As you said the first machine should be easy as preformance is not that important. You should be able to get a good machine with out the monitor for under 500 USD in the US. A 19 or 20 inch flat screen monitor (LCD) (acer, viewsonic etc.) should run between 200 and 350 UDS. You should be able to get an AMD or Intel machine from tigerdirect.com (e-machine). You can also get a good flat screen (LCD) 20 inch monitor there also. At a price of 500 USD for the machine alone it should come with a decent video card ATI or nVidia GeForce some times these video cards are right on the mother board but I would not get those as they use up resources (ie memory and CPU time.) Because of that I would be sure that you get 1 GB of main memory but 512MB will do. Windows XP pro is about 80 USD more that Windows XP home but it is better for networking if there are future plans in that direction. It is quite a hassel to upgrade in the future I think. Don't go for a Dell or HP bundle as you will pay 200 to 300 dollars (unless waranty and service are a big issue) more than a white box assembled by someone local. This person will also be quite helpful in configureing your high end grahics machine. CPU performance is not a big issue for the office machine and CPU prices from Intel and AMD are dropping quite fast. I would hold off making the purchase as long as you can as prices will keep falling. Don't get sucked in to getting a faster and faster CPU just because the price is falling. Try to keep the cost of the base machine under 500 USD and spend the extra money on a good quality flat screen monitor ( 19 or 20 inch as I mentioned above ) You look at the screen not the box. I live in Canada and my prices my be a bit high so check every thing out on google and or ebay or tigerdirect.com
Things are quite a bit different for the grahics application. Speed is every thing for almost all components.
First find the fastest Grahics Card that you can find look for the best GPU engine, not just the amount of memory on the card. Memory can be important but the GPU is 10X more important. This would be the first area that I would not go cheap on. You could easily pay 300 USD to 400USD for a top of the line video card take some time to research this item as it is the most important. Look into SLI offerings ( two video cards on the same board but be sure the motherboard can handle it.
Second, Find a very good monitor no smaller than 20 inch. If realestate on your desk is not an issue there are exceptional prices on CRT monitors 90 USD to 150USD. Prices go up the bigger the the monitor but so does the size and weight. LCD Monitors are fantastic but are 3 to 4 time more expensive I have and Acer and It cost 400CND including sales taxes here in Canada which would come out to about 360 USD. The practical size for an LCD monitor is 20 inch from a cost point of view.
Third, find a good motherboard and CPU combination as they seem to be cheaper when bought together. I have a AMD opteron 165 which is overclocked by 15% and is very stable. I paid 300USD for a TYAN Tomcat K8E S2865 motherboard and an AMD opteron 165 CPU over Ebay, The normal cost of the CPU is 275USD over Ebay plus shipping of 20USD and the motherboard is 75USD plus shipping of 20USD. I saved 70USD which could put toward a better monitor or graphics card.
The CPU has two processors on it and each processor has a 1MB cache. This processor really smokes. Get an AMD opteron 170 or 175 939socket if they are not to much more than the 165.
If you are interacting a lot with the hard disk then get the fastest interface (SCSI) for performance and the largest amount of storage you can afford. Buying 2 or 4 hard disks sometimes works out to be less costly but speed of the conection should be you first consideration. Drives with a transfer rate of 10K or 15K should be considered but costly.
This should be enough to get you started but there are a lot of thing to be considered and that is why I said you should get a local PC builder to help you out. His per hour rate will be in the 50 to 60 dollar range to build a sytem for you he/she will have a lot of information that will be most helpfull. Don't pick the first one you find shop around and let them know what you are trying to do and you are not just trying to get free information.
email me at email@example.com if you want clarification of any items I have presented or any other questions you might have. I am semi-retired and have 25 years experience in the computer hardware and software area and don't mind helping.
455 Drew Street
I've just started a Diploma in ICT and as part of our Hardware Fundamentals class we have to build (on paper) two machines, one for use in a small lawyer's office, and the other for a newspaper advertising department (graphics). Our tutor wants us first to ask quesions of people, Google, read and gather as much information as possible on what kinds of specs we'd need to consider for both machines. The first one I think I can probably handle OK, but I have no graphics experience whatsoever so I'm struggling a little with the second machine.
Some things I've got sussed but the things I'm looking for advice/suggestions on are:
- CPU (Brand, speed, dual core etc) I'm thinking AMD at this point but that's purely guesswork. I'm also thinking L2 cache on the CPU might be helpful.
- graphics card (I know NOTHING about these other than what I've read. Both my machines have onboard graphics) I'm thinking the graphics machine will need a quality graphics card, with a decent amount of memory, but I basically have no clue which way to go with that.
- monitor - I WAS thinking wide(r) screen LCD but again I have no experience with LCD. A lot of what I've read suggests that for graphics work CRT is actually better.
- RAM - at least 1GB but would more be better?
If anyone could give me some suggestions/advice with any of this I'd really appreciate it. I'm not looking for you to do my homework for me (I'm 45 btw ) - I'm just looking for guidance and our tutor is happy for us to do that.