A Reader Needs Our Help – He Wants To Buy A New Gaming Box

Reader Brandon has a question for us that I thought I would post. He asks the following questions:

I am looking to buy a new desktop. I have known very little about computers, hardware and such but I have done a lot of searching online to better inform myself of the components inside of computers so I can better decide which is best.

I have read some of the reviews for HP desktops and a lot of people say they work great, except there are problems starting them up and other things.

I am lost; I am not sure what I should get as far as desktops go. I want to use it for gaming, and I want it to last; I don’t want to have to replace it in the near future. I have compared desktops, mostly dell and HP, and for the same things HP is cheaper than dell. Their components seem to be the same exact things: processors, RAM, hard drives, graphics cards, you’re just paying a higher price for Dell.

With these things in mind, the question is: what’s the difference, then? If both have the same parts, shouldn’t both work about the same? I really need help on this. Any information on why one would work better than the other is helpful. Do the cases matter? I know Dell can have some cool looking computers but aside from the processor, graphics card, RAM, and hard drive, does anything else really matter? If so, why, and in what way will it effect things?

I do have one question though for any who KNOW — please, no novices. I want knowledge that is reliable. Does the hard drive make a huge difference? The hard drives that are offered when customizing the computers are all 7,200 RPM and to upgrade to like RADEON 1 or something like that is about 200 bucks from either of the companies. So, what will the RPM in hard drives amount to, and will it make a difference in gaming? Also, why does one cost so much more than the other? It mentions somewhere that the RADEON 1 (if that’s even right) offers backup or reliability of some sort I’m not sure but if anyone knows what I’m talking about, please expand and let me know.

Your input is greatly appreciated. Oh, and one other thing. When should I expect the computers or their parts to reduce in price? I know they just recently have since the OS Windows 7 came out, and I would like to know if anyone knows if I should expect them to drop in price again soon like in the next couple months or if it is going to be a long time (six months or more)?

Here are my thoughts. I personally have never owned either an HP or Dell desktop computer. I have had the luxury of being able to assemble my own systems. My last gaming + testing rig was built back in April or so and it works very well. I am using the 7200 SATAs by Seagate without issues.  I installed an NVidia card for my gaming needs. With that being said, here is my opinion.

How much you have to spend is always the first consideration. To me, HP or Dell are very similar. It usually comes down to price or customer preference. There are some die-hard HP or Dell users who won’t switch brands. For a gaming box you want a fast processor — dual core or better — 4 GB of RAM or more, and the best video card you can afford. I would also make sure that the power supply is large enough to handle any feature upgrades or additions.

As an example, here is what appears to be a hot Gateway desktop over at NewEgg, with a quad processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 1 GB NVidia card — yet the system comes with a puny 300 watt power supply. I’m surprised it evens starts! (LOL!) Gateway system here.

Another option is to get a custom system built to your specifications.

Commentsm please. Give Brandon some help with selecting a good gaming machine. TIA.

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I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Gavin

    the more ram you have, the faster the games will run. i would recommend a computer with an ssd if you are going to do any gaming. but you will also want a hdd (i recommend 500gb or even 1tb) for files and programs as the ssds don’t have a lot of space, but they are faster then hdds and wont break if dropped (until a point). no computer will last forever. there will be a point with modern pcs that the hard drives will fail, the os will be come corrupt, or the motherboard or processor will die. the average computer i think lats 3-5 years, but if you get a good one, it will last longer. i would recommend you get a quad-core processor. and i have a video card i recommend i have this, and it works grate for gaming and it is pretty cheap! it is the GeForce 9400GT by EVGA. it is like $60 for 1gb of memory, so it will do the job. if you really want to extend your knowledge of comps. i would recommend building one. people make it sound so hard, but if you can plug cables in, and read small print, you can build a comp. the hardest part is choosing the parts. they have to be compatible and they have to be under your price limit. and also with desktops you can always upgrade parts. most of the time, you can just buy a new processor or more ram, and your comp will speed up but make sure whatever your upgrading is compatible withe the motherboard. i would recommend a good motherboard that can take a lot of ram, house the i7 (if you choose intell) of a x4 (if you choose amd) and as far as intell vs amd, i would go with who has the better processor right now. i would go with the i7 if you have the money, or a motherboard that can take the i7 to upgrade latter. and the max amount of ram possible, but make sure that it is compatible with the motherboard, and you need win 7 (or vista) 64bit to be able to use more than 4gb of ram.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Thanks Gavin.
    You are correct. Building a custom system is not that hard. With some patience and guidance from a savvy computer friend, it can make the process painless.

  • http://www.crashlaughing.com/finance Joseph Jones

    You caould give a try to a place like http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/

    You add the components you want and they assemble/test and ship it to you. It’s not the cheapest but at least you know the particulars of what is inside instead of just specs.

  • Florian


    Well, since I am in the process of selecting a new gaming box to buy myself, I will try to give an advice.

    First, I have to agree with Ron : what limits is budget above the rest, generally.

    To me, the brand doesn’t matter much, as what matters is only the hardware used : same hardware, same performance, as you guessed it.

    The case can matter, depending of the configuration inside (especially since gaming implies powerful CPU/GPU, and the more powerful they are, the more heat they produce generally , and some cases are better than others in terms of cooling capabilities), but if you want a pre-built system, it will have been selected to be sufficient by the manufacturer normally, no need to worry about that (unless you matter silence…but in that case, a custom system is better suited, so you know what to expect).

    Concerning hard disks, the RPM is the speed of the drive : more RPMs means faster disk access, but it is generally only important, in my opinion, when planning to have two disks (one for the system and one for data) because if 10000 RPM disks (for example) are useful for the system drive (so applications/OS load faster, but they are now superseded by SSDs for that matter), the premium over standard 7200 RPM disks is way less justified for data disks where the gain will be less noticeable. I don’t know what gain to expect for gaming and can’t say if the gain is worth the extra though, having no disk faster than 7200 RPM myself.

    By “RADEON 1″, judging by the benefits, I suppose you mean “RAID 1″? If so, this consists of having two identical disks mirror each other (providing backup in case one disk dies, effectively). It can be useful only if you have no external drive to do backups yourself in my opinion, and/or want an automatic backup system. The premium comes from the second disk and the RAID controller needed for this type of configuration to work properly.

    Concerning prices, I don’t think they will drop soon (apart for what is now previous generation hardware if I can say so) as all major hardware companies are in the process of launching their new products. Apart from classical Christmas deals, of course.

    From HP, depending on your budget, two configurations appear interesting to me for a gaming machine. The HP Pavilion Elite e9250t first : with a customised graphic card (I would advise getting the 1.8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 260 here if you can afford it, especially if you have a monitor with a resolution higher than 1680*1050, or the 4850 if not, the others are not gaming cards anyway) and taking advantage of the rebate on RAM to take the 8Gb, you have an upgradeable platform (the Core i5 is on intel’s latest one which is planned to be used until 2011 at least) and a powerful card (although only Direct X 10 compliant, Direct X 11 cards from Nvidia are not there yet and Ati’s ones not proposed within HP desktops it seems).

    The Pavilion Elite e9200z customised with a Phenom II 945 and a 4850 is also a valid choice, especially if you use a small screen (resolution 1680*1050 max I mean), and is cheaper.

    From Dell, the only interesting one for me is the second model of the Studio XPS 8000 line : customised with 8Gb of RAM and a GTX 260 or GTS 240 card it is similar to the HP Pavilion Elite e9250t, but slightly more expensive at equivalent hardware.

    The only thing I don’t like about these configurations is the lack of Radeon 5800/5700 cards…which would be better suited with Windows 7 since they support Direct X 11. So if you can find a computer with one of these cards compatible with your budget, with 6-8Gb of RAM and a Core i5/i7 or Phenom II 945 processor, go for it, it should last you longer as the graphic card should be obsolete later than a GT200/Radeon 4000 one (as they just have been launched).

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Joseph Jones – thanks for the suggestion.

    Florian – thanks for sharing your expertise with us as well.

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the comments and suggestions it means a lot to me. I will present a few more questions. Florian, you said you were looking at “The Pavilion Elite e9200z customised” . My question to you or anyone who might know, if I pick any of the Pavilion computers and customise them, even if I put the best it has to offer in every area, am I going to be provided with a large enough power supply and a sufficient cooling system to run it?

    I dont really have any friends or family that knows anything about computers, otherwise I think I might enjoy the learning process involved with making my own computer, but as of now having no knowledge it seems like a scary thing to tackle and I would be afraid of screwing things up.

    Ron, you brought up a gateway desktop computer. I have heard from family and others that it is a horrible computer. That if anything goes wrong, to replace anything cost a ton BUT also that there are a lot of programs that cant even be run on gateways that can on other computers. Now is that information correct, I mean it kind of seems odd for that to be true, but what is your guys experience in this area?

    I have a question about processors. There are some processors that are dual core and then quad core. There are dual core processors with say 3 ghz, and then a quad core processor with 2.66 ghz, which processor is better or faster?Also some games will say it requires a processing speed or processor with 3 ghz, if I had a dual core or quad core processor of 2.66 or 2.8, would it then not be able to run that game because it isnt 3 ghz?

    Your information and thoughts are greatly appreciated and I want to thank you in advance and I look forward to your input.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hello Brandon,
    You may be able to help by giving us a price range. As an example. Video cards can range from a low of $50 to over $400.

    Also boxes from most OEM’s, Dell, HP who ever, usually have smallish power supplies.

    Gateway, IMHO, is equal to, but no better than any other OEM. ALL of them have issues of some sort. :-)

    Give us a price please.

  • Brandon

    Well I dont have much money only $700 :(. I was looking at customizing the hp and dell and such and hp is cheaper, and I noticed its watts was only about 350 for the power supply and this is what I was going to have in it.

    Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-860 processor [2.8GHz, 1MB L2 + 8MB shared L3 cache]

    8GB DDR3-1333MHz SDRAM [4 DIMMs]

    Hard Drive
    640GB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive
    Graphics Card

    1.8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 260 [2 DVI, HDMI and VGA adapters]

    Those things bring the price of the computer to $1279.99 on HP website for customizing and like I said the power supply is only 350 watts. But, those are what I was looking for in a computer, cause I want it to be able to run anything with ease and I think that should maybe, hopefully be able to do that.

  • Florian

    Hello Brandon,

    Good question about the power supply, the 350W one is effectively probably short for the customised version you mention above : in most desktops I saw with these components the power supplies are 650W ones…and more than that, Nvidia itself recommends 550W as a minimum with this graphic card… Well, it should start with a 350W one I suppose (HP won’t sell something that doesn’t work logically…), but I am somewhat surprised it works, and such a power supply won’t help future upgrades.

    About the Gateway computer, the hardware proposed just don’t fit a gaming box in my opinion, especially if you want something evolutive : the Core 2 Quad processors are on a socket 775 platform which won’t allow any upgrade (it just has been replaced by the LGA 1156 platform used by the Core i5/i7) and the GT 220, despite its misleading 1GB of VRAM is definitely not a gaming card but more a HTPC card (performance-wise it is merely a 9500GT with more technologies supported by hardware).

    Concerning processors, I would recommend a quad-core since the extra cores will be exploited by games in the near future I think. To simplify, the number of cores can be viewed as the number of processors linked together in one package : dual-core=> 2 processors, quad-cores=> 4 processors. To compare processors, frequency is not the only thing to consider, the generation matters also : a 3GHz Core 2 Quad and a 3GHz Core i7 won’t provide the same performance, for example. For games, the minimal configuration is what is needed for the game to work smoothly at low details generally, so if a game needs a 3GHz processor and you have a 2.66 dual or quad-core one, the result will depend of the game :

    -if the game can use the 2/4 cores, no problem (unless it specifically wants a 3GHz quad-core of course), the processing speed will be taken off the other cores

    -if it is limited to one core by design, it will work, but a little slowly, possibly not smooth enough if other parts of the configuration are below the minimal specs needed (but this type of games is becoming less and less common these days with the generalisation of quad-core processors)

    With your budget, I think it will be easier to find a suitable configuration with an AMD base, as the platform (the couple processor+motherboard) is way cheaper than intel’s currently and equally evolutive (well, at least here in France, I don’t know the prices in the US, so it may not apply). I won’t be able to advise a model of computer directly as I don’t live in the US so don’t know what is available in computer stores there, but I can give some advices about some parts.

    Try to find a computer with a Radeon 5750 or 5770 if you can: they are the only affordable Direct X 11 cards at the moment, and as such I can only but recommend them when the goal is gaming. 6-8Gb of RAM is also advisable I think to be on the safe side in the long term, especially with Windows 7.

    Finally,I would advise going for a quad-core processor with a as high frequency as you can afford, just be sure to avoid socket 775 (Core 2 Quads) and AM2+ CPUs as these platforms are likely not to be upgradeable in the future, prefer LGA 1156 or AM3-based ones which should allow upgrades at least until late 2011 (according to the roadmaps), that is to say Core i5/i7 or Athlon/Phenom II X4. The only difference between Athlon and Phenom is the L3 cache non-existent for Athlons, but it doesn’t make a huge performance gap in games apparently, so I would advise going for Phenoms if you plan to do video encoding (or just have the money of course), but if you are short in terms of budget overall, Athlon II X4 CPUs can be one way to reduce the bill without sacrificing too much performance for your primary usage (for games, the graphic card is more important than the CPU, to a certain extent of course, but at same clock speed and number of cores, 6Mb of cache doesn’t make that much of a difference). Especially since two more models are planned soon in the Athlon II X4 lineup according to some news (635 and 640) which are expected to be 2.9 and 3GHz quads and should cost less than their equally-clocked Phenom II counterparts.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hello Florian,
    Thank you once again for taking the time to help Brandon. Sharing your expertise is appreciated.
    Regards, Ron

  • Brandon

    Can you upgrade power supplies from companies or can you swap it out with one? I literally know nothing about power supplies can you give me some information about them, as much detail and as much information as you can in a kind of step by step format if possible.

  • http://wp3.lockergnome.com/nexus/blade/ Ron Schenone

    Hello Brandon,
    Upgrading a power supply is fairly simple. There are usually only 4 screws that holds the unit in place. Power cables can only connect one way, so there is no way you can mess up.

    Check out this link:


  • Brandon

    I just want to thank everyone who has posted information and answerd questions on here it has helped me a lot. I may have questions in the future but for now im kind of sitting on this. Thanks again for everything guys.