Computer buying tips

Yet when buying a new PC, the processor and the price shouldn't always be the only factors taken into consideration.

Computer buying tips
They are common fare in daily newspapers: brightly coloured brochures for electronics shops advertising bargain-priced PCs. It's not uncommon to see deals like 599 dollars for a PC with a dual core processor, which certainly sounds good at first. Yet when buying a new PC, the processor and the price shouldn't always be the only factors taken into consideration.

"The sword of performance hangs over everything else," says Christian Wolff, a spokesman for computer maker Alienware in Hamburg. A buyer should consider why they need the computer. "Surfing the internet or office applications - any computer can do that," Wolff says.

The difference between a 500-euro and a 1,000-euro computer shines through in areas like a machine's ability to handle games, says Peter Knaak from the Germany consumer testing organization Stiftung Warentest in Berlin. 3D games require a graphics card with as much RAM of their own as possible.

"On-board" graphics chips which lean on the computer's own RAM memory are not powerful enough.

Which means that gamers have to buy more expensive machines: anyone looking to play 3D games needs a good graphics card, says Christof Windeck from Hanover-based computer magazine c't.

"And there isn't going to be a 150-euro graphics card in a 600- euro PC."

Alienware for example specializes in gaming computers: the devices are individually configured to meet the customer's requirements - the most inexpensive computer costs 998 dollars, Christian Wolff reports. It offers a dual core processor from AMD, 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM, a 250 GB hard drive, and a graphics card with 256 megabytes (MB) of memory as well. The company's highest end model at present boasts four GB of RAM and hard drives with four terabytes of storage space.

Yet RAM is not a place where non-gamers can afford to spare either. After all, operating systems like Microsoft's Windows Vista also place high demands on the system - the Aero design interface with its semi-transparent windows requires a lot of memory. Peter Knaak therefore recommends not bringing home anything with less than two gigabytes of RAM.

Cheaper computers tend to be louder than more expensive models on account of the pieces that are used within them.

"A quieter fan is going to be more expensive," says Christof Windeck. Yet the situation isn't always that clear cut. The safest approach for consumers is to buy the exact model of a computer that fared well in testing.

Otherwise ask for the computer to be demonstrated in the store: Remember, however, that office applications are unlikely to make the machine roar. The loudest scenario involves heavy processing tasks like 3D games or video conversion.

Another factor when selecting PCs is the ports. This is especially true if existing peripherals like mouse, keyboard, printer, or monitor are to be used. While there are adapters for almost anything, they cost extra. One current must-have item is a digital DVI output port on the graphic card, experts agree. It's the only interface that offers excellent image quality for LCDs larger than 19 inches.

One current trick to keep PC costs minimal is to install older processors like Pentium D or Celeron. Yet the newer dual core chips are significantly thriftier with electricity, reports Christof Windeck. And they are quicker to boot.

For those considering the low-end option, the best bet is to compare ads with a careful eye toward which optional equipment is being included: Is a TV card pre-installed? A wireless keyboard? What kind of software is included? The inclusion or omission of a given component can make a difference of 50 dollars, Windeck explains.

Another important difference comes through service support. Consumers hoping for a two-year guarantee with on-site repair service will end up paying more. In exchange, there's no need to bring the PC to the dealer or manufacturer, if it begins malfunctioning. Also of interest are service packages that include a replacement machine for the length of the repairs.

One frequent fixture in stores of late is extra small PCs. These require less space and in some cases look more aesthetically pleasing. The disadvantage of these devices is that they - like laptops - are difficult, if not impossible, to upgrade, explains Peter Knaak. His recommendation applies generally:

"Go to a specialist dealer and get some professional advice," Knaak says.

DPA
Last Mod: 26 Ağustos 2007, 13:55
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