Anyone buy a referb/renew PC tower?

felonious69

Well-known member
For absolute beginner recording, all I really need is a tower.
I was looking at laptops, but figured a tower would be more upgradeable(?)
I have a VGA monitor, and the accessories are a dime a dozen. (Mouse, Keyboard...)
I was researching and discovered SFF (Small Form Factor, I found out). Never knew about this until now.
How "expandable" are these SFFs? Where's a good place to look? We have Best Buy and Office Max/Depot. I won't shop at Staples.
There are some Dells and HPs I saw but,...
Totally not IT minded at all and I just wanna record some Bass guitar, throw in some rhythm and lead...work in drums from there. Don't have drum mics yet.
I do have the PreSonus Studio 68c as a starter and JBL 305P MKii powered monitor pair but I don't wanna get stuck with a PC I can't upgrade at least a little if necessary.

One I saw was:
$256.00
Dell OptiPlex 9020-SFF,
Intel Core i5-4570 3.2GHZ,
16GB RAM,
512GB SSD
Solid State,
DVDRW,
Windows 10 Pro 64bit (Renewed)
(4) USB 3.0, (6) USB 2.0
RJ-45, Serial Port, VGA, (2) Display Port, (2) PS/2 (Are the display ports HDMI shaped things?)
Keyboard and Mouse Included
Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit – Multi-language supports English/Spanish/French.

I know there are external HDs, but is there such a thing as external RAM and good (USB maybe) WiFi? It has an ethernet port but I would prefer wireless.

Just for starters this is what I have found so far.
I won't be recording albums...at least not for quite some time.

As always, the help and advise available here are AWESOME! And very much appreciated.
Thanks for EVERYTHING,
Bob
 

Old PIT Guy

Well-known member
I've had good luck with 2nd hand Lenovo products. I paid $175 shipped for a T430 Thinkpad (i5) from Ebay 3 years ago. I replaced the original drive with an SSD and doubled the ram. It's run flawless until this year when I had to order a new display cable from Japan to fix a dead screen. I have Linux on it. Nearly an identical scenario with the desktop. It's a crap shoot but better than spending 10x as much on a Mac and being locked-into the Apple sphere, which I was for some time.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I assume you’re using Presonus Studio One since you’re using one of their interfaces. Studio One is a good DAW (I use it), but like any software you need to immerse yourself into it to develop working knowledge of the program. For tracking (recording & writing/saving the audio to the hard drive), the specs are fine. For mixing you may need more RAM and greater processing power. This is because when you play back audio tracks and process the audio through plugins, the CPU processes everything in real time. Most plugins are CPU intensive, some are not. So, I’d recommend at least a quad-core i7 CPU.

16GB RAM is minimum. You may need to install more if possible.
The SSD is adequate, but as you dig into recording, you’ll run out of space so have external drive space available.
Display Port is older tech. HDMI is the current tech. Almost all new monitors have HDMI, but only a few will still have a Display Port input.
I prefer ethernet over WiFi when possible. You will need internet access because most plugin publishers use the iLok system to prevent piracy. iLok is accessed via the internet (iLok Cloud) or with an iLok USB dongle encrypted with your licensing info.

Hope this helps!
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
I am looking for something for the same sorta reason. I've never made vids or recorded myself. I'd like to give it a try. I was leaning towards a laptop.
Simply because of mobility, size, weight. However, I didn't even know they made these slim design units now. My PC crashed a couple weeks ago, this is what I replaced it with. NEW, looks similar to what you're looking for.

 

felonious69

Well-known member
A lot of folks here LOVE Amazon...Others here HATE Amazon.
That one example is from there.
The seller (according to reviews) is Blair Technologies.
Tons of good reviews too.
I guess I know that RAM-ability is contingent upon the mother board (I think) and I don't know how many slots are available...If this has a 4 x 4 or 2 x 8 or 1 x 16. What they used, how many free slots if any.
I assume processors can be upgraded, again, depending.
The free software (Tons of it) that came with the PreSonus...Studio One, Ableton live I haven't even delved into yet.
I have drums here, guitars and amps there, keyboard in another room with its amp...gotta consolidate.

I do know that the laptop I am typing on won't cut it.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
For absolute beginner recording, all I really need is a tower.
My recommendation:

Do not get a surplus/refurb office PC. Get an entry level Mac.


Our household currently has an iMac, two Macbooks (Air/Pro), and an HP Elite G3 800 i6700 series tower that I bought refurbished off an Amazon reseller. Using a Mac for audio production has been a godsend these last 8 years.

If I were forced to use the HP Elite to record, I'd probably just stop playing music. Loud fan. Performance is crippled by design. It looks upgradable, but the power supply isn't standard, making a high performance GPU an impossibility. It's insecure (Intel ME + no upgraded firmware available). It required a re-application of thermal compound as the OEM stuff dried and became ineffective. I've had to reseat the RAM twice. It came with a budget SATA SSD rather than the M2 it shipped with. It's really a piece of trash designed to churn out TPS reports... A 200watt Chromebook.
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
I like computers I build myself. For music and video the processor needs to be good in my opinion, for the various renderings, it also needs to have a good cooling system. The small computers, minuscule SSF, they can't contain a decent cooling system to encode and to run the processor at 100% for extended period of time.

I don't do professional music or anything but for my modest modifications and video editing, I find that the standard i5, from a recent generation, in a ATX case with a upgraded cooling system and a Asus motherboard is doing the job fine. 16gb of memory I have a 250gb SSD to install the operating system and a 2tb HDD to save the medias.. today it would probably be a 1tb SSD and a 4tb HDD. Personnaly I like to have a Blu-Ray burner for the reliability of the archives, I maintain my 2tb HDD half empty all the time with that.

Old style computer are easy to build, they are expensive but at least the components are from the latest generation, they will give better performance, longer against an operating system that updates itself every weeks.

In my opinion, laptops are too complicated to maintain, complicated to dismantle to clean the CPU fan, limited cooling system, it takes time to find the replacement parts, etc..

The tower is easier to manage and to clean but after a couple of years only, major parts are discontinued like the CPU socket and the type of memory, or you still can get the memory but it's going to be outrageously expensive. That's why I prefer to buy new and build myself.

If this can help..
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
I sold computers for years and the advice I gave then still holds true today: buy the very best that you can afford.

My DAW is a decade old Dell 7010 SFF and it's more than up to the job. An SSD is important as is a decent amount of RAM and a capable CPU. I recommend an Intel i7 over anything else, and 16 GB of memory. You're highly unlikely to ever run out of memory at that amount.

Macs are great but they're expensive and not always upgradeable, at least affordably. I own one but it isn't better at anything than my PC.

I'd suggest:

Intel i7 CPU
16 GB RAM
1 TB SSD

HDMI/DisplayPort doesn't really matter in a DAW. As long as you can connect your monitor to it, you're good to go.
 

felonious69

Well-known member
As usual, you folks are AWESOME!
I had a "set" cash limit...but I think I am gonna have to sneak some extra out of my magic money box and gather a specs list to buy new.
I'll just have to tell the GF: "Hey!...Look over there!".

I don't want to use a laptop because:
laptops are too complicated to maintain, complicated to dismantle to clean the CPU fan, limited cooling system, it takes time to find the replacement parts, etc..
I did find a pretty detailed article about building one, with pretty detailed info INCLUDING his list of preferred components, but I'm not sure I'm confident I can/should build one myself.
I also didn't bookmark the article because I am a former blonde and haven't been able to find that one again. Lots of articles are vague...I guess with the assumption that we are all IT minded. I know that all things considered have to work well together.

Also, with parts (and computers too) there are just SO MANY OPTIONS!

Will keep looking forward>>
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Curious:
Intel vs Ryzen processor
Intel. Because they’re the standard for that platform.

Unless you’re an Apple freak, then wait a few years until their proprietary ARM chip design is established in their computers. (I predict big changes due to Apple designing their own hardware).
 

wraub

Well-known member
I have bought several refurb electronic items over the years. I have not been disappointed at all.
If anything, a lot of refurb items have actually been individually inspected and repaired, if needed. Greater attention is given to it vs. just any other one rolling down the production line. There may also be additional warranties available because of this.
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
Curious:
Intel vs Ryzen processor
Ryzen all the way. For the past 2 years or so, practically every tech channel on Youtube have been recommending Ryzen over Intel because Intel has been lagging behind in terms of value and performance.

I built my own PC 2 years ago and used a Ryzen 2600 processor. It's awesome. Very fast and great for multitasking. Also, I just recently got a Dell G5 SE laptop with a Ryzen 4800H processor and it blows my 2600 out of the water, which is really saying something because the 2600 is not slow. AMD has been knocking it out of the park. The bottom line is.....Ryzen processors are currently faster and cheaper than Intel's.

If you're considering building your own PC, I can help steer you in the right direction. I learned a lot when I built mine.

@cbphoto, this unlikely scenario of AMD beating Intel hasn't happened for like 15 years, but they're clearly the better choice right now.
 
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KamaK

Platinum Member
Unless you’re an Apple freak, then wait a few years until their proprietary ARM chip design is established in their computers. (I predict big changes due to Apple designing their own hardware).
I'm not entirely convinced the "wait for new tech to mature" wisdom applies in this instance.

The chip's core tech has existed for a decade in iPhone/iPad, and in prototype for desktops for several years.
The DAW software has been running on the chip for years (ie: Garageband on iPhone/iPad)
The performance delta between the M1 and X86_64 (in GB/Logic) is pretty significant. Roughly tripling the number of simultaneous tracks/plugins. (See this at ~17min mark)

The only reason to wait is going to be those of us that want M-based iMac and Pro lines, which should be performance monsters (fingers crossed).

My main concerns with the new M-series Macs are that the SDD isn't going to last forever (mitigate by using an external drive) and that the TIM/thermal compound is going to have to be replaced in ~7 years.
 
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cbphoto

Gold Member
The only reason to wait is going to be those of us that want M-based iMac and Pro lines, which should be performance monsters (fingers crossed).

My main concerns with the new M-series Macs are that the HDD isn't going to last forever (mitigate by using an external drive) and that the TIM/thermal compound is going to have to be replaced in ~7 years.
Regarding my Apple ARM remark, I’m merely dreaming. @felonious69 needs something soon to get his feet wet without spending fat stacks.

My hope for Apple’s venture into the SoC biz, is that they will continue to think outside the box and produce system tech that redefines how a computer is designed on the inside, and how we use it on the outside. The sapphire touch surface is a good example of using a SoC for an interface function. There wasn’t anything on the market like what they needed, so they built it. The other one, which I haven’t heard much about, is the T2 security chip on the recent Mac Pros. I believe personal computer security (ie., total system encryption) will become the norm in a year or two.

How long do you keep your computers? 10 years? The only time anyone ever got worried about thermal glue was when I took apart my son’s PS4 to clean it. The glue had failed and my kid freaked.

Another dream of mine is that every tech company takes their old gear on a trade-in or, at the very least, send an empty box to get it recycled (like Apple does). Otherwise...

F5F0000E-FFFB-4574-BD00-7729D46B89D2.jpeg
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
How long do you keep your computers? 10 years? The only time anyone ever got worried about thermal glue was when I took apart my son’s PS4 to clean it. The glue had failed and my kid freaked.
I have a 5 year rotation. Every ~5 years I get the new stock 27" iMac, my old iMac goes into the kid's office, the old office iMac gets tossed (sometimes repurposed). So I guess it's yes and no regarding the 10-year-question. With Macs, the TIM issue is a bit odd. At 7-10 years, you will gradually notice more fan noise, coinciding with a drop in performance due to thermal throttling, and finally, you'll start getting the odd reboot/shutdown. When I go to repurpose after 10 years, I typically have to rebuild the thing, clean it, replace batteries (PRAM), replace TIM, re-flow that one broken USB connector that only works if you apply downward pressure, etc.

We have similar rotations for iPhones and Macbooks. We have current generation SE's, the kids have the old locked-down 6S's connected to wifi for Angry Birds and school apps. Despite my spouse and I both being employed, we typically refrain from buying Apple's expensive flagship models, and stick to the base/entry phones and macs.
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
As usual, you folks are AWESOME!
I had a "set" cash limit...but I think I am gonna have to sneak some extra out of my magic money box and gather a specs list to buy new.
I'll just have to tell the GF: "Hey!...Look over there!".

I don't want to use a laptop because:

I did find a pretty detailed article about building one, with pretty detailed info INCLUDING his list of preferred components, but I'm not sure I'm confident I can/should build one myself.
I also didn't bookmark the article because I am a former blonde and haven't been able to find that one again. Lots of articles are vague...I guess with the assumption that we are all IT minded. I know that all things considered have to work well together.

Also, with parts (and computers too) there are just SO MANY OPTIONS!

Will keep looking forward>>
I stick with component and name with a good reputation: A good quality power supply, Asus motherboard supporting UHD, Intel CPUs with UHD graphics, an extra large air heat sink and fan for the CPU, Kingston Memory, Western Digital or Seagate HDDs, Western Digital or Samsung SSDs, LG or Asus Blu-Ray, ATX tower.

You can add a video card later if you need one for video and 3D purposes, the CPU already has built in graphics, just much weaker but it's saving a couple of bills initially.

I never had any problems with Intel based systems, and always liked these machines so I stick with that, it'smy guide line. Picking the CPU and the Motherboard is the trickiest part, usually there is a best quality/price CPU in the store for the i3, i5 and i7. For instance, at my local store, they still sell 9th generation for the i5 and 10th generation for the i3, i5 and i7 Intel processors. The 9th is less expensive and a bit older but it's recent enough in my opinion, that's what I would pick to save some money.

It my case, the right processor would probably be the i5-9400 / 65w (275CAD) with UHD graphics with a matching standard Asus motherboard (+-135CAD) including no overclocking options, again, most likely it's going to be best seller motherboard in the store.

These webpages with all the processors infos, very useful.

Personally I think the i3s are hugely underrated. I would also consider the i3 10100 (183$) The least expensive i7 my local store has is a i7 10700 , 558CAD that's a lot of initial investment if you don't really know what to do with it.

Usually the technicians at the store they build for free and they give 1 year warranty you don't get when you build yourself.
 

felonious69

Well-known member
Regarding my Apple ARM remark, I’m merely dreaming. @felonious69 needs something soon to get his feet wet without spending fat stacks.

My hope for Apple’s venture into the SoC biz, is that they will continue to think outside the box and produce system tech that redefines how a computer is designed on the inside, and how we use it on the outside. The sapphire touch surface is a good example of using a SoC for an interface function. There wasn’t anything on the market like what they needed, so they built it. The other one, which I haven’t heard much about, is the T2 security chip on the recent Mac Pros. I believe personal computer security (ie., total system encryption) will become the norm in a year or two.

How long do you keep your computers? 10 years? The only time anyone ever got worried about thermal glue was when I took apart my son’s PS4 to clean it. The glue had failed and my kid freaked.

Another dream of mine is that every tech company takes their old gear on a trade-in or, at the very least, send an empty box to get it recycled (like Apple does). Otherwise...

View attachment 99678
I know that where I live, there is a requirement that stores that sell a certain amount of electronics ( I know it applies to monitors) are required to provide recycle services. Best buy used to give you 10 bucks store credit/monitor...then a bit later they just had ya drop them off for free (where municipalities usually charge you). BB accepted anything up to 32 inch I think.
Anything larger than that has to go to the city, and the city charges a recycle fee. For anything with coolant too...Fridge, AC...they charge...Microwaves too I believe because of the magnetron tube.
Goodwill also has computer drop off. Some stores have a guy that can refurb 'em with the Ubuntu, otherwise they get stripped down.
 
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