Tech Tuesday

Computer Choices Abound...Again

It seems that every year about this time we're writing about buying a new computer and there's a reason...the deals are out there.

The computer is as essential to a lot of farms as the planter or combine these days as farm businesses work on ways to manage every aspect of the operation. And for a lot of readers, that little piece of high-tech is also considered a necessary evil - due in part because a computer doesn't last nearly as long as the aforementioned combine or planter.

And it's probably time a lot of you considered a computer replacement, especially if you held off thanks to Vista and didn't want to bump into the new software. If you've waited that long, it's probably time to start looking and you're going to find a lot of choices. As always, however, sticking to a few basics can offer the biggest bang for your buck.

First, if you've decided to go with a PC - Windows-based machine - that's what we'll cover here. Mac lovers, you already know what's out there and with the latest Snow Leopard operating system update you'll be happy with what you have. For Windows users looking to update their hardware along with their operating system, keep system minimums in mind.

Microsoft lists the minimums needed to run Windows 7 as the following barebones list:

1 gigahertz or faster processor - we're talking 32-bit or 64-bit. That's a pretty slow processor in today's world. Look for something running at least 2.1 Gigahertz - and faster if you can swing it (in a lot of cases for a desktop machine a 3 Gigahertz processor isn't much more expensive than a 2 Gig model).

1 gigabyte of ram - of course that's a minimum - ram memory is where the computer does it's thinking and you want to give the system plenty of room. Consider at least 2 gig of memory, but more likely you should be looking an upgrade to 3 or 4 gigabytes.

16 gigabytes of hard disk space - that's for the program for sure. But if you're buying a new computer - laptop or desktop - don't get less than a 250 gigabyte hard drive. Those field maps and pictures, along with your video collection and photos, eat up a lot of memory space.

DirectX 9 graphic device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver - frankly, this should be basic on most new machines given Microsoft's listed requirements - but ask for the most up-to-date graphics device and drivers and have them ready before you buy.

In fact, if you buy a new computer make sure Windows 7 is already installed on it before you leave the store. It's a real time waster to load the software and it's post-publishing upgrades from home (even with a really fast Web connection).

The computer I've outlined here can be had for about $1,000 for a laptop and for less in desktop form - if you go with a consumer level computer. If you're looking for more horsepower (including a faster processor) look in the $1,500 to $1,700 range for a laptop and about $1,200 to $1,500 for a desktop machine.

'Tis the season to be...buying new computers, of course, after harvest is over.

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