Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hey Mr Teacher What Computer Should I Buy?

This is a question that I get hit with several times a week. It is also a subject that I feel very strongly about. I have been stomping around the computer industry since 1972, that makes me ancient, senile, ready for the knackers yard, etc. But I still know more than the average Joe on the subject.

Ever since the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981, the hard ware and software manufactures have been waging a war. Faster hardware verus fatter applications. This war has been waged for 25 years, and their is no sign of a clear winner. Windows get bigger, Intel gets faster! If I was into conspiracy theories, I would say they are in collusion!

From the stuff I have been reading it looks like the next version of Windows is going to need (this is the guess on actually having a system that is responsive):

  • 1 gig of ram
  • 2.5 gig processor
  • 256 Meg Video card

Hmmm, well I can tell you that I do not have any computers that come near that spec! I have lots of computers and they are all in the 850mhz and less. I run Windows XP, Linux, and I have a couple of Apple boxes as well. I am happy with my puters, my wife is happy with hers, they all work just fine.

So why do you need a screaming fast system? Games, Games, Games. If you do not play the high end graphic games, you will see no difference between a 4ghz overclocked, water cooled computer from hell, and a Pentium III 500. For most things, word processing, email, spreadsheets, being bad on the net! Any old piece of crap will work just fine. In fact when I need another computer, I just assemble one from my ever growing junk pile.

Oops, I seem to have got a little off the original topic. I wanted to talk about brands.

So you think you are in the game for a brand new system? As I see it you really have 3 choices:

  1. Best Buy, Future shop, Staples, Etc
  2. The Mom and Pa Computer store
  3. Dell- esque

Option 1.

All these operations are only interested in moving product, and moving the lowest cost product. Their product line is all name brand. Now in most consumer electronics you want to buy name products. If you go to the store for a new TV and for $200, you have your choice of a Sony, or Joe Kim Sans Electric Corp from Bum Hell Shanghai, you will buy the Sony. Sony has a great name and you know that the Sony TV will work great and last a long time. All of the computers that these people sell are at the bottom edge of technology. Do not get me wrong, they are a great deal, great bang for the buck, but you will lose in the long run. All of the products are proprietary, and generally impossible to upgrade or fix if something bad happens.

A good example is when little 3 year old Johnny stuffs his peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the floppy drive. Instead of being able to replace it with a $10 generic drive you will have to special order a $40 drive from Compaq, or who ever.

The other major problem with all of these boxes are they are maxed out. Don't think that in 6 months you will be doing any significant upgrades to it, because you wont! About the most you will be able to do is maybe add some memory, but even that is a maybe!

Another problem is that the vast majority of these systems have the video as part of the motherboard, this is ok if you just want to play online and do a bit of writing and spreadsheet activity, but they are very poor performers for playing games. The graphics really suck!

Option 2.

This is without doubt my favorite, find a reputable local computer store and get then to build you a nice generic system. You will pay a little more than Future Shop, but you will get exactly what you want. Better still, because it is generic it will be easy to upgrade and replace parts.

Option 3.

In my opinion the Dells and Gateways of the world do make some good machines, but they also make some really nasty low-end ones as well. You get what you pay for. The low-end are very similar to what HP, Compaq, and the rest of the Best Buy inventory.


Is the best advice I can offer

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