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Desktop vs laptop prices not what I expected, help!


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Hello Brian,

I purchased my Dell Inspiron about 4 years ago and it's getting toward the end of it's life (it runs fine, but the battery is toast, the memory isn't cutting it, and it is continually breaking where the power adapter connects to the computer - super frustrating)

I've done a lot of research on what is needed to run Photoshop along with your advice in this forum. I would like to switch to a desktop, I've heard so much about how much more you get in terms of value, but I'm not seeing the value while I'm shopping. I'll put up a laptop I've considered for comparison: 

https://www.costco.ca/Dell-Inspiron-15-5000-English-Gaming-Notebook%2c-i7-7700HQ.product.100388169.html 

(i7 7th gen, 4 gb GeForce 1050, 16gb RAM, 1TB + 128 gb SSD) I plan on being anal about where things are installed -$1499.99

Another laptop:

https://www.costco.ca/ASUS-ROG-Strix-GL553VD-Q72S-CB-Bilingual-Gaming-Notebook%2c-i7-7700HQ.product.100343306.html 

(i7 7th gen, 4gb GTX 1050, 16 gb Ram, 1TB + 258GB SSD) - 1579.99

 

And then there's the desktop:

https://www.costco.ca/ACER-Aspire-GX-Bilingual-Gaming-Desktop%2c-i5-7400.product.100347531.html

 (i5 7th gen, 4GB Radeon RX 480, 16GB RAM, 2TB Drive) $1239.99

Looking at monitors, a low price one looks like it will run me $200

 

I used costco for example because they seem to have better prices than Best Buy or other local retailers. I understand that desktop components are more powerful than laptop components, and my screen will likely be much better on the desktop, I was just shocked to see that the price for a comparable desktop comes quite close to the laptops? I tend to edit in the livingroom because of the kids, but as they get older the option to use a desktop is more of a possibility. What would you suggest in this situation? 

Also, would it be worth it to just upgrade the RAM on my current computer, replace the battery and just keep fixing the power cord issues? 

Dell Inspiron (intel i7, GE Force GT 650M, 8GB RAM, I believe I can upgrade to 16GB, and 1Tb HD)

 

Thank you for reading through all of that long-windedness!! Thank you for the help.

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8 hours ago, caralizzie said:

Also, would it be worth it to just upgrade the RAM on my current computer, replace the battery and just keep fixing the power cord issues? 

Nope. Ditch the laptop. The life expectancy with laptops is around 3-4 years, in my humble opinion. Sure, there are folks who are running laptops just fine for longer than that, but they tend to be the exception to the rule. Around 3 years, batteries stop working / charging, the power connector to the motherboard gets flaky and won't always work, performance seems to take a major hit and the thing gets hot. I'm sure this sounds familiar?

One of the primary reasons for this, is devices, phones, computers, washing machines, microwaves, whatever...the internal components are soldered with Eco-friendly solder these days, not the lead-based solder from year's past.  The lead-based stuff was awesome for components; that's why your 19" CRT TV from 1984 lasted 25+ years, today's stuff is better for the environment but you end up having crappy solder joints (e.g. the flaky power connector on laptops) which cause you to replace your stuff every few years. Which then causes stuff to end up in landfills or 3rd-world countries, since most countries are really bad at actually recycling (They take the stuff, but then ship it to other countries for disposal, like China.) So I'm not sure how well that Eco-friendly solder is working for the planet in the end? ;) Plus, why make a device that lasts 10 years or more? That keeps you out of the market for that long. We are in a throw-away society, gotta get that new phone every 2 years!! 

Hmm....I'm digressing here.

Now, the reason that you aren't seeing a huge difference between your laptop and current desktops, is you have a GAMING LAPTOP. The rules change for you since gaming laptops have more horsepower to begin with; they are more compatible to mid-range desktops. It would be different if you had a $300-$500 laptop and were looking at $1200 - $1500 computers.

OK, now for the models you linked to. I'm not really a fan of Acer laptops or Desktops. Displays are fine; it's just the computer-side of things, in my personal experience they just don't hold up over time. Especially the laptops, they break pretty easily and the track-pads are usually terrible. In fact, I have one customer who had a bunch of Acer Laptops because they were cheap at Costco / Best-Buy (or whatever,) and guess which laptops are dropping like flies after 12-15 months of usage? Of course, these are the cheap sub-$500 laptops, so that does play a roll.

As far as laptops, I usually recommend the ASUS Republic of Gamers line for a laptop, you really can't go wrong there. Just make sure the screen is IPS-based if you are planning on editing photos. Desktops, I like the Dell XPS line. They seem to be up to the 8900 series, with the 8920 or 8930 being the most recent models. Don't like Dell? That's fine. Here are the specs that I recommend for a Photo-editing Machine:
 

  • Intel i7 (or i5 if money is tight)
  • 8GB RAM at a Minimum - 16GB or more preferred, like 32GB
  • 1TB Hard Drive for the main drive. I don't care how fast that 128GB / 250GB SSD Drive is, it won't to you a damn bit of good if it's full. Of course the bigger the better when it comes to hard drives. Windows updates can be huge, so I would shoot for a 1TB at a minimum, though a person could get away with a 500GB HD.
  • A video card that has separate & dedicated video memory. 2GB - 4GB is fine (like 4GB) and since Adobe's products are using the graphics cards for a performance boost, a video card with 8GB of Video Memory is a good thing. So call it 4GB recommended / 8GB preferred when it comes to Video RAM.
  • I like Windows 10 Pro but I'm more of a power user. Most people will be fine with Win 10 Home.

As you can see, you already know what to look for with the specs. I will say this, there is only a 5%-7% performance gain with a Intel i7 over a Intel i5 when it comes to Adobe Photoshop. In order for a i7 to really shine, the software needs to be programmed to take advantage of the i7's architecture that makes it so fast. Adobe's products are not programed to do this. So don't think you need to get the fastest i7 or the latest just-released i9 CPU assuming Photoshop will run SUPERFAST...because it won't.

In my opinion, if I had to nail down a CPU, I'd pick a solid i7 CPU chip going forward. I tend to have my computers for 7-8 years and will usually get the "Next Higher Choice" because I will be saving money on the back-end.

There are lots of options for a 24" monitor at the $200 - $250-ish price-point. You want one that has a Matte Coating or is Anti-Glare properties and has a IPS-based display panel. This is very important. IPS screens are better at color consistency from edge-to-edge than your typical cheap TN based display. I don't have to tell you that color accuracy is important when it comes to editing photos.  LOL!! You will have to investigate whether or not the display you are looking at is IPS. Manufacturers don't always make a big deal of it.

As for which brands, Dell and HP monitors have multiple IPS-based screens, and are easy to find. Damien even wrote up an article on this very subject. I always used to recommend the Dell U2412m display and it's still a good solid monitor, though is getting a bit long-in-the-tooth. (I think it's from 2012, so no fancy USB 3.0 Ports.) That said, I have several photographer friends (in real life) who shoot professionally, own this monitor due to my recommendation and they are all happy. Just be sure to use DisplayPort or the DVI-D ports and not the 15-pin Blue "D-Sub" cable. For the best possible picture, you want a digital connection and not analog like the 15-pin VGA connector. As for resolution, I tend to recommend monitors that aren't 4K, since they make everything so small. In fact, this is what is driving me to getting a new Windows Computer instead of a new iMac, but time will tell.
 

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One more thing. Computers are great when they work, what happens when they break? One of the big reasons that I start with a Dell computer for recommendations, is you can call Dell and they will fix it, depending on what type of Warranty that you purchase. Either way, Dell fixes their products and are easy to get a hold of. What about the others? What happens when things break? Where is is sent? If you are offered a Service Plan or Extended Warranty, what is in the fine print? Where do you send things or who do you call?

Just thinking out loud. :)

 

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Thank you for all of the info!

I also believe in investing in products that will last and I'm 100% with you when it comes to keeping electronics out of landfills. The 3-4 year life span of laptops is a real shame. 

There was some heated debate between my husband and I about the longevity of desktop computers, I'm glad I have you in my corner. I feel more confident to go forward and invest in a good desktop. 

 

Thanks again and have a great weekend :)

 

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32 minutes ago, Brian said:



One of the primary reasons for this, is devices, phones, computers, washing machines, microwaves, whatever...the internal components are soldered with Eco-friendly solder these days, not the lead-based solder from year's past.  The lead-based stuff was awesome for components; that's why your 19" CRT TV from 1984 lasted 25+ years, today's stuff is better for the environment but you end up having crappy solder joints (e.g. the flaky power connector on laptops) which cause you to replace your stuff every few years. Which then causes stuff to end up in landfills or 3rd-world countries, since most countries are really bad at actually recycling (They take the stuff, but then ship it to other countries for disposal, like China.) So I'm not sure how well that Eco-friendly solder is working for the planet in the end? ;) Plus, why make a device that lasts 10 years or more? That keeps you out of the market for that long. We are in a throw-away society, gotta get that new phone every 2 years!! 


 

 I just thought of something, I need to hash out this longevity argument so I have a solid case to present to the husband, lol.  He had a bad experience with a relatively expensive desktop that was bricked within in three years, he's not very tech savvy and this was before my time so I'm guessing he just needed to clean it up and do some maintenance but we will never know. He's hesitant to get another one.

Is the soldering in desktops the same as in laptops? Do they just last longer because they don't overheat, get dusty, and get bumped etc, around like laptops? Is the 7-8 year lifespan of a desktop mainly because the components get outdated? Could a person theoretically keep updating components and keep their franken-computer forever? (I'm guessing it would likely be more cost effective to start over every 7-8 years than to do it this way). 

On a bit of a side-note. Is a self-built computer from newegg components something a beginner like me should even consider? 

Overall, spending 2000 every 7-8 years is much more appealing than spending 1500 every 3-4! That and a nice monitor (drool).

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OK, here is the thing. The stuff made these days is not like it was years ago. It's all crap, meant to get you in the market sooner rather than later. :D

From what I've seen, the solder seems to be the same with both desktops and laptops, it just really depends on the manufacturer on the quality of the solder that is used. That can vary greatly, so don't focus solely on that. I was just giving you the reason why your laptop's power connector doesn't always work, it's due to bad solder joints. The power connector's leads that are on the motherboard, the joints need to be re-soldered.

The reason that desktops typically last longer is that they are stationary and there is more a lot more room for airflow. Heat is the enemy when it comes to computers / electronics. Yes, you could build a computer and perpetually update components over the years. If you do go this route, you will be spending a decent amount on a high-end computer case and power supply; it will make life so much easier for you in the future when upgrading components. Oh, be sure to budget $200 for Windows 10 Pro in addition to the hardware. 

As for a beginner, things are so easy these days to put together. Everything is standardized from sizes to screw holes / mounts; if you can put together a Lego set meant for a 14 year old, you can build a computer. Head to YouTube and search for building a computer, there should be plenty of how-to stuff. What the difficult part when it comes to building your computer, is tweaking the various settings in the BIOS and Video Card to get the maximum performance. Plus having the right amount of heat-sync compound (not too much and not too little) takes experience, but that issue isn't too bad, again...plenty of info on the internet. Oh, Static Electricity!! You want to make sure you don't zap anything when handling stuff. 

That said, you will spend more when building your computer and the reason is you will end up buying more high-quality components and you don't have the option of buying a million motherboards or hard drives to get a discount on cost. I went a little crazy and priced out a high-end motherboard, RAM, CPU, case, etc. I stopped when I hit $2800. LOL!! So it's very easy to get expensive, you just have to stick with a budget. The upside to building your own is if something fails, you just replace that component. Most computers are so integrated that if one tiny component fails out of 50,000...you have to replace the whole part. For example, the integrated video card on the motherboard has issues, you have to replace the whole motherboard and not just the video card. That's where building your own comes in handy; it's the amount of complete control that you have.

As for the bricked computer, that could be the result of failed hardware, or more than likely corrupted software. Malware does a real number on computers these days,  more than Viruses or Trojans. People need to be diligent when it comes to updating EVERYTHING and not always believing that an update is legit. In fact, just last night I visited a web page and it said I needed to update my Adobe Flash. It automatically started downloading and if I wasn't so anal about stuff, and didn't know any better, I would have assumed it was just another update. Of course, I cancelled the install after looking at the web address, it wasn't from Adobe's Servers. So I went to Adobe's website and got the new Flash update and went back to the website (it was Nikonusa.com) and the Flash didn't try to update. Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe AIR, web browsers, Microsoft updates...all need to be installed. What usually happens is that people's computers are just mucked up prior and when they update something, things break. Then you get the folks out there who say, "I never update, because every time I do, my computer doesn't work right..." or something along those lines. Then you have a sitting duck, who is connected to the internet, just waiting for something bad to happen.

In my experience, I've had more laptops break than desktops. I'm on my 3rd work laptop within 3 years. I'm typing this response on my 2009 iMac. I've also had friends who end up replacing their store-bought computers every 3-4 years. Your mileage may vary.

Personally, I HATE laptops. They are made so cheaply these days.

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@caralizzie: Here is a monitor that you should consider and is on my short-list. It's the Dell U2415 and it's the modern version of the Dell U2412M that I always recommend.

I plan on buying two and getting a stand that will connect them. Next Windows computer I buy / build will be a "Command Center" when it comes to the display.

Edit: Here is a 27" display that looks decent spec-wise and has positive reviews: HP Z27n.

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On 18/02/2018 at 11:55 AM, Brian said:

@caralizzie: Here is a monitor that you should consider and is on my short-list. It's the Dell U2415 and it's the modern version of the Dell U2412M that I always recommend.

I plan on buying two and getting a stand that will connect them. Next Windows computer I buy / build will be a "Command Center" when it comes to the display.

Edit: Here is a 27" display that looks decent spec-wise and has positive reviews: HP Z27n.

Thanks! That ultrasharp monitor is way more expensive in Canada, I may have to look into buying it on amazon.com and ship it. The HP is gorgeous! 

I'm limping my laptop along for the moment, apparently this bitcoin hype is causing graphics cards to be expensive and hard to come by. I'm keeping my laptop hard drive backed up and hoping to make it to black friday. I had considering buying components as they come on sale but I think I'd rather put it all together at once in case I get faulty parts and need to return something. 

https://m.costco.ca/Dell-D3218HN-32-in.-IPS-Monitor-(1920-x-1080).product.100396628.html

^ what do you think of this? it's not an ultrasharp, but this monitor is IPS. Reddit says the resolution isn't good enough for a screen that size but they're all gamers so I'm not sure if that applies to Photoshop. 

https://m.costco.ca/HP-24es-23.8-in.-IPS-LED-Dual-Monitor-Bundle.product.100372654.html

^I'm also wondering about these. 

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13 minutes ago, caralizzie said:

^I'm also wondering about these.

Both are "Meh." I would probably get the Dell out of the two. The problem with dual-monitor setups, is that you will need to get a fancy calibration tool in order to get both displays to match each other and that adds to the cost. Plus, having two monitors for $299 when a typical good single display is about $249-ish, does not scream quality. Especially if one is editing photos.

Looks like you will need a HDMI cable if you don't have one laying around. Head to Monoprice.com for one of those. Should be about $8-$10 for a good cable.

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4 minutes ago, Brian said:

Does Costco by you sell the Dell 2414H? Here it is on Amazon.

Your next monitor setup sounds great! Im a teensy bit jealous :)

They don't sell the 2414H at costco, I can't find it on amazon.ca or best buy either. I'll keep an eye out for it on the PC build sites as well :/ who knows, maybe I'll save enough waiting to buy parts that I can splurge on a good screen.

With the two monitors I had planned on just calibrating the one with my cheap-o color munki for editing on and having the other screen open for file transfers and bridge, etc. But if the one is crappy quality I'd definitely rather wait and have just one nice monitor. 

The U2415 ultrasharp you mentioned is $349 on amazon.ca (possibly/probably worth the splurge over the big Costco monitor I linked) and $429 at best buy! The ultrasharp also doesn't ship from amazon.com to Canada :/ it ain't easy being a Canuck! 

Thanks for the tip about the HDMI cable, I'll add it to my build parts list.

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Buy it Right. Buy it Once. Save up and get the Dell U2415.

If you were willing to spend $299 on two low-end displays, then I would save up just a little more and get the Dell. It’s $50 more. 

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21 minutes ago, Brian said:

Buy it Right. Buy it Once. Save up and get the Dell U2415.

If you were willing to spend $299 on two low-end displays, then I would save up just a little more and get the Dell. It’s $50 more. 

Good point!

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Hi Brian, 

 

This is quite a bit late, but I'm writing to thank you for the help building my PC! I was able to put everything together in an afternoon, and I absolutely love how it runs. I also enjoyed going through the process of building it, I feel so much more confident with computers now :)

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AMD - Ryzen 5 1600 3.2GHz 6-Core Processor
$154.89    Buy

Motherboard    Asus - STRIX B350-F GAMING ATX AM4 Motherboard
$114.19    Buy

Memory    G.Skill - Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
$129.89    Buy

Storage    Samsung - 850 EVO-Series 500GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
$133.90    Buy

Seagate - Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
$58.89    Buy

Video Card    Gigabyte - GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB Video Card
$179.99    Buy

Case    Fractal Design - Meshify C Dark TG ATX Mid Tower Case
$94.98    Buy

Power Supply    EVGA - 600B 600W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply
$49.99    Buy

Operating System    Microsoft - Windows 10 Home OEM 64-bit
$94.89    Buy

Wireless Network Adapter    Asus - USB-N13 USB 2.0 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi Adapter $20.00    Buy

Dell - U2417H 24.0" 1920x1080 60Hz Monitor

 

Here is my list from PC parts picker, it came out to about 1200 CAD today, I'm not sure if something is missing. But it kind of hurts because I think I paid at least 1800-2000 CAD for mine when I built it in February, lol. Unfortunately I had a budget limit so I went with the cheaper monitor, but I'm still really happy with it over the laptop screen I had before. My computer is FAST, it leaves nothing to be desired for what I need it for. 

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