Thursday, July 10, 2008

Desktop Computer Specifications


Keep in mind that any new computer on the market will have sufficient power to run office applications, e-mail, and surf the Web. The most important requirements are an Ethernet adapter (network interface card) if you will live on-campus, and a backup device such as a CDRW or DVD-RW drive. Most new computers include a built-in 10/100 or 10/100/1000 Ethernet adapter, as well as a 56k modem for dial-up connections if you live off-campus.

The specifications below are just an example of what to shop for. Shop for the best balance between performance and value. The latest and fastest processor is usually overpriced when compared to the processor that is only a few hundred MHz slower.

Desktop Computers Using Microsoft Windows

* Intel and AMD Processors- Look for a minimum of 1.8 gigahertz. Less expensive processors running at slower speeds will get the job done for most people. Look for the best performance to price ratio.
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Windows Vista Home Premium, Business or Ultimate Editions - These are all acceptable options, as is Windows XP if you can find it. Windows Vista Home Basic is not recommended as it is missing some key networking and multimedia features.
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Microsoft Office 2007 Student and Teacher Edition - This software is available through the Office of Information Technology for faculty and staff. Students should purchase Office with their new computers to get the best price. Office is also available through the Campus Store. For more information see Supported Software for Students, Faculty, and Staff.
* 2 gigabyte (GB) random access memory (RAM)
* 120 gigabyte or larger hard disk - 7200RPM drives perform much better than the slower drives found in some entry-level PCs. Upgrading to the 7200RPM drive usually costs only a few dollars. 60GB is considered small by today's standards, but will be more space than many people will use. However: if you plan to store a lot of video, digital photos, and music on your computer; buy a larger drive.
* CD or DVD Recorder Most computers will come with a drive that can record CDs and play DVDs. Consider upgrading to a drive that can record DVDs as well. The exta capacity on a recordable DVD disc is useful for backing up large multimedia files.
* Flat Panel Display - Flat Panel displays work well in dorm rooms, and even a 15-inch Flat Panel (LCD) has almost as much viewable area as a 17-inch conventional (CRT) monitor (which will typically have 15.5 or 16 viewable inches). CRT or cathode ray tube monitors are rarely sold and are not recommended for space and quality reasons.
* Built-in Ethernet adapter (network interface)
* Built-in 56k modem
* Inkjet or laser printer - You can print from a machine in the computer lab, but most students find it convenient to have their own printer in their room.


What's the difference between a $500 PC and a $2500 PC if they both have the same monitors?

Most people will find that spending somewhere in between will buy the most features and performance for the money. Even the $500 PC will perform well when it comes to running office applications and surfing the Web, but it may not include Microsoft Office, or much of a warranty. A $2500 PC will include features many people will not need, such as a high-end 3D gaming graphics card, surround-sound audio and speakers, and more RAM and storage space than they will ever use. Keep in mind that the difference between 2GHz and 3GHz isn't perceptible in many applications. Gamers and graphic artists are among those who will see the performance gains from a high end machine.

Most new systems will be able to run the majority of software in 3 or 4 years (many businesses buy new computers on a three year cycle), but buying a system that is easy to upgrade will ensure the longest life. On the one hand, larger cases will be easier to upgrade, but smaller cases take up less space. Low profile, small form factor, or mini-ATX cases fit nicely in dorms but may limit your future options. Fortunately computer prices have fallen and technology is no longer growing in the great leaps it was a few years ago.

The following Websites offer up to date reviews on various systems; including the Dell, IBM, and HP/Compaq computers available at discounted prices when logged into the my.american.edu portal. Click the TECHNOLOGY link to see these specials.

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