New computer - any advice?

  Petrushka 22:43 21 Aug 2009


I'mm looking to buy my first computer (parents have always dealt with this) and I was wondering whether anyone could offer me advice on what I should be looking for. My current computer is about five years old, and I fear the rubber bands are about to snap!

I am a heavy computer user, but I wouldn't be sure how to describe my usage. I play games 2-3 a week, for 2-3 hours at a time (average). I also play online games via facebook, and own a virtual racing game that is likely to have a downloadable "viewer" in the future.

Am I right in thinking that an extreme gamer option is overkill for my current gaming usage? Do you think I would be able to make do with a general computer? I did speak to some guys at the local shops who said that "128mb cards give good gameplay on 99.9% of the games out there", therefore on my initial look around, I was looking for a minimum of 512mb. I was also told to look for "dedicated" graphics cards.

I was looking at the dell site, and they state cards as integrated or by name. Does this mean that named cards are dedicated?

I also do a lot of work on office tools, and do a bit of amateur web development, in which I may have several windows at the same time.

I don't have much knowledge of the working of computers (just bits and pieces that I've picked up reading forums like these), therefore would I would be better looking at packages available to me?

My budget at this stage is £600. I've seen a few websites, but searching for them on here results in negatives experiences - though I'm sure all companies will have given people bad experiences somewhere along the line, it does feel like something of a minefield, so any advice on who to deal with would also be greatly appreciated.

Apologies for the essay!

I have a series of notes re:

  GaT7 23:14 21 Aug 2009

Does £600 include/exclude a monitor?

What games do you play &/or intend playing?

What screen resolution do you game at? Or, what is the make & model of your monitor?

"Am I right in thinking that an extreme gamer option is overkill for my current gaming usage?" - most probably yes, but would largely depend on the above 2 criteria

"Do you think I would be able to make do with a general computer?" - yes again, & adding a dedicated graphics card (& possibly a suitable PSU for the latter)

"I was looking at the dell site, and they state cards as integrated or by name. Does this mean that named cards are dedicated?" - yes. However, these days Dell's aren't the best value for money/performance, but we'll have a look at a few for comparison

"Apologies for the essay!" - that's nothing compared to what we have to put up with sometimes ;-). Don't get me started either!

Btw, the amount of graphics memory these days is not very important as most (if not all) 'gaming' standard graphics cards have a minimum of 512Mb memory anyway. The GPU chip/model is the most important, followed by its type - GDDR3, GDDR5. 'Dedicated' graphics basically means a *separate* graphics card - as against 'integrated', which is part of the motherboard. G

  Petrushka 16:04 22 Aug 2009

crossbow - many thanks for the speedy response.

Would it be safe to show a DxDiag result from my computer, and would this be of any assistance to you?

I visited the control panel and got the following from the device manager, hope it means something: click here

I have games like the following:

* The Sims 2 - can load it up but haven't actually played as comp was struggling

* Ellen Whitaker, requirements:
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
800 MHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor
256 MB RAM
64 MB nVidia GeForce2 or ATI Radeon 7500 or later
DirectX 9.0 compatible driver (DirectX 9.0 included on the CD)
700MB free disk space
- Can't play this at all

* Pippa Funnell, Stirrup Challenge, requirements:
Operating System:Windows XP (Service Pack 2) / Vista
CPU Type:850MHz Intel Pentium or AMD equivalent
Hard Drive Space:3.5GB
Memory:256MB (1GB for Windows Vista)
Graphics:Any 64MB graphics card - NVIDIA GeForce 3 series or higher / ATI Radeon 8500 or higher
Audio:Any sound card

Can play this but not very well, as it is very choppy, and I can't jump the fences (bit like real life, really).

I would like a new monitor. If there is something suitable out there at more than £600, I can wait/save up for it, but being an impatient person £600 is the current budget as it is what I have here and now.

Many thanks!

  sunnystaines 17:25 22 Aug 2009

try and find a dealer that supplies a windows oem disc so much better than a restore disk, mostly smaller places supply the oem.

  GaT7 18:25 22 Aug 2009

Well, in that case, you'll get a fairly good PC with a monitor & save a bundle too.

Base unit click here = £220

Graphics card HD 4670 click here = £50

OS XP Home click here = £62 / Win7 Premium click here = £64

Grand total = ~£335

Good 22-24" TFT monitors are anything from £120-160 & above. Smaller 19-20" monitors can be had for £90-110.

The entire PC is a bit overkill, but going for anything less isn't going to save very much. And going for the above will also last you a longer time. G

  GaT7 18:44 22 Aug 2009

Couple of Dell's that look suitable, with an OS (Vista) & monitor included. Both will require the £50 4670 click here graphics card upgrade. So ~£430 with a 20" monitor, OS & graphics card upgrade is quite good actually.

Inspiron 545 click here = £379 - with the 20" monitor upgrade

Inspiron 546 click here = £379 - this not only has a 20" monitor included in the price, but 1Gb more RAM & 180Gb extra hard drive space

The only think I couldn't determine is whether Ellen Whitaker will work in Vista? Do you know? G

  Petrushka 18:48 22 Aug 2009

You're an angel, that sounds brilliant. Is changing the graphics card something I can do (novice, but willing!) How wrong can I get it?

  Petrushka 18:55 22 Aug 2009

Sorry, just seen your second post - interestingly the Inspiron 546 option with the graphics card upgrade was my original choice!

I don't know re: Ellen Whitaker - will contact the manufacturers!

  GaT7 20:59 22 Aug 2009

It might be worth going for the £20 S2009W monitor upgrade - specs click here.

Installing a graphics card is just a case of slotting it into the PCI-E slot, booting-up, installing the latest graphics cards drivers & rebooting. Here's a small guide:

1. Switch off PC & unplug mains power cord
2. Open case, slot the graphics card into PCI-E slot & secure it in place. The slot is long(ish) & situated somewhere towards the centre. The card will only fit into one slot in one direction, so you cannot slot it into the wrong one by mistake
3. Reconnect power cord, & swap monitor cable to one of the new graphics card ports (VGA/DVI as the case may be)
4. Boot-up, & install drivers off the CD. Or download the latest from ATI click here (recommended)
5. Reboot when you're prompted to do so
6. Adjust monitor resolution to 1600*900 (if necessary) - this is the 20" screen's native resolution & should be run at this setting for the best picture & text
7. Once everything is running smoothly, close the PC case


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