Looking to buy a new general-purpose Desktop PC? a high-end desktop is useful if you are doing
- video encoding/rendering
- 3D Rendering
Something to consider: because some PC owners are getting Macs.
Silent PC's and PC-related products
questions to ask to determine the kind of machine you get
- what kinds of applications do you plan on running?
- gaming - requires high end desktop, laptops may or may not be able to run games, high CPU, high GPU, some are multithreaded, see also Intel's article
- video editing: Adobe Premiere Pro requires high end machine, high CPU, high GPU, needs large fast Disk, multithreaded
- video conversion: slow process, high CPU, high GPU, high thread count
- Adobe Photoshop CS: high CPU, high GPU, high RAM, needs large fast hard disk, multithreaded
- Authoring/Adobe CS products: high CPU, multithreaded
- any paint program: high CPU
- file compression/decompression: multithreaded
- audio encoding: high CPU, multithreaded
- CAD/CAE/3D Solid Modeling: high CPU, high GPU, multithreading
- Artist work (Corel Painter 12): multithreading?, high CPU, maybe high GPU
- Animation/CGI/3D Rendering/Ray Tracing/Rendering: multithreading, high CPU, maybe high GPU
- Just browsing the web, blogging, getting email, will run on anything, even a windows 2000 machine or maybe a windows 98 machine (though the browsers will need to be upgraded)
- Software Development
- are you looking for raw speed?
- lowest cost or mid-end cost? specific price range? go here
- laptop buying guide
- do you need something mobile, or is this stationary?
- are you taking this to LAN parties? (do you need a special case?) Are you going to be taking your computer somewhere? (desktop or need for laptop)
- Are you aware that laptop processors are typically lesser than desktop prosessors and shut off cores to save power? sometimes you can disable this power-saving feature, but the laptop will get very hot and you will need a good laptop cooler anyway.
- if this is for college, suggest you get a laptop.
Acer.com has some nice low-cost desktops ans a good line of laptops.
CORES/speed: my preference is to go with as many cores as I can get. I use mine for engineering, authoring, software development, video encoding, autdio encoding, file compression, and all sorts of things.
RAM: I like to max out the RAM. I use it all. I typically have about 40 tabs on my browser and about 20 command shells, and ab out 20 more applications open at once. this is my "work environment". and I don't like to reboot.
MFR's to avoid (for now, until they straighten themselves out):
- gateway (because of their lack of drivers and dropping support of older machines)
- Dell because of horrible support structure - you spend 2 days on the phone and you need unlimited minutes to talk to them and once in a while you get disconnected after about 30 transfers to get to the "right department".
MFR's to buy:
- Sony, for their F series desktop replacement high-end laptop
These 3 MFR's make the best and most reliable motherboards. try to request these in your system. If you can, make sure your motherboard has a BIOS recovery feature in case it gets flashed wrong - they should all have them by now.
AMD or Intel desktop procs:
it is up to you. AMD is behind the curve fab-wise and some have said they will only get behinder because of it. AMD prices their procs very low, usually about $50-$300. Intel usually costs more, about $200-$1049.
Hard disk Cooling:
Any hard disk 200GB or larger should have a fan-driven hard drive cooler on it or some sort of fan cooling. This prevents data loss/catastrophic failure from overheating.
in the best case, this would be done by the front fans in the case.
Big hard disks:
Hard disks are available up to 1000GB(1TB) and those definitely require cooling. If you are into downloading music or programs, plan your hard disk drive.
as of 12/19/2011, If you can afford it, there is a blazingly FAST series of intercal PCI-e OCZ Revo Drive 3 X2 SSD's that does 1500MB/s READ and 1200MB/s WRITE. nothing to sneeze at.
blows RAID out of the water. RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a fast way to go for speeding up hard disk access or (even faster) SSD's, but difficult to set up and maintain, and sometimes motherboard RAID is buggy, so watch out (don't do RAID 0 it just breaks)!
some ASUS BIOSes on RAID 5 (striping w/parity) require a rebuild after the initial setup, and then they are fine (this should not be so). RAID requires at least 2-3 disks of the same make and model, so buy EXTRAS in case one dies (give it 5 years for lifespan).
You should also get either one of 2 software packages for antivirus if you borrow programs from other people or are ever on the internet (get it before you get on the internet!): Norton 360 $60, or Mcafee Total Protection $80.
Mcafee costs more but it also comes with the full version of siteadvisor versions now come with cell phone protection - really cool - tells you which sites are bad before you get there and why. siteadvisor you can also get free. Norton includes protection for 3 PC's (Norton cd is bootable in case the PC can't be cleaned any other way).
Personally, I like Mcafee better. My incomplete mcafee package takes up 118MB RAM to give you an idea. I do not recommend a 256MB XP system for this reason. the box will run way too slow, thrashing the hard disk for minutes on every little task.
where to get the computer
Any local computer shop that sells PC's should be a good place to go. Me personally, I would like to custom-build mine (or at least specify) from the ground up, though that's a more expensive option, and you don't get the warranty (unless you custom-build it through the store and tell them what you want - you may not get all the options you want).
a quad-core processor means it has 4 cores, and can run 4 pieces of program simultaneously. having 2 cores or HT means your antivirus isn't going to entirely bog your machine down while it's running in the background while you are trying to burn a cd. having at least 4 cores and an NVIDIA vard with CUDA makes compression and video encoding tasks even faster.
If you are running a newer OS, 4 cores seems almost like a must. it's always doing stuff in the background (there goes 1-2 cores), then there's your antivirus in the background (there goes another core at least), and then there's what you're running (there goes another core). does this make sense? currently on my XP box there are 809 threads (tasks) running in various states (waiting or running - usually waiting).
get at least a 2TB hard disk - you will regret 1TB - if you only use your computer for the internet and you don't create a lot of files or do a lot of downloading or don't install a lot of programs, then a big hard disk is not necessary, and you can get by with an inexpensive 320GB.
XP and XP Mode
XP Retail (as much as everybody liked it) is EOL'd (End Of Life) as of June 30, 2008. That just means it will no longer be sold it will still be supported till 2014 I think on extended support. Microsoft has made XP Mode available in a Virtual Machine (Microsoft Virtual PC, which may or may not be installed by default) on windows 7 Prorfessional, Ultimate, Enterprise. Please note that if you buy most canned PC's, you will get Home Premium and not have the choice of getting Ultimate or Professional, and Home Premium does not have XP Mode.
as of 2011, a local PC vendor told me that he tried to obtain XP from the internet from stores and all he got was invalid stuff.
You are probably going to want one if your machine doesn't come with one. Most new PC's only come with the trial/starter version of office. The trial/starter version of Office will interfere with the installation of a real Microsoft Office package, so if you are installing a real package, uninstall and remove every trace of the trial version. Leave no stone unturned - and don't just delete the directory it's in. uninstall it through Start|Control Panel|Add/Remove Programs.
If you like having templates, go with Microsoft Office (I like Office Professional). it has lots of templates available online you can download and install. Microsoft Office Pro runs $500. costco's version comes with accounting. Microsoft upped the price.
I am not sure if WordPerfect 5.1 converters are still in Office 2007 or not.
If you are thinking Office Standard and you want office "older" and 2007 compatibility and need templates but don't need publisher, maybe you should consider the free OpenOffice.org. It is used by many college students, and You can download Avery's Microsoft Word template documents of your choice and use them.
networks are increasingly going wireless, especially draft-N because of the speed (there is a new standard coming out which blows this away, but I don't think the procs will handle it very well). It won't get you on the internet any faster than 802.11b, but you will notice an increase in speed between peers on your WLAN. , such as are offered by HP.