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PC Buyer's Guide | Requirements Analysis | Determining
Your PC Requirements ]
PC Requirements Factors and Tradeoffs
When considering what your requirements are for a PC, there are a number of different
"factors" or categories to consider. To understand best what your priorities
are, you should consider these various factors and which ones are most important to you.
As with most things, you really can't "have it all". Getting the system that is
right for you is a matter of balancing the various requirements considerations based on
your particular needs and wants.
Here are the key fundamental requirements factors--there are likely many others but
these are the most important to most people--and the questions to ask yourself when
- Cost/Budget: How much will the PC cost? This requirement trades off against all
of the others, because more performance, upgradeability, reliability and so on can often
be purchased at a higher price. How much do you have to spend on a PC? What is the value
of a PC that better meets the other requirements? Budget
considerations are covered in detail here.
- Performance: A measure of the PC's power or speed; its ability to run programs
quickly and smoothly. How important is the "power level" of the system? Do you
need to run demanding software? Is having fast access to your data critically important?
Do you get frustrated when you have to wait a couple of seconds for something to happen on
the PC, or is this no problem for you? For a full discussion of performance issues, see here.
- Expandability and Upgradeability: Expandability refers to the ability to add
components and capabilities to the PC with a minimum of fuss; upgradeability is similar
but generally refers to replacing components with newer, high-performance ones. For some
buyers these are very important, as they let the PC be improved in performance, capacity
and reliability without necessitating the purchase of a whole new machine. For others,
they are less significant; many prefer to buy a PC, use it for a period of a few years,
and then just buy a new one. Which type of person are you? See
here for more discussion of these issues.
- Reliability and Availability: These are related terms as well. Definitions seem
to vary from person to person; reliability generally means how likely the PC is to keep
functioning over a period of time without requiring repairs, while availability is what
percentage of the time the system is functional for use. As you can see, the concepts are
similar but not the same. Reliability is largely a function of component quality,
maintenance and a bit of luck. Availability is a function of reliability as well as the
speed and effectiveness of technical support and service (or repair). How critical to you
is access to your PC? Could you be without it for a day? A week? A month? Are you willing
to pay more to avoid long "downtime" in the event of problems?
- Warranty and Service: Does the PC come with a warranty? How long is it and what
are its terms? If service is required, what will it cost and how will it be done? Another
important issue is whether the vendor will provide service or the manufacturer--is the
distinction important to you?
- Ergonomics and Usability: Ergonomics is the study of human position, posture and
movement during work. In the context of the PC it is usually applied to comfort and
"feel" matters related to hardware and should definitely not be ignored. See this section for more discussion of the impact of
design on these important use issues.
- Aesthetics: How does the PC look? If this seems "silly" or
"unimportant" to you then you're certainly not alone; realize however that those
who consider this important do so for reasons that definitely matter to them. Some PCs are
definitely better-looking than others. Some businesses that have to buy a number of PCs
want them all to look the same general way--same color, same basic design, for example.
And well, some people like the funky translucent cases of some PCs now showing up on the
market. To each his or her own, I suppose. :^) Just make sure you don't prioritize this
factor over the others!
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