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Productivity PC Tips?

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neversay
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Productivity PC Tips?

#254340

Postby neversay » September 27th, 2019, 1:40 pm

I need a PC upgrade as improvements in my productivity (in my own business) are worth more than the annoyance I'm having with my current PC.

Existing
- Lenovo A540 AIO Intel Core i5-4258U CPU @ 2.4 Ghz, 8 Gb RAM, 1Tb HD, 23.8" touchscreen, windows 10 (bought March 20
- It is slowing up, grinding and getting warmer (hitting fan noise), outdated drivers etc.
- Passing this on to my daughter as a learning/homework pc.

Requirements
- Productivity (not gaming) to run multiple productivity applications
- Windows 10
- Large screen real-estate (one monitor, for applications side by side)
- Must be fast for file access
- Quiet and preferably 'green'
- Ideally Tower with small footprint for under desk (no fancy lights)
- Capable of sourcing separately (particularly monitor)
- Not worth me building my own unless it saves a fortune
- Budget say up to £1k inc monitor (although wondering how much noticeable improvement that would buy)
- No DVD, etc

Spec?
- Processor?
- 16Gb memory
- 34" ultrawide monitor (e.g. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Samsung-LS34J552WQUXEN-34-Inch-LED-Monitor/dp/B07HLKSTN1/r)
- 500Gb SSD for OS and front-end file speed (already daily files sync'd through dropbox or onedrive)
- 1Tb or 2Tb HD for back-up and longer term storage (already backing up to RAID Synology drive)

Questions

Can anyone suggest any good suppliers and specifications?

Many thanks,

N.

Infrasonic
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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254357

Postby Infrasonic » September 27th, 2019, 2:52 pm

Swapping the current HDD out for an SSD would make a world of difference to the responsiveness of your current PC, the specs aren't that bad.
https://cc.cnetcontent.com/inlineconten ... 8a_doc.pdf
https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Lenovo+Ide ... ent/103221

Clone the HDD to it using Macrium Reflect or clean install W10 from an MCT USB drive.
https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree
https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/softwar ... /windows10
https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/237 ... -10-a.html

neversay
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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254361

Postby neversay » September 27th, 2019, 3:06 pm

Infrasonic wrote:Swapping the current HDD out for an SSD would make a world of difference to the responsiveness of your current PC, the specs aren't that bad.
https://cc.cnetcontent.com/inlineconten ... 8a_doc.pdf
https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Lenovo+Ide ... ent/103221

Clone the HDD to it using Macrium Reflect or clean install W10 from an MCT USB drive.
https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree
https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/softwar ... /windows10
https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/237 ... -10-a.html


Thanks @Infrasonic. That is an option and I am very grateful.

The move to a 34" widescreen 'real-estate' is the main productivity benefit. However, an issue with the current box being an All-In-One means is that I can't upgrade to a larger monitor and it doesn't natively allow HDMI out (although I know adapters are possible). The location of small desk and monitor on window-sill doesn't lend itself to two monitors.

(It would also mean I can't hand the existing one to my daughter but that's a secondary consideration)

I just tried Dell and they suggested the following:

https://www.dell.com/en-uk/work/shop/de ... a306b87e73 (which is typically expensive Dell)

https://www.dell.com/en-uk/work/shop/de ... p/bd347007 (which doesn't seem much of an improvement on my current one).

As I have been out of PC buying for so long, I've no idea what would give me the bang for the buck. Your observation implies that I'm not getting much benefit for the money* so SSD would work. However, I'm still stuck with the monitor size.

Thanks again,

N.

(* business purchase so I get VAT back plus depreciation)

PrincessB
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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254403

Postby PrincessB » September 27th, 2019, 6:03 pm

I can do the spec. I do build my own stuff, so this might get a bit messy, this is based on what I'd buy from your wishlist.

- 34" ultrawide monitor


Be careful here. Ultrawides of that size look super sci-fi, they do lack a bit in height and this might be problematic if you do a lot of document work.

A 32" 16:9 might be more suitable - I've got a HP Pavilion 32" which pretty usable for £380. Still when we talk about screens bigger is always better!

Would you like one of these instead:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Samsung-LC43J8 ... 133&sr=1-3

I would too, but we've done more than half the budget. Never a problem, we can chop about and as you don't need an expensive graphics card we have money to play with.

- Processor?

Bit of a curve ball on this one. How about an AMD 3400G for £150.
The plus is that it is a relatively quick quad core with some decent on board graphics. It also does some extra tricks and can pretend to be an octal core processor just like an Intel i7. Comes with decent cooling fan. Might not fit a slim box though.

- 16Gb memory

Memory is about £5 per Gb at the moment. I'm seeing a noticable difference in performance between 8 and 16Gb machines I own. Personally I'd just do 32Gb and have done with it.

- 500Gb SSD for OS and front-end file speed (already daily files sync'd through dropbox or onedrive)


Samsung 500Gb 850 EVO drives are about £70, laptop sized rather than the chewing gum sized M2 drives.

- Quiet and preferably 'green'


I sold one of my old machines this week to someone who wanted a desktop for his daughter. We set it up on the kitchen table and...

I used an Micro ATX case with huge cooling solutions and when we ran the machine to absolute full power, graphics card and processor both at 100% and running fans hard, we noticed the fridge was making more noise than the PC.

Do you wish silence? It costs a bit more but I think it is worth it. A bigger case allows for more cooling and while those little slimline cases look the business, an old school micro ATX case with some thought offers plenty of space for later developments.

No DVD, etc


A DVD drive in a case wide enough to accept one will cost about £15 more. If the system does go weird and won't boot, you'll find it easier to have a recovery DVD than a recovery USB stick.

You don't want external speakers, but think about those useful Windows noises, a Display with sound should be a must.

HTH,

B.

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254417

Postby BobbyD » September 27th, 2019, 7:06 pm



Currently running 2 Dell 27" monitors to give a 5120x1440 desktop. Absolutely perfect for working with multiple windows/documents. Stepped up from a 27" primary and a 24" secondary with the intention of running all three. The 24" is still sat on the floor behind the desk 6 months later. More pixels than the 34" UW and the small bezel (monitors placed at an angle so one bezel covers the other) is barely noticable and falls at a natural 'break point' between documents anyway.

neversay wrote:- Ideally Tower with small footprint for under desk (no fancy lights)


I really like m-itx as a format, although this might be more difficult if you are looking for pre-assembled. My PC basically has the footprint of it's psu, the 6"x6" mobo sits above this.

neversay wrote:- Processor?


Can you quantify the amount of extra oomph you are looking for?

neversay wrote:
- 500Gb SSD for OS and front-end file speed (already daily files sync'd through dropbox or onedrive)


I really don't like having data and an OS on the same drive. If windows goes stale or slightly mad I want to be able to reinstate a previous image without bothering about losing any data. Given the going rate for a 250GB SSD is about £25 atm I'd definitely put windows on one of those and pick up another, or a 500GB drive for your data.

neversay
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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254427

Postby neversay » September 27th, 2019, 8:28 pm

Goodness me. I'm overwhelmed by your kind and helpful responses. Thank you.

So much to decide...

Monitors - Point take on ultrawides (thanks) and built-in sound (thanks). That's a tricky one as the current AOI screen is too small but I can't go too large in the window I'm currently using (or my wife will not be happy :twisted: ). The plan is to build an office on the side of the house that could afford me as much wall space as I need. However, that may not be for another year and I need screen real-estate asap! (Possibly buy a 32" 16:9 then consider another in the new office?!)

Processors - hard to quantify the oomph, just the need to feel no-lag, e.g. when opening and closing apps. I normally disable window animations etc. The AMD 3400G sounds good and graphics ability a plus if my 9-year-old son every inherits it for gaming when he's older.

Memory - at that price 16Gb a minimum and yet to 32Gb "and be done with it". I work a lot through Chrome which loves memory.

Drives - I agree on separating the OS and filestore and like the SSD 250Gb OS plus 500Gb data idea.

Case - the Micro ATX case with cooling sounds good but silence would be great I and space under the desk. Plus future upgradeability is a plus.

DVD - partly left out as I have a tiny external DVD/RW knocking around.

Any tips on suppliers for this sort of config? (happy to assemble myself if it's a straightforward job)

Thank you again,

N.

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254437

Postby BobbyD » September 27th, 2019, 9:07 pm

neversay wrote:Monitors - Point take on ultrawides (thanks) and built-in sound (thanks). That's a tricky one as the current AOI screen is too small but I can't go too large in the window I'm currently using (or my wife will not be happy :twisted: ). The plan is to build an office on the side of the house that could afford me as much wall space as I need. However, that may not be for another year and I need screen real-estate asap! (Possibly buy a 32" 16:9 then consider another in the new office?!)


Pick your monitor for it's picture. If you need to add a cheap speaker just for system sounds, or decide to spend a little more then so be it the £10+ it will cost won't make a dent in the system price, but compromising arguably the most important component in a PC to get one that comes with a £10 speaker built in makes no sense. Little loved and little used bits you have to have but don't want to look at all day are exactly why God invented the back of monitors and sticky back velcro.

For an idea of horizontal space requirements my 2 27" monitors not so much set up as happened to start in an ideal position, toed in enough to be beneficial but not to save space take up 115cm side to side.

Personally I'd be concentrating on what I want at the end of the day, and the best waypoint if it isn't immediately doable. Doing it the other way around might lead to regrets later on.

neversay wrote:Processors - hard to quantify the oomph, just the need to feel no-lag, e.g. when opening and closing apps. I normally disable window animations etc. The AMD 3400G sounds good and graphics ability a plus if my 9-year-old son every inherits it for gaming when he's older.


Your i5-4258u has a passmark score of 4090, an i5-8400 (chosen purely because I'm familiar with it) has a passmark score of 11,579. Combined with stepping over to ssd, increase in memory etc. I'm reasonably confident you'd notice the difference.

neversay wrote:Case - the Micro ATX case with cooling sounds good but silence would be great I and space under the desk. Plus future upgradeability is a plus.


Apart form possibly adding more drives or a Graphics card, either of which would fit in an m-itx, what might you want to fit in the case? I used to have big towers crammed with drives, these days my phone has more processing power and more storage than they had... Even with 4 drives and a decent GC about half my case is still air. One of the beauties of small format cases is that because space is more limited it tends to be used much more intelligently.

neversay wrote:Any tips on suppliers for this sort of config? (happy to assemble myself if it's a straightforward job)


I always build, so I won't comment on system suppliers. If you want a benchmark to judge their value against I knocked this up using cheap, but still brand name components based on your original post.

https://uk.pcpartpicker.com/list/jKGscq

Compatability is based purely on what PC Part picker thinks is compatible.

Leaves you about £200 to bank or, upgrade as and where you see fit, although I have a nagging feeling I've forgotten something obvious.

It's not the OS though, that's what ebay is for.

Itsallaguess
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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254440

Postby Itsallaguess » September 27th, 2019, 9:31 pm

You can buy brilliant non-gaming PC's that will happily sit on the back of your monitor nowadays, and still take a desktop CPU with all the trimmings except a gaming gfx card.

The last PC I built was an AS-Rock DeskMini 110, with a desktop i5 in it (it'll take a desktop i7 at some point in the future...), 32GB of RAM, an M2 SSD, and two other SSD drives for back-up and storage. Windows 10 pro finished off the build, and it's a flying machine.

It's clearly the fastest and quietest PC I've ever owned, and even at full pelt it only uses around 60 Watts or so.

I probably wouldn't recommend that exact model now (although I'd personally buy another one tomorrow if I needed a replacement), as it's a few years old and more advanced DeskMini models are available, I think, but I only mention this in case you're keen to save further space by going even smaller than you're currently thinking...

An idea of the size of my DeskMini 110 - they are about the size of a desktop power-supply - https://assets.hardwarezone.com/img/2016/04/asrock-intel-deskmini.jpg

Cheers,

Itsallaguess

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254449

Postby tsr2 » September 27th, 2019, 9:53 pm

neversay wrote:Processors - hard to quantify the oomph, just the need to feel no-lag, e.g. when opening and closing apps. I normally disable window animations etc. The AMD 3400G sounds good and graphics ability a plus if my 9-year-old son every inherits it for gaming when he's older.


Most of the lag will be dragging program/data off a 5400 RPM "spinning rust" disk. An SSD will remove 90% of the lag, I'm not sure the processor makes much difference, but I will defer to those who build their own PCs?

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254456

Postby gryffron » September 27th, 2019, 11:35 pm

Supplier, I used to buy numerous work computers from cclonline. Always found them excellent to work with. You can buy their standard models or configure your own.

Gryff

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254469

Postby torata » September 28th, 2019, 3:30 am

neversay wrote:I need a PC upgrade as improvements in my productivity (in my own business) are worth more than the annoyance I'm having with my current PC.

Existing
- Lenovo A540 AIO Intel Core i5-4258U CPU @ 2.4 Ghz, 8 Gb RAM, 1Tb HD, 23.8" touchscreen, windows 10 (bought March 20
- It is slowing up, grinding and getting warmer (hitting fan noise), outdated drivers etc.
- Passing this on to my daughter as a learning/homework pc.


It seems like you've aleady made the decision to pass it on, but a complete reinstall of Win 10 made a massive difference to my PC. (Actually the reinstall was forced on me by the upgrade to 1903 that broke almost everything, but that's another story).

I was so impressed by the difference, I've now set up my PC so that all data (including stuff that usually sits in C:\Users\<Username>\AppData) are completely separate from OS (before it was maybe 80% separation) and will happily do complete reinstalls in future if I feel it may improve performance.

torata

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254566

Postby madhatter » September 28th, 2019, 12:11 pm

It seems like you've aleady made the decision to pass it on, but a complete reinstall of Win 10 made a massive difference to my PC.


Even if a definite decision has already been made to pass it on, it would seem that a complete reinstall is still a good idea, in that the next owner would be handed a machine that should then be running much better, and it would still be interesting to see how much improved it was.

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254570

Postby ReformedCharacter » September 28th, 2019, 12:21 pm

One tip worth considering is to make a Macrium clone of a new installation as soon as it has been set up with all the applications required. It's a lot easier to restore than a complete OS\software re-install and gives back the performance that general use seems to take away.

RC

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254597

Postby stewamax » September 28th, 2019, 3:24 pm

Visit Chillblast. I have had half-a-dozen tower machines from them in the past three years or so - all but one with low-noise cases (the odd one out was more-or-less built to my awkward spec - and they were helpful in my doing so).
Usual disclaimers (but satisfied customer)

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254602

Postby nicster » September 28th, 2019, 3:47 pm

I 2nd the rec of Chillblast, had several pc's of them over the years (for me and family). There are several UK builders that get good reviews in PC pro magazine. Chillblast, pcspecialist, yoyotech, cyberpower all have machines that feature regularly.

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254603

Postby TheMotorcycleBoy » September 28th, 2019, 4:03 pm

Just install a 64bit Linux OS.

Sent from my 7 year old i7 running Ubuntu 18.04 :ugeek:

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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#254611

Postby mc2fool » September 28th, 2019, 4:43 pm

neversay wrote:The move to a 34" widescreen 'real-estate' is the main productivity benefit.

I have to agree that more screen real estate is most definitely a boon. Depending on what you actually use your PC for though you may consider 2 (or more) monitors rather than just one very wide one. Every main system I've had for must be 30 years now has had two 19" 4:3 screens, as does my main PC right now (1280x1024 each).

One advantage of multiple screens is that you can orient them so that you are square on to each one as you look at it. Of course, the disadvantage is that if you want to spread a window across them there's the edges of the monitors in the middle, but as that's a very rare occurrence for my usage it's not a problem.

Two smaller screens tend to be cheaper than a humongous one too, and also gives you the opportunity to dual port them (assuming they have two inputs). E.g. my two are connected to both my W10 system and my (now very rarely used) XP system, and I can select the input on each (with their OSDs) to have both monitors on one or the other PC, or one on each. Also with two, if one breaks you can keep on working. :D

As an aside, I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Bloomberg European HQ last weekend (the first time I've been lucky in an Open House London ballot!), and, while there were a variety of configurations, most desks on the floors we were taken round had 4 large portrait oriented monitors (I'm guessing 32" each).

It's an impressive building and setup. Less so was that the vast majority of the monitors were on and displaying stock ticker info and the like, even though there was nobody there, and I thought it was a bit crap to build what is claimed to be the most sustainable building in the UK, even having presence detectors that turn off the lights when nobody is around, and not have inactivity timers set up that turn off monitors when not in use....

neversay
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Re: Productivity PC Tips?

#255909

Postby neversay » October 4th, 2019, 4:50 pm

A week flew by and, being on the road, I didn't get to thank you all again for your contributions to this thread.

Now I'm home, I am following all your advice and have done a cleardown and Windows 10 refresh on the current PC which has improved matters somewhat. I'm planning a displaylink to extend to a second monitor until which time I plan my source my intended set-up based on your suggestions. Reserving Linux for my Raspberry Pi projects though. :)

Thank you all and have a good weekend!


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