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Chuck(G)
August 6th, 2009, 02:44 PM
I used to blame most (relatively) modern PC failures on bad capacitors, but that seems to have been lessened somewhat in recent years (although I still do see a fair amount of year 2000 equipment with bad capacitors).

No, what I see now is the failure of desktop systems because of dirt, pure and simple. Dirt clogging heatsinks, covering the innards of USB connectors and floppy dirves, gumming up fans so they don't spin, etc.

I blame this on the proliferation of desktop minitowers. I suspect that most people don't want one on their desktop (that's reserved for clutter), so they stick it on the floor, where it sucks in the dirt from the deep-pile wall-to-wall carpeting and bits of fur from Rover.

I'm typing this on a nice P4 2.4GHz system that was tossed because " it didn't work". You cannot even begin to imagine the filth inside. This is the second system I've seen like this in about the last month.

Does anyone sell nice desktop systems anymore, not those stupid "minitowers" ?

Vlad
August 6th, 2009, 02:57 PM
I miss desktop cases. You can still buy full ATX desktop cases but they oddly cost more than their tower equivalent to the point it'd be cheaper to buy a 4U rack mount and stick rubber feet on the bottom.

Actually just the other day I was running a ATX tower that had air flow issues from a weak 120mm fan that was getting slow from sheer age and being really cheap so I moved my hardware into a micro ATX tower that oddly has better cooling but a louder fan. Fan noise never bothered me so it was a worthy trade off for cooler HD's but I did marvel at the amount of dirt and cat hair that had been sucked into the intake vent on the bigger case.

Even though it's one fan was all the way in the back and slowly losing speed it still managed to suck in a bunch of stuff. The worst though was the video card's heatsink/fan, the processor HSF was oddly clean which is probably due to the weird airflow of that case.

barythrin
August 6th, 2009, 03:01 PM
I think the trend is people want more desk space like you said so the computers are being designed to be out of the way and take less space. Then as you said it goes to the floor. The problem I've seen is the few custom/barebone cases being sold (haven't seen any full tower stuff, just mid-tower/gaming machines) is the price and power supply that usually isn't sufficient for a gaming system (not sure why when all devices aren't being used but they eventually seem to zap em).

I suppose best buy might have some (only place I can think of that's common in cities without Frys) other than that maybe online places or end up getting a used case.

Ah I misread, you're looking for desktop style cases specifically. I haven't seen many of those except again micro-atx system cases for set top type computers.

Chuck(G)
August 6th, 2009, 03:23 PM
I miss desktop cases. You can still buy full ATX desktop cases but they oddly cost more than their tower equivalent to the point it'd be cheaper to buy a 4U rack mount and stick rubber feet on the bottom.

That's exactly what sits on my workbench. Sucks filtered air in the front and exhausts it out the power supply. Inside, it's clean as a whistle--and the innards are easy to get at--just lift the top. Oddly, it's quieter than the mid-tower case that sits on the floor in my office.

The P4 board is going into an old HP Vectra desktop case, I think. I'm fairly tall, so something under the display like a computer case is a plus for me.

Vlad
August 6th, 2009, 03:27 PM
That's exactly what sits on my workbench. Sucks filtered air in the front and exhausts it out the power supply. Inside, it's clean as a whistle--and the innards are easy to get at--just lift the top.

I've been thinking about doing that for a while and next time I build a new machine I'll probably go that route. You can get a 4U pretty cheap these days it seems.

Unknown_K
August 6th, 2009, 04:46 PM
Old systems, even desktops, would get full of dust also. The issue today is that CPU/GPU/RAM gets very hot and seem to make the dust stick or atleast attract it. Another issue is there seems to be many more fans sucking air into cases through small slots and once inside the air slows down causing the dust to settle instead of getting blown out the back. If you had a case where large amounts of air are blown in and out at the same velocity the amount of dust settling in would be much lower (self cleaning system).

I have seen many systems where the GPU and CPU fan were clogged to the point of not working, and people complained the machine worked fine for 20-30 minutes then started rebooting. Dust filters for incoming air are great (if you bother to clean them).

Bobthearch
August 6th, 2009, 06:07 PM
It seems the root of the problem isn't the computer case size, but rather the behavior of computer users.

Reminds me of the dust-filled PCs at the coal mine. Forget the silly little cans of compressed air, they simply used the air compressor. ;)

But yeah, there are Plenty of full size cases for sale. I love my Lian Li midsize tower.
A mini-tower? Me? Fat chance.

Chuck(G)
August 6th, 2009, 06:25 PM
Old systems, even desktops, would get full of dust also. The issue today is that CPU/GPU/RAM gets very hot and seem to make the dust stick or atleast attract it. Another issue is there seems to be many more fans sucking air into cases through small slots and once inside the air slows down causing the dust to settle instead of getting blown out the back. If you had a case where large amounts of air are blown in and out at the same velocity the amount of dust settling in would be much lower (self cleaning system).

In general, desktops get dusted more often than floors, particularly when the case is tucked under a desk or between a desk and a bookcase, for example. I get dust bunnies and hairballs on my floors (the price of owning dogs--and I am not a slovenly housekeeper), but I've never seen them on my desktop. Laser printers get very hot also, but since they're usually kept on deck rather than below, they don't suffer too much from dust.

When manufacturers design cases, do they consider the airflow paths, dust, location of hotspots, etc.? Most of the case designs I've seen seem to hew to the general school of thought of "if one fan isn't enough, add a couple more."

linuxlove
August 7th, 2009, 06:26 AM
i like large cases. it's easier to work with. as for de-dusting them i'll just use an air can or just take an old toothbrush to the heatsinks. in fact, all i have is one large heatsink over the P4 chip. the video card i'm using is an old ATI RAGE 128 PRO card, so the heatsink is quite small; no need for de-dusting it.

Chuck(G)
August 7th, 2009, 09:49 AM
i like large cases.

Hmmm, there's a thought. Is there really any more useful space in a midtower than a desktop case? They host the same sized motherboards and power supplies; Mostly, a midtowrer has more unused space as the width has to accommodate a horizontal 5.25" drive profile. The desktop needs to do the same, but is horizontal already, so there's less "dead air" space between the tops of the expansion cards and the top of the case.

My wife uses an IBM Netvista desktop case with the low profile expansion cards. That's going a bit too far, I think--not all PCI cards come in a low-profile format.

NathanAllan
August 7th, 2009, 10:14 AM
I go either way, depends on what I will be using it for. If I have to get into it a lot and space is an issue then most likely it'll be a minitower, but if I have the room regardless I go desktop and not a tower of any kind.

http://picasaweb.google.com/nathan.dkassandra4/UntitledAlbum#5367286076083961362

That's one project I have going, I lucked out and found this case cheap.

barythrin
August 7th, 2009, 10:39 AM
The problems I've seen with desktop cases (and some of this is legacy) but Gateway was a poor choice is design with their early PIII desktop cases. They called it something else like (ITX?) instead of ATX but the design called for a riser card to make the desktop shorter. Problem was the motherboard plugs into the riser card, the power supply goes to the riser card also, then add a 17" CRT on top of the case to ensure a little bending of that riser card and the pins and poof/zap there goes the system after a year. All so you can have your cards sideways and the lower profile desktop.

Now their older P5 series systems were funny, those were medium towers and the 3 5.25" drive bay carriage was dimensionally square so you could just turn it sideways and have your tall metal desktop unit (not that convenient but it's there and adjustable which was kinda cool).

Anyway I think the heavy monitors kinda did away with the desktop and then monitor size running into keyboard + system space was getting to be a huge computer desk and no space again. Flat panels came out and saved us the deskspace (if they didn't overheat) but it still wasn't quite intuitive to put your computer back on your desk again after getting used to having it out of your ears and way.

To me a server tends to be bulkier and noisier. Same reason I'm not 100% happy with my 24-port switch, it's louder than my 24-port hub and both are much louder than if I'd go ahead and admit I rarely have more than 8 computers on the network at once and could use a unit without a fan or high power draw.

TandyMan100
August 7th, 2009, 12:53 PM
i like large cases. it's easier to work with. as for de-dusting them i'll just use an air can or just take an old toothbrush to the heatsinks. in fact, all i have is one large heatsink over the P4 chip. the video card i'm using is an old ATI RAGE 128 PRO card, so the heatsink is quite small; no need for de-dusting it.
Agreed. Mini-towers? Gimme a break!!! I use a full-size tower system, with plenty of room for two IDE and two SCSI internal hard drives, floppy drive, cd drive, dvd-rom drive, mobo, powersupply, etc, etc, etc. :)

NeXT
August 9th, 2009, 05:04 PM
I agree. Go either with a full-height ATX case or nothing at all.
I recently bought the Thermaltake Xaser III case.
http://www.sk.co.yu/2004/02/sktd07.velika.jpghttp://www.thgtr.com/howto/20030428/images/img_1874.jpg

Spacious, a plethora of fans and well built. The front door on the thing is made out of machined Aluminum. Compared to the front door on my HP ML370 server, this thing weighs a ton. It also has filters for the front fans which sensibly keep the six bay hard drive cage cool (which houses four 36gb SCSI drives in RAID and two 1tb SATA drives :biggrin:) and the rest of the case generally dust free.
Thermaltake seems to know how to make a case. Sure not all of their cases were great but they got a few which are really nice.

I unfortunately use an eMachines mini tower for my linux box and like already stated, ventialtion is terrible. I had to go and cut a hole in the side of the case so the video card would stop overheating.

Chuck(G)
August 9th, 2009, 05:57 PM
You should see the 386 setup here with 6 floppy drives and one full-height SCSI hard drive. Now those were tower cases.

I've got an Antec something or the other black full tower sitting beside me (on the floor) now and I want something to fit on my desktop under my monitor--and not an micro-ATX form factor.

I like the look of some of the HTPC cases, but they're awfully pricey and it's not clear that you can stick a 5.25" floppy in one.

Nick_Zravre
August 9th, 2009, 07:21 PM
The minitowers do make up for the dust problem in some way though by being easy to carry out to an air compressor. They are not nearly as awkward to carry down stairs as my eight bay (2 3-1/2, 6 5-1/4) full tower. Besides that if it weren't for those little towers, my desk wouldn't have a convenient storage location for vinyl and floppy disks.

Jorg
August 9th, 2009, 09:56 PM
Agreed. Mini-towers? Gimme a break!!! I use a full-size tower system, with plenty of room for two IDE and two SCSI internal hard drives, floppy drive, cd drive, dvd-rom drive, mobo, powersupply, etc, etc, etc. :)

Can't agree more.
I had a fair sized midi tower but with building/upgrading the last time I got totally fed up with the fumbling with cables and the amount of effort when installing a new drive.
As it is under my desk anyway- (I like desktops, but would need a bigger desk for that. And for a bigger desk I'd need a bigger room...)- I got so fed up I bought this one:

http://www.atxcases.com/products/uploadedimage/cooler%20master%20stacker%20silver.jpg

(larger link with innards, not mine- and yes, that is a full size ATX board)
http://bilder.wibla.net/albums/monster/DSC_5699_ps.sized.jpg

Yes, its huge.
No, it wasn't cheap.
But I always tended to spend money on components, not on the case - now I know that was wrong. Such a relieve.

Chuck(G)
August 10th, 2009, 07:31 AM
My other gripe with towers in general is that they're the second-worst way to mount a motherboard.

The worst way is to have the motherboard horizontal, but upside-down. Heat is trapped against the board and can't escape through convection.

Towers mount the motherboard vertically, so heat is trapped by the expansion cards. Given the legacy design of expansion slots, there's no good way to move the air between them--and nowhere for heated air to move by convection. (In that sense, the old S-100 or Multibus card cages were far better designed--the cards were a standard size and a fan could be used on the card cage to move air between the cards). You can see the problem this creates by some tower cases that have to use fans in the side panels to cool the expansion slots.

It would seem that if you needed to have a vertical motherboard, you'd mount it so the expansion card brackets faced downwards to allow air to flow through the expansion card stack.

Some of the old Compaq and HP towers mounted the motherboard vertically and used a riser card to keep the expansion slots vertical. That was a good design, albeit not "standard".

But the generic PC motherboard was designed to be horizontal, right from the original 5150 and 5170. It was the far East clone producers who introduced the "tower". It's just not a good idea from a thermal standpoint.

But then, mounting a hard drive in a space that's closed on three sides is lousy engineering also.

barythrin
August 11th, 2009, 10:55 AM
You're exactly right about the heat issues with a tower, and yeah it was a dumb but simple design so that wasn't well thought of. I think it's BTX that was the first modification to attempt to have the processor heat in an open area so that the power supply fan would blow it out of the case and new air come in via the front fan(s). However as you pointed out, that doesn't help with your overheating video card is blowing the hot air down still which rises right back up again.

May not have been a big issue with the original less overheating processors of the past but yeah, today the majority of any home system I end up having to look at is a friend/overheated video card with a bad fan.

Chuck(G)
August 11th, 2009, 04:53 PM
To be sure, there are a lot of things that I don't understand about the PC mechanical arrangement. Why, for example, are the keyboard and mouse connections in the rear and not the front? Do you know anyone who operates his computer from the rear?

The same could be said for USB connectors on earlier systems--thank heavens that most makers now understand that if you're going to offer a Plug-and-play desktop serial bus, it would be good if peripherals could be plugged in and out easily.

Why are cards held in with nothing more that the rear bracket? Did anyone test the original 5150 on a shake table?

In some respects the old NEC PC98 systems showed some real design--but they were closed architecture.

Ole Juul
August 11th, 2009, 06:18 PM
In my current setup, I don't have a desk so I like minitowers even more than I used to. :p I solved part of the problem by throwing away the parts that get in the way. I have a strong dislike for anything with rounded corners and if it doesn't have a flat top I get very angry - besides I really don't like the "office" look. It's much easier to just bring my carry tank into the house and point a blower at my "cluster". This pic is a view from my chair where I'm sitting right now. Screen and keyboard are on an articulated arm off the wall, and the mouse pad is part of my chair. The top computer is ANA and is a P133 - thats my DOS power box. The lower one is MAR and it gets a little warmer because it is a P60 w/o a heat sink. Neither of them really need any special cooling.
http://i793.photobucket.com/albums/yy217/Eyonymus/c4-a.jpg
The next picture shows all three of my main computers from the front. They are on a lazy susan so it's easy to get to any side of them from anywhere. That solves a lot of problems too. :) The closed box is my linux machine and it also has very little cooling, but being a "modern" computer (2.6GHz) it has a noisy CPU fan so it HAS to be closed in or I'll get too irritated. VBG
http://i793.photobucket.com/albums/yy217/Eyonymus/c8-a.jpg
The old Compaq box takes an ATX board and the drives can be mounted as a desktop or (like here) as a tower. This is a great box and I plan to keep it for as long as they make ATX boards that will fit in some way. What is interesting about this box, cooling wise, is that there is very little of it. There is, of course, a large CPU fan which goes up and down in speed as needed. The PS has a variable speed fan which hardly moves because I don't have any high draw devices besides the CPU. On the back of the case I have mounted one single 12v fan which just putters along and draws fresh air into the box. The last week we have had over 37C temperatures (99F) around here and it must have been considerably more inside the box - no problem. Why is that?

NathanAllan
August 11th, 2009, 07:19 PM
Juul, that looks a LOT like my current setup, except I have more Star Wars toys and batteries as decoration :D

Chuck(G)
August 11th, 2009, 09:15 PM
The old Compaq box takes an ATX board and the drives can be mounted as a desktop or (like here) as a tower. This is a great box and I plan to keep it for as long as they make ATX boards that will fit in some way. What is interesting about this box, cooling wise, is that there is very little of it. There is, of course, a large CPU fan which goes up and down in speed as needed.

I've got a Compaq Deskpro that looks a lot like that one on the outside, but is very different on the inside. It's a 533 Mhz Slot 1 Pentium III. The motherboard is vertical, as you'd expect, with a low-profile AGP slot. The PCI/ISA expansion slots are in a separate horixontal cage that plugs into the motherboard. The neat thing is that the cage slides out so you can get to the expansion cards very easily.

The Compaq logo is horizontal and the drives cannot be changed in orientation--they slide into the drive bracket using cheese-head Torx screws (a supply of which is considerately screwed into the main chassis). Built like a tank, with a solenoid security lock (you can't open the machine while it's running without knowing the security password).

Maybe not really fast, but a well-constructed and thought-out system. Sadly, there are no motherboard upgrades possible. I haven't looked into upgrading with an EB CPU.

Ole Juul
August 11th, 2009, 10:20 PM
I guess Compaq has a history of actually putting some thought into their cases. I too noted the extra screws thoughtfully screwed into the chassis - a classy touch.

carlsson
August 11th, 2009, 10:30 PM
Why, for example, are the keyboard and mouse connections in the rear and not the front?
I believe some of the oldest PCs have front side connectors. At least my Victor 8088 has both keyboard and optional PS/2 style mouse at the front. Perhaps it is different from the rest.

TandyMan100
August 12th, 2009, 05:29 AM
I believe some of the oldest PCs have front side connectors. At least my Victor 8088 has both keyboard and optional PS/2 style mouse at the front. Perhaps it is different from the rest.
Search for the thread about classic PC design flaws. BIG discussion about that there.

My current setup looks like the latest Quake-running Vista-shredding machine on the outside- Lian Li clone black case, kewl fans, etc. But it's really a-

Slot-1 Coppermine Pentium III 533MHz overclocked to 900MHz
Around 600MB of PC100 RAM (how that works, I'll never know)
Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.04
A TV connected to
An ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 7200

Modest, wanting an upgrade. Something so that I can say "GHz" :-P

Hopeing to get a Pentium 4 soon.

Chuck(G)
August 12th, 2009, 07:01 AM
I guess Compaq has a history of actually putting some thought into their cases. I too noted the extra screws thoughtfully screwed into the chassis - a classy touch.

Yes, they've got some nice designs, but it's at the expense of ignoring standards. I've got a very nice power supply sitting here from an EVO W6000. It's a heavy 450W supply; really nice, with what appears to be a 24-pin ATX connector. But it's not--it's a unique Compaq pinout for that model (in spite of the power supply part number, WTX-460, it's not WTX either). It's also physically larger than an ATX supply.

One of these days I'll figure out what to do with it...

linuxlove
August 12th, 2009, 07:31 AM
i wouldn't mind a desktop case. maybe from the 80s, like an XT clone case or something. but, all i have are a few tower cases.

my P4 is in that large SysteMAX case from the k9 (which quit working right), the server is in, of course, a rackmount case, my PIII DOS IRC server (thanks mike c.!) is in a small black tower case and then the thinkpad is in a black thinkpad case :P

barythrin
August 12th, 2009, 09:09 AM
Well, I imagine most vendors are at fault during some point in their life of trying to think outside the box and not following standards. Non-standard pins on standard equipment though does bother me.. that speaks more to me as we don't want you to be able to fix it yourself without buying a more expensive version from us.

Dell did that same ATX power supply thing right around the same era and a good amount of folks fried their systems swapping out the PSU with a standard one. They also notched their ram slots for a small period of time so you couldn't use standard rectangle RAM which was extremely annoying. Either way, while I can appreciate what they started out as I lost a lot of respect from them during that anti-user fiasco and haven't recovered since.. other than the other vendors seemingly doing similar stunts and not helping.

It's so difficult when someone asks me "what vendor do you think I should get?" and I'm trying to think of an answer other than "they're all crap". I usually lighten the blow and say they're all pretty much the same at this point.

Chuck(G)
August 12th, 2009, 03:16 PM
Dell did that same ATX power supply thing right around the same era and a good amount of folks fried their systems swapping out the PSU with a standard one.

I remember that one. Fortunately, the Compaq PSU doesn't toast anything--it just makes some noises and won't start.

And you're probably right that there's very little difference between the various vendors. I suppose if you wanted something that was very high quality (i.e. not disposable), you could set yourself up with a VME card cage and cards, but the end result would probably cost as much as a mid-range car.

linuxlove
August 13th, 2009, 11:07 AM
a lot of IBM stuff followed non-standards for a little while. my Aptiva has a PSU with three or four connectors that look like P8 and P9 connectors but are not. it's a soft power computer so i can't just hook an AT power supply to it, nor can i hook an ATX supply. If it dies, i'll have to scrap the computer or hack something to get it working.

TandyMan100
August 19th, 2009, 10:09 AM
The only case type of computers that I like are:

1. Slab desktop, like the Gateway 2000 486 desktop. It's right there, accessable, and plenty of room inside. Also, the heat can rise up away from the motherboard without any fans at all.

2. Full-tower, none of this weenie micro-tower setups. I like space to expand and case mod. I hate to be stuck with one setup.

3. Laptop. Just for portability. Mostly for note-taking. See my TRS-80 Model 100.

Dreamcast270mhz
August 19th, 2009, 11:17 AM
I like:

Full AT cases
Full ATX towers
Amiga desktop cases (keyboard in a case and big-box)
Full laptops
Custom cases

barythrin
August 19th, 2009, 02:29 PM
I admit I loved the expandability of the full tower chassis and having 7 5.25" devices or creating some SCSI/IDE server originally. Except the case I could afford was a cheap one and was notorious for being razor sharp with all it's internal metal (can't even count the number of cuts I was getting while working on that system). A friend who also knew that case's razor edge feature from experience helped me understand that I just needed some confidence and sand paper to resolve that problem. Then it was a truly great case..until I learned about lan parties heheh.

While it was fun for folks to gawk at the server sized system I had for a desktop, lugging around a full tower and 17" CRT was a slight pain when it became a more persistent idea for my friends and I. I eventually caved and bought a mid-tower (no way would I do small with 2 5.25 bays) and a friend and I both added handles (drill a hole, 4 washers, 2 screws, and a metal handle from home depot) and things became much nicer for transporting our gaming systems.

Ironically despite the auto-park feature on hard drives we all lost drives left and right due to the traveling. At the time we thought it was our removable drive bays which we had for easy swapping of data, but in reality it seemed to calm down after we stopped hauling them around so often.

paul
August 19th, 2009, 05:04 PM
Most of the case designs I've seen seem to hew to the general school of thought of "if one fan isn't enough, add a couple more."

This is why I now much prefer professionally-engineered systems such as Dells, etc, rather than custom machines. Not only are the Dell systems designed to a technical level (airflow-wise) that the DIY'er does not even know exists, but the quality of the fans are much higher. My current Dell has a BTX standard motherboard design which Intel has optimized the component layout for the best cooling of the various support chipsets. BTX is also a mirror image of ATX to place the PCI/E cards "the other way up" like they used to be in ISA-bus days, so the card does not inhibit natural convection.

Years ago when I actually had a job, I did mechanical engineering - including the integration of bare MultiBus and VME card buses into industrial production machinery used by Delco. At first I opted for high-flow push/pull fan systems with no filter based on the idea that some retained dust is better than a clogged filter.
But once I saw how much dust gets into these machines on a factory floor I changed the design to use a standard size home heating type fiberglass air filter. They are effective, very cheap, and flow a lot of air. Also, industrial users seem to be very good at adhering to maintenance schedules so no need to worry about a clogged filter.

Dreamcast270mhz
August 19th, 2009, 06:16 PM
This is why I now much prefer professionally-engineered systems such as Dells, etc, rather than custom machines. Not only are the Dell systems designed to a technical level (airflow-wise) that the DIY'er does not even know exists, but the quality of the fans are much higher.

How can you say that? The quality of a custom built machine made from top-grade parts greatly surpasses anything made by Dell. Heck, they even rivet the dang backplates on, so only saws can take them out. If you really just go for watercooling then your system will be quieter and run cooler, and this way you can cool your CPU,GPU, HDD,RAM and any other IC that get's hot.

Ole Juul
August 19th, 2009, 07:15 PM
I agree that there is much to know about cooling. I've noted however that there is a lot of engineering information readily available in data sheets and general howtos on thermal design for both heat sinks and computer specific applications. You don't have to be a professional to have access that information. That said, I wonder how much of it is really relevant at the user level.

I remember how they used to go on about the XTs having to be operated with the lid on so the air would flow correctly and the computer would work properly. The theory sounds fine, but I've never seen any problems either way with that generation of computers. Running even hotter, my P133 runs 24/7 in an open box with no CPU fan and just a heat sink. It also runs quiet because I slowed down the PS fan considerably. I'm just an amateur, so perhaps some of the real HW pros around here know better. (ChuckG?)

Also, as I mentioned earlier in this thread. I've got a minimally cooled (closed box and "home" built) case with a 2.6GHz Intel d915 and it doesn't seem to skip a beat when the room temp gets up over 100F and the temp in the box must be way high at that point. I've been running that thing through four summers now and I never turn it off. You can see why I'm skeptical about cooling requirements. :p

Bobthearch
August 19th, 2009, 07:56 PM
How can you say that? The quality of a custom built machine made from top-grade parts greatly surpasses anything made by Dell.

I agree. Dell ~used~ to have a reputation for quality-built (but grossly overpriced) machines, but I haven't been impressed with them lately.

* Non-standard non-interchangeable components.
* Cheap plastic cases (forgivable only if priced accordingly).
* Overuse of integrated / onboard components, with maybe some option for upgrading.
* Cramped cases - difficult to work in, and restrictive for expansion.
* And a pet-peeve of mine, the trend towards backup partitions instead of software CDs.

Here are two specific examples:
A high end Dell XPS a few years ago that cost thousands of dollars came with a very cheap plastic case - the doors covering the optical drives fell off.
An inexpensive Dell that had the Power switch go bad. Couldn't replace it though, because it was a non-standard proprietary design in which the front panel connected to the motherboard via some sort of ribbon cable.

I also seem to recall that many older Dell computers had power supplies that were a non-standard size and shape. When one burned out, you had to buy a replacement from Dell, for about 5X the cost of a standard PSU.

I also dispute the idea that Dell cases are somehow engineered in a superior manner. In fact my old Dell case (a $2000 machine in 1999) seemed to be the exact same as $20 cases being sold at computer supply retail stores. Probably made by the same company in the exact same factory.

Don't get the idea that I'm picking on Dell; these 'features' are common throughout the entire off-the-shelf computer market regardless of brand.

Bobthearch
August 19th, 2009, 08:12 PM
The only case type of computers that I like are:

1. Slab desktop, like the Gateway 2000 486 desktop. It's right there, accessable, and plenty of room inside. Also, the heat can rise up away from the motherboard without any fans at all.


I've had mixed results with this style of case. On one hand, they are convenient for people with too-small desks. The monitor can usually stand on top of the case for some significant space savings, where a tower design might have to be placed on the floor. And since they're usually designed with that in mind, they're extra strong too.

But they usually lack the space for significant expansion, and seem to be more prone to using non-standard components than tower systems.

I do admit to being prejudiced though; one of my least favorite computers of all time was a desktop design, the IBM 300PL. The crappiest sound and graphics I've ever seen, even for onboard components. And they couldn't be upgraded either - there was an AGP graphic slot as I recall, but an AGP card wouldn't fit inside the cover. You could add a PCI sound card (even a Soundblaster 16 was an immense improvement) but you couldn't completely disable the onboard sound, which created hardware conflicts with any operating system that wasn't Windows. :angry:

Chuck(G)
August 19th, 2009, 08:28 PM
I decided to go with an older HP Vectra VL case:

http://www.pcarenahungary.com/pricelist/oriaskep/HP_Vectra_VL_600_DT-163.jpg

Takes something that's about a TFX size power supply, but I can get a 300W one fairly cheap. Otherwise, takes standard-height cards and has room for two 5.25" drives as well as the usual 3.5" floppy.

About the only thing it doesn't have that I want is the space to put a USB connector on the front.

All in all, HP Vectras have been pretty well-designed systems; much better than the Pavillions, at any rate.

Bobthearch
August 19th, 2009, 10:08 PM
Takes something that's about a TFX size power supply, but I can get a 300W one fairly cheap. Otherwise, takes standard-height cards and has room for two 5.25" drives as well as the usual 3.5" floppy.

How many hard drives can you cram in there? At least two?


About the only thing it doesn't have that I want is the space to put a USB connector on the front.

Don't know if there's room inside, or a motherboard connector available, but you can buy USB ports that fit into empty optical drive bays. Looks like your computer has an extra bay. Here's one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817196012

Multi-card readers usually have a USB slot also.

barythrin
August 20th, 2009, 07:34 AM
Aww, Vectra's in their own right are fairly neat systems. Of course after posting I'm not 100% sure they were all the same but my last gig had a few Vectra's and yeah nice case but almost unique/hard to find hardware inside. They were pentium pro and one or two were dual-ppro systems with SCSI hard drives. Talk about a screamin fast system for it's time. We had NT on them but they were pretty cool. About the only failure I've seen on them was some oddity in a clock circuit (just one of them had this issue) where the clock was going warp speed counting forward. You could reset it and it'd start doing that again. It wasn't important enough to fix at the time (I tried a few quick things but when I found it doing that in the BIOS and a battery change didn't help I realized it was a circuitry issue and stopped troubleshooting).

Chuck(G)
August 20th, 2009, 08:06 AM
How many hard drives can you cram in there? At least two?

Yup--it packs things in pretty tightly, but it'll hold everything that I want it to--and is still about an inch lower in profile than a standard "AT" case--and a couple of inches narrower.


Aww, Vectra's in their own right are fairly neat systems. Of course after posting I'm not 100% sure they were all the same but my last gig had a few Vectra's and yeah nice case but almost unique/hard to find hardware inside. They were pentium pro and one or two were dual-ppro systems with SCSI hard drives.

Over the years, I've owned about five Vectras of various stripes. The tower-style ones are very nonstandard, but well-engineered and very quiet. I surplused a P1-75 one about a month ago, but still have a P2 model. Nonstandard motherboard, power supply and riser card. The desktop model I"m reusing here had a Slot 1 P3 533 in it--and identified itself on the BIOS splash as an "HP Corporate PC". I'm sticking an Athlon 64 board in it. If you're going to work on a Vectra, have your Torx driver handy--HP doesn't use Philips-head screws...

Chuck(G)
October 24th, 2009, 12:52 PM
Remember awhile back I was looking for a decent ATX desktop case (not a tower). I finally found one (http://www.casingusa.com/products/WT-6402.html):

http://www.casingusa.com/products/images/WTP-6402-600.jpg

Except mine's in black. NIB off of eBay, cost me $32 shipped.

It's just 5.25" high, yet has room for 2 external 3.5" and 5.25" drives (as well as one 3.5" internal). Perfect!

kishy
October 24th, 2009, 02:30 PM
I need only say one thing against compact ATX cases (which also use compact PSUs, to be specific) to remind everyone why they are bad:

BESTEC.

Chuck(G)
October 24th, 2009, 02:59 PM
I need only say one thing against compact ATX cases (which also use compact PSUs, to be specific) to remind everyone why they are bad:

BESTEC.

My last compact PSU was a Seasonic, still going strong. The one in this thing's a 350W brand that I've never heard of, but it seems to be pretty beefy. It's compact, but not the microATX size.

I buy cases for the case; the power supply I deal with separately. BESTEC (and Rocketfish and other cheap ones) also make standard-sized ATX PSUs, so no relief there.

kishy
October 24th, 2009, 03:40 PM
My last compact PSU was a Seasonic, still going strong. The one in this thing's a 350W brand that I've never heard of, but it seems to be pretty beefy. It's compact, but not the microATX size.

I buy cases for the case; the power supply I deal with separately. BESTEC (and Rocketfish and other cheap ones) also make standard-sized ATX PSUs, so no relief there.

Seasonic is supposed to be a rather good brand; I'm not surprised it's still going strong.

Bestec had some disastrous problems with OEM systems...notably eMachines, but I've dealt with HPs that blew up with Bestecs. The problem with Bestecs (since I've never seen one that didn't do this) is they arc and often literally explode internally when they go. Worse yet, they often take the rest of the hardware in the system with them too.

Kishy's PSA: If you have a Bestec power supply, get rid of it, now, even if it still works. It won't for long. I volunteer at a charity which had half a dozen go in a 2 week period.

Chuck(G)
October 24th, 2009, 04:33 PM
Did some more looking. The PSU in this box is a Macron MPT-3522, basically a 350W unit made for 3U rackmount applications.

The chassis that it's in is basically the same as the Cooler Master Cavalier 2 HTPC case without the fancy bezel (made by Casing Macron).

So not too bad for $30.

HP used to have some very good PSUs in their gear. Many of the Vectras used Delta and I've got a HP PSU from a dual Xeon box that would serve as a boat anchor (don't know who made it though).

If they're using Bestec now, that's a real shame.

kishy
October 24th, 2009, 04:44 PM
Did some more looking. The PSU in this box is a Macron MPT-3522, basically a 350W unit made for 3U rackmount applications.

The chassis that it's in is basically the same as the Cooler Master Cavalier 2 HTPC case without the fancy bezel (made by Casing Macron).

So not too bad for $30.

HP used to have some very good PSUs in their gear. Many of the Vectras used Delta and I've got a HP PSU from a dual Xeon box that would serve as a boat anchor (don't know who made it though).

If they're using Bestec now, that's a real shame.

I think anything made for rackmount use is going to be pretty decent; I don't think the cheapo companies have made it into that market yet because nobody trusts them. Not bad at all for $30, hopefully that stays reliable as long as you need/want it.

The HPs in question are the small Presario desktops from the early 2000s that have excessive amounts of plastic trim, such as this:
http://pt.cantek.com/photos/H/e/w/Hewlett-Packard-%28HP%29--BIOS-HP-Pavilion-6830-cn-Desktop-PC-%28USCAN%29-1-pic.jpg
...and of course the Compaq twins. The power supplies in these are about 1/3 the size of a normal ATX unit and have the fan mounted on one of the large sides that face into the case.

I've always regarded HP to be a budget, low quality builder because for the entire time that I've been into computers, that is exactly what they have been...the older hardware may have been better, and I certainly hope it was...otherwise how the heck did they last this long...

Chuck(G)
October 24th, 2009, 05:50 PM
The HP Vectras and Compaq Deskpros were nice solid systems, pretty much indestructible, even if they didn't make use of standard components.

I've owned about 3 Pavillions and have gotten rid of all of them. Horrible things.

It's a shame, really.

kishy
October 24th, 2009, 05:55 PM
The HP Vectras and Compaq Deskpros were nice solid systems, pretty much indestructible, even if they didn't make use of standard components.

I've owned about 3 Pavillions and have gotten rid of all of them. Horrible things.

It's a shame, really.

I've worked with Deskpros of varying ages, including "network terminal"-like ones with no CD or floppy drives. They all had very good build quality and stable operation even years after they were intended to be junked.

I suppose it isn't limited to just HP though...nobody makes anything to last now.

TandyMan100
October 25th, 2009, 05:07 AM
The HP Vectras and Compaq Deskpros were nice solid systems, pretty much indestructible, even if they didn't make use of standard components.

I've owned about 3 Pavillions and have gotten rid of all of them. Horrible things.

It's a shame, really.
I hate pavilions. Ghawd-awfull machines that are ugly as hell :angry:

linuxlove
October 25th, 2009, 05:45 AM
i used a pavilion for a few years. it was our family computer until we got a compaq presario. if i remember right, the PSU in it wasn't a bestec, but something else. it was a fine little system, but i gave it to linemanduke so i could get my PS/2 model 25 and other stuff he had :)