PC Recommendations for 2Q04


George asked me about what computers should he get. Surprisingly, January-March was quiet in the computer business without any major events. The Prescott launch turned into a non-event given that although they moved into a new chip family pricing didn't really change. Even with CeBit coming next week, doesn't look like any major shakeups. Those come in the second half of the year.
"Shuttle":http://www20.tomshardware.com/business/20040309/cebit2004-preview-05.html. The major change will be the next line of Shuttle PCs. Amazing that this little company has gone from selling 34,000 PCs in 2001 to nearly half a million last year. Most interesting is the launch of the new XPC "Zen ST62K":http://tech-report.com/reviews/2004q1/shuttle-st62k/index.x?pg=1 line. These are 20% smaller than current Shuttles and has an external fan-less power supply so it is super quiet as well as very fast onboard graphics done by ATI's 9100 IGP. These will ship in April, so that's a consideration if you need one right away. Should have a street price of $300. The comparable unit is the ST61G4 which streets at $340, but has an AGP slot and a 250 watt power supply (vs. 180 watt).
That being said, here are my recommendations for PCs. Right now, I'll cover the $500 barest but decent system up to about $1,000. With one system in between:
h4. $500 Budget system
So, what does $500 buy you? Well a pretty nice machine if you are running office applications and browsing the Internet. It doesn't use the latest chip set, but these chips do overclock well, so you can get about 25% more performance typically if you need it. This isn't a gamer system, but sure looks nice with a 17" LCD display (my rule of thumb BTW is to spend about 80% of the system cost on a monitor, or about $400 buys you a nice 17" LCD monitor)
| Component | Price | Comment |
| Kingston ValueRam 512MB PC3200 | "$85":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=687181/ut=1813184029de13f6 | Room for another 512MB if you need it |
| AMD Athlon XP 2500+ | "$75":http://www.pricegrabber.com/mega_bottomline.php/return_masterid=697070/ut=1813184029de13f6 | Overclock to 3200+ easily |
| Lite-On SOHC 5232K | "$54":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=2292834/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | CDRW and DVD reader |
| Shuttle SN41G2 | "$250":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=678701/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | Integrates video, audio, ethernet, usb, 1394 |
| Western Digital Caviar WD1200JB | "$88":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=541564/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | 120GB hard drive. Very fast |
| Total | $552 | Get from Newegg.com and accupc.com |
h4. $1000 Screamer
Well, this doesn't get you the drool machine, but certainly something state of the art. Main things you get are much more memory and disk plus the latest 64 bit processing monster.
| Component | Price | Comment |
| Kingston 1GB HyperX Kit | "$250":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=939430/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | Best RAM money can buy |
| AMD Athlon 64 3000+ | "$209":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=2152536/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | 64 bit processing and cheap too |
| NEC ND-2500A | "$94":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=1839337/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | 12x DVD writer. Wow! |
| Western Digital WD2000JB | "$146":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=607706/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | 200GB screamer |
| Shuttle SN85G4 | "$299":http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=2268274/blsrt=1/ut=1813184029de13f6 | Has everything else |
| Total | $1010 | Get from accupc and zipzoomfly |
If you need a display, a 19" Benq FP991 is a great choice at about $660
h4. The inbetweener
So what can you get in between. Well, here are the tradeoff I'd make from easiest upsell to most painful:
* From Lite-on to NEC. This is just $50 more and you get a state of the DVD burner. A good tradeoff. For instance even in the office, you can now be reasonable about doing backups. Most data files are going to be smaller than 4.5GB, the size of a DVD writeable.
* From 120GB to 200GB. The next trade up I'd make is to go to 200GB or whatever you can stand. Adding $50 more gives you nearly 80% more disk. And there is only one hard drive spot inside a shuttle, so this is a precious resource.
* From 17" to a 19" display. Believe it or not, I actually think the $200 more here is the most worthwhile thing you can do.
* From 512MB to 1GB. This is more expensive, either about $80 more if you use ValueRam or about $120 if you use fancy HyperX ram. Main thing is that you'll really never wait with 1GB of main memory in your system.
* From XP to 64. This is the biggest upgrade, in that you have to upgrade both the processor