Evaluate these off-the-shelf systems (please!)

My issues upgrading the RAM in my 2009 machine have me considering throwing it out the window and buying a new machine. While I built this machine myself and though it’s been 98% stable, I’m at the point where I just want to buy something, plug it in, download some software, and go off to the races. So I’ve been pricing systems and have identified a couple that seem in my price range. I would be interested in hearing anyone’s thoughts on them:

  1. Alienware Alpha (the $799 version): i5-6400T CPU, 8 GB RAM, 500GB HD, GTX 960 4GB video card. Alienware has been discussed a lot here, but this appears to be the next generation. It’s still got a nice small form factor but no longer comes with an XBox controller and doesn’t default to Steam Big Picture mode (as far as I can tell). So it seems they’re positioning them more as gaming PCs and less as console replacements. Not sure if you can upgrade the video card directly but this does support that external box thingy that lets you put desktop-sized video cards in it. For extra money, of course. There is a current coupon for 10% off, so it’d be $720 prior to tax.

  2. CyberpowerPC: i5-6402P CPU, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, XFX Radeon 480 4GB Video card. An i5-6402P is an i5-6400 that has better integrated graphics (whoo hoo!). The presence of a 480 video card is a big plus here. Seems like it’s got a no-name PSU, so any upgrade might require upgrading the PSU first. That’s not a big deal. Price is $720 from Amazon. I’m currently leaning toward this one, since it seems more capable and more expandable.

Again, I realize I could probably assemble a system for less but I’m not interested in doing that. I am looking for convenience!

The only mod I will be making to these systems will be to migrate my SSD from my current rig to a new purchase as the boot drive. The hard drive that come with a new system will become the D: drive. (I actually have a new 1TB drive I got when I converted to a SSD so I may even move that over too).

God help me, at one point this morning I was actually thinking “maybe I should just buy a PS4 and hook it up to the TV in the mancave” … it would be a glorious sight on my 50" plasma, but that’s only 720p so I think in the end I’d rather upgrade my PC.

So… any thoughts? Anyone aware of a better deal in the sub-$800 price range?

Did you go to cyberpower’s website and try building a system to compare with the machine listed on Amazon? Might be worth it. It allows you more choice in components and still convenient.

You realize that to use the old SSD in your new system as your main OS drive, you will have to do a fresh OS reinstall.

Between the two, I’d opt for the CyberpowerPC. The 480 is noticeably more performant than a 960 in most scenarios, particularly with regards to VR, but also higher-resolution gaming. It’s also a (marginally) newer part, so it might have a bit more longevity in terms of its “gee-whiz” feature support. If you can get that system with a bigger HD and a better hard drive for more or less the same price. . .

I would double-check the upgradability of the CPU, but then again, the ability to do that is always pretty limited (goddamn changing chipsets).

I recently got a maxed-out Alienware Andromeda X51 R3 which is an extremely neat console-sized gaming PC. Might be worth looking around if you can still find one.

I wouldn’t buy a system with a 960 in it if I were buying today, so of the two I’d pick the Cyberpower. Might be worth seeing if you have any local shops that will put together a build for a fee as well so you can get exactly the specs you want. In the $800 price range that eats into your budget quite a bit though.