Dodge Retort: Buying a Long Overdue Desktop


By John Dodge

Dell Studio XPS 8100

It’s been almost eight years since I acquired my last desktop computer. It’s time to go shopping for a new one and wade through dozens of models with long unmemorable names and figure out a configuration amid infinite variations.

I’ve narrowed my search down to Dell’s Studio XPS 8100 or HP’s Pavilion Elite models. I just have to configure them and shop the end result. Sheesh, a 27-inch iMac would be much simpler, but, alas, waaaay too expensive.

Lord, PC desktops are sold everywhere but Dunkin’ Donuts. Crutchfield, Amazon, Newegg, Amazon, vendor sites and retailers like Ultimate Electronics.

Let’s take the 8100, for instance. My rationale is buy something high performance and loaded given my current desktop lasted for almost eight years! I suspect this new desktop will have to last just as long. No regrets.

So far, I have come up with this rough and incomplete configuration: a CPU (Intel Core i7 or AMD Phenom II), graphics card (ATI Radeon 4890 or higher), 1080p monitor, 8 GB of RAM, Blu-ray player, easily-accessed USB and memory card slots on the front of the unit, built-in Wifi and a 1 terabyte (TB) hard disk. will let me endlessly customize whereas Amazon’s and Walmart’s 8100s come pre-configured. While Amazon and online discounters can save me a few bucks, I like the time savings and hassle sparing getting everything installed at the factory (lazy, I know, but I want to spend time with other things).

That said, I am bargain hunter at heart and am evaluating several buying sources…except Best Buy, the store I love to hate.

Last week’s big news in the retail world was that Walmart will offer free shipping on 60,000 online items with no minimum spending requirement. Take that, Amazon and Target. So I wondered if I could get a deal on a new desktop at Walmart. As it turns out, Amazon whose customer service is second to none matched Walmart’s pricing on every PC I checked out. If it comes down to Walmart or Amazon, I’ll choose the latter.

For instance, a highly-rated Dell 8100 model with an Intel i7-870 Core CPU was $1098 at Walmart. At Amazon, the same model was $1099.99. The HP Pavilion Elite HPE-400F was $782 at Walmart and Amazon which offers free shipping, too. It was the same at both places for the slightly more powerful Elite HPE 410F – $899.54.

Much to my surprise, the 410F was $40 cheaper at HP’s Online Store. The 400f was $749.99 at and $782.54 at Walmart. Hmmm, I am not hearing those falling prices at Walmart. I used the past tense, knowing how fast desktop prices can change.

I asked former Ziff Davis publishing colleague, Michael Miller, who until 2005 was editor-in-chief at PC Magazine, the bible for PC buyers, if he favored either machine. :

Here’s what he said

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5 thoughts on “Dodge Retort: Buying a Long Overdue Desktop”

  1. I have a Dell Dimension 4700 and upgraded all i could i have had it for 6 years and is still running well.
    But it is getting old and out of date but for what i want is terrific.
    I could upgrade it more with a new ATI 512MB instead of the 128MB and get a larger hard drive.
    Computers change so fast that sticking with my old girl until it blows is the way to go.

  2. I don’t agree with Charles Robb. You can always come up with a reason not to upgrade. New parts and technologies are always coming out and that isn’t likely to change in the near future. I think that the time to upgrade is when your current system is no longer doing what you need it to do.

    Dell has OEM hardware which isn’t always the highest quality, but they’re usually pretty good about giving you what you ask for, if you know to ask. Have to say, my few experiences with their customer support have been good. My son loves his Dell Studio Laptop too. As a system builder I don’t see many Dell systems until they run into problems, and we see no more or less of them than any other retailers’ systems. 🙂

  3. Ed Jennings, Agent

    I built myself a new desktop last year. This year I built a replica of it for my wife. Yes, it had been about 8 years since my last computer for me, too. I enjoyed building custom desktops for years, and with the improvements over the years, intervals between necessary replacements became longer. What I learned by building two different systems before is that I doubled my compatibility issues. By building two of the same make and models, I spend less time and energy maintaining them, and I know what to expect.

    I disagree with Robb… I would not want a 128bit machine for several years. It will be that long before s/w is available and the dust settles on guaranteed bugs. My work is my business. If my computer becomes my work, my business will suffer.

    I agree with Ramjet. I have a Dell, but it is relegated to home use only. Outside of the two Intel boxes, I have a couple of old boxes I have dedicated to special use. The rest are junk gathering dust. Who knows, maybe I can sell one for $215,000 one day! LOL

    After decades of loyalty to AMD, I switched to Intel and I’m glad I did. I bought an Intel mobo and a quad core Intel CPU. Reason? Less compatibility issues and better driver support. When performance is basically equal, support is the driving decision. This executive series system is almost 2 years old and it is still state-of-the-art. Assembly is done in a matter of minutes. Cost is similar to a customized brand name box, but I had these Lian Li boxes lying around….. (geeks know about the longevity of Lian Li boxes).

  4. Forget buying a dell, they are cheap, nasty and disposable.
    After two of them I gave up on Dell, unpredictable hard drives can fail at any time

  5. Wrong time to buy a new PC. By the end of 2011 most PC’S will be 128bits vs todays 32 or 64. They will come with USB 3.0, and have a primary hard drive that is solid state. Best to wait.

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