How to Choose a Computer System?
By Dr. Michael
Updated 3/8/13 by David Boss
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- Choosing a computer can be difficult. First, you should decide what you are going to use the computer for. Then, you need to mind the configurations and your budget. Last but not least, you should consider where to buy your components. We hope the following suggestions will help you make your selections.
- Computers are getting really inexpensive these days. Buying the most powerful computer your budget allows for is always a good idea.
- Computer prices do go down with time as old components get replaced with newer, more efficient technology. However, that doesn't mean that you should wait forever to utilize a computer, to learn from it, and most of all, enjoy it! A computer that works well for you and your purposes is always a great investment. Why do I say that, knowing the value of a computer decreases over time? Because what a computer can help you with is limitless.
- The most powerful computers these days are for gamers, servers, and rocket scientists. The priority is probably true in that order.
- Do not buy a so-called "name-brand" or "major-brand" if upgrading may be on your mind a couple of years down the road. These brands are specifically designed to hook you on buying their highly priced components to maximize their 40-60% profit margin. Most "clone" makers are operating only with a 5-25% margin. It should be readily apparent that you could save money building your own system. Besides, most major PC makers are not really "manufacturers." They are just "box-makers", putting components together, like everybody else (even you!).
- Clone, or house-branded, computers are often based on open structures. This means that they’re easier and cheaper to upgrade, using "universal" components. This gives you many viable options when taking your computer to be served, upgraded, or repaired. It also adds to your computers longevity.
- Not all clones are equal. Directron.com, and its parent company, have been distributing systems since 1991. We choose our components carefully and implement those with the highest return-on-investment and least failure rates. We offer all our system customers free life-time customer support by e-mail and telephone. Our customer service procedure is easy and fast.
- You should consider putting a computer together yourself only if you have some computer knowledge and spare time. It is not as easy as it looks, especially for those who have never built one before. However, the process does get easier once you have some experience under your belt. The satisfaction you get from putting a computer together is difficult to describe with words. Perhaps you could sell a few of them and try to become the next Michael Dell. Who knows?
- Rule of thumb: If a computer is more than three years old, it is generally wiser to buy a new system rather than upgrading an old one. Spending money on an old computer is much like repairing an old car. It may limp along for a while longer, but you’re not going to see much value added.
- If all you need to do is word processing, spreadsheet, home finance, some basic Windows games, e-mails, and browse the internet, you are an average user. Nothing really "high-end" is needed. Consider a mid-grade computer that includes ~3GHz microprocessor, 2 or 4 GBs of DDR3 memory, integrated graphics or a low end video card, and a 500GB hard drive. A 19”, or larger, widescreen LCD monitor is recommended.
- Servers are a lot more complex than any other computer systems. Normally servers should have a high speed CPU with multiple cores, preferably Intel Xeon processors with a minimum of 32GBs of high speed DDR3 memory and 3-5TB of hard disk storage. Often servers run in raid 5, which increases the performance of your hard drives and the speed of your data access. Since servers are rarely purposed to deal with graphic intensive processing, a mid-range video card could be utilized, but this configuration varies depending on the servers intended usage. A large case with ample cooling is needed to facilitate long uptime. Don't forget an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and hot swappable drives to protect and restore your data.
- Building a gaming computer is more personalized, customizable, and fun, than any other type of system. Currently high-end and hardware-demanding games include Crysis 3, Diablo III, Battlefield 3, Hitman, Tomb Raider, and Far Cry. These games only run well on gaming machines that are optimized for a certain level of CPU and graphic strain. Go with a top of the line processor, such as a 3.4GHz Intel Core i5 3570K or AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition. Take a minimum of 8GBs of DDR3 memory and at least a 1TB hard drive. Additionally, a solid state drive (SSD) for your operating system could give you the most noticeable difference in computer speed than any other single component, although they tend to cost about a dollar a gigabyte. The last major component is the video card, or GPU, which will process all the graphic intensive information that your games demand. You need the best video card your budget allows! The NVIDIA GeForce 600 series and the AMD Radeon 7000 series video cards will run most games on their highest settings. These cards have integrated/dedicated memory, GDDR5, which varies in both size (1-3GBs) and speed (128-384bits). It’s important that you get comparable tiers of parts in all of these areas, so one component does not bottleneck another, and decrease the overall performance of your machine. With the popularity of cloud gaming services such as Valves Steam and EA’s Origin, an optical drive (CD/DVD/ Blu-Ray) may or may not be needed, but never hurts to have. Ultimately that decision is left to you, depending on your usage. Additionally, a sound card can be useful if you have surround sound speakers, or need to hear enemy footsteps in a game like Counter-Strike. However, you can purchase USB headsets with great integrated sound drivers as well. PC gaming is a lot of fun, so be sure to design and build a computer so that you can enjoy it for a long time. For gaming machines, don’t even think about systems with integrated components such as video and audio. They will not be able to meet your games hardware needs.
- If you are choosing a computer for normal office work, only a mid-range computer is necessary. If you have the money readily available, we would recommend buying Intel processors, such as the i3 in either the SandyBridge or IvyBridge architecture. If you’re looking for a CPU on a small budget than AMD is the way to go. You really do not need much memory for basic word processing, spreadsheet, and e-mail. Consider 2-4GBs of memory, a 120-500GB hard drive, and a low-end video card if needed.
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