pbn_logo.gif (6296 bytes)


How Much Computer Power Does Your Office Need?

By Rob Kay

Last month we began the first of a two-part series on what to look for in the purchase of a new office computer. We determined you can actually save money by buying a high quality Pentium clone in Hawaii if you don't mind purchasing a locally made (non-brand name) machine. Our suggestion is to tell the computer manufacturers (whether it's put together locally or on the mainland) exactly what features and components you want. They will then build the machine to your precise specifications.

In last month's installment we looked at what type of monitor to purchase (you won't go wrong with Sony) and what type of graphics card to consider. (In that department we were very impressed with the Productiva 100 from Matrox for basic business applications or the Viper V330 from Diamond Multimedia Company and the STB Velocity for higher end needs). Finally we considered what kind of microprocessor to purchase. We think the best bargain you'll get in terms of price and power is a Pentium II machine with a 333 MHz processor. This will serve you well presently and at least several years into the future. (Be sure that the motherboard you purchase is upgradeable to 400 MHz). Note that the prices quoted below may change. We shop at PDC Systems on Kapiolani-they have very competitive prices.

This month we'll look at some of the other important components for your next office computer.

Hard Drive: The hard drive is your data vault. It stores all your files, which include letters, documents and even photos. It is the most important piece of equipment inside the computer. If it fails you lose your data. The cardinal rule is to purchase a good one-even if it means spending a few more dollars. You'll want to purchase as large and as fast a hard drive as your budget allows for. There are many reasons for this. Programs are getting more bloated all the time and it's easy to fill your drive with Internet downloads. Nowadays you'll want a hard drive of at least six gigabytes (or "gigs" as storage is popularly called). Hard drive speed is another issue. A fast hard drive will make your machine perform quicker and eliminates another potential data bottleneck. A fast unit (especially combined with a speedy video card) can make a startling performance difference for those interested in a less expensive upgrade.

For this article we tested two Ultra ATA enhanced IDE drives--the Seagate Medalist Pro 6530 and the Quantum Fireball EL Ultra ATA). We chose to test the Ultra ATA class of drives because they provide faster transfer rates and data access than the average unit. The drives we tested had 6.5 to 7.6 gigabytes of storage capacity but both models come in a variety of sizes. We like the 6-8 gigabyte size because nowadays when you purchase a new machine you'll need drives with the capacity to accommodate the larger programs (known the industry as bloatware) as well as any data that you may want to download off the Internet.

The first unit we tested was the Seagate Medalist Pro 6530. At 6.5 gigabytes and with a street price around $230 or less, this unit was ideal for business applications and faster Internet performance. The Medalist Pro proved to be extremely fast-approaching the performance levels of a much more expensive "SCSI" type drive. According to Pacific Interactive in Honolulu, which benchmarked the drive, replacing an older drive with a Seagate saved a full minute in booting up the system. Considering the competitive price, this drive is a winner.

The Quantum Fireball EL Ultra ATA, which has a street price of around $240 or less, at 7.6 gigabytes was slightly larger in capacity that the Seagate unit, was an equally solid performer. Interestingly enough it operated much more quietly--we could barely hear the drive working over the cooling fans. The Fireball proved to be dependable and speedy even when nearly full to capacity. It's also a good choice.

Bottom Line: Both the Seagate and the Quantum units were excellent performers. Both are slightly more expensive than the average hard drive but the bang-for-the-buck performance is well worth the extra few dollars.

Memory: Random Access Memory is another area you don't want to skimp on. Again, the more the merrier. We suggest at bare minimum you get 32 megs whereas 64 would be optimal. Keep in mind that in general, memory speeds up the computer=s processing ability. Another thing: Memory prices nowadays are dirt cheap-around $60+ for 64 megabytes. Don't skimp on it in order to save a few bucks.

Backup System: As we emphasized in an earlier article, you will want a way to back up your data. A good backup system is your insurance policy. We find the Hewlett Packard AT3000 system, which can store up to 5 gigabytes of compressed data, to be an excellent value at around $200.

Modem: You'll want a 56 Kbps (kilobits per second) modem for both Internet and Email use. We prefer external modems to the internal variety but function exactly the same. If you have crummy phone lines consider the Courier V.Everything modem from 3Com for around $250. If you have good phone connections you can purchase less expensive but adequate (external) modems such as the Diamond Supra Express for around $100.

Bottom Line: The price of a 333 MHz Pentium II machine with minimum 6 gig drive, 64 MB of memory, CD ROM, tape back up with a decent video card and 17" monitor will run you around $1800+ from a Hawaii shop or a mainland mail order house. (The price for the 300 MHz "Celeron" version will be several hundred dollars less. That said, the cost of very usable clones have dropped to below $1000 and by the end of the year analysts tell us you'll probably be able to purchase machines below $750. We think the under $1000 machines sold virtually everywhere are OK for students or home use. However, they often lack "upgradability" and for an office that will need to upgrade it's better not to get the really cheap systems. We suggest you consider the components we recommend and have local shop build it to your specifications.

Pacific Business News - Monday September 28, 1998

ruler3.gif (618 bytes)
Home / About Pac-Tech / PR Services / Clients / Clips--Hawaii--National