Posted 24 February 2006 - 01:31 PM
I'd like to add a few pointers of my own here. My own main computer is quite nice, and I spend over $800 building it. The choices I made were based on wanting a computer that would be upgradeable, fast enough without spending a lot, good-looking, etc.
First, I used AMD because they tend to be much cheaper than Pentiums. There are pros and cons here: the Pentiums will automatically shut down in the case of overheating, the AMD's will simply crack. But I monitor the fans and temperatures constantly. I have installed more than the usual number of fans.
I put in a gig of memory. Too many companies scrimp on memory and I always recommend a minimum of 512 mb RAM for Windows XP.
My processor is an AMD 3000+ Athlon 64, not to be confused with lower-end processors such as Sempron.
That said, I've worked on that new Dell computer that Acklan posted a link to. It's the new BTX case, which means that the door is on the opposite side and it cools well. But that's all it's got going for it. The motherboard is starkly plain, with no AGP slot to upgrade the video. There is one empty PCI slot in the event you want to add a wireless card or something, but that's it. If you want a floppy drive, they charge an exhorbitant amount to add it. It does not have any PS2 ports for keyboard and mouse, but relies on USB only. It comes with 512 MB RAM, but has only two slots and both are full. In other words, it's designed to work well out of the box, but what you get is all you're likely to have. You can't upgrade it. From that standpoint, it's not a great deal. (I did like the LCD monitor) The keyboard looks as if they were running out of plastic when they made it. The processor is a 2.8 Pentium, and my personal requirement is a minimum of 3.0 - I noticed the difference in speed. The video is onboard. Audio is onboard. They use (If I understand it correctly) some of the processor power. (Hence the *shared notes in the advertising regarding processor.)
Were I to search for a prebuilt computer, I would look for one that was as close to a shop-built computer as I could find. eMachines comes close, I think. If you want to add a drive, for instance, you should be able to do so without getting it directly from the company you bought the computer from, and at a reasonable price. You shouldn't have to buy a special bezel from the company to get the new drive to fit. (Common with computers like Compaq, for instance, where the offset floppy drive bracket inside the computer is covered with a full-size bezel that must be replaced to keep the thing looking good if you add a floppy.)
I would stay away from Celerons, Semprons, and all the other *ron processors that so much cheaper than the better processors made by both AMD and Intel. In some uses, they work quite well, such as the Celeron D processor, but can't keep up with things like games or other applications.
In reading the Langa article linked in this thread, I noticed reference to XP support being cut off. But I have also read that XP support has been extended by Microsoft to two years following the release of Vista, so that isn't really an issue. That said, it would be nice to have a computer powerful enough to run Vista in the future, should you decide to switch to that operating system when it's released.