by July 7, 2000 0 comments

There are dreams, and there are dreams. Here, we’ll talk of
dreams that fit the budget. That is, we’ll talk of how to buy the best PC that
also fits your pocket.

There are three established price points in the Indian market
today. At the lowest end, you have the Rs 30,000-35,000 PCs. These are the
Celerons and the AMD K6-3s coming from the assembled market. The second is the
Rs 45,000-50,000 mark. Here, you have branded Celerons and K6-3’s from MNC
brands, and also PIIIs or AMD Athlons (K7) from assemblers. The next point is
around Rs 60,000. Yes, you guessed it- these are the MNC brands of PIIIs or K7s.
And above all this, you have the feature-rich, high-end home PCs.

We’ll come back to budgets in a minute. Let’s first take
a look at the critical components that determine how well your PC performs.

There are four things that determine how fast your PC works.
The first is obviously the clock speed of the CPU. But remember that this
isn’t the only determining factor. Also, a faster CPU alone won’t draw the
best performance out of your system. For that, you need to ensure that the other
critical components are also up to the mark.

The most important among these is the amount of RAM you have.
Many systems still ship with 32 MB RAM. This will severely limit the performance
of your machine. You need a minimum of 64 MB RAM, and if you work on large
graphics file or the like, you need to go in for 128 MB RAM.

Next in line is your video card. How fast your screen can
display information and change it, and how well it can display it, is determined
by your video card. This becomes particularly important if you’re prone to a
considerable amount of gaming or graphics work. You need a minimum of 8 MB VRAM
on your video card in such cases. Many PCs today come with video cards built-in
on the motherboard. As a rule, these don’t provide the best graphics
performance.

Now comes your hard disk. Hard disks are mostly rated by
capacity. More than capacity, the performance of your machine will depend on the
speed at which your hard disk can pump data to the rest of the system. The speed
of a hard disk is rated in rpm. What you should look for is sustained transfer
rates.

There’s one more element you need to consider when buying a
PC- the motherboard. Broadly, there are two types of motherboards- ones based on
the Intel 810 chipset that build the video and audio cards into them and are
consequently cheaper, and others that require separate audio and video cards.
The disadvantage of PCs built around 810 motherboards is that you can’t expect
the best video performance from them. So, watch out for this if you need
excellent video, as in gaming or video work.

Now comes the processor. There are four choices commonly
available in the market- two from AMD and two from Intel. AMD offers its K6-2
processor at the low end, where Intel has the Celeron. On the high end, you have
the K7 from AMD pitted against the PIII from Intel. For normal productivity
applications- word processing, e-mail, Web browsing, etc, the lower-end
processors- Celeron or K6-2- are more than enough. We would recommend a PIII or
a K7 only if you’re into heavy stuff like software development with lots of
code and recompiles, graphics editing, and the like.

What about processor speeds? Should you go in for the latest,
fastest one, or should you stay one step behind? For the higher-end processors-
the PIII and the K7- the pricing of the latest processor is likely to be much
higher that the one immediately behind it. But, the performance difference
isn’t likely to be that high. So, you could in a crunch, opt for a slightly
older processor without sacrificing significantly on performance.

Finally, no two PCs are configured alike. And normally,
vendors don’t disclose the full configuration, making it almost impossible for
you to compare two machines on an equal platform. Plus, there are hidden costs
like installation charges, and what not. In order to make things easier for you,
we’ve given a comparison
chart
. You can use this to list down all the features of different brands,
and compare like to like.

kkkg

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