Section 8.1. Determining Functional Requirements

8.1. Determining Functional Requirements

We sat down to think through our own requirements for a budget PC. Here's the list of functional requirements we came up with:


Reliability is important for a budget PC, just as it is for any computer. Although our limited budget may force us to make minor compromises in reliabilitysuch as using a lower-capacity power supply than we might otherwise choosewe'll still keep reliability firmly in mind as we select components. When we're forced to chooseas we inevitably will bebetween performance, capacity, or features versus reliability, we'll always favor the latter.

Adequate performance

In order to be useful, a budget PC must have adequate performance. Cheap consumer-grade PCs are often obsolete the day they're unpacked. Most of them have slow processors, insufficient memory, small 5,400 RPM hard drives, and very poor integrated video. That's simply not good enough. For our budget PC, we aim for a performance level equal to what defined a mainstream or performance PC a year to 18 months prior. That means we need a processor in the 3 GHz class, 512 MB of memory, a 7,200 RPM hard drive, and either fast integrated video or an inexpensive standalone video adapter.

Usable peripherals

Cheap consumer-grade PCs always scrimp on peripherals. A typical cheap mass-market system is bundled with a $2 mouse, a $3 keyboard, a $3 set of speakers, a $12 CD-ROM drive, and a $65 17" monitor, none of which are good for anything but the trash bin. We can do better than that, even within the constraints of our tight budget. We'll have to spend an extra $5 here and $20 there, but we'll end up with solid, usable peripherals that are likely to last the life of the system.

Vista compatibility

Vista compatibility is a moving target, and means different things to different people. Technically, many current consumer-grade systems are Vista-compatible in the sense that Vista is likely to load and run on them. But there are different levels of Vista, and cheap systems are likely to support only the basic Vista feature setno advanced graphics nor many of the other features that differentiate Vista from Windows XP. Although Vista hardware requirements had not yet been finalized when we designed this system, we made some assumptions based upon the best information then available with the goal of designing a budget system that would be able to run a full-feature Vista configuration with few or no hardware upgrades.

Noise level

There's little room in the budget for special quiet components, but that doesn't mean a budget PC must necessarily be noisy. We'll choose the quietest components available in our price range, always giving price and reliability high priority, but keeping noise level in mind as well. For example, two hard drives may be priced identically, but one may be literally twice as loud as the other. The same is true of other components such as cases, power supplies, and CPU coolers. By choosing carefully, we can build a budget PC that is much quieter than a similar but noisier configuration that costs the same.

Building the Perfect PC
Building the Perfect PC, Second Edition
ISBN: 0596526865
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 84

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