Because UNI buys hundreds of computers at once when we re-do our labs, we're able to negotiate great deals with Dell, and this year we negotiated some super savings, that extend to faculty, staff, students, as well as their friends and family. Until the 15th of this month, you can order a brand new computer through UNI and save about $400-$500 off what it would cost you normally from Dell. You don't need to be affiliated with UNI in any way, as I asked about that, and was told "If they can spell UNI, they can purchase a computer on this deal." So, here's the deal, it's a Dell Optiplex GX260 machine, you only get one choice of CPU speed, the 2.66Ghz chip, which is where the most bang for the buck is right now anyhow. There are several other options you can see on the link, especially in regards to monitors and optical drives. Here is the link:
To see the pricing, click the link above, then click on "Click Here to enter the Dell store and view specially priced systems recommended by the University of Northern Iowa." Then, choose the offer on the left, it should be listed at $966 or so with the default options. If you're looking to spend less, don't freak, you can. Just remove the parts you don't want.
Unless you're a serious power user or play a lot of games, you only need 512MB of RAM, 1GB isn't really necessary for most home users (myself not included). :)
I, personally, like the 18" LCD display, though you may not even need a monitor, if you've got an old one you're happy with, though these new flat panel displays are great, they take up a lot less room, and cause less eyestrain because there is no flicker with LCD technology.
In regards to the CD/DVD drives, my suggestion is to go with either the DVD/CD-RW combo drive, or the DVD+R/RW drive for a few dollars more. Either drive will let you burn CDs and watch DVDs, but the latter drive will also let you burn DVDs, for only about $45 more than the first..
In regards to video cards, either the integrated card, or the 32MB Radeon card is fine for word processing, the WWW, e-mail, etc. Neither one is a great gaming card, so if you're going to plan on doing some 3D gaming on the machine, just go with the cheap integrated video, and pick yourself up a separate 3D card to install when the machine arrives, such as this one:
Other than that, the default options should be fine, though I do like the USB keyboard a little better, but it's your money. Same goes for the speakers, the ones with the subwoofer sound nicer, but if you don't play many games or much music from your computer, you won't need them.
This is really an outstanding deal, I've already helped at least a dozen faculty members order them for home, one professor even ordered 3, one for himself, and one for each of his two kids, the savings are that good.
This machine also comes with a 3-year Next-Business-Day On-Site Warranty, so if something breaks, they send a guy to your house the next day who will fix/replace it for free.