What specs should I look for in new non-games PCs?

  tallboy 13:16 27 Oct 2009
Locked

Now that Windows 7 has finally arrived, I intend to replace my wife's ageing Dell Dimension PC with a laptop and my 2001 Mesh 1.4Ghz desktop with a new desktop.

Both PCs will be used for office tools, email, web browsing, watching DVDs / on-line video (e.g.BBC i-player) and editing photographs. Additionally the desktop PC will be used for editing video. Neither PC will be used for games, but we do want smooth video from DVDs & iplayer.

The laptop is unlikely to have more than 2 or 3 programs running concurrently where as I could be running up to 6 programs concurrently on the desktop.

As far as possible, I would like to install the programs I have already brought for our XP machines still over the years these represent quite a lot of money spent.

I have some questions as follows:

1. Which version of Windows 7 do I need to buy? (i.e. Do I need to get the version that allows XP emulation, or will the Home version actually allow you to run most XP progams ?)

2. What processor type should I be considering? (eg. Dual Core v Quad Core, Intel i5 / i7 versus AMD)

3. What graphics processors bearing in mind neither PC will be used for games, but the desktop will be used for video editing.

4. How much RAM (I would put at lest 2GB in - but do I need to go to 4GB?)

5. What size of disk for the desktop?

6. Is there an advantage in having a RAID set-up on the desktop PC? (I have never seen a RAID laptop advertised, so I guess all laptops still only have one HD)

7. What screen resolution should I go for as a minimum?

8. Anything else I should consider?

Whilst I have read many PC reviews in PC Advisor and other magazines over the years, reviews of the more powerful machines seem to be done on the basis that the user wants the PC to play games on. Not everyone uses their PC to play games! However, the reviews do not make it clear whether or not the same level of graphics power (in particular) is needed for video editing - hence my need for assistance.

I haven't set a budget for these 2 PCs, but I would hope to get a suitable laptop for under £1000 and a suitable desktop for under £1500.

Any help in answering the above questions would be gratefully received.

Tallboy.

  NT77 14:53 27 Oct 2009

HI tallboy

I can really comment on a laptop as i have never had one, always prefered desktops, however i can reccommend a company to purchase a desktop from. have a look on click here. I was a bit like you, needed a new computer but didnt really know what i was looking for. They have plenty of systems to choose from, but i rang up and spoke to their sales department. They actually advised me on a cheaper system to the one i was originally looking at which just shows they will sell you a system to suit the customer not just try and sell the more expensive computers.

Its worth a call just to get some advice on what processor, motherboard etc to use.

  OTT_Buzzard 16:16 27 Oct 2009

For your desktop:

1. The normal home edition will be fine

2. For a video editing desktop and with your budget, either a core i5 or i7 will serve you well

3. Video editing isn't that aggressive for graphics. Get a cheapish card. Something like an HD4550. Watching DVD's / iPlayer doesn;t use graphics much either.

4. 4GB if DDR2 RAM. Either 3GB or 6GB if DDR3 triple channel (6gb requires 64 bit version of windows. Use triple channel RAM with a Core i5/7 processor)

5. If your current PC is used for similar purposes, look at it's total usage, double it and double it again. If not, there are a lot of very good 1TB - 2TB drives for not much money.

6. Yes, but not unless you're trying to either get fault tolerance or eek every last ounce of performance. Personally I'd go with an external hard drive for backups and a good single internal drive. Alternatively you could think about running your operating system and apps from a small SSD drive and have a larger HDD for file storage.

7. Up to you, but anything that can display 1080 is advisable

8. Lots....but if you spend £1500 on a desktop you can get a top notch PC. Really....that's an upper end gaming PC price!

A laptop for £1000 will also be a very good spec. Do you have a screen size in mind?

  tallboy 16:37 27 Oct 2009

Many thanks for the quick responses NT77 and OT-Buzzard. I'll certainly chat to folks at Cube before I buy.

I'm glad to hear that the home edition of Windows 7 will be fine. However, what about 32-bit versus 64-bit? Obviously a 64-bit OS is going to be better, but do you need special 64-bit versions of each application, or can it handle those intended for 32-bit OSs?

I already have a 500GB external backup drive, so I think I'll go with the single internal drive although I like the idea of having a SSD for the OS and apps. (I don't subscribe to current trend of having a single partition and this has proved a wise move when I recently had to do a re-install of the OS & apps on my Mesh PC.)

The laptop won't get taken out of the house a lot, so I'll get one with the largest screen I can.

If you think of anything else I should consider, please let me know.

  OTT_Buzzard 17:01 27 Oct 2009

"what about 32-bit versus 64-bit? Obviously a 64-bit OS is going to be better, but do you need special 64-bit versions of each application, or can it handle those intended for 32-bit OSs?"

The vast majority of software from major vendors will either run in true 64 bit, or in 32 bit mode.
There is some software from smaller vendors that won;t run at all....however this software is becoming less and less common. The easiest way is to check with your software manufacturer. Also check for 64 bit drivers for your exising hardware (printers etc).

The performance gains for 64 bit aren't huge (5% - 10%), but it is free performance boost if you need to buy an operating system and you intend to use 4GB or more RAM.

  citadel 17:23 27 Oct 2009

the new 5 series ati graphics cards have new features, one of the lower end ones will do if no gaming.

  OTT_Buzzard 17:28 27 Oct 2009

citadel makes a valid point....

  tallboy 18:22 27 Oct 2009

Thanks for the additional info OTT_Buzzard and citadel.

Given that my existing printer, scanner etc are 2-3 years old, there may not be any 64-bit drivers for them. In this case if the 'gain' of going to 64 bit is only 5-10%, I'll probably be better by achieving the gain with a more powerful 32-bit processor.

  OTT_Buzzard 18:38 27 Oct 2009

If your scanner and printer are 2-3 years old then 64 bit drivers will almost certainly exist.

64 bit will be the norm in the next few years.

  tallboy 15:40 28 Oct 2009

A good point OTT_Buzzard. I'll take a look on the HP support website before I decide which way to go.

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