PC purchase homestretch: Decision-hinging tech questions

I take for-ever to make major purchase decisions and have limped through with my rig that barely runs, won’t play games, and crashes now and again for a few months. Work is going to pay for a Dell for me which I can sloooowly re-imburse them for. I have narrowed it to 2 and need a little help with the differences and whether a little extra dough is worth those differences.

Differences in bold.

I. Dimension 8400

3.0Ghz P4 Processor 530 w/ HT Tech. (800 FSB)
1GB DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
128MB PCI Express x16 ATI Radeon X300 SE

160GB Serial ATA HD (7200RPM)
48x CD-RW Drive
Sound Blaster Audigy 2

[color=red]Cost: $1,031.20[/color]

II. Dimension 4600

3.2Ghz P4 Processor w/ HT Tech. (800 FSB)
1GB DDR SDRAM at 400MHz
128MB DDR ATI Radeon 9800 PRO

160GB Serial ATA HD (7200RPM)
48x CD-RW Drive
Sound Blaster Audigy 2

[color=red]Cost: $1,022.40 (-$150.00 mail-in Rebate)[/color]

Questions:

  1. What is the 530, 540, 560 in the Processors and how much difference does it make?

  2. Is the DDR2 at 533MHz that much better than the DDR at 400MHz?

  3. The 9800 PRO is the better card. Right?

  4. Are un-named components in the 8400 (mobo, et.al.) superior to those in the 4600?

I really appreciate any help. McMaster, when I win a few thousand playing poker online, I’ll have you build me one.

Tyler

These are Prescott processors, with 1MB L2 cache.

They may be slightly slower at the same clock rate in some games,
than the older P4 with 512KB of L2 cache.

No, except in some games that may have high memory bandwidth requirements.

But you probably won’t see a practical difference.

Yes, by quite a bit.

The 8400 is newer technology, supporting PCI Express.

For example, the new, midrange video cards released by Nvidia
(6600GT) and ATI (X700 XT) will be shipping on PCI Express first, and AGP as much as two months later.

Thanks Loyd. I am not a graphics whore, FPSs make me sick, and I do not have to be on the hemmorhaging edge. Its pretty much of a toss up at this point.

Better graphics card, $150 cheaper price vs. newer technology. I guess I’m leaning to the 4600 …Must…pull… …trigger… …Decision… …soon… …or…ackkkk!!!.
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[thud!]

As ever,
Tyler Jenkins

I’d get the 2nd one. It has a faster CPU, a graphics card that will stay competitive for at least another year, and it’s $150 cheaper. If you’re not a graphics whore, new technology carries no benefits for you.

Woohoo! Someone to make the decision for me. Loyd went and enabled me to make an informed decision on my own. Blech! Who wants that? Unfortunately, this may be …(wait for it)… the Wong decision. :lol: Now that is comedy that never gets old.

Hah! I could be using reverse psychology on you. Or reverse-reverse psychology. You will never know!

The 4600 by a landslide. Much faster in work apps and not even in the same ballpark for games. The x300 is barely even a gaming card, it’s much slower than a 9600 non-pro.

Neither one is a particularly good deal though, even from dell. You’re not using any coupons, for one… definitely buy the RAM separately from crucial, buy the videocard separately from newegg, etc, and you’ll get more for your dollar. Of course for work they may want dell’s service and support.

Woohoo! Someone to make the decision for me. Loyd went and enabled me to make an informed decision on my own. Blech! Who wants that? Unfortunately, this may be …(wait for it)… the Wong decision. :lol: Now that is comedy that never gets old.[/quote]

If it’s really a work system, then the 4600 is a better choice anyway. IT shops tend to be a bit leery of implementing the very latest tech.

And as others noted, the 4600 is really a better gaming box.

By the way, the Audigy 2 sound card is a $60 uplift – you should try to squeeze that in.

Well, I found it from you giving me the heads up on the gotapex - Dell Outraaaaageous Deal alerts. Didn’t see where there were any coupons offered anywhere. That price for the 4600 includes a 20% discount and then there is the $150.00 Rebate making it $872.40.

It was $120 for the upgrade from 256MB RAM. I haven’t looked at RAM prices in a while so maybe I should go with Crucial as it is better anyway.

[color=darkblue]EDIT again:[/color] I tried checking crucial RAM prices. There are ~74 different types. I felt like I was trying to read Chinese.

The videocard was a $160.00 upgrade. I thought I saw the 9800s were around $200.00 +/- on newegg. That could have been for the 256 though.

[color=blue]EDIT:[/color] Actually, I think this is the same one and is only $129.00.

[color=blue]LAST EDIT: [/color]Nope. That was a 9600. The 9800 PROs are 196.00 and up.

And Loyd, I think the Audigy 2 is listed there on both machines. :)

Well there are deals and there are deals. Occasionally the instant rebates and mail-in rebates combine to give a fairly good deal. I see on the gotapex frontpage that the base deal for the 4600 is $449 for a 2.8 P4E, 256MB RAM, 80GB HD, and CD-RW. That is a decent deal. Once you start upgrading the CPU, windows version, RAM, ms office, etc, it drops the overall value. Dell gets you interested with that $449 and then sucks you in on the add-ons. In your case, the add-ons doubled the cost of the computer.

Actually looking at it, some of those add-ons really aren’t bad deals at all. When I configured this deal it came out roughly the same as you. It’s far from the best deal dell has ever had, but it’s very defensible if you need to buy right away.

In comparison, 2 weeks or so ago you could pick up a P4 2.8 with 256MB of RAM, a 40GB HD, no videocard, no windows with a 17" LCD monitor for $549… so they do get much better. You’d have to plug another $400 into it to get a computer comparable to yours, but you’d end up with a 17" flatscreen too.

Edit: I just looked around; there’s a 25% off coupon, but it doesn’t apply to the outrageous deals. Your system is as good as it gets for a non-400sc right now.

I just bought one of those Dimension 4600s a couple of weeks ago and I’m pretty happy with it. Configured almost exactly like the one listed in the OP. I kept playing the waiting game, too, watching gotapex.com and waiting for better and better deals to come along. Eventually I decided to just buy one, though, or I’d be waiting indefinitely.

Hehe. Exactly. Well, I think I’ll go ahead tonight with the 4600. Thanks all for the contributions.

I will be playing Kohan II in no time. Hooray!

Good choice, Ty.

The real deal you got was finding a PC which you could afford to upgrade through something you worked out with your employer. That’s the straight fucking dope. It would be nice to save here or there or spend more here or there, but by getting what you can afford which meets your needs… well there isn’t any other standard that matters.

Don’t forget to mail in the rebate!!!

:( My wife bought a Dell 8400 with the new PCI Express motherboard last month and it died on us last week. Some very nice lady with an Indian accent at Dell Tech support walked us through every combination possible (remove cards, RAM, hard drives, etc.) to get it to boot, but to no avail. They are sending us a new PC though. Just a word of warning.

-DavidCPA

Was that at your request? I would have expected them to send someone out or send me a new computer after a few basic troubleshooting steps. It’s kind of insane to have to spend hours taking apart and troubleshooting a system like that. That’s WHY I bought a Dell and didn’t build a system myself!

Was that at your request? I would have expected them to send someone out or send me a new computer after a few basic troubleshooting steps. It’s kind of insane to have to spend hours taking apart and troubleshooting a system like that. That’s WHY I bought a Dell and didn’t build a system myself![/quote]

Friend at work bought a Dell and immediately had trouble accessing the Norton site. He called and was on the phone a while. The guy said he’d call back in an hour. At 1:00a, the Indian fella, finally, called back and I believe my co-worker cursed a bit and promptly hung up.

Turns out back in May when that deluge of viruses was spreading, we did not get his antivirus activated in time as he was nearly instantaneously infected when his cable connection was hooked up.

Anyway, those foreigners ain’t too helpful.

Mine is already assembled an on its way to the distribution center. Who is excited? (On my Birthday, no less. I am 29 for the 7th consecutive year.)

Yip-yip-yippee! Ordered Tuesday, assembled at Dell Central, 2-day service at $29.00, and presto, she shows up just in time for the weekend. I can say one thing for Dell, they are certainly prompt.

Was that at your request? I would have expected them to send someone out or send me a new computer after a few basic troubleshooting steps. It’s kind of insane to have to spend hours taking apart and troubleshooting a system like that. That’s WHY I bought a Dell and didn’t build a system myself![/quote]

It didn’t take that long to perform the troubleshooting as I know what the tech is talking about. It would have taken much longer for a less technically proficient person to do it. I received my replacement PC on Thursday. Not bad turnaround on the service.

-DavidCPA

that seems to be the norm for dell support anymore. We have one that came with a wireless keyboard mouse setup. I took away the wireless mouse because I figured my kids would lose it and plugged a usb mouse from dell. The cursor would jump all over the screen with the usb mouse. I spent over 10 hours on the phone with dell support, and an additional 4 hours of my own time running an extensive diagonistic suite they sent me. I had in home warranty to, so I finally complained about it and they just sent me an extra wireless mouse combo in case one got lost.