If I Were Building a Computer Today… Rev
(January 12, 2002; Updated 3-6-02)
The purpose of this on
going article is to give some guidance on what the average well-built
computer contains. This is not the
ultimate gamer machine nor is it the ultimate CAD machine or over clocking
machine. It is a machine that will
do all those tasks very nicely without specializing in any of them.
These are the
specifications that will be frozen in time when our next build comes due,
which looks like March 2002.
All prices and part numbers are for reference only and reflect
those prices and part numbers available on the Axion Technologies Web page
on the date of each revision of the list. (www.axiontech.com)
Keep your eye on the local sales and on any given weekend either
hard drives or input devices or something else on this list are on sale at
some very attractive prices.
Some of the components
are “don’t care” pieces, which means I really don’t care who the
manufacturer is or, within reason, what the speed of the device is.
These devices include but are not limited to: floppy drives, CD ROM
drives, modems and Ethernet cards. Most
of these devices are on their way out, or are at least on the steep
downward slope of their live cycle.
Now, for each item on
the list I will give you an input on why it was chosen.
Good solid case, no sharp edges inside, two fans, plenty of space
for drives, all
drives are clipped in (easy removal or changing).
Don’t care (also not required). Any
50X or higher speed will do.
The important feature here is Buffer Under Run Protection.
Don’t buy any CD-RW that does not have this feature regardless of
price or manufacturer.
Athlon Xp 1700 Retail Box.
Stick with the retail box because it has a CPU fan
included and the CPU has a 3 year warranty (as opposed to a 1 yr
warranty for the OEM CPU).
Watch this part because it changes as quickly as the price drops
on the faster speeds.
The Athlon was chosen over the Intel P4
because of its price/performance
Drive: Don’t care.
Drive: Failure rate
differences of IBM, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and the
other hard drives are minimal. So
that makes this a case of faster and bigger is better.
Look for the fastest
(7200 RPM or better) UDMA 100 drive with the best buffer size
(at least 2 MB) and quickest average access time (8.5ms or less)
that is large enough (40GB or
bigger if you are into music or photography) to meet your requirements.
and mouse: Wireless and
ball-less is the way to go. Logitech is the current leader
in this technology, but watch for Microsoft to catch up fast.
was chosen here for several reasons. First it has the dual
BIOS. This makes it almost
impossible to mess up during an upgrade of the
it has both 10/100 baseT Ethernet and Sound Blaster 128 sound
on board. This saves
PCI slots. Thirdly,
it has no AMR, CNR or ISA slots.
Lastly, this board
comes with a nice bundle of useable and necessary software.
Almost any board with
the VIA KT266A
chipset would be a close second choice.
A good second choice
would be the Soyo Dragon board. However
unless you are going
to set up a RAID array, the $40 to $50 extra cost is not worth it.
Card: This is an
excellent 2D/3D card. Not quite as fast as some of the $200 to $300 cards on the
market, but fast enough for all but the most ardent gamer.
It has come to my attention that there are
different ATI 7500 Radeon cards available.
There are those that are “Made by ATI” and those that
are “Powered by ATI”. Those
Powered by ATI have their own drivers, and updates to the driver
set must come from the manufacturer, not from the ATI web site.
This is the best bargain I have seen so far.
This flat screen monitor is clear and
has an excellent picture and controls.
My next choice would to go for an 18 in. flat
panel display. Within
the next year, the prices on flat panels should come down to
an affordable price range.
System: Until Windows
Xp has been around long enough to get at least
Service Pack 1, I am not too sure I would feel too comfortable with
it. There seems to
be too many compatibility issues still haunting them.
Linux, which is worth considering,
has a long way to go to be an average users operating system.
Lastly, one should
consider how the best way to back up your system is in today’s
environment. Tape is too slow and a
thing of the past for personal desktop systems.
With the back up software available today, the best way to protect
your data would be to use a second hard drive and schedule a total system
back up every other week to alternate backup sets.
This way you can never lose more than one week of data.
Since we are using this drive for backup only, it need not be the
fastest drive on the market. Therefore,
go for a less expensive slower 5400-RPM drive.
There have been a
couple of changes since my last update. Memory
is increasing in price rapidly, so look around.
Hard drive prices are slowly decreasing but the IBM seems to be the
best buy for the buck today. Video
cards are a fast moving target and the subject of much debate.
You will notice I have switch to the slightly higher priced 7500
series from ATI. Primarily because
it has double the memory on board and its specs are much better.
The slight price increase is worth the money.
Lastly, I changed the Plextor
CD-RW for the Lite-On
unit. 12x10x24 performance from the
Plextor cannot compare to the 24x10x40 of the Lite-On.
Both have the required Buffer Under
run Protection and both are recognized by Nero,
which seems to be the burning software of choice (the fact that the Lite-On
is $40.00 less does not go unnoticed).
Excel Spreadsheet (January 26, 2002).
I were... HTML Version of Specs (January