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PC Buying Guide. What does it all mean? I need help to decide. Am I getting enough computing power?  What is the best value?

The article below explains some basics. If you have more questions, please call. 209-368-5252   Click Here

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Feature Article


Looking to buy a new desktop personal computer system? This guide covers many of the basic items to examine when comparing desktop computer systems so that you can make an informed purchasing decision. If you're not understanding what it all means, we will be glad to explain.


Processors (CPUs)

Processor choices are a bit more difficult now than they were before. It is still really a choice between an AMD and an Intel processor. The difference really comes in how many cores there are in the processor and its relative speed. Each company now has a performance rating system that isn't really easy to compare.

Memory (RAM)

Most desktop computers now use a type of memory called DDR3. DDR2 is now only found in less expensive budget classed systems. In terms of amount, it is best to have at least 4GB of memory for the smoothest operation. Memory speeds can impact performance as well. The faster the memory, the better the performance. When buying memory, try to buy as few DIMMs as possible to allow for future memory upgrades if needed.

Hard Drives

Hard drives really boil down to size and speed. The larger the drive and the faster, the better the performance and capacity. In a desktop, it is best to have at least 500GB or more of storage space. In terms of speed, they are pretty much all running at 7200rpm now. A few high performance 10,000rpm drives are available.

Optical Drives (CD/DVD/Blu-ray)

Most systems now feature DVD burners, even the budget systems. It is best to make sure that you get a multiformat DVD burner that can support both the +R/RW and -R/RW formats. Speeds should be at least 16x for the recordable speed. Dual or Double Layer media support is also a common feature although less likely to be used due to media cost. Options also include LightScribe or Labelflash support for burning labels directly to compatible media. Blu-ray is an option for those wanting to use their PC for the high definition video format.

Video Cards

Video card technology seems to change every three to six months. If you aren't really doing any 3D graphics at all, then integrated graphics may be just fine. Beyond this, there are a wide selection of cards. Things to consider include performance, the amount of memory on the card, output connectors and the version of Direct X supported. Those looking to do any gaming should really consider a Direct X 10 card with at least 512MB of memory on-board.

External Connectors

Many upgrades and peripherals to computers now connect through external interfaces instead of internal cards. Check to see how many and what type of external ports are available on the computer for use with future peripherals. Look for systems that have both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 or FireWire ports. It should have at least six USB 2.0 connectors and one FireWire ports. eSATA is useful for anyone hoping to use high speed external storage. Many times media card readers that support various different flash memory cards for peripherals are also included.


What good is a desktop PC unless it also has a monitor? Previously users would need to choose between a CRT or LCD monitor, but LCDs are pretty much the standard now because of their reduced size and power consumption. The real issue is more about size and cost of the LCDs. The price difference between 19-inch and 22-inch models make 22-inch the best overall value although 24-inch models are quickly dropping in price. Most all screens use the wider 16:10 format but some are now being released with a near 2:1 ratio best suited for movie watching.

Custom Build vs. Off-The-Shelf

There are computers available off-the-shelf for a very low price. That doesn't necessarily mean the best value. The specifications will quote big numbers as far as system memory and processor speed, but, overall throughput may be lacking. Most off-the-shelf units are proprietary design with limited upgrade room.

A custom build computer does cost more, there's no disputing that, but in the long term, is a much better value. With the right quality parts put together in the right way, a computer can run faster and longer.

When you're ready to buy a new PC, give us a call. We will help you decide which is right for you. 





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