I’m not a guy who has to have the latest and best of everything. When I lay out cash, I look for (a) the ability of the product to do the job I need it to do; (b) durability and longevity (how long will it be able to do the job?); and (c) value for the buck. I’m not interested in cutting edge, prestige names or other trendy stuff. I’m sort of boring, and I like it that way. The first four and a half decades of my 62 years were lived differently, and I’m here to tell you that adulthood is better. I’ll pay as much as I need to for a good reliable tool, but I don’t need to impress you (or myself) very much any more.

So, now that it’s finally come time to supplement our seven-year-old home desktop with a younger, more capable helper, it never occurred to me to look for quad-core powerhouse boxes with dual 750 GB RAID 1 arrays, video cards with more speed and memory than the present PC has, and so forth. I took a look at the most demanding tasks I ask of a computer (image and simple video editing, and I like to keep a bunch of programs running at once), considered what I’d likely be doing in the future (more of the same, with bigger image files), and was then generous in estimating the power and peripherals I’d need to keep doing it for the next five years or so, with expansion room if needed. I selected what I will need to get the job done, rather than what Geeks ‘r’ Us claims I need to be a happy consumer.

Here’s what I came up with, now on the way to the Webbsite via the arms of UPS.

  • Desktop midi-tower, with power supply and case fans
  • Intel Pentium D 840 3.2 GHz (dual core with Intel 64 extended memory technology)
  • Appropriate Intel motherboard (I forget which one)
  • 2 GB of DDR2 (PC 4200) RAM
  • 2 Seagate Barracuda 250 GB SATA II hard drives (7200 RPM)
  • DVD±RW Dual Layer Reader/Writer (fine for anything I’ll need)
  • 9 medium Flash Reader
  • Graphics:
    • Max Resolution 2048 x 1536 (in case my sight goes south a bit more and I want a big monitor)
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
    • Video Memory up to 224 MB shared
    • Integrated graphics (Intel)
  • Operating system: Micro$oft Windows XP Professional

All of the above, plus a Logitech keyboard and optical mouse, comes in for under $900.00.

Why XP Pro? I finally decided to go with the most tried and tested, reliable OS around (apart from OS-10). Most of the major bugs are out of XP, and Pro will be supported for at least a couple more years. Since I don’t use Internet Exploder, ever, and have the best malware protection money can buy (including a hardware firewall) I’m not too worried about vulnerabilities, my recent reformatting exploit notwithstanding. I considered various other options, including Vista and Linux, and almost went with Linspire, but the above considerations won out, and I’m good with it. The OS will be the only M$ software on the machine, anyway.

I decided against a Mac simply because I don’t want to bother with the changeover. My non-geek wife would find it annoying at best and daunting at most, were she to have to give up the applications she’s used to, and I’m just not interested. I can partition one of the drives and run another OS if I like, and she won’t have to deal with it – nor will I have to substitute a bunch of my favorite tools. A no-brainer.

Why integrated graphics? Cheaper, and it will probably work fine for my purposes. I’m no gamer, and for watching commercial video it will do the job. If it doesn’t, I’ll open up the box and plug something in. Ditto additional media reader/writers, HDDs, etc. This thing has enough expansion room to put a whole second computer in the box if I wanted to. I might have to replace the power supply (350 watts) with something bigger, but in the meantime it will run cooler and be easier on the external environment, too.

So, there you go. Plenty of power, memory and storage, adequate peripherals, and room to grow. It’s no $395.00 economy machine, but it’s no Aurora mALX, either. Who needs it? I’m not taking it to Show and Tell.

[tags]buying a computer, bill webb, bill’s web, economy systems[/tags]