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What to look for in an assembled PC
http://www.softwaretipsandtricks.com/windowsxp/articles/644/1/What-to-look-for-in-an-assembled-PC
Super Admin
 
By Super Admin
Published on 06/27/2005
 
Not too well versed with the hardware jargon but need a computer? Once you are sure what you need one for, get cracking. Here is a basic guide to get you started.

What to look for in an assembled PC

Do note while all potential buyers will benefit from this piece, it is mainly targeted at individuals opting for an assembled PC.

An indicative price list at the end will help you budget accordingly.

Motherboard

The large circuit board into which the Central Processing Unit, memory boards and peripheral cards are plugged is referred to as the motherboard.

It is the most vital part of any computer as it holds and connects all your peripherals and add-ons to give you upgrade options and support for future technologies.

What you must know:

Check whether it comes with all the necessary options, support for upgradeability and extra slots for memory and other add-on cards.

Processor

Processor chips are primarily available in two brands -- INTEL and AMD.

The Intel chips range from the very basic Celeron chip to the Pentium series to the advanced Centrino processor.

AMD has a chip called Athlon, which is slightly cheaper than the higher end Intel chips.

Most users prefer Intel Pentium chips to Athlon as the latter heats up soon and isn't as efficient as a Pentium 4 chip. Also, the Athlon chip based systems need extra fans to cool the system.

The most preferred chip is the Pentium 4 2.4 GHz.

You might want to consider the Athlon chip with the motherboard would cost you about $70 less than its INTEL counterpart.

What you must know:

Though the processor speed plays a crucial role, you need not have the latest and fastest one available. If a processor with a slightly lesser core speed can do just as well for your demands, go for it.
Make sure the chips are box packed with a serial number to ensure they are original.

Random Access Memory

RAM is the amount of memory available for use by programmes on a computer.

The RAM chip comes in capacities of 128, 256, 512 MB, even 1 GB. Most computers function efficiently with 256 MB RAM, though a 512 MB RAM does offer you an edge.

As a thumb rule, always go in for a minimum of 256 MB RAM.

The cost difference between 256 MB and 512 MB is around $30.

The latest memory technologies in use are DDR RAM, RD RAM and the latest release of the DDR2 RAM.

What you must know:

Since it ensures the smooth running of your system, the more the better.
Make sure the memory capacity is upgradeable.
Make sure the RAM is original and opt for the DDR range of RAMs. Duplicate RAMs will not function on Windows XP operating systems.
The RAM comes with a year's warranty.

Hard Disk Drive

HDD capacity counts for a great deal.

A 40 GB hard disk is sufficient disk space but you may choose an 80 GB variant.

The brand SEAGATE is a very reliable brand for hard disks and is preferred by most computer manufacturers and assemblers.

What you must know:

The hard disk comes with a three-year warranty.

Monitor

Monitors are computer screens available in varied sizes, the most popular being the 15" and 17".

You can choose between a flat panel plasma screen and a regular desktop monitor.

A 15" monitor costs around $100 and the 17", between $150 and $200, depending on the type.

The Dynaflat type monitor is preferred to the conventional CRT type, which is technically referred to as the Cathode Ray Tube.

The plasma screen monitor is highly priced at about $400 plus.

The various brands for monitors are Samsung, Mercury and LG, to name a few. Samsung is the preferred alternative for monitors and is also the leading peripheral components dealer.

What you must know:

Monitors usually come with a three-year warranty.

Peripherals

These include the keyboard, mouse, web cam, printer, scanner, joystick, etc.

Samsung and Microsoft are the preferred brands.

Choose an optical mouse over the usual one. The price difference is marginal. The same applies for the Internet keyboard.

Don't opt for a wireless mouse or a keyboard as the sensors get spoilt with time. Besides, you have to charge the batteries every week.

Web cams can cost from anywhere between $20 and $100.

For printers and scanners, Hewlett Packard is the market leader. A domestic colour printer might cost around $100, though the cartridges are a tad expensive at $40 each.

What you must know:

Don't choose the cheapest printer in sight. You will spend the money you save in less than a year on cartridges.
Don't go for the ones cheaper than $30 as they have poor resolution.

Voltage stabilisers and Spike guards

If your locality has frequent power failures or severe voltage fluctuations, opt for a voltage stabiliser. This will prevent any damage that could reduce the life of your machine.

A voltage stabiliser can cost from $20 to $40.

Regardless of the locality and the power supply, opt for a spike guard. It will provide four power plug points for your computer and peripherals.

A spike guard is also called a transient suppressor. It will cost $20.