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Thread: OT: Recommend a good desktop PC with XP?

  1. #1
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    I made a hideous mistake on the computer-buying front about 6 months ago, due to my chronic inability to be patient when there's something I really want.

    I wanted a Dell, and when I found that suddenly they stocked them at PC World I bought one there. What a crappy decision that turned out to be.

    1. It came with Vista. I really thought I knew better, but apparently not. It's been every bit of the nightmare I'd read about, since the first moment I switched it on.

    2. The PC came in a small case. Because I'd not researched it, I didn't realise--and the shop didn't tell me--that as a result it only takes smaller than usual cards, and it has an integrated sound card that doesn't do what I need it to do. (I told the young woman in the shop that my two main requirements were (i) the ability to record music on the computer, and (ii) video editing. I think that by "record music" she must have thought I meant rip tunes off CDs...)

    Anyway, this morning was the final straw. I've just bought a new monitor, and I also bought a DVI cable to get the best out of it with my shiny new PC. It turns out the PC doesn't have anywhere for me to plug the cable in.

    I've had enough of this. Can anyone please recommend something? As I mentioned above, the two non-standard things I *have* to be able to do with it, in reasonable comfort, are:

    (i) video editing, and

    (ii) music recording (i.e. I want to be able to record my guitar onto it, and then to run a sound editing programme).

    It also *has* to come with XP.

    It's still possible to get some Dell desktops with XP, but I didn't get far talking to them on the phone. As far as I could tell, they were trying to boost up a very basic model that really wasn't made for the video/sound stuff by adding things to it, whereas I'd rather have something built to take that sort of usage in its stride.

    I'm very unimipressed with Dell but I know others have had good experiences (though maybe that's in the past), so if people think I've just been unlucky this time I'll look at them again.

    Please help if you can. I can't stand this pile of junk any longer!

    /rant


  2. #2
    Ultra King edwin's Avatar
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    I bought a Dell desktop with a high-end (then!) spec and got them to put XP Pro on free; and then by saying NO to all other offers got three years onsite for £59. I did all that on the phone; perhaps working in IT helps as I could counter their BS with BS of mine own.

    It has run flawlessly for a year of heavy use including running some apps that require the sort of specs you are looking at. Others will come on and no doubt have Dell horror stories....such will always be the case...

    Before that I had another build-up by MESH; that was great too.

  3. #3
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    Thanks, Ed. Any idea which of the current range of Dell desktops might do the business for me? I'm currently looking through the XPS ones on their site, but it's so long since I've bought a PC that I'm very out of touch with what I'll need.

    Also, and you might know this since you're in IT, I notice that none of the descriptions for the Dells I'm looking at on another tab mention sound cards, though they all specify video cards. I'm sure that used not to be the case. Has something changed across the board, d'you know, in the last 4 years or so?

  4. #4
    Ultra King edwin's Avatar
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    I said I was in IT not that I knew anything about it

    Seems strange not to specify sound cards or offer a paid upgrade path..will have a look later as I am not familair with the current line-ups alas.

    I am sure some of the real techs will step in soon.....

  5. #5
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    Meanwhile I've been looking at MESH, and they look good. Some quotes expected any minute by email Thanks again!

    On the sound front, it seems that lots of people are doing integrated sound these days. MESH don't seem to offer choice of sound card in the online customisation table either. It can be done over the phone, though.

  6. #6
    Goon Neil1's Avatar
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    Have you thought about 'building' your own,from components? It's not half as daunting as it sounds,I did it after a bit of time spent reading up on to how to put the components together. I priced up a pc with the spec. that I wanted and compared it to 'pre-built' machines,the diy method was more economical and allowed me to have all the components that I wanted and needed.

    If you go this way,you can spend on what you need,a very good sound card,for example:

    These are excellent

  7. #7
    Mini Goon Gary P's Avatar
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    Which dell machine do you have? you can get slim pci / pcie sound and video cards.

    Or look at this it runs from usb 2.

    Dabs


  8. #8
    Ultra King Chairman Bill's Avatar
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    Load up a Mac with a PC emulator (Parallels for example) & load XP on that. You've then got the option of Garage Band for your music (v. good bit of kit), & iMovie for your video editing, plus the opportunity to switch to PC mode when you're feeling masochistic. If you get a Mac Mini or Mac Pro, you can use your current monitor too.

  9. #9
    Ultra King Peter Clinch's Avatar
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    Emulators usually have holes somewhere, and the more complex the software you try and run on them the more likley you are to find them, though with any current Mac you should be able to dual-boot into XP via (IIRC) Boot Camp. Though to do that you'll need your own copy of XP, as unsurprisingly Apple don't ship that!

    But if the primary job is music and video editing an Apple would be a good choice to use for that; I imagine they've become the default choice for musicians for a good reason! I wouldn't go down the Apple route if you want to run existing Windows software to do your stuff, but if you want a platform that will do the job with as-yet unselected software it's probably better than a PC.

  10. #10
    Ultra King Chairman Bill's Avatar
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    The current emulators run very well, and Boot Camp runs Windows better than many PCs

    Garage Band is well worth looking at.

  11. #11
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    I bought a Sony VAIO laptop a few months ago, and am pleased enough - no Vistaaggro at all.A bit more expensive than Dell, but an excellent screen and nice keyboard.

    But ifwas at all into music and video I would buy an apple without any hesitation - they are justin a different league, and widely used by professionals in both businesses.

    If there is an applecentre near you,you canphone them up and arrange a personal demo of a machine doing all the things you want, before spending any more moneyon windows 'solutions' thatmake you cobble together stuff from all sorts of bits of hardware and software thatdon'tquite work and leave you frustrated and poorer.And no, I don't have an apple myself!

  12. #12
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    P.S. Checkout this apple seminar with Pat Metheny - you have to register on the site, but it's worth it to watch the seminar. No guarantees you'll play like him though!

  13. #13
    Mini Goon
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    Vista's actually pretty nifty I reckon once you've slapped it around a bit and shown it who's boss.

  14. #14
    Initiate craigp's Avatar
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    Rather than fork out loads of cash for a new machine....

    You can solve the small case problem easily just by replacing the case. If you're a little bit bold, are handy with a screwdriver, and don't mind voiding your warranty that is! You should be able to just transfer all the stuff from your small case into a standard-sized ATX case. Then you can take your pick regarding sound and video cards, etc. Have a look here for example for something that takes your fancy. They come either with or without power supply (PSU). Without is fine, just move the one you have into the new case. Something like this one would do the job for less than 20 quid.

    Did you have a computer before and if so did it come with XP? If so then you may be able to use that on the new machine. If not and you want to buy a copy of XP you can go for an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) version. It'll save you money - probably around 60-70 GBP. The catch is that you have to purchase it with a "non-peripheral component". Just buy the cheapest bit of RAM you can find for a few quid and you qualify for OEM. The downside is that the licence only applies to the machine that you install it on. If you then buy a new machine the licence is not transferable (legally).

    Personally I wouldn't worry too much about the DVI cable. The difference in quality is pretty negligible. I'd just use a normal VGA cable. If you wanted to use the DVI then you'd need to buy a video card. Save your money for something else IMHO.

    Regarding sound recording, I'd be more inclined to look at external units rather than sounds cards, for quality and flexibilty reasons. How do you record - acoustic guitar with mic, electric, through an amp or a DI box?

  15. #15
    Mini Goon Mendip Walker's Avatar
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    PeeWiglet -

    Before you spend any more money - are you sure that you can't record on your PC as it is? As far as I'm aware even the most basic integrated/on-board sound cards have a Mic/Line In socket, usually it's pink and right next to the Earphone/Speaker socket. You may have to download some "driver" software and/or make a few tweaks in the Control Panel to get it working though.

    HTH

  16. #16
    Ultra King Peter Clinch's Avatar
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    The current emulators run very well, and Boot Camp runs Windows better than many PCs

    Experience suggests there are niggles: for example, someone here running Condes (Windows-based orienteering mapping software) on their Mac could get almost full functionality, but when that 1% is the 1% you want then "almost" isn't good enough and if you've changed your computer specifically to avoid hassle then it's a bit of an own-goal. The Missus has Boot Camp on her Mac Book and it appears to work very well, but dual boot remains a PITA at some level.

    But overall the Macs are a delight to use compared to Windows, with user-friendliness defined in terms of things just working, as opposed to an animated paper-clip telling you the new user interface really is easier once you can find what you're looking for .

    Pete.

  17. #17
    Goon Andybr's Avatar
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    As far as recording goes I would definitely second the recommendation for an external interface or alternatively a good soundcard plus a small mixing desk (probably cheaper than you think). This gets round the major problem of actually plugging instruments/mikes into the back of your computer. The most important thing to check for both options is the availability of good ASIO drivers for the soundcard. Normal windows drivers and any kind of integrated sound will normally result in horrendous latency problems (delays between a note being struck and the computer actually seeing it).

    The choice of sound editing software will depend on the computer you choose but Cubase or Sonar will do most things on a PC and Logic or ProTools are the most common choices or a Mac. Mac software tends to be the most expensive, especially ProTools,but this is the industry standard.

  18. #18
    ‹bermensch Peewiglet's Avatar
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    Many thanks to all for the advice, suggestions and assistance on this.

    I bought a desktop from Novatech in the end: I noticed that they did well in the PC Pro 'Customer Service' awards last year. It's a lot faster than the last one, and it's got a proper sound card and a good graphics card.

    I like the idea of a Mac, but I've been with PCs for so long now that I'm not really willing to start from scratch with applications and stuff. I don't do a lot of either recording or video editing, so a PC is fine for me although I'm sure a Mac would be better.

    Thanks again, all.

  19. #19
    Goon Andybr's Avatar
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    Peewiglet

    I don't know whether you are still interested in Recording on your PC but I have recently got hold of one of these:

    http://www.e-av.co.uk/info.php?id=7673

    It makes connecting instruments and mikes to a PC much simpler and even comes with a cut down version of Cubase. The price is good and the unit seems to be very well made.

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