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Help deciding which PC components to buy for a low-mid range PC

bingsy Avatar
9y, 7m agoPosted 9 years, 7 months ago
I'm currently building a new PC and wondered what suggestions people might have. My PC is showing its age and I'm in the process of picking components for my build.

Believe it or not, my current system still does everything I need, as quickly as I need it to. I think this can be put down in part to the fact that I'm still using WindowsME, which isn't very resource hungry. I'm going to need to upgrade to XP or Vista at the same time as recent hardware won't run on WindowsME, my USB Freeview stick for instance.

I need the pc for web browsing, photo editing, MP3 conversion. It doesn't have to be anything special.

Don't laugh but my current system has the following:

AMD Athlon 1100 Thunderbird
FIC Socket A Motherboard
512mb SDRAM (2x 256mb)
32mb NVidia Riva TNT2 AGP graphics
WindowsME

Effectively, I'm looking to build a new PC that's a little quicker at running XP/Vista than my current one runs WindowsME.

I already have:

Case
Hard Drive
DVD Rewriter

I need:

AMD Athlon (not Sempron) Socket AM2 CPU
Motherboard with onboard graphics (upgrade later)
DR2 Ram
Operating system

I guess I'm really asking for opinions on Operating System, RAM, Processor.

1. Can I get away with 1GB of Ram or do I need 2GB

2. Should I buy a slow Dual-Core processor or a faster single core. Software at the moment doesn't fully take advantage of Dual-Core processors?. I've seen a 45W Athlon 3500+ for £42 which sounds ideal but that's X2 3600+ teritory. The reason for considering the 45W 3500+ is mainly electricity bill saving.

3. XP or Vista?. Too early for Vista or too late for XP.
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bingsy Avatar
9y, 7m agoPosted 9 years, 7 months ago
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#1
will try to come back on this..but at the mo it's best to buy stuff in as many £30 lots as poss on ebuyer and then getting £10 off each order using google checkout..go for AM2 socket as it will be upgradable.
#2
Forgot to mention, I only have a Visa Electron Debit card so can't take advantage of Google Checkout to buy more for less.
#3
thanks Currychops, see above about Google.
#4
1. 1gb will be just right although if u got the money 2gb is great
2. go for dual core its not much more than single cores and they are way better
also if u wanna save on electricity bills go for a EE (energy efficient dual core model)
3. Vista there are loads of compatibility issues so if u wanna save headaches opt for windows xp
#5
muffin247

2. go for dual core its not much more than single cores and they are way better, also if u wanna save on electricity bills go for a EE (energy efficient dual core model)

Thanks muffin247. Is "EE" Intel?. I've only been looking at AMD but open to suggestions. I'm used to AMD so find it difficult to compare intel/AMD. I know AMD ADO is 65Watt and ADH is 45Watt.

Is there actually any point to dual core at the moment apart from slight future-proofing. Just seems like a nice way of getting rid of old stock, almost buy one get one free. I thought software wasn't ready for dual-core yet. I don't want to buy one and use half so I thought it might be best to buy a faster single core.
#6
XP seems a definite, try "acquiring" one from a friend who may have upgraded to vista and has therefore removed xp from their computer ;). You could try ubuntu if you want a truly free OS, you might then be able to apply the powernow utility in order to save power (slow down the cpu) when system resources aren't in full demand.

If you really wanna save money, you could just keep your existing RAM, 512MB is fine for running XP, though 1GB improves much. Remember that prices are constantly falling, Dabs has 1GB cards for £30-45.

I don't really know much about AMD processors though, wiki listed this one:


"Windsor" (Energy Efficient Small Form Factor, F2, 90 nm)

* All models support: MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, Enhanced 3DNow!, NX bit, AMD64 (AMD's x86-64 implementation), Cool'n'Quiet, AMD Virtualization

Model Number Frequency L2-Cache HT Mult 1 Voltage TDP Socket Release Date Part Number(s)
Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2000 MHz 2 x 512 KiB 1000 MHz 10x 1.025/1.075 V 35 W Socket AM2 May 23, 2006 ADD3800IAA5CU
ADD3800IAT5CU

which uses 35W, it's a low end dual core, which I think are worth getting since they boost performance and don't seem that more expensive than single core ones.

You could also sell the old components on ebay to save a bit more.
#7
You wouldnt need much for what you plan to use it for, you could possibly get away with one of the cheap Ebay machines where you get a pentium 4, with 512mb of ram and usually XP home with it for about £75 inc nexy day delivery.
#8
There seems to be a lot of anti-Vista talk, but I'd personally say if you are going to be buying a new license it makes far more sense to go for Vista. Buy a new motherboard which comes with Vista-certified drivers (including onboard graphics), 2Gb DDR-2 ram (under £60) and a modest X2 cpu, then get 64-bit Vista Home Premium OEM.

Why Vista? Well, it looks nicer and you've no doubt had or have an XP computer so you don't get as much of the 'new' feel if you get XP again. It uses memory better, and memory is very cheap at the moment. Perhaps most importantly, it will be supported for 5+ more years at least, so you could get 5+ years out of your investment. XP will not be supported as long, and will begin to appear very dated in a year or twos time meaning you are likely to need to buy Vista then.

These are only my 2 pence worth, don't want to start a flame war or massive OS debate, but I definately think that last point is worth considering. Or you could use a Linux distro - it is free after all :thumbsup:
#9
Here`s 2 specs i`ve knocked up from ebuyer

amd x2 3600 am2 retail * £44.67 inc VAT
Abit NFM2S 6100 GFX SKT AM2 7.1 DDR2 PCI-E 36.16
Kingston 2GB KIT (2X1GB) DDR2 667MHz/PC2-5300 CL5£55.90 inc VAT
total 136.73
get mate with credit card to order parts individually through google checkout discount -£30
- postage (say 15?)
total about £120

Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 £63.50
ASRock ConRoe945G-DVI i945G£39.14
Kingston 2GB KIT (2X1GB) DDR2 667MHz/PC2-5300 CL5 £55.90
vat 27.88
total 187.08
take off 15 for google discount and postage
total about 162

I`d say the intel system is slightly better.Both have onboard vga.Do you have a few hard drives/cd roms? then you might need 2 ide slots as sata connection is slowly taking over.(Check alternatives in the mobo section)
I`d budget in a nice psu too say like an igreen 430w or seasonic 430 if you don`t have a good one.
You could just get 2x512 ddr2 kit to save 30 and see how u get on,as you can add later.
As for vista etc jah 128 is on the money:thumbsup:
#10
Ahhh Vista *sigh*, I would tell you all about why you should steer well clear but nobody ever seems to listen :-(.

Anyway, you'll enjoy the prettiness, Vista does look rather lovely and the new search feature is pretty nifty too.

If all you're doing is:
web browsing, photo editing, MP3 conversion
then you should also consider Ubuntu, it's free, easy, stable and secure.
#11
bingsy
Thanks muffin247. Is "EE" Intel?. I've only been looking at AMD but open to suggestions. I'm used to AMD so find it difficult to compare intel/AMD. I know AMD ADO is 65Watt and ADH is 45Watt.

Is there actually any point to dual core at the moment apart from slight future-proofing. Just seems like a nice way of getting rid of old stock, almost buy one get one free. I thought software wasn't ready for dual-core yet. I don't want to buy one and use half so I thought it might be best to buy a faster single core.


Dual core is usually better than a single core processor (or multi-processor's even better), optimised software or not. It's your OS (and the processors internal logic) that does most of the legwork in distributing processes/threads (stuff to do) to the different processors/cores (things that do the stuff, lol).

I bet Intel and AMD wish it was a nice way of selling off old stock, unfortunately what multi-core essentially means is that two or more processors (well cores to be precise they're not quite the same thing, but are near enough unless you have a degree in computer science and an over active geek gland like what I do, :thumbsup: lol) are crammed into the space of one old style processor. It is a cheap(er) way of getting multiple processors in one machine but alas it's not quite the same thing.

Much as I've liked AMD processors in the past it is Intel that is the king at the moment, it's hardly even worth considering anything else.
#13
jah128
There seems to be a lot of anti-Vista talk, but I'd personally say if you are going to be buying a new license it makes far more sense to go for Vista. Buy a new motherboard which comes with Vista-certified drivers (including onboard graphics), 2Gb DDR-2 ram (under £60) and a modest X2 cpu, then get 64-bit Vista Home Premium OEM.

Why Vista? Well, it looks nicer and you've no doubt had or have an XP computer so you don't get as much of the 'new' feel if you get XP again. It uses memory better, and memory is very cheap at the moment. Perhaps most importantly, it will be supported for 5+ more years at least, so you could get 5+ years out of your investment. XP will not be supported as long, and will begin to appear very dated in a year or twos time meaning you are likely to need to buy Vista then.

These are only my 2 pence worth, don't want to start a flame war or massive OS debate, but I definately think that last point is worth considering. Or you could use a Linux distro - it is free after all :thumbsup:


The "anti-vista" talk as you put it is fueled by reasonable concerns, Vista is basically just XP + more DRM + eye candy.

It not only requires 2GB RAM (£60 might be nothing for you don't assume that it's similar for other people) but a hefty graphics card (256MB) to support the pretty (and unnecessary) features. I wouldn't fork out loads more money just to get something that looks more fancy.

You do have a point about MS trying to force people towards buying a new OS. But why do you think the demand for XP is still so strong? Anyway, the security patches (the vital upgrades) for XP should continue for longer than a year:

On April 14, 2009 Windows XP will begin its "Extended Support" period that will last for 5 years until 2014.
#14
I don't disagree at all sk1, my point is if you are going to pay £60 to microsoft you are better getting vista than xp, in my opinion, particularly for the intended uses. I don't assume the buyer has money to burn on ram, but a buyer prepared to pay for a £60 oem license of 6 year old software probably would likewise be able to spend an extra £30 and get double the memory and the new OS. I fully support the suggestions on various free solutions however, linux and otherwise - like I say, don't really wan't to start a heated debate, just think Vista is better vfm than XP. Also, whilst the demand for XP is still high, a similar thing was also the case with Win 2000 (and even Win ME!!) well into the life of XP. There are many headaches in upgrading to a new MS OS, but with all new hardware one is generally ok (ish!)
Also, the 256MB graphics card you mention isn't so much of a problem, its becoming standard on many of the cheapest m-ATX X2 motherboards and very good dedicated graphics have been on the forum for under £25 recently (Radeon X1600). I guess its all down to budget and use, really want to make it clear though Ubuntu is a great option for doing it on the cheap, if you're prepared to put in a bit of learning.
#15
Thanks for all the replies folks, it's very much appreciated.

As you can see below, I do use my PC a lot but still can't convince myself that I need anything other than a basic pc. A much faster PC would be like driving a Porsche up and down my drive, nice but do I need it.

Although I only need a basic pc I think it's best to avoid Skt939 & Skt754 because of the high cost of DDR ram compared to DDR2. Semprons and Celerons are probably out just in case I decide to got for Vista now or at a later date.

I would have considered a second hand/clearance pc but I've already got half the components I need. I already have a 6 month old DVD-Rewriter. I bought a new case at the weekend when CCL were offering free delivery. I have a new Western Digital Hard drive as well. All I really need now is a mobo, cpu, ram & operating system.

I'll definately be buying a mobo with onboard graphics. If it's not up to the task I can upgrade. Same idea with ram. I'll probably buy 1GB and add more when neccessary.

I'm prepared to consider the free alternatives to Windows but my old software won't be compatible, or will it?. I could always try Ubuntu and see how I get on. Can I run it from my DVD writer or need to install it?. Nothing to lose at all and might like it. It sounds like a sensible idea and if I can't get on with it it's cost me nothing to try.

Software I use is the following:

Nero
Firefox & Internet Explorer
CorelDraw & the included Photopaint for photo editing
ACDSee - Image browser etc
WinAmp
MS Office 2000 - Just Word really
DbPowerAmp for MP3 conversion

Regarding power supplies, do I really need anything other than a budget one. The PC I'm using has a £5.99 cheapo Ebuyer power supply and it's run trouble free for about 15 hours per day for the last 3 or 4 years (note to self: Get a life!).

Once again, thanks for all your help and suggestions.
#16
bingsy

I'm prepared to consider the free alternatives to Windows but my old software won't be compatible, or will it?. I could always try Ubuntu and see how I get on. Can I run it from my DVD writer or need to install it?. Nothing to lose at all and might like it. It sounds like a sensible idea and if I can't get on with it it's cost me nothing to try.

Software I use is the following:

Nero
Firefox & Internet Explorer
CorelDraw & the included Photopaint for photo editing
ACDSee - Image browser etc
WinAmp
MS Office 2000 - Just Word really
DbPowerAmp for MP3 conversion


Ok my top tips...lol.

Get Ubuntu and give it a go. It will run straight from CD so if you don't like it you have lost nothing, although it wont be as quick nor will you be able to do as much as you can with a proper install, so keep in mind it's not a full Ubuntu experience more of a good idea of what to expect.

You are correct; the software you have now, as it stands, wont work directly on Ubuntu (I doubt most will work on Vista unless you buy the lastest version either...). However there are alternatives that are in many cases better. Alternatively if you are feeling particularly adventurous you could even run WindowsME (or any version of windows for that matter) in Ubuntu using something called VMWare, and then there's always the dual boot option.

Anyway to the software:

[LIST]
[*]Nero - you wont need, Ubuntu has built in CD burning capabilities
Details here: https://help.ubuntu.com/7.04/user-guide/C/nautilus-cdwriter.html
and if you want a Nero like interface then you can always install something like GnomeBaker
[*]Firefox - comes as standard in Ubuntu
[*]CorelDraw - Ubuntu comes with the GIMP (not as in that scene from Pulp Fiction but as in the GNU Image Manipulation Program, lol), which is great for photo editing and has some pretty cool filters etc. built in with lots of scope for (free) add-ons.
[*]ACDSee - Ubuntu comes with F-Spot photo manager, see here: https://help.ubuntu.com/7.04/musicvideophotos/C/photos.html for info
[*]WinAmp - There are many many Linux based music players, Ubuntu comes with Rhythmbox, which is fairly easy to use. Although I personally prefer Amarok, which is a quick trip to 'add and remove programs' away.
[*]MS Office - Ubuntu comes with open office as standard, imho this is much better than MS office, mainly because it comes with the functionality to save as pdf which will cost you a fortune to do in MS Office. Also it uses the open document format, an internationally recognised standard.
[*]DbPowerAmp - Again similar functionality comes as standard, but you do have to install a little extra if you want to rip mp3's (Ubuntu favours free, open standards like ogg, mp3 is proprietary but it's simple enough to add support), info here: https://help.ubuntu.com/7.04/musicvideophotos/C/music-audiocds.html
[/LIST]

Best of all, like everything open source, it's all free and legal.

If you need any help with anything there's a huge community built up around Ubuntu that's more than willing to help here: http://www.ubuntuforums.org/, however everything you'll need to know is probably here: http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Ubuntu:Feisty or here: https://help.ubuntu.com/7.04/

If you decide you prefer Windows then I'd go for XP over Vista every time, all the DRM, built in spyware etc. in Vista scares the living daylights out of me as a "computer person" (whatever that means, lol). If you do want the prettiness of Vista then I'd recommend going the Ubuntu route and installing Beryl, see here: http://www.beryl-project.org/features.php and here: http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Ubuntu:Feisty#Eye_Candy for info, that one's a slightly more complicated install, but worth it.

Hope that helps,

Cheers
#17
bingsy
Although I only need a basic pc I think it's best to avoid Skt939 & Skt754 because of the high cost of DDR ram compared to DDR2. Semprons and Celerons are probably out just in case I decide to got for Vista now or at a later date.


Intel is the only way to fly at the moment, something like this: http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/127326/rb/27673725238 wont break the bank, and is great for overclocking if you're into such things.

bingsy
All I really need now is a mobo, cpu, ram & operating system.

I'll definately be buying a mobo with onboard graphics. If it's not up to the task I can upgrade. Same idea with ram. I'll probably buy 1GB and add more when neccessary.


If you want a good quality motherboard I can't recommend Asus highly enough, I've never had one fail on me unlike some other manufacturers.
This: http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/117234 seems good value and supports DDR2 etc. The intel X3000 is reasonable as far as onboard graphics go (supposedly around the same level as a GeForce7300GS). It's also a fanless board so should be nice and quiet. Also worth noting all Asus boards come with a 3yr guarantee.
1Gb of RAM is more than enough for XP or Ubuntu, more is better obviously, but if you get Vista you'll want 2Gb minimum. I'd suggest getting a decent brand of memory too (dodgy memory is the cause of many un-resolved computer problems as it's a bitch to diagnose, it can cause anything from random crashes to data loss and file corruption), something like: http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/118290 which comes with a lifetime warrenty should hold you in good stead. - and remember always earth yourself when handling memory, static can kill it.

bingsy
Regarding power supplies, do I really need anything other than a budget one. The PC I'm using has a £5.99 cheapo Ebuyer power supply and it's run trouble free for about 15 hours per day for the last 3 or 4 years (note to self: Get a life!).


Power supply is one thing like memory that should never be scrimped on, a dodgy power supply dishing out the wrong voltages can seriously damage your hardware and cost you £££'s. Can't go wrong with something like this: http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/120376/rb/27674912836 , you could get away with something like this: http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/120375/rb/27676368023 but it's worth the extra if you're planning to get a dedicated graphics card in the future. Unlike many cheaper brands (and even some more expensive ones) all Antec PSU's come with a 3yr warranty and provide a good balance of cost vs quality and this particular model is supposed to be very energy efficient so in the long run it will save you on your leccy bill.

That lot will cost you a little more than some other deals you could get (if my maths is right that's about £240ish inc. VAT for CPU+Mobo+RAM+PSU, you'll hopefully get to subtract Google checkout off that too) but you get a lot of quality for your money backed up with big guarantees from the manufacturers and with any luck it should all last you as long as your current PC has.
#18
Agree with most of mega's suggestions, though at the super-budget end I still think the AMD X2 chips have a lot to offer; basically if you want to spend £100 or more on the motherboard and CPU go for the Intel option (Core2 4300 or better), if you want to spend under this amount get an AMD motherboard and the best X2 you can afford.
Regards the power supply, totally agree with mega. Like yourself, I've had many cheap generic PSUs last many years, but I've also known quite a few fail. I certainly would buy a new one as yours will be nearing the end of the capacitors lifespan anyway, will be very dusty inside and will probably not cope with the increased load your new components will provide - it may also lack the extra power connectors you will need for an ATX 2 system. Although the new generation CPUs and memory are very efficient (with dedicated graphics your total load will be well below 300W), a bit of money spend on a branded, high efficiency power supply is money well spent - you get piece of mind with the warranty, far better power regulation and more accurate labels, and likely it will also be much quieter. Big fan of Antec cases and PSUs myself, very well built yet still good value for money - I know you have a case already but its worth looking at the Antec cases which come with PSUs built in as they often represent very good VFM...

Bottom end X2 System:
MB: Foxconn motherboard http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/114772 £33.41
CPU: X2 3600+ EE http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/125201 £44.67
Mem: 2 x 512Mb Kingston 5300 http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/91126 £30.11
Case+PSU: Antec SLK1650 http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/72294 £39.94

Comes to under £150, but I really can't stress enough how much more you could save if you can find a way of using GC though, a real pity if you can't, as all the items are a little over £30. Total would be under £125 if you ordered this seperately with super saver delivery. If you decide you wish to take the 'cheap power supply gamble' I'd probably go for http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/120674 which is rated for 450W so should cope with a future graphics card upgrade etc (£11.99).

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