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Seeking Advice on Purchasing New PCs


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#1 Pythoneer

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 10:58 PM

Greetings,

 

I am returning one of my PC to my research institution and now that it's nearing Christmas, I am planning to purchase new PCs to replace some old hardware. (I missed the Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers.)

 

I am not planning to purchase any Apple products, nor am I planning to build my own system. I am going for a desktop + a laptop combination.

 

I will primarily use my desktop PC for my children's schoolwork (mostly using Microsoft Office and surfing the Net) and some minor form of entertainment. It doesn't need to come with a monitor, as I already have one, so I am going for a tower-only option. The tower should include an optical drive bay as we need to play and burn DVDs occasionally.

 

I will use my laptop/notebook for work, to store my research reports and conduct some data analysis. Frequent simulations and computations will be done on this laptop. I prefer large display screen, 15.6 inch if possible. The laptop should also comes with an optical drive bay which allows me to use my DVDs without needing an external optical drive.  

 

For laptop, I personally would not go for ASUS as the hinge tends to break after prolonged opening and closing of the lid. My institution has collaborations with HP and can offer special discount for staffs who purchase HP products. I would also consider Dell laptops to be nice, but not Lenovo or ASUS.

 

That said, I would like to hear from experts around the forum for some advice on purchasing PCs based on my preferences above. Thanks.



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#2 achzone

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Posted 01 December 2018 - 12:25 AM

Hi Pythoneer,

 

Can you provide some details as to what budget you've set for yourself?

 

It will be difficult for anyone to give recommendations based on the information you've given, without having some knowledge of how much you're hoping to spend on both the desktop and laptop.

 

Cheers.., Andrew



#3 Pythoneer

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Posted 01 December 2018 - 01:47 AM

Hi Andrew,

 

My apologies for not including the price range in the previous post.

 

For the desktop PC (tower-only), anywhere between 500 USD to 650 USD should be fine.

 

For notebook/laptop, 700 to 800 USD is acceptable.

 

A bit more details on the specifications required:

 

Storage space of 1TB is more than enough for both the desktop and laptop PC.

 

Please also advice on whether a PC with only SATA HDD is good enough or I will need a SATA HDD + SSD storage combination. Personally, I don't demand extreme speeds and I prefer stability.

 

RAM of 4GB, I believe is the standard today. That said, I would be glad to find out any PC whose RAM is above 4GB in size.

 

As for graphic cards, I am fine with both Nvidia and ATI cards. I prefer dedicated graphic cards for better graphic performance for both the laptop and the desktop PC. VRAM of 1-2 GB should be good enough for daily work. 

 

Thanks for the help.


Edited by Pythoneer, 01 December 2018 - 01:49 AM.


#4 achzone

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Posted 01 December 2018 - 06:33 AM

Hi Pythoneer,

 

Reading through your requirements carefully with budget constraints in mind, I don't think there's anything I could really suggest in so far as a specific off the shelf purchase. Have you allowed for software costs into that budget as well?

 

You appear to favour both HP and Dell, so my suggestion would be for you to look through HP and Dell's current offerings and if you find something that catches your eye, ask for opinions on the specifications of whatever you're interested in. You'll find it difficult to specify a type or brand of the graphics card on a brand PC with the budget you have stated. You will find that for the amount you're wanting to spend, almost anything you find will have a graphics chip integrated on the mainboard.

 

I would, however, suggest the following based on your comments.

 

Consider 4GB of RAM to be a "minimum" for both the Laptop and Desktop - not as a standard. 4GB is fine, but 8GB is preferable on a 64bit Windows 10 install or it will end up choking and need upgrading in the long term.

 

An SSD drive will give you a huge and noticeable performance hit with Windows 10 (or any other operating system for that matter) but they still haven't fallen in price sufficiently for you to have any reasonable expectations of having anything of a decent size included. A 512 GB SSD for the operating system drive is what I would personally be aiming for and 256 GB would be another "minimum" recommendation I would make, To meet your budget restraints, however, I suspect you will need to settle for  1 - 2 TB SATA Mechanical drive(s).

 

Finally, an Intel i7 (or AMD equivalent) processor as a minimum for both laptop and desktop is what I would also recommend.

 

Anything else included should be considered gravy. Be careful about choosing run-out or clearance deals of superseded models. These can come quite cheap, but also have a very limited support life as Windows 10 continues to evolve.

 

Should you find anything that is appealing, please feel free to post a link here and I'd be happy to give you an opinion on the specifications of a machine or laptop that you're interested in.

 

Good luck.

 

Regards, Andrew


Edited by achzone, 01 December 2018 - 06:38 AM.


#5 lti

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Posted 01 December 2018 - 08:49 PM

I would consider 8GB of RAM to be the minimum today. You might need more, depending on the software you run.

 

I would also suggest avoiding 1366x768 displays. My laptop uses that resolution, and I keep finding software and websites that are broken and unusable unless I use an external monitor. There are still a lot of new laptops (including some that are outside of your budget) that use that resolution.

 

What entertainment software are you running on the desktop? Does the software you run on the laptop use the graphics card heavily?



#6 Pythoneer

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Posted 02 December 2018 - 05:11 AM

Thanks for the replies Andrew and Iti.

 

Software price has been considered. If you can find any PCs which is within 100-200 USD above my price range, you can recommend that as well. I am willing to have a look at them.

 

Thanks especially for informing me that 8GB is the minimum today. The most resource-heavy time for my PC, I would say, is when I run a simulation which involves lots of computation and surfing the Net with a browser at the same time. 

 

If I aim for an i5 processor, is that not sufficient enough? How many cores and how high should the clock rate be, for my case based on the information available in the previous posts?

 

I am afraid i7 may be too expensive. Just my thoughts.

 

Also, if given a choice between AMD and Intel products, which one should I choose? Please advice on this.

 

I will let you know when I have found any nice laptop and desktop PCs when I come across one.

 

I also consider Dell and Acer to be good PC manufacturers. I will consider them as well. 



#7 Pythoneer

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Posted 02 December 2018 - 08:59 AM

Alright, some changes in plan.

 

Now, no more desktop PCs. I only want to purchase laptops/notebooks.

 

I am settled on HP and Dell. And I would like to raise the bar for the price to anywhere from 800 to 1000 USD.

 

I will only be purchasing my laptop/notebook January next year and I have heard that the 9th-generation Intel CPU is set to roll out next year. Does it worth to wait for the 9th-gen notebooks to arrive? Or the 8th-gen CPUs are already worth their offer?

 

Here is a choice I am considering:

 

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (5570) (1TB 5400 RPM HDD + 128 GB PCIe SSD)

 

15.6 inch display

8GB DDR4 2400 MHz RAM

Intel Core i7 i7-8550U processor

4GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon 530 graphics

 

I love the backlit keyboard especially, so that I can work in early mornings, if necessary.

 

I choose a dual-drive to take advantage of both the stability of the HDD and the speed offered by the SSD. If If I need to do heavy read/write work to the secondary storage device, I can save my files to the SSD. On the other hand, for daily usage, the 1 TB HDD will be sufficient enough for the work. 

 

My current PC's HDD is a 500GB 7200 RPM variant and although it is quite good (still no bad sectors after 7 years of usage!) I think it's a bit slow. This may be also due to my rather slow AMD A6 APU (1.4 GHz only).

 

Is it possible that with an 8th-gen i7, perhaps the faster clock speed will outweigh the HDD with slower RPM?

 

I am pretty sure it depends on the front side bus speed, but I couldn't find any info on that.

 

As for reviews, some suggests it, some says it is poor.

 

Laptopmag gave it a very poor review:

 

https://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/dell-inspiron-15-5000

 

I am also taking battery life into consideration. If it can hold for 7-9 hours, I would be glad to take it.

 

The Laptogmag review suggests this instead:

 

https://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/acer-aspire-e-15-e5-576g-5762

 

Perhaps I should consider Acer products as well. Will take a look.

 

But notebookcheck suggests that it is nearly a 4 out of 5 product, though not with ample evidence of testing.

 

Any advice and comments on the above 2 products are appreciated.

 

Thanks in advance.


Edited by Pythoneer, 02 December 2018 - 09:36 AM.


#8 achzone

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Posted 02 December 2018 - 09:11 PM

Hi Pythoneer,

 

 

https://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/dell-inspiron-15-5000

 

I am also taking battery life into consideration. If it can hold for 7-9 hours, I would be glad to take it.

 

The Laptogmag review suggests this instead:

 

https://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/acer-aspire-e-15-e5-576g-5762

 

Perhaps I should consider Acer products as well. Will take a look.

 

 

From the two you've linked to above, I'd consider the Acer to be the better buy. The inclusion of the 256GB SSD is a bonus and will make quite a difference to performance as opposed to the Dell offering and the 2GB of dedicated Graphics memory will also help in a performance boost. I've always found Acer to be as good in quality to any other budget laptop offering. The only thing I don't like about both of your finds is the i5 processor as opposed to an i7 quad core processor. That would make quite the difference to your computation needs that you spoke of earlier. However, that said, you're limited by how much you want to spend, so for my money, I would go with the Acer offering. The dedicated numeric keypad on both of those laptops is also something that (I personally) enjoy on any laptop I use.

 

I hope that's helpful.

 

Regards, Andrew



#9 Pythoneer

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Posted 03 December 2018 - 01:47 AM

I checked the online store this morning and the same Acer model mentioned above is not available in my area at the moment.

 

Sorry for providing you with the wrong info yesterday.

 

Numeric keypad is certainly a must for most of us. Middle to high end laptops usually include them, I think.

 

One thing to note, the links available at laptopmag only mention in detail about a specific model within both series of laptops. For example, both laptop offers i7 CPU versions and different configurations of secondary storage devices. The Dell Inspiron which I mentioned has a hybrid configuration: HDD + SSD.

 

That said, the Acer Aspire E5 series sold in my area does not contain any options to upgrade to i7.

 

I like the PC as it has long battery-life. The Dell Inspiron does not seem to have long battery life, per reviews, but it has less bloatware and the i7 processor you mentioned earlier.

 

Also, it comes with discrete graphics, the same as that of the Acer model, for your information, with 4 GB of dedicated VRAM.

 

The Dell Inspiron model mentioned above does come with an i7-processor and it is available at the moment in my area. The exact same specs as listed below.

 

 

 

To avoid confusion, here are the exact models I am considering (I replaced the earlier Acer model with the one available in my region).

 

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (5570)

 

Intel Core 8th-gen i7-8550U processor

15.6 inch display

4GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon 530 graphics (dedicated)

8GB DDR4 2400 MHz RAM

1TB 5400 RPM HDD + 128 GB PCIe SSD) (128 GB is enough for me actually. My documents are usually stored in the Cloud and they rarely exceed 20 GB.)

 

Price: About 1000 USD. 

 

Acer Aspire E15 (E5-576G-54KG and E5-576G-58RV)

 

Intel Core 8th-gen i5-8250U processor

15.6 inch display

2GB GDDR5 Nvidia GeForce MX150 (dedicated)

4GB DDR3L SDRAM

1TB SATA

 

Price: About 650 USD

 

I am still looking for good HP and Acer laptops, but those with optical disk drives usually don't have RAM memory space beyond 4GB and the screens are usually small, anywhere from 13 inch to 14 inch. 

 

Expensive ones have most stuff I need, but no optical disk drive. I am wondering if I need to give up something at this point.

 

But if given an option between optical disk drive and long battery life, I will go for the former one. Firstly, it is more likely that I need to use a DVD to store data and backups. Th extra long battery life of 8 hours is more appealing towards the travelers and business people. I will only use my PC at most for 2 hours at any given time, so a 4-5 hours battery will do the job, in my opinion. (Of course, if it has 7-9 hours of battery I will be even happy.)

 

It's not like I need to run simulations for 5-8 hours continuously. Powerful simulations are done using supercomputers or utilizes parallel computing.

 

Just my thoughts though, I am willing to accept comments and advice from others.

 

 

 

Also, just to summarize some of my unanswered questions, in case anyone missed them:

 

1. For laptops/notebooks (not 2-in-1s, detachables/convertibles etc.) Should I go for AMD or Intel processors, if given a choice?

 

2. Is it worth waiting for the 9th-gen Intel CPUs to arrive before I purchase my new laptop, or the 8th-gen processors are good enough?

 

3.

 

 

My current PC's HDD is a 500GB 7200 RPM variant and although it is quite good (still no bad sectors after 7 years of usage!) I think it's a bit slow. This may be also due to my rather slow AMD A6 APU (1.4 GHz only).

 

Is it possible that with an 8th-gen i7, perhaps the faster clock speed will outweigh the HDD with slower RPM?

 

I am pretty sure it depends on the front side bus speed, but I couldn't find any info on that.

 

Is my reasoning above correct?

 

Does a 5400 RPM HDD really doesn't matter if I have say, an i7 processor?

 

4. Regarding the reviews, what are reputable websites which I can refer to?

 

Laptopmag and techradar seems reputable. Are there any other webpages I can have a look at?

 

Thanks for helping.



#10 achzone

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Posted 03 December 2018 - 07:03 PM

Hi Pythoneer,

 

Some comments on your comments...

 

128 GB is enough for me actually. My documents are usually stored in the Cloud and they rarely exceed 20 GB

 

 

Just be aware that a good chunk of that capacity will be taken up by Windows itself. A 128 GB system drive will likely leave you with about ~60% of that space, less any other software you're wanting to install. Add another 30-40GB of space you'll need to keep free for Windows upgrades when they occur and that 128GB drive suddenly starts looking very small indeed :) The inclusion of the 1TB SSD is needed there and should relieve space concerns if used correctly.

 

Expensive ones have most stuff I need, but no optical disk drive

 

Considered just adding a USB optical drive into the mix for when you need one? They're quite inexpensive these days.

 

Between the two units you've listed, I'd consider the Dell to be a much better buy, mostly because of the included Intel Core 8th-gen i7-8550U processor and the 4GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon 530 graphics card. Well worth the additional ~$350 in purchase cost.

 

1. For laptops/notebooks (not 2-in-1s, detachables/convertibles etc.) Should I go for AMD or Intel processors, if given a choice?

 

If given a choice, go for the genuine Intel product. AMD though they do manufacture their own designs (for the most part) is just a copy of the genuine Intel product. That said, I've had very few problems associated with AMD processors and have always found they perform just as well for day to day use. Also, sticking with Intel processors will guarantee you that it will always be supported in one way or another when dealing with future software upgrades because they are so mainstream in builds and use in OEM units.

 

2. Is it worth waiting for the 9th-gen Intel CPUs to arrive before I purchase my new laptop, or the 8th-gen processors are good enough?

 

For your stated needs, I don't see the benefits in waiting here. The 8th-gen should be fine and if you're planning on waiting for 9th-gen to become more affordable, then plan on waiting a good 6 to 12 months after release :)

 

Is my reasoning above correct?

 

Not quite in my opinion. The stronger processor will have an effect, but ultimately with 5400 RPM, you start with a handicap and are already dealing with a bottleneck which is impossible to overcome. FSB speeds not-withstanding (most will easily allow for and handle 7200 RPM), the biggest factor to consider here is the speed of the drive itself. Will 5400 / 7200 make a "huge" difference in day to day use? No. But a difference in having the faster drive will be "noticeable", especially so if a mechanical SATA is being used as the system drive. (The drive Windows is installed to)

 

Does a 5400 RPM HDD really doesn't matter if I have say, an i7 processor?

 

It matters - as per my previous statements. A processor will never compensate adequately for the R/W speeds of a drive itself.

 

4. Regarding the reviews, what are reputable websites which I can refer to?

 

That's a question you're bound to get a dozen different opinions about :) Only you can know the answer to that one. Which ones do "you" trust?

 

Laptopmag and techradar seems reputable. Are there any other webpages I can have a look at?

 

They are - though most sites will have a vested interest of some type to favour one product over another. I think the way you're going about this purchase is perfect. Read the reviews "you" trust, then get other opinions from forums such as this one.

 

Hope that's helpful.

 

Regards, Andrew



#11 Pythoneer

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Posted 03 December 2018 - 10:48 PM

Thanks for the help, Andrew.

 

I understand the storage space concerns. So, I will make sure Windows is installed on the SSD and my data are stored on the 1TB HDD. (Not a 1TB SSD, that isn't economical enough to hit the market yet. :P)

 

To be honest, I am not familiar with laptop reviews, that's why I am asking for some suggestions here.

 

From what I see, the reviews don't really matter and can only function as a reference and nothing more. Certain people prefer greater performance to battery life and some the opposite. It's hard to strike a balance.

 

Also, the reviewers hardly try out all configurations of the same laptop model. They may try out the i5 version but saw its poor battery performance and ignore the i7 version and other nice configurations.

 

I have seen official Dell reviews claiming that Dell Inspiron 15 5570 actually has long battery life, which seems to contradict the reviews.

 

It is still best to do our own homework rather than depending too much on "reviews".

 

After all, "we know what we want".

 

Thanks for all the answers on my questions, Andrew.

 

Last 2 choices for your review:

 

HP ProBook 440 G6

 

I can't find an i7 + 8GB combination for this one. If I choose i7, I can only go for a 4GB RAM. Choose an 8GB one and you only get an i5, plus the price is certainly above 1000 USD for this one, and all models don't come with optical drive bay.)

 

Acer Aspire E14 (E5-476G-81VA)

 

Quite similar to the above case, it comes with an i7 processor but only a 4GB RAM. It has an optical disk drive, but no backlit keyboard and the screen size is only 14". It does have a 1TB HDD + 128 GB SSD storage. Price is about 830 USD for this one.

 

Feel free to recommend other notebooks/laptops if you have come across one.

 

I am currently sticking with Dell Inspiron 15 5570 (128 GB SSD + 1TB HDD). Will let you know when I have purchased it.

 

:)



#12 achzone

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Posted 04 December 2018 - 03:30 AM

Last 2 choices for your review:

HP ProBook 440 G6

Acer Aspire E14 (E5-476G-81VA)

 

Got a link to these two units? I get Australian results which could differ from the pages you're looking at.

 

I am currently sticking with Dell Inspiron 15 5570 (128 GB SSD + 1TB HDD). Will let you know when I have purchased it.

 

No worries. The i7 processor will benefit you in the long run, as will the 4GB AMD Graphics card and the SSD for the system drive. A USB DVD unit can be added at a later time and as I mentioned, they're quite inexpensive these days.

 

Best, Andrew



#13 Pythoneer

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 02:43 AM

Hi.

 

I was looking at another laptop review's website, so the HP ProBook model which I was trying to find is not available for them.

 

Here's the one I am looking for, for your review.

 

https://store.hp.com/UKStore/Merch/Product.aspx?id=4LT63EA&opt=ABU&sel=NTB

 

I am not sure if a backlit keyboard is available for the UK version, as HP's store does not provide any info on that.

 

But at this price it does come with a 512 GB SSD, which I think is not bad. As you say, the external optical disk drive can be purchased later, so I am not that worried.

 

My bad also on the Acer Aspire. That configuration is not available in my area.

 

The E5-475 version is certainly "too cheap" given my current budget. So, no hope on Acer either.

 

Please consider the HP Probook series I am posting above, also add about 40 USD for the external ODD when considering the price.

 

Thanks for the update.



#14 achzone

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 03:02 AM

Here's the one I am looking for, for your review.

 

https://store.hp.com/UKStore/Merch/Product.aspx?id=4LT63EA&opt=ABU&sel=NTB

 

 

 

Excellent looking unit with good specs. The only downside on that laptop that I can see is the rather low end integrated graphics card, but for your stated needs, I don't see that as being a big issue. The 512GB SSD is great, RAM and Processor also good.

 

Overall, excellent buy in my opinion.

 

Regards, Andrew



#15 britechguy

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 10:04 AM

I will just throw out, since the OP already has experience with an early AMD APU, not to eliminate units with later AMD APUs from consideration.  The laptop I'm writing from is an HP with an A12-9700P APU and it performs quite well.  I often wonder just how much faster the system would be if it had an SSD, but I wanted tons of storage, so a 2TB HDD is what I've got.

 

I also have not experienced any support issues over the long term with previous machines I've had that used AMD processors.

 

Your requirements, for both machines, do not indicate that "high firepower" is going to be required for either one.  The one for the schoolwork could be very basic, and the one for the office work mid-grade.  These days, if one does not require blazing speed for absolutely everything, the high end CPUs/APUs are not essential.  If you're an online gamer, or someone who's work involves 3D graphics that need to be rendered in realtime (e.g., an architect showing off building designs) then you need some really high computing power.  Otherwise, most mid-grade processors are more than capable of handling e-mailing, web surfing, and working with office documents at speeds that are more than adequate, and way more than adequate if an SSD is part of the picture.

 

Over the years I have watched more people throw away money on processing power that they never use, and never did use before replacing equipment for other reasons.  Buying a Ferrari when all you'll be doing is a "commute to and from work/school" makes no sense.  Bells and whistles that you don't use and that hold no interest for you are also not worth having.

 

I would not go for less than 8GB of RAM, either, and that would be plenty sufficient for the school machine.  That being said, it's amazing how many machines that are just at mid-grade start at 8GB of RAM and for just a very few dollars more can be had with 12 or 16GB.

 

Tool to task, with some room for growth, is the target.


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