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Computers

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cocoplus5nuts posted 11/29/2019 22:36 PM

I know there are a lot of computer people here. I have a question. My 12yo son is taking a coding class and an engineering class in school. He's really enjoying both. He especially likes the engineering and is talking about possibly studying that in college.

He has a laptop, but it's kind of like one those not fully functional computers. I don't know what they're called, maybe like a netbook or something.

He wants a desktop. We would like to get him one for Christmas. We have no idea what to look for to do the things he wants to do, like coding and designing whatever they design in engineering class. I know they designed a bridge.

Any suggestions? Minimum memory, CPU, ram, graphics, specific programs or apps?

ETA: We don't have unlimited funds. A 2000K computer is out of the question. Maybe something in the $500 range, but that's pushing it.

[This message edited by cocoplus5nuts at 7:44 AM, November 30th (Saturday)]

Hope2B posted 11/30/2019 03:22 AM

Maybe ask his teacher? Sounds like a lovely gift for Christmas!

cocoplus5nuts posted 11/30/2019 07:43 AM

Yes, I am planning to ask the teachers.

Incarnate posted 12/1/2019 06:04 AM

I can break down some suggestions later on... I need to get back to sleep before work. However, a few points;

DO NOT pick a budget computer. They almost always suuuuuuuck.

Even if the computer says "for gaming" or whatever, all that means is that it is optimized for high performance. Powerful computational computers are ideal for gaming... or drafting, or 3D imaging/coding/compiling/whatever. They're POWERFUL, that's the key takeaway.

You will want a dedicated video card. That will help with 3D processing (for bridge design, etc, but it is most commonly used for video game processing).

I would say to build your own, as it is cheaper, but if you're not experienced, then, well, you might be in trouble with that. It is relatively simple and way easier than it sounds and I have faith you COULD learn how to do it, but it would have to be something you WANTED to learn.

A minimum price point, IMO, is $1,000-$1,200. I had my PC built for $1250. It's a beast because I picked the right stuff and left my options open for upgrading.

I'll post again here later. If I forget, shoot me a PM.

[This message edited by Incarnate at 6:05 AM, December 1st (Sunday)]

Alpargata posted 12/1/2019 06:28 AM

Hi, buying the parts and building the pc himself with your help will always be cheaper than pre-built and he will really enjoy doing it.

I would recommend using youtube to find different builds, there is a whole community around building cheap pcs with good to great capabilities.

write on the youtube search bar something like "500$ gaming pc 2019" and go from there. This youtubers also provide guides on how to build a pc from scratch and where to buy the parts online.

Hope this was helpful!

cocoplus5nuts posted 12/1/2019 08:48 AM

Thanks, incarnate and alpargata! I don't know why I didn't think of us building one together. That would be such a fun thing to do together! I've never built an entire computer from the ground up, but I have replaced and upgraded parts.

My dad builds computers, so I can ask him for help. He doesn't know anything about gaming or design, though. And, he's 80, so the brain ain't quote working like it used to.

However, my oldest son does build his own gaming computers. I can ask him about parts and where to get them.

TrustedHer posted 12/1/2019 10:56 AM

Odds are, if oldest son builds gaming computers he has a lot of spare parts hanging around. Or he has friends who do.

Gamers keep upgrading their graphics cards and that means the old one, which is probably just fine for most work, is sitting in a box somewhere.

If you make it a family project, you can probably scrounge a lot of the parts.

ShatteredSakura posted 12/1/2019 12:44 PM

Yeah, if you can build your own you not only put exactly what specs in that you want but generally save money. I've been building my computers (avid gamer + software developer, I develop CAD software) since I was a teen and have built ones for my parents or friends.

The biggest $$$ parts generally are going to be your CPU and GPU but if you get mid-tier parts and not the current bleeding edge, you can build a computer for a reasonable amount....$500-1000, most likely it'll be closer to $1000 depending on what you choose.

For example, if you go with an Intel CPU the higher end ones are the i7's, mid-tier, i5, low-tier, i3. You can save money and go with an i5 and put that money elsewhere (like into the GPU). This is where things get complicated if you've never built a computer before, because there are so many choices and so many specs to choose from. I'd get a quad-core CPU at least.

When you say his engineering class designed a bridge, I assume they're using CAD software. Like Incarnate said, you're going to want a dedicated graphics card...CAD software kind of is funny when compared to video games, because some are not real time and don't actually need the beefiest hardware imaginable to run. Like you don't need an $800 graphics card to run MicroStation or AutoCad, you can get away with something like $200 (it's been a while for me with prices so I'm spitballing...I generally haven't gone above $400-500 for GPUs in the past).

On RAM, I'd go with at least 8GB, maybe up to 16GB. Personally I have 32GB but I also have a ton of programs open at the same time so I'm not necessarily your typical user.

You can also go the route of refurbished and not new to save money, although I usually prefer to buy new parts and re-use my own old parts (commonly motherboards, power supplies, ram).

I did a search on Costco and found this one: "Acer Nitro 50 Gaming Tower - Intel Core i7 - AMD Radeon RX 580" that you can google (2nd hit on google for me). It seems to have reasonable specs. It looks like a lot of prebuilt computers have a combo of HDD + SSD for storage (HDD are the harddrives that are mechanical, and thus slower, SSD is solid state and more like your system memory, RAM). I wouldn't do this, instead just put your money into a SSD with at least 500+ gb of storage. I've had work laptops that had 256gb or less of storage and they can fill up quickly if you need to use a lot of different software or have lots of data (if you're my parents who use it for email/writing...not a lot of need there). Using an SSD as your main storage drive means your computer will boot faster and installed programs on that drive also load faster - anything that hits that drive for memory access will be faster. HDDs are okay if you want an additional drive to store data long-term that you access infrequently.

If you're going to build there are tons of helpful guides out there, just need to look. Probably can even find people's own custom builds where they list out all the parts. Just make sure that whatever you choose for your graphics card, you get a power supply that is rated for it's power load and beyond. The GPU tends to be the biggest draw for power.

Also note (like the example prebuilt costco computer I cited), this is just the computer tower. A lot of other cost will be getting the monitor(s) unless if you have old ones to use. At work and at home I have two wide screen monitors (although my at-home ones I bought a long time ago on sale for $120 each). And then other accessories like the keyboard, mice, anything for sound (speaker or headset).

Me personally, I use an $8 wired keyboard, and a $30-50 wireless ergonomic mouse. I also use headsets and not speakers ($60ish...I used to get more expensive ones but I have a large head and they tend to break on me!).

Also a note on sound, waaay back in the day you'd see dedicated sound cards. These days onboard audio (on the motherboard) is more than enough for most people.

[This message edited by ShatteredSakura at 12:53 PM, December 1st (Sunday)]

sisoon posted 12/1/2019 20:24 PM

Having built lots of 'puters for customers, I'm not convinced a custom can be built for less than a pre-built one. The manufacturers get lower prices on parts than individuals do, and they get LOTS lower prices on Windows.

Linux is cheaper than Windows, but if your kid wants to be an engineer, he may be more interested in engineering applications than OSes.

Now, if your older son has a lot of parts lying around, that's different - free from him beats cheap.

No matter what, look into student pricing for software. That can save you a lot.

cocoplus5nuts posted 12/1/2019 20:53 PM

Thanks, everyone. My oldest is an adult and lives several states away, so it's not quite so easy to get extra parts from him. I will certainly ask, though.

My H told me they use something called Raspberry pi at school. It's a tiny motherboard, I think. Can't remember now if that was for coding or engineering. I can get that and a power supply for around $100. But, my son informed that he wants a computer for gaming. I'm guessing the Raspberry pi won't work for gaming.

We have monitors, keyboard, mice, speakers, and headsets of all kinds. Oh, the headsets! Is it just my boys or are those things extremely fragile? They don't seem to last long at all.

ShatteredSakura posted 12/2/2019 00:39 AM

Having built lots of 'puters for customers, I'm not convinced a custom can be built for less than a pre-built one. The manufacturers get lower prices on parts than individuals do, and they get LOTS lower prices on Windows.

Yeah that's another factor, the Windows license. Maybe for a first time builder with all new parts it doesn't come out cheaper -- but at least I like to think of it that you're putting the money exactly where you want it, rather than buying something that might be a bit cheaper but has stuff you didn't want in the first place.

But of course you can fall into the trap like in the movie Mr Blanding's Builds His Dream House. "For a few hundred more...we can knock down these walls and add...."

Oh, the headsets! Is it just my boys or are those things extremely fragile? They don't seem to last long at all.

The headsets that break for me always have a plastic piece at a critical position that gets stressed a lot taking the headset on/off my big head. And these were expensive headsets, they had metal elsewhere but not this one area right above the ear piece that would always break after a year of use. I ended up going with cheaper headsets because I was tired of going through the trouble with getting replacements.

My H told me they use something called Raspberry pi at school. It's a tiny motherboard, I think. Can't remember now if that was for coding or engineering. I can get that and a power supply for around $100. But, my son informed that he wants a computer for gaming. I'm guessing the Raspberry pi won't work for gaming.

You'd be surprised actually, it's a versatile piece of hardware. Raspberry Pi's are more for educational purposes or "maker" enthusiasts who use it as the brains for home-made robots or any sort of "smart" appliance or thing. But it's good enough to be a low-cost computer (e.g. like the netbook you mentioned in your OP), but probably not one you'd be doing gaming or CAD design work on.

[This message edited by ShatteredSakura at 12:48 AM, December 2nd (Monday)]

cocoplus5nuts posted 12/2/2019 07:31 AM

But of course you can fall into the trap like in the movie Mr Blanding's Builds His Dream House. "For a few hundred more...we can knock down these walls and add...."


If it's anything like my yarn crafting hobby, this will totally happen. I was going to save money by knitting my won stuff, until I got into hand dyed indie yarn.

So, the Raspberry pi probably isn't worth it if it's not much more than his chromebook.

ETA: We have bought so many different headsets, cheap to mid-range. We're not buying an expensive one for an 8yo, obviously. We're lucky if they last more than a few months. Is there any particular brand or type that's more sturdy? Turtle Beach is one we've tried several times.

[This message edited by cocoplus5nuts at 7:34 AM, December 2nd (Monday)]

blahblahblahe posted 12/2/2019 14:39 PM

I suspect if he is truly into engineering he would love to build his own.

It may cost a little more, but the experience and the ability to tweek it and solve the issues that arise without resorting to the "geek squad" will be worth it.

If he is running solid modeling or intends to do so, 32GB ram, a substantial SSD drive (256-512GBmin), 1TB minimum 7200RPM and rock solid discreet graphics card (no onboard (motherboard based graphics) it simply isn't going to function well).

COOLING COOLING COOLING (lots of fans, or even liquid cooling but they have their own issues)

-An engineer :)

TrustedHer posted 12/2/2019 17:00 PM

Raspberry Pi is a wonderful platform, and a great way to learn a lot about system administration. It fits many specialty niches and I strongly recommend getting one or several.

However...

Except for a computer enthusiast, it is not a good choice for general purpose computing. And it doesn't to my knowledge run Windows. Just a specific version of Linux.

I use one for ham radio applications, and there are a lot of retro gaming (not current gaming!) advocates and set-top boxes and control applications out there.

somanyyears posted 12/3/2019 12:12 PM


..first, I confess that I know diddly-squat about computers...

BUT.. when our younger son started university, he asked for a new one and suggested we get him some fancy, high powered thing. We bitched about it but ended up getting it.

He has had it now for 20 years and reminds me regularly about quality lasting over time!

That's my simple advice...buy quality, with a good warranty attached.

smy

cocoplus5nuts posted 12/3/2019 13:23 PM

buy quality


Idk if that's possible anymore. Everything is made to be obsolete.

somanyyears posted 12/3/2019 16:35 PM


..you make a good point there coco..

Every year or two, they come out with the 'new and improved' model and try to make you believe the one you bought is crap now!!

..at 72 I might not have long to worry about the next model..

..hoping your son will make all his dreams come true..

smy

PricklePatch posted 12/3/2019 18:59 PM

By building a desktop, you can upgrade video card, motherboards , etc. my first gaming was a Alienware laptop. It ran so hot it burn my fingers. My husband has it somewhere.

cocoplus5nuts posted 12/4/2019 06:40 AM

Every year or two, they come out with the 'new and improved' model and try to make you believe the one you bought is crap now!!


It's not just that. Things are deliberately made to break down within a few years. It costs as much or more to fix them than it does to replace them. Everything from clothing to toasters to washing machines to water heaters. Disposable society. Fast fashion.

cocoplus5nuts posted 12/4/2019 06:41 AM

Every year or two, they come out with the 'new and improved' model and try to make you believe the one you bought is crap now!!


It's not just that. Things are deliberately made to break down within a few years. It costs as much or more to fix them than it does to replace them. Everything from clothing to toasters to washing machines to water heaters. Disposable society. Fast fashion.

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