Buying a computer system/New PC


QUESTION: Hi (I'm an AE on travel)
(1) I have an old VAIO desktop very slow and can not handle HD video at all. What do you recommend in the $1000 or so price range for brand, best video card, best processor and 3D monitor. I am shooting 3D video with both my HTC EVO cell phone and new Fuji W3 with HDMI connection for a 3D TV. So what would you suggest?

I have a FRYS electronics store very close by which may help.

(2) I have an iMac for editing which also goes online via Wi Fi from a router hooked to my VAIO PC. My wife uses a netbook VIAO that is also WIFI from the same router. I was going to keep my old VAIO desk top going as I transition to the new PC. Can they all run including one more NEW PC? We have comcast high speed DSL. Since the old VAIO desk top does not have WI FI  can I wire ethernet to new PC and then ethernet cable from router to old PC and imac and VAIO netbook still use WiFi? It all works fine now will adding the new PC be a problem?

(3) Can the old VAIO desktop SHARE the new PC new monitor? An AB switch or Y cable?

(4) Best way to transfer programs & data from old VAIO to new PC? Pay Frys to do this? Thanks.

ANSWER: 1. I'd need more specifics regarding what you already have (if you intend to keep it or anything of the sort; if we're just assuming it's getting recycled then don't worry about this part), including what software you already use (this is important, as this software will dictate system requirements to an extent). You really do not need to worry about the graphics card for video editing or playback (it doesn't do much of anything for you), just the processor, memory, and storage subsystem. But again we'll need to base things off of the software you're using. I don't foresee your budget being much of a problem though, especially if you have existing peripherals (monitor, speakers, etc) to re-use.

2. In general this should be no problem. Some very cheap and very old routers will have issues with a lot of simultaneous connections (no matter how they're wired up), but you would already be experiencing issues with your current setup. You can leave WiFi and Ethernet connected as needed. One thing to point out though, if you have Comcast (I'm somewhat unclear on this: Comcast does not provide DSL, but does provide high speed Internet service via DOCSIS, however there are also high-speed DSL services from other providers (like AT&T), can you clarify?) with a higher speed grade (they offer up to 100Mbit connections to residential now, but 30-50Mbit is more common), anything lesser than 802.11g WiFi will be a substantial bottleneck. If your router only supports 802.11a or 802.11b, it may be worth upgrading to a newer router or wiring the video editing machine in via Ethernet (which should be 10/100 on all but the oldest routers), to ensure that it has the best access to the Internet and the network (802.11a/b would still be fine for casual web browsing though).

3. Yes. You can get monitors that have multiple inputs and will switch between them (much like a TV), or you can get a switch to toggle between inputs (you can actually share the keyboard and mouse with such a switch too). A y-cable would not work in any way though. You will need to also ensure that both of your computers have an output that is compatible with the monitor (that is, VGA to VGA, or DVI to DVI, etc), and get a switch that is compatible with that.

4. You really won't be transferring "programs" from one to another - they will need to be reinstalled on the new machine in order to work correctly. In some cases you will probably need to upgrade to a new version of a program to ensure compatibility with a newer version of Windows (I'm assuming your VAIO is more than a few years old, and probably has Windows 2000 or Windows XP installed; a new computer will come with Windows 8, and in some cases this means that old programs are not compatible). File transfer (personal documents and such) can be done via your home network, and is very straight-forward. No need to pay Fry's for such a task, unless you simply have no time to expend on the task.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Great reply...!

1) I have a desktop VAIO PCV-RX860 SPECS at:
I am intending to keep it so that I can use it as needed until I transfer
the usual data i.e. photos,videos, texts and until I one by one see how many programs I use can transfer or will I need new or updated to work on the new PC. Ex. Word Perfect X5 Skipping to related #3

3) That is why I'd like the old VAIO to use the new PC monitor, likely a nice 27". Would be great to use the one keyboard/ mouse for both. Do you have a LINK to the type of  toggle switch you mention in #3 that would accomplish this?
I know my VAIO is VGA out to monitor. You mention new monitor must be the same so NOT a DVI. What is DVI and is there a negative in not getting a new DVI monitor? THis seems very interesting, yes a VGA port but have no idea what they are talking about the SECOND VGA looking port? But seems this high tech PC is VGA right?

2) ROUTER LAND: I'm not all that savvy on routers. I knew to buy a low cost two band and have a VIZIO. Here is the model and some specs:
Data Link Protocol Ethernet,
IEEE 802.11b,
IEEE 802.11n,
IEEE 802.11a,
IEEE 802.11g,
Fast Ethernet
Frequency Band 2.4 GHz,
5 GHz

Router spec sheet:

All I know about our Comcast is that it is high speed and works well for all netflix HD movies EXCEPT our bedroom, most distant from the router, often drops out. Is this enough info to tell me if our current router is the type it should be? Is there a better version/brand that sends a stronger signal to a more distant room? We would certainly upgrade if I knew which one to buy. Would something like Smart Beam be a good option.
It says it just plugs into  the current router so no new installation. Sounds too good?? But addresses our 'distance' concern.
So is current VIZIO router OK and might the SmartBeam be worth a trial shot (Amazon gives one 30 days to return items).
4) Looking at something like: Lenovo K430-57308925 Desktop PC with Intel Core i7-3770 Processor,12GB DDR3 Memory,2TB SATA Hard Drive,Nvidia GT640 Graphic Card
It mentions
5) What is transferring by home network? I was planning to copy to external 1tb HD and back to new PC. Is there an easier method?
great thanks.
PS: what 27' monitors do you like?

ANSWER: 1. Yes, this machine is certainly quite old - I would agree with the move to replace it (I asked because in some cases, users can simply upgrade their hardware instead of buying a new machine). No issue with keeping it temporarily, but remember that April 2014 is quickly approaching (after which point, Microsoft will no longer release updates for Windows XP). While the Sony could have Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed on it, it would not make the machine faster - so unless you need a secondary computer for web browsing or other casual use, there's no reason for that upgrade. Just as a side note, Best Buy offers electronics recycling (generally for free in most regions), for when you want to finally get rid of the machine. I'd suggest removing or erasing the hard-drive before turning it over though.

3. VGA is an older, analog connection standard for computer monitors. It was first developed by IBM in the 1980s. Despite the age, it's still a very high quality connection for displays and there is no reason to avoid it, explicitly. DVI is a more modern, digital connection, that many new computers offer. Most modern monitors offer both inputs, and can switch between them as needed. There is generally no quality or performance difference between the two. You could easily find a monitor with both inputs, and switch on the monitor. Alternately, you could use a KVM to switch between machines (which would also switch keyboard and mouse). It would probably be more convenient to buy a KVM if you want to use the same keyboard and mouse, as opposed to switching inputs on two different devices (if that makes sense; it's just less things to switch). Most inexpensive KVMs are VGA though, which won't be a problem (digital switching logic costs more); there will be no issue connecting your new computer and new monitor with VGA (the Lenovo machine has VGA from the specsheet).

Something like this: (this will also carry audio, if you needed).

Regarding software applications, I'd suggest OpenOffice for "office" type software (to replace Corel on the new machine), as it is free and very compatible with Microsoft Office and Oracle StarOffice. See here for more:

2. You have a very modern router, that supports both 11g and 11n, so it will be suitable for connecting your machines. The poor signal to the bedroom is likely to do with positioning within your house (the router sends out an RF signal, which can be weakened as it passes through walls, furniture, etc). A more powerful transmitter may improve this, but my advice would be to try repositioning the router to a more central position or relocating the receiver in the bedroom and seeing if that results in improvement. Another suggestion, if your receiver device supports it, is to run an Ethernet cable to it (as long as the cable is less than 100 meters long (that's over 300 feet), it will have no issues).

You very likely have a middle to higher tier Comcast cable connection, which should have no issues with HD streaming or similar.

4. The new Lenovo machine should have no problems with HD video, editing or playing, and will represent a very large upgrade over the Sony. It has a very robust processor, lots of memory, and lots of storage - all good features for a video editing machine. Did part of your message for this point get cut off? (It reads "it mentions" and then moves on to point 5)

5. With a home network, as you've established with the router, you can send files directly between your computers, as opposed to "sneaker net" with the external hard-drive. While I'd still suggest an external hard-drive to back-up your projects, using the network will be much easier for sending your personal documents between machines. This may be a good starting point for you:

Under Windows XP (on the VAIO), select a folder, right click on it, select properties, and select the Sharing tab. I would not suggest sharing every folder on the machine, but certainly things like My Documents or My Videos would be worth sharing to transfer data. Alternately create a new folder and put all the files you'd like to share into it, and just copy the contents onto your new machine (simple copy/paste).

As far as a new monitor - I generally suggest Samsung, Hannstar (sometimes also branded as Hannspree), and Dell. They have a variety of ranges that correspond to price and other preferences. One thing to note is that some Dell 27" models will come with a very high resolution (2560x1440 - which is sometimes called Quad HD, as it is four times 720p), which is not supported by all computers; it also runs the price up quite a bit on the display (these monitors generally are targeted at graphics designers and CAD users). I would also avoid Acer Group parts (Acer, eMachines, and Gateway) as they tend to be less reliable than average.

If you have more questions about the monitor, feel free to ask.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again:

Your info/replies have been super helpful!!!
Per your last reply:
1) Yes time to replace with a spanking new power house of a PC
2) Per your comments I purchased the needed long ethernet cable and easily relocated the Vizio router to a spot that looks directly down our hallway toward the problematic bedroom. Should work better.
3)The KVM switching gizmo looks great so I will be getting one after I buy the new PC.
4)Thanks for your thumbs up on the Lenovo K450 with all its high tech
features from i7-4770 processor to 2TB drive and 12GB ram etc. I have not seen a competitor model at this price ($925 delivered via New Egg - would be about $1,080 at Frys)

Does its slot for holding a 'removable' 500gb portable HD have any real use other then avoiding the use of hookup cable? Seems more for kids who want to grab the portable HD and take it to friends homes etc..gaming?

MONITOR: I ran with your comments and shopped around. My iMac is 21" and seems huge since it is so much 'wider'then my old 15" square desk top monitor. I settled so far on 24" as larger but not too large. I decided other things being equal why not go for 24", HDMI, VGA, DVI and built-in speakers for under $300. Dell was too high BUT I found the ViewSonic VX2370SMH-LED with very high user ratings and all the above connections, speakers etc.for less then $200. Here is the LINK
Let me know what you thinks and if there is another brand with similar features I should consider for under $300. I looked at about 100 models
but could not match these features (not that weak internal speakers is necessary but other things being equal why not have em). Very hard to find a 24" with HDMI, DVI AND VGA and speakers.

So almost there and it looks very good for the new upgrade.
Steve T.

Your thoughts on the removable drive are probably correct - it's more of a convenience feature than anything else. I'd probably not worry too much about it, unless it's a feature you really need (but yes, an external USB drive will do the same thing). Lenovo mentions it using "USM" as an interface, which is far less common than other kinds of interfaces, so finding specific devices for that slot may be somewhat challenging.

On the monitor - I don't have any specific experience with that model, but ViewSonic generally makes a good product, and the price looks right for everything it offers. It's probably worth noting that built-in speakers on modern displays are generally pretty wimpy; you may want to consider a pair of desktop speakers (you may also save a few dollars by going with a speaker-less monitor).

Here's some other examples that a quick search yielded: (cheaper, same resolution, but slightly smaller (will mean a higher pixel density)) (gives you a webcam, picture-in-picture, and DisplayPort as well)

I think any of them would be suitable though, honestly. If you like the ViewSonic, it should be hassle-free.

If you were going without speakers, something like these would save a few dollars: (note that this one lacks HDMI)

And then relatively inexpensive desktop speakers: (I would not expect "hi-fi" sound from these, but they should play louder (and cleaner) than most built-in speakers)

Just food for thought more than anything else.

If you wanted a more "hi-fi" set of speakers, I can provide some assistance there as well - generally I would suggest Bose as a starting-off point, because their computer speakers are generally reliable and very easy to live with. However more professionally oriented studio monitors will likely yield a more "flat" or "accurate" sound (but remember they are not designed for average home users, and as a result "user friendliness" is usually not as high on their list of priorities); there's lots of options though (basically limited by how complicated of a system you'd like to deal with, and how much space you have). Let me know if this is a consideration.


Buying a computer system

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.


I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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