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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

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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).
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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.
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