Buying a computer system/Query re buying computers



I am planning on buying a PC. In the past, I got into trouble.Knowing nothing about computers, over some years, I bought 2 computer-packages(Intel) from Time Computers, a lousy retail PC-seller which unsurprisingly went bust. I then bought a wonderful PC(AMD Athlon with 4GB RAM etc.) from Palicomp, which allowed me to designate exactly which components I wanted in my PC. The trouble is that this was c. 5 years ago, and I now no longer have a clue as to what components are best or what "DDR" etc.

Basically, the PC I am looking for is one which can easily play any currently popular PC games, plus keep up to date for the next 5 years or so. I am also interested in playing some PC games which are over 10 years old such as Baldur's Gate - would there be any problem in playing these old games even with a more advanced windows operating system like windows 7 or 8?

So, at the moment, I know of a company in Austria which is like Palicomp in that it allows one to create one's own PC/computer-system based on a number of standard original models- such online stores are way  cheaper and, unlike retail-stores, don't do the classic trick of providing enough speed but deliberately not providing enough RAM etc.,. Trouble is that I don't know whether Intel is better than AMD, currently, or what amount of RAM is needed to play current PC games effortlessly or what graphics card is needed. As regards non-PC aspects, my previous system had a 19_inch LCD monitor and a standard mouse and keyboard. Is there any need to buy those 10O+ euros-worth  "gaming" mouse devices? Is it a good idea to buy as large a monitor as possible or is 19-inxches enough? Basically any info on a decent gaming PC would be most appreciated, along with explanations for what specific terms mean. I'm looking more for value-for-money tha the absolute best, as I can't afford those übergaming PC systems valued at c. 3500/4500 pounds sterling.

Thanks so much for your time,

Generally I'm going to say that I'm not a fan of "local" or "small" PC builders, because they have an absolutely awful reputation for abandoning customers and providing borderline fraudulent advice when it comes to hardware selection - at least in this part of the world (I'm really not familiar with any Austrian companies). I'm more apt to suggest Dell or Hewlett-Packard, because they have consistently demonstrated their ability to provide warranty service and support; alternately you could assemble the machine yourself (it isn't terribly hard, but it does take a few hours).

As far as what hardware you should buy - it will really depend on what games, specifically, you're interested in playing. When you mention Baldur's Gate, I'm assuming you're more interested in strategy and role-playing games, and modern examples might include things like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim or the Mass Effect series, which are less demanding than titles like Battlefield 3. My advice would be to look at the most demanding title you'd like to play, and find the suggested system specifications and go from there. I'll also add that in general, computer games and their system requirements have "stagnated" in the last 3-5 years as a result of cross-platform development (in other words, game developers build games that will work on both a Windows platform, as well as Xbox and PlayStation - and Xbox and PlayStation have fixed hardware capabilities, so as long as your PC can meet or exceed those (which modern computers can), there generally is no impediment to at least 720p gameplay).

In terms of specifics - there's no clear-cut advantage to Intel or AMD; both make good hardware, and both can be the foundation of a very competent and reliable machine. Memory-wise, 4GB would be a comfortable base-line, 8GB would be very appropriate; more is unlikely to be of benefit unless you're doing other tasks with the machine as well (e.g. if you work with AutoCAD). That said, memory has gotten very cheap, and 16GB of memory is generally around $100 US, and there's no reason to shy away from such an upgrade if a vendor were to offer it for a marginal fee (that said, a lot of "small shops" will run the prices up pretty substantially because they're usually applying mark-up on top of retail prices). The primary consideration for a gaming machine should be the graphics adapter, however - and this is where looking at system requirements is quite helpful in determining what an appropriate choice would be. Your monitor's resolution is also important in this discussion - you mention a 19" monitor, which makes it likely either 1280x1024 or 1440x900 (neither is relatively "large" - which means it needs comparatively less processing power to satisfy); this reduces the overall burden on the graphics adapter to render scenes. As far as buying a new monitor - it's really up to your preference. Do you want a bigger monitor? Do you want a higher resolution monitor? There's no performance or quality advantage (unless your existing monitor is defective or has an exceptionally bad response time), but a higher resolution monitor (which usually will be larger) will require more processing power for rendering games (in other words, rendering something like Skyrim at 1920x1200 is more intensive than rendering it at 1440x900).

I'd say preference is a fair answer for the "gaming mice" as well - if you're satisfied with what you already have, I see no reason to change, but if you'd like a new mouse, there's nothing wrong with the purchase. Really up to your own preferences. Some of the more expensive mice offer more flexible configuration options, but in terms of "performance" it's really nothing to write home about - it's either going to work or it isn't, and generally the mice that fit into the "isn't" category are given away for free (and even those are often competent!).

Finally, regarding newer versions of Windows - generally speaking older games that are still popular and have been maintained will work with newer versions of Windows, however more obscure games may not. The best suggestion for gamers that want to keep up with old games (which generally have their performance requirements satisfied by more or less any modern-ish machine) is to maintain a second computer that runs Windows XP (or, if you enjoy *very* old games, build a specialized machine that runs Windows 95 or 98 (no Internet connection is advised) and features more "era appropriate" hardware, to ensure compatability - this is a somewhat extreme step, and really only needed if your primary interest is in playing games from the early to mid 1990s that are not supported on modern hardware).

As far as "future proof" goes - while the stagnation effect has absolutely held up for the last few years, it's not as if anyone in 2007 or 2008 could have predicted that to be the case. My advice is to buy (or build) a machine that has quality hardware (which will stand the test of time, even if it goes "out of style" in a few years), and if dramatic changes occur in the future, address them at the time.

Another, somewhat unrelated suggestion, would be back to the consoles mentioned earlier (e.g. Xbox and PlayStation) - if you're on a budget, and your primary consideration is playing newer games, a console would be a much less expensive way to get there (assuming the games you wish to play are published for console). Your existing machine likely handles the existing games you play, and popular upcoming titles are likely to exist on consoles - making it a somewhat attractive option from a financial perspective.

And finally, depending on the hardware in your existing computer, it may be a simple matter of updating a few components and the machine would be good to go for newer titles. Do you have more complete specifications for your current computer?

If you need clarification or have further questions, feel free to include those in your follow-up as well.


Buying a computer system

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.


I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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