Section 8.2. Hardware Design Criteria


8.2. Hardware Design Criteria

With the functional requirements determined, the next step was to establish design criteria for the budget PC hardware. Here are the relative priorities we assigned for our budget PC. Your priorities may of course differ.

DESIGN PRIORITIES

Price

Reliability

Size

Noise level

Expandability

Processor performance

Video performance

Disk capacity/performance



As you can see, this is a well-balanced system. Price and reliability are our top concerns, with everything else secondary. Here's the breakdown:


Price

Price is the 900-pound gorilla for a budget system. We set our target price for this system at $350 excluding external peripherals ($500 with keyboard, mouse, speakers, and display), and tried very hard to stay within that budget. That meant making many trade-offs and giving up some "nice to have" features, but we were able to configure a solid system at that price.


Reliability

Reliability is as important as price. A unreliable budget system is not worth having. To get that reliability, we used good brand-name components throughout.


Size

Size is unimportant, so we paid it no mind. As it turned out, the best case for our purposes was a standard mini-tower unit.


Noise level

We'd like a quiet system, but had no extra money for noise reduction. We decided to do what we could to choose the quietest possible inexpensive components, but otherwise to let the chips fall where they may.


Expandability

Expandability is unimportant, except in terms of making the system upgradable to be compatible with Vista. In essence, that meant making sure that at least one slot was available for memory expansion and that there was a video slot available in case we needed to install a standalone video adapter later. Otherwise, this system will never be expanded or upgraded.


Processor performance

Processor performance is moderately important for our budget PC, both initially and to ensure that the system will have enough horsepower to run Vista without requiring a processor upgrade. We'd love to use a dual-core processor in this system, but there's simply no room in the budget. We can afford to spend perhaps $85 on the processor, which limited our choices to the AMD Sempron or the Intel Celeron.


Video performance

2D video quality is important for our budget PC, because it determines display clarity and sharpness for browsers, office suites, and similar applications that this system will run. A budget PC is not intended for serious gaming, so 3D video performance is a non-issue except to the extent that we need adequate 3D performance to run at least the Vista Aero interface, and preferably with Vista's Glass effects. That means we'll need either an inexpensive standalone video adapter or the latest and fastest integrated video, such as Intel GMA 950 or nVIDIA 6100/6150. If we opt for integrated video, we'll make sure to choose a motherboard that provides a PCI Express x16 video slot, just in case we need to upgrade the video later.


Disk capacity/performance

Disk capacity and performance are relatively unimportant for the budget system. We won't use one of the small 5,400 RPM drives typically found in cheap consumer-grade systems, but we won't break the bank, either. The smallest mainstream 7,200 RPM drives available store 80 GB, which is sufficient for our budget system.




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

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