Computer shopping

A forum to ask questions, post setups, and generally discuss anything having to do with photomacrography and photomicroscopy.

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dmillard
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Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:37 pm
Location: Austin, Texas

Computer shopping

Post by dmillard »

I have finally decided to supplement my obsolescent PowerPC Mac with a more recent desktop computer that has greater speed, storage and versatility. I realize this is a very open-ended question, but does anyone have any recommendations for a unit under $1000, sans monitor? I'll be mostly using it for image stacking and processing, while continuing to use my older computer for other applications.

Thanks,
David

Chris S.
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Post by Chris S. »

David, Are you committed to the Mac platform? How would you feel about building your own PC?

If "no" to the former and "yes" to the latter, you could build yourself something much more powerful than you could purchase for a similar price point. It's not all that hard. If interested, I can send you the list of parts included in my recent custom build for a friend. We spent more like $1500, but if purchased pre-built, it would be a $4,500 machine. It's a screamer. The parts are super solid, and the machine should last for quite a few years.

Best,

--Chris

dmillard
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Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:37 pm
Location: Austin, Texas

Post by dmillard »

Hello Chris -

No commitment to the Mac - I need to keep my older one because of the hardware/software that it supports. I would enjoy putting together my own PC - please send me the list.

Thanks,
David

AndrewC
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Post by AndrewC »

You can find good how to guides here:

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/system-bu ... 31840.html

... and in case you don't know where to get bits www.Newegg.com is always a good source.

Andrew
rgds, Andrew

"Is that an accurate dictionary ? Charlie Eppes

PauloM
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Location: Portugal

Post by PauloM »

David,

While the "roll-your-own" approach has many merits, and undoubtedly you'll get more "bang-for-the-buck", there one aspect that you need to consider before going down that path: support. If you build your own PC, you'll have to fix it yourself should anything stop working, or resort to using the services of some PC repair companies whose reputation is less than stellar, to put it mildly.

If the whole install/maintain/upgrade cycle of PC hardware sounds like fun, then by all means go for it. If, on the other hand, you really want something that "just works", then there might be better options.

Whichever way you decide to go, I'm sure there will be plenty of people here (myself included) who can help you along the way.

P

PanoGuy
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Post by PanoGuy »

This article may help you out also (there are a bunch of different price points listed):
http://techreport.com/articles.x/18747

It's geared more towards gaming systems, but you can always up the RAM and downgrade the video card. :wink:

-Shea

dmillard
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Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:37 pm
Location: Austin, Texas

Post by dmillard »

I want to thank everyone for their suggestions so far. After my wife gently reminded me that I have half a dozen projects that are still unfinished, I've decided to go for an easier "out of the box" solution, no matter how attractive the digressions.

David

augusthouse
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Location: New South Wales Australia

Post by augusthouse »

Hi David,

Let us know what you decide on.

Are you looking at a 32 or 64 bit OS.
Memory expansion and access capabilities are an important consideration.
Also, need to carefully select monitor(s); probably better off just buying the 'box' and selecting the monitor separately, unless you intend to use a monitor that you currently own.

* later note: an "out of the box" solution should include the OS.

Craig
Last edited by augusthouse on Wed Apr 21, 2010 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
To use a classic quote from 'Antz' - "I almost know exactly what I'm doing!"

dmillard
Posts: 596
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:37 pm
Location: Austin, Texas

Post by dmillard »

These are what I think will be a good monitor/desktop combination. If anyone knows of any potential issues with these choices, or could suggest better alternatives at the same price or lower, please let me know.

NEC monitor

and ZT Systems desktop computer

Thanks very much,
David

augusthouse
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Location: New South Wales Australia

Post by augusthouse »

Hi David,

newegg have that IPS monitor at $309.99. We can't buy those in Australia, otherwise I would buy one; though am yet to see one in action.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6824002524

The box looks good; but only one HDD?

Microsoft Security Essentials software can be downloaded for free:
http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

Craig
To use a classic quote from 'Antz' - "I almost know exactly what I'm doing!"

Chris S.
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Post by Chris S. »

David, from the information supplied at that link, the computer is probably OK. However, they don't tell us what motherboard is in use (they have this in common with most manufacturers), and the mobo is really the actual computer--so it's hard to say for sure if this is a great computer or not.

The thing to remember in purchasing PCs is that "parts is parts." I don't mean that all parts are equal; rather, that all PC makers purchase parts in the same marketplace, and a PC is just a collection of parts. A company can buy good parts, bad parts, or mediocre parts and then put whatever branding and marketing they want around them, but in the end, the parts (and configuration) are what causes a computer to work smooth and fast for a long time, or fail. Support from the system vendors is usually very poor. Basically, they are in the business of assembling other people's parts and putting their money in branding. The big PC vendors either buy parts from someone else, or if they are really big (Dell, for example) they can have parts custom made.

The PC you pointed out looks basically fine (as far as they described it). And Newegg has rock bottom prices, solid customer service, and a highly effective purchaser feedback program. So if you've read the feedback on your item and feel good after you've read it, I'd tell you to go for it. If something in the system later bothers you, swap the offending component out.

I agree with Craig that a single hard drive isn't enough. But adding an exra HD or two is trivially easy (PM me if you want guidance on this). At a minimum, you want a second HD for backup purposes. Getting fancier, you might want to put the OS and programs on a single HD, and your data on another. Next step up would be to add a screaming fast hard drive dedicated to what Photoshop calls a "scratch disk." In that case, I'd still strongly advise having a totally separate drive for backup purposes (and advise adding a hot swap bay or two, and keeping some of your backups off-site.)

But all these niceties are easily added after purchasing the basic system. I'll repeat, though, that if one purchases an off-the-shelf system, it's best to start (after the new PC arrrives, but before you actually use it) by getting all OS updates, removing bloated and inefficent protective software by Norton (Symantec) and McCaffee, removing parasitic toolbars (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft live, etc.) and then putting on first-class protective software (try NOD32 for the antivirus, or AVG if you're short of funds and Comodo for the firewall), checking that your drivers are up to date, install needed software, uninstall un-needed software, clean the registry, and make a backup drive image.

Cheers,

--Chris

dmillard
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Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:37 pm
Location: Austin, Texas

Post by dmillard »

Thanks Chris -

That sounds like extremely useful information.

Best regards,
David

Planapo
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Location: Germany, in the United States of Europe

Post by Planapo »

Currently looking around for a new desktop computer myself, I also find the information given here very useful!

What motherboard, processor, memory and other components should an of-the-shelf system have nowadays, so that it can be used for efficient photo editing? I think stacking including creating stereos with Rik's ZS are the most demanding tasks I am going to do with my computer.

For my other work my Dells (9-year old desktop and 7-year old notebook) running with Windows XP pro seem still quite sufficient. :oops: :wink:

Thanks in advance for any further information.

--Betty

P. S.: David, I assume you don't mind that I am joining in here in this way. Otherwise please let me know.

dmillard
Posts: 596
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:37 pm
Location: Austin, Texas

Post by dmillard »

Planapo wrote:
P. S.: David, I assume you don't mind that I am joining in here in this way. Otherwise please let me know.
Hello Betty,

I don't mind at all - I'm very pleased that someone else is benefiting from the shared expertise on this site.

Best regards,
David

ChrisR
Site Admin
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Location: Near London, UK

Post by ChrisR »

I use a local computer shop to put what I want, advised by them, in a box, set it up, load software, copy address books etc. And then soak test it running a diagnostics program for 3 days.
They seems very reasonable. I can see the prices for the parts elsewhere of course. I think they charged about £100.
Also very helpful with any problems later, too.

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