Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Enough Hardware

Used to be, a "cheap" desktop computer hovered around a thousand dollars in price, without a monitor. Those days are now far behind us. Cheap desktop systems with bundled LCD monitors are easily found for less than five hundred dollars. Laptops have similarly crashed in price, with a race for the bottom still underway. There is still a high end to the market, with multi-thousand dollar machines, but only people with very specific requirements should buy them.

If you only drive a few nails a year to hang pictures, you can buy a five dollar hammer and you're set. If you take that five dollar hammer onto a job site and drive a few thousand nails with it you will quickly destroy it, rounding the head of it, shredding the handle, etc. In the same way if you are a hard core video game player you would not buy a five hundred dollar computer and expect to be happy.

All that said, most people can get by with the modern "low end" computer, that has more processing power, memory, disk space, etc. than machines they purchased a few years ago. And that computer will be sufficient for a fairly long time. In the 90's software could get ahead of your computer very quickly, and your hardware quickly became obsolete. With so much time between major updates of software now, plus the power available at the low end of the market, breaks this cycle.

The one place that this is somewhat not true is with the Microsoft Vista operating system, if you want to run it with all the bells and whistles. If you want that then the low end machines might not be exactly what you want. If you are only wanting to surf the web and do e-mail you should consider alternative operating systems that run on the same hardware, such as a Linux distribution like Ubuntu.

The Macintosh computers are more expensive, but come loaded with a lot more bells and whistles that narrow the gap between the low end PC and the low end Mac. They offer a good level of stability and if you are looking for easy they are hard to beat.

When you go to purchase your next computer, consider all the factors, including what you are actually SPECIFICALLY going to use the machine for, and do not fall for the sales pitch of the latest, greatest and fastest. A "good enough" computer is going to be sufficient for 95% of people, so don't turn up your nose at a computer because of its low price. You'll be pleasantly surprised by your new machine, regardless.

Make your choice techgnostically, and don't be swayed by hype (I'm looking at YOU, Microsoft).

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