I’m in the market for a new desktop so I figured I’d post a thread here about it because it’d be sweet to get recommendations from the community before I drop a bundle.

I’ve been using a Dell Dimension 8100 for the past several years. I haven’t been impressed and I’d rather not buy another Dell. About 5 months after I got this thing new direct from the factory, the power supply went kaput and I had to wait 10 days before they could get a tech out with the right part to fix it. I’ve become increasingly perturbed with the inability of the factory staff to have installed all the software in a non-conflicting manner, plus I am one of only like 6 people on the planet running Windows ME. It was very hard to find more RAM for this machine, and I ultimately took the chips out from my roommate’s old Dell — which, because I’m running ME and ME cannot handle 1GB of RAM, I had to use to replace instead of augment my factory-installed RAM. Grr.

And then just recently, one of my fans started making a heinous noise. When I went to replace it I discovered that even this cheapy plastic $9 part is proprietary and I’d have to overpay & wait for it through Dell. That was annoying but what pissed me off was when I busted open my roommate’s old Dell to raid it for parts again, the damn fan from her system (built within 6 months of mine) wasn’t even compatible because it had a different plastic housing and a different attachment fixture. So that fan is sitting in my machine very precariously as I post this. GRR.

Hence my decision that Dell can go screw itself.

I flirted briefly with the idea of building my own system but sadly I am just not geeky enough for the task. I know what a motherboard is and I know where it goes, but if you handed me 5 random ones I couldn’t begin to tell you which one I’d want. So I’ve been shopping around for new customizable systems and I realized that the past few years I’ve been so preoccupied with the health issues in my life that I’ve fallen way behind on the tech market. I have no idea who’s putting together a good desktop now. I don’t know enough about the performance and reliability of processor chips that compete with Intel, nor am I up to date on cards and other options.

Mostly I use the computer to: write novels, email & surf the ‘net, listen to music & burn CDs, play games (not much of yer fancy-shmancy kiddie 3d stuff; I am Old School, baby), keep track of my financial crap, and play with digital photography and video. Occasionally I do other things, like my tax return or whatever, but it’s all pretty standard stuff.

I can’t be talked into a Mac, so you Fruit Cult People can ease up before you even get started. Nothing personal. I like Apple, I really do — I learned how to <s>hack into the phone company</s&gt use my first desktop in the early 80s on a Mac and I’ll always remember that fondly — but too many of the <s>games I play</s&gt applications I prefer aren’t available off the PC.

Alienware is sexy as hell but still too pricey. Sony also costs more than I’m willing to pay.

Gateway appears to making some reasonably priced machines but I don’t know anything about them as a company. I’m not crazy about HP‘s customer service but I do have a couple of their printers and a digital camera that I like a lot, and HP is also making fairly reasonably priced machines. As of right now, I’m strongly considering the Pavilion d4100y.

So here are my questions, seeking your answers:

  • HP — quality or crapola?
  • Gateway — are you a fan or a critic?
  • (If you want to shill for some other company I don’t know about, please include a link.)
  • Should I be willing to pay extra for Windows XP Media Center or is XP Home basically the same excrement for slightly less money?
  • Do I need to pay for an Intel chip or is AMD an acceptable less expensive choice? What about this dual core stuff? Sounds cool but is it the Next Big Thing in processors or is it just something that sounds cool and costs more money? Any particular chip recommendations?
  • Is it still a bad idea to get any kind of integrated sound or video? Last I knew that was a thing to avoid, and it was better to get individual sound card and video card.
  • Is Soundblaster’s Audigy 2 ZS a good sound card?
  • How about Raedon & NVIDIA video cards — is one categorically better than the other or is it all about the performance of the individual model/specs of the card? What is the function of a DVI and TV-Out, and do I need a graphics card that has these things if I also want a TV/FM tuner so I can make my PC do that groovy TIVO trick?
  • Do I really have no more need for a 3.5 floppy drive? (As small as it seems, this is probably the thing that makes me feel most like I am not in Kansas anymore, Toto. How the hell do you boot the thing when it gets sick? Will they boot off CD/DVD now? Jeebus, I remember when there was no hard drive and you had to store data on a cassette — in the dark and snow, uphill both ways. You kids and your crazy new-fangled technologification. I totally want one of those 9-in-1 media card readers, though, those are nifty.)

Okay, so any and all advice is greatly appreciated — even if you just want to chime in and say how much you love or hate your particular desktop, that could be useful. Thanks in advance.

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