Vet my PC Purchase please!

As a computer professional, and one with a background in hardware no less, I’m admit that I know almost nothing about state of the art hardware. I know even less about home entertainment crap. Please help me out.

I’m about to buy a PC and though I’ve done a lot of research I can’t help but feel that I’m going to think I missed something a week after I get the thing. Here are the specs:

Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E8200 (6MB L2 Cache,2.66GHz,1333FSB)
Genuine Windows® XP Professional
No Monitor
2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz- 2DIMMs
250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
16x DVD+/-RW Drive
ATI Radeon HD 2400 PRO 128MB
Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
Logitech Cordless Laser Desktop MX 3200 Keyboard and Mouse
No Floppy Drive Included
No Modem Option
Dell 1505 Wireless-N PCIe Card

Cost: $779 ($579 after coupon – if that works out as advertised)

The purpose of the PC is to live underneath my TV (a 32" 720i Westinghouse) and act as a web browser, a Netflix/Hulu/torrent video viewer and to play a few games (nothing fancy). At some future date I may add a tuner and make it into a full-fledged HTPC but I’ve no plans for that at the moment.

I’m probably going to buy this tomorrow afternoon (i.e., the 29th). Let me know if you think there’s anything I should change/reconsider/look at.

The ram strikes me as slower than normal, but if you’re not gaming on it I suspect you won’t notice. I think it will make a fine media box.

Yeah I would at least put in standard DDR2 800mhz since it’s cheaper than dirt right now. I bet there is no price difference between 800mhz and 667mhz.

The video card is pretty low end but if it’s just for video playback it should be ok. Bump it up to a $130ish (9600GT or 8800GT on a good sale) video card and it would make a pretty darn good gaming machine.

250gb is a bit smallish these days. 750gb go for around $100 all the time these days and is the new sweet spot $/gb. I guess it depends how much local videos you watch vs streaming.

Yeah you won’t be playing many games on the ATI 2400. Beyond that it looks fine, although it’s pretty expensive for a dell without a monitor.

Unfortunately 800MHz memory is a $50 upgrade. I may do that anyway but I definitely am not going to pay for the 4GB upgrade when it seems much cheaper to do myself. Similarly the larger hard drive options seem overpriced. It seems like most of the value is in the processor, MB, case and OS. The rest of the stuff is generally more expensive than I’d pay for it myself but the overall package still seems like a pretty good deal.

Any recommendations? Ideally I want something in a 14.5" or shorter case but other than that I’m just looking for the best bang-for-buck Dell.

edit: nevermind, $10 upgrade for 800MHz memory – definitely a no-brainer.

Well, check out this saved cart, for example. It’s $400 vs $579 for your config. Suggested addons from newegg:

2GB DDR2-800: $34 (not necessary for a HTPC, 1GB is plenty)
NV 8400GS Video: $39 (not really necessary, can skip it and use the motherboard video)
500GB SATA drive: $80

Note that this is a really thin machine that would fit well in your entertainment center, and also it’s very important to note that even this is not a good deal-- this is an everyday dell deal. A good deal would be the above with a 20" monitor and 3GB RAM for $500.

or an 8600GT with NWN II for $57 shipped:

and it is fanless!

I believe the slim-line machines require a half-height videocard. The form factor is great for HTPC purposes but not fantastic for gaming. Dell has a very similar vostro 200 (not 200s) that’s a full mid-tower and will hold anything. But it’ll look like shit below your TV.

I’m looking at an Inspiron 530, not the 530s (which is the slimline). I have room for a wider PC, just can’t be taller than 14 1/2". Looks like the Vostro matches that.

Looking at the Vostro is interesting. It’s pretty clear that they don’t mark up the upgrades nearly as much. On the other hand I can’t find any coupons like the $200 off for the Inspiron 530. I can price up a Vostro 200 that has weaker overall features for about the same price as what I’m looking for on the Inspiron. For the Vostro 400 I can a better overall computer but I’m looking at around $900 (which is a bit out of my range, I’d like to go up to $750 tops).

It seems like with either the limitation is the PSU. Looks like I’d have to get a better PSU if I were ever to go for a real gaming-oriented video card. I think that I will probably look at just getting a cheap card for the HDMI out now and then I’ll look into a new PSU and graphics card later.

Of course if you have a good recommendation for that, I’m interested now too.

Well if you’re happy with a mid-tower HTPC (which I certainly wouldn’t be), you can get the vostro 200 with 2GB RAM for $399. Addons:

9600GT: $113 (after MIR)
500GB SATA drive: $80

This is a very capable gaming machine. But again, it’s not a particularly good deal, it’s an everyday dell deal.

Don’t worry about the PSU.

Purchased. :-) Made a few small changes but I got it basically as is. The Vostro also looked good but for $170 more I got a lot more (a much better processor, a bigger hard drive, a wireless keyboard and mouse, a graphics card with HDMI and XP instead of Vista).

Thanks for the input! I’ll let you know how it runs once I get it.

If you have access to the dell EPP and can still do it, cancel your order and get this instead. $315 is a pretty sweet deal for a lowend computer. If you upgrade to a Q6600 and drop a 9600GT in it, it’s suddenly not so low-end anymore.

This is what I would qualify as a “good” dell deal. Not great, not mindblowing (those come 2-3 per year), but pretty good. “Good” dell deals come around every couple of weeks.

Doh. I do have access to the EPP but when I looked a couple days ago there weren’t any good low-end deals. Between now and when you mentioned it they cut the deal you mentioned. It’s down to a $210 discount now which is just $10 more than what I got. Previously it was $300 off and a small %'age member’s discount. Something like $120 less than what I got. I would have snagged it but I was late for a date with my wife. :-(

Oh well.

What’s this Dell EPP you guys are talking about?

edit: Nevermind, I just suck at google.