PC Desktop Recommendations

Hello community - I would love your advice/ideas.  I have an iMac now, and am wanting to add a PC Desktop.  

Any recommended models?  

What specs should I look for/insist on?  e.g. how much RAM, what kind of graphics card, what type/size of hard drive, . . .

I have a PC monitor that's a few years old.  It still works fine, but it was quite inexpensive.  Will I be sorry if I use this?  What monitor do you recommend?

Finally, what webcam do you recommend for making basic screencasts.

Thanks!

8 Replies
Ben Delaney Wyse

You will get a lot of recommendations... I have used most of the major brands and currently use a couple of Macs too.  But, I found my HP Elite version desktop has served me most reliability since I put it in service 3 years ago.  I am going to replace it with another HP.

My recommendation is set it up with 2   1-terrabyte drives running in a RAID configuration (standard feature on this type HP).  This will ensure  you have a live backup drive when you have it mirrored.

I like as much RAM as I can get... currently I run 16 gb RAM

Video card...  the main issue is having at least two dedicated DVI, or HDMI ports so I can have two nice monitors running.  I like the 1gb mem cards... but there are some nice 2 gb cards...depending if you play games too.

ChipSet...   I am an Intel guy.   Quad or better...   I never go top speed choice but I usually select the 2nd or 3rd down.   Currently the new ChipSet are shipping with 6 or more processors.

Beyond that... nothing much else matters...   (except you want to be sure your power supply in the computer has enough power to cruise comfortably with the video card you choose)

All you need is Windows 7 Home Premium... you don't need Professional or Ultimate

Brent deMoville

If you plan to do much work with video, I would recommend a high end video card with multi-core technology that supports CUDA.  It will significantly reduce time waiting for renders in video effects and 3-D work.  I concur with Ben's comments.  I lean toward some of the OEM builders instead of major brands since they are more likely to build custom sets with more power,  However, I am able to do most of my e-learning development on a very aenemic Thinkpad at work so you don't have to have a powerhouse.  I do, however, believe that two monitors are a must have.

Brent

Gerry Wasiluk

Ben D said:

You will get a lot of recommendations... I have used most of the major brands and currently use a couple of Macs too.  But, I found my HP Elite version desktop has served me most reliability since I put it in service 3 years ago.  I am going to replace it with another HP.

My recommendation is set it up with 2   1-terrabyte drives running in a RAID configuration (standard feature on this type HP).  This will ensure  you have a live backup drive when you have it mirrored.

I like as much RAM as I can get... currently I run 16 gb RAM

Video card...  the main issue is having at least two dedicated DVI, or HDMI ports so I can have two nice monitors running.  I like the 1gb mem cards... but there are some nice 2 gb cards...depending if you play games too.

ChipSet...   I am an Intel guy.   Quad or better...   I never go top speed choice but I usually select the 2nd or 3rd down.   Currently the new ChipSet are shipping with 6 or more processors.

Beyond that... nothing much else matters...   (except you want to be sure your power supply in the computer has enough power to cruise comfortably with the video card you choose)

All you need is Windows 7 Home Premium... you don't need Professional or Ultimate


+ 1.  Though a SSD drive for running programs and regular drive(s) for storing files is nice.

I'm also a recent HP desktop purchaser and I love my new HP.   And that's coming from a long-time Dell user.

Two monitors also.  A 23" and a 27" Dell.  Storyline on a 27-inch is pretty sweet.   Hopefully someday it'll support dual monitors.  For now, having Storyline on one monitor and published content on another is but one thing I like.

Ben Delaney Wyse

+1 for Gerry.  Nice machine Dr. Gerry.

I too have the 23"/27" set up .... 27" is really nice for Storyline since you can't break it up to a dual display.    SSD is sweet.  Dell are solid machines... none of the major brands would still be in business if they didn't offer a good product. 

I like lots and lots of RAM and good fast processors because it's nice to be able to run other programs like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Fireworks along with a video editing software all that the same time while Storyline is running.  Plus, if you add videos into Storyline, it's nice to have the muscle for encoding the modules at that point.

Gerry Wasiluk

Have never heard of ZT Systems.

A few other things . . .

Assuming that you're going to use the desktop for a few years, I'd probably consider adding maintenance service for a few years. I learned the hard way about that once.  I had a good Dell laptop that had problems after 2-3 years and being out of maintenance was impossible to fix with a third party.

Then make sure they have good tech support now.

This will be harder--if not impossible.  As fewer people buy desktops and they become more a niche product, I'd want to try and bet on a manufacturer that will still be around for a few years.

I'd also buy a desktop that allows for easy expandability and later customization.

Some PCs have integrated video cards these days on the motherboard.  As Ben notes, if you do a lot of video, I'd go with a desktop with a separate video card.

I'd also buy a desktop that uses mainstream parts from other major companies.  You may not want to buy something with a sound card or video card from some small company that may not be around later.  That happened to us once.

For PC's, I'd also get one with either a Sandy Bridge processor or its new replacement or version (Ivy Bridge?).  For hardware, I'd make processor and RAM the primary things to be sure you do well on.

If your work depends on a good rig, try to get the best you can.  It's worth it.

OR, You could probably get a lot for your money if you build your own or had a friend who could.  Not for the faint-hearted, however.

Jill McNair

@ Gerry - lots of sound advice here.  I'll take all this into account whilst I shop!  Thanks.

Jill

P.S. I did have a friend build me a dream computer back in 2000 - I got a LOT for my money - but I knew this person (he was the network administrator at my work at the time).

@ Ben and @ Brent - thanks to you too for helping to steer me to the best choice.  Hope to make a decision soon!