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Avalikia
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Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« on: 2009 December 14, 21:41:08 »
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Okay, so my parents are finally thinking about getting a new computer because the ten year old one I've been using finally gave out.  Since I'm the only one in my family that wants more out of the computer than the ability to use the internet, they're leaving the specs up to me.  However, I don't know hardware.  At all.  Especially since I'm largely unaware of the advances in computing since we got the old one.

So, here's what I do know:
- My budget is ~$1,000.  This number is extremely flexible at this point.
- It will be a desktop, not a laptop.
- The most important thing is that I want it to run The Sims 3 very, very well.
- The second most important thing is that I want it to run The Sims 2.
- If it can do both of those, I know it'll probably be able to handle everything else I want it to do.

Here's what I don't know:
- I know I'll want a good processor.  What's a "good processor" nowadays?
- I know I'll want lots of RAM.  Same question as above.
- Is there anything else that I'll want to meet a certain standard?
- Since I'm skeptical at best about anything made by Microsoft (death to Vista!), I'm wary of Windows 7.  Is that feeling justified?
- Is there anything (features, brands, etc.) that I don't know that I want or that I should avoid?

Any advice is greatly appreciated (unless you're stupid), especially if anyone knows any links to good sources of information.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #1 on: 2009 December 14, 21:52:22 »
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Any advice is greatly appreciated (unless you're stupid), especially if anyone knows any links to good sources of information.

Google is a surprisingly excellent place to research information about computer parts.
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Marq
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #2 on: 2009 December 14, 22:01:06 »
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So are you building or just buying?  If you're building you can use newegg.com.   Usually, when you select something important (i.e. a motherboard), it'll list other PC parts that are compatible with that part.  If you're buying check out any retail sites that offer user reviews of products (i.e. newegg.com, bestbuy.com).  If it's a retail site with a physical location then you can select "ship to store" or "store pick-up" to see if there's a store near you with the product.  If you're buying and don't want Windows 7 you're SOL unless you have a different OS laying around.

My advice, try going to some retail sites and exploring their Computers section.  Most let you narrow down what kind of PC you're looking for by price, amount of ram, processor, hard drive size, etc.  Do that and look at user reviews and you'll be fine.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #3 on: 2009 December 14, 22:33:38 »
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In your stated price range, with keyboard, mouse, 21.5-inch widescreen LCD monitor (but no printer), you might take a look at the HP e9250t series. You can play around with the on-line configurator to see how different upgrades affect the price (faster CPU, faster graphics board, etc).

For example, for US$950 (including shipping in the US), you can get the following, which certainly should be good enough for TS3.

    * • Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
    * • Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-750 processor [2.66GHz, 1MB L2 + 8MB shared L3 cache]
    * • FREE UPGRADE! 6GB DDR3-1333MHz SDRAM [3 DIMMs] from 4GB
    * • 500GB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive
    * • 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4350 [DVI, HDMI, VGA adapter]
    * • HP 2159m 21.5-inch 16:9 Full HD Widescreen Monitor
    * • LightScribe 16X max. DVD+/-R/RW SuperMulti drive
    * • Integrated 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) Ethernet (No wireless)
    * • 15-in-1 memory card reader, 1 USB, 1394, audio
    * • Integrated 7.1 channel sound with front audio ports
     * • HP multimedia keyboard and HP optical mouse
    * • Microsoft(R) Works 9.0
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nanacake
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #4 on: 2009 December 14, 23:26:07 »
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Do you want this computer to last more than a year and not pay over 1000 dollars for it? Find the best motherboard at your price range that has all the extra slots and processor compatibility for the next 5 upgrades you'll probably get for it. Everyone is getting a terrible deal with these Dell Compaq, HP etc scams, they're made to not be upgradeable by default! - That's why they won't tell you what motherboard it is.
• 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4350 [DVI, HDMI, VGA adapter]
Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
>for US$950
* nanacake P&L @ holiday scam price
That card sells for 37 dollars google says.
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Avalikia
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #5 on: 2009 December 15, 04:42:24 »
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@witch - The reason I'm asking here instead of a search engine is because I can presumably get advice on which computer parts to look up from people who are familiar with the Sims 3.  If I knew what I was looking for, I wouldn't have bothered to ask!

@Marq, Hegelian, and nanacake - I do have someone who is able to put together a computer, but he might want to just buy one.  So I guess that means that building is an option but buying is preferred.  I know that compter sites allow you to sort things by price and specs, but that's useless to me until I know what specs I want.  I know the specs to meet the minimum requrements for The Sims 3, but it's been my experience that just meeting the minimum requirements for a game in the Sims series means that it'll run, but not very well.  What I need is the specs for something that will run it very well, but not so top of the line that the price gets unreasonable.  Also, I have access to XP, but I don't know whether or not I hate Windows 7 yet or not because I haven't tried it.  I've heard the hype that it's an improvement, but they said the same thing about Vista and that was all L&P.
« Last Edit: 2009 December 16, 04:18:05 by Avalikia » Logged

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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #6 on: 2009 December 15, 06:51:09 »
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@witch - The reason I'm asking here instead of a search engine is because I can presumably get advice on which computer parts to look up from people who are familiar with the Sims 3.  If I knew what I was looking for, I wouldn't have bothered to ask!

*witch has a sarcasm

Had you thought to check out this very site with Search? This question gets asked on average once a week or so. There was one quite recently in fact.

Otherwise, just go and read and learn. That's what I did and what others are recommending. Yes, it's a bit of hard work but you gain a foundation of knowledge you can build on, instead of helplessly having to ask on a game site.

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GnatGoSplat
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #7 on: 2009 December 15, 14:19:59 »
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Anything built within the last 2-years should be more than adequate.  I'm using budget CPUs, and they are plenty fast.  One machine has an AMD Athlon II X2 3GHz and the other has a Pentium Dual Core E6300 overclocked to 3.5GHz.  Both are more than adequate, and I only had a $300 budget per machine when I built them.  Core i5, i7, Quad Core, AMD Phenom or anything more powerful than what I have is just extra icing on the cake.  My bottleneck is mainly the hard drive, loading and saving take longer than I'd like.  I would highly recommend focusing more on the video card and monitor than the CPU.  Being able to run with all graphics settings maxed is what you need for the best experience.  I would recommend at minimum an nVidia 9800GT or ATI 4850 and a 24" monitor and run the game at its native resolution of 1920x1200.  Splurge on the monitor because size does matter and of all PC components, the monitor holds its value best.  Then video card 2nd, because that seems to make a pretty huge difference in how well the game runs.  You'll also want at least 4GB of RAM.

No, your anti-Microsoft stance is not justified.  Windows Vista SP1 x64 was a very good OS, ran very fast and nicely on my machines until I upgraded to Windows 7 x64, which is basically an improved Vista whether anyone wants to admit it or not.  Benchmarks show Windows 7 is only marginally faster than Vista SP1 in some aspects and only equal in most.  Windows 7 is a great OS though, I run it in everything.  I don't know why everyone loves XP so much, it's so ugly and old to me.  I never had performance issues with Vista, but then I never tried running it on 10yr old hardware either.

I always build my machines using components purchased mostly from Newegg, but honestly, there is little reason not to buy an HP, Dell, or whatever.  With the same CPU and RAM, they run just as fast.  If you have a problem, someone else will fix it for you.  The motherboards are either proprietary or BTX (somewhat rare), but the majority of people would rather buy a whole new shiny computer rather than upgrade the motherboard anyway.  The one Hegelian quoted would be more than adequate except that video card is crap for gaming.  I'd bump up the video card and monitor to higher spec even if it meant dropping down to a Core 2 Duo CPU.
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sewinglady
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #8 on: 2009 December 15, 20:03:42 »
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another vote for Newegg.  My current computer came from there... and I just ordered hubby's Christmas present from there (a kit and some extra parts as he likes to build 'em himself).

Trustworthy site, very good prices and pretty much everything you'd ever want for a gaming computer. You probably don't want what my hubby calls 'bleeding edge' parts (as in brand new), but the stuff that's newish will do you just fine.

Re video cards...I've had no problems with my Radeons - do NOT get onboard video. I repeat...whatever you get, NO onboard video. You will not be happy if you do.
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J. M. Pescado
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #9 on: 2009 December 15, 20:21:50 »
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If you're buying and don't want Windows 7 you're SOL unless you have a different OS laying around.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #10 on: 2009 December 15, 20:45:53 »
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My experience has been that Sims3 will run adequately on a 512mb graphics card, but the game runs much more smoothly on a card with at least 896mb of graphics ram.
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Greyform
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #11 on: 2009 December 15, 20:49:08 »
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My experience has been that Sims3 will run adequately on a 512mb graphics card, but the game runs much more smoothly on a card with at least 896mb of graphics ram.

Sheesh, mine's only a 256mb, and I have no problem running the game. Of course, my video card is the weakest link on my machine.
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saraswati
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #12 on: 2009 December 15, 21:03:40 »
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Greyform my suggestion is more what I've noticed it takes to make the game run well, it runs on older spec cards however the way EA's coded the game results in some strange rendering of the game at times.

The one I experienced the most with the 512mb card was that once I had a couple of peices of CC I'd get "white objects" on larger lots for anything up to a minute while the game struggled with rendering the textures.
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Rayea
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #13 on: 2009 December 16, 00:53:38 »
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Most of what needs to be told has been said so far.
Being that I live in the UK, most of the places I can buy from are likely to be too local to me to be of any use.
But I will say a few things.

If you are going to spend some decent money on a PC, PLEASE remember to buy a decent, heavy duty PowerSuply Unit (PSU)
Some of the good VidCards need a 1000watt psu or higher (I am told its the GTX ones that need that much. a GT can survive on lower)

We had a gent come buy parts. I knew him, as he was a regular buying gaming parts. He played Everquest2...Spent just over 3grand on parts. Dual SLI cards, that were close to £200 each...a £400 pound, 2 mainboard capable, water cooling intergrated, heavyduty gamers case....Dual Core Pentium CPU (back befor QuadCore became the new Dual Core, hehe)

And you know what? He spent 4 hours on the water cooling, 1 to set it in place, 3 to make sure there were no bubbles...And his PSU fried the mainboard, the chip and gave memory probelms to his expensive VidCards...
Becasue he didnt get one that was realy up to the needs.

So, that is my one piece of advice....Make sure your PSU can handle anyhitng your PC throws at it.  Smiley
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KawaiiMiyo
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #14 on: 2009 December 16, 02:05:15 »
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Anything built within the last 2-years should be more than adequate.

    I'll second this. My computer I got a few years back, One of the cheapest at the time. It's an athlon dual-core, 2ghz processor, and 2 gigs ram. I only spent $250 on it at Best Buy. Works fine for me. It came with a lousy integrated video card though, so I just got a new one. Only about $100, and it has 1gb of ddr3 ram. I'd recommend tigerdirect.com for video cards. There might be better sites out there, but I found that to offer some of the lower prices.
     Anyways with my current computer, my game runs fine at max graphics, if there is any lag or skipping in my game, (Which I hardly notice, until I have the game running for a few hours.) It would more be my computer/processor than the video card. So I would think a computer similar to mine might be considered more of a minimum if anything. (But even the cheapest computers now are probably better than what I have) Oh I'm also running Windows XP o.O I heard if you use vista or newer, you need higher specs to run the game? So perhaps mine wouldn't do so well in that case.

     But with a $1k budget, I'd agree that nearly any new computer should be fine, as long as you buy a decent video card for it. If you are like me and don't know that much about hardware, if it helps I'll share one thing I learned. Don't settle for integrated built-in video cards.  Lips sealed  Buy 'em separate.  I hadn't realized until now what a huge difference it makes.

     Anyways I know I didn't have too much to add as far as advice goes. But perhaps having another example or seeing another persons specs might help. To have something else to compare to. (At least it does with me!)
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GnatGoSplat
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #15 on: 2009 December 16, 14:53:03 »
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If you are going to spend some decent money on a PC, PLEASE remember to buy a decent, heavy duty PowerSuply Unit (PSU)
Some of the good VidCards need a 1000watt psu or higher (I am told its the GTX ones that need that much. a GT can survive on lower)

1000W!!!  That's probably quite a bit more than necessary for the average person.  I don't think you need >500W unless you're running two high-powered cards in SLI.  Most GTX and GT cards will be fine with a decent, name-brand 400W PSU.  I've been using a 400W PSU in one machine for years with no problems and a 500W in the other.  There's a newer 9800GT EE (Energy Efficient) that doesn't even have the ATX12V plug, there are people successfully using it with a 300W PSU.  Those in the US may be able to get the 9800GT EE with 1GB for as low as $70 from Best Buy (info link).
Most good video cards these days have at least 512MB, but not all cards are good for gaming.  You also have to look at the GPU, just because a card has 512MB doesn't mean it's good enough.  Some are designed primarily for HD/BD video playback.  That's why I'd recommend at LEAST something as fast as a Geforce 9800GT or ATI HD4850 for 24" and larger monitors and 9600GSO or ATI HD3850 for 22" and smaller.  Playing the game at any less than your LCD monitor's native (maximum) resolution will look blurry and badly aliased.
There are some video card rankings here: http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-cards-charts-2009-high-quality/benchmarks,64.html
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sewinglady
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #16 on: 2009 December 16, 18:22:09 »
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well, I'd rather have too much power supply (and way too many fans to keep everything cool) than an inadequate power supply...and so many times pre-builts come with inadequate power supplies...probably why hubby prefers to build 'em himself.
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Rayea
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #17 on: 2009 December 23, 16:38:43 »
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Well yes, alot of cards will work fine with lower PSUs.
I do not know what the situation is in the US with availability of cards, but here in the UK, it tends to be bottom end and top end only.
You ether buy a basic card and run it into the ground, or you spend on a decent top-of-the-range version and make your friends green with envy.

(In the store I work in, we sell many many more of what you would call..crap items..Than the decent quality ones. People here would rather spend £30 on a cheap VGA card than upgrade to a newer board or buy a decent PCI-E card. But I guess that is waht you get when you have customers that are, for want of a better phrase....TightArses)

Also, a good heavy duty PSU will usualy see you through many years, if you do not have a surge and loose it. My now offline machine has a 6 or 7 year old 410 watt Thermaltake in it and has survived multiple death of Mainboard by SecuROM shenanigans.
Still. it depends upon which card you are buying. GTX cards need more than GT, and so on.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #18 on: 2009 December 26, 19:33:35 »
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I find myself running up against that very problem Rayea. I live in the UK and I just don't seem to be able to find a graphics card that isn't hideously expensive or just plain crap. I guess it would help if I knew anything about graphics cards but I find searching for advice on the internet rather worrying. I'm sure people develop a bit of a "I spent my money on this graphics card and it must be the best EVAR because reality will fold in on itself before I admit that I might have GOT IT WRONG" mentality. I'm sure there's places out there when people do know what they're talking about and give good advice, but it becomes difficult to know which places to trust, especially when you read so much conflicting advice using jargon you don't know the meaning of.

Then of course there is the added problem that I finally think that a graphics card seems to be in budget and decent but it turns out you can't get it in the UK except from select places which want to charge you a fortune for it. Assuming I had plenty of RAM and wanted to run Sims 3 on high settings is there a graphics card I should be considering that I'm actually going to be able to find in the UK which isn't going to bankrupt me?
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #19 on: 2009 December 26, 21:38:13 »
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I guess it would help if I knew anything about graphics cards but I find searching for advice on the internet rather worrying
The internet is a great source of information. Of course you have to use judgment of which sites to use to be sure you're getting proper information and not advertisements. I think if you truly want the satisfaction of knowing you are not being ripped off, learn the jargon at least. It might seem daunting, but it's the only way you'll learn what it means. I would have never learned English if I just kept crying, "It's too hard, I'll just let someone else speak for me!" every time I read something I didn't understand. Computer terminology is just as important to learn as any other subject in today's modern world. It really stops being complicated once you give yourself a chance. In fact start here, it's a computer dictionary: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/glossary/
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #20 on: 2009 December 26, 21:48:15 »
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When I research new equipment, I start by going to good sources, like credible online magazines and websites, and reading comparisons and reviews.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #21 on: 2009 December 26, 22:55:16 »
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Hmm I think perhaps I phrased my last post a little strongly. I do understand a lot of the jargon and if there's anything I don't understand my brother tends to poke fun at me until I find out. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that I find a lot of the advice on graphics cards comes from what I would probably term "hardcore gamers" who want graphics cards which will run their first person shooters at ultra high speed and resolutions in real time so they can play over the internet.

What I want is a card that will let me play the Sims 3 on high settings. I'm assuming that this requires a graphics card way below what the type of game described above would require (correct me if I'm wrong!) and I don't want to have to spend any more than required (I can't afford it for a start). I find it difficult to get advice on this, especially on UK sites where Sims doesn't appear to be as acknowledged by the gaming community as it is in America (which I know sometimes isn't much acknowledgement as it is). Very few people who offer advice relevant to the UK seem to play Sims 3, therefore they can't actually offer any first hand comment or review about whether said graphics card is any good with the game. Since this is all I want the card for this would seem to be a good thing to actually have before making a final decision. Maybe I'm just being over cautious but I don't have money to waste on a graphics card that sounds good in theory but just doesn't cut it with Sims 3. I know many people who had problems with supposedly "good" cards when it came to Sims 2 and I don't want to end up with similar problems.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #22 on: 2009 December 27, 00:21:37 »
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Some points to consider:

Nvidia cards have historical problems with sims 2, I'm not so sure about sims 3. I would advise sticking to ATI Radeon as these tend to be more compatible with the game  on the whole.

Sims 2 was quite a processor heavy game, I don't know if sims 3 is similar, but there's no point in getting a high end graphics card if you have a medium to low level processor. A better video card is not always a magic bullet.

My research last xmas led me to the HD 4870, it did well in comparison tests and was reasonably priced for a slightly high end card. It's done very well for me but I have had to get a larger power supply and install extra cooling, so be aware of issues like that if you get a grunty card.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #23 on: 2009 December 27, 16:29:08 »
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Thank you Witch that's very helpful. My current card is a Radeon, albeit an old one, but I've always been happy with its performance up until it became too low spec to cope with the new Sims game, so sticking to the same make seems like a good idea.

I'm actually getting a whole new system, but I feel much more confident when it comes to processors, hard drives, RAM etc. Graphics cards are the component I find most difficult to choose because there's so many different things to consider and people want such different things from them.

Useful tip about the cooling though, I'll have to look into that a bit more; I was assuming the standard cooling system would be enough since I wasn't going for the top of the high end cards, but if you needed extra for a slightly high end one then I probably should consider it. I do have a fan on my current graphics card that my brother added for me after my even older card overheated and died; I'll have to ask him if it would still be suitable for a newer card.
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Re: Getting a new computer - advice needed!
« Reply #24 on: 2009 December 27, 20:42:55 »
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We live in a sub-tropical climate and so have greater ambient heat to contend with much of the year. The HD4870 came with two fans which seemed to be fine at its own cooling, my problem was that air was not moving freely through my case. I now have an extra fan on the front sucking air in, a fan in between my two fast hard drives and a fan that fits in the slots on the board to send exhaust air out, this fan is adjustable. None of the fans are too loud, I checked the decibel ratings before purchasing. It cost me under $NZ200 for all three fans, so for the UK or US it's likely to be far cheaper. You can also get a gadget to test the temperature in various parts of the case while the machine is running.

Heh, all three of the fans came with blue LEDs and, along with my green/orange/red light strips on the RAM, my machine's as purty as a picture. I have a 750w power supply driving this xmas tree.
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