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06/22/2020 12:26:47 PM · #1
My computer is about seven or eight old years old and itís become very unreliable, so I need to buy a new one urgently before this one dies. Thatís not an easy thing to do when Iíve been stuck at home since March and still expect to be stuck here for a few months longer as I canít risk exposing my elderly mother to Covid-19.

This is what Iím using now:
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It has a 116GB SSD (which has run out of space) and two 1TB hard drives.

Iíve been searching for a suitable computer that I can buy online, but Iím struggling to find a ready-made computer that suits my needs. The shop I bought my old computer from only has one ready desktop computer and itís nowhere near good enough.

The best option I've come across is this one. It's customisable, but Iíve never heard of the site before so I donít know whether to trust it. I also don't know whether it will be compatible with my elderly monitor.

Iíve been wondering whether I could get away with using a relatively inexpensive laptop computer for now and worrying about getting a better desktop when the Covid-19 crisis is over.

This is the best Iíve been able to come across at the shop from which I bought my last computer.

Would it be possible to run Photoshop (and Nik plug-ins) on it? Iím using CS5 right now but have been considering an upgrade as my version of ACR canít read the RAW files from my cameras and converting them to DNG is time-consuming and wastes a lot of disk space.

From what Iíve seen the specifications seem to just meet what Iíve seen as requirements for PS CC but Iím not sure if the graphics card is good enough.


06/22/2020 12:35:14 PM · #2
That is the same processor I have and my PC still runs really well. Perhaps you just need to give it some TLC.

Not sure what you mean by "unreliable" - perhaps you so not have enough space on the SSD drive and that is where the OS is installed. Freeing up some space may improve things.

Or refreshing the OS may help too.

I may be completely off the mark here but no point spending loads of dollar if you can avoid it.
06/22/2020 12:46:59 PM · #3
Originally posted by P-A-U-L:

That is the same processor I have and my PC still runs really well. Perhaps you just need to give it some TLC.

Not sure what you mean by "unreliable" - perhaps you so not have enough space on the SSD drive and that is where the OS is installed. Freeing up some space may improve things.

Or refreshing the OS may help too.

I may be completely off the mark here but no point spending loads of dollar if you can avoid it.


There's no free space on the SSD so I've set the computer to do updates on my hard drive. But that hasn't made much difference. It struggles to run Photoshop (particulary Nik) and Chrome freezes all the time. I tried reinstalling Chrome but that hasn't helped. How do I free up space or refresh the OS without causing any damage?
06/22/2020 12:53:47 PM · #4
I agree with Paul. I have i7-4790 3.6Ghz so only slightly faster than your's but I have upgraded my RAM to 32GB, that helped a bit. I also have 1TB SSD drive and Windows 10. You might be better off fine tuning your current PC and upgrading some components than buying a new one.

PS If you running Windows 10 116 SSD is miniscule

Message edited by author 2020-06-22 12:55:10.
06/22/2020 01:26:53 PM · #5
I will third the motion....

RAM. Lots of RAM. 8GB is really about bare minimum anymore.

And a bigger SSD.

Message edited by author 2020-06-22 13:27:52.
06/22/2020 01:53:54 PM · #6
Looking at the performance of that processor, as others have said it's not really that bad. The two important numbers are the overall performance benchmark, in this case 7042, and the single-thread performance, in this case 2148.
If you were buying something today, you might get about 20-25% better single-thread performance, not that big a jump. Overall performance might be 2x better, so multi-threaded apps would benefit more. So you could replace your RAM and go to 16GB or 32GB. The motherboard may or may not support 32GB (I suspect it would but you'd need to confirm). You'd also want to replace the SSD with at least a 500GB model. This would be inexpensive at this point.
Two things you would not get by going the above route would be the increased speed of modern RAM and the (greatly) increased speed of modern hard drive interface (NVMe) vs. the SATA interface you now certainly have. You are looking at a 3x to 4x transfer rate increase, and lower latency.
Another thing to consider would be your graphics card. You should have a reasonably capable and separate GPU.
The CPU in the laptop you linked to actually has lower benchmark scores than your current CPU for both overall and single-thread performance.
One key piece of information we need is, what are you thinking for overall budget? Also, are you comfortable replacing some components of your current system yourself?
06/22/2020 02:19:30 PM · #7
Originally posted by kirbic:

Also, are you comfortable replacing some components of your current system yourself?


That's the problem. I wouldn't know how to start with that.

I'd been considering either a new computer or an upgrade for a long time but never got round to it. Covid-19 really caught me unprepared.

Budget isn't something I'd thought about but it seems like a proper solution is going to cost a lot more than I expected.

Originally posted by kirbic:

The CPU in the laptop you linked to actually has lower benchmark scores than your current CPU for both overall and single-thread performance.


I realise that. That's why it would only be a temporary solution - plus for long-term internet use. And I can't help wondering whether, if I used the laptop for internet, my desktop might run better for photo editing in the short term.

06/22/2020 02:23:32 PM · #8
And another question. Assuming I decided to go for the customised desktop I linked to, what upgrades should I make to their default machine?
06/22/2020 02:31:22 PM · #9
For whatever another opinion is worth, I agree with the others. More RAM and a larger SSD. There is also likely a lot of stuff running in the background bogging your system down. Sometimes a fresh install of Windows will be what it needs, and that can be done in conjunction with a larger SSD.

I have a 120 Gb bootup SSD myself. 28Gig is still free. Prices have dropped since I built it and if I have to replace it, I'll install one of at least 240.

If you buy a new PC, I suggest one SSD for Windows and applications, one larger SSD for recent photos in work and a large hard disk for longer term storage. I also have a bay mounted hard disk/SSD dock so that I can easily use a bare drive as removable media for backups.
06/22/2020 02:31:52 PM · #10
For something that will be a long-term solution, you definitely will be looking at something significantly more expensive than the linked laptop. For reference, my son recently built a desktop system, re-using his current monitors, and the total was around $1100 USD. His main use is not photo editing, but the configuration would have been appropriate for that.
For laptops, expect to spend about $1500 USD for something really well-configured. It's not hard to drive the price up well north of $2k, but not technically necessary, especially if you will be using an external monitor as the main editing monitor. The cost of the high-resolution, high-gamut options for the laptop monitor are typically expensive add-ons.
Since you state you are not comfortable replacing components on your current system, and in any case since that is of limited benefit, I'd suggest replacing the desktop with a laptop. My brand of choice these days is Lenovo. Once you have transitioned to a laptop, clear as much junk off the current desktop as possible and use that for general internet usage. It should be perfectly adequate.
06/22/2020 03:17:41 PM · #11
Finding something that meets the right specifications isn't easy. The only Lenovo laptop listed at my preferred dealer is this one. It's a similar price to the ASUS I mentioned earlier.

The details are quite confusing:
Up to 1TB 5400rpm HDD
Up to 256GB SSD

On one page it says Memory Up to 8GB DDR4 2133 MHz, on another it says 4GB, but I can't see any mention of customising it.

Ideally I'd prefer the desktop for photo editing and a laptop (if I get one) for internet.

Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:

If you buy a new PC, I suggest one SSD for Windows and applications, one larger SSD for recent photos in work and a large hard disk for longer term storage. I also have a bay mounted hard disk/SSD dock so that I can easily use a bare drive as removable media for backups.


From the advice given to ' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' vawendy recently, I'd figured the first part, but you've lost me about the bay mounted hard disk/SSD dock. My knowledge about technology is for the most part restricted to cameras.

If I decided to go for the desktop I mentioned earlier, what options should I be looking at? This is the machine in question. Is it worth condidering?
06/22/2020 03:26:17 PM · #12
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

... you've lost me about the bay mounted hard disk/SSD dock.

Hard-drives are a sealed unit sold either inside the computer or in a case containing the power supply, connectors, sometimes a fan, etc. It is possible to get a case which is "open" where you can slide the actual hard drive in and out, meaning you can have several drives used with just one case, either for backups or just to increase the storage. The "bay mounted" just means it's inside the computer's case like an internal hard drive, but the drives themselves can be swapped from the outside ... think of it like using a hard drive as a super-gigantic floppy disk (if you remember those) ...
06/22/2020 03:43:50 PM · #13
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

...If I decided to go for the desktop I mentioned earlier, what options should I be looking at? This is the machine in question. Is it worth condidering?


Yes, that is a good basis. It is customizable, and you would need to do so:
- Substitute solid state drive(s) for the rotating hard drive
- Increase RAM to at least 16GB
- Add a graphics card (base configuration has only on-CPU graphics)
06/22/2020 03:56:45 PM · #14
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

If I decided to go for the desktop I mentioned earlier, what options should I be looking at? This is the machine in question. Is it worth condidering?

That machine costs about $650.00 in US Dollars, which isn't a great bargain but not outrageous. But it comes without an operating system, so you'd want to add Windows 10 Professional. You'd want to add RAM up to at least 16 GB, preferably 32. You'd want the operating drive to be an SSD and to have a second, conventional drive for storage. It lacks a keyboard, a mouse, a monitor, but what you currently own presumably will work. And you need to dd a graphics card.


Message edited by author 2020-06-22 15:57:41.
06/22/2020 04:06:12 PM · #15
Originally posted by GeneralE:

The "bay mounted" just means it's inside the computer's case like an internal hard drive, but the drives themselves can be swapped from the outside ... think of it like using a hard drive as a super-gigantic floppy disk (if you remember those) ...


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It's just very convenient. You can also get HDD docks that connect with a USB cable.

Message edited by author 2020-06-22 16:08:37.
06/22/2020 06:28:24 PM · #16
Originally posted by Bear_Music:


That machine costs about $650.00 in US Dollars, which isn't a great bargain but not outrageous. But it comes without an operating system, so you'd want to add Windows 10 Professional. You'd want to add RAM up to at least 16 GB, preferably 32. You'd want the operating drive to be an SSD and to have a second, conventional drive for storage. It lacks a keyboard, a mouse, a monitor, but what you currently own presumably will work. And you need to dd a graphics card.


Technology always costs more in South Africa, so not outrageous is probably the best I can hope for.

My keyboard should be fine. I'm not sure about my mouse but that's not a big deal. I really need a new monitor though because my good one died long ago and I've made do with my previous one which is rather small. That will probably have to wait a while though if it's compatible with this computer.

It's after midnight so I'll have to look at the options tomorrow and see what I'll need if that's the machine I go for. First I need to find out more about the site that's selling it though.

Thanks everyone for the advice. I'm sure I'll be back with more questions in a day or two.
06/23/2020 12:57:47 PM · #17
Decision making is something I really struggle with, but I'm starting to feel that getting a desktop built isn't a good idea right now, especially if I need a new monitor too (likely as mine isn't very good), and also considering that the supplier is unknown to me.

I've come across a couple of other, more expensive, laptops at a site from which I've bought other (non-tech) items, so I wouldn't be buying from a total unknown.

The more expensive one is a Dell.

The cheaper one is another ASUS which has a bigger SSD than the DELL but no other hard drive.

Both claim to have 16GB of RAM, but the ASUS says it's upgradeable to 32GB which the DELL doesn't appear to be.

Would either of these (preferably the cheaper ASUS) be worth considering? And is that ASUS really worth double the price of the cheaper ASUS I mentioned yesterday?
06/23/2020 02:28:24 PM · #18
The second ASUS is definitely a significant step up from the first; modern NVMe SSD, 16GB RAM, Discrete graphics with reasonable power. The CPU isn't all that much more powerful, however, and the display is pretty much an unknown quantity - it's full HD (minimum I would recommend today), probably not IPS and probably limited color gamut. I would take the ASUS over the Dell if those were my choices, simply because I have had some really bad experiences with Dell reliability.
06/23/2020 02:51:20 PM · #19
Full HD was one of my non-negotiables. I'd love a better monitor but can't afford to get one right now. I don't understand the other limitations of the display though. And is it possible to connect another monitor to a laptop if I want to use two? I'm guessing not because it's old and doesn't use USB?

I was interested in what you said about Dell because I noticed they only offer a one year warranty while ASUS offers two.

I know more powerful would be better, but will the ASUS be able to cope with Photoshop CC and Nik?
06/23/2020 08:06:00 PM · #20
Originally posted by GinaRothfels:

And is it possible to connect another monitor to a laptop if I want to use two? I'm guessing not because it's old and doesn't use USB?

I know more powerful would be better, but will the ASUS be able to cope with Photoshop CC and Nik?


I think that Asus is the same PC I was suggesting to a friend for her granddaughter not too long ago. It has a Ryzez 7-3750H, which is a mobile processor and designed more for battery life and running cool than for sheer performance. Should still be plenty off ooomph for your needs, however. I have a Ryzen 5 3600, which appears to benchmark a bit faster, but isn't a mobile CPU.

There is an additional socket inside for installing an additional SATA drive. The one it comes with is about the size of a stick of gum and is shown on the left. The empty expansion bay is on the right.
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I have a portable monitor from Asus that I use when traveling, but it requires USB 3 to function. The Asus laptop has an HDMI port and USB 3.2, so you can have an external monitor (either normal or a portable one like mine) without any problems.

Message edited by author 2020-06-23 20:07:31.
06/23/2020 09:46:02 PM · #21
I hate upgrades -- I'm definitely a member of the "If it ain't broke ..." tribe ...

If you typically have smaller files and plenty of patience you get away without upgrading for quite a while ... :-)

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06/24/2020 12:26:25 AM · #22
Originally posted by GeneralE:

If you typically have smaller files and plenty of patience you get away without upgrading for quite a while ... :-)

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Wow, haven't seen that in a few years!
06/24/2020 01:05:21 PM · #23
Comments on this one are looking encouraging. I'll probably buy the better ASUS.

Message edited by author 2020-06-24 13:07:21.
06/24/2020 06:52:07 PM · #24
I asked my computer for advice once. I can't remember what it said, though.

...Oh yeah, it told me I should upgrade my memory.

Hope that helps. I'm counting it as a contribution to the community either way.
06/25/2020 11:59:03 AM · #25
Originally posted by Art Roflmao:

I asked my computer for advice once. I can't remember what it said, though.

...Oh yeah, it told me I should upgrade my memory.

Hope that helps. I'm counting it as a contribution to the community either way.


It's good advice, but I don't think it will work for me. I hang on to computers until I have no choice. My previous computer died a week after I bought this one.

Actually it's possible this one can be saved one day, but I think there's more wrong than a memory upgrade will solve. If life were normal I might have taken it back to the shop that sold it to me and asked if they could revamp it, but that will have to wait.
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