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Gaming Desktop, Casual-use Laptop!

By Sake ยท 21 replies
Jul 29, 2007
  1. Yarrr, I'm recently wanting to buy a sexy Gaming Desktop. Of course, like every other computer noob out there, I thought "hmm... alienware," but after reading a lot of articles, etcetera, etcetera, I discovered that alienware is indeed the best gaming rig, but the most expensive, and their computers are totally unreliable. So now I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    I have a budget of about ~$2000 - $2500 for the DESKTOP, even though $2500 is pushing it a little. Now, the kind of desktop that I want is not a super fast, ub3r gaming rig, but something a little above average, and a reliable machine that won't just crash on me because it's under cooled, or just for some reason in the next 1 - 2 years. To make it easier, here's a bullet list of what I want:
    • Gaming Desktop
    • $2000 -$2500 budget (2500 pushing it a little, but will pay if I can get the most bang for the buck)
    • Above average, but doesn't need to be super ub3r
    • Reliable, won't crash in the next 1 - 2 years
    • Games such as World of Warcraft, Warhammer (when it releases :p), Starcraft 2, and games such as those

    Pretty much, the laptop I want is for home use. My mom's birthday is coming up, and one of the things I want to present to her is a new laptop (her old laptop broke down a few months back). Pretty much all I'm asking for is something simple. A laptop that she'll be able to surf the internet with, complete simple tasks like e-mail, word, etcetera. She won't be playing any games on there, but I also want the laptop to be extremely reliable and safe. What I mean is I want the laptop to last for 3+ years, and since she's totally an internet noob, I don't want her laptop to get infected by a virus or some internet bug when she's opening her e-mail's. I'm thinking about Norton (what my current computer has, but it's such a huge CPU hog, and I'm starting to hate it) or maybe AVG (I've heard great things about it). I don't care if I have to pay for the anti-virus/firewall. Lastly, I want it to be decently light, but I want the screen to be as big as possible, for eye-sight reasons. The budget on this laptop is around $1,500 (I'm sure a computer like this could be bought for maybe around $1,500) Once again, a bullet list:
    • Laptop able to complete simple tasks (e-mail, word, internet)
    • Reliable (3+ years)
    • Anti-virus/Firewall (Norton... AVG? Any other ideas?)
    • Decently light with a big a screen as possible
    • ~$1,500

    For the operating system, I was thinking Vista, but I heard it's a total waste on a gaming rig right now, but it's such an inticing deal! If it's really all that bad for a gaming pc, then I'm sure it'll be fine for the laptop I'm buying. Any other ideas?
  2. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Any advice or help would be helpful!
  3. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    Operating system:
    Vista will be okay for your mother's laptop, but I am split decided on your desktop. Though I would be quick to say Microsoft XP Professional, if you are trying to make a Gaming rig, you should take into consideration that DirectX 10 ONLY runs on Vista (last time I checked). If you plan on getting a DX10 ready Videocard, expect to either get Vista, or be ready to upgrade to it when reliable drivers are out (or are they? I dunno I don't have a GeForce 8XXX Video card)

    Also before anyone totes that Vista is a resource pig, a gaming machine, whatever it may be, that is designed to run currents games, will have MORE than enough memory, processing power, and GPU power to run Vista at its best, and have enough resources to kick some royal **** in a video game.

    Protection software:
    Norton is not as much a CPU hog than as a memory hog, especially Norton Internet Security. For paying for Antivirus, choose either Nod32 or Kaspersky. Sure AVG has a free Antivirus scanner, but I find it rather lacking, but at least better than having no security (and everything uses less resources than Norton so it gets a point for that). I personally Use Nod32, Kerio Personal Firewall, Ad-Aware Pro, and Spybot S&D. However for simplicities sake, Kaspersky has an all in one Internet Security package which people seem to like, which will be easier for your mother to use.

    As for keeping her from getting viruses, spyware, and adware, the endgame answer to that is that she needs to learn safe email/surfing habits. Protection software can only limitly keep the baddies at bay, where its #1 security hole is almost always the user.

    I am not sure if screen size truely matters in this case. if your mother has a hard time reading small print, you can decrease the resolution (say 1600x1200 was too small to read, you drop it to 1280x1024, etc). It will be nice though if the screen is bigger (and screen resolutions stretch to match the screen size), so a smaller resolution will look even bigger.

    As for the laptop, I am very baised at the moment, and will say go with the Thinkpad Line which is now owned by Lenovo. I threw together a Thinkpad R61e and with some extra memory, HDD space, and a DVD burner, It is still under $1,000. And thinkpads are so freaking tough and reliable as hell. Just wish IBM still owned the line. *shrug*

    Hmm... this is a tough one. a lot of things matter with this. Are you willing to wait till the end of the 4th quarter to be able to try AMD's new processors (or get what is now a high end AMD processor now and hope to upgrade later), or are you going to just jump into the pool with Intel? Are you an ATI fanboy or a Nvidia fanboy? If neither do you care if you have DirectX 10 support (if you say yes you'll need Vista to take advantage of DX10)? what size computer (as in physical size and weight) are you looking at?

    I can easily try to build a PC at newegg that meets your specifications, but I'd need to know what you are into. =)
  4. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    I don't really understand all this stuff about Vista and Windows XP Pro. Is it because the reason people are saying XP > Vista when it comes to games because Vista currently can't support some things, or what? I'm totally confused about this thing, but yeah, Vista should be fine for my mom's lappy, as she won't be playing any games. If it helps any, I'll be using my desktop for ~3 years and I don't plan on playing it 24/7. More like ~4 hours on weekdays and a little longer on the weekends. And for the spyware stuff, I'll just go with the regulars. Ad-Aware, etc. Is there really such a big difference between the home and pros?

    As for keeping her from getting viruses, spyware, and adware, the endgame answer to that is that she needs to learn safe email/surfing habits. Protection software can only limitly keep the baddies at bay, where its #1 security hole is almost always the user.
    Yeah, what I meant was I don't want her opening some mail and having her computer infected or anything like that. She's a safe person. :p

    Yes, I have heard AMAZING things about the thinkpad line. My friend used to have an IBM thinkpad (are we talking about the same thinkpad here? I mean that his was IBM, but you said IBM doesn't own the line anymore) and he said it was amazing to use. I also used it a couple of times when we would hang out and it was actually pretty bad ***. I have also heard from a lot of people that it's a really reliable laptop. I'm definitely thinking about getting one of these. So I should be looking for Lenevo thinkpad and not IBM, right? Here's a few links I found while searching a few popular pc magazines and wanted to know what you though. I find it funny how some of the laptops on the pcworld list are rated not as well by pcmag. Any thoughts? Personally, though, I just dislike Gateway.


    OS: Vista Home
    Firewall: Comodo or Zone Alarm (Most likely Comodo, I wanna try something new :p)
    Antivirus: Kaspersky
    Spyware: Ad-Aware, etc.

    I have no clue what you mean by 4th quarter and all the processor stuff. Would it be more worth it to wait, or to not? As I am still a student and school is starting pretty soon, but I mean I guess if the wait wasn't that long, I could just use the library computers or whatever. Size doesn't matter to me, in fact the bigger the screen, the better actually and I'm guessing the bigger the computer is, the less likely it'll overheat? I don't know what I'm talking about, sorry. :p Also, should I get liquid cooling, or a fan is fine?

    Lastly, thank you for the offer, but I really don't want to bother you. Actually, I have looked around and it seems Falcon, Cyberpower, and Dell all make decent desktop computers specifically for gaming needs. I was actually really looking into Cyberpower lately and was wondering what your opinion on this was. I know building my own computer is better, but... I dunno, it just doesn't really appeal to me, and add on the fact that I'm lazy, lol, there you have it. :p Should I buy a computer around my range, or buy a cheap one and upgrade it into my range, if that makes any sense. Sorry for the bother and thanks for any help!
  5. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    XP professional still has a long lifespan ahead of it, and since its been around for a good 5+ years so its also become quite reliable in terms of Windows OS's, so I suppose that would be your best bet for your desktop. Well, as long as you don't plan on using DirectX 10. =)

    Ah gotcha. Then definately the two I suggested.

    IBM sold the Thinkpad line to Lenovo back in 2005, but the Thinkpad is still a registered Trademark of IBM, why their name is still on it. People still see Thinkpads as the IBM wonder laptop, keep in mind the Z series is the first Thinkpad which Lenovo was an active participant in its design and development, and you can tell. =p

    Thinkpads are by nature designed for business and corporate work (and US government work, until Lenovo officially bought them anyways), so they lack a lot of USB ports, are most have a 4:3 or 5:4 ratio displays (only the Z series have widescreen (16:9 or 16:10) displays), which are not as well suited for multimedia.

    BUT, they are as reliable as hell, and tough as hell, and that Track point... Its so much better than a touchpad in my experience. XDD

    4th quarter = last 3 months of the year. if you want a new computer to have for school as well then definately don't bother waiting and go with an Intel Dual core (like a Core 2 Duo or something).

    Well it depends on the case structure, and what its made out of. Aluminium is better with heat dissipation, and are a lot lighter than Steel Cases. Steel cases on the other hand are a lot stronger in terms of sturdiness, and are a lot quieter (because of the extra material). Though as long as you aren't doing anything crazy with your computer parts (like mad overclocking or the such) either case should work. as for heating solution, You probably don't have to worry about dealing with liquid cooling. You have to change out the liquid on a regular basis (sometimes every few months, but the time depends on the type of liquid), which might be more work than you're willing to do. With Fan cooling you would want to take your computer outside every month or so and blast the insides with some compressed air to get all the dust out, but that takes a couple minutes at best. Overall Fan is easier and less cumbersome, watercooling is more efficent.

    I don't know prebuilt systems very well (as I've been building them for myself and family for almost 8 years now), but looking at Cyberpowers site, most of their systems seem a little underpowered for a gaming PC. 2 GB of RAM or more is a must to keep any memory hogging program or game happy, and keep everything else happy at the same time. =/

    At anyrate, if you have the budget to buy a high end system, go ahead and do so, especially if you plan on getting a pre-built system. Buying it with everything prebuilt will probably end up being cheaper then getting it cheaper and then buying the parts you want.
  6. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,103   +423

    Don't buy a cheap PC thinking you can upgrade it later. Many cheap or budget PCs are not very upgradeable and you'll end up having to buy a whole new "gaming" PC all over again. There could be some exceptions to this but you will have to carefully review the PC specs to know if it has reasonable upgrade potential.
  7. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Yeah, I think I'll just end up getting XP Professional, then upgrading to Windows Vista next year or whenever it gets better for games. Also, what would use DirectX 10?

    So I guess a thinkpad is still a good idea. Should I buy a thinkpad from Lenevo, or some laptop from IBM?

    Well, I could hold out for 2 more months, but the problem is whether or not it'll be worth it and how much more I would have to pay anyways.

    Yeah, I think I'll just go for the fan.

    Well, I definently don't have the budget to buy a high end system. I've heard many great things about Cyberpower and adding on the fact that it was listed as the #1 gaming desktop by pc world made me really look into it, but I think it's because PCWorld added on a lot of upgrades, most of which I won't be able to afford. So what I'm asking is would it be worth it to get a computer around ~2500 and still get the most bang for my buck?

    Lastly, would it be better to get a Cyberpower or Dell XPS 720 and then upgrade it into my range? And what upgrades should I get if I choose one of these?
  8. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    Well, Supreme Commander has DirectX 10 support, as I can see a lot of interesting games, to say the least, that will take full advantage of DX10, and I won't be suprised to see a good number of titles being rereleased to use DX10. For the sake of the arguement to upgrade to Vista for DX10, it makes everything look prettier, and thats about it.

    As I said, IBM sold the "Think" line (Thinkcenter workstations and Thinkpad laptops) to Lenovo, so you have to get a thinkpad from Lenovo.

    Well with Intel nearly commanding the desktop market, you wouldn't expect to pay that much more for a new AMD processor than what you'd pay now for and Intel Processor. Simply put, if you're patient and like to see both sides of the same coin, then wait. Otherwise go ahead with Intel, it shouldn't do you wrong. =)

    The meaning of the term "high end" is debatable, and changes from person to person. I could build what I would consider a "high end" system for just over $2200 (its my current self christmas present list), and that includes a new case, power supply, motherboard, 2 GB of RAM (or was it 4? I can't remember), 8800 GTS (I could go GTX for a couple $XXX more), AMD X2 6000 dual core(though for an extra $140 I could go intel Q6600 quad, hmm), and two 21 inch monitors (this is where a good 750 of that $2200 comes from actually). And there are some premium parts on my list, and they cost a bit more than I would usually spend. so If your idea of High end is anything like mine, it will be more than easy to get a prebuilt high end system for under $2500.

    Now looking up the XPS 720, it seems to be similar to the specs I listed above for that christmas list desktop. For the sake of upgradbility and usability for future games and Potentially Vista in the Future, you are going to want minimum 2 GB's, preferably 4 GB of RAM. A 8800 GTS is nice (the Dell system comes with an 8600GTS actually), but apparently a GTX packs a much tough punch than its GTS counterpart, so it may be worth going with that.

    As I said I don't really know cyberpower, but for the sake of suggesting something from them, the Intel Gamer Infinity SLI doesn't look half bad.
  9. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks SO much for your help, I'll look more into that Dell XPS 720 and update later on what upgrades I plan on getting. :p
  10. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    Let us know what you end up getting. at least I am curious in the end. =)
  11. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Hmm... Sorry, I've been busy lately, with father's day and all. :p

    Anyways, what should I get? http://www.dell.com/content/products/category.aspx/xpsdt_gaming?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs There's the 710, and the 720, it's only a 100$ difference, but what should I get/what's the difference between the two?? I can afford it, so it's not a really big deal, I just wanted to know. Also, what upgrades should I get if I choose one of them? Obviously the 4gb RAM upgrade, then XP Pro, a decent sized screen, and what else? Most bang for my buck I guess. :p I also plan on getting the Microsoft package thing (word, powerpoint, etc.). Thanks for any help. :)

    Edit: I have maybe... ~2 days left to decide. :(
  12. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Any ideas guys??
  13. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    of the two, if I had not choice and had to get Dell, I'd personally buy the 720. The little extra juice it can push out (at least comparing the baseline versions) will be helpful regardless, and its only a couple hundred more.

    Though I like M$ Office better, you may want to try Open Office as an alternative. Its freeware and works rather well, being able to open up your standard Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access files and then some. The only reason why I am even mentioning it though, is so you can save the pricetag for adding M$ Office and put that to your hardware, if possible.
  14. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    I have literally like a day left to decide and need some big help. What should I get? Here's the following choices.


    [/B] Intel Core 2 Q6600 Quad-Core (8MB L2 Cache, 2.4 GHz, 1066 FSB) [+$50]

    1. 2 GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 2 DIMMS [$0]
    2. 4 GB Corsair Dominator DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz OVERCLOCKED to 1066 MHz - 2 DIMMS [+$100]
    3. 4 GB Corsair Dominator DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz OVERCLOCKED to 1066 MHz - 2 DIMMS [+$270] {On the site, it says it's 2GB, but I think they made a mistake and it should say 4 GB}

    Video Card
    1. 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS [$0]
    2. 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX [+$400]
    3. Dual 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS [+$220]

    The base price, without adding on any of these is ~$2,100. With a ~$2,500 budget, that doesn't leave much room. Well, what do you think so far? Thanks!
  15. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    Processor: choice 3

    its probably supposed to be:
    1. 2 GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 2 DIMMS [$0]
    2. 2 GB Corsair Dominator DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz OVERCLOCKED to 1066 MHz - 2 DIMMS [+$100]
    3. 4 GB Corsair Dominator DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz OVERCLOCKED to 1066 MHz - 2 DIMMS [+$270]

    Might as well stick with choice 1 you don't get that much more performance increase with the overclocking. the extra 2 GB with option 3 wouldn't hut though.

    Hard Drive: choice 1 should be fine for now.

    Optical Drive: I personally like having two DVD Burners, but 1 (option 1) will be enough for you.

    Monitor: You may be absolutely fine with option 1. I'd personally go for the larger screen (option 2), but there are other things to consider.

    Video Card: I'd want the 8800GTX, but 400 is a lot to add. the dual 8600 might be worth getting too. I don't have a clear winner here.

    Modem: unless you have dialup, you will not need a 56k modem

    Warranty: Option 1 probably.

    Officially, for the issue decisions, these are the combinations I'd consider:

    or something like this. =/
  16. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks man, you've always been SO helpful! I think I'm going for option #3, but is dual and single really that much of a difference? I can afford it, I'm just throwing that out there.
  17. MetalX

    MetalX TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,388

    If you're talking about dual videocards, it's recommended to get one more powerful single card than two low end cards. The dual card system is really for extreme power users who need more than one top end videocard to be satisfied.
  18. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Last question before I finally make that purchase: How big of a difference really is 256MB nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS and 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX? Like if I get the 8600, would it still probably support games in the next 3 - 4 years? Which would be the most bang for my buck? What, really, is the biggest difference between these two? Just that one makes games look cooler, or what? And whatever else you can think of. :p

    EDIT: I'm starting to think that $2,500 is too much. If you would have to choose the most important or the two most important upgrade(s), what would it be and how much of a difference would that really make? Yeah, I could probably afford that extra 400 some dollars, but would that really give me the most bang for my buck?
  19. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    realistically, you could stick with the base computer (that is whatever your decisions lead to that $2100), and not upgrade any of the other stuff, or at least get the quad core and then upgrade the rest later when there is more money in your pocket.

    I know this answer is really late, but I figure put my 2 cents in anyways. =)
  20. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks, I'll probably do that. Also, I just noticed that I can not get a dell monitor (I'm guessing it's overpriced and sucks anyways).

    The monitor that comes with it costs $390, a 20" UltraSharp 2007WFP Widescreen Digital Flat Panel. I was wondering if there was a better monitor I could buy with less, or the same amount of money.

    1. Razor DeathAdder Gaming Mouse ($60)
    2. Razor Copperhead Tempest Blue Gaming Mouse ($75)

    Are either of these worth it? The games I plan to play are WoW, CS, Guild Wars, etc. Are these even worth it? $60 is a lot of money for a mouse, does it really make that much of a difference?

    1. Dell WL6000 5.8GHz Wireless Rear 5.1 Speaker System with Subwoofer ($100)
    2. Dell A525 30 Watt 2.1 Stereo Speakers with Subwoofer ($50)

    $100 sounds like a lot of money just for speakers. Again, what I'm pretty much asking is can I get better speakers than the one Dell is offering me for the same amount of money, or less? Less is always better, though. :p

    Thanks for any help!

    EDIT: Also, just curious, with the base computer, would I still be able to run World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, Guild Wars, and games such as that easily? Like, would my computer be just able to run the computer, with some lag, or would it glide through it with ease? Thanks! And I think I'll get that $50 processor upgrade, since it's not that expensive, but how much of a difference really does it make? Also, is there any other upgrade you'd really recommend? Thanks mate! I swear, my last questions. :p
  21. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349


    Yeah thats expensive for a 20 inch. Check this NewEgg search to see what I mean.


    Gaming mice tend to have a lot of features, specifically specialized weight systems, changable sensitivity, extra fast report speeds from the laser or optics, etc. If you play a LOT of CS and are pretty good at it, then a gaming mouse might help a little. Otherwise, I don't really see the need for a gaming mouse in your case.


    Unless those 5.1 speakers now how to upmix a stereo sound, or if the X-Fi sound card can do that natively (the Audigy 2 series can, so I assume the X-Fi can as well, though I've heard mixed things about X-Fi), then those speakers will be wasted. Also, more speakers doesn't always mean louder, that depends from system to system, wattages, etc. Also thinking that more speakers will help with gameplay is absolutely false unless the game supports either EAX (provided you have a creative sound card, which you will) or the game can natively provide a 5.1 sound stream.

    Being that I've been a fan of Logitech for years and years, I'd have to recommend two of its speakers.

    Logitech X-230 and Logitech X-530

    I've had good experience with both of these speakers. they can get more than loud enough to get the neighbors to call the police, last for a good while (I have a set of each, both for years now, I can't remember how long though, but I bought them when they were twice the price as they are nowadays =p ), and most of all, dirt cheap.

    As for how well WoW will play on a computer like that, I can't really say. Considering that WoW is a few years old now and of course the requirements haven't really changed since then, so this computer shouldn't have a problem running it.

    The quad core prolly won't make too much of a difference while playing video games. However with the extra cores your system will be able to handle more process "traffic" if you will, so while in gaming the difference may be noticable, but not by much, in heavy computing such as compressing/decompressing, editing/playing video files and the such, you should be better able to notice a difference.

    As for other recommendations, nah, I think you've got a good idea of what you are considering to buy now. =)
  22. Sake

    Sake TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 43

    Thanks man, I went ahead and bought the Dell desktop with that $50 processor upgrade, student microsoft package (word, powerpoint, etc.), no monitor, no speakers, and a default mouse. Thanks for all the help! I'll tell you how it goes when it arrives. :)

    Edit: Forgot to mention it was a total of about $2,200, and I'm very happy with the price. :)
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