new comp advice

dara wrote on 6/16/2003, 9:34 AM
am in the market for a new comp. I'm above a hobbyist and below a full-time professional. I am not a comp savy, so I will be buying one instead of building one. what does everyone think about what's on the market right now? any recs? (other than the most power and memory I can afford).
I bow to the expansive knowledge out there. thanks


Jsnkc wrote on 6/16/2003, 10:00 AM
Obviously for vegas use you need the most processor power, the most ram, and the most hard drive space you can afford. The only other thing I would reccomend looking for is the expandability of the machine like how many PCI slots it has, can the processor be upgraded in the future if you want, things like that. I know when I used to buy computers (I build my own now) they would come with like 3 PCI slots, but the time you add a sound card, modem or network card, and firewire card, that's all you can get in there. I would look for at least 5 PCI slots, a 8X AGP slot to accomodate future graphics cards. And of course a DVD Burner.
BillyBoy wrote on 6/16/2003, 11:05 AM
[begin arm twisting mode]

The problem with buying a "branded" computer like Dell, Gateway or HP is you're pretty much stuck with what THEY put in the case. I'm not really talking video or expansion cards, there you have some choice, but all the big players cut corners and use lower grade motherboards, power supplies, cases and most still play the game if you want such and such model, then you also got to take this, this and this... even if you don't want it which bloats the price. Of course it boasts their profits, which is why they do it. Don't fall for the we build you a "custom" PC. That's pure bull. What they are really offering a handful of models. The models you see in retail stores are even worse. Frequently they use non standard parts (read dirt cheap, non standard) and you can't upgrade or will have difficulty.

Your other options are to build your own (simpler than in sounds) and you're not really building it, you simply assembling it and all you need is a Philips screwdriver. The only "hard" part is inserting the CPU into the socket (don't bend those tiny pins) and mouting the heatskink. Aside from that connecting a few connectors, installing the handful of parts, and then the OS. If that scares you, you can go the bare bones route where many companies sell the main parts as a package, the case, power supply, CPU and memory assembled. Some test burn, others don't. Varies company to company, there are hundreds if not thousands of companies on the web that do this, some more flexavle than others.

Then there is the custom route where some company (ususally a mom/pop operation) custom builts to your specifications. Price wise may cost as much or almost as much as a name brand BUT you get exactly the parts you want so money better spent because you can if you want get top of the line MB's drives, video cards, not some mass produced OEM MB or video card that Dell, Gateway, others buy 100,000 at a time and knock off several of the retail features first to save a few bucks.

Of course most people still buy a branded PC and they're pretty good, but don't forget much of your money is going for advertising, overhead, the packaging and almost always parts you don't want or in configurations that boost the profit of the company selling the computer, not the best combination for YOU the consumer.

Just something to thing about.

<end arm twisting>
riredale wrote on 6/16/2003, 11:05 AM
The nice thing about Vegas is that it runs on anything--it could probably be made to run on that internet-capable refrigerator I saw at Fry's last month.

Really, you can get pretty much anything. Of course, if you want world-class rendering speeds you can tout to your PC buddies over the barbeque this summer, you'll be looking at spending more money. You say you're above the "hobbyist" level, so that tells me you don't mind opening the case from time to time to add extra disk space or more RAM. All you'll need to get started however is a firewire plug-in card, 20+ GB of extra hard disk space, and a DVD burner if you want to do your own DVDs.

I built my own PC because I love this kind of techie stuff, and also because by doing so I can upgrade effortlessly, rather than buy a new box every 3 years. But you can boost the performance of a Dell or a Compaq substantially, too, so it's not a huge difference.
rebel44 wrote on 6/16/2003, 11:10 AM
that 2.4G system will do. Make shure that you have 2HD or one large partition so OS is located on one and video done on second. The "swap files" will interfere with capture and rendering. I have 1G system and works fine-no frame droping and sync no problem, but take me forever to render the video so faster system will speed up that process.Look for min 512M Ram(DDR). All new systems come with 7200RPM HD.
For OS 20G HD and second for video 80G or more. I would recommend ATI all-inone with TV tuner video card(AGP 4) for analog capture.
I would recommend LCD monitor(long hours looking at) at least 17.
Call Gateway and tell them what you want and they will installed for you. Most computers in store sold come with one hd and crappy video card.
watson wrote on 6/16/2003, 12:34 PM

I will chime in here and say:
It sounds like you don't want to build it yourself.
I like the idea of having your local small computer shop building it and telling them what you want and don't want.
Get a motherboard with 5 PCI slots p-4 CPU 3+..should be at a good price point. Buy brand name Memory at least a Gig.
avoid onboard Raid,video card or sound card.
The least problematic would be on-board sound.
300w power supply minimum. 400 or up would be better.
two IDE hard drives. 30gig for system and 120 gig for video drive. Have the video drive installed in a removable drive tray and have them explained to you how to add/remove additional hard drives when you need them. The you can swap out drives easily.

The reason I say a local computer dealer is that you can bring the box back if there is a problem. Talk to them and see what their return or warranty looks like.

If you tell me your price range I could recommend specific components.
remove the x in the above addy

dara wrote on 6/16/2003, 3:47 PM
thanks for all the info. as I imagined, there were some good arguments for building my own. I might go the local comp dealer route which sounds like a good compromise. I'm not sure how much I'm gonna spend. just from looking at the retail prices for extra bells and whistles (several front usb, zip, firewire, speed, expansion, memory . . .) looks in the 3000 range. is that a crazy amount (including monitor)?
thanks everyone
Chienworks wrote on 6/16/2003, 3:57 PM
Just curious, but what do you need the zip drive for? I consider it to be completely obsolete technology. We had about a dozen zip drives here at work and about 50 cartridges. A couple of years ago i transfered all the data to CD-Rs and tossed the drives & cartridges. They're very very very slow, quite expensive, and rather unreliable.

If i were in your position, i'd take the opportunity of getting a new computer to move all your old zip files over to CDs and toss the zip too.
RafalK wrote on 6/16/2003, 4:55 PM
dara, I bought a Dell, chose the fastest processor, as much RAM, and two more components that I asked for specifically were USB2.0 and a dual monitor video card, the best they had. I bought my own firewire card and my own sound card and that was it for the internal components. For everything else I use external USB ( ie Network adapter ).
I contemplated building my own but because I wanted to concentrate on Video and not the PC, I took an easy way out. No regrets so far.
BillyBoy wrote on 6/16/2003, 5:01 PM
Is $3000 high? Depends. You willing to gut your current PC and pull out its graphic card, hard drive, stuff like that? That can save you a lot as will reusing the case, power supply, maybe your current memory. Just to give you an example, what I'm about to do.

high end MB, P4 3.8 HT, CPU, 1 GB ultra fast 3200 DDR Case 2.0 400Mhz memory will set me back between $600-650 and I'll have a state of the art super fast system by guting my present main PC. I ALWAYS avoid getting the fastest CPU you can because you pay a hefty premium for a slightly faster system which you can easily make back or surpass by overclocking a little. Another advantage of building your own. Lots of luck finding any prebuild PC that alllows overlocking from the BIOS.

I'll save big $$$ by reusing the case, power supply, graphic card. The new MB will have IEEE 1394 USB, and a fast network card on the board, I also will switch out my hard drives, CD burner and DV burner. Already have Windows and a good monitor.

If you have someone build you one local ask if they are willing to use some of your old parts. Some will, some won't. Times are tough. Even if the guys charges you another $50 or so for the extra "labor" (get serious about 15 minutes "work" total), you'll be way ahead of the game.

There are things to watch for. For example if you're getting a P4 they need a 12V lead from the power supply. Newer power supplies have it, older ones probably won't. It also pays to read the fine print. I'll assume you're going to use it for video editing so it may be cheaper to find a model (or build one) that has IEEE 1394 (firewire) on the motherboard so you don't have to mess with an external card.

I wouldn't worry much about the graphic card unless you plan on using for gaming. Almost any newer card works fine. I would be sure to have 2 hard drives and if you need it a good monitor.
dara wrote on 6/16/2003, 6:13 PM
thanks for even more useful info. chienworks: appreciated the advice on zips, think I'll take that to heart. billyboy-think you're a bit outta my league comp-wise. love the idea of recycle, re-use, but will be starting from scratch.
RexA wrote on 6/16/2003, 6:42 PM
>>> (From BillyBoy)
Then there is the custom route where some company (ususally a mom/pop operation) custom builts to your specifications. Price wise may cost as much or almost as much as a name brand BUT you get exactly the parts you want so money better spent because you can if you want get top of the line MB's drives, video cards, not some mass produced OEM MB or video card that Dell, Gateway, others buy 100,000 at a time and knock off several of the retail features first to save a few bucks.

I had a computer assembled to my total specs recently. After some google searches I found Mark One Computers in Illinois ( Their prices seemed better than average and they have quite a selection to choose from. With shipping charges the box was less than parts prices from local dealers and I'm located in Silicon Valley.

I have no connection to this dealer, But I had a good experience. Just thought I'd mention it as an option. As I recall they have standard PC packages too, but I ignored this and picked everything myself.

BillyBoy wrote on 6/16/2003, 8:49 PM
Sounds good Rex. In fact these days you can extreme customize. Their are places that will put in neon lighting inside and put a window in the side panel to show off your computer guts (sounds a bit much to me) but heck, whatever floats your boat. You can get heavy aluminum cases with a high polish, (about $350) or have the case carved up with fan ports all over the place. Reminds of guys that chrome their car's parts and put risers (?) that make the car jump up and down, etc.. Even my local CompUSA is starting to stock kits to custimize the look of your PC.
kilroy wrote on 6/16/2003, 11:34 PM
Another thought is to consider having a separate system(s) for rendering, perhaps the system you intend to replace. This allows you to keep working *and* rendering at the same time. This can be more productive than having one fast workstation. The old saying, "many hands makes light work" applies here. Naturally you will need everything networked for this to be efficient, and/or make use of swappable drive bays if the files are huge consistantly huge.

Regarding firewire: avoid the Texas Instruments chip in favour of the VIA if you can. LaCie make very good cards and they are reasonably priced. Personally, I would not consider the lack of on board firewire to be a dealbreaker unless you are loathe to use a PCI slot fot this.

I would also suggest going external with any CD/DVD writers, either USB 2 or firewire. Sure, you are going to pay a little more, but the hot plug/portable advantage can be a significant one if you are working in a modular environment. And while I'm on about yourself a really huge favour and get a *good* burner. Speaking from a purely audio engineering perspective I can tell you that the accuracy and quality of burners are all over the map, and it sure doesn't help that the media itself is often no better. It's very frustrating for us when we burn three or four blanks of the same lot and all the freaking things sound different. Throw in a marginally acceptable burner and well...just realize that very few manufacturers have your best audio/video concerns close to their hearts. To most folks a burner is just a burner.

Food for thought...
dara wrote on 6/17/2003, 9:42 AM
good advice. I like the idea of networking. I'll keep that in mind.

you say "good" burner. you must have some thoughts on this one--whaddya like out there?
DavidPJ wrote on 6/17/2003, 5:17 PM
Although I've yet to purchase a DVD burner, I've spent a fair amount of time searching this web site for comments. People are happy with the Pioneer A05 and the Sony DRU-500A. Both Pioneer and Sony have recently introduced new models. The new Sony burner is shipping and the p/n is DRU-510A. The new Pioneer part number is an A06, but it's not shipping yet.

People like these drives because they support every current DVD format and they're reliable. Do a search on DVD burners in this forum to obtain lots of great info!
kilroy wrote on 6/17/2003, 8:26 PM

"you say "good" burner. you must have some thoughts on this one--whaddya like out there?"

Okay, here goes...and this will sound pretty eccentric at times but bear with.

First off, I personally would not put any burner that was responsible for burning audio/video masters in my computer...ever. I like them away alone by themselves some where. Away from other electrical components of any kind and safe from any static charges, bumps, vibration, dust, cat hair, absolutely anything. So this means an external drive.

I prefer SCSI models. If you have a SCSI system then its a no brainer, get an external SCSI drive. The ones I like best are Yamaha. I have an old CRW4416SX (SCSI/external) that still works perfectly and produces beautiful masters... providing you are feeding it good media that is. That's another whole issue in itself.

On the IDE side of things I have been impressed with the higher end Teac units. They are very pedestrian in their appearance but produce accurate masters and come with a burn proof technology that works well. That said, you should *never* be doing anything on the computer, that is hosting your burn hardware, at the same time you are burning any master you care about.
We use the CD-W512EB model. The newer one is a CD-W516EB, just faster really. Note that we don't use this drive for burning production masters. However, if the Yamahas broke I would be confident enough in the Teac to use it in a pinch. Another noteable thing with the Teac is it's snappy (for a CDRW) access times and *very* quiet operation. Nice for a multipurpose drive. If SCSI is a no go option for you then this would be the drive I could confidently endorse. Price wise they are very reasonable, especially given the performance and accuracy of the drive.

Lastly, the Sony DVDRW, which has been already mentioned. New model just out I believe, so grab the older version while they are still available. Same thing only a shade faster anyway. For anything you care about you will want to be burning sloooooowwww anyhow. Multi format capable and solid performance. Unlike their optical media, at least lately anyway, same with Quantegy. Inconsistant from disk to disk, very frustrating.

Oh, forgot the Alesis Masterlink. Good standalone device, sounds great, but you are going to drop alot more cash for this one. I believe these come with a Sony drive of some sort but I'm not certain of the particulars. This is a tried and proven piece of gear, favoured by numerous high profile engineers
craftech wrote on 6/18/2003, 7:53 AM

I think what happens in long threads is that the original post sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

If you are not doing this professionally and you don't have much computer knowledge then many of the above recommendations are not for you. That includes installing and configuring burners, etc.
You would be much better off buying a reasonably priced video editing computer from a name brand company. That way you have a warranty and tech support and there is nothing YOU added which would allow the company to pass the responsibility for recurring problems onto you. Despite the fact that many here would be more than willing to help you with hardware and/or software and/or configuration problems, it is unlikely that it would actually help you resolve them. I say that because in order to help a person with computer problems that person has to be able to convey the answers to technical questions to the person asking them. Despite the fact that many of us here (given enough information) can help, many times it still isn't enough for even the most technically minded to resolve the problem. Use the search feature to look at the myriad of past posts dealing with problems or just look through the past week's posts and you will see the same thing.
Read through the threads and see if that is your cup of tea. I doubt it.

The most reasonably priced unit I can think of at the moment which would more than suit your needs is the Sony VAIO Digital Studio PCV-RZ24G. It is a Pentium 4 2.66GH with 512MB of Ram, a DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW;CD-RW drive, a 40x CD drive, an nVidia GeForce MX 440 video card with a TV tuner, a 120GB ATA 100 hard drive, Sony Digital audio system, front panel Firewire/USB/S-Video/Composite/AV in-out and Rear panel in/out panel as well. It features one click DV tape to DVD burning. It also has a memory stick media slot, modem, net card, Windows XP Home, Adobe Premiere 6 LE, Screenblast Acid and Soundforge, Movie Shaker (which had automatic editing), and Veritas Record Now Max. Mpeg-2 rendering speed is 15.4fps. It also has a remote control. It does not include a monitor. It will not edit analog.
It was favorably reviewed in the July issue Computer Videomaker which is not yet on their website, but is available in magazine stores.
If you buy it, DO NOT buy it by using a low priced search engine. The search engine will invariably lead you into the hands of one of the sleazy vendors located in and around the New York City area. Buy it from an authorized Sony dealer which also has a generous return policy and NO HIDDEN CHARGES. There are only TWO which come to mind. They are and
For example Abt Electronics has it for $1429 after a $100 rebate. The shipping is free and there is no tax unless you live in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Indiana.

Hope that helps,

ericb wrote on 6/18/2003, 10:54 AM
My reasons for buying a Dell:

1. The three we have are very reliable. One I constantly added and removed applications and tested video configurations and it never even burped.

2. Price: most recent one had a great rebate so I paid $650 (no monitor) for a P4 2.4 gHz, 120G drive...etc etc. Very fast, very nice, no problems.

3. Construction: Sure they try to save money, but the new tool-less enclosure is great. It opens like a clam shell and I can add and removes drives and boards with just my fingers!

4. Support: Some have been critical of this, but I have always gotten great support. I crashed my brothers Dell on Thanksgiving evening (WindowsXP fault not Dell's). Their support walked me through an obscure editing of the registry which corrected the problem.
craftech wrote on 6/18/2003, 11:37 PM
As a follow up: is the other authorized Sony internet dealer I mentioned above. They have it for $1599, but they will happily pricematch Abt Electronics at $1529 with the same free shipping and no tax unless you live in Colorado. They don't have the $100 rebate posted on that site, but here is a link to the pdf file:$100VAIO_7-31-03.pdf

If you decide to order from abtelectronics you can get back another $20 by going to which is a portal to many stores including Abt Electronics. When you check out enter the following code: CatCity15 and Catalog City will issue you a $20 credit on your credit card for using them as a portal. The actual transaction will be through Abt Electronics and it is just like placing an order at their website. If you ordered from multiple vendors you get multiple confirmations from different vendors as separate orders. I ordered from two vendors a few months ago through Catalog City for a total of around $200 and got back $25 on my credit card from Catalog City. The current promotion is $20 off on $150.

craftech wrote on 6/19/2003, 9:39 PM
Videomaker just put the review I mentioned above on their website. The review is, however, condensed from the review in the magazine. Here it is: