It has been a while since I have had a computer and this blog has finally pushed my need for one over the edge. I have been using a mixture of my cell phone at home and the work computer to get my daily computing needs done. While it is an imperfect solution it has worked for me, mainly because I am cheap. I have a looming need for a new car and a lot of interest in various electronics so I tried to satisfy both as cheap as possible. My geek card might get taken away with this statement but I have lately found myself playing video games less and less as time goes on. It has been years since my Xbox couldn’t sate any video game hunger that I have had. With that in mind I didn’t feel relegated to the standard buying of PC parts and entertained less traditional means of computing. Right out of the gate I ruled out a laptop because I would have to spend at least $500 for a laptop that is worth it’s salt. I felt I would be better off sinking that amount of money on PC parts.
First option was the ASUS Transformer tf300. In multiple reviews (Engadget
) the tf300 offers the best bang for your buck for 10″ Android tablets. The pro’s of which are being able to lay in bed and watch Netflix or Hulu and it’s very capable of web surfing on the couch. Also with it packing a Tegra 3 processor and 1gb of RAM it would (hopefully) be a while before it became obsolete. The cons are what did this choice in. For starters there aren’t many good apps that would fully utilize the nice 10.1 inch screen. Also, while $380 is a bargain compared to the hardware that is in it I would also want a full keyboard which on the cheap side would cost around $50 and $150 for the specially designed laptop dock. At that price it is pushing the territory of a laptop which circles right back around to buying PC parts. There is the Kindle Fire for $200 and the Nook Tablet for $250 but anyone would be daft to buy them right now because of rumors of tablets twice as powerful for the same price are right around the corner and lets be honest; no tablet replaces the functionality of a PC.
Next up is the second option of buying a Zotac ZBox Nano AD10
. After coming to the conclusion that I don’t really desire to game on a computer I still wanted one that could functionally take over as an HTPC. After seeing an article on the newer model AD11 on Engadget
I found very favorable reviews on the older AD10 over at Hot Hardware
and found the bare bones model on Amazon
for $200. After slapping in 4gb of RAM and a 64gb SSD for an extra $100 to total would $80 less than the AD11 without a significant loss in performance. $300 for a very capable HTPC sounded like an excellent deal to me. That is until I looked up the cost to get a functioning traditional PC.
First I will list my assets because I do have parts from old PC’s lying around which will cut the cost of any build. I already have Windows 7, case, power supply, hard drive and possibly video card (8800GT). Bare minimum I need motherboard, processor and RAM. I spent a lot of time looking at Build a PC
sub-reddit and at Ars Technicas Bargin Box 2012
guide. I went through multiple setups seeing how much a competent gaming package would cost before finally settling on a rock bottom but upgradable package. for $190 (including shipping) I got a new DVD drive because none of the boards I looked at supported serial anymore. Intel Sandy Bridge G630, one stick of 4gb pc 1600 RAM, and the caveat was the motherboard that had USB 3.0 ports, both SATA 3 and SATA 6 slots, supports up to an Intel i7, and HDMI out in case my old video card didn’t work. If the video card does work it should be capable of running most games at resolution of my “monitor” at 720p if not it shouldn’t have a problem being a functional basic HTPC.
The reason I chose this over all the other options I looked at is:
- It’s the cheapest
- As an HTPC it beats the pants off of the Zbox
- It’s upgradable should I get the PC gaming bug again
- It’s cheaper to fix
In summation I would like to add that if I did not have all the extra parts lying around which dramatically lowered my cost I probably would have gone with the ZBox AD10 option. If you are looking for a cheap, quiet, functional HTPC and aren’t afraid to tinker with Linux or XBMC I really haven’t seen a better option. It really is a cool device and if you haven’t check it out yet I suggest you do.