Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How to Buy Computers for the Long Run

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How to Buy Computers for the Long Run

Article excerpt

The personal computing world has changed dramatically, and buyers are far more sophisticated than they once were.

Instead of looking for the cheapest PC to perform one task, they see the personal computer as a multimedia information and entertainment machine for home and office. As a result, they are worried that the PC they buy today may be outmoded in a couple of years.

The problem with an older PC arises when you want to run the latest version of your software or try out new programs. Today's popular word processors, spreadsheets, databases and multimedia programs require a lot of computing horsepower - more than most bargain-basement computers on the market three to five years ago can deliver.

Here are my general recommendations for a PC that will still be a workhorse years from now - without busting the budget.

Processor: The microprocessor is the heart of your computer. Most machines on the market use Intel 80486 series chips, but they come in lots of flavors. Be careful.

To make sure you're getting adequate horsepower, look for the letters "DX" in the chip designation. A good buy for the money is an 80486DX2/66 processor, which runs internally at 66 MHz. Stay away from the cheaper "SX" machines, which do not have a built-in math coprocessor or the relatively large, on-board memory cache of the DX chip.

Memory: Get at least 8 megabytes of internal memory. You will need it to run Microsoft Windows efficiently. Unfortunately, many low-end machines come with only 4 megabytes as standard equipment. The extra 4 megabytes can make many Windows programs run twice as fast. Memory is relatively inexpensive (about $50 per megabyte), so go for it when you buy your computer instead of waiting till later.

Hard-disk storage: With today's huge programs and data files, you will eventually fill up all the space you have on your hard disks. The question is when. To make it later rather than sooner, find a computer with a 340-megabyte drive or larger.

Video: Make sure the computer comes with a local bus video board that has at least 1 megabyte of memory. The local bus is a supplemental wiring and timing system that connects the central processor with video boards and sometimes with hard-disk controllers. …

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