What is a dependable tower PC manufacturer?

  1. Double-A
    Hello Head-Fiers, what is a dependable manufacturer of tower PCs? I think I've seen a lot of businesses/schools using Dell, if I remember correctly. Are they onto something? I think, at some point, I would like to purchase a modular tower PC, because it seems to me that that would be cheaper than going through the cycle that a lot of people go through of buying a completely new computer every few years. But I could be wrong. I haven't made any attempt at verifying this suspicion.

    If I was filthy rich, then I might consider purchasing an iMac, just because of how beautiful those look. It may sound like a shallow reason for wanting a computer, but the iMac is the prettiest computer I have ever laid eyes on, even including the rest of Apple's computers. It is truly a work of art. But alas, I'm not sure if I can justify spending that much on a computer just because it is pretty. Anyway, it isn't modular. Once the components became obsolete, I would just end up recycling it and purchasing a whole new one.

    Back to my tower PC criteria:

    I don't need the latest and greatest components; I wouldn't do anything demanding on it, something that the average computer couldn't do. The most I would use it for is to watch movies and play mostly older video games. The majority of the games that I play are older titles. Such as Half-Life.

    Thank you so much.
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Dell is known for reliability save for that period when they booted Michael Dell off the board. They started getting back on track since they brought him back. Other than Dell, there's IBM/Lenovo.

    Buying certain brands of prebuilt PCs is a bad idea if you're after modularity. Unless you know exactly what to look for, and assuming the store will let you look inside, you could be buying the exact opposite of modular. Power supplies not the same design as the regular ATX/SFF form factor, so if it breaks or you want to replace a component and need more power, you need to find one in the exact same form factor (and good luck finding one with more power in case that's what you need).

    On top of that, their ventilation system isn't really conducive for long term reliability, especially if you're not a tinkerer who'd open it up to clean it. They typically have an exhaust fan on the PSU and in the main chamber, with no intake chassis fans - that pulls in a lot of dust into the case. And then to begin with these don't use beefy cooling on the critical silicon themselves (even some partner board AMD graphics cards might use a board power stage identical to the reference board, and a cooler just barely better than the reference blower). Add 3mos of dust build up and the thermal management gets even more problematic, the heat can't escape from the components, and bam - within a few years you bust something. And then you can't buy a new motherboard that will fit the CPU (though this isn't a unique problem as the socket design changes), but the problem is that in some cases you might not even find a decent brand motherboard that will fit in the case (ie, they tend to use slim type micro-ATX; it wasn't until recently thanks to the new AMD CPUs that we're getting more of that out there).

    Some other prebuilts are more easily modular, but they're gaming PCs and tend to have the better parts, on top of which, you're basically paying for labour and then they have to ship that. And in some cases they can't put in a really good air cooler in there due to shipping risks, so they put in a liquid cooler, which has more parts that can be a point of failure in the years you'd use it.

    Honestly you'd be better off building your own. You don't have to follow the frenetic upgrade cycles of enthusiasts. I last built a PC in 2012, and it's still going strong. I only replaced a few things in five years: the liquid cooler (it was noisy as hell; low speed is quiet but it can't push out hot air from the inside the case) replaced with a decent air cooler, the fans (I just bought more quiet fans, then quiet fans with LEDs because when it's too quiet I tend to forget it's been running for days downloading), and I only recently replaced the graphics card because my brother tried SLI only to figure out that using two graphics cards was more trouble than it's worth (so I got a GTX 980 free, which he bought on sale when the GTX 1070 came out).

    There's a way for modular PCs to look aesthetically pleasing, the real problem is whether they can be as compactly packed since these will have to use regular form factor instead of custom-size components. On the upside, you can have something the size of a shoebox for example.

    Using the case above, I got on PCPartsPicker rather quickly and managed to choose parts with a total under $500. It uses an AMD A10-7860K - i has a fairly decent CPU with a good built-in AMD R7 GPU (ie, something a heck of a lot better than what Intel puts in its CPUs), cooled by a Cryorig H7. Decent Seasonic power supply (ie anything cheaper will be a sharp drop in performance or cable management will be a nightmare in this small case), definitely more than enough if you plan on putting a newer GPU later. I also replaced the intake fans since it will be more critical when you have a higher TDP APU wthout a GPU sucking more air in from the side. Given the size of the case though I wouldn't put more than one 3.5in drive in there, so if you want your movies locally stored, best go with a NAS.

    Still, if you don't need it now, might as well wait a few months, and save a bit more money for it in that time. The Ryzen APUs wlll come out before the end of the year, and you'll have better thermals; if it's the Ryzen-Polaris models, you get a better GPU too. Or a better way to do it is get a Ryzen 3 1300 or Ryzen 5 1400 quad core CPU with 16gb of RAM and an RX 560. Not ridiculously expensive but given how you'll end up with less heat on the CPU (since it has no GPU built in) and you have a separate GPU that has its own cooler, you'll increase reliability, and on lower workloads, the fans on each can spin slower rather than have one on the APU that has to spin faster and make more noise. You just need to wait a bit for more mini-ITX boards to come out for the FM4 socket. Alternately, if size isn't a problem, you can go microATX - it won't be as compact but it can still be relatively sleek.
    Narayan23, kazsud and Double-A like this.
  3. Double-A
    Wow, thank you so much for putting this much effort into responding to me. It is much appreciated.
  4. LoryWiv
    Have a look at AVA Direct, a custom builder if you aren't into full on DIY. I have had excellent, reliable and fairly priced PC's from them for years.
  5. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Here's a microATX build with current parts. Still has room for some expansion later on, like more storage drives (you can get an M.2 that goes on the motherboard and you put Windows in that). In four years in case you play a newer game you can grab a new graphics card and it will work in this computer, more so since they're increasing energy and thermal efficiency with every generation, so a midrange graphics card by that time might need just a little bit more power than the RX 560.

    PCPartPicker part list: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/qRnQHN
    Price breakdown by merchant: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/qRnQHN/by_merchant/

    CPU: AMD - Ryzen 3 1300X 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($129.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: CRYORIG - H7 49.0 CFM CPU Cooler
    Motherboard: MSI - B350M PRO-VDH Micro ATX AM4 Motherboard ($96.97 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Corsair - Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory ($119.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Seagate - Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($66.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Gigabyte - Radeon RX 560 4GB Gaming OC Video Card ($129.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Fractal Design - Define Mini C MicroATX Mid Tower Case ($91.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: SeaSonic - 520W 80+ Bronze Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply ($46.89 @ Newegg)
    Case Fan: Fractal Design - FD-FAN-SSR2-140-BK 66.0 CFM 140mm Fan ($12.99 @ Newegg)
    Case Fan: Fractal Design - FD-FAN-SSR2-140-BK 66.0 CFM 140mm Fan ($12.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $708.78
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2017-07-31 01:44 EDT-0400
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
  6. DamageInc77
    I would also recommend building yourself. It's dead easy and you can customize it however you like.
  7. Double-A
    I've done some thinking on it, and I don't actually think that I really NEED a desktop computer. So, for now at least, I think I am going to purchase a laptop. I was looking at this one:


    Starting this fall, I am going to start working toward my first degree: an associate degree in electronics at a local community college. After that I may decide to continue into a university for a bachelor degree in electronics engineering. We'll see in a few years. If I decide to do that, maybe I will build my own desktop with powerful enough components to handle the programs I would be using while I'm studying for that. Thanks for your help everyone.
  8. siberianman
    Dell and IBM I can say.

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