New budget desktop PC suggestions (moon on a stick content!)

mefster

Standard Member
I've realised that it's time to replace my ageing Dell P4 desktop, which has become so slow for the last few months it's good for little more than streaming to my Sonos system.

I'm looking at replacing it with a new PC. With the advances in technology over the past 9 years I'm hoping spending up to £500 should still allow me to tick several of the boxes I'd like to.

I'm unsure if a custom built PC or ready built 'off the peg' option will give me best value for money in this price bracket. I've seen that I can get an Intel i3 processor in this price bracket- is that the best option or should I look at AMD?

I would like my computer to:

1. Run iTunes and stream to my Sonos
2. Edit photos with photoshop and video (non-HD at present but would like to future-proof)
3. If possible have an HDMI output (to connect to a seperate wall mounted LCD TV in the room as well as the monitor) or be able to connect to an AV Receiver. Would also be nice to use with a Popcorn Hour or similar in the future.
4. Can use my existing monitor (although any packages including a good monitor would be an upgrade)
5. Is possible be quiete and have as low power consumption as possible
6. Not bothered about gaming

is this achievable? If so, where should I concentrate my efforts? RAM? Processor? Graphics card? I know it sounds like I want the moon on a stick, but I'd just be interested to hear opinions on what might be possible!
 

Badger0-0

Distinguished Member
I was in the same situation.

I had a Dell Dimension 5000 and wanted to upgrade, so after mooching around, I ended up here;

Barebone Systems : Computer Supplies and PC Components from Novatech

I actually bought this model

Note it has an i3 and can go as high as the i7 :smashin:, which will fulfill your needs for a good while.

One piece of advice I was given, was to avoid the Intel 775 processors, as they're on the way out. Hence, the 1156 boards are a better bet.

I've never been keen on AMD, so can't really comment, except that I've seen it said that Intels generally outperform AMDs at any given clock speed.

The reason I went this route was because I wanted my next comp to be more upgradable (the P4 Dells are poor in this area) and salvage what I can from the old one.
This turned out to be just the hard drive, but at least it saved me a few bob.

1. Run iTunes and stream to my Sonos
2. Edit photos with photoshop and video (non-HD at present but would like to future-proof)
Should be no problem :smashin:
A DVD burner if required, can be added at sub-£20.

3. If possible have an HDMI output (to connect to a seperate wall mounted LCD TV in the room as well as the monitor) or be able to connect to an AV Receiver.
5. Is possible be quiete and have as low power consumption as possible
There is no HDMI on this particular setup, but I'd ordered an ATI HD4550 at £30 for the Dell (very low power, around 20W) and that does have an HDMI :smashin:
Slight downside is the fan is noisier than I expected (but probably not as noisy as the Dell). That's sorted quite cheaply though.

4. Can use my existing monitor
Yep.

6. Not bothered about gaming
The HD 4550 (mentioned above) is right up your street then :smashin:
This level of computer doesn't profess to be high end gaming level and is more geared for everyday stuff.
Hence it should use less juice.

Of course, your budget allows you to go further up the range and an i5 is around £340 for example.
Bear in mind though, that in a couple of years i5/i7 chips will be dirt cheap and an easy upgrade on the one I bought (which is why I went this route).

At least you have an idea of what your money can get you and hopefully that's a pleasant surprise :thumbsup:
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
Very small £609 with a blu-ray here
Cheap, future proof, powerful. Pick any two.

Processing power vs. Power use is another trade off you have to decide on. Higher power use generally also means more heat, which is easiest to deal with quietly in a bigger case.

Generally for the same cost an AMD system will be more powerful but an Intel one more power efficient.

Most of your requirements are trivial (you current P4 can do them after all) but video editing isn't. I don't do any myself but from what I've gathered HD video editing is still rather slow on current high end PCs so I wouldn't expect too much future proofing there.

Pre-built systems are undoubtedly better value for money in the processing power department but do tend to lag behind a bit. If you're serious about future proofing and want SATA 6Gbps, USB 3, a spare PCI-E 16x slot or anything similar then you're probably better off looking at one of the many companies that let you specify what bits you want.

Intel will also be releasing a new processor design in January, although initial prices for the new range may make them initially poorer value than current, older technology, At least for a month or two.
 

mefster

Standard Member
Thanks for the advice guys. I understand the limitations of 'cheap' and 'future-proof'. I suppose what I was meaning was 'upgradeable'. I appreciate that my price bracket will not allow cutting edge technology, but I just want to ensure that as technology trickles down to cheaper components, I'll be able to upgrade specific components rather than have to scrap the system and start again.

My video editing is limited to 'cutting and pasting' video rather than adding any effects- I'm no Spielberg! I'll be using pretty simple editing software.

I'll check out the Novatech options and see how things are costing out. I see also the Palicomp Core i3 Blast gets a good review on PC Pro. I know they gave had patchy customer service feedback but Reading recent posts they seem to be trying to address this.
 

Badger0-0

Distinguished Member
I suppose what I was meaning was 'upgradeable'. I appreciate that my price bracket will not allow cutting edge technology, but I just want to ensure that as technology trickles down to cheaper components, I'll be able to upgrade specific components rather than have to scrap the system and start again.
This is exactly why I'm now avoiding any pre-built stuff, unless it follows the mainstream to the tee.

But even then, there's no guarantees.
My experience is that in any form of technology, just when you think you're in the mainstream (even at a low level), they change the game entirely, just to continue making money.

Go back to Endlesswaves's point, for example;

Most of your requirements are trivial (you current P4 can do them after all)
And the lower your requirements are, the less there is to gain by upgrading, imo.

That said, scrapping/selling on your Dell is probably a good move anyway.

Or will the manufacturers decide that the superior BTX factor is better after all and go with it, just to have us over again?
:D
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
I suppose what I was meaning was 'upgradeable'. I appreciate that my price bracket will not allow cutting edge technology.
£500 is a good mid-range PC these days and you shouldn't have any trouble squeezing in plenty of cutting edge technology. My point was that cutting edge technology, especially cutting edge interfaces for future upgrades, usually come at the cost of some raw performance.

I know they gave had patchy customer service feedback but Reading recent posts they seem to be trying to address this.
Personally I'd avoid them until they start using more honest advertising and stop trying to claim 4x2.4 Ghz = 9.6Ghz.
 

mefster

Standard Member
Spoke to a helpful guy at Novatech yesterday about my requirements. He suggested The Delta (PC-1461):

The delta PC @ Novatech

Seems like good value for money. He advised the AMD Quad Core processor in this price bracket over the i3, as it is powerful and also more future-proof: more likely to be able to upgrade processor without replacing mother board. The seperate graphics card would also enable me to run 2 screens- monitor and LCD TV, and will aid in video editing.

Good value, especially without as OS, although having never installed or reinstalled an OS I don't know how much room for error there is. I do have a spare licence for Windows 7 which I could use. If I purchase an OS from Novatech am I likely to get any other useful bundled software?

At this price I could also get an new screen or NAS to to allow me to save a little energy running my Sonos.
 
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Badger0-0

Distinguished Member
I do have a spare licence for Windows 7
Given the above, I can't see why you would want to pay for an installed OS :confused:

It really is very easy to install, especially to a brand new hdd.
Stick the disk in, answer a few simple questions and bob's your uncle.

If I purchase an OS from Novatech am I likely to get any other useful bundled software?
Well, it says on the site that you get Microsoft Office 2010 starter edition.
What that has over the freely available Openoffice, I don't know.

At this price I could also get an new screen or NAS to to allow me to save a little energy running my Sonos.
:thumbsup:
 

mefster

Standard Member
I'm thinking the Novatech Delta PC is looking like a good buy. I'll need to check with them if it is possible to upgrade the video card: I'm guessing at minimal cost I'd be able to get them to upgrade the video card to get an HDMI and DVI, to enable me to link to my LCD TV as well as monitor.

Spoke to Palicomp who recommended their Core i3 Blast 530, with a 1GHz video card and extra cooling upgrade for a further £50, although no OS saves £50. Still £499 is a fair bit more.

Is there an easy way to get an HDMI or DVI link from a PC if it doesn't have these ports?
 

Badger0-0

Distinguished Member
I'm thinking the Novatech Delta PC is looking like a good buy
Having had a few days to play with it, I think it's not bad at all.
But there are a couple of provisos;

1. It's not very good for overclocking.
The most I've been able to get out of it is 3.25Ghz (as opposed to the standard 3.06), whereas good clockers are able to go to around 3.6-3.8 ghz with the standard cooler.

But it's not a biggy for me and it was just me experimenting.
It may well be that it's sorted in a bios update anyway, I don't know.

2. The fan bugs me with it's volume.
Although the speed is controllable in the bios, it's actually a 3 pin fan which has no control.
I'd strongly advise asking if they can swap it for a 4 pin fan (shouldn't cost much).

The plus side is as I've got it set up (system fan 100%, CPU fan on auto) the CPU has not gone over 60C even during stress tests, with the standard cooler :smashin:
The Graphics card chip has not gone over 50C either.
So the system should hopefully be pretty reliable :smashin:

Link for the specific card here.

If you do go this route, you'll be surprised how cool this case is compared to your Dell. Whereas I remember the HDD reporting 56C in the Dell, it now reports low 20s :eek:

I'm not suggesting those temps are anything special, but I am pleasantly surprised by them.

I've attached a copy of WEI.
As you can see, the figures aren't stunning, but they're plenty good enough for your needs imo and eat my old Dell for breakfast :thumbsup:

At the price, I can't knock it.
 

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EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
a 1GHz video card
:mad:

Is there an easy way to get an HDMI or DVI link from a PC if it doesn't have these ports?
Yup, just add a graphics card. They're around £30 for a basic one (which if all you need is you're not doing serious 3d calculations) and it's just a case of taking the side of, unscrewing and removing the blanking plate, slotting it in and then putting the screw back in.

It's a shame the motherboard is using an old chipset, most of them do come with DVI/HDMI these days.

2. The fan bugs me with it's volume.
Although the speed is controllable in the bios, it's actually a 3 pin fan which has no control.
I'd strongly advise asking if they can swap it for a 4 pin fan (shouldn't cost much).
3-pin fans have their speed controlled by changing the voltage. The 4-pin ones are just a more advanced and efficient method of speed control, not a requirement for speed control.
 

Badger0-0

Distinguished Member
a 1GHz video card
I'd agree, this seems OTT to me, given the requirements.

Mefster, the Novatech comes with VGA and a DVI, so you could hook up both your telly and monitor, no problem :smashin:
You'd have to run seperate audio though, obviously.

3-pin fans have their speed controlled by changing the voltage. The 4-pin ones are just a more advanced and efficient method of speed control, not a requirement for speed control.
I'll have to look into this some more.
The Bios, Foxconn's own utility and speedfan are not controlling the fan.
I assumed this was because the "control" pin on the MB isn't connected to anything :confused:
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
I'd agree, this seems OTT to me, given the requirements.
Actually it's impossible to tell since the speed of the graphics card has little impact on performance.

The whole point of a graphics card is to be the massively parallel processor that can do lots of things at once, as you get up the range graphics cards get 'wider' with more processing units rather than running faster like CPUs. A Radeon 5670 runs at 775Mhz and is three or four times slower than a Radeon 5970 running at 725Mhz.

So my annoyance was directed at the bogus and misleading advertising rather than a poor component recommendation for the intended use. Although I'm not sure what they were recommending as the highest clocked stock graphics card is the Radeon 6870 at 900Mhz and an overclocked version of that seems unlikely.

Mefster, the Novatech comes with VGA and a DVI, so you could hook up both your telly and monitor, no problem :smashin:
You'd have to run seperate audio though, obviously.
Actually there's no guarantee that multiple outputs can be used simultaneously, and with the fairly old 690G chipset I'd think it's unlikely to support more than one screen at a time. You'd have to read some 690G reviews.

I'll have to look into this some more.
The Bios, Foxconn's own utility and speedfan are not controlling the fan.
I assumed this was because the "control" pin on the MB isn't connected to anything :confused:
I guess it's possible the motherboard only supports speed control for PWM fans, I was just commenting that it was possible (and indeed very common). My Asus P5Q Pro certainly controls my 3-pin fans without a problem.
 
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Badger0-0

Distinguished Member
I was just about to go into a rant, saying "what are you talking about?", but have just realised we're at crossed purposes :suicide:

That's my fault for not reading properly, apologies :(

I'm talking about the cheaper
Novatech Barebone Bundle - Intel i3 540 - 4GB DDR3 1333Mhz - Intel H55 Chipset Motherboard - 4 Bay ATX Tower Case & 550W PSU

Mefster, everything I've said previously still applies.

You really don't need the extra that's being offered with the Delta, imo.
And it doesn't seem (to me :rolleyes:) as upgradeable.
Older chipset and 8Gb memory max :confused:

I'd seriously consider just buying the one I linked to.

The odds and sods that may be needed still make it easily within your budget :smashin:
 

mefster

Standard Member
Thanks for all the advice and discussion guys, it's much appreciated.

I appreciate the motherboard on the barebones Novatech i3 system is more upgradeable (processor and memory) but at £240, I'm guessing I'll still need to buy a hard drive, optical drive, graphics card, as well as realistically keyboard, mouse and speakers. I'll also need to build the system which I appreciate it straightforward but is further potential for error. I also assume you get no guarantee if you build yourself (except for individual components). I think this makes the £340 Delta without OS look good value.

The other option is the Chillblast Saturn at £500:

Chillblast :: - PC Systems under £799 :: Chillblast Fusion Saturn - 3.2GHz Phenom X4, 4GB, Radeon 5450, Peripherals

Good review in PC Pro, and I'm guessing the motherboard is a little more up to date (with USB3). Although it's £160 more I'd get a decent screen and OS.

Decisions decisions...!
 

Rawlo

Active Member
Might be worth having a look on the Dell Outlet page. The stock changes quite quickly and you can pick up some bargains.

I got a XPS 8100 for £425 inc VAT & delivery from them last week. It was down as certified refurbished, but looks like brand new to me.

Spec is: I7 860, 4GB DDR3 (1333Mhz), 1TB hard drive, & Windows 7. There were no graphics stated on the description, but it came installed with a HD5670 card. It's a middle of the road card but does have a HDMI connection.
 

mefster

Standard Member
I got a XPS 8100 for £425 inc VAT & delivery from them last week. It was down as certified refurbished, but looks like brand new to me.
That's a fantastic bargain. Looking at the other XPS systems on the Dell Outlet website they appear to be £620 and up. At that price it's straying too far from my budget- I'd rather save money and get a better monitor etc. than be tempted to stray above £500. Just ordered a Buffalo Linkstation 1TB from Dabs for £84- seems a bargain and I know it makes sense to get an NAS no matter which PC I get.
 
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