Buying a desktop computer



  • So, as the title says, I'm looking for a replacement for my parents' Core 2 Duo computer, which is starting to get slightly slower after 10 years (still guaranteed to get OS updates until 2025 though. Take that, smartphones).

    The only requirements are

    • Must be able to run Windows, Office, and web browsers smoothly (even Discourse).
    • Must be able to run Linux (just in case)
    • Must have a bunch of USB ports to plug stuff into (ideally 4, at least. The more the better).
    • Should be usable for another 5-10 years
    • Should be able to run Ubuntu in a VM inside Windows at decent speed
    • Should have a small form factor, probably similar to an Intel NUC. That's not a strict requirement, but I figure there's no reason to waste space on the table nowadays. Right?
    • Bonus points if it can emulate Wii games at full speed.

    How much should I spend? How should I even approach the search? What should I check before buying? Halp?


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @anonymous234
    I think that these two requirements are mutually exclusive:

    • Should be usable for another 5-10 years
    • Should have a small form factor, probably similar to an Intel NUC

    When you get into small form factor (especially super small like the NUC), the tradeoff between performance and heat is so extreme that the parts will be obsolete or damaged before 5 years runs, much less 10.

    Similarly, port count tends to be another thing on the chopping block in SFF computing.



  • @anonymous234 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    replacement for my parents' Core 2 Duo computer

    Ubuntu in a VM

    emulate Wii games at full speed

    Are these things your parents will ever want to do?


  • SockDev

    @anonymous234 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Should be able to run Ubuntu in a VM inside Windows at decent speed

    So, you'll need a fast CPU and plenty of RAM.

    @anonymous234 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Bonus points if it can emulate Wii games at full speed.

    And you'll need a beefy graphics card.

    This means
    @anonymous234 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Should have a small form factor, probably similar to an Intel NUC.

    probably won't happen. As @izzion says, you're not going to be able to find a suitable machine that'll last as long as you want, especially as you want lots of ports too.

    The way I see it, you need to make two decisions before you can choose the rest:

    • Intel or AMD CPU?
    • NVIDIA or AMD GPU?

    Answer those first, and the rest will follow fairly quickly.


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @izzion
    For a "parents machine", something like this would probably be fine - http://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/compare?ocs=fcdcwst313b,fdcwst313b,fdcwst315s

    (HP has a similarly priced model, but it looks like that line is 3-4" taller, hard for me to find the rest of the dimensions).

    As others have mentioned, Ubuntu in a VM / Emulating Wii games are going to require a significantly more powerful computer.



  • @izzion
    I've seen these smaller-but-not-that-small boxes, that would work too:

    As long as the inside parts aren't unnecessarily overpriced due to them being different to the most common ones.

    Otherwise I guess I'll just have to get a proper desktop box.

    @hungrier No, but I might use it some time too (to be honest, I was kinda thinking of using it as a temporary replacement for my dying laptop until I can get another new computer). And I think it's kind of a nice cutoff point: if it can run Ubuntu in a VM, it will probably be fine with Photoshop or a video editor or any other stuff like that we might need some day.

    Actually, maybe. My father has certainly used VMs before.



  • @RaceProUK said in Buying a desktop computer:

    The way I see it, you need to make two decisions before you can choose the rest:

    Intel or AMD CPU?
    NVIDIA or AMD GPU?

    Which is better? :trolleybus:


  • SockDev


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @anonymous234
    Intel CPU, unless you want to take a chance on the bleeding edge of the new AMD line and hope that its real world performance (and reliability!) matches the benchmarks.

    GPU is a coin flip, though in general there are more AMD driver horror stories than NVidia driver horror stories floating around for current products. (OTOH, AMD has done a bunch in the past year or so to streamline their driver down, and I'm personally an AMD user with no issues). And the Intel Integrated Graphics are actually at a point where they're quite acceptable, and on par with the $100 range NVidia/AMD graphics cards, so unless you're building an actual gaming rig where the $300+ GPUs make sense, I would recommend not using either, and just using the Intel HD Graphics.


  • SockDev

    @izzion Would Intel HD be powerful enough for Wii emulation though?


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @RaceProUK

    Intel Onboard: Intel HD3000 and HD4000 can run Dolphin at reasonable speeds, and can even run many games with enhancements; but they will struggle with demanding titles. A full fledged graphics card is highly recommended. IGPs older than the HD3000 are not officially supported.

    Given that the HD3000 was the 2011 version of the integrated graphics (on high end 2nd gen Core processors), the current stuff will definitely be in the supported category.

    And the HD Graphics processors on 7th gen Core processors range from 2-3x as fast as the HD3000 (including even their own "dedicated" memory if you're in the Iris Graphics end of the Core i7 market), so they should easily clear the bar of working well with Dolphin.

    *Disclaimer: I am not an emulator user or expert, I'm basing this solely on Dolphin's FAQ and an analysis of the technical capabilities of the respective graphical chipsets.



  • @RaceProUK said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Should be able to run Ubuntu in a VM inside Windows at decent speed

    So, you'll need a fast CPU and plenty of RAM.

    Not particularly. Ubuntu doesn't really need that much.



  • @RaceProUK said in Buying a desktop computer:

    @izzion Would Intel HD be powerful enough for Wii emulation though?

    I would think so. The Wii is 10-year-old hardware, and it wasn't exactly high-powered hardware even then. I could test it out on my laptop, which I've used for Gamecube games.


  • SockDev

    @loopback0 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Ubuntu doesn't really need that much.

    Funnily enough, Ubuntu wasn't the part I was worried about :P



  • @anonymous234

    For small form factor, just look for small cases that take micro ATX or even ITX motherboards. From there, everything should be standard parts. For running VMs and a Wii emulator, it might be worth getting a higher-end Core i7.


  • kills Dumbledore

    @Dragnslcr said in Buying a desktop computer:

    I could test it out on my laptop, which I've used for Gamecube games.

    The Wii was basically a slightly overclocked Gamecube anyway, so anything that can run the one without problems will probably be fine with the other


  • SockDev

    Well i do so enjoy building PCs.

    here's my recommendation for an all around workable PC with decent gaming chops as well.

    . https://pcpartpicker.com/list/CkPmKZ

    Optional modifications:

    • OS adds 90$ but if you already have licences you can drop it.
    • if you're not going to game modern games nore AAA games you can drop the Graphics card and pick up one later if gaming performance is not sufficient. that will whack a hammilton short of two benjamins off the price.
    • it's a miniITX build which raises prices, so i also i recreated it as a microATX build which whacks about a benjamin off the price

    of course.... if you want to buy the PC prebuilt that's gonna add to the price, and in general drop the upgradeability and build quality.

    with this one you can spend ~600$ for the base build (for the microatx buld minus OS and GPU) that has cheap and easy upgradeability and better component quality than a system builder will give you and then just keep adding and upgrading components one at a time, instead of needing to replace the entire PC every 18-24 months.

    but that's just my advice.

    i can't remember if you're local to me or not but i'll offer to put it together for you if the concept of building your own PC scares you. :-) not that i think you will want that, being a geek yourself


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @accalia
    Point of clarification: you can ONLY transfer a Windows license if you have a "Full Purchased Product" (Microsoft's term for the retail box they sell off the shelf at Wal-Mart) license. If your Windows license is a sticker that came with the computer when you purchased it (or the $90 OEM version on PCPartPicker), it is NOT transferable between PCs.

    And technically (aka by Microsoft's licensing terms), upgrading the motherboard and CPU in an "existing computer" is in fact purchasing a new computer and thus triggers the same considerations for OEM licensing. Which is why you have to phone activate rather than auto internet activation when you do that.

    They generally don't go after onesy-twosy license violations like the above for home users. But I don't recommend transferring your "free windows 10 upgrades" from your old 2011 PCs at work when you do a large scale upgrade -- that WILL get your company on the license audit radar.



  • The Intel HD 3000 in my 2011 MacBook Air had a surprising amount of longevity. Took until last year until I declared it unfit for current usage. And from what I've heard, Iris Pro is nearly on par with an entry-level gaming graphics card (places itself between GT940 and GTX950 afaik). So Intel graphics should not be discounted. For any sort of serious gaming I'd go with a proper gaming graphics card, though.

    Fun fact about Windows licenses. I managed to get my Windows 8 Pro upgrade license verified without supplying my Windows 7 license, pretty much giving me a really cheap Windows 8 without having to sacrifice my Windows 7 key. (About $50 for an early adopter upgrade license.)


  • SockDev

    All this talk of new PCs: I'm probably overdue a desktop upgrade. Good thing is I have a GeForce GTX970, so I don't need a new GPU. I think the bottleneck now is the CPU: an old 8-core AMD sliver of silicon.

    But that's for another thread.


  • SockDev

    @izzion a valuable and necessary clarification.



  • @izzion said in Buying a desktop computer:

    And technically (aka by Microsoft's licensing terms), upgrading the motherboard and CPU in an "existing computer" is in fact purchasing a new computer and thus triggers the same considerations for OEM licensing. Which is why you have to phone activate rather than auto internet activation when you do that.

    I wonder what that would mean for me if I upgrade my desktop motherboard. Right now it's running windows 10, upgraded from MSDNAA Windows 7.

    How does the phone activation work anyway? I've never done one.


  • SockDev

    @hungrier said in Buying a desktop computer:

    How does the phone activation work anyway? I've never done one.

    I believe you just phone an MS line, read a number to them, and they read one back for you to enter into the dialog.


  • SockDev

    @RaceProUK said in Buying a desktop computer:

    @hungrier said in Buying a desktop computer:

    How does the phone activation work anyway? I've never done one.

    I believe you just phone an MS line, read a number to them, and they read one back for you to enter into the dialog.

    yep. it's an IVR system.

    basically you give it a number the computer displays for you then it asks you how many PCs this licens is installed on, you tell it the truth and if the license would be valid it gives you a number to type into the PC to activate it.


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    If you want cheap and SFF, there are good deals to be had on HP EliteDesk machines on Woot.

    But, it doesn't really fit most of the requirements you put in place for yourself. Would probably meet the needs of the parents though.



  • I just wanted to say that it takes INSANE computational power to emulate 6th-gen consoles. You can have your PC run Witcher 3 on max settings in Full HD at 60FPS and still have problems getting PCSX2 to full speed. Granted, from what I heard, Dolphin is a bit easier on CPU than PCSX2, but then I only ever tried to emulate GC twice, both on not very beefy PCs, and have no experience at all with Wii, but just keep in mind that emulation is srsbsns and potentially requires better CPU than Visual Studio 2017.



  • You know what, I'll get a cheap-ass thing and use LiquidSky or some other cloud service for the computationally expensive stuff.



  • @loopback0 Even better just run the Linux Subsystem for windows.



  • @anonymous234 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    web browsers smoothly (even Discourse)

    That hardware doesn't exist yet :trollface:



  • @RaceProUK said in Buying a desktop computer:

    • NVIDIA or AMD GPU?

    Answer those first, and the rest will follow fairly quickly.

    He/She said:

    @anonymous234 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Must be able to run Linux (just in case)

    This tells me Nvidia



  • @accalia said in Buying a desktop computer:

    here's my recommendation for an all around workable PC with decent gaming chops as well.
    . https://pcpartpicker.com/list/CkPmKZ

    I disapprove of only 2 RAM slots on the motherboard. No upgrade capability.

    Also, 4 internal SATA ports instead of 6. Not as big of a deal, but having an option to just shove in a bunch of disks is always nice.



  • My rules for buying PC-s.

    • 4 RAM slots, 6 SATA ports on mobo. I also require one PCI slot for my old TV card, you probably won't need that.
    • No less than 8 GB RAM, 16 recommended
    • At least 250 GB SSD for your main disk. 512 if you can.
    • If you dual boot, buy more SSD-s. Don't try to shove multiple OS-s on one.
    • Another 3-4 TB disk for storage. SSD-s are ALMOST at this size / price ratio, but not yet
    • No idea about GPU, I usually just buy something low to mid range, with enough hdmi ports
    • If you need to cut somewhere, cut on CPU cores (i7 -> i5 -> i3)
    • Buy a DVD RW drive. You'll NEVER use it, until something goes wrong, then you'll be glad to have it


  • @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Buy a DVD RW USB drive.

    FTFY.

    Use it if you ever need it in any of your computers



  • @TimeBandit said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Use it if you ever need it in any of your computers

    Well..... until you want to boot up linux that's having problems with your motherboard's USB controller, or there's a conflict with your keyboard and printer, or...



  • @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Also, 4 internal SATA ports instead of 6. Not as big of a deal, but having an option to just shove in a bunch of disks is always nice.

    I have a motherboard with four ports, and I had to buy a SATA pcie card in order to connect my optical drive (and esata port on the case which I never use)



  • @cartman82 I guess I'm lucky since I never had those problems :shrug_tone1:



  • @TimeBandit said in Buying a desktop computer:

    @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Buy a DVD RW USB drive.

    FTFY.

    Use it if you ever need it in any of your computers

    Just run a PXE server on another machine temporarily. Or use the other machine to make a bootable USB stick.



  • @loopback0 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Or use the other machine to make a bootable USB stick.

    That's what I do, but I also have a USB-DVD Writer. Kind of useful, specially for $30


  • SockDev

    @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    I disapprove of only 2 RAM slots on the motherboard. No upgrade capability.

    find me a miniITX motherboard with more than two RAM slots. I built miniITX because small form factor was reqauested, that has tradeoffs

    the microATX build is all around a better choice, more expandability and cheaper components, but it fails the SFF requirement.


  • SockDev

    @TimeBandit said in Buying a desktop computer:

    FTFY.

    agreed. the USB is more flexible option all things told, and if it's not working well... you can buy an internal one for like 20$ these days because they're just really not that relevant anymore so they're getting dirt cheap.

    i'll probably buy one or two to store when they drop another 30% or so so i have them just in case before they start spiking in price as supply dwindles.



  • @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    I disapprove of only 2 RAM slots on the motherboard. No upgrade capability.

    Can't I, like, take the old RAM out and put some new? I didn't know it was add-only.



  • @accalia said in Buying a desktop computer:

    find me a miniITX motherboard with more than two RAM slots. I built miniITX because small form factor was reqauested, that has tradeoffs

    My current server mobo.

    It's gen 4, but surely there are similar choices for current gen?


  • SockDev

    @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    but surely there are similar choices for current gen?

    not that i've found, especially not in the price range that would make an ITX build merely "expensive compared to MicroATX" instead of "FUCKING HELL YOU SPENT WHAT?!"



  • @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Buy a DVD RW drive. You'll NEVER use it, until something goes wrong, then you'll be glad to have it

    I've been booting OSs exclusively from USB sticks since the Windows 7 days and never had a problem.



  • @anonymous234 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    Can't I, like, take the old RAM out and put some new? I didn't know it was add-only.

    Yeah, if you want to throw the old RAM away.

    And lose money on buying more expensive larger modules (eg. 2 x 16 instead of 4 x 8 in this setup).

    There's nothing sadder than seeing a box full of 2 GB RAM modules in my company that we can no longer use to revive old crappy 2 slot motherboards.

    Well, I guess genocide is sadder. But just barely.


  • SockDev

    @accalia said in Buying a desktop computer:

    @cartman82 said in Buying a desktop computer:

    but surely there are similar choices for current gen?

    not that i've found, especially not in the price range that would make an ITX build merely "expensive compared to MicroATX" instead of "FUCKING HELL YOU SPENT WHAT?!"

    @cartman82: newegg has zero listed motherboards in the miniITX form factor with socket 1151 (Current Gen) that has any number of memory slots other than two.

    so yeah, if @anonymous234 wants small form factor 2 RAM slots is the maximum.

    at least the motehrboard i picked supports 32GB of ram so they can replace the 8GB ramsticks i specced with 16GB if needed, that's about the best i can do in a SFF build on current gen.



  • @accalia said in Buying a desktop computer:

    @cartman82: newegg has zero listed motherboards in the miniITX form factor with socket 1151 (Current Gen) that has any number of memory slots other than two.
    so yeah, if @anonymous234 wants small form factor 2 RAM slots is the maximum.
    at least the motehrboard i picked supports 32GB of ram so they can replace the 8GB ramsticks i specced with 16GB if needed, that's about the best i can do in a SFF build on current gen.

    Oh crap, you are right.

    When the hell did they gimp mini-ITX mobo-s? That little beast I have is pretty much the same as a normal mobo, just in a smaller package. And I remember having a similar Mini-ITX board before that one, also with 4 slots.


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @cartman82
    When DDR4-9001 memory became the standard, and the extra heat dispersal requirements for faster memory meant you couldn't just cram 4+ sticks in there and not fry all the components.



  • @izzion said in Buying a desktop computer:

    @cartman82
    When DDR4-9001 memory became the standard, and the extra heat dispersal requirements for faster memory meant you couldn't just cram 4+ sticks in there and not fry all the components.

    Solution: buy last gen setup with DDR3 on the cheap (perf is almost the same), or wait for DDR5, which should rock.



  • @RaceProUK said in Buying a desktop computer:

    NVIDIA or AMD GPU?

    Sensitive topic, people have killed over it


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to What the Daily WTF? was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.