Right sizing a PC for your Home


Dell Optiplex 330 Desktop PC Dell Inspiron 530s Desktop PC spacer

Optiplex 330 and Inspiron 530s

In many instances I see customers making poor buying decisions when it comes to computer equipment.

I was asked to do a setup on a new Dell Dimension PC for a Dallas resident.  The customer purchased a Dell Inspiron 530s, configured as follows.  Pricing from web as of Nov 1, 2008:
  • 3.0 Ghz Core 2 Duo (E8400)
  • 64 bit Windows Vista Home Edition
  • 6 gigs ram
  • Integrated Intel video (slowest performing)
  • DVD Writer
  • 750 gig hard drive.
  • McAfee 30 Day Internet Security Subscription
  • 24" Wide Screen Analog Dell Monitor
  • Detached standalone USB Speakers
  • 1 Year warranty, in home
Web Price: $1,210

This PC was for a resident who wanted to surf the web and get email (with AOL 9.1), nothing more. They didn't order it with a Microsoft Office Suite, nor did they have a copy from the previous Sony Vaio desktop.  What's sad is the customer paid $1,210 (including a wireless keyboard/mouse). The hardware specs far exceed anything the customer will ever do with it.  It's like buying a Ferrari or Porsche to drive around the block, when something like a Toyota or Chevrolet will work just fine.  Call me cheap, call me frugal, if you're going to drop $1200+ on a basic email and web surfing PC then put the money in buying smarter - invest in quality, longevity, and service after the sale, rather than souped up, maybe even short lived service life..

First of all, consider buying from Dell's business portal, and getting a Dell Optiplex.   You get what you pay for, and the build quality and construction is far better with the Optiplex than the Inspiron.  The Optiplex has a base warranty of three years, compared to the Inspiron's 1 year warranty.  See my page comparing Vostro and Optiplex - the Inspiron has a very similar build quality to the Vostro desktop.  The Optiplex will depreciate less and have a higher resale value.

Buy Windows XP Professional instead of Vista.  You will get more performance with less hardware horsepower.  You will have better integration with existing hardware.  At the customer site we had to replace the powerline couplers because the old Speedstream units did not have drivers for Windows Vista.   To address the bad press Microsoft has announced accelerated development of Windows 7, which will replace Vista.  In an April 2008 Computerworld article, Microsoft Corp is showing strong indications that the next version of Windows will be released up to a year early, to cut its losses with Windows Vista

Call Dell's small business portal, you can often get better pricing.  This is especially true, when you're ready to buy at the end of the month.

This is what PCNS recommends for a basic email/web surfing PC.  It has plenty of horsepower for future growth and storage, plus it's backed with a 3 year on site, next business day warranty. Pricing from web as of Nov 1, 2008:

(From Dell's Small Business Portal)
  • Dell Optiplex GX-330
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 (2.66 Ghz) Processor
  • 2 Gigs Ram
  • Windows XP Professional
  • 3 Year warranty with Next Business Day On Site Service
  • DVD Writer
  • 250 Gig Hard Drive
  • 256 Meg ATI Radeon Video (Upgrade from Intel Video)
  • Logitech Wireless Mouse/Keyboard
  • McAfee 3 Year Internet Security Subscription
  • 22" Wide Screen Analog Dell Monitor
  • Sound Bar for Analog Dell Monitor
Web Price: $1269

Differences: This is a 22" monitor, instead of the 24.  (You can call Dell and get the exact monitor you're looking for).  3 Year warranty versus 1 year, and 3 Year McAfee subscription, versus a 30 day Trial.  The 250 gig hard drive is plenty for aol email and web surfing.  Less memory and slightly slower processor, but remember we're specifying Windows XP which is much less bloated than Windows Vista.

That's not to say a Vista 64 PC with 6 gig's doesn't have its place.  If you're planning on editing digital video or using Adobe Creative Suite, the 6 gigs ram and fast processor will be beneficial - just buy it on a business class Optiplex.

Whichever PC you buy, PCNS strongly recommends a battery backup, to protect both the PC and the Windows Operating System from power failures.

Apc Battery Backup