin for each line.

Not sure about warranty issue with installing your own drive, but I'd like to know also. That would be pretty weak if that voids a warranty - I doubt it.

As for Linux, I guess my question is, why do you want to do it? Yes it will be easy to do with 2 hard drives, although it's also quite easy just doing partitions on one drive. If you just want to learn the new OS, then go for it. If you're hoping to reap some application benefits from it, then I'd just stick with Windows unless you have something particular in mind. Linux is great to work with for developing software and systems and running servers, but for normal desktop use Windows makes more sense.
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Old 10-11-2006   #7
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Don't forget that linux will make you a 31337 h4x0r!!!

I'll give Dell another nod since they've been good to me. I'm strictly byopc at home, but I use Dell and IBM at work. You don't really appreciate good customer service until you've had bad. IBM/Lenovo has given us a fair share of bad service. Dell has been pretty awesome.

Also since we all like to support our local kayak shops, you could try and find a local computer shop for a custom build. They usually support their stuff and have flexibilty in components so that you can cheap out where you don't need it, and beef up where you do. Not too many of these shops left since big box and direct order ran em out of town.
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Old 10-11-2006   #8
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The best desktop I have ever owned was a Dell 400SC server. It was whisper quite (speed step fan that kicks in when the process is being hammered) but the new ones I think have huge fans that might not be so quite (then they can become an issue). Buy it without an OS and then get a copy of XP Pro (if you want Windows) from

Here is the new version of the above server I used for a desktop:

$549 w/ 2.8Ghz Dual Core with 1GB RAM.

I am not sure about these new Dell servers but the old ones you could add in your own smoking graphics cards if you are into gaming or 3D rendering. I just use HTML editors, Office, and surf, and the machines was off the charts great.

Hope that helps...
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Old 10-11-2006   #9
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Build your own PC.

Grab a case, some ram, motherboard, and a new CPU (The Core2duo or the AMD X2 processor) and call it a day.

If you have questions or you go thise route I'll help pick components. I've built quite a few and it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

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Old 10-11-2006   #10
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I agree on building your own if you have the time and skills to do it right. As far as the systems working my experiences with HP and Dell have been the same. But I have had excellent customer service with HP. I got a new computer for Christmas a few years ago, hooked it up (even followed the instructions) and couldn't get it to work. I called the help line, got ahold of a real person fairly quickly and he stayed on the phone with me till 2 in the morning (don't know where he was). The port for the monitor was bad and we never got it to work. Twenty-four hours later, an HP box showed up at the front door and UPS took it back and I had another working computer a couple days later. At work (VRI IT) we use HP mostly and have had numerous HP returns and warranties and they have always shipped us new hardware in a couple days and even sent service people within 48 hours for big work (color printer warranty service). I've only had good experiences with HP.

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