Desktop Hardware Costs Going Toward Zero?

Prompted by an entry over on Jeff Dunteman’s Contrapositive Diary, (scroll down past the fluffy dogs…) I have been I’ve been watching with interest some eBay sales in the $250, range for Dell Optiplexes. I just saw an SX270 Pentium 4 3.2 Mhz with 512 K of RAM and Window XP Professional Service Pack 2 go for $255.00. This is a small notebook sized unit. Even with $40.00 shipping it still seems to be pretty interesting. As Jeff mentions, these were going for $1800 or more just a couple years ago. Little guys like these are ideal for mini servers or media center PCs.

Other low-end machines seem to be going for $150.00 and under. Many times you’ll see that they have things like 10 gigabyte hard drives; you have to wonder if perhaps the parts have been diddled. (a technical term for “swapped out with junk lying around on the bench…”) But, say, you find one with a 2.4Ghz processor, and 256Kb or maybe 512Kb of RAM and a 20 gig hard drive. Install kubuntu for an operating system and desktop applications. Total cost $300.00?

For the past few years, PC hardware has been relatively static. Each new generation of hardware brought only incremental performance improvements. I’m still using 2.8Ghz processors in my office machines (both refurbs as is my Dell laptop), and servers are using slower processors. I’d recommend avoiding the Intel Celeron processors, but Pentium 4s at 2.4Ghz and up still have legs, especially with Linux.

The new Windows Vista wants to see more of everything; duel core processors and two gigs of RAM will help it on its way. But that means recent hardware that led up to Vista is both a bargain, and viable for the medium term, when matched with Windows XP Service Pack 2. If I was looking to round out my office with a couple new machines, and I had more time than money, I’d check eBay and the Dell Outlet for refurbished desktop machines. Look at the Optiplex line especially.

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