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PC Price Wars Make PCs more affordable

By Shakil Ahmed and Rob Kay

We're the first to admit it. We are hardware freaks. Naturally when Intel gets around to releasing a new generation of microprocessor, there's more than a passing interest at our place. Intel's new series of P4 processors are the first real innovation since the first Pentium was launched in 1995. Thus, you're getting more than just a souped-up version of the Pentium III. Currently the fastest Pentium 4 personal computer runs at 1.7 gigahertz, which translates to 1,700 megahertz and it has power to spare.

However, when the P4 first came out about six months ago what occurred to us what that despite the hype, average person cannot tell the difference between a fast Pentium III and the new "P4". Also what we didn't like the price. It was just way too expensive to account for any added productivity.

As everyone knows, six months in the technology industry world is a lifetime. In that period of time, prices have simply fallen through the floor. With a fully loaded P4 system going for $1300, the time has come to seriously consider this as an entry level standard.

What else should your P4 system have? Let's take a look at the specs.

Memory: RAM is also dirt-cheap nowadays and we would say stock up. Even with a fast microprocessor, if you don't have enough memory, your added muscle will be wasted. I would say get 256MB-especially if you're planning to run Windows XP.

Storage: You'll want at least 20 or even 30 gigabytes of hard drive. Again, prices are so cheap, it's ridiculous not to get something decent. In short, the bigger the drive the better. The faster the drive, the better the response.

Operating System or "OS": Windows 2000 is the way to go for a small business.

Broadband Capabilities: If you do plan a to get a broadband (DSL or Roadrunner) connection to the Internet make sure to have a "NIC" or network card built into the system.

Video System: We like the ATI and Matrox cards but it really doesn't matter so long as you have at least 16 megs of memory or 32 megs if you do graphics work or have a large monitor.

Audio System: Unless you are a digital music freak (although we can't imagine that this is tolerated by most offices!) inexpensive speakers such as the $25 pair by Creative Labs that we picked up at Comp USA will do just fine.

Monitor: Get a 17-inch screen especially if you spend long hours in front of your PC. You can get something in the halfway decent category start at around $220 for a ViewSonic. If you really want something really cool, consider a flat screen system starting at around $500.

Backup System: We would consider a PC with a built-in CD-RW drive, or, a zip drive backup. Another option is to simply buy an extra hard drive and back up your data on that.

Plugging in Peripherals: You'll want a set up that provides at least two USB connectors. Better yet, get a FireWire, "1394", or I-link if you're editing video or recording a lot of MP3 files. They are much faster.

Extended Warrantees: We would suggest an extended warranty only if you're purchasing large numbers of PCs. Otherwise, the standard warranty which consists of one year on the system plus three years warranty on the major parts (motherboard, memory, CPU, and hard dive) is more than sufficient. The average life of a computer is less than three years and most of the parts will be covered.

Where to Buy: One question we get asked a lot is where you should buy your machine. We'd say either stick with a well known brand such as IBM, Dell, H-P or Gateway or, purchase a locally-built clone from a reputable Hawaii manufacturer. Don't knock a computer just because it was built here!

Shakil Ahmed is the founder of PDC Systems, a Honolulu networking and computer company established in 1991. Questions or comments should be addressed to askshak@pdcsystems.com Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who specializes in technology. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Suggestions for column topics are welcomed.

Published July 6, 2001

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