You won't be able to upgrade the Sony motherboard. All OEM sytems (Dell, Sony, HP-Compaq, Gateway, E-Machines) use prorietary cases, motherboards and power supplies. This is why so many people decide to build their own computer from components. The aftermarket cases, motherboards and power supllies are strictly standard and will always interchange with each other.
You are going to get even more opinions than the number of people you ask ! Like the old adage says 'Opinions are like a**holes; everybody has one.'
Here are mine (opinions, not ... well, you know). I don't like 'barebone' systems. Much too often the components are off-brand, i.e., not from the leading manufacturers. As far as motherboards go, stick with one from Asus, Abit or Giga-byte.
However, if you want to buy a complete system, there is a decent Dell system, the Dimension 5150
. Be sure to get the extra $10 OS disc. That's well worth the $10. This model is actually designated a "business" system. That means it doesn't come with a lot of useless doodads and software you won't use anyway. Keep in mind that Dell keeps changing the package every week in some important way. Last week they offered a free 17 inch LCD monitor, but you had to pay an extra $50 to get a video card (which was worth it). This week they offer the video card free, but no monitor at all. If you do go for this system be sure to get the extra video card. Otherwise you'll have to use the onboard graphics, which is always a bad idea
. That puts an undue load on an otherwise speedy system.
There are 2 basic camps, the Intel camp and the AMD camp. IMO AMD gets better bang for the buck. If you feel reasonably confident about building your own system, I recently put together this system for a client:
MOTHERBOARD ASUS A8N5X Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4
PROCESSOR AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Venice 800MHz FSB 512KB
DDR RAM CORSAIR ValueSelect 512MB
HDD 80GB Western Digital 7200RPM IDE 8MB WD800JB
FLOPPY NEC Black 1.44MB Internal
CD + DVD WRITER NEC Black 16X DVD & CD
VIDEO CARD Radeon X300SE ASUS EAX300SE-X-TD-128 Radeon X300SE 128MB
CASE Rosewill R203A Black Steel ATX Mid Tower
POWER SUPPLY (INCLUDED WITH CASE) INCL.
Add about $10 for cables for the hard drive and the floppy. All these components were highly rated by people who bought them from Newegg.com. You can learn a lot by reading reviews at Newegg.
To build your own, you will need exactly one tool: a medium-sized Phillips screwdriver. Thats it. Everything else fits together by hand.
AMD Athlon64 processors come in 2 varieties: socket-754 and socket-939. However, a socket-939 motherboard has the option of running either a socket-939 processor or a socket-754 processor. The 939-pin processors are generally faster and more expensive than the 754-pin processors. Unfortunately, I don't have a scale that measures the relative speed of the 754 and 939 processors amongst themselves.
Remember that you will need a Windows XP disc, too. ($125 ?) Get XP Home, as XP Pro adds nothing that you will be able to use.
If you do much video editing, you may want to put more money into extra memory, a faster processor and a larger hard drive. But, you can always buy a new hard drive, extra memory and a faster processor in the future, which is something you can't do with an OEM system from Dell or whoever.. This basic system is pretty snappy as it is, though and should do the job nicely.