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  1. #1
    iNET Interactive
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    TOP STORY

    Your next PC: thinking beyond the desktop


    By Woody Leonhard

    With Black Friday a fading memory and Cyber Monday deals still fresh on the Web, visions of a new PC may be dancing in your head.

    But before you go out hunting for that shiny new Win7 machine, take a deep breath, sit back, and consider these tips on buying a PC.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2010/12/02/01 (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by andyfboyd; 2011-01-18 at 13:55.

  2. #2
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    One final bit of advice: If you don't have a fast Internet connection, forget the new computer and invest in more bandwidth. That may mean switching Internet service providers or paying more for an enhanced account. The joy of a fast computer fades. But having a fast Internet connection will serve you well — now and far into the future.
    I wish.... Most I ever get with my copper cables is maybe 5Meg & that only tends to be late at night, sometimes in the evening I'm lucky to get 1Meg. Not everyone lives in a city with plenty of choice & speed.

    ps.

    Currently....


  3. #3
    New Lounger
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    I build my own computers, getting exactly what I want. My Quad core system is a bit old, three years old. I really can't complain about it. Then again, I've upgraded it to six gigs of memory, and 3 TB of disk space. The 20" CRT crapped out two years ago, so now I've got a 20" 1600x1200 screen, and another smaller screen has become my second monitor. The only thing I'm even remotely thinking about upgrading is my video card, and that's only so that I can run the @home programs on it. I had no idea that 256 megs would be considered too small for running them three years ago, but then they weren't something that was on the horizon anyway.

    A new computer would be using those same monitors. The same hard drives as well. I would use the same keyboard, a Microsoft 4000 (already on the fourth iteration with it, the cats can't seem to be able to avoid throwing up on them!) and the same trackball, a Microsoft Trackball Explorer (selling for more used on Ebay than they were available new...). I've been pounding the trackball or one like it for over 15 years know, and Microsoft curved keyboards for even longer. I know what I like. And I'm already doing good to keep under the 250GB cap that Comcast has, so upgrading the speed on that is worthless.

    My next desktop will be at least a Sandy Bridge. I expect to have USB 3, SATA 3 (to go with the SSD that I'll probably be booting off of), and possibly even PCI 3.0. So I'm probably not even looking at a new one next year, but 2012 at the earliest.

    Tablets?

    I'm not convinced. The walled garden otherwise known as Apple turns me off. Capricious, and I really don't want anybody telling me what I can or can't run on my hardware. Lack of a decent keyboard is an issue. I'm using a Garmin Nuviphone now, and I've had it with it's pitiful on screen keyboard. Getting something that runs Android just so that I can use Graffiti sounds better to me. I'm a Palm III and TX user (my wife convinced me to upgrade after she'd been using her TX for years, and they would most likely be disappearing after Web OS was announced...) and am proficient with it. Keyboards are still the fastest for me. Better ways for input have to be found. Graffiti isn't it, it's still too steep of a learning curve for most people.

    All I really expect my laptop to do is browse the Internet, and if I need to do anything much more strenuous, I just need to be able to connect to my desktop with RDP and still do what I want on my laptop.

    Then there's the issue of whether to trust the cloud or not. My biggest use of the cloud is using Gmail for all my email. Which is problematic when it goes down, which has happened on more than one occasion. But I can check mail at a friends, the library or any thing else with a browser.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    I build my own computers too and prefer to choose all my components.
    I'll be awaiting the new UEFI, (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Bios' replacement, to see if it takes off in 2011 before deciding on doing another build.
    With USB 3 and motherboards with HDDs capable of running SATA 6Gb/s becoming more readily available and standard, it should be a sweet combination of hardware.
    I'm one of those that wants and is willing to spend for that 6 core processor and 24 GBs of RAM in that Thermaltake Level 10 case with bi or tri SLI or ATI GPU setup.

    I don't care for using a laptop, and certainly not as a desktop replacement. Laptops still lag far behind in computing power compared to the desktop and will continue for the foreseeable future.
    My current laptop is merely a backup for my main desktop computer and I can't seem to bring myself to see it as anything more, and this is despite the fact that with my job
    I can change locations as often as every 3 to 6 months. A laptop is like persona non grata to me.
    I have no use for office apps other than simple viewers, and cloud computing is'nt too terribly appealing to me other than the potential for backup, if it can be proven secure.
    Got a chance to take a look at the iPad, it's very nice looking (beautiful) and fast. I might seriously consider it for mobile internet browsing & email over a laptop.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

    Build your own system; get everything you want and nothing you don't.
    Latest Build:
    ASUS X99 Deluxe, Core i7-5960X, Corsair Hydro H100i, Plextor M6e 256GB M.2 SSD, Corsair DOMINATOR Platinum 32GB DDR4@2666, W8.1 64 bit,
    EVGA GTX980, Seasonic PLATINUM-1000W PSU, MountainMods U2-UFO Case, and 7 other internal drives.

  5. #5
    New Lounger
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    It is true that some older peripherals, and very many scanners, will not work with newer versions of Windows. That isn't because of some problem with the OS, it's because the manufacturer won't provide compatible drivers.

    In the case of scanners there are various third-party driver providers. I use VueScan Pro (http://www.hamrick.com) which provides drivers for over 1500 flatbed scanners. At $79.95 one might argue that one can buy a new scanner for not much more but if like me you have quality model that you hate to consign to the waste mountain it's a viable option.

    Geo.

  6. #6
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    The Windows Experience Index (WEI) is far from accurate when evaluating the newer Intel Core-i5 and Core-i7 platform hardware. The Turbo Boost technology and the fourfold hyperthreading are not detected by WEI or the Windows Device Manager. The ability to switch from the on-board Intel-HD Graphics to discreet ATI or NVidia mini-cards is also not detected by WEI or the Windows Device Manager. This is a serious shortcoming when evaluating new laptops, including my own Toshiba Satellite (Core-i5 and NVidia graphics). Microsoft really needs to get up to speed with WEI before I can recommend it as a comparison tool when considering which new laptop to buy.

    Belarc Adviser suffers from the same flaws as WEI, as Belarc relies way too heavily on whatever Windows reports about hardware components and their performance. System Information for Windows (SIW) does its own checking, and is much more reliable. Glary Utilities also does a decent job of reporting what is actually present, and how it is performing.

    None of these tools is a true benchmarking tool. Readers should not rely on anything except actual benchmarks when deciding what to buy. For processors, the gold standard is Passmark, and they post at their web site a series of tables of which processors give the best performance, as well as which give the best performance for their price. Not surprisingly, AMD does well on the latter measure, while Intel tends to get the edge in raw performance figures. Other hardware components, most notoriously graphics sub-systems, are much harder to evaluate.

    Otherwise, I agree that the vast majority of Home and Business Users would be best off with the less expensive laptops, and hardly anyone really needs a desktop these days, except maybe photo and video enthusiasts or serious gamers. For gamers, a faster Internet Connection and a faster router would be better investments than a new computer, as Woody says.

    But hold off on getting a new router until IPv6 is fully implemented, which last I read, looks like it will have to happen within the next year or two. At that time, ISPs will have to change out a lot of modems, and today's routers may not be compatible with tomorrow's modems. This transition promises to be as disruptive and confusing as the Broadcast Television transition to Digital TV has been. (I still use VCRs, so I have six Converter Boxes with varying capabilities.) So hold off on that router upgrade, is my advice.

    While I am happy with my new laptop, I doubt that I will use its full power for at least a few years into the future. For those not looking to keep that new computer longer than three to five years, what I bought would probably be vast overkill. But I do like how fast I can download and install updates and upgrades, as well as new software. And backup and recovery are also very fast compared with my older single-core Pentium-4 based laptop. So I could have gotten away with less, but I am happy with what I did buy.
    -- Bob Primak --

  7. #7
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    Windows 7 Home, Pro and Ultimate actually support 4GB of RAM out of the box with a 32bit installation. Hence there is no need to purchase a 64bit version unless you need more than 4GB RAM

    For more http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa366778(VS.85).aspx#physical_memory_limits_window s_7

  8. #8
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    I will keep my desktop computer, thank you very much. While I'm no computer genius, I do work on my own computer, I had to learn myself as I wasn't about to spend ton's of money on someone else doing it for me and the desktop is so cheap and easy to fix; most of the time. Plus with my 23 inch flatscreen monitor, I can see everything! I work on my photos, graphics, watch Netflix, Hulu and anything else without straining my eyes. I also love my keyboard and can't imagine not having one. I'm old school and used to manual typewriters, yeah I'm that old, so I like to pound away when typing lengthy emails. I use it so much I wear out the letters on it! Try typing 60wpm with out a keyboard. LOL

    Tablets look cool, but I will never buy one. I just recently got me a HP Mini Netbook and I love it! I got it for work and I can use it all day long without charging the battery. My netbook has way more power than my desktop did about 10 years ago, so I can't complain about it at all. I can even flatten it out completely and carry it like a book in my arm and walk around the office while using it. And I still have a keyboard! And with my eyesight, I can still see the screen no problem. Actually I was a bit surprised at how well I could see things. Granted it's limited real estate for viewing, but I'm not going blind trying to view anything on the screen. Ipad is hype and limited. They can keep it!

  9. #9
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    "pcdecrapifier" is a useful tool to run on a new machine - it will strip out all those trial applications and OEM specials. It worked for me on a new netbook.

  10. #10
    New Lounger
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    My one objection to your piece is the recommendation to go laptop. I've recently bought a laptop - a Macbook Air - but I wouldn't consider using one as my main PC from the standpoint of ergonomics. If I were going to use a desktop replacement laptop, I would insist on external screen or screens (I currnently use 2 - one 23" and one 24"), keyobaord and trackball. Adding those peripherals would make the laptop even more expensive when compared to a desktop. In my experience laptops are even more prone to instant obsolescence than desktop pcs.

  11. #11
    3 Star Lounger
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    Just my $0.02 worth:

    Most of my customers are 60+ years old and don't travel at all. With diminishing eyesight at higher ages even a 17" notebook is not a viable alternative. And for what my customers do, email, some Internet browsing, googling and so on a basic dual core Win 7 Home Premium PC with on-board graphics is plenty enough. They mostly have only one window open full screen at any given time anyway!

    The difference between Win7 32- and 64-bit on identical hardware is significant though! Ok, my customers can't compare but I see it all the time when I do my "clean up" job on new machines; on the 64-bit version I am done half an hour earlier than on a 32-bit version, everything else being equal!

    ALL Win7 machines I recommend have 4GB and the 64-bit OS! 2GB is in my experience not enough for either Vista and Win7.

    Compatibility issues are MUCH less in Win7 compared to Vista. And frankly, is the age old parallel port printer really worth keeping? Heck, we can get b/w lasers for under $100 and color lasers lately have shown up for under $200.

    And a general remark: Those 5 to 7 year old Dells and Gateways and lead-heavy HPs I run across all the time are beginning to fail in droves. I tell my customers how it is IMHO:

    Spend $150 to $250 on the upgrade and software repair (malware) and still have a sluggish old system that will be untenable in 3 years anyway (and likely develop other failures in the meantime) or invest $400 in a brand new Win7 box that is technically in every aspect a multiple of the old one. Most of my customers get a new one and I think they make the right decision.

    Just some old man's ramblings from every day's real life practice. Merry Christmas y'all.
    Eike J Heinze
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Spooner View Post
    It is true that some older peripherals, and very many scanners, will not work with newer versions of Windows. That isn't because of some problem with the OS...
    Yes, it is. I didn't need a new computer, or even an upgrade, just a new OS (I can still dual-boot XP, if I want a reminder of why I switched).

    My new OS included drivers for my parallel port printer and scanner (wouldn't work on Vista or 7), and that old TV card (that I use to capture video). My OS installs drivers automatically, not like Windows. I have a 6 (?) year old machine with 1G of memory, and yesterday I was editing a movie, just fine. (It helps that I don't need antivirus). I'd pay good money for this OS, except that they don't charge for it. Hasta la Vista, Bill and Steve, and give Win7 the news.

    Just another old guy's rant. I'm 63.

    jim

    http://wubi-installer.org/

  13. #13
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    "Before you put that old machine out to pasture — destined for the kids..."

    Good luck with that. Kids have a way of gravitating to the fastest machine in the house. Suddenly they will find that "nothing else will do"... and you will find yourself using the old machine. At least, that's how it usually works.

    I think that the greatest lessons here are the ones that weren't mentioned: Buy what you need; ignore the bling and marketing - for some, the best solution is an iPad, for others it's a netbook, for others it's a desktop. This is especially true at this time of the year, when new shiny toys compete for our attention.
    Who is General Failure and why is he reading my disk?

  14. #14
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    I cannot agree with Woody's recommendation for Win7x64. Despite providing access to more than 4 MB RAM, the x64 version has proven very unstable in my experience. As Woody pointed out, the scanner was the deal-breaker. It would not work under x64. All my problems, including hangs while the x32 programs tried to figure out the difference between Program Files and Program Files (x86), resulted from the 64-bit OS. When I switched to Win7x32, the problems went away. Microsoft and its OEM co-conspirators have tried to force developers to write native 64-bit code by ramming a 64-bit OS down the throats of customers. Microsoft's licensing arrangements prohibit large OEM vendors from selling consumer-grade computers with Win7x32 installed. You have to purchase a business-grade computer to get the x32 version. Many developers have failed or refused to move to x64, or their attempts to port their applications have been poorly done. I had to buy a separate copy of Win7x32, wipe Win7x64 from my system, and perform a fresh install to resolve my problems. Win7x64 is not ready for prime time and will not be ready until mainstream software has moved to 64-bit code. Even Office 2007 recommends installing the 32-bit rather than the 64-bit version.

  15. #15
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    Almost everyone who has replied so far says exactly what I am saying. I build my own computers, and expect to do so until I am too old to be able to use them. Since I am 77 this may be sooner than I think. I own two Lian-Li PC-50 cases, although I am only using one at the moment. My latest build is about two years ago. Neither the hardware nor WinXP OS shows any signs of becoming obsolete anytime soon. But when they do upgrading is easy. I do have a lightweight (3 pound) ASUS netbook I just bought to travel with me. It's a great little machine but I can't imagine using it at home instead of my desktop. Especially since I am addicted to the Avant Stellar keyboard, the successor to the late Northgate OmniKey, As someone wrote in a review of this keyboard years ago, you will pry it out of my cold dead hands. Touchscreen? fugedabodit! Cloud computing? No way my personal data gets stored out there! Finally, with all its well-known faults, I have yet to find a satisfactory replacement for MS Office, especially Outlook.

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