system specs

I'm interested in getting a new system, but don't keep up on hardware issues to any significant extent, so was hoping to get some feedback regarding system components. I mainly do Excel and Word and some medium weight CAD, so I'd like something moderately robust, yet affordable (hopefully in the $1000 to $1500 range, but willing to be realistic - less is, of course, better though). I am particularly interested in something that will last through several technology cycles and still be upgradeable. The last time I bought a system, I ended up going with a VESA local bus, only to have these supplanted by PCI within a couple of months. Since (due to economic constraints) I tend to hang on to my hardware longer than the average upgrade cycle (probably by a factor of about two or three), my thinking is to get something with some market presence, so that by the time I do go to upgrade, the components I need are not so obsolete as to be completely unavailable – otherwise I’m stuck having to get a completely new system.

I’ve tried to do a little research (which is probably a bad thing) – this has raised more questions than it has answered.

What’s the deal these days on
i) processors
ii) memory
iii) motherboards / chipsets etc particularly in relation to items i) and ii)
iv) bus technology, particularly wrt graphics
v) graphics cards
vi) etc.

Particularly, it appears to me that the two current memory technologies are RDRAM and DDR SDRAM – Do you know if one or the other is establishing market dominance?

Are there particular chipsets that one would / would not recommend?

What's the scoop on the ATI RADEON 9700? How much graphics card does one need for medium weight CAD? (I don't really care about gaming).

What's the deal on AGP? I saw something indicating that Intel is coming out with a new bus standard next year. Is AGP becoming obsolete? Is PCI becoming obsolete?

For a total system, is there still any advantage to build-it-myself, or am I just as well off to go to Dell?

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by miner on 09/25/02 04:00 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
4 answers Last reply
More about system specs
  1. Would the above post be more appropriate in a different forum?
  2. Well first of all, you can definately build yourself a good computer for about $1000. I just built one for a friend that cost about $1300 and it had way more stuff than it sounds like you will need. Do you need a monitor? That is the single most costly part of the computer if its needed. If you check out, there are often articles about building PCs. Which parts to buy for different purposes and such. Today there was an article on building a budget gaming computer for instance. I can give you kind of a break down on general prices here. For best price/performance an AMD CPU is the way to go. P4's are coming down in price however so avid Intel fans don't have to spend too much more for an equivalent CPU. Here is kind of what I have spent in the past week on this computer. If you have other questions go ahead and message me.

    CPU: AMD XP1900 (1.6GHz) ~$95 w/fan
    Mobo: Gigabyte GA7VXP KT333 ~$100
    RAM: 512MB 333MHz DDR ~$110
    (DDR is cheaper than RDRAM and almost as fast. I don't see RDRAM being around as long DDR once 400MHz DDR becomes more available. RDRAM has high bandwidth, but slow access times.)
    CDRW: Plextor 40x12x40 ~$115
    DVDROM: Toshiba ~$40
    HD: IBM 60GB 7200RPM ~$90
    Video: Chaintech GF4 Ti4200 64MB ~$120
    400W ATX Mid Case w/floppy ~$50
    (This mobo has built in lan and audio, but if you want fancier sound, the SB Live5.1 is about $35)

    "Water-Cooled CPU Runner"
  3. Athlon XP is better for CAD work than P4. As you don't care about gaming performace, I recommend Matrox Millenium G550 for you. It is very good 2D performer.

    My recommendations:

    Athlon XP 2000+ Retail $112
    MSI KT3 Ultra2 $79
    256 MB Samsung PC2700 CL2.5 DDR RAM $67
    Matrox Millenium G550 Dualhead (OEM) $91
    Western Digital Special Edition Cavier 80 GB (7200 rpm, ATA-100, 8 MB Buffer) $106
    or Maxtor Diamond Max Plus D740X 40 GB (7200 rpm, ATA-133, 2 MB Buffer) $78
    LiteOn 40x/12x/48x CD-RW $63
    LiteOn 16x DVD-ROM $39
    400W ATX Mid Case w/floppy ~$50

    This mobo has nice onboard sound. If you need better sound, get a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz or an Audigy. This mobo has no onboard lan card. You have to buy it, if you need.

    <b><font color=red> Long live piracy! </font color=red></b>
  4. Agree with Spitfires component selection, but go for 512Mb RAM right away if your going to do CAD stuff.

    You wont regret it.

    <font color=red>I need a sig</font color=red>
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