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January 17, 2005

My guide on How to buy a computer in 2005

One of the questions I often get, being at least partially in the technology and computer fields, is what/where/how to buy a new computer. Partially as reference, and partially to perhaps defer future questions, is my somewhat procedural guide to buying a computer in 2005.

This guide applies to people who surf the Internet, read e-mail, write letters, manage finances, and may occasionally play an empire-building game. 'Gamers' and other special-purpose users should consult other sources for system optimization.

Here's what does not matter:

  • Processor speed. All the hype about Gigahertz is mostly meaningless today; all processors available will be fast enough for you for at least the next five years. I recommend not buying a Celeron processor, but any Intel Pentium, AMD, Athelon, etc. will be fast enough.

  • Dozens of USB ports don't matter. Most everything sold today has a USB 2.0 port, and if so you can use a USB hub to extend the amount of ports you have.

  • Video card. Almost any will do, including the ones built onto the motherboard. If this confuses you, you don't need to worry about it.

  • Hard disk size. Unless you collect home video, MP3s, or other large files, you'll never use it all. Spend the money on performance.

What does matter:

  • Memory. Buy as much as you can. A gigabyte is good. Buy it on one 'stick' (or chip) if you can, so you can expand your system later. Memory, and hard drive speed, seem to be the modern indicators of apparent system speed.

  • Hard disk speed. Especially read speed. Hard drives are often the slowest part of your system, so get them as fast as you can. If you can get it, a RAID 1 array is recommended for desktop computers. SATA (Serial-ATA) drives are nice because of their improved cable management.

I've specifically excluded any comparisons between Windows-based and Macintosh/OS X-based computers. I think Macintosh may be better for most people, but I do not have the experience with them to be able to say that authoritatively. I am planning on purchasing an ibook or Powerbook this year so that I can educate myself on why so many geeks and artists alike seem to prefer the platform.

Posted by iokui at January 17, 2005 06:03 AM