What standards should the PCs you buy comply with? Standards are continually changing, but in this section we are interested in sensible best practice for mainstream business use and not for those who want to be at the leading edge of technology.
Type of processor: for desktop PCs it doesn't really matter if there's an Intel inside - an equivalent Pentium-compatible processor from AMD or Cyrix is just as good.
Processor speed: this depends on your application and budget, but it's not worth agonising over the choice.
A 100MHz, 120MHz or 133MHz Pentium is fine for general office use.
Memory type: EDO DRAM is best for new PCs as it usually doesn't involve any extra cost. But the older and slightly slower fast-page mode type of DRAM will do. Graphic cards can use different memory types to improve performance, which is perfectly acceptable.
Amount of memory: 16Mb is the norm for users running Windows. Power users running more demanding applications may need more.
Hard disks: Enhanced IDE is the clear standard for desktop PCs because it provides excellent performance for the price. SCSI, in its various guises, makes sense only for power machines. You might as well get a high-capacity drive with 1Gb (1,000Mb) or more storage capacity as it carries only a small price premium. Some IDE drives comply with the SMART specification, allowing them to flag early signs of disk failure. These are worth buying.
BIOS: machines bought now should have a plug-and-play BIOS. This should make it easier to install software and new hardware.
Although most manufacturers are also taking part in Microsoft's Designed for Windows 95 program, Compaq has declined. The machines of participating manufacturers are tested for compatibility with Windows 95 and NT. If they pass, the manufacturers can attach a guarantee sticker to their PCs.
CD-ROM drive: this is not a priority for most business users, but can be useful for loading software onto machines not attached to a network.
For most jobs, speed isn't important - quad-speed or six-speed is fine.
Asset management: some PCs now comply with the Desktop Management Task Force's DMI specification. It is worthwhile if you plan to implement remote asset management across your network. There's no price premium but many smaller vendors are not yet offering the technology. Monitors should comply with display data channel (DDC) so they will be visible to asset tracking software. DMI and DDC should also help with general software installation.
Monitor size: most business PCs have 14in or 15in monitors. The 15in has an increased viewing area and costs very little extra - it should be the norm for Windows. Increasing to 17in or larger sizes bumps up the cost significantly and takes up more desk space.
Safety: any PC or monitor bought today should have a CE mark, showing that it meets the basic levels of electrical safety. Ideally, monitors should comply with TCO-95. This will cost a little extra but emission, electrical safety and comfort levels are better. Failing that, you should ensure that new monitors meet at least the MPR-II or TCO-92 standards.
Source: Business Computer World.
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