We are often asked for advice on computer hardware and so we thought it would be a good idea to let you know our thoughts on the matter. This article is designed to give a broad overview that focuses on areas that we are mostly asked about. As such it is not intended to provide a high level of technical advice.
Not all computers are created equal and there are some traps that many people to fall into when purchasing a new computer. Considering that your computer is a partner in your punting, that investment is worth serious consideration.
As a minimum to operate the R2W Axis software you will need a Windows XP computer with at least 3 gigabyte of ram, however more is preferred. In terms of hard disk storage you will need about 1 gigabyte for the software database and then multiples of that for each back up you allow the program to perform for you. The minimum screen resolution is 1024 by 768. Due to the compact nature of the program and the amount of information required to be displayed your DPI settings must be set to default We unfortunately don’t cater for smaller mobile technology as it is not a suitable partner for our software.
Where to buy ?
If you are reading this then it is possible that you have a limited knowledge of how you should be going about making a purchase of a new computer. If you are after a laptop then we recommend Dell. We have had several good experiences with them and feel they are both well specked and priced. If you are buying a desktop then it’s better to look at the local computer shops rather than the retailers like Dick Smith or Harvey Norman. The reason is that you will likely get a better, more up to date and reasonably priced computer configuration from the locals than the large retailers. In Sydney www.arc.com.au, Brisbane www.gamedude.com.au and Melbourne www.scorptec.com.au are good options as they are reputable and have been in business several years. Dell is also a reasonable option for desktops. We have personally dealt with all of them successfully however it should be noted that they gene
rally do not provide advice on what to buy, rather they offer very competitive prices if you know what you want or need in your new computer.
What to buy ?
It would be almost pointless to try to map out a PC configuration as hardware changes so fast it would be out dated in a few months. There are however some pointers that will last a life time. When you are buying a computer (be realistic about your price point) I would say that about $1,500 to $2,500 for a desktop or a lap top will get you a computer that will last (in terms of being able to handle current demands) for around 5 years. It is in this price band that our recommendations are focused and we assume that since you are serious about your punting you are looking for a machine that will do more than just scrape in on performance. Sure you can always find what appears to be a great deal and you will feel like you got a bargain ! Rest assured that you will be paying for this fallacy for the life of that PC in terms of YOUR TIME!
CPU Platform and Hardware
When you are looking at what hardware to get, you start off with a ‘platform’. Either Intel or AMD is suitable. Intel is generally faster whilst AMD is cheaper but still able to deliver decent performance. If you are looking at reducing cost then use the AMD platform. We have run our software successfully on both AMD and Intel platforms. What hardware configuration you get is up to you and the advice that you take from us, magazine reviews or from your supplier. When we buy desktop hardware we purchase a custom machine. That is we determine through research what components are suitable and then we usually built it ourselves ensuring that we get what we want rather than getting what the supplier is trying to promote. Of course we don’t expect you to do that , but most suppliers offer a very reasonable build fee to do that for you. With laptops its bit harder and that’s why we appreciate the choice that Dell offers in terms of allowing a reasonable degree of flexibility that allows you to customise your laptop to suit your requirements.
You should be looking at the sweet spot items
By that I mean the hardware that is currently in the biggest supply. This doesn’t mean the cheapest or out of date discount sell off ! It means that this is the band of hardware that is well priced due to production quantities. Don’t spend $1,200 on a processor when around $200 to $250 will get you a decent one. Being at the cutting edge of technology is just far too expensive and unnecessary for your requirements.
Windows operating systems come in two platforms, 32bit and 64bit. The latter is the preferred option. Unless you have an important legacy software requirement that requires 32bit, then 64bit Windows 7 Professional or better should be your goal. Most 32bit programs will operate well on a 64bit operating system so sacrificing the benefits of having a 64bit operating system because of a single application makes little sense.
The amount of memory (RAM) that you purchase depends on the operating system you choose to run. With 64bit (e.g. Windows 7 Professional 64 bit) 6 to 8 gig of ram is satisfactory but by all means get more if you like. If you are running a 32bit version of Windows then anything over 4 gigs is wasted as 32 bit systems can’t access or recognise anything past about 4 gigs. RAM modules are not expensive so choosing a medium priced brand makes good sense. Essentially there is only a small amount of speed difference between higher and lower priced options.
The Hard disk is one thing that most people tend to identify with and look to as THE measure of performance. Most people never use anything over 500gig of disk space and often far less, yet they are sold 1 to 2 terabyte disks which often mask a low performance CPU, motherboard or graphics solution. The latest 7200rpm SATA3 disks are all comparable in terms of performance. Investing in additional unnecessary space costs money, which if trying to meet a budget could make all the difference. Of course you need to determine if you have a need for extra space but remember that adding a new hard disk to the machine is an easy upgrade that can be performed much later after purchase. If you need additional space for seldom used files and back ups then consider an external storage solution.
In fact we suggest that you give serious consideration to purchasing an external USB drive to use as a backup that ISN’T permanently connected to the PC. What happens in the event that a power surge wipes your PC? At least you have a backup. Remember Your data is EVERYTHING! The cost to recover data, providing that it is recoverable at all is many times that of an external USB drive.
If you have money to spare in your budget then we strongly suggest you buy a Solid State Hard Drive (SSD) for your Windows, programs and the Axis database. Then add a conventional hard disk for your storage and backup. Not only will this increase the security of your data as a failure of 2 separate disks at the same time is less likely, but it will also speed up your computing experience.
These days the motherboard carries with it everything that you need and replaces the need for additional expansion cards. Examples of what we mean are external ports like USB, LAN, fire wire, sound and also the previously mentioned onboard graphics. Given that a motherboard with a graphics card is generally the lowest starting price point, it costs more NOT to have one ! Onboard sound is perfectly suitable and unless you have a specific need then there is no need to outlay more on a sound extension card.
You will need a graphics expansion card, don’t be persuaded that the onboard (on the motherboard or integrated) is a good option. It’s generally not so the extra money you outlay will be well worth the experience in the long-term. I’m not talking about the latest 3D game cards, rather a well rounded display expansion card that will keep up with Win 7 or Win 8 especially if you are running 2 monitors or more. We prefer a quality passive cooling model (no fan) which has the right amount of processing power without the noise level of other options.
The thing to remember is that the MONITOR is the piece of hardware that you will be interacting with every minute that you use the PC so it makes sense to purchase the best that you can afford. If you are buying a laptop then we suggest that you look for a 17” monitor. Sure that seem to be a large laptop but you will thank us for recommending a mobile platform that is capable of displaying the information in a suitable manner. If it’s a desktop then buy at minimum a 19” monitor. Most monitors today are wide screen format. We use and recommend Dell monitors.
Something that is often overlooked is a good power supply. Most people buy a low cost case which generally has a substandard and noisy power supply that can put the hardware at risk. If you are buying a desktop, our recommendation is to spend an additional $80 to $120 on a power supply or a reputable brand case so that you enjoy a much quieter computing environment and stable power supply. A quality power supply will provide power continuity in the event of a small brownout where a low cost version may falter almost instantly. We have seen the difference on quite a few occasions. You should also consider investing in a power surge protector.
I would leave it to your shop assistant to recommend the rest of the hardware like mouse, keyboard and printer unless you want to do your own research.
We have made many assumptions in the above brief and understand that people’s needs, preferences and expertise vary. We are always happy to assist our clients with ideas to take with them when shopping for a PC. We like to keep you in front of the game and that extends to the hardware that you use the R2W Axis software on. We have advised many of our clients some of whom have purchased several computers based on our recommendations and are very happy with their purchase. Don’t hesitate to ask us.
Remember your computer is your punting partner for around the next 5 years !