PC purchase advice

I have a neighbor who is 80+ years old. His PC is giving him problems. It is 7+ years old. I think the front ports are failing so his bluetooth keyboard and mouse work only sporadically. I tried a usb mouse on the front ports that failed as well. I was unable to test any back ports.

He insists on replacing this PC. His needs are VERY minimal: email and a little surfing; printing emails and attachments. He doesn’t need an Office suite. He wants to spend less than $1,000 and I can’t let him come even close to spending that. Online, I have seen what must be refurbished units although not all are marked like that.

Assuming a new PC will come with Windows 11, what are the minimal specs he should get? I see i3 cores, and i5 cores under $400. They come with 8-12GB and low storage capacities. Some of these units are under $200. I want him to have easy, trouble free, computing. There can be NO learning curve. So openSUSE and even MAC OS are out of the question.

Help me help my neighbor.

@Prexy check the cable connecting the front USB ports at both ends?

I’d suggest an i5 and intel graphics, plus 8-12GB should be fine.

My mother is 60+ and uses her PC the same way as your Neighbor.
I upgraded het 11 year old Vaio Laptop (i3 second gen and 4 gb ram) with a 250gb ssd, erased Windows 10 and installed Linux Mint.
She loves it and doesn’t see a difference from Windows.
She was using Libre Office and Thunderbird already anyway and the Webbrowser functions the same everywhere.
There was basically no learning (cruve) at all.
Turning on and shutting down now takes her 10 and 2 seconds. And everything is just working since over a year ago

For what he needs, why not go for a Chromebook?

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Of the 30 or so 64bit multiboot PCs I have running current versions of Leap and TW, among several other distros, only 6 are as new as 7 years old. For what he seems to need, any PC supporting Windows 11 should be more than adequate. 4 threads, whether 2 cores or 4, should be just fine. More than 4 threads will probably be wasted. This on which I type this, my main PC, is an i3 with 2 cores and 4 threads, doing just fine as workstation and LAN server, even though I have the 6 that are newer and faster. Just make sure whatever he selects has SSD or NVME, not HDD, which is where slower HDD speed is most evident to a user in startup and load times. A 4 year old with NVME likely will seem amazingly fast if his old one is on a HDD. A NUC might be a just right choice if he prefers brand new with non-trivial warranty.

Off-lease business PCs 3-5 years old can be great bargains. Two Dells I have were bought that way and are still working well enough a decade later.

I took another run at fixing his PC. I got to the back ports and they seemed to work but for only a few minutes. I brought a known good keyboard and mouse but had no success in keeping the thing running smoothly.

This is where I say I hate Windows. Previously, I checked for updates and Windows reported it was up to date. I forgot that in Windows, that does not mean drivers! I struggled to navigate to the right spot but I got it to check for drivers. Of course, there was a new bluetooth driver! I thought that might solve the mouse and keyboard problem. There were about 10 drivers to update and it took literally hours before it finished. In the end, it failed the same. It wasn’t bluetooth but usb.

His friends and relatives advised him to get a laptop (which he doesn’t need) and I will take him next week to buy one because he is insistent on getting a new computer. I will do my best to find a match for the specs advised here. There is a nearby computer chain offering (this week at least) a Dell Inspiron with i5, 8GB and a 256GB ssd for $379. There is an HP with similar specs, except i3, for $329. There are a couple of other options at $500-600 then a big jump to gaming laptops.

I think he will give me the old pc. If so, I will play with it by installing linux. I have a usb drive with Ventoy on it with Kali, Zoren and something else. Also usb drives with Mint and Tails. Oddly, I do not have Tumbleweed on usb! I have it on disk and that pc has no disc drive. None of those choices matter if I can’t get the usb ports working !!!

Thank you, everyone, for your input.

Until you go buy a new one with him install Mint or Zorin OS on his old Laptop and let him try it out.
Show him his programs and how to keep everything up to Date. That’s it.

Don’t go for the i3. Buy at least i5. I would say look at the ones in the 500 to 600 range where you get probablore than 8GB.
The GPU seems the least important spec for him but amd has decent GPUs within your Budget.

Why? Have you used both for comparison purposes? Your report of your mother’s experience suggests good i3 experience. How many threads can an average 80 year old use? (I’m less than a decade from ostensibly being one.)

Yes but with Linux Mint.

I used i3, i5 and i7.

He might be using the new computer for an other 10 or more years - who knows. And i5 is just a little more future proof - especially if he wants to keep Windows (I don’t think he will if he sees Mint or Zorin and everything just works). And how much more cost i5 over i3? Nothing worth mentioning.
Plus he probably want a good and fast experience.

Master of bloat, more or less tied with Ubuntu for / space required and default RAM consumption, so good test of hardware responsiveness.

How have you made that determination?

$76 between the first two selections here is nothing to sneeze at if shopping the $300-$400 total PC cost range. Price comparisons can be hard, because availability is limited by what Dell, HP, Lenovo and other manufacturers buy, and what’s left for retailers to procure.

4+ years ago I bought a then current (Kaby Lake) Pentium G4600 with Gigabyte B250 chipset motherboard. 6 months later I bought an Asus B250, put the G4600 in it, and bought an i3-7100T for the Gigabyte. Apparent performance difference between them was/is nill. They’re both too snappy for human detection. 3 generations later I bought again, a (Rocket Lake) B560 Asus, and i5-11400, which was normally about $100 more than the (Comet Lake) i3 I had considered for that motherboard. I had just received a $100 windfall, so decided to blow it on the i5. Otherwise I might have bought an i3. 11 gen skipped inclusion of i3, Pentium & Celeron models, the more significant reason I went i5. IMO it’s hard for a mere mortal user to load all 12 i5 threads, while the most comparable i3’s fewer threads run on a faster clock. IOW, if like in hotrodding more is better, and too much is just right, why instead of i3 stop at i5 and not go all the way to i9? It’s really about how much of your neighbor’s money to spend. More RAM seems the better investment to me if performance is a lesser issue than cost.

BTW, those three PCs are only used a tiny fraction of the time of this older (4th gen 35W TDP i3-4150T Haswell) which runs 24/7 and I’m typing from, and which has plenty of power for everything I do in my 8th decade.

I’ve given two Chromebooks away as gifts, and both recipients with similar needs to your neighbor have been happy with their simplicity.

compared to Windows

The Guy is 80 years young. So he should not need to buy a new machine again before he goes - except he lives an other 25 years or so.
A Ryzen 5 costs the same as a i3 if you need to save money. But he wanted to spend 1’000.
Where I live I can get a Ryzen 7 with 16GB Ram and 500 SSD for 570.- (on Sale)
Or a Ryzen 5 with 16GB Ram and 500 SSD for 470.-
And I live in an expensive Country.

You want him to have a good and smooth Experience for the coming years. I wouldn’t go for the cheapest chipsets just to save 12 -15% but instead lookout for a good sale with a (low-)mid range CPU

It is just an opinion an my input cause there was a question. Do whatever you want and whatever you think is the best for him

Another update:
We went to the unnamed computer store and purchased a slightly upgraded laptop. It has an i5 chip and 512GB memory, running Windows 11. The salesperson was old enough to understand the needs of a senior citizen.

This laptop cost an extra $50 but hands on exam showed it to be better quality. The keyboard was backlit and did NOT flex when pressed hard. So, my friend preferred it. In my opinion, Windows 11 is not user friendly for a senior citizen but that may just be the learning curve. I will start a new thread on problems I am having with the PC tower that he gave me while trying to install Tumbleweed for myself.

I thank everyone for your input.

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Carey Holzman reviews mini PCs: CareyHolzman - YouTube