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Looking for Hardware Advice - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
June 13th, 2006
12:14 am

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Looking for Hardware Advice
I have decided to purchase a new desktop workstation PC. I have had just my laptop for five years now, and it's time to get some desktop power again. The problem is that hardware bores me no end, so I have not kept up with any hardware-related news or technology.

Essentially, I need a multi-purpose powerful station, for software development and writing. I don't need the latest graphics/multimedia gadgets, and I don't intend to do photo-editing on it.

I would love to hear concise recommendations, both for and against, vendors, manufacturers, and models, as well as specific dos and don'ts you consider relevant.

What I know so far:
  • I need at least 1GB RAM. I probably want 2GB. (Is "DDR" what I want?)
  • I don't need a fast CPU. (I tend to trust Intel, but should I go for AMD?)
  • I want a 19" thin LCD display.
Thanks in advance for any information you can contribute.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
From:assafr
Date:June 12th, 2006 09:49 pm (UTC)

Better go for a multi-core CPU

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The prices just dropped about a month ago, for the basic models. Dual-Core CPU will probably help in development (compiling, debuggin), if the programming environment was updated to support it.

Other than that, I'm not objective - work for Intel...


Just bought a modest desktop machine for my brother, and here are the same advices:

Get a SATA-2 hard-drive. Make sure it actually confronts to the SATA-2 bandwidth. Get one with 3 years' warranty and 16MB Cache. Some high-end server models for hard-drives even offer 5-year warranty (!).

Fast Ram, and make sure it's installed as Dual Channel.

All these are the most important. Hard-drive probably more then all. Depending on the nature of your development environment, 1GB might not be enough.



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From:gaal
Date:June 12th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
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  • Hyundai make *excellent* LCDs panels. This is my most important tip. (There are only a few manufacturers of LCD panels; companies like MAG do OEM jobs and have good and bad monitors. The specs don't always say, so my recommendation is to get a Hyundai monitor, that way you know who made the panel. The only way you could do better is to buy something like Eizo but those are ridiculously expensive.)
  • Some machines come with room for only two SATA devices. Annoying when you decide a year in to get an extra disk.
  • If I bought a machine today, I'd definitely get more than 1GB RAM, but 1.5 might be enough. RAM's still not free!
  • But disk is pretty cheap. Get the sweet spot, which I'm guessing is around 250GB today.
  • Make sure there's a good cooling system. CPUs today run real hot.
  • If you intend to play games on this machine, video cards run a hyperbola over price / performance. For a small investment you get a big kickback over the low end.
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    From:gaal
    Date:June 12th, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC)
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    Oh: when choosing monitor + video adaptor you'll need to decide if to spring for a DVI connector or use plain ol' VGA. It's worth the $50 I paid two or three years ago, and today the difference is probably even less. The catch is that not every LCD model comes with a DVI option.
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    From:tnok
    Date:June 12th, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
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    call me and i'll introduce you to the most honet and professional tech-guy in town. he'll prove you that you need less than you think you need, and then get it for you in the fairest price.
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    From:passacaglio
    Date:June 13th, 2006 06:19 am (UTC)
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    Whatever you buy, make sure you get a decent box with the best coolers you are willing to afford; sometimes, it's the most important factor.
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    From:wildernesscat
    Date:June 14th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
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    +1
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    From:jspoons
    Date:June 13th, 2006 06:45 am (UTC)
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    I'll join the guy above in recommending the best box with the best coolers, also in terms of low noise level. Also, having had some sad experience with Intel processors, I'm all for AMD. My hard-working studio machine is now an AMD, and it's the most problem-free computer I've ever had.
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    From:ntopaa
    Date:June 13th, 2006 09:37 am (UTC)

    2 הפרוטות שלי

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    אישית, אני לא ממליצה על AMD. זה אמנם חיסכון במחיר, אבל במספר מחשבי ה-AMD שרכשתי בחברה, אני יכולה להבחין שהמחשבים איטיים יותר.

    אני ממליצה בחום רב על 2 ג'יגה זיכרון. אמנם תאוות הזיכרון שלי נובעת בעיקר בגלל השימוש העצום שנעשה בו בעיבוד גרפיקה, אבל מהמעט שאני רואה ישנן תוכנות רבות הזוללות זיכרון. אם אתה נוהג להפעיל תוכנות כבדות במקביל, עשה לעצמך את החיים קלים.

    ד"א, בכל הנוגע למארז, דאג שיהיו לך מקדימה מספר יציאות USB. בכל פעם שאני צריכה לחפור ולפשפש באחוריו של המחשב שלי, אני מתחרטת שחסכתי בעניין הזה.

    בנוגע למסך, אני תוהה אם באמת אתה זקוק ל-19 אינטש. הם יקרים מאוד, ואם אינך מתכוון להתעסק עם גרפיקה, אולי כדאי לך לחפש 17. בכל מקרה, הנתון החשוב במסכים דקים ושטוחים הוא מהירות התגובה/התעדכנות של המסך. זמן תגובה מהיר וטוב הוא 16 מילישניות. תקפיד שזמן התגובה שמציעים לך הוא גבוה ככל האפשר, ואל תרד מ-12. אחרת זה נהייה מעצבן.

    אני אשמח לשמוע מה המפרט שבחרת בסוף, ובאיזה מחיר השגת אותו. בהצלחה!
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    From:gaal
    Date:June 13th, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC)

    Re: 2 הפרוטות שלי

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    16ms is response time, so a lower number is better.

    But in LCDs the specs are often not very meaningful: this is *average* response time, and the other important spec, for contrast ratio, is *average* ratio as well. This means that parts of the screen can really suck.

    Unfortunately, apart from weeding out obvious low-end, specs don't help you that much in picking a good screen. Either choose a particular model you get recommendations for or pick by panel maker (I recommended Hyundai as a panel maker above because it's often hard to find an old model someone told you about)
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    From:ntopaa
    Date:June 14th, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)

    אתה כמובן צודק

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    מה שהאיש אמר. הבלבול הוא שלי.
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    From:arnulf
    Date:June 13th, 2006 09:40 am (UTC)

    Some pointers

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    I'm pretty far behind on these issues but here are some thoughts -

    Choose your CPU first, as it pretty much predetermines many of the other options you can make. Here is the chart you knew existed but tried to ignore. I'd go with a Athlon-64 if cost was a major issue. Otherwise I'd go for a dual core one (e.g. Athlon 64 X2 3800+) - a second CPU's effect on performance is quite negligible but (with a properly built and configured OS) it does wonders to a computer responsiveness.

    MoBo - an often neglected item, but one that has the largest impact on the character of the computer. There are many players in this field, so it's hard to make a specific recommendation, but I found Asus/Abit/MSI to be decent so far. Skim its data sheet before you buy it to make sure it supports the features you're interested in (CPU type, memory configuration, number of SATA channels, etc.).

    Memory - You'll be using DDR whatever you choose above (like with CPUs, not having a fast one is no longer an option). There are several flavours of DDR, with various speeds and bus widths, but the choice of CPU/MoBo will limit your options here. Choose dual channel if available. DDR2 is the current bleeding edge. As for amount of memory, this is easily upgradable, so saving here until the mandatory migration to Vista is an option. I have a gig and a quarter, and I never seem to be getting around to using that quarter :-).

    Hard drive - It is a sad time to be a hard drive owner. Even if you get a well made one and keep it cool and ventilated, it will die. Soon. Usually without a warning, never after a backup. So I'd recommend going RAID. It doesn't have to be a full hardware SCSI monstrosity, just buying two drives instead of one and telling Windows to use mirroring should do wonders for your sleep quality.

    Display adapter - 3D acceleration starts being used in a lot of little places besides games. Its use as the engine behind GDI has been delayed a while, but it will get there. Get a modestly capable card (just pick one of the Radeon/Geforce variety).
    (Deleted comment)
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    From:arnulf
    Date:June 14th, 2006 04:44 am (UTC)

    Re: Some pointers

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    RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives. Its invention came with the realisation that it is cheaper to buy a bunch of cheap drives and configure then in a redundant way, so that the lost of any one drive won't cause data corruption, than to invest in a single expensive drive that hopefully not fail.

    There are many such configurations, usually distinguished numerically. The simplest type is called RAID-1, or mirroring, where everything you write to the disk is duplicated on an identical twin, so that if one of them dies the other contains a live backup. More complex options try to improve on space utilisation (only 50% in the example above), write efficiency, read efficiency etc.

    These systems are typically to cumbersome to lug around (although you could build a decent array the size of a cigarette pack using these 1.8" iPod drives :-)), so if you lack backup/storage at home as well, and a mobile solution is what you're after, I guess taking a mobile drive with you and duplicating all the important stuff from the laptop on it is the way to go.
    (Deleted comment)
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    From:lukkke
    Date:June 13th, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC)

    באשר למסכים דקים

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    17 אינטש זה מספיק. ה19 יקרים באופן משמעותי ואין לך צורך משמעותי בהם. אני ממליצה על דגם Flatron L1750sQ של חברת LG. הצבעים איכותיים ומהירות התגובה משביעת רצון. גם המסכים של סמסונג לא רעים בכלל. בכל מקרה, אל תתקרב לMAG. הם נוראיים.

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