August 07, 2006
The $300 PC

A few months ago, I found myself in the position to buy a new computer for the girls. Over the years, I've built our PCs from scratch, slowly upgrading them as needed. I thought for sure, the cheapest way to get a new computer was to buy the components and put it together myself.

I was quite surprised when I found this wasn't true.

I went to Newegg, one of the best online shopping sites for computer gear and started pricing everything out. I easily started getting the total over $450. I even looked at a Mac Mini to run Windows on, but at $599, even it was expensive in compairision. I looked at the Walmart computers, and they were cheap but fairly low power.

I checked the Dell site, and was surprised to see the Dell Dimension B110 for $299. It's got to be bad, I thought. Not true. For a web surfing computer, the specs are impressive. 2.5 GHz Celeron processor, 80 GB hard drive, DVD-ROM player, and 256 MB RAM. That price includes Windows XP and even a monitor. It's a full system for $299. With an online coupon, you can even get free shipping.

Sure it's not much to look at, but for the price, you can buy a lot of stickers.

Inside is pretty sparse, but the slots and ports are there to expand if you want. If the Intel Extreme Graphics 2 video doesn't cut it, you can slap in a video card into the PCI slot. I added a 512MB memory stick (bought via Newegg) to bump the total of 768MB of RAM. XP runs pretty damn smooth with that much RAM.

I did have to spend about an hour deinstalling all the crapware that Dell installed and loading Grisoft AVG and Firefox. For an extra $10 I got an actual WinXP install disc and for another $14 a copy of Webroot Spysweeper. Not getting a monitor pretty much covered those costs.

The girls are happy and I've had absolutely no problems with the computer so far. It's quiet and stable.

One more surprise I found on the Dell site was the $78 laser printer. When buying it with a computer, the 1110 laser printer is only $78. Hard to believe these things used to go for thousands. Again I was surprised at the good quality of the output and the printer itself. There are a couple drawback though, as it doesn't come with a USB cable (Dell wants $25 for one!!) and the toner cartridge goes for $68 . But with the minimal amount we print, this cost is actually in line with comparable printers that go for twice as much.

I still intend to build our performance computers from scratch, but if I need to buy a beginner system, I'm going to look at buying rather than build.

Posted by michael at August 07, 2006 10:48 PM


Did someone say stickers?

Me, I'm saving for a Mac Pro.

Posted by: BillB [] on August 8, 2006 8:00 AM

Buy a mac mini to run windows on? I'm glad you didnt. Why anyone would choose XP over OS X is beyond me anyway.

Posted by: Justin [] on August 8, 2006 5:44 PM

I just went through a minor basement flood. I'm in a world o' piss trying to figure out just which PC component (PC card on THIS box; LAN card on THAT box: Short blows the RAM on this box, but the RAM isn't compatible on THE OTHER box, etc)..

ASIDE from going MAC, anyone got any ideas?

Posted by: B [] on August 8, 2006 8:45 PM

I realized a while back that I wasn't going to be able to build a PC to save money. I just can't buy in enough quantity. With that said I still build my own. I enjoy the whole putting them together process. Now for someone else who just wants to get going as fast as possible with minimal effort and cost then something like what you picked up is the perfect way to go.

Not a bad choice for $350 Mike, nice.

p.s. Did you have to call in to have the monitor not included?

p.s.s. Newegg is definitely the best online retailer. Even better for those of us that live close as FedEx Saver usually works out to be overnight shipping.

Posted by: Little Kenny [] on August 11, 2006 4:37 PM

Don't discount Dell for providing good value at the high end too. They're now supplying plenty of dual core Intel & AMD machines (such as the 9200) that have plenty of power - very nice when combined with their 24" LCD! In general, pick the minimal configurations from the customisation form and add the beefier memory & drives yourself later, for that "DIY feeling". Plenty of Dell deals show up at:
Ben's Bargains:

Posted by: Rarb [] on September 17, 2006 10:53 PM
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