If I Were Building a Computer Today… Rev
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 June 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, and modems. 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.
Case: Good solid case, no sharp edges
inside, two fans, plenty of space for drives, all drives are clipped in
(easy removal or changing).
CD-ROM: Here I have
substituted the DVD-ROM since this is the future.
CD-RW: 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
CPU: Athlon Xp 1900 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
Floppy Drive: Don't
Hard 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 133 drive with the
best buffer size (at least 2 MB) and quickest average access time (8.5ms
or less) that is large enough (60GB or bigger if you are into music or
photography) to meet your requirements.
Keyboard and mouse:
Wireless and ball-less is the way to go. Microsoft has caught up with
Logitech and now has a better ergonomic design.
Giga-Byte 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 BIOS.
Second it has two USB 2.0 ports as well as the USB 1.1 ports. Third, it
has onboard RAID. Now, I realize that most of us do not need or want RAID,
but this board gives us the ability to use the
RAID connectors as standard IDE connectors, thereby allowing more IDE
devices. Also included are on-board Sound Blaster 128 sound and 10/100
baseT Ethernet. This saves PCI slots. Thirdly, it has no AMR, CNR or ISA
slots. Lastly, this board comes with a nice bundle of useable and
Video 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.
Monitor: 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.
Speakers: These are
good speakers, but I have a tin ear. Use your own tastes to select the
best speakers for you.
Operating System: Windows
Xp has been around long enough to get several updates and fixes from
Microsoft. Stay on top of the security fixes and carefully monitor your
setup. Do not let Microsoft get control of your system. Linux, which is
worth considering, has a long way to go to be an average users operating
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.
to Schedule Your Back Ups With Retrospect by
Memory prices are stabilizing, at least for now. Hard drive prices are
slowly decreasing but the Maxtor
seems to be the best buy for the buck today.
Your comments are welcome!