Save me from buying a Dell

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Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:41 pm

So my mother's HD died (without losing anything important, thanks to backups), and she's due for a new machine anyway. The room where she keeps her computer is small, and she hates having the mini-tower on the floor when she's vacuuming, so I want to get her some kind of small form factor machine. She's strictly in the email/browser/light office camp; the most strenuous gaming her box sees is Freecell. She just got a digital camera, but beyond "automatic" color correction and the like she's not going to be doing much more than sucking in shots, emailing a few, and printing the odd one, and that's easily the most compute-intensive task this machine will see (but an internal card reader would be nice). She probably will never play a movie on this thing (other than the occasional YouTube clip or something that people email her) so she doesn't need Blueray, HDCP, or even fancy audio (she mostly leaves her speakers off) but she has an LCD (with a nice fat dot pitch for her elderly eyes) so DVI-out is a requirement.

Now, the Dell Studio Hybrid is looking awfully tempting. It's expensive for what you get, no doubt; but it looks good, it's very compact, it has DVI-out, and the low power usage and recycling offer that Dell includes for your old machine would score points with her. Plus it's available in colors other than deadly black or blingy silver. Yes, looks are important (and horsepower is not). Small size is important (and horsepower is not). Quiet is important (and horsepower is not). Did I mention horsepower is not important?

Of course, building an econo-box would be much more cost-effective, but I haven't found an mATX case that is very appealing (or even especially compact). The Antec Minuet looks ugly to me, and Lian Li's compact stuff has serious brutalism aesthetic going on. And all the ITX stuff I've seen has various problems. I really want a breadbox / toaster sort of machine. So on to the Usual Suspects...

The shuttle K45 bare-bones would be ideal -- it's available in colors and you can stick a picture behind the front panel. She'd dig that. But:
- no optical drive. Not a killer, but I have to include the cost of an external optical because she'll need it at some point
- no DVI out. There's your deal killer.

The K48 has the optical drive bay, but still no DVI. The X27 is ITX and compact but just one DIMM slot makes the baby panda cry. And it doesn't have DVI either. (WTF is wrong with Shuttle? Do they know what decade we're in?)

Moving on: I'm not a big fan of "vertical" slimline cases because (for this user) they require a slot-load optical drive, but I can live with that. Of those, this MSI barebones has the virtue of offering DVI (thanks to the AMD mobo, albeit a 690), but I'd be a little concerned about the reliability of the PSU (plus the other complaints on the NewEgg site, grain of salt notwithstanding).

I have considered getting her a budget laptop with DVI out and just plugging that into her keyboard/mouse/display -- but now we're getting back into the same ~$700 price range as the Studio Hybrid, and she has zero need for the portability of a laptop. And fixing/upgrading them is a bitch.

So, any other suggestions? I know there's a world of cases and SFF vendors out there I'm not familiar with, so fire away. Are there any Intel barebones kits with DVI? Any AMD using the 780g?
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:49 pm

I was going to say the Dell Studio actually. Sorry.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:05 pm

There are plenty of toaster-shaped mATX cases out there that fit standard external drives and would let you otherwise upgrade and customize to your liking. I won't start listing options (unless you really want me to) since it all comes down to personal preference and aesthetics anyway, but is there any reason you're looking at barebones vs an empty case?

Edit:
For instance, here's an mATX board from GIGABYTE built on the G43 chipset that has DVI built into the board. Given your what you say your mom will be using it for, that should more than suit her needs. Eliminating the discrete graphics from the econobox takes the price down to $410 with an arbitrarily-selected case w/ 420W PSU.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813128354

So basically, my recommendation is to pick up the case according to taste (power as needed), fill it with an mATX motherboard with a G43/5 chipset and DVI port, then top off with econobox goodies. Savvy?

~eM
Last edited by reynolm on Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:14 pm

The mATX cases that I've seen are still quite large, more HTPC size than toaster size. Which makes sense, since they're accommodating at least a couple of slots (which I don't need). Are there some sites that specialize in more toaster-sized cases, because I don't see much of anything on NewEgg.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:19 pm

Maybe? *l* What are the dimensions of your ideal toaster?
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:34 pm

A company I used to work for specialized in miniITX computers, and the cases were pretty easy on the eyes and compact. They weren't super powerful either, many of them are designed to run in kiosk/POS scenarios, but it sounds like your ma doesn't need an ultra extreme octo core deluxe or whatever the kids are fancying these days. Unfortunately, they were also on the pricey side, but might be worth taking a look at anyway.

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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:52 pm

Shuttle has some good cheap AMD systems. The Shuttle SN68SG2 while not the that pretty, is cheap and solid and less than $200, another $150 should get you everything else.

Alternatively buy her a 10" netbook, a USB keyboard and mouse and video out to her current monitor and leave it closed most of the time. But you would still need to spend money on an external DVD.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Thu Sep 25, 2008 12:17 pm

dragmor wrote:Shuttle has some good cheap AMD systems. The Shuttle SN68SG2 while not the that pretty, is cheap and solid and less than $200, another $150 should get you everything else.

Alternatively buy her a 10" netbook, a USB keyboard and mouse and video out to her current monitor and leave it closed most of the time. But you would still need to spend money on an external DVD.

Seen one with DVI output?
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:11 pm

This almost sounds like a job for the Eee Box.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Thu Sep 25, 2008 4:34 pm

You could almost use the Mini Econobox from the last system guide and put in a cheap PCI video card with a DVI port. I have the case they use in the guide and it's fairly small.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:34 pm

Usacomp2k3 wrote:
dragmor wrote:Alternatively buy her a 10" netbook, a USB keyboard and mouse and video out to her current monitor and leave it closed most of the time. But you would still need to spend money on an external DVD.

Seen one with DVI output?

Only the expensive new Asus one (which runs nvidia graphics). Everything else is limited by the crap 945 chipset.

Still the vga out on the 900s we have at work is fine at 1280x1024, ok at 1680x1050 and useless at 1920x1200.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Fri Sep 26, 2008 12:45 pm

I'd like to stick to DVI; I can see the difference even down to 1280x1024. Her trifocals need all the help they can get.
reynolm wrote:Maybe? *l* What are the dimensions of your ideal toaster?
Well, the smaller the better, but the traditional shuttle "cube" would be fine (wide enough for a horizontal 5.25" external bay, and not much taller).

It's the height that takes me away from mATX and into barebones territory. The 9.6" spec for mATX -- once you account for the PSU and structural overhead -- means you end up with a case that's at least a foot (30cm) tall, which is about twice what is necessary given this build has no requirements for expansion cards at all. Of course, given the lack of DVI on most motherboards I may need an expansion slot in the end anyway For example, something like this, though large, might be acceptable; but it uses the crappy 945GC chipset, so I'd be buying a cheapo video card to get DVI (and I have no idea about the noise/reliability of the PSU). (ASUS has a 690g-based version on their site but I can't find it for sale anywhere I trust). If I'm going that large I might as well get a true mATX case and power supply and go AMD to get the most bang for the buck on the CPU with DVI on the mobo. I'll go that route if I have to, but I'm having a hard time finding a case that doesn't look like a death metal tour bus.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Fri Sep 26, 2008 1:00 pm

I just wanted chime in to say that the 690G chipset is prolly more then enough for what you describe.
I use a 690G chipset in my living room HTPC (hooked via VGA to a 42"DLP 720P screen) and it plays back recorded QAM HD from VMC as well as most all HD .MKV's I've tried without a problem. It only had issues with movies though an external HD-DVD drive in the past.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Fri Sep 26, 2008 1:32 pm

EEE Box +1. We've got one hooked up to our touchscreen thing, and it works great! It doesn't have the CDROM reader, but yeah, those are not an endangered species by any means. It's small, quiet, and very sexy. It also comes with built-in card readers, too, so it should work with digicams, depending on the memory cards, of course.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Fri Sep 26, 2008 3:28 pm

FroBozz_Inc wrote:I just wanted chime in to say that the 690G chipset is prolly more then enough for what you describe.
Yeah, I'm sure it does.
drsauced wrote:EEE Box +1. We've got one hooked up to our touchscreen thing, and it works great! It doesn't have the CDROM reader, but yeah, those are not an endangered species by any means. It's small, quiet, and very sexy. It also comes with built-in card readers, too, so it should work with digicams, depending on the memory cards, of course.
Yeah, the EEE did cross my mind. Lot of points in its favor, including DVI out and the card reader. I wish it had more USB ports,though. It only has two on the back, and since it doesn't have PS/2 ports that would be your mouse and keyboard. Except she also has a printer and a scanner. So I guess I could run one cable to her monitor (which has a USB hub) and run the keyboard and mouse from that, and then get another hub for the printer and scanner. Plus the USB CD-ROM i'd also have to buy. Not a deal killer, and at half the price of the Dell Studio you can't complain too much. Though I wonder how easy it is to get inside and upgrade the guts? 1GB RAM isn't much for Windows, even XP, and I doubt that 80GB drive is all that speedy either.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Sat Sep 27, 2008 12:03 pm

I think the Dell Studio Hybrid would be a far better deal. It's significantly more powerful than the Asus Eee Box and it also includes a DVD burner. Plus you have Windows Vista over Windows XP.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:43 am

UberGerbil wrote:Yeah, the EEE did cross my mind. Lot of points in its favor, including DVI out and the card reader. I wish it had more USB ports,though. It only has two on the back, and since it doesn't have PS/2 ports that would be your mouse and keyboard. Except she also has a printer and a scanner. So I guess I could run one cable to her monitor (which has a USB hub) and run the keyboard and mouse from that, and then get another hub for the printer and scanner. Plus the USB CD-ROM i'd also have to buy. Not a deal killer, and at half the price of the Dell Studio you can't complain too much. Though I wonder how easy it is to get inside and upgrade the guts? 1GB RAM isn't much for Windows, even XP, and I doubt that 80GB drive is all that speedy either.


Why not just buy a single, 6+ port USB hub like this one?
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:32 pm

JonMCC33 wrote:I think the Dell Studio Hybrid would be a far better deal. It's significantly more powerful than the Asus Eee Box and it also includes a DVD burner. Plus you have Windows Vista over Windows XP.
I think you're right. Shopping their refurbished page, I can get a 2.1GHz (T8100) w/3GB of RAM and Vista Home Premium for $459. I can't build a comparable mATX system -- AMD or Intel -- for less than that.

It is a little disturbing there's that many refurbished Hybrid systems, though.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:40 pm

I would buy her and inexpensive laptop personally. Maybe an Eee but I can't bring myself to endorse those yet :)
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:48 pm

xtalentx wrote:I would buy her and inexpensive laptop personally. Maybe an Eee but I can't bring myself to endorse those yet :)
Most inexpensive laptops don't have DVI out.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:57 pm

There's always this option:

MSI Wind PC Barebone
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6856167032

you can the price in the sub-$300 without a monitor if you use that, and it's the cheapest atom based barebone on newegg.

or if you feel ambitious, you could just get a dual-core atom mobo (and all the other components you need) and make your own case. Im planning to do that by using legos for the case.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:44 pm

Take a look at the Aopen MiniPC. It has an optical drive, DVI-out, is slim and compact (about the size of the Mac Mini) and you can buy it as a barebone and put your own parts in it. Of course it requires laptop parts but those are cheap enough now and you can buy them used on Cl or eBay. Or you can buy them fully assembled. It's easy to take apart and assemble and you can buy a wireless kit for it or use the built-in Gigabit Ethernet.

I had my 915X for a while now and it's a pretty good system for basic things. Mine mostly acts as a backup machine with a few other minor tasks and it does them all quite well. If you hunt for bargain parts you can build one for $400-450 for everything like I did.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:54 pm

Mini-ITX!

I'm gonna second Logic Supply as a place that you could pick up a nice looking, small, and relatively cheap Mini-ITX case. That's pretty much all you need -- after that, just hop on over to Newegg and grab a nice AMD 780G Mini-ITX motherboard, a nice, low-power Athlon 64 X2 or Sempron CPU, maybe a nice little Seagate 250 GB hard drive (warranty). Custom-built, plenty of USB's, good stuff.

Plus, it'll be much more fun than a Dell Studio - pics plz! :D
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Sat Nov 01, 2008 8:08 am

I'm considering building a similar rig for my Dad. How about this barebones?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6856110096
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:09 pm

Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Sat Nov 01, 2008 11:20 pm

That new shuttle has an anemic Atom processor.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Sat Nov 01, 2008 11:29 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:That new shuttle has an anemic Atom processor.
So what? It's perfectly adequate for this purpose.
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Re: Save me from buying a Dell

Postposted on Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:14 am

if you absolutely must have dvi out, then i think your best choices for a mini-itx motherboard are

ZOTAC NF630I-D-E LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 7100 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813500012

or

JetWay JNC62K AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 8200 Mini ITX AMD Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813153114


I don't know much about AMD and the compatibilities of certain processors with the motherboard, but if you were to get an equivelent dual-core amd processor and the amd mobo, then it would probably cost more than a dual core intel and the intel mobo

either way, i think it would be cheaper than the dell.


EDIT: with the zotac mobo, intel c2d e7300 2.66 ghz, 2 gb ram, 250gb hard drive, APEX MI-008 Mini-ITX Case with 250W Power Supply, a dvd burner, and windows vista home basic (for comparison against the dell), the cost comes to about $425

dell has Intel Pentium Dual Core T3200 2 ghz, Slot Load CD / DVD Burner, 2GB ram, 160GB hard drive, and a fancier case for $499
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