Home office PC build advice needed

What I need:

A mid-tower PC that will serve me well for at least the next 3 years. No gaming, this is for a home office on which I will do writing, online searches, audio editing and photo editing. I would like to keep the price for components I need under $500 but could go up. I would want an SSD as the primary drive.

What I already have:

–A decent video card, EVGA NVidia GTX 650 Ti Boost (new, gifted to me)
–A 1T Seagate Barracuda hard drive (to use as secondary storage)
–A good widescreen monitor
–A 10-year old ATX mid-tower case (though folks here say I should spring for a few one)
–A legit copy of Win7 that I might upgrade to Win 10.
–A DVD player/burner

–Build something around the components I have (I have built PCs before, but not in a long time and would need recommendations)
–Buy a barebones system as a starting point
–Buy a complete system without monitor

Thoughts folks?

A Chomebook could do that.

Dell for $379

Thanks, I’ll check out the Dell.

I do need to run Adobe Audition, Paint.net and Scrivener, so I don’t know if a Chromebook would cut it.

Also, I love the sales pitch on that Dell:

With 4th Gen Intel® Core™ i3 processor and high-capacity hard drive, you can run multiple programs at once.

Its so '90s.

A cheap prebuilt is probably your best bet. Drop in the video card if you feel you need it but from your described use case integrated should be fine. I’d strongly recommend throwing in a second stick of RAM to hit 8gb if that Dell suits your fancy. Note that most prebuilts on the cheap end will still be shipping with Win 8.1. I’d also recommend going for 160gb at a minimum on your SSD (256 is good too); should be under $100 and if not they go on sale all the time.

With a prebuilt, check the power supply before buying. A lot of cheap prebuilts come with the bare minimum PSU to run the given configuration, and that’s a gaming card, meaning it may need some additional juice.

The small desktop form factor at Dell is a uh…small form factor so regular video cards won’t fit.

The “regular” desktops are at: http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-3847-desktop/pd?ref=PD_Family

So is doing something like a Dell short-sighted? I’m obviously not in need of a monster rig, but I want reliability. I want no headaches. Are Dells … quality?

Or perhaps reliability in PC builds is just a crapshoot?

You don’t want to game, so I wouldn’t get a desktop at all. What you really want is a cheap laptop. This deal is pretty great. Just plug in your monitor, USB mouse and keyboard, and get a cheap USB3 enclosure for your storage drive and you’re good to go.

Dells have improved immensely since Michael Dell took the company private. The new XPS13 is particularly drool-worthy. I wouldn’t be concerned buying a Dell, if that’s your preferred brand. They have deals all the time too.

Hmm. A laptop had never occurred to me, in all honesty. That has distinct advantages (take it with me!) but disadvantages (plug in cables every time I’m at my desk). But definitely worth considering. Thank you stusser.

I convinced my employer to get me an XPS13 when my last work laptop died and I’m loving the heck out of it. Great business laptop. Super portable and, with a USB 3.0 docking station/monitor/kb/mouse, makes a great productivity workstation too. The only caveat is that the monitor has absurd resolution for a 13" screen so you have to turn down the resolution to make things readable.

I would go back to a desktop if you want to stay in the $500 range. Laptops at that price are generally low quality and most teenagers these days consider them too crappy to bother owning. My work laptop is a Lenovo t440 and it’s a decent business choice. The USB 3 dock means only connecting two cables (power and USB) for all peripherals. Out of your price range though. MacBook Air, MacBook, Dell XPS 13 also good choices among several in the $1100-1500 range.

A $250-500 laptop will generally be crappy. You need to spend $500-1000 for a good one.

I personally only recommend:
ASUS ZenBook
Dell XPS13
Apple MacBook Pro
Apple MacBook Air

Just kidding, I do appreciate all the advice.

Simple answer, I’m right and he’s wrong. Nobody should buy a desktop in 2015 unless they plan to game or do heavy development work.

Think of it as a really small desktop with a built-in UPS. You only need to re-plug cables when you move it, which is obviously not an option with a desktop. That particular laptop is actually a 3.5lb ultrabook with a touchscreen, and it’s convertible so you can put it in tent mode to watch movies on an airplane in coach. $330 with an i5, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD! The deal I posted is actually pretty amazing.

USB3 docks are fine, but you will want to plug the HDMI directly into your monitor regardless.

@Tortilla: Grats on getting your work to pick up an XPS13! Just use scaling in windows, both 8.1 and 10 fully support it. You’ll probably want somewhere between 150% and 200%. Some programs still don’t scale right in windows, but the high-DPI experience is much better now than it was 2 years ago.

If I wasn’t a gamer, I’d be using a laptop full time for sure. Probably a retina MacBook Pro.

Eh Stusser, always up for a hardware debate, but posting a used laptop isn’t really fair game. Like in the car forums someone says they’re looking at buying a Civic, there’s always someone who will pop in and say they could get a used BMW V12 for the same price!

Does that laptop come with tech support and a warranty? Also read the description: “Scratches, dents and discoloration on top cover Scratch on keyboard bezel”, uh no thanks.

But I generally share your sentiment that laptop is superior for work/productivity purposes.

The processors in <$500 laptops are anemic compared to what you get in the cheap desktop at that range.

The $330 laptop I posted has a haswell i5, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Yes, it is a refurb but is fully warranteed. It is a hell of a deal.

You have a lot of parts already. If you can use the ATX case and box, you can aim for a home built quad core with 8 gb of RAM and an SSD.

Personally i’m at the stage of my life where i’d rather just buy an iMac than worry about this stuff now, but certainly you can get the perfomance you’re looking for at the price you’re aiming at if you’re willing to build it yourself.

I’m also at the stage when i feel that sometimes laptop screens feel a bit small to me. Especially for photo editing. I’m thinking hard about getting a 27" retina imac and running it at a step or two lower resolution, just so i can get that sweet unaliased font and big, ugly, easy on the eyes letters.

Unless I’m reading something wrong, these aren’t refurbs with a warranty. They’re listed as pre-owned, which, according to CowBoom seems to indicate they just turned it on to make sure it worked. Other than CowBoom’s 15 day return policy, it also looks like you need to buy a separate warranty they offer through a 3rd party. There was at least one I was looking at that also was missing the power supply.

That said, the specs on these are really good. I’d probably pick one up if they actually had pictures for each showing the scratches and dents which are indicated.