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Guide to Buying a Computer

Part 6:
Recommended Computer Systems



Whether you are buying a complete computer system or you intend to buy the separate components and build it yourself, you need to know which components are right for you.

Complete Computer Systems

Most stores and mail-order outlets offer complete computer systems that include a package installed software applications. If you consider purchasing a complete system, get a detailed list of the computer components as well as a list of the individual software programs so you know what you are and are not getting.

Basic:

Suitable for surfing the Internet, writing, sending/receiving eMail, office and other non-graphic-intensive software.

  • Processor: AMD Duron or Intel Celeron
  • RAM Memory: 128 MB SDRAM at 266 MHz
  • Hard Drive: 10 - 20 GB (5600 RPM is fine)
  • (Optional) Wireless: IEEE 802.11g (look for the "g")
  • Monitor: 17 inch color monitor
  • Floppy Disk
  • Backup: CD-RW or ZIP
  • Sound: Integrated audio with speakers
  • Modem: 56 Kbps PCI Data/fax modem
  • Video Card: Integrated video (or ATI Radeon 9600 Pro
  • Operating System: Windows XP Home Edition
  • Software: MS Office Standard, Quicken, Anti-Virus, Firewall, eMail, & Web Browser
  • Consider getting: Wireless Capability - IEEE 802.11g standard (Look for the "g")*
  • Power Protection: APC Back-UPS

Mid-Level:

Now-a-days mid-level computers can handle just about anything most folks could want, including periodic use of many graphic-intensive programs.

  • Processor:, AMD Athlon XP or Intel Pentium IV
  • RAM Memory: 256 MB SDRAM or 256 DDR SDRAM
  • Hard Drive: 40 GB at 7200 RPM
  • Wireless: IEEE 802.11g (not "a" or "b")
  • Monitor: 17 - 19 inch color monitor, flat screen
  • Floppy Disk
  • CD-RW/DVD Combo Drive provides an easy way to backup data
  • Video Card: ATI All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro
  • Sound: Full-Duplex, Digital Sound Support
  • Modem: 56 Kbps PCI Data/fax modem
  • Operating System: Windows XP
  • Software: Microsoft Office Professional, Quicken (QuickBooks for a small business), Anti-Virus, Firewall, eMail, & Web Browser
  • Wireless Capability: IEEE 802.11g standard (Look for the "g")*
  • Power Protection: APC Back-UPS

High-End:

Suitable for demanding multimedia and large graphic files. For: intensive gaming, video editing, and similar graphic-intensive programs.

  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 FX-51 or Intel Pentium IV HT Extreme Edition
  • RAM Memory: 512 MB DDR SDRAM at 400 MHz or 512 MB DDR RDRAM
  • Hard Drive: 60 - 80 GB at 7200 RPM (For serious video editing: 120 GB or more)
  • Wireless: IEEE 802.11g (not "a" or "b")
  • Monitor: 20 inch color monitor, flat screen (Some gamers prefer to avoid LCD monitors because of "ghosting.")
  • Floppy Disk
  • CD-RW/DVD Combo Drive provides an easy way to backup data
  • Video Card: 128 MB nVidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra (or ATI Radeon 9800 Pro)
  • Sound Card: Creative Labs Audigy 2 Platinum
  • Sound: Full-Duplex, Digital Sound Support
  • Modem: 56 Kbps PCI Data/fax modem
  • Operating System: Windows XP or Windows Server 2003
  • Software: Microsoft Office Professional, Quicken (QuickBooks for a small business) Anti-Virus, Firewall, eMail, & Web Browser
  • Wireless Capability: IEEE 802.11g standard (Look for the "g")*
  • Power Protection: APC Back-UPS

* Wireless Capability - Many computers now have wireless capability. This is becoming standard on all computers. However, many computers are sold without this convenient feature. So, you still must look for it to make sure it's there. There are several technologies to pick from and they are not all compatible. I recommend getting the new IEEE 802.11g standard (Look for the "g")! You may wish to read an article on this topic, Rise of the Wireless Standard.


Next, we discuss what to do, what to avoid, dealing with sales people, and making a final decision.


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Copyright © 2003 Adrian Watts-Smith & Nick Cheng. All rights reserved. Other copyrights and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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