Thinking of starting my blog, I had a lot of things playing on my mind. This and that of computers, software, bla bla bla, but I ended up starting something a little… extensive. Something that will cover why and what really we are here for, and that will be all about PCs take it or leave it. To kick this blog thing off, I would like to start with our computers. This time I will do the basic, the hardware, the metal and plastic. Things that we should consider, what type, what to buy and all other stuff that we should care about if we want to build a good system.
As a graduate of sociology, even my spirit is, until now, in awe, why I slipped into the IT world. In fact, I have made a good career out of it. But we will not discuss that. I would rather take you somewhere where we can help each other by taking a closer look at our PCs.
Choosing the right PC hardware can be tough and burdensome. By not having what you need, you end up wanting for more or even regretting, so why not build one that perfectly match your needs. Personally, when getting a PC or making one enough really is not enough. Sooner than you think, you will crave for more. More speed, more capable PCs. For a desktop here are things most worthy to check before you buy, this is if you are building from scratch. But if you are planning to get branded ones, there’s a lot to choose from, I would however recommend IBM, Dell or an HP.
Per experience, Intel based mainboard usually outperforms other boards. Take mobo’s (short for mainboard) that has the latest chipset whatever your choice is i.e. Intel, Via or Sis. If price is not much an issue, you get a Genuine Intel Mainboard (of course to match with your processor). Take note that boards have different configurations so make sure that you have everything exactly suited. Try to learn about chipsets, processor form-factors, video card types (SLI, ati, nvidia). There is nothing better than knowing what you are buying.
Recommendation: Intel Mainboard (latest chipset), better no in-built video processor, your choice actually. If you are building a gaming PC, the latter recommendation is absolute. But if you are trying to do a PC for document processing/web browsing usage, boards with built-in video cards may work just fine. MSI and Gigabyte are boards that are also good and modestly priced. You can get one of these brands and make sure it carries an Intel-based chipset (Intel 965 chipset, for that matter).
The rule of the thumb is the more the memory stuffed inside your PC, the better will your PC run. Get at least 2 gigabyte of memory. These chips have a lot of variants, sizes and all. The best brands I know are Kingston, Apacer, Transcend or Geil. Some vendors offer lifetime warranty on memories, so always ask and check if it’s available. That really is a protection of some sort for you and your PC, should you have problems in the future. Do not forget the type of memory (SDRAM, DDR, DDR2, and SODIMM). The most common nowadays and what mostly likely have shipped with your PC are DDR2 400/533/667/800/1024 MHz, but still check what you have. Usually you’ll find a sticker on your memory card (your memory card is inside your PC, sitting on the memory slot/s) where there the details are written. SODIMM memories are for laptops/notebooks so be warned. Pair memory as much as possible, that would mean that if you’re going to use memories try to do it by same brand, same size configuration. Mobo’s have arrays of memory slots. You can do a 512 mb + 512 mb configuration or a 1 GB + 1 GB configuration and so on. Really, all is up to you and how much you need. Make sure that you are always future proof, what I mean is that you make your PC scalable, what I mean is that you make your PC can handle your pounding. Don’t stuff your PC with software that you don’t need or actually use. I have seen so many users installing software of sorts but don’t actually use what they put in (more on this in the future).
If you want to learn more on memory, hit this link and download the memory guide in pdf.
Recommendation: Kingston/Apacer/Transcend/Geil – better if you can find those that come with Heat Sinks. I know it’s available because I used one when I still had a desktop, so check it out.
This is getting more fun. Hard Drives are like your playground, your digital trash can, the place where you put all your stuff. For years I have remained a follower of Seagate and Maxtor, no other, period. Why? Because they earned my trust. I have to admit they fail sometimes, by getting bricked or dying before my eyes, bust most often they leave up to my expectations. SATA/SATA2 is the keyword. Make sure that when you get one; get at least, a SATA drive. This will give you a good boost when you run your programs, far better than the IDE drives. SATA is the current standard. Most likely your PC box will ship with a SATA drive, but nonetheless, check. If you are planning to build a new PC, insist on a SATA drive. If you are planning for an upgrade, check your Mainboard if it supports SATA. You might end up buying one and making a paper weight out of it just because it isn’t compatible to your board. So please check. Get the size you need, I don’t believe in, “It may be small (in size, etc.) but it’s cheap, that’s why I bought it”. With computer parts, the difference is sometimes lean that you don’t notice it. Sometimes the price of an 80 GB hard drive is merely a hundred pesos away to a 120 GB, so why not stretch the budget a bit. Trust me there is no big hard disk space out there nor can you say 80 GB is enough. You will always crave for more.
I have once received an advice telling me not to put data more than 50% of my drive’s capacity. This means that if you have an 80 GB drive, you can only put 40 GB. This advice have always worked for me. Of course I don’t follow it like I will die if I don’t but I always go back to that idea. Do not overstuff your drive, finito! This without a doubt applies to other gadgets such as phones, camera, etc.
Recommendation: Maxtor/Seagate, at least 160 GB, SATA/SATA2 (just make sure your board supports SATA).
A good source for information on SATA technology can be found on this site.
Good video card + good monitor, that’s the way to do it baby. Pick up a 512mb video card. Just like our rule for memory, the bigger the video memory, the faster the PC plus the better your experience in games and graphics (web browsing included). If you’re a video card buff, try SLI, again check your board. SLI is a technology that allows you to use two video cards at the same time. The result? Faster gaming experience. Of course if you are only up to editing some documents, you don’t need much power like running SLI. The least video card memory I could recommend is 128mb, nvidia. I tend to like NVIDIA better than ATI. This may be purely personal but I find nvidia chip based video cards perfect for me. I have been fond of Sparkle (vga card brand) before, not only that its cheap but it’s also reliable plus BIOS upgradable. For the latter part, I don’t recommend you doing such, as you might toast your video card.
Here’s the link for information on SLI and what it does.
Recommendation: NVIDIA/at least 128 mb
Since our board is an Intel or Intel-based, we are sure to get an Intel Processor. I am reminded of the time that AMD was really winning the war on Processors. I always dreamed of seeing AMD beat down the mighty Intel even just once. I think they failed, I just thought they were winning. Our processor should fit the cage. That would mean that you have to get the processor type that matches your board, absolutely. You cannot insert a processor that is using the AMD Platform to an Intel LGA775 pin less structure. Nay, no.
Core 2 Duo, my friend, Core 2. Don’t settle for something less. Even at a point where you think, I’m going to use this PC for document processing only, do get a good processor. The natural turn of event is that sooner than you know you will be itching of having more brain power on your PC and that would also be the time that you will somehow regret. Check out the processors out there. Years ago, prices or price of processors were bit of high. It was like buying a parcel of land, years passed and its selling like fish in the market, sometimes fish would even cost higher than your average processor. Meet your match processor, draw a line within the 2GHz clock i.e. Core 2 Duo, 2 GHz.
I have used AMD before, and I still say I’ll stick with Intel. But don’t take my word just that easy check it out maybe there is something there that you might like from AMD.
Have a look at this chart of Intel Processors, capabilities included.
Recommendation: Intel Core 2 Duo/at least 2GHz, Core 2 Quad has been released, you may check it also.
Whatever PC case you pick make sure that it can stay cool (literally). Lian Li alloy casing has always been my choice. It is sturdy, neat and really do the cooling part great. Their cases are usually made from aluminum materials, sometimes even the buttons are made out of aluminum too! Isn’t it lovely, eh? There are other cooling tricks out there, some come with water and your PC looks like a fridge. I am not suggesting that you bring all cooling technologies down to your box, but do cool down that machine you have. Unless you are thinking of frying your processor and memory, there is no other way than to cool that system dude and dudettes.
Recommendation: Lian Li Casing – or other alternative/generic casing as long it has a cooling system (air vents on the side, big fans at rear or cover side)
Never go beyond a 400 watt Power supply. The power supply I’m talking about is what you have inside of your PC. I do prefer 500 watts, this way we can protect out PCs better. I still remember those days where I often see PCs burning and the reason was Power Supply. If you are trying to run a Pentium 2 333MHz PC, a 250 watt power supply will do, but with today processors with brain power that can calculate a million commands in split second and chew algorhythm like bubble gum, a good power supply is really worth buying. Always make sure that your mainboard gets a regulated and stable supply of power. Power outage and surge is always bad for your PC, servers included.
Recommendation: 500 Watts Power Supply/Good brand (usually a little expensive than generic power supply). HEC has been a brand that have worked for me.
Hands down I choose Logitech. Whatever your need is, Logitech has something for you. Not only they provide good models, sometimes fancy, but it just works. Their keyboards and mice are so nice to use, especially during long computing tasks (encoding, blogging). Let me also add that their products also last. I have seen some fake and counterfeit product out in the market, some really I find hard to distinguish whether it is fake or the real one, so be careful. Scrutinize the package before you bring your mouse and keyboard home. For the most part of our computing life, we interact using our keyboard and mouse so why not pamper our hands with a duo of a Logitech Keyboard and mouse. I still would like you to use the wired and USB types. I hate the cordless mouse, especially those that require batteries. It is a bit annoying that before I can use my mouse, I have to make sure that it’s fully charged. Come on!
Recommendation: Logitech all the way.
Damn, get what you want. LCD it is? Go and buy one. Currently the price for monitors whether LCD or CRT is neck and neck. LCD is more gentle to our eyes. It might hurt you a little because it usually is a little expensive than their old predecessors, the CRTs, but nevertheless, LCDs has a lot of things to offer. We can ogle at our screens for a longer time, with less pain on our eyes. If you are adventurous enough you can even hang it, twist it, rotate it. We can put it wherever we want. Less space, less clutter. When buying one, always ask for the maximum resolution your choice of monitor can achieve. By standard most monitors can run on a 1024×768 resolution at 60Hz refresh rate. If you do find something that can do higher, that my friend would be a better deal. Before bringing home one, always have your monitor checked prior to tending your cash. Check for dead pixels and other annoying stuff on the display, if you see some pixel going wrong or some distortions on the display slap the face of IT Shop rep and tell him or her that you need a new one. Pay him after you slap him, though.
Recommendation: Samsung 17” LCD Monitor would be cool. If you are a graphics artist or dreaming to become one or a frustrated, unrelenting bum, why not get a 21” LCD Monitor.
Uninterruptible Power Supply/Surge Protector (UPS)
Yes, please. Buy one of this. You’ll need it. Protect your system from its weakness, power. After all, our computer is an electronic equipment. A regulated inflow of power with a standby power of at least 10-15 minutes undoubtedly would be a big help.
Recommendation: APC, yes APC 500VA UPS.
What could i say about speakers? Altec Lansing, period. Of all sound box really, this brand is only what i like couple it with a good sound card from Creative, sure fire, you can bring thunder right in your room.
So, I think this will be all for now. You are all welcome to post your comments. Next up will be Operating Systems and Softwares. Thanks.