The Plunge: Buying a new Desktop PC
Purchasing a new PC can be a daunting mission. With so many acronyms and hardware buzzwords swirling about, the great digital divide is as distended as ever. If you're not an avid gamer that swaps out their mobo every 6 months and over-clocks their CPU blindfolded, buying a new PC can be as confusing as doing calculus.
Let's sift and filter through the perplexing parade of hardware options that can stump the average laymen. Armed with the essentials, you can be confident that you're not buying a PC destined for soon-to-be obsolesce. It's easy; you'll see.
The Cerebral Component: CPU
Ask yourself this: what am I going to be doing with my new PC? For standard office productivity tasksóword processing, spreadsheet usage, emailingómost any CPU will be fine; these types of applications don't overburden your processor.
For more cycle crunching power, AMD's Athlon 64 X2 or Intel's Pentium D (both dual core CPUs) will do just nicely. The most cycle intensive applications (3D gaming, multimedia applications etc.) will benefit from a dual core system, which provides higher performance and quicker multitasking capabilities.
Ample workspace: Memory
Windows XP has a tendency to get a little cranky when confined to a low memory box. 512 megabytes should be considered the starting point, but a nice 1 gigabyte of RAM or more will significantly improve performance.
Buy more if you have the means, as memory is a lot less expensive today as it was years ago and is an excellent way to perk up overall performance. XP and its applications will seem more agile and brisk with more memory.
Visual Portal: Display
LCD displays are a must have. A 17 inch model can be had for around $300; expect to pay $500 or more for a larger display and higher quality. 19 inch monitors amplify your screen real estate by 20 percent.
Pushing the Frames: Graphics
If you're not a 3D modeling professional or a hardcore gamer, you don't need the newest graphics card on the market. Nvidia cards with older older-generation chips (think GeForce 6600) will provide the necessary graphical power for mainstream needs.
If you buy a PC with an onboard graphics chip, you may still be able to upgrade in the future if your motherboard has a PCI express, AGP, or an unoccupied old school PCI slot.
An Audible Experience: Sound
If you're in the office, sound probably isn't the pinnacle of your operation, so any PC with integrated sound will be adequate.
If you plan on setting up a home theater, surround sound can make for a booming experience; get a sound card that supports Dolby 5.1 and a set of speakers with a subwoofer to pump out the bass.
Your Digital File Cabinet: Storage
The average PC's hard drive on the market has 80 gigabytes of storage; this amount should suffice for the majority of mediocre tasks. As with memory, the more the merrier if you plan to do any sort of digital video editing. Uncompressed video files have a nasty habit of consuming ridiculous amounts of space.
Also, if you're an mp3 aficionado who plans on building up an extensive mp3 library, get a 120+ gigabyte hard drive or more.
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