Build for my wife's grandmother

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Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:54 pm

I've been tasked by my family with building or buying a new computer for my wife's grandmother, as her old computer finally bit the dust. I've been told that money really isn't an option, but I don't foresee her having a need for the Double-Stuff workstation. I even think that the Econobox might be overkill for her needs, but again, money isn't a concern.

As you can probably guess, she won't be doing anything very intensive on the computer and would be using it for general web browsing, some photo editing, genealogy stuff, videos, spreadsheets, etc. I figured I could use the Econobox from the guide as a template, but several of the components used are out-of-stock on Newegg. After looking at the Dorm PC build, I think that the smaller form factor might be better suited. Since I've never paid attention to components unless they're well suited for gaming, I have no idea what to look for when it comes to a budget PC. What would be an ideal build for her? I don't think a Radeon 6850 or GTX 460 would really be necessary, and again, I've never paid attention to video cards unless it was for gaming purposes so I'm clueless as to what I should be looking for. Could she get away with using just the integrated graphics courtesy of a Sandy Bridge processor?

I'll need to buy a new copy of Windows, as her current copy is an old DELL OEM copy of XP. I figured I could buy an Upgrade disc and go that route, the same way I did for my own computer: install Windows 7 then re-install and "upgrade" over that installation. If you know of a easier and completely legitimate means of getting a new copy of Windows, I'm all ears.

Also, there's the option of going through the likes of Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc. instead of building the system myself.

Thoughts and/or recommendations?
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:50 pm

The Dell Inspiron 620 is your benchmark to compare to.

bcollins87's thread here or hellwalker's thread here may be relevant to your needs.

A Llano A8-3850 or A6-3650 or a Sandy Bridge Core i3-2105 or Core i5-2500K would be fine for both CPU and GPU.
I suggest a micro-ATX A75 or Z68 motherboard and a compact micro-ATX mid-tower case like the Antec NSK-3480. The included EarthWatts EA-380D Green power supply is fine, too.

2x4 GiB of PC3-12800 should suffice, though memory is cheap enough that you might go with 4x4 GiB and hope that it helps when editing large RAW photos.
1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 is plenty. A 120GB SSD for a boot drive could be good, but you'll have to set up the default directories unless granny is better at managing storage locations than some of my family members.

A BD-ROM / DVD-RW drive is necessary.
Consider adding an internal media card reader if she uses a digital camera.
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23" or larger 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 monitor - This is a good place to spend extra funds. Older folks will really appreciate a larger monitor. For photo editing, you want an IPS or PVA/MVA LCD rather than a TN LCD monitor. The Dell UltraSharp U2410 is a terrific monitor.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Sun Oct 16, 2011 11:46 pm

Fortunately, we'll be reusing her old monitor, keyboard, and mouse. So that'll help save some money, or at least divert it to other components.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:29 am

I vote the AMD 3650 Llano, thats a nice triple core processor with sufficient graphics capabilities (better than intel). Also, you can't beat the price since a CPU and discrete GPU are going to cost you more. You can get the 3650 on newegg right now for $110 shipped (daily deals)

Small form factor is the right idea, micro-ATX is a good motherboard size as it offers decent expandability while giving you access to a multitude of smaller cases.

Skip the SSD, grandma doesn't need to deal with that, and the Spinpoint F3 will be fast enough for her needs.

8 GB of ram ought to be enough as well, $40.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:17 am

What about the EeeBox or the Zotac Z-Box? Small and can fulfill those usage requests admirably.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:01 am

Consider buying her a laptop instead of building her a desktop? Is it safe to assume she's not especially tech literate? If that's the case, people like that who don't have a need for performance tend to prefer the portability and size of laptops. Also, if her eyesight is not that great, then you can save a lot of money by getting a model with a 15-inch@1366x768 screen (this is the ONE circumstance where I can see such an atrocity being useful). I found this laptop buyer's guide that its somewhat recent. It could give you some ideas at least:

http://www.techspot.com/guides/buying-laptop/

I would say get one with decent integrated graphics at least (one of the E-350 Brazos netbooks might do well here) and probably buy a 23" or larger 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 monitor to go with it like JustAnEngineer suggested. For those times when she needs to be a bit more serious with her photo editing or movie watching.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:09 am

Just got done building a grandma box this morning. Intel Celeron G530, Biostar H61Mb, 4GB Crucial Ram, 500Gb WD Blue HDD, LG DVD Burner, Corsair 430tx PSU all in a Coolermaster 430 elite case. All parts from Newegg.com for under $300 shipped. Microsoft Windows 7 tax was $100.

Don't let the Celeron name fool you, it is a good performer. My Grandma doesn't edit images so I don't know if the i3 upgrade would be worth it or not.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:56 pm

I would be careful with the netbooks and z-boxes (mini-computers) if I were you. The Intel Atom and AMD E-350 are specifically designed for HTPC's and barely meet these requirements. I've heard alot of people say that these are not worth anything if you have more than 1 or 2 windows open. Light web-browsing OR movies only. These processors do not have enough horsepower for "moderate" usage. You can find these same comments in any of Tech Report's articles about HTPC's and netbooks. A low end Athlon X2 will outperform Atoms and AMD Zacate CPUs all day long.

I would guess that grandma might prefer a nice big monitor with a desktop over the portability of a laptop. As long as it can be centrally located. Also, having the monitor already saves you some cash over a laptop.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:17 pm

DPete27 wrote:I vote the AMD 3650 Llano, thats a nice triple core processor with sufficient graphics capabilities (better than intel).
The A6-3650 has four processor cores. It's the A6-3500 that has only three.
http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/ ... rison.aspx
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:52 pm

The build advice here is great, but I have to make an out of left field recommendation. Could you transition her to Linux? Ubuntu 10.04 it might be a good fit.

I did this for my grandparents for a couple reasons. The first one is they didn't know Windows. It was basically their first PC (they bought one about 15 years ago that looking back on it had some linux distro on it...they never used it). Since I would have to train them how to use it anyway it didn't make any difference what OS was on it. The second reason was security. I feel much better having any random crap that may try to install itself on their PC not even have a chance at doing it.

Again, this isn't a serious recommendation saying for them to drop Windows if they are comfortable with it (Windows 7 is really good), but if they don't have any habits for any OS (yea, you said Windows was on their old one, but I gotta see if it's an option) Linux makes a great OS for grandparents getting their first PC.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Wed Oct 19, 2011 3:56 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:
DPete27 wrote:I vote the AMD 3650 Llano, thats a nice triple core processor with sufficient graphics capabilities (better than intel).
The A6-3650 has four processor cores. It's the A6-3500 that has only three.
http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/ ... rison.aspx


My bad, I get those two mixed up from time to time, not sure why.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:15 pm

LaChupacabra wrote: The build advice here is great, but I have to make an out of left field recommendation. Could you transition her to Linux? Ubuntu 10.04 it might be a good fit.


Yeahhh, since grandma is getting a "new" computer (meaning she already had one and it ran Windows XP) I don't think Linux would be a good idea. I wouldn't wish that on either of my grandmas, and one of them is fairly computer literate. But who knows, maybe the OP's grandma is a huge techie (not likely). Grandma is probably going to have a hard enough time transitioning from Windows XP to Windows 7. Come to think of it, you might want to just reinstall XP on her new system? That all depends on how able you think she'll be to adopt Windows 7. I know XP is old news and is not being supported by Microsoft anymore, but heck, all the computers at my work still run XP. (not if I had anything to say about it) Chances are you can even find someone with a spare retail version of XP that they're not using anymore..thattl save you a couple bucks.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:41 pm

LaChupacabra wrote:The build advice here is great, but I have to make an out of left field recommendation. Could you transition her to Linux? Ubuntu 10.04 it might be a good fit.

I did this for my grandparents for a couple reasons. The first one is they didn't know Windows. It was basically their first PC (they bought one about 15 years ago that looking back on it had some linux distro on it...they never used it). Since I would have to train them how to use it anyway it didn't make any difference what OS was on it. The second reason was security. I feel much better having any random crap that may try to install itself on their PC not even have a chance at doing it.

Heh... funny you should mention that. I run Linux on my desktop at work. Just today, I was showing someone where to find the installer on our departmental file server for some Windows app they needed. Accidentally double-clicked the .msi file... and the installer actually launched! :o

Curse you, wine! :lol:

DPete27 wrote:Yeahhh, since grandma is getting a "new" computer (meaning she already had one and it ran Windows XP) I don't think Linux would be a good idea. I wouldn't wish that on either of my grandmas, and one of them is fairly computer literate. But who knows, maybe the OP's grandma is a huge techie (not likely).

TBH, I think Linux is currently in a paradoxical state where it is quite usable for the completely tech-illiterate and the hard-core techies, but *not* the people in between. For the technophobes who only use their computer to read e-mail and web surf, a distro like Ubuntu does what they need for free, and is more secure too. For the hard-core techies, well... assuming they're not an avid gamer or doing video editing, they can probably get it to do what they need too. It's the people in the middle -- the gamers, the non-hard-core-techie power users, and the majority of the "Joe Average" crowd -- who aren't likely to be satisfied with Linux.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:28 pm

just brew it! wrote:Heh... funny you should mention that. I run Linux on my desktop at work. Just today, I was showing someone where to find the installer on our departmental file server for some Windows app they needed. Accidentally double-clicked the .msi file... and the installer actually launched! :o

Curse you, wine! :lol:


That...is hilarious. If I were your PC I may have dumped my ram in shock.

DPete27 wrote:Yeahhh, since grandma is getting a "new" computer (meaning she already had one and it ran Windows XP) I don't think Linux would be a good idea. I wouldn't wish that on either of my grandmas, and one of them is fairly computer literate. But who knows, maybe the OP's grandma is a huge techie (not likely).


My Grandma is definitally not a techie. The only amazing thing that she can do (with technology) is cook a chicken breast in the microwave and have it taste good. Linux always has had and always will have a geek-side. But Ubuntu has a user-interface that is getting easier to use than a Mac. The vast majority of what people use their computer for is just to load a web browser. I'd suggest trying it out for yourself. If my grandma can figure it out you probably can, too! 8)
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:42 pm

I would recommend that you don't build the computer yourself. If anything goes wrong with the computer she is going to blame you for it (whether she says so or not). Buy a computer from Dell or HP or something then get a nice monitor to go along with it if you want to.

I almost always avoid building computers for other people. I'll advise on parts and even come help them build it, but doing it yourself means that you're the only one (in their mind) that can fix it. When the computer stops working people notice and want it fixed right away. The only time I broke this rule was building a computer for my sister for her wedding gift. Her husband had built computers before so I knew that he would be able to handle any problem that could happen.
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Re: Build for my wife's grandmother

Postposted on Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:42 am

LaChupacabra wrote: I'd suggest trying it out for yourself. If my grandma can figure it out you probably can, too!


Thank you for the ridicule everyone, its very refreshing. I have used Ubuntu for everyones information. My Linux experience was tainted by the fact that I use my computer for more than web browsing and word processing (for which I agree Linux would work just fine). The convenience of Windows for my usage patterns just made it not worth while for me to keep fiddling around with Linux. My original point that "grandma" previously had XP and that it would be easier for her to adopt Windows 7 than Linux was somehow lost.

With regards to "TurtlePerson2" unfortunately I generally agree with your comments about not building comuters for others, UNLESS you're in close relationship (and contact) with the person. However, its hard for us system builders to go without building a system from time to time, trying to sustain this hobby with only your computer/s is expensive. And its much easier to spend other peoples money than your own. System building (for me) is an addiction that seems like it can never be satisfied (unless you do it every day at work). Sometimes this addiction/itch makes us go against our better judgement.

That said, if the OP is reading this, 1) we don't know how much you see your grandma, 2) by this time, you've gotten good recommendations from this thread and your component choices are solid so the potential for failure is small, 3) Dell, HP, etc. use very cheap products comparative to what is going into grandmas computer so chances are very good that this build would easily outlast a pre-built system...Not to mention you get to build the computer.
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