View Full Version : Buying a New Computer . . . Decisions

01-20-2008, 05:07 PM
I am thinking about getting a new Dell XPS 420 desktop PC. Some things I have to decide on are giving me fits.
Let me say that I never play games on my PC, so I want a machine that can handle primarily my Excel exploits and the glutonous requirements of Vista. Dell doesn?t offer Wiindows XP on its XPS line of PCs. (sigh)

1) The latest fad in monitors is the wide screen flat panel. I currently have a 19? flat panel that I like a lot. It?s an analog, and that seems OK for what I do. I don?t think I need to pay more for a digital version. The wide screen is what I?m struggling with. I don?t know how to compare a 19? regular width with a, say, 22? wide screen. The 22? is the diagonal measurement, but I don?t know whether a 22? will be more than I really need. Will it appear to be about the same as the 19?, only wider? Or will it be noticeably larger in the vertical dimension too? What size wide screen will appear pretty much like a regular 19?, except that it is wider??

2) I?m sold on getting at least a 3GB memory. My question is, would it serve any purpose to increase that to 4GB?? From what I can tell, going to 4GB starts using a lot of juice from the power supply.

3) One reason I?m getting a new PC is that I?ve exceeded what my present PC and Excel (2003??) can handle without problems. I have a lot of graphics and a LOT of formulas in my workbooks. This time I want to get a good graphics system on the new PC, but I don?t want to overdo it. It costs a lot to get the top-of-the-line video card, but there are a bunch of intermediate video cards to choose from. Question: which one? I want a card that has all the on-board memory (no shared memory) that it needs, but not more than I need (whatever that is). Is there a clear distinction between video card brands?

If you haven?t looked at what Dell is selling these days, you might find it interesting to ramble around their web site for an education. People who are buying the XPS 420 seem to like it. The big problem is Vista. Almost no one likes Vista. If you have any comments, I?d love to see them.


01-21-2008, 03:58 AM
Quite honestly, if you don't want Vista, I would not buy Dell unless they would ship it with XP. The OS is sooooooo important, and Vista is an absolute beast IMO, greedy, sloppy, and pretty well pointless.

As to panels, surely it is the resolution and the definition that is most important. I couldn't find numbers for the 22", but the 24" was only 1920x1200, my 17" laptop has that much, so I am not impressed.

AFAIAA, 32 bit systems can only address just over 3Gb of memory, so 4Gb is overkill.

01-21-2008, 03:59 AM
BTW, if your formulae are dragging the system down, isn't it time to re-design the spreadsheets?

01-21-2008, 04:00 AM
Another thought, dual monitors.

01-21-2008, 09:13 AM
I hope I'm not stating the obvious...the difference between widescreen and regular is the aspect ratio (16:9 vs. 4:3). You could do some math to see how that translates into screen real estate when compared to your current monitor. Widescreens are wider and shorter than 'regular' screens. I have a 22" widescreen, and can see columns A-Z in excel. I love that! I have another monitor (17") that I hope to one day put into dual screen; right now it's hooked up to the xp machine, which holds the certificate for signing code.

I dont dislike Vista, but I'm not wowed either. I can do everything I did before, and all of my older programs run (dreamweaver and fireworks mx are biggies for me). I'm running 4gb of ram, and about 3.5 are recognized. 64 bit versions of vista/XP recognize more ram, but comes at a potential cost of compatibility.

XPS is Dell's gaming line, right? if gaming is not an issue, why not go for something else that XP ships on? Every system I've seen with vista that has a dedicated video card and 2gb of ram does pretty well (although XP would do better, performance-wise). More ram is always better, and pretty cheap these days.

I build my computers as a hobby these days more than anything else. It's not really any cheaper, although some would argue the quality of the parts is better. I dont know enough about dell, hp, etc. to comment on their quality, but that's what i've read!

regarding your video card question, get the best you can afford - but top of the line is not needed. Newegg reviews were quite helpful when I was deciding. I think nvidia has a leg up at the moment. I think you should get one that can run dx 10, if I recall my research.

good luck!

01-21-2008, 11:03 AM
I have a 22" widescreen, and can see columns A-Z in excel.

I have a 17@ laptop and I can see A-AC :D

01-21-2008, 11:13 AM
is each column 2 characters, or the resolution require you to wear a microscope? :)

that's impressive...maybe if i didnt buy the cheapest 22" monitor I'd get better resolution!

having gone from a 17" regular aspect to widescreen, though, I (relatively?) love it! once I became accustomed to working with documents side by side, it does make me crave for a dual monitor.

01-21-2008, 05:08 PM
Standard size - 64 points.

I'll give you that on widescreens though, I would like a widescreen too, or two to be precise.

I have one 19@ TFT, and it is rubbish resolution, so I am just waiting for 21@ to come down in price and I'll be there.

01-24-2008, 03:13 PM
Good comments, guys . . . I appreciate your taking the time.
Regarding how many columns you can see, that is completely dependent on the zoom factor you are using.
I do get the impression that a 22-in widescreen is good stuff. Although this is not a factor for me, I can't help but wonder about folks who develop sheets that will be viewed by people who do not have a widescreen. If you develop on a wide screen, then your non-widescreen customer might get short changed on the width he sees. Just wondering. Or for a specific zoom setting, does the non-widescreen automatically adjust to show the same number of columns??

To those of you who have Vista, was gathering together drivers of various makes a problem, or does the PC maker (or Vista) take care of that for you. I have a Canon printer that I'd hate to be without for even a day. Will I have to go to Canon to get a driver, or will an adequate one come with Vista? I also use an old 8-wire parallel cable for my printer. It works so don't laugh. I suppose I'll have to get a USB cable since the new computers have done away with parallel ports. (Sigh)

I was astonished to see that Dell is offering for about $50 (as I recall) a 4GB flash drive to substitute for a floppy. That ought to help when creating backups and transferring files from old to new PC. I normally use an RW CD (which has 534 MB usable) for backups, and it's only 75% full at the moment. I could switch to the flash drive and do away with slow CD. Incidentally, I've been using that CD for a year now. Verbatim really puts out a top notch RW CD. I used to have to replace the cheaper CDs after about 2 months of use.

Dell is offering a choice on CD drives of having a combo DVD/CD RW drive or to have two drives: one for CD and the other for DVD. Have any of you had a bad experience with the combo drive? They aren't really new. They were selling them when I bought my present PC 4 years ago.

Also I was wondering about software for controlling the CD/DVD drives. On my present PC I bought Rpxio Media Creator 7, which at the time was considered a top notch system for mabaging CD creation. I've never once had a problem with it. Is that still a good interface software for CD and DVD creation?

Thanks again, gang. :bow:

01-24-2008, 07:15 PM
Just bought an XPS 420 (500 GB, 4 GB, 4-core) and ... Vista (needed for 4GB and 4-core). Had recently replaced my 19"FP with a 22" wide FP. Does take a little getting used to.:banghead:

No problem with drivers ... yet. My HP 4300C scanner sw wouldn't install by running the .EXE, but Google gave me a nice workaround: unpack to a folder, and for the setup.exe change the properties's 'Compatibility' to XP-SP2. Works fine. REmember that if you have a problem with your favorite printer : pray2:

I have an external 250GB USB HD that I keep my install files on (downloaded progs, updates, VBAexpress tips, ...) as well an a series of backups. Made moving data really easy.:thumb :cloud9:

I have to travel on business for 4-6 weeks so I'm only partially reconfigured, but so far haven't had any real problems. A number of the new Vista 'features' (like "A program wants to run ..." popups) can be turned off if you want, and there are a number of "Use Classical menus ..." on some of the progs.

I do have Office 2007 installed, and I expect that I'll have more problems with it's changed UI than with Vista.:banghead:



01-25-2008, 08:19 AM
I personally didnt have any driver issues; there tend to be more driver issues with 64 bit versions of vista (and XP) than 32 bit. A quick trip to canon's website to see what drivers are available should answer your question. I chose not to go 64 bit for this very reason; the cost is that a half a gig of ram I bought is not recognized.

I keep backups online of all my important documents, so transferring docs to the new computer is easy. I'm terrible about backing up my OS and programs, but keep my documents backed up on a bunch of different computers (work, laptop, two desktops) via ftp. it's slow, but if something catastrophic happens in any single place, i'll have my stuff somewhere else. If something catastrophic happens to all 4 computers (and the datacenter hosting my files) all at once, i'll have other things to worry about.

Regarding screen size issues, I test everything I do on a 12 inch laptop. You can also see what different resolutions look like (because the resolution is more important than screen size, in terms of what you see) by going here (http://www.yournew.com/resolution_test.cfm), and using the browser window created at various resolutions to size your excel sheet...I think. It seems logical that this would work for Excel, but I'm not certain!

01-25-2008, 09:10 AM
I know I'm probly going to be flamed for this, but if you don't want to play games on it, why not just get a mac?

I have both a mac and pc now and very much prefer the mac for doing productive work. It just makes sense. They're much more user friendly and everything "works". You don't have to fiddle around with complex setups to get things to work with each other because it's all from Apple - everything is designed to work together.

When I got my mac for Christmas, I became an instant mac "fanboy" and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Office 2008 (mac version) is out soon (now?) but I haven't had a chance to test it out yet. I don't know if there's any "issues" with that, but I would be surprised if there was.

As far as backups go, there's nothing better than time machine on Leopard. It backs up everything automatically by the hour, and it's a simple process to retrieve things if you accidently deleted files and need to get them back. Plus, if you want a laptop, the new macbook air looks delicious. :)

01-25-2008, 11:39 AM
VBA on the mac stinks, and is no longer offered in office 2008 - a huge issue for people who visit this forum! If you want to buy a mac to run windows, you can certainly do that, but you pay a premium for the hardware. They are nice systems, and my next laptop will likely be a mac (because I do develop for both mac and pc), but if you dont develop anything for the mac platform, you can get a PC much cheaper for the same specs.

01-25-2008, 12:02 PM

Drivers: a lot will be on-board with Vista, some you may have to visit the manufacturer for. Drivers have not been the issue with me, for me it is the ridiculously slow search, the awful file explorer, the way it makes you keep confirming that you want to do the thing you just said you wanted tgo do, and the way it hides things from you (uncle MS knows best ... no you bl'##dy well don't).

$50 for 4GB of flash. Having a laugh? That is way too pricey. Dell flash is the most expensive going. Decline it and visit a store.

01-25-2008, 02:07 PM
the way it makes you keep confirming that you want to do the thing you just said you wanted tgo do

If it's the User Account Control (aka "A prog wants to run ... ") just turn it off


Haven't gotten too far past that, except for turning off a lot of the eye candy


01-27-2008, 04:13 PM
Hey, gang, the latest replies are really great, and I DO appreciate your experience in these matters.:hi:


01-28-2008, 04:59 AM
So what is your decision? Rejecting Vista?

01-30-2008, 05:20 AM