Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Not sure what to buy? Ask here for some free advice.

Moderator: The Mod Squad

Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Postby scruffy » Thu May 10, 2018 8:17 pm

I'm going to purchase a new PC for my in-laws that is to be used primarily for web-surfing, e.g., trading stocks online, making travel reservations, reading news, etc. They don't store much in the way of files. Perhaps in the future they may use the computer for some streaming, but that's about it. They are not gamers, nor are they tech-savvy in the least.

They are a little price-sensitive, but can handle something above bargain basement, so I'm thinking of a budget of $450 to $750 for the box/tower alone. (Also, they definitely want something new and not used/refurbished.)

Unless someone convinces me otherwise (and I'm open to being convinced), I'll probably just get them a Dell. I'll end up providing the technical support, and in my experience, Dell is pretty reliable. When a problem does occur, the Dell forums are a handy place to get answers. My question for you is...how I should configure it for optimal performance?

They don't need a graphics card, but I'd like to know what combination of CPU, storage drive, and memory you would recommend for the best performance now, and forestalling the need to upgrade later.

For example, I saw one desktop with an i5-7400, 8GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive for around $550. I'm sure this would be plenty good enough for them now. But I'm curious....would it be smarter in the long run to downgrade the processor to an i3-7100 in exchange for a 256GB SSD? or for 16GB of RAM? Should I look for a PCI-based SSD rather than an SATA SSD? How much RAM is "enough" these days, especially if someone tends to open up Chrome with ten or fifteen tabs?

The bottom line is that I haven't bought a desktop in six or more years, and I don't have a good feel for how much each of these upgrades affects performance, especially under Windows 10.

Any recommendations or explanations are appreciated.
scruffy
Green Belt
Green Belt
 
Posts: 110
Joined: Fri Aug 26, 2005 1:25 pm

Re: Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Postby Karlsweldt » Fri May 11, 2018 8:15 am

Browse for "best buys" and "top ten" ratings. Look at the reviews, would help with final decision. What the public finds best, not what the seller touts.
A multi-core CPU can give better performance overall, but with on-board graphics, the system does not perform optimally. Best to have a dedicated video card. That is on a semi-dedicated bus, not sharing with all the other data flows.
Same with a SATA hard drive. Semi-dedicated bus, not sharing with other device options.
A minimal 1 GB video is good for 99% of needs, but a 512 MB card will give decent results.
SSD drives are getting better, and have about the life expectancy of mechanical drives.
256 GB may be enough for normal use, but better to go with a 500 GB hard drive. There always will be those saved photos and video clips that you don't want to get rid of. 4 GB of main memory is enough for 99% of normal needs, but some video clips and programs need more. If using on-board video, no more than 25% of total system memory should be set as a 'video aperture'. Leave the maximum for the OS needs. With a dedicated video card, all system memory is available to the OS.
Almost all those package deals have a "just right for" PSU. Look to options for a heftier PSU. You might add features later, and thus avoid a new PSU inclusion.
Worst part of those package deals is that you get a lot of unwanted 'bundled' software. And you get hounded to purchase those duds.
F@H.. to solve mankind's maladies.. in our lifetimes!
Karlsweldt
Mobo-fu Master
Mobo-fu Master
 
Posts: 20818
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 11:57 am
Location: 07438

Re: Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Postby scruffy » Fri May 11, 2018 8:29 am

Thanks, Karlsweldt. I appreciate the numerous tips.
scruffy
Green Belt
Green Belt
 
Posts: 110
Joined: Fri Aug 26, 2005 1:25 pm

Re: Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Postby Mr T » Sat May 12, 2018 6:17 am

Get an SSD and a separate hard drive for storage and get a USB3 hard drive for backing up - one thing people always forget, backup, backup and backup...

If all they are going to do is go online for stocks and web browsing a powerful PC is not needed. i3 is plenty or a low end AMD setup. 4Gb of RAM is the bare minimum really, especially with ram hogs like Firefox or Chrome browser. Onboard graphics is fine these days, separate video card is always better, but for the wants of this PC not necessary.

Get a good big monitor too. 27 or 28 inch with HDMI input is the norm and suits most people these days (I am using a BENQ GC2870 which I got after a lot of research and it is good - crisp picture and not blurry like my old LG 23").

For a PC, why not look at an Intel NUC, compact but fast and good for web browsing. Limited expand-ability, but it is what it is. I have a few and online, Netflix, Youtube stream fine at HD with no lagging (on the low end Celerons too).

And as they are not tech savvy, here is the big one - don't bother with M$ Windows. Its expensive, convoluted (resource hungry), complicated and slow compared to other operating systems. Look at a free OS, like Linux Mint, Ubuntu to name two. Simple and easy to use, very fast on an SSD, decent choice of web browsers (Firefox, Chromium, Google Chrome, Midori, IceWeasel, SeaMonkey etc, etc - no IE6 or EDGE) and of course free.

Hope this helps...
I have been programming on computers since the ZX81.
I am an apprentice trained Electronics Engineer with qualifications to back it up.
I have been repairing computers since 1996.
Yet to some people I still know nothing...
Mr T
Enlightened Master
Enlightened Master
 
Posts: 17132
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2002 1:03 am
Location: England

Re: Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Postby scruffy » Sun May 13, 2018 8:16 pm

Mr. T.

Thanks for the recommendations....I'll take a look at the alternate PC and OSes you mention.

I also appreciate the monitor recommendation...although I didn't mention it, I do want to upgrade their current screen.

Thanks again!
scruffy
Green Belt
Green Belt
 
Posts: 110
Joined: Fri Aug 26, 2005 1:25 pm

Re: Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Postby Roach412 » Mon May 14, 2018 6:46 am

I, personally, wouldn't get anything without 8gb or memory and an SSD large enough at least for the boot/OS drive.

I'll never have a spinning drive again for my primary drive, and I'll never have less than 8gb of memory (12gb is really above most any non-gaming/rendering requirements) - it's just not worth the $$ "savings" up-front for the time and performance gains you'll see for the life of the build. To me it's worth it just from the few times a year I reboot my machine - rarely are you ever "conveniently" pushed into a restart, you usually want to get something done. My current build will be shut down and back into a fully loaded windows in 20-25 seconds - it was 90-120 seconds when using a spinning drive.

The i3 would be fine, i5 would be overkill most likely.

-R
Lian Li Lancool First Knight Series PC-K59W
Intel Core i7-960 Bloomfield 3.2GHz
EVGA X58 FTW3 132-GT-E768-TR
EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 FTW GAMING ACX 3.0
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 12GB (3 x 4GB)
Crucial M4 128gb SATAIII SSD x2
Crucial M4 256gb SATAIII SSD
OCZ Saber 1000 960GB Enterprise SSD
Corsair Professional Series HX850 PSU
Dell UltraSharp U2713HM 27" w/drop ceiling mount
Logitech G930 7.1 Headset
DBPOWER RGB LED Keyboard
Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury
Roach412
Black Belt 2nd Degree
Black Belt 2nd Degree
 
Posts: 2738
Joined: Mon Aug 09, 2004 7:33 pm
Location: Milwaukee - Wisconsin

Re: Looking for a Lower-End PC...what upgrades are worth it?

Postby scruffy » Mon May 14, 2018 11:02 pm

Thanks for the recommendations, Roach412.

I'm planning on going the 8GB route and installing an SSD for them.
scruffy
Green Belt
Green Belt
 
Posts: 110
Joined: Fri Aug 26, 2005 1:25 pm


Return to Recommendations

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests