All-in-One: Toshiba DX735

We haven't seen any of Gateway or Sony's systems in house yet, but between the three all-in-ones we've tested so far, Toshiba's DX735 has been my favorite. Toshiba's touchscreen experience may be about as rudimentary as it gets, but the DX735 isn't about frills and doesn't suffer from the kinds of schizophrenic configurations and design decisions that the competing all-in-one systems have. It's also the least expensive of the lot and the display isn't horrible (which is more than we can say for the Dell Inspiron One we looked at).

A lot of the problem with the other systems is that they're weird chimeras of desktop processors and mobile graphics, making the whole user experience feel a bit top heavy. You're paying more for a CPU that is likely going to be underused, and the graphics still feel like second-class citizens; I appreciated the DX735 for being a capable internet appliance and not having the kinds of perplexing configurations the competing all-in-ones had (not to mention the fact that it doesn't cook the hard drive the way the Dell Inspiron One does). You can certainly find cheaper All-in-One offerings, but only if you're willing to compromise on other elements (e.g. the display, performance, and/or build quality).

Recommended Configuration: DX735-D3201
Available in retail for $899


Budget Desktop: AVADirect Desktop PC Fusion FM1

This is the one category where I'm not able to make a recommendation based on personal experience with the hardware itself. While I feel like Llano's utility on the desktop is at least somewhat questionable, at the bottom end of the market it feels like the best deal. AMD's concept of a "balanced system" has some flaws, but at its core it's a fundamentally sensible one. I've seen too many people get hamstrung by a weak IGP in a low-end system; in the end you're going to wind up having to spend more money if you ever decide you want to game on a Sandy Bridge or AM3/AM3+ system, but if you absolutely must save money now and don't want to have to invest later, Llano is the way to go.

So why go with AVADirect in this instance? Of the boutiques I've worked with, they're among the best reviewed, and with their Llano-based desktop you get a $500 starting price for a decent system and a strong 3-year warranty along with better, more personalized customer service than you're apt to get going with a major vendor like HP or Dell. While I'm not a fan of the bottom rung HEC power supply, you're at least guaranteed three years of value and it should be enough to handle whatever minor upgrades you may want to pop into the system down the line. I'd just go with the baseline configuration and maybe make a minor tweak here or there; 4GB of DDR3 is cheap enough to upgrade to and you should be good to go.

Recommended Configuration: Baseline plus 4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600
Available from AVADirect at ~$500

Introduction Midrange and High End Desktops
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  • tomek1984 - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    "Sometimes there are also situations where we'd be better off just recommending a pre-built desktop to family than damning ourselves to being tech support at all hours for the next few years"

    I gave up recommending/building custom computers for my family/friends long time ago, it doesn't get me laid if it works well but if doesn't I become 24/7 support tech. Average user doesn't need latest and greatest hardware, because they simply don't know how to take advantage of it any way. So even though i don't believe it myself when I get a question "where should i buy a new computer", i just tell them Bestbuy or Wallmart, it saves me a lot of headache later on
  • Iketh - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    I'd rather see a laptop buyer's guide. That's what I recommend the average user buy nowadays (and they prefer it anyway).
  • superccs - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    You can substitute the 3Gbs drive for the 6Gbs drive and save enough to get the 4gb memory upgrade and a Hyper212 HSF at no added cost.

    No bulldozer systems? : / Such a shame. Global foundries conspiracy.
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, December 1, 2011 - link

    Of course there are no Bulldozer systems. These are supposed to be systems someone might actually want to buy.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, December 1, 2011 - link

  • AmishPcFreak - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    So my 19 year old unemployed brother-in-law needed a new system (he had asked me to build one for him previously and I deferred graciously) and this past weekend I helped him get this system from Office Depot on black Friday:

    HP Pavilion p7-1108p Desktop Computer With AMD A4-3400 Dual-Core, 6GB Ram, 1 Terabyte HD, Windows 7 64 bit--- no monitor, total cost $380

    It was using integrated graphics of course, but it has a PCI express slot and I donated an old 8800GTS card I had lying around gathering dust.

    Whammo! Once the card was installed he was cruising at super fast speeds playing his steam games like a fool.

    Told him 'get a job' and left the room. Hope that keeps him covered for a while and the GTS holds out.
  • aylafan - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Did you wait in line on Black Friday to buy this? Costco/Sam's Warehouse is selling the HP Pavilion - AMD A6 Processor Quad-Core, 6GB Ram, 750-1Terabyte HD, Windows 7 64 bit for $399. If you wanted a 22 inch widescreen monitor with it then it is an extra $100. Maybe, the price is exclusively in my area, but it's extremely cheap.
  • johnnype - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Thanks for this article. I'd love to build my own system but real life makes such a task inconvenient to say the least. In fact real life is all but forcing me to forget gaming on a desktop and go with a laptop instead even though I promised I'd never do it again after the last XPS I bought many moons ago.

    So, any advice on a good sub $1500 gaming laptop? I'm about to pull the trigger on a Cyberpower X6-9300 and up the RAM to 8GB for a total cost of $1388 but I'll pass if you think it's a bad idea. Thoughts?
  • frozentundra123456 - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    I am happy that someone addressed the fact pre-built systems do have their place. I would, however, agree that the prices are pretty high for the categories he selected.

    Also, for low end prebuilt systems, I think most people would be satisfied with a Dell or HP from Best Buy another B/M retailer. Even Costco has a nice selection of PCs and I believe they extend the warranty for another year. Personally, unless I was buying a gaming PC, I would rather look for a good sale at a local store and not have to deal with shipping, especially if a return or repair is needed.

    I also thought that a table or chart would have been nice summarizing the components for each system (CPU, ram, graphics, HDD) rather than having to go to the manufacturer's site to look up the detailed configuration. I also was confused if the price he listed for each configuration included a monitor, and if so what size and kind.
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Not sure how the Euro-Dollar conversion works out at the moment (usually 1:1 in the past), but I built my brother a PC at the beginning of this year that was kinda high-end (X6 1090, HD6950, 8GB, pretty much silent). He is playing BF3 on high @1080 easily. That worked out to be 900€. And yes, that is with a case, PSU, ODD, HDD etc. as well, not just upgrade of the CPU/GPU.
    Anything above that component list (replace the AMD CPU with an Intel 2500k if you want or the HD6950 with a GTX570), I consider in the territory of enthusiasts who either need to drive a 27"/30" panel or do professional work on the PC.

    So, saying 1k$ (or even 1.2k$) is anywhere near the realm of midrange, is hard to believe.

    And on that Pudget system, does it even have a dedicated GPU? Buying quality is fine, but that's just a rip off.

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