on Feb 9, 2014
On Friday my son’s laptop died the death. He was in the middle of a Starcraft II game and it shut off forever. By messing with parts we’ve figured out it’s not the battery, power supply, memory, HD, or monitor. It’s either the CPU or mobo, which means the whole thing is bricked as far as I’m concerned. Maybe someone with greater technical knowledge and more free time could revive it with a few key parts, but for us it is dead.
So. We need a new computer.
(We’re in pretty good shape, all things considered. In fact, of all the computers in the house, his was the best to lose. If mine dies, we have to replace it in a hurry to get me back to work. Replacing Heather‘s computer means days of fiddling around with restoring disparate backups. My daughters do a lot of writing and drawing on their computers, and while I’ve tried to teach them about backups, I know the lesson hasn’t quite sunk in. Someday one of their machines will die, and then the lesson will teach itself. But Issac’s machine is just used for hanging out on Skype and playing Roblox and Steam games, so he should be back to normal about five minutes after booting up.)
Luckily, right now we’re in the post-Christmas price slump, so stuff is cheap. But before I blow a few hundred bucks I thought I’d solicit some general advice. Every time we have a computer death the comments here are filled with really good advice or interesting suggestions that we hadn’t considered.
So if you’re a hardware-minded person that loves to share from your vast storehouse of arcane knowledge (I know how you are) then here is what we need:
- Don’t need tons of power. Issac’s only modern game is Borderlands 2. His laptop didn’t quite meet the minimum requirements, and he was fine with it. Which means our minimum requirements are probably something like:
Processor: 2.4 GHz Dual Core Processor
Memory: 2 GB
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8500 /ATI Radeon HD 2600
I’m sure just about any new machine is going to be better than that. So really our search comes down to finding the sweet spot on the price / power curve, and avoiding “gotcha” surprises.
The “surprises” are what I really worry about. I’m always afraid some new standard will have come along or I’ll misunderstand some socketing system and end up buying parts that don’t work / fit together.
- A desktop machine will be fine. The only reason he was using a laptop was that it was a gift.
- We’re willing to go with pre-built or build-it-yourself. He really enjoys putting computers together. (He helped me assemble my current computer.) On the other hand, I’m terrified of breaking something expensive in assembly. So it’s a win either way. Either he gets to have fun, or I get to avoid some stress. (Although I’d really love to avoid seating a CPU. That always gives me the willies.)
- We’re looking to spend under $400. Prices are in the post-Christmas slump, but so are we. :)
- Don’t need a monitor, keyboard, or mouse.
- We have a copy of Windows 7 for him, so it would be great if we could avoid paying the Microsoft tax.
- We generally shop at Newegg, but that’s mostly out of habit. I’d go somewhere else reputable for the right deal.
So. Any suggestions? Warnings? Am I overlooking anything important in my search? Is there something that’s about to become annoyingly obsolete that I shouldn’t buy?
Thanks for any advice. The problem with working on hardware is that there’s no undo button, and the retry button has a price tag on it.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.