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 The Computer Buzz October 7th, 2010     


Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Factory

Features For the Future

Last week we discussed how CPUs affect the performance of PCs. The AMD Phenom II 1055 is three times as fast as the entry level AMD Athlon II 250 but you would hardly notice a difference performing basic tasks like WWW surfing, watching videos, editing photos or using Microsoft Office (Excel, Word and Power Point). CPU performance becomes more important for high-level tasks like audio/video editing, design software (AutoCAD, Solidworks, animation programs) and high-end gaming and simulation programs (World of Warcraft, Microsoft Flight Simulator 10).

The difference in price between the two CPUs mentioned above would account for only about $175 in a PC system, yet the price differential between entry level and high performance PCs is typically several hundred dollars. Why is that?

The “packagers,” like Dell, Compaq/HP, and Gateway/E-Machine, order their products pre-configured from the offshore manufacturing companies that build their PCs. Dell claims to allow customers to design their own PCs but their menu is very limited. It’s like In-and-Out Burger saying “you can have anything you want as long as it’s a hamburger.

Packagers” logically assume that the customers who are willing to pay the higher prices for CPU speed will also be willing to pay for other enhancements. Things like upgraded Video, RAM, Audio, larger hard drives, and features like Bluetooth or Blue Ray are often bundled with high end PCs. Unfortunately bundling is a guessing game and consumers are often saddled with unwanted features when all they really wanted was a faster CPU.

Some enhancements go hand in hand with higher end CPUs. You do need higher Wattage power supplies and enhanced graphic are often an important compliment to faster processors. The generic “enhanced” video offered in “packages,” however, may not be optimized to your particular needs. Size of hard drive, the amount of RAM and other features are items that should be considered independently.

Package PCs” at any price level are no bargain when compared to the flexibility, quality, reliability and service available from your local PC builder. In addition to the options above there are many other features and options to consider. For example, does integrated video meet your needs or do you need a separate video card? How much RAM do you need and would you benefit from more expensive higher speed RAM? Can you utilize external SATA connections (E-SATA)? How about the new USB 3.0? How about Firewire ports? Would you like RAID hard drives? Mirrored or striped? How about multiple video outlets? Digital or VGA or both? Need HDMI? S/PDIF? What operating system? Win XP? Home or Pro? Windows 7 Home, Pro or Ultimate? and will that be 32 or 64 bit? Will you need an emulation download with your 64 bit Pro?

Mind-boggling? It’s not as hard as it looks. If you expect your new PC to last a few years you need to know what these features do. Nearly all are simply a matter of choosing the right motherboard. Stop in, we’ll be happy to help you make the right decisions.

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