Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hardware Upgrades

In October, I will have owned my Dell Dimension 3000 for 2 years, and according to Moore's Law, it's time for me to update my hardware.

The Dell Dimension 3000 comes with a 3.0GHz hyper-threading processor. From what I understand, this is not a true multiprocessor system, but somehow it mimics a multiprocessor PC. From an environmental standpoint, this PC is the equivalent of a gas-guzzling SUV, so I try not to leave it on all the time. The computer is fast. With a 3.0GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM, I've had very little issues with this computer.

last time I researched upgrade costs, I calculated that it would cost about $240 to replace the two 512MB DIMM chips with two 1024MB DIMM chips. This would give me 2 full gigabytes of memory for all of my applications and -- based on previous experience -- would probably extend the usefulness of the PC for another one-and-a-half to two years.

The hard drive that came with this PC is a 150GB 7200 RPM internal unit, and it is filled to capacity. But that's okay. Storage is cheap. Besides, that's not what concerns me. I'll simply buy a 320 GB external hard drive for 38 cents per gigabyte.

What concerns me is something about the PC that didn't concern me two years ago. Now, I'm not a gamer, and I'm still not; therefore, I saw absolutely no need to spend money on a PC with an AGP (advanced graphics port) expansion bay. However, video cards are used for more than just gaming, as I'm now discovering.

A few weeks ago, my monitor lost the color red. The monitor is an old Gateway that I found sitting in the "free pile" in my apartment building. Since the Dell didn't come with a monitor, this solved quite a few problems back in the day. Because the red died, I want to invest in either a wide screen flat panel or two smaller flat screens.

I would prefer two monitors. Two monitors really help make me faster. I can drag an open putty window onto one monitor, maximize it, and watch it expand to fit neatly inside of only one screen. While looking at a log file on one screen, I can test an application in another screen, using a maximized Firefox browser that only fills the one screen and doesn't hide the contents of the other.

The Dell Dimension 3000 doesn't have an AGP slot. While there are graphics cards available that offer dual-monitor support and that fit into PCI slots, I've read that performance can suffer using PCI. It seems to me that between AGP and the newer PCI express, a PCI graphics card would become outdated in a very short time. Therefore, it may be best for me to invest in a flat panel monitor that is compatible with my current PC.

When I purchase my next PC, I'm going to make sure it will have support for dual-monitors. However, the question I struggle with now is this: Do I upgrade the memory and monitor on the Dell, or do I purchase another PC that can handle dual-monitors?