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Another Ars Ultimate Budget Box

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the another-go-at-a-cheap-system dept.

321

Some nice Friday afternoon reading for you; Ars Technica has another go at the Ultimate Budget Box, a cheap no-frills PC for minimum cash output. From the article: "Look around inside most corporate offices, where most computers need to handle a few Office documents and light Internet use. They don't need to be able to burn CDs or handle 3D-intensive games, but they do need to be reliable and affordable. Lots of consumers out there probably want a similar box--an appliance that lets them get onto the Internet, take care of e-mail, and create a few documents. For them, being able to burn a CD-RW would probably be nice, but anything beyond that is an extra. Low-cost, reliability, and quality are key. That is what the Ultimate Budget Box is about: not skimping on components, but not loading it up with features either." The final price? US$525.46

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FIRST TROUT! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797076)

I AM A FISH!

Re:FIRST TROUT! (2, Funny)

Furmy (854336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797309)

I've already been modded "offtopic" today, but that's a damn funny post.

I didn't RTFA, but.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797081)

I don't see how a $500 computer is the 'ultimate budget box' -- seeing as how dell, hp, and your neighborhood shop all sell boxes that "surf the internet" and run office apps for $300-$400.

Maybe I should have read the article, because I feel like I missed something here....

Re:I didn't RTFA, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797109)

seeing as how dell, hp, and your neighborhood shop all sell boxes that "surf the internet" and run office apps for $300-$400. These boxes tend to use crap components. The ARS box is no-frills but with solid components.

Re:I didn't RTFA, but.... (3, Informative)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797133)

That price is including a reasonable TFT. The box itself is a little under $350, less if you already have mouse, keyboard, speakers etc.

It also has PCI-Express when many of the cheapest Dell and HPs I've seen don't have any way to upgrade the graphics.

What a load of CRAP (1)

WickedClean (230550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797169)

$525 for a budget box? I can scrap together some parts and build a friggin' GAMING PC for that much.

Re:What a load of CRAP (3, Insightful)

Ravatar (891374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797235)

Certainly, you'll rock at games like Tetris and Minesweeper!

Re:What a load of CRAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797331)

Not really. Hell if you want a budget comp you use all your old stuff (Old case, Mouse, Keyboard, and hell keep your NIC or modem). Anyone could build a comp that can play any game out there for $500 to $600 (Maybe it won't play it at high detail but you can still play the game). All it takes is looking around. For what this artical lists I'd rather just buy a damned dell than waste my time building it.

Gaming PC for about this much (2, Informative)

yppiz (574466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797369)

The grandparent post said they could build a gaming PC for this much (with some scrounging), while the parent post disputed this. I've been playing BF1942 and even Battlefield 2 on a PC I built from scratch 2 years ago for ~ $700. The only components I scrounged were the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I'll bet I could build the same system today for $550.

The low-end graphics cards at my local store, Central Computer, have 256MB of video RAM and very capable cores, and now cost well under $80. Here's an OEM Radeon 9250 for $70

http://centralcomputer.com/itemdetail.asp?item=VGA JETR9250R [centralcomputer.com]

Games need decent video cards, but do not need much else. I'm running an old AMD Athlon XP 2500 and it doesn't break a sweat on BF2. The closest I can find to this dinosaur, the Sempron 2600, is $72 retail from NewEgg.

--Pat

Re:What a load of CRAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797242)

Yeah, i think you meant case, but it would be just the box and no components

but it would have neons and other useless shit inside it.

Re:What a load of CRAP (2, Funny)

rs79 (71822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797306)

Gawd, no kidding. I'm typing this on a 19" panasonic monitor, 2 years old, at 1800 x whatever I got for $5 at goodwill. I bought a $4 really nice server with a P4-75 and put in modern guts I got for $100 at a used computer store, some $1 fans, some $2 video card with a fan on it and an ultra2-scsi3 raid array that set me back a whopping $70 off ebay.

$300 gets you a new computer all decked out in these parts, but the cases are so cheap and thin and razor sharo (ouch) I'd rather mod old stuff, where old is a relative thing.

$500. Make me laugh. I've bought running cosmetically near-perfect BMW's for that much.

Re:What a load of CRAP (2, Interesting)

NetFu (155538) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797481)

Honestly, the component prices listed in this article are very, very conservative, but actually RTFA and you get a good idea of what to go for when putting together a SOLID (not CHEAP/CRAP) PC.

I put together a PC with similar components for my mom, and the final price (not including a monitor because it doesn't make sense to pay to ship a monitor) was $180. In the Silicon Valley I have access to a lot of surplus computer parts places, but anywhere else you could find prices just as good or better through websites or mail-order.

This article is more of a guideline to building the ultimate budget box, not a frickin' blueprint or Bill Of Materials (for you manufacturing types out there). It basically points you in the right direction so you can avoid a lot of the research I had to go through to find the same components, but you do still have to use your BRAIN.

Nothing in life is free, after all...

The real quetsion is... (2, Funny)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797082)

...does it run OS X?

zing!

Re:The real quetsion is... (1)

CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797272)

No, that doubles the cost.

Sorry, couldn't help myself :-(

Re:The real quetsion is... (1)

Tinn-Can (938690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797289)

no, cause after a few "upgrades" of osX versions it would cost double... can someone explain that? I want a mini when the new ones come out, but I dont want to have to drop $130 each time they want to add another decimal point to the end... at least Microsoft keeps OSs around for a while. Can't complain about Linux free rocks... go Mepis

Re:The real quetsion is... (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797373)

In case of the mac mini yes... it is just at that pricepoint.

You mean the Mac Mini, right? (0, Troll)

Frobozz0 (247160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797095)

*ahem*

Apple's already got that covered. The basic Mac mini is $499, and will likely come with a Core Solo processor soon:

http://www.apple.com/macmini/ [apple.com]

Sorry podboy .. no monitor included with mini (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797140)

There is no monitor included with the mini. His price includes a 15" LCD.
Also there is double the HD space and a DVD writer (mini doesnt have a writer)
No worries though .. I'm sure the appleturfers will mod u up anyway.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (1)

Hrodvitnir (101283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797150)

FTA: "An important final note: the Ultimate Budget Box is complete with a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other accessories. If you do not need a monitor or other items, feel free to subtract them from the price.

Mac Mini does not come with that stuff. Of course, if it's between a Mac Mini and a Windows machine, the cost of the OS would probably even that out.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797173)

I love Minis (I own 2) but Ars' $525 price includes a 15" Acer LCD ($178) and $16 for keyboard & mouse. (Also, $81 of that is for XP Home.) And Dell has boxes for $249. [dell.com] ($349 minus $50 MIR minus $50 for no monitor.) Improving its specs (512 MB RAM, DVD burner, 1 year warranty) still brings it in at $408. I won't split hairs about FireWire, modem, keyboard, OS, etc. if you won't. :-)

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (1)

John Harrison (223649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797208)

The price does not include the OS. check the article:

Total price: US$525.46 with LCD, US$461.02 with CRT, not including shipping and handling (2/21/2006, no OS)

Linux = free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797258)

what price?

Re:Linux = free (1)

John Harrison (223649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797371)

That depends on how you go about obtaining it. The article mentions that you can get it for free. Did you read it?

Re:Linux = free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797425)

hours and hours of your time

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (2, Informative)

technothrasher (689062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797230)

I love Minis (I own 2) but Ars' $525 price includes a 15" Acer LCD ($178) and $16 for keyboard & mouse. (Also, $81 of that is for XP Home.)

Not to nitpick, but XP Home actually isn't included in Ars' price. It's only mentioned after the $525 total. So with XP Home, the total comes to $606. You're right though, it does include the LCD.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797175)

That Mac Mini is $499 without a monitor and 40GB hard drive.. Ars box is $525 with an LCD and an 80GB drive.

Biotch.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797192)

Plus keyboard, plus monitor, plus mouse... that basic PC's price includes an LCD monitor.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797353)

Don't forget $130 for your yearly Mac OS X upgrade to keep your mini running snappily!

You know, you look like an idiot (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797354)

when you use any excuse to toss Apple at people. the mini doesn't come with monitor, keyboard, mouse. If they wanted a 900 dollar computer, then maybe.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (2, Interesting)

Misagon (1135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797401)

I actually sold my Mac Mini because I did not like the OS, to build a new Linux/x86 computer out of almost precisely the same components as in the article, except for a few things: What I liked the most about the Mini was that it was 1) small, 2) stylish and 3) quiet.

1) is almost impossible with PC components, if you want any reasonable performance. I will be choosing a MATX board, but I am trying to find one that is smaller than 24.4×22 cm and which still has Firewire and DVI/TV out like the Mac Mini.
The PSU will be external like for the Mini. (btw. Mac Mini's PSU gets very hot.. and it does not have any sink drain either)

2) I am solving by building the case myself. I am no stranger to working with aluminum.

3) I am trying to solve by replacing the internal heat sinks and chassi fan(s) with one large heat sink that will become one side of the case. Heat transfer from each component to the heatsink will be through copper blocks, but some heatpipe-like features in these blocks would be better.
Of course, this decision requires that all i/o is integrated. ..
But there are still drawbacks compared to the Mini, while costing as much:
- still twice as big as the Mac Mini,
- the Mac Mini has dedicated graphics memory while the integrated PC boards share memory between CPU and GPU with reduced performance.
- the Mac has a slot-in DVD. I can not find any reasonably-priced slot-in DVD burner anywhere close... (I live in Sweden, btw)

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797489)

Aopen has a case/motherboard sized almost to that of the mini Tigerdirect [tigerdirect.com] I can't help you with the other components. personally I prefer OS X. I can get any linux app I want I can run x windows apps, plus I have all the driver support including wireless, which an be a hit or miss depending on which wireless card you buy. personally though i am wanting for version B of the Intel Mac Mini unless something better comes along.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (2, Interesting)

arminw (717974) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797421)

......Apple's already got that covered. The basic Mac mini is $499....

MacMall sells this for $474, but gives an extra $20 rebate, a free printer and a 4x5 graphics tablet.

Instead of a crappy MS XP home you get a real OS, better than XP-professional and you also get the iLife programs.

Add the same keyboard, monitor, speakers and mouse as listed and you get a media capable computer that'll also work great for browsing the web and simple office jobs. The mini is silent, but how much noise does that 300 watt power supply make? The mini is run by a small 85 watt power supply.

Sometime this year the new Intel powered mini will make this so called "Ultimate Budget Box" totally obsolete and expensive.

Re:You mean the Mac Mini, right? (1)

geekee (591277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797461)

"Apple's already got that covered. The basic Mac mini is $499, and will likely come with a Core Solo processor soon:
"

The mac mini 1.2GHz G4 is extremely slow compared to the machine in the article, which has a Sempron 2800+, plus the mac mini has only half the hard drive space

$525??? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797104)

$525?? Might as well buy a Dell for $249 if all you want it for is basic stuff. I hate Dells as much as the next tech but they are cheap and more than adequate for basic stuff (and even some games) for the price.

final specs (3, Informative)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797107)

Here's a quick glance at the final specs:

80 gig SATA HD
DVD+-RW
520 megs DDR
Sempron 2800
Onboard GeForce 6100
15" LCD
+case+speakers+keyboard+mouse

Re:final specs (4, Insightful)

theJML (911853) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797144)

I also find it's important to point out that the OS is extra!

Sure that's cool for people like me that are going to throw gentoo on there, but what about gramma, she doesn't want linux... (yes some are ok with that, but for the majority, it's just not the way for the masses yet!). so we're well over 600 bucks if not more for a full version of something, close to 700. Since when is that cheap or budget?

Re:final specs (4, Interesting)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797213)

Grandma really doesn't care. She just wants it to work. If anything Linux is better for her, its more stable, fewer viruses, and easier to do remote admin on.

I'm currently in stage 2 of 3 in getting my family off of Windows. They're already using Open Office and Firefox. They're actually happier with them than they were with IE and Office- when I told them I could block ads with Firefox their faces lit up. The next time they buy a computer, I am installing linux on it- just leave them a firefox and an office icon on their desktop and they won't care about the difference in colors. And it'll be a win for them, as I can just ssh into their box if they have problems. I'll just give them a no-privlidges account on it and I'm done.

Re:final specs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797426)

What was stage one? Cleaning up the basement and coming upstairs?

Re:final specs (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797454)

For those who are actually curious, it was replacing IE after their computer got completely hosed by spyware. That gave them the confidence to trust me to pick some other apps to replace (like office). I'm replacing their apps piecemeal, one at a time to not overwhelm them with change all at once.

Re:final specs (1)

agurk (193950) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797437)

And for Office use you almost double the price with MS-Windows + MS-Office.

The difference between a DVD burner and a CD reader is about $20 why mention it at all?
When the article then goes and adds this non essential dvd burner?

Re:final specs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797338)

... people actually pay for Windows?

Re:final specs (2, Insightful)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797352)

I also find it's important to point out that the OS is extra!

That's because this machine is targetted towards businesses. The businesses already have site licenses.. they don't need to buy the OS.

Re:final specs (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797410)

Gentoo is free.

Closer to $600 (1)

darthservo (942083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797440)

Good point, but it is more around the $600 (using those hardware specs) for Windows. If you pay over $100 for Windows ** Home, you're crazy. Microsoft has at least provided an OEM edition (full version) of their OS that does not come with a fancy box, manual, or tech support. The OEM version must be purchased with a non peripheral hardware component, but since your already buying the parts that's covered.

Current price for an OEM version of Windows XP Home averages around $90, Pro averages around $130. So, the $700 spec is a bit high.

Re:final specs (1)

MaXiMiUS (923393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797360)

That's a fucking budget computer? I have a crappy 2GHz processor, and I just bought a nVidia 6200 for like, $110 (CDN). Goddamnit. At least I still have my 1.5GB of RAM and 200GB SATA :D

Re:final specs (1)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797465)

520 megs? Congradulations for finding the elusive 260 megabyte DIMM...

Dell does it cheaper (3, Insightful)

budartagnan (931831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797113)

If all I want is CD burning capability, internet surfing, and word processing, for myself or, more likely, for a family member... Dude, they're getting a Dell.

Re:Dell does it cheaper (1)

Hrodvitnir (101283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797128)

Yeah, but it's a lot easier to RMA a part to New Egg and switch it out yourself than to try to deal with Dell Customer Support if anything goes wrong.

Re:Dell does it cheaper (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797247)

Yeah but watch the shipping price?

$399!.... but with a $250 shipping charge. Hmm

Re:Dell does it cheaper (1)

RevDobbs (313888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797378)

Very good point... I priced out a bottom-end Dell, skipped on the monitor... and they still wanted to charge me $250 for standard shipping! Ended up goint to Best Buy and picking up a cheap HP box (with beafier specs) for less than the price of the Dell, before shipping & handeling.

Really, though, when it comes to the bottom-bottom end PCs -- which are more than enough for the vast majority of users out there -- you just can't build it as cheap as Dell or HP. That $525 price on the Ars article is sans OS, which adds at least another $80 for an OEM copy of XP Home; or you can walk into BB, pick a $400 computer and $150 monitor off of the shelf, probably get a rebate on top of that, and bring home a system that you can setup an half an hour instead of half a day.

The only redeaming feature of building your own is that the cheap, name brand kit (like mentioned in the Ars article) is usually of a slightly better quality than the manufactured PC's -- that last cheap Dell I purchased for mum didn't even have an AGP slot; it was on-board graphics or a PCI card :-/

Re:Dell does it cheaper (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797280)

It depends on who you're getting the system for.

In a corp. environment having a single system monoculture means you can easily roll out an image with everything preconfigured the way you like. Dell's lower end offerings seem to have some capacitor and hard disk issues from time to time, so getting a sub-500 system is asking for problems.

As for Dell's home offerings, their tech support will ask you to jump through an hour of troubleshooting before sending a $15 part. Not including reinstall media (make it yourself?!), and bundling tons of trialware reduces their value. I used to recommend Dell because they didn't load their systems with crap the way other companies do.

If you want a good Dell for your home, get a business system, since those aren't loaded up the way the home models are. Dell may do it cheaper, but what is your sanity worth?

Re:Dell does it cheaper (1)

mriker (571666) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797346)

That's what I'm thinking... why bother building your own machine when you can order a pre-built, warrantied machine for at least as inexpensively through Dell? Of course, Dell is Intel-only, but when we're talking about a non-gaming rig, it doesn't really matter. This is one of the lamest news items I've seen on Slashdot in a while.

How is this news? (1)

Kasracer (865931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797116)

Over the past few years I have seen every hardware web site to one of these "budget boxes" every couple of months.

How is this news?

Re:How is this news? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797321)

It's Friday. It's slow. Too many of us are stuck in the office reading Slashdot instead of hitting the slopes or going to the beach. Go figure.

dis be whycome it be news ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797330)

Associated Press - Yahoo news : Average American Family Income Declines [yahoo.com] .

LCD? (1)

PurpleMonkeyKing (944900) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797125)

They could save over $100 if they bought a CRT. Or they could get a nice CRT with at least 1600x1200 resolution. I have an LCD myself, but if you are building a budget PC, wouldn't you want the get the most "bang for your buck"?

Re:LCD? (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797151)

No. Budget means saving money.

LCDs take less electricity to use than CRTs. Ergo, they wind up costing less over the course of their lifespan.

Plus they're smaller, easier on the eyes, and have the nice benefit of looking much pricer than they really are.

Re:LCD? (1)

miscz (888242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797275)

The price gap between CRT and LCD is too big to cover electricity consumption difference. And I wouldn't call them easier on eyes, it depends but 85hz refresh rate is quite comfortable and possible on every normal monitor. Also, there are other benefits of CRT monitors, for example I can't stand poor colours on LCDs compared to even cheapest CRTs. And you can get CRT monitors for much lower price, I've bought my 19' flat CRT (NEC) for less than 100$, sure, it's second hand, it's old, but it beats every LCD I've seen in terms of image quality and supports 1280x1024 which is more than adequate for my needs. LCDs look nicer tough but it's a budget box.

Re:LCD? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797300)

I disagree- CRTs are far easier on the eyes. LCD's give me eyestrain if I'm looking at them for extended periods (say a half hour). CRTs have no side effect- I can stare at them all day without harm. CRTs also tend to have much better video quality. I use LCDs only if I have no other option available.

Re:LCD? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797348)

"No. Budget means saving money."
Good point.
What I'm wondering though, how much overall cost diff is there when you "save" $100.00 (US) on cost of monitor with CRT, compared to the $ spent powering CRT vs. LCD over the expected life of both- I have all CRT's on my home network, with all PC's set to power down the CRT's after 10 minutes of inactivity- How big is the diff in $electricity savings between 4 LCD's compared to 4 CRT's over the expected life of the monitors?
I honestly don't know- I am truly asking.
It seems that if the CRT's are off, the energy requirements should not be too high.
Where is a good source to find the answers? ( I would really like to know)
Personally, I can't afford to switch to all LCD's here (4 PC's on home net), but maybe I should be looking to phase out the CRT's sooner than I wanted to- You are absolutely right about budget means saving money! (initial cost + operational/maint. costs over expected life HAVE to be factored in!)

Currently, I have not *noticed* a jump in my electric bill, but to be honest, I have not really paid that much attention to it (in other words, nothing has jumped up and ripped my face off!), but maybe I need to look closer.

Re:LCD? (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797168)

LCD's are the most bang for your buck over the first year or two of use. The power consumption is so much higher for a CRT that the electricity costs easily overwhelm the price difference. This is especially true if you get a modest, clean LCD instead of a larger CRT with bigger display, but fuzzier images: for most text editing and web browsing the LCD is actually easier to tune and manage. It also leaves you a lot more useful desk spave for other purposes.

Re:LCD? (1)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797212)

Maybe their rationale is that LCDs are a better value overall, due to the fact that they consume a lot less space, less power (though it'd probably be a good long while before the price difference is recouped through electric bills) and are easier on the eyes than CRTs.

Going from an CRT to an LCD is a very noticable and appreciable upgrade for most people. It's not like adding a somewhat better processor that will give you an imperceptible 17% improvement in performance or whatever. Depends on your needs and preferences, that extra $100 is very well spent.

$500US?? (1, Insightful)

Cervantes (612861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797132)

Craaaap, I say. I can build budget boxes for $500 CDN.

Admittedly, I haven't RTFA, but I really don't care to. Just seeing that price tag is enough to make me believe it's another piece of overpowered crap. If you just want net browsing and occasional burning, then a Sempron 2xxx + is more than enough for you, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to screw ya.

Re:$500US?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797220)

If you want to go really cheap, an older motherboard, a Pentium III 700MHz or more, and 512MB PC100 RAM is the ultimate budget box. In many ways it was better than my Athlon XP 2800+ machine.

Re:$500US?? (4, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797318)

You know, I don't understand what people mean by budget box anymore. One of my computers at home is an 800Mhz Duron with 256MB and it does everything they "require" from their budget box, it's the computer my wife uses to email, surf, etc. when one of the kids is playing on the "good" box. She hasn't complained. I use it when I crawl out of my office.

Eliminating games and high end applications (like video editing), you could do with a lot less of a machine than that one, even.

I mean, come on... maybe they are used to XP or something, because I remember upgrading my Win2K box a couple of years ago to 512MB specifically to do video editing, and now they are saying you can't do with less than 512? With prices so cheap, it's definately worthwhile, but to claim that you need more than 256MB... to do what? Surf? Email? You've got to be kidding me. That's like saying you need an SUV to do grocery shopping... on the other hand, it seems a lot of people really do believe that, too.

Sempron + MB w/ Video -- Drives Too... (2, Informative)

mythosaz (572040) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797146)

They keep listing these at ~150 for the board and processor. Fry's regularly sells (in their mid-week ad) a $69 board AND processor with video. This weekend's "better" Sempron + Processor + Video (x200) is $119.

The Deskstar 80 is nice, but 250 Deskstars have been as low as $49 after rebate, and there are currently 200 gig drives that are free after some rebate-price-matching -- See places like Fatwallet.com.

Re:Sempron + MB w/ Video -- Drives Too... (1)

lspd (566786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797224)

If you're shopping with rebates as an option you can pick up a cheap laptop for around $500. Honestly, if you want an inexpensive computer with Windows installed you just can't beat the big vendors on price. The discounts they receive from buying in bulk are impossible to compete with.

What's missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797155)

Ars just throws out 1/2GB ram. But how do you tweak it? I wonder if they actually put a board together or just solved some equation.

They also so "512MB is about the minimum to do any sort of multitasking without a serious performance hit."

Well, that's just plain not true. (except maybe on windows loaded with spyware).

No modem? On a budget box? No floppy?

Cough (2, Informative)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797160)

One click onto Dell's home web page, and I see:

2.53Ghz Celeron, 533 FSB
512MB RAM
XP Home
80 GB Drive
CD-RW drive
15" Flat Panel LCD

The price? $399. Why, again, would I pay $525 for this "ultimate" budget box?

Re:Cough (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797261)

If you see this post [slashdot.org] , You'll notice some differences:

* Sempron is AMD, while Celeron is (eew) Intel.
* Dell doesn't include an Onboard GeForce 6100, does it?
* Dell sells you a CD-RW, not DVD+RW. DVD drives are a necessity today.
* XP Home is practically a fraud. I'd go for XP Pro instead.

Re:Cough (1)

no_pets (881013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797339)

XP Home is no fraud. I use it on my Windows machine and I'm sure Grandma or anyone else that only needs internet browsing, emailing, and an occasional CD or DVD burn would need nothing more than Home from M$.

Re:Cough (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797345)

If you see this post, You'll notice some differences

The premise of the article is BUDGET BOX for surfing, reading e-mail and a few documents. The article doesn't even include a CD writer. This $399 box is already way overkill even for the premise. Sure, you can load more features in, but who's arguing that you can't? The point is that their $525 box (which doesn't even include the freaking OS) is way inferior to this $399 box.

Re:Cough (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797362)

The point is that their $525 box (which doesn't even include the freaking OS) is way inferior to this $399 box.

I should have said "way inferior for the stated purpose, which is the lowest possible cost."

Re:Cough (1)

pkcs11 (529230) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797468)

Why is a DVD-RW needed to run a browser, connect to network files and do word processing?
DVDs are a perk in an office environment.

Re:Cough (1)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797278)

True, but if you want that shipped without Windows, they'll charge you an extra $150, so the price ends up about the same.
:-/

Re:Cough (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797316)

because you don't know how to format a drive?

serously, it's like looking at two pretty equal cars, and not choosing the one thats 25% cheaper because it comes with something you could throw away when you get home.

Re:Cough (1)

ruiner5000 (241452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797381)

because that is a piece of shit dell, and is using a celeron. pull your head out.

dell... (2, Informative)

atarione (601740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797182)

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx ?c=us&cs=19&l=en&oc=DB110RF1&s=dhs [dell.com]

celeron D 325 / intel extreme graphics 2 /512MB DDR / 80GB HD/ 15in flat panel /XP home

however one huge and lame problem would be only 3x PCI slots (no agp or PCI express slot for video upgrades)

but if you didn't need a gaming pc.. this thing is like $437.94 shipped (free shipping right now) when it comes to low end pc's ... I usually steer clients towards OEM boxes ... because It is impossible for me to make it worth my time to build a budget box for them.

that said if the computer was for my personal use... i would build it rather than get the dell.

Re:dell... (1)

CsiDano (807071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797424)

See I enjoy building budget boxes for people. No assmebly charge. I just built a sempron system for a friend for just under $500 included dvd/rw 512 of 400ddr, 80gig hd and a biostar mobo with builting gfx but included agp slot. I guess when it comes down to it anyone can have a budget box if they build it themselves or find someone who will put it together for free. I also install the OS they bring me, no questions asked.

Retail boxen are still really cheap by comparison (2, Insightful)

harryk (17509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797201)

10 years ago, I would've said to build, rather than buy, a new box. Today ... I cannot with good faith say the same thing to anyone asking from an 'end-user' point of view. Generally speaking nearly every black box PC on the market is quite usuable and is well within 'appliance' price ranges. I noticed the other day at BestBuy that 'cleaning' a PC costs $250, whereas you could purchase the 'coupon computer of the week' for about $50 more.

Simply put, for end users, just about any black box PC is going to be able to compete with a system like this, and probably come with more than you need for the same price. Just my 2 cents.

harryk

Diminishing returns for penny pinching (1)

tengennewseditor (949731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797202)

This is actually a pretty useful article illustrating the baseline quality parts for a working, lasting system. Don't fault the article just because a little bit more money you can get a lot more. There are diminishing returns to the amount of money you save once you get to budget territory, with bottom of the line processors and decent processors being only $20 apart.

Same specs for cheaper buying a "bundle" (2, Informative)

chmilar (211243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797221)

Most of the big vendors (HP, Dell) offer system "bundles" that offer similar specs for $100-200 cheaper.

I recently purchased an HP CTO bundle through CompUSA. After rebates (yeah, I know, rebates suck) it was $300 + $89 (shipping/handling) + tax. The specs are very close to the Ars system (faster CPU, no DVD burner, 40G drive). It would have cost an extra $30-40 to upgrade the optical drive and hard drive, but the ones I got are all I needed for the "appliance" tasks I an using the machine for.

Plus, I didn't have assemble anything (not like that's difficult, though).

$525? Overpriced! (1)

martinultima (832468) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797229)

Over the summer I finally got around to building my own brand-new machine – after dealing with 566MHz + 256MB RAM for several years I figured it was finally upgrade time. I went on TigerDirect.com [tigerdirect.com] and grabbed everything I needed:

  • 2.4GHz Celeron
  • 512MB PC3200 SDRAM
  • 80GB hard disk
  • 52x32x52x CD-RW drive
  • Integrated video (i845GE)
  • Integraded 5.1-channel audio
  • Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
  • NETGEAR WG311v2 wireless
  • Übercool blue case w/keyboard and mouse

The entire thing came out at just $375. Obviously not the highest end system, but it's still pretty damn fast, and it can handle just about everything I need it to (including development of Ultima Linux [distrowatch.com] ).

Couple months ago I also got my hands on a used DVD drive for $5 at a local computer junk shop – it was marked as a CD-ROM drive, so I figured the hell with it. So now my machine can also play movies and stuff.

And considering that "typical work" for this machine consists of building a cloop or two, upgrading a few packages, running a couple different Web browsers to read /. or tweak my Web site, emulating some game console or other, playing a few rounds of SuperTux or Puzzle Pirates, testing the latest Ultima release in VMware or QEMU, and typing something in OpenOffice.org – and a lot of the time, all of those at once – I'd say that anything more's got to be overkill.

Re:$525? Overpriced! (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797427)

I agree, I bought my laptop at tigerdirect too, very good deals. Downloaded OpenOffice onto it, can run gaming software, pretty decent machines.

Defintely overpriced, I can do better (3, Informative)

acoustix (123925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797281)

Nevermind the fact that they don't include tax and shipping on those parts.

I can get a Dell Dimension 3100 through Dell Small Business for $500 (+ $24 shipping) with the following:

Processor: P4 Processor 521 w/HT Technology (2.8GHz,800FSB)
OS: Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition
Memory: 512MB DDR2 SDRAM at 400MHz -1 DIMM
Dell Service & Support Plans: 90 Day On-site Economy Plan
Keyboard: Dell USB Keyboard
Mouse: Dell® 2-button USB mouse
Hard Drive: 80GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM)
Single Drive: 16X CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) w/double layer write capability
Monitor: 17 inch E176FP Analog Flat Panel
Video Card: Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 900
Sound: Integrated 2.0 Channel High Definition Audio
Network Interface: Integrated 10/100 Ethernet

-Nick

$500!?!?!? (2, Insightful)

nmaster64 (867033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797290)

They...suck...

Seriously, $500 is RIDICULOUS for a PC of that calibur (unless your talking laptops). I can build a moderate gaming computer for that. A no-frills-just-types-prints-and-surfs PC should be possible at around $300.

Why do you need 80GB for internet and word processing again? These people are idiots, and I feel sorry for people that really do just want the basics and go out and build this thing...waste of money...

Re:$500!?!?!? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797361)

Seriously, $500 is RIDICULOUS for a PC of that calibur (unless your talking laptops). I can build a moderate gaming computer for that. A no-frills-just-types-prints-and-surfs PC should be possible at around $300.

You can buy something like that from TigerDirect for about $300, if I remember correctly. Think the website is tigerdirect.com [tigerdirect.com] - but you need to look around - I always wait until they ship me a paper catalog, then I can look for good machines there.

That takes zero time, really.

Re:$500!?!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797420)

I think you are missing the point of the article. Sure, anybody can build a cheap computer that is crap, but the ARS team is giving recommendations on Quality parts. The focus is on providing a GOOD computer for fairly cheap. If you RTFA and RTF web site, you'll see that they are doing more than just finding the cheapest parts available.

My laptop cost $500 and is great (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797340)

DVD R/W, 11b/g wireless, 756M RAM (or thereabouts), fast AMD CPU, and OpenOffice is really expensive - and this is with (gasp) WinXP preinstalled.

I would like to say, though, when I look around my office, I see people who need to burn CD and DVD, who need high-end graphics, who need dual core CPUs.

Because I work in Medical Genetics. And my last office was in Structural Genomics (same kind of capabilities needed). Genetic data crunching really needs a lot of on-CPU crunching, but we usually can get away with only 4Gig of RAM (ok, 8Gig for Data servers). And all those run Linux (bought them from Pogo Linux).

So, I'd have to up that ultimate office PC requirement just a tad.

Re:My laptop cost $500 and is great (1)

pkcs11 (529230) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797419)

Just curious, but why do your office mates need to burn dvds or cds?
Is there no network file shares available or is there simply no network at all?

money money money (1)

ruiner5000 (241452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797342)

I'm sure you guys are making them plenty of money from Shopping.com right now. :) I bet they are happy.

useless. (1)

dakta (922739) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797366)

$500? Im estimating thats about £320 GBP. My 2.8ghz p4 with 512 ram and fx5200 came to £200, including monitor and everything (21" crt). Obviously not everything was new, but what is the point in a budget pc with top grade parts? These guys cant think, they're just contradicting themselves. Again.

Re:useless. (1)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797434)

what is the point in a budget pc with top grade parts?

Because the #1 requirement was "reliability".

How do you recommend XP Home with a straight face? (0, Troll)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797379)

XP home has such crippled networking functionality that it is absoultely unsuitable for even the most basic tasks involving a windows network.

For home use it's barely passable, but if you are going to use this machine in an office, or to work from home over a Windows VPN, save yourself the headache and don't even consider Home. Microsoft should be ashamed of themselves for even offering such crippleware.

Re:How do you recommend XP Home with a straight fa (1)

mythosaz (572040) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797430)

XP home has such crippled networking functionality that it is absoultely unsuitable for even the most basic tasks involving a windows network.

XP Home's networking is "crippled" in exactly one way - no domain support. It is absolutely suitable for all tasks involving all sorts of networking -- as long as that task isn't joining a Windows domain.

Re:How do you recommend XP Home with a straight fa (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797460)

as long as that task isn't joining a Windows domain

So basically anything as long as you're only using it at home for personal stuff...

What windows business network doesn't have a domain controller these days? What percentage of windows users build their own PCs, but don't work from home ever? Plus this article touts these boxes for the typical corporate office.

Re:How do you recommend XP Home with a straight fa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797498)

What windows business network doesn't have a domain controller these days

You would be *VERY* surprised. I have seen 100+ computer workgroups. They can not understand why their network sucks...

$50 for debian? (1)

enrgeeman (867240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797394)

I'd just really like to know how they came up with that price. That's way high.

Sharky Extreme's Value Guide is Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14797414)

For about $1000 you can build one of SharkyExtreme's Value Gaming PCs [sharkyextreme.com] .

Not a bad rig for the price.

Mac Mini (1)

thallgren (122316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14797471)

That's what I bought. Did get 1GB RAM though. For that price you get the OS, and AppleWorks which will do for most people.

Very silent, very reliable. Highly recommended.
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