Buying Guidance - New Desktop Opinions!

  MrWooDee 11:33 30 Nov 2008

Right, first of all, this is my first post on PC Advisor. Sorry it will be quite long :) I've read the forums quite a lot and the magazine (mainly for buying advice) but I often find it creates more questions for me than it does do answers :) I feel very much out of the loop...

Basically, I just wanted to get some general advice/feedback on a new potential PC purchase. I haven't bought one for years and there seem to be so many more avenues to make PCs customised (which is tempting!) these days but I'm worried I'm going to make a bad decision or get components that are incompatible, etc.

I am moderately IT proficient but couldn't tell you much about specific brands, components, inner workings etc. My last two PCs were bought from Dell and the one before that, Fujitsu - in other words, consumer packages, not customised.

I've read a lot on these forums that speak highly of Cougar Extreme and if people still recommend them, I'm really tempted to get a customised PC there.

So far I had customised:

-Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4 Ghz 8Mb Cach,
-4Gb Corsair Memory DDR2 800 2 x 2gb single modules,
-750GB SATA Hard Drive,
-Corsair 520Watt PSU,
-ATI 4850 512MB PCI Express DDR DVI,
-QC - Gigabyte GAP35-S3G - 1333FSB-DDR2 1333x4 Intel P35,
-2 x DVD+/- RW - 18X Samsung Lightscribe,
-No Floppy Disk Drive,
-No Monitor,
-Keyboard & Mouse Set Black and Silver,
-Integrated Sound Card,
-Trust 2.0 SP-2200 Speaker Set,
-Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premiem (OEM),
-No Additional Software,
-13 Month Warranty,
-Free Carriage

The price seems extremely reasonable compared to Dell/PC world etc for a computer of the same(ish) specification.

For now, I would be using this PC extensively for home use, websurfing, MS Office applications etc, music storage, video editing (an emerging hobby) etc, and I'd like to play some games, although nothing of the new genre of exceptional games which seem to need incredible graphics cards?

As time rolls on, I am hoping to develop my understanding of PCs much more - I'd like to get into a little (purely hobby-led) website design, graphics manipulation (photoshop etc) and ultimately be able to understand the inner workings of a PC.

The questions I have are:

1) Is this a sufficiently 'future-proofed' system? (i.e. is some of it going to look utterly archaic in 2 years?)...

2) Are there any glaring inconsistencies or missing/incompatible components here that I really need?

3) Graphics/Motherboard - these worry me! I can't afford a very top end card but I'd want it to be half-way decent and the 4850 doesn't seem that old, right? Truth is, graphics cards scare me. In the future, does this system lend itself to 2 graphics cards together or am I restricted to just one? Should I invest in a better motherboard now? If so, what should I go for?

3) Can anyone recommend a decent Monitor? The one I could include in their package is a 22 Inch LG TFT - W2242S (5ms Widescreen) or 22 inch YUSMART but I know little about the quality of these. Ideally I want it to be decent enough for me to stare at for 4/5 hours in a day! Should I just get one at PC world or something which I can see with my own eyes before buying?

4) Finally, is Vista as bad as I get the impression it might be? I have zero experience with it but get the impression Windows 7 is what people are waiting for. If I'm just running unnecessarily scared from negative press, please let me know!

Sorry for the long ramble. Just really wanted to get some more informed opinions than I have access to in my normal daily life.

Thanks to any respondees in advance!

  LastChip 12:18 30 Nov 2008

1. Whatever you buy now will look positively historic in two years time. Such is the nature of computers.

2. I can't see any glaring issues. The Trust speakers are probably the weakest link, retailing at about £6.00p a pair. (Trust products whilst being adequate are basic entry level).

3. Graphics are getting ridiculous. You can pay as much for a graphics card as a complete computer. Inevitably, it will always be a compromise, unless you have unlimited funds.

4. Monitors are very personal. I've bought really cheap monitors on-line, took a gamble and loved 'em. I've seen really expensive ones and couldn't live with them for five minutes! As they say, you pays yer money and takes yer choice.

5. I would say Vista is crap, but many others will tell you it's the best thing since sliced bread. It's all about what you get used to. However, Vista *is* resource intensive.

I rather suspect though, on balance, you'd be quite happy with that specification. However, you haven't said what it costs and that is the bottom line.

  MrWooDee 13:31 30 Nov 2008

Thanks LastChip - much appreciated rapid advice :)

1. I appreciate it will be out of date pretty quickly - I guess I just wanted reassuring that it's still likely to be servicable in terms of heavy home usage. I figure it's more likely to be graphics/games that will be the thing I will most likely suffer with, is that fair?

2. Sound has never been a big thing for me. Presumably if the speakers went quickly, all I'd need to do is buy some cheap replacements?

3. Phew, it's not just me then! Is that ATI 4850 ok for every day use?

4. Heard and understood, thanks!

5. When you say Vista is 'resource intensive', do I take from that the 4GB of RAM is insufficient? I read that only 3.5GB of it can be used... will that affect the choice of whether to get 2 sticks of 2GB or a different combination?

The overall price of that package (am I allowed to say?) comes out at £724.56.

Obviously I'll need to buy a monitor too (I assumed £150 ish?) and then MS Office 2007. If I bought their 22 Inch LG TFT - W2242S (5ms Widescreen) with it, the total is £864.66, so I guess that values it at around £140.

Does it strike you as reasonable value?

One last question (sorry!), do I need any other peripherals here? They option you to buy Firewire cards, Internal Card Readers, MultiMedia connect bays etc and I'm not sure if I'd need to use them.

  LastChip 16:42 30 Nov 2008

click here for a brief overview of the graphics card. Seems to be regarded quite well.

You're quite right. Vista 32 bit will struggle to use 4GB and it's more than adequate. What I meant was, Vista (like for like) will use more resources than XP or indeed, many more than Linux.

As regards price, it's probably about right, given the specification.

Unless you have some very specific reason to buy MS Office 2007, you don't need to. Open Office is a very fine replacement and can be downloaded free.

A 22" monitor for £140 is in my view reasonable, although you can but 22" monitors for less than £100.00p click here for one such example.

Whether you need the extras you indicated depends upon what you are going to do. They can all be added at a later date, arguably at a slightly higher cost. But maybe that's a better option when you know better exactly what you want. Firewire however, could prove to be essential for video editing.

  MrWooDee 17:30 30 Nov 2008

That's excellent - you've really helped, thanks.

I tend to use MS for work really although I'll give Open Office a look in too. Noted and understood about Firewire, I'll make sure that is added. Also, pleased to read that Graphic Card review - seems a reasonable overview.

Thanks again! Will probably place an order this week :)

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