"If your computer makes you money, then spend money on it" Buy the most powerful system on the market, add more RAM and upgrade the monitor and hard drive. If your budget is limited, then balance current needs, budget, and future needs and formulate a plan for what to buy now and what can be added without throwing anything away.
If you are buying your first computer, most likely you will consider that system under powered in six to 12 months and will want to upgrade. If you have a computer at work and purchase one for the home office, you will underestimate how much you will work on it and which programs you will use etc. To be satisfied with your computer purchase you should KNOW what you want to get out of your hardware now. Unfortunately you NEVER know what you will want in a year or two, or what your software will require. To maximize your investment, define clearly what you want to get out of your system, learn the order in which you should buy your system, and plan to replace your system in 18 to 24 months. You can minimize this if you buy in a logical order. Your circumstances need to be treated uniquely, but the general order will hold for most users.
If you play games, buy the monitor first, then the game software, and then the hardware to make that run as you would like (fast hard drive, RAM, video card).
Many people expect yesterday's hardware to run today's software. Remember how quickly the 286 was outdated? Note the MINIMUM hardware requirements for today's software. A 486/25 is underpowered to run today's desk top publishers and operating systems. A Pentium is recommended on many new games.
If you buy four 1-meg units, all four slots are full. To add RAM, you need to empty one slot, throw away what is in there now, and add a four meg unit. This only brings you to seven megabytes of memory (4+1+1+1). However, if you originally bought one 4-meg unit, you have three empty slots, so you can add another 4-meg unit, and your total is eight meg (4+4). This also allows for future expansion without throwing anything away. If your budget is tight, you can skimp on RAM with wise use of your space.
|Item||Low End||High End|
|Video card||$20||256k 16 colors||$350||4MB 16 Million colors|
|Sound card||$30||8 Bit||$400||All kinds of cool stuff|
|Speakers||$10||Makes noise||$300||Surround Sound|
|CD||$40||Single speed||$1000||Masters your own|
|In/Out card||$10||Game and printer ports||$100||High Speed|
|Modem||$25||2400 Baud||$200||33.6 Fax, Voice|
|Hard drive card||$30||2 IDE Drives||$350||SCSI Master|
|Printer||$200||9 pin dot matrix||$1400||12 PPM, 4 MB RAM|
|Scanner||$100||hand held B&W||$1400||Single pass w/ software|
|Cost||$465||for low end||$5,500||for high end|
The differences in prices and capabilities are tremendous and you can easily escalate the cost of your system. If you cannot afford what you want, buy something functional within your budget. When you do upgrade and throw out the replaced component, your loss is minimal. Be careful not to go too low, because you will be forced to upgrade earlier than expected. A comfortable range is about 4 to 6 times the low cost. This gets reasonably useful components without spending too much money on a throwaway component.
A caution to people who have a price target, but are not buying because they are waiting for better equipment for the same money next month. As soon as you buy that "dream system" your comparison changes. Now you will be saying, 'How much is this system today?'. Generally you lose 5-10% before the first month is over, making it difficult to remain excited about this dream system, when it is losing value faster than you are paying for it. Be aware of this from the start and it won't hurt so much.
Keeping in mind this purchasing plan, and protecting your upgrade ability, will extend the life of your investment. Even by following this advice, your system may still need to be upgraded every 12 to 18 months (adding memory, upgrading cards etc.) and replaced outright in four years (due to greater demands by software).
Ben Davies | "The Computer Guy"
Computer Service...in Plain English!
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