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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | Component Specification Issues ]

Technological Maturity

All else being equal, it is wise to always try to buy products that are not in their first generation. If an exciting new technology comes out--a totally new type of processor, the first motherboard to use a new chipset, a hard disk faster than any that preceded it--you may be tempted to want to be the "first on the block" to have it. This is usually not a good decision. Not only will you pay through the nose for being an early adopter, you will greatly increase your risk of having hardware problems.

There was a time when most manufacturers took quality and reliability issues very seriously. They would not put a product out on the market until they were pretty sure that it had all the bugs worked out. They would thoroughly beta test their products before selling them. ("Beta testing" means giving early versions of the product to a limited number of customers for testing on the condition that they report their findings back to the manufacturer). To be fair, back in the "good old days" the market moved a bit more slowly, there was less competition, and consumers were a bit less demanding.

Today, consumers' general attitude is "we want more, bigger, faster, and we want it now!" Due to the tremendous pressure of the marketplace, many companies are rushing product to the store shelves. This is true not just of smaller manufacturers, but even of the largest firms. The usual justification is that "if we don't do it, someone else will beat us to the market and we'll lose our shirts".

Maybe so, but the end result is that you may end up being an uncompensated beta tester for these firms--with your real data on the line. Therefore, I recommend waiting until any new technology has been around for a few months before you dive in--unless you are sure you want to be a pioneer. Remember, they don't call it the "bleeding edge" fer nuthin'. :^)

Next: System-Based Key Component Selection

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