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I Do Not Understand Buying Computers

Kaodi

Adventurer
I tend to think that I need a new laptop. Not that I can afford one, but the one I have has always been kind of janky and I think we got in early 2015 for $700-800 Canadian.

So every once in a while I look at the big websites and see what prices are like and sooner or later my eyes start to glaze over. There are so many variables to consider now, are they not? But one of the things I do not understand is what money gets you now compared to what it used to. Like, at the price point we bought this laptop for most of the options are still 8 Gb of RAM and integrated graphics, with one difference I suppose being that the memory is now SSD instead of the old type of HD. I kinda thought that after 6 years that anything you buying at the same price point would be more obviously better in every way.

idk

I really just want something that I can eventually play Witcher 3 on smoothly at low to medium settings and Skyrim at (hopefully) very high settings. They certainly do not seem to making buying computers easy though.
 

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MarkB

Legend
Most of the serious advancements over the past few years seem to have been in graphics adaptors rather than CPUs, and there's a limit to what sort of graphics hardware you can stuff into a laptop. I bought a new desktop PC recently, and the only really major difference between it and the one I bought five years ago was the graphics card. Everything else is minor incremental improvements.
 

pming

Hero
Hiya!

One thing I've used as a rule of thumb: "With Computers, you get what you pay for...unless you're buying Apple products". So if you see a 2TB SSD for $100, and another for $225....the more expensive one is going to be better. Graphics card? Ok, pick a price point and buy that. A $300, versus a $750 versus a $2000 video card...the first is ok, the second is great, the last is amazing.

Same thing goes with "pre-built" machines and laptops; that $800 laptop isn't as good as the $1000 laptop which isn't as good as the $1500 and not even close to touching the $2500 laptop. When you go to a computer store...actually, speaking of that... DO NOT BUY FROM A "retail chain" STORE! Unless you like to gamble. Then go for it! ;) Retail chain's like Staples, Superstore, Walmart, BestBuy, etc...they buy in 'bulk' and get deals. Because they are bulk, those items (and especially pre-built machines) are built with a "get as many out the door as possible" mindset, not a "make sure it's working perfectly first" mindset. When you buy from, say, Staples, that $1100 laptop that cost $1350 at a local specialty computer store is a "gamble". The parts that went into it were grabbed, slapped into it, then packaged and sent. They MIGHT have actually turned it on to see if it started first. Maybe. They don't care if it works as listed...because it's cheaper for them to make 500 a day and get back 100 returns than it is for them to make 300 in that day and get back 3 returns.

Bottom line: If you buy from a Retail Chain...you might get a deal, but you might get a HUGE headache too! Or...you could get lucky. My mother had a Staples (or Walmart?) bought laptop that worked great for over ten years! On the other hand, my father in law got a $1500 one from BestBuy (I think), and it fried it's USB connections after about a year...maybe.

As for WHAT to buy...look at those games you mentioned and write down their "Minimum" and "Recommended" system requirements. Take this to a computer seller, show them the "Recommended" stats and say "I want this". See how much it costs. Then show them the minimum stats and say "Ok, that's a bit much. I NEED at least this...but closer to the first stats would be better", and let them figure it out for you.

If the "minimum" is more than you want to pay...well...sucks. As I said, you get what you pay for, and if you find a $900 laptop "on sale" for $500... DON'T FALL FOR IT! You're wasting your money. You'll be buying another $500 computer in a year and a half...if you're lucky! Then another one, and another, and another, etc. I paid a pro to build my first computer back in the mid/late 90's; it cost $6000! It was TOP of the line at the time, and stayed relevant/speedy for about 12 years, but I made it last for about 15 with a vid card upgrade. I since have built all my own computers save for a 'cheap' one I bought at Staples (a 'gaming rig' for about $1200; still works, gave it to my mother in law). I also bought a custom built "super computer" for my 3D stuff from Maingear (...ready for the cost...? Are you sitting down?... Ok, I paid just under thirty k, Canadian for it; most of that cost is a video card and the two Xeon E5 2699 v4 CPU's). So when you see "What?!? Who would pay $4000 for a computer just to play video games on?!?", well, gamer's would. My Maingear isn't for "gaming" it's for "creating all the stuff to make the games"...compared to my actual gaming rig (which is about $4000), well, the gaming rig rendered a 3d scene in 1min, 28 seconds. My Maingear 'work' rig rendered it in 8 seconds flat. As I said...you get what you pay for. :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

I just bought ABS Master Gaming PC - AMD Ryzen 5 3600 - GeForce RTX 3060 - 16GB DDR4 3000MHz - 512GB SSD - Newegg.com as an upgrade from CyberpowerPC Desktop Computer Gamer Ultra 2237 AMD FX-Series FX-6300 (3.50 GHz) 8 GB DDR3 1 TB HDD 120 GB SSD NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Windows 10 Home 64-Bit - Newegg.com

Right now prices are crazy due to low stock and other issues with a number of computer components, mainly chips and GPUs. GPUs are being sold out almost as soon as they are back in stock. Crypto mining has really taken off which part of the buying out of GPUs, covid related issues have put a wrinkle in supply chains as well. Folks are buying pre-builds just to pull out the graphics card for either use or resell.

Right now if i pulled out my 3060 and sell it on ebay,i could make back the money i spent on the whole tower.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I do understand computers, and prices have not been changing like I would expect them. I wonder if the demand has shot up with COVID as well as the various supply issues with chips. If that's the case (and that's a big if, not a sure thing), then between time resolving demand and vaccination you would be able to get more value for the same cost in the fall.

Oh, one place I differ from others is that the "$1500 is better than the $1000" as a default. There is also value to buying cheaper but replacing more often giving you a net better experience over time for the same money over the period, because that money can buy you more down the road.
 

Such good advice from @pming
It is during normal times, but right now some of it is impractical due to the crazy prices/stock issues.
I do understand computers, and prices have not been changing like I would expect them. I wonder if the demand has shot up with COVID as well as the various supply issues with chips. If that's the case (and that's a big if, not a sure thing), then between time resolving demand and vaccination you would be able to get more value for the same cost in the fall.

Oh, one place I differ from others is that the "$1500 is better than the $1000" as a default. There is also value to buying cheaper but replacing more often giving you a net better experience over time for the same money over the period, because that money can buy you more down the road.
Right now the supply for some parts mainly GPUs are really out of wack due in part to covid related issues.

I just priced my tower with PC part picker and it came to $1807.52, walmart has some good deals if they are in stock and getting a prebulit in some cases like from walmart, means you can upgrade parts later on. Also right now some companies like Cyberpowerpc have taken a huge hit to QA due to getting a bad shipment of mobos/GPUs and being overwhelmed by the sudden rush in costumers.
 

jaycrockett

Explorer
I feel you on this. Back in the distant 90's, getting a new computer was pretty easy. CPU clock speed, RAM, and HDD size all doubled every 2 years, so it was easy to just wait 2 years, put down the the same money, and get a box that was obviously superior.
 

ART!

Hero
My understanding is that the name brand laptop you buy from Walmart for $200 is not the same as the same name brand laptop you buy from Best Buy or the name brand's website for $500. Walmart's is cheaper in part because Walmart gets a version of that same laptop but made with some cheaper parts.
 
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Ryujin

Hero
My understanding that the name brand laptop you buy from Walmart for $200 is not the same as the same name brand laptop you buy from Best Buy or the name brand's website for $500. Walmart's is cheaper in part because Walmart gets a version of that same laptop but made with some cheaper parts.
In my job we specifically don't support mass market versions of the direct purchase versions that we do support, because they aren't necessarily comparable in hardware. There have been cases in which these mass market versions haven't run properly on our Windows installation images because they have different video hardware, sound hardware, etc..
 

pming

Hero
Hiya!
I do understand computers, and prices have not been changing like I would expect them. I wonder if the demand has shot up with COVID as well as the various supply issues with chips. If that's the case (and that's a big if, not a sure thing), then between time resolving demand and vaccination you would be able to get more value for the same cost in the fall.

Oh, one place I differ from others is that the "$1500 is better than the $1000" as a default. There is also value to buying cheaper but replacing more often giving you a net better experience over time for the same money over the period, because that money can buy you more down the road.
Yes...if you know what you're doing. ;)

I have upgraded various family members "store bought" computers...and it's always a pain, btw, because the store bought guys ALWAYS "lock you in" to THEM and THEIR services when you buy it. I bought a 'cheap-o' temp computer from Staples for about $900. Only had to last me a couple months. I needed to install an SSD to have all my data. That's an "Open case, plug in to cable, close case" operation. BUT...there was a sticker over the case that said "If you break this, your warranty is null and void". So they wanted me to take it to them, pay them $120 for "service of adding new hardware", and then wait 7 to 14 days to get it back. LOL! I ignored that and installed it myself, obviously. ... ... Point is, if you are comfortable installing hardware, software and doing basic trouble shooting...then buying 'cheap' and installing parts as wanted/needed is a viable option, but at that point you're better off just buying all the parts and building it yourself.

(Pro Tip: Pick parts. Build your PC. Compare and share. [top...'System Builder'] ..or.. BuildMyPC - Custom PC Part Picker Tool to Build Your PC [top, again, 'System Builder'] are great sites to help you part out your own computer system; they even do compatibility checks to see if the parts you chose have any serious conflicts).

Bottom Line: I find it's best to either (A) Build your own; tends to be affordable and exactly what you want, and you know exactly what's in it and why, or , (B) Get a reputable 'Pro' computer company to sell you a customized one (e.g., Alienware [tends to be expensive; 'brand name' and all that, but supposedly good], Xidax [multiple Youtube gamer channels like "Neebs Gaming" have used for years], or...my personal favourite... Maingear [ Home | MAINGEAR ]).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 


Yeah, right now the supply issues have made prices on electronics really unpredictable. Parts on back-order could also mean a longer wait.

It is during normal times, but right now some of it is impractical due to the crazy prices/stock issues.

Right now the supply for some parts mainly GPUs are really out of wack due in part to covid related issues.

I work in IT (admittedly not in a hardware-focused position), and honestly, sometimes I think Warhammer 40K got it right with having to appease the Tech Spirits.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
A caveat regarding graphics -

Gaming GPUs are not just good for gaming. They are also good for "mining" cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum. As such, when they hit shelves, they're immediately bought up.

For this reason, buying high-end GPUs right now is prohibitively expensive. There are two main chip brands for them - AMD and nVidia. Each has its merits and drawbacks. The nVidia cards have numbers like 1080, 2080, and 3080. The AMD cards have numbers like 4700, 5700, and 6700.

To put things in perspective on price, a 1070 card that retailed for $400USD in 2016 currently retails for $900. That's right. Over the course of 5 years, the price on the card doubled. Right now, the newest one of these cards - the AMD 6700 and RTX 3080 - each go for around $2,000. This price is because of scarcity. You simply cannot find graphics cards in stores, on Amazon, or any other major retailer.

ETA - An rundown of the causes of the GPU shortages and astronomical prices.

TLDR: Tariffs, shipping delays, chips all competing for limited manufacturing capacity, scalpers, crypto.
 
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Ryujin

Hero
A caveat regarding graphics -

Gaming GPUs are not just good for gaming. They are also good for "mining" cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum. As such, when they hit shelves, they're immediately bought up.

For this reason, buying high-end GPUs right now is prohibitively expensive. There are two main chip brands for them - AMD and nVidia. Each has its merits and drawbacks. The nVidia cards have numbers like 1080, 2080, and 3080. The AMD cards have numbers like 4700, 5700, and 6700.

To put things in perspective on price, a 1070 card that retailed for $400USD in 2016 currently retails for $900. That's right. Over the course of 5 years, the price on the card doubled. Right now, the newest one of these cards - the AMD 6700 and RTX 3080 - each go for around $2,000. This price is because of scarcity. You simply cannot find graphics cards in stores, on Amazon, or any other major retailer.

ETA - An rundown of the causes of the GPU shortages and astronomical prices.

TLDR: Tariffs, shipping delays, chips all competing for limited manufacturing capacity, scalpers, crypto.
They're also great for offloading work from tasks like video editing, which is one reason why I want to swap out my old AMD R7 450. I want to get into a lower end RTX based card for that, and to use their proprietary noise suppression, but the damned things are unobtanium at the moment.

 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
They're also great for offloading work from tasks like video editing, which is one reason why I want to swap out my old AMD R7 450. I want to get into a lower end RTX based card for that, and to use their proprietary noise suppression, but the damned things are unobtanium at the moment.

Another industry booming in the Age of Corona.
 

A caveat regarding graphics -

Gaming GPUs are not just good for gaming. They are also good for "mining" cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum. As such, when they hit shelves, they're immediately bought up.

For this reason, buying high-end GPUs right now is prohibitively expensive. There are two main chip brands for them - AMD and nVidia. Each has its merits and drawbacks. The nVidia cards have numbers like 1080, 2080, and 3080. The AMD cards have numbers like 4700, 5700, and 6700.

To put things in perspective on price, a 1070 card that retailed for $400USD in 2016 currently retails for $900. That's right. Over the course of 5 years, the price on the card doubled. Right now, the newest one of these cards - the AMD 6700 and RTX 3080 - each go for around $2,000. This price is because of scarcity. You simply cannot find graphics cards in stores, on Amazon, or any other major retailer.

ETA - An rundown of the causes of the GPU shortages and astronomical prices.

TLDR: Tariffs, shipping delays, chips all competing for limited manufacturing capacity, scalpers, crypto.
my old GTX 1060 is going close to it's price at launch on ebay and on amazon it's going for $770, like i said up thread folks are buying up prebulits just to get the graphics card.

Take a look at some of the rigs on r/gpumining holy hell...anyone wanna commit some B&E to get a graphics card? lol
 


Kaodi

Adventurer
I think that in pretty much every laptop I have had, three so far, they just used Integrated Graphics. And in last ten years I have used them primarily for gaming (obviously I play way behind much of the curve). But supposedly that is not gonna cut it for Witcher 3. Intel has a fancy new integrated graphics tech called Xe I hear, or something like that, but the only laptop in my "range" which had it still only had 8 Gb of RAM whereas I think I would want at least 12 to risk it.

That is crazy to hear how much prices have spiked even on old GPUs though. Mining has really screwed people who actually want to have fun, :\ . "This is why we can't have nice things," and all that.
 

GreyLord

Hero
The new Intel chipsets actually can run Witcher 3 just fine from what I understand. They actually are probably equivalent or better than the R5 series from Radeon (and old chipset to be sure, but still can run W3).

I have preferred Nvidia to Radeons to be honest, but Nvidia's drivers seem to have difficulties with certain older games while Radeon's run them just fine.

Anything you want to run probably can be done on a Nvidia 1660 or along that series. You don't need a top of the line card to run most of the PC games out today. I haven't had anything press the capacity of a 2060, much less a 1660 or 1060.

Even with Radeon most games are not pushing far beyond the R7 series these days.

I think even Intel chipsets could probably run the Witcher 3 these days just fine. That from what I hear (I haven't actually tried this myself, but part of that is because all I currently use for gaming are Nvidia computers and one Radeon).

I would actually say, buying from a retailer rather than a specialist MAY be handy depending on what sort of warranty a retailer offers.

I buy online for computers sometimes because I can order specifically what I want. HOWEVER...if you do NOT know what you want, a retailer may be the better way to go. The reason is because they design in bulk. These computers are put together in the same way, which also means that everything is tested originally to ensure they work well together. With a good warranty to go along with that, you'll have a computer that will probably run almost any of the mainstream items out there that you would want to run without having to worry about compatibility or not.

HOWEVER, make sure it is a GOOD warranty (replacement if it breaks, shuts down, etc, in home repair and warranty, in-store replacement rather than mail-in...etc). Some speciality stores may offer the same stuff, but in my experience, most do not.
 

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