Monday, November 8, 2010

New Computers Worth Having, OR, How Long Will My Computer Last?

Slow Computers Giving You The Blues -- Don't Be A Blue Turtle!
The Fall is a good time to talk about buying a new computer -- a lot of people consider doing so then -- the holidays are coming up, people are inside more, and statistics show it's one of the most popular times to do so.

What should you buy?

Well, why do you want a new one?

For most people it's because the old one isn't doing the job anymore. It's too slow, isn't reliable, or, well, it's dead. How should you choose a new one?

There are a lot of ways to choose a new personal computer. Using common sense is one -- choose a middle of the pack machine from a first tier maker -- don't go overboard -- watch your pennies -- that kind of thing. Another way, is to get what you WANT, price be damned. Yet another way is to figure out what you NEED. Within reason of course. But what do you really need?

Many people want a machine that provides a decent user experience doing common tasks for as long as possible -- they intend to own it and use it until it no longer provides that good experience, or, it dies.

It used to be the case, that you chose a computer based on what you used it for, and to some extent, that's still true. A word processing and accounting system doesn't have to be very powerful to be useful and seem speedy. But now that's now longer true. Now you have to choose a machine, or at least most of us do, based  on how it deals with the internet, how fast surfs the web, loads pages, and processes network information. But most new machines will do that out of the box, you say. So, how does that help?

Well, OK. But. Ask one more question. How long will my new machine last? The truth is, hardware failure aside, it will last only as long as it is powerful enough to deal with current software and the internet. Older machines get retired because they do not have the horsepower or memory to provide a satisfactory experience online.

Try surfing the web with a 7 year old single core Pentium 4 and 512 MB of RAM. It ain't pretty.

So in a very real sense, the more powerful your machine, the longer it will last.

There are diminishing returns however. And, for most people, they set in around the $1000 price point. Will a $2000 machine last 2X as long a $1000 machine -- not necessarily. And maybe, depending on what CPU and Memory are chosen, that $2000 machine may last no longer at all.

2 new Desktop Computers that I like, and that I think will provide a long and happy experience to their lucky new owners are based on the new AMD 6 core processors, which have the advantage of working like 6 little computers for you, at a price no higher than that of many of Intel's 2 core processors. Intel does have some higher performing CPUs, but you will pay dearly for them, and they fall squarely into those diminished returns I was talking about.

These 2 machines are the Dell XPS 7100 and the Hewlett-Packard HPE-460z, both of which can be had for well under $1000, nicely equipped, and both of which should last you a good long time.

They come with 2 years of onsite service, 1 TB hard drives, 8 GB memory 10/100/1000 GB networking, a fairly high end video card, and external eSata for easily expandable disk storage and backup.

Monitors are extra, and both Dell and HP offer nice ones, but my favorite is the Asus VW266H which can be had from Amazon, delivered, no tax, for under $290. It's a gorgeous 25.5" diagonal screen with 1920 X 1200 resolution, and because of the large screen size, even with that high resolution, the fonts are plenty big enough for most of us to read them easily.

Both Dell and HP computers can be upgraded to whopping amounts of RAM (16 GB) if you like, more and bigger hard disks, wireless N, faster video, and so on, but the base versions are plenty fast.

They should get you to 2015 at least, and that's saying a lot especially considering that the pace at which the load the internet and software place on our computers seems to be increasing.

So Go Forth and be Fast, be Powerful, and ... be Cheap.

Well, sensible anyway.


Photo credit:
Blue Turtle c/o

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