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What makes a good computer in 2009?

Sun Advocate/Emery County Progress

Many things have changed in the tech industry since the first successful digital computer system, ENIAC, was built in 1945, especially personal computers.

And as they evolve and change, so do buyers' needs and expectations. For example, many consumers struggle determining when and what to buy when it comes to computers.

As always, opinions among the tech savvy will vary. But the truth remains that there really is no absolute answer to either of those questions.

A practical way to determine whether or not it is time to replace a computer is to consider whether or not the computer still works reliably, and if the computer continues to perform the work that it was intended to do. If it does, then it probably does not yet need to be replaced.

With 2009 upon us, and the fast pace of the tech industry in mind, many local residents often wonder what they should look for in a new computer.

Interestingly, while computing power continues to be a consistent trend, so does miniturization. In fact, portable notebook computers now outsell desktop computers.

With that in mind, the first question potential buyers should ask themselves is whether they should buy a desktop PC or a comparable laptop or notebook PC.

Notebook computers are extremely portable and highly convenient. On the flip side, notebook computers are harder to upgrade or modify than their desktop counterparts.

Whether or not a user should buy a notebook or desktop PC is entirely dependent upon their wants and needs.

In either case, virtually all computers these days now have multi-core processors.

Because of the way multi-core processors work, processors speeds are listed per-core. For example, a 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor actually has two separate 2 GHz processor cores.

A new computer should probably contain no less than a 1.8 GHz dual-core processor.

Memory, or RAM, is still a significant part of the computer. In fact, with computer operating systems like Microsoft's Windows Vista and Apple's Leopard (OS-X 10.5) demanding more and more from hardware, memory is more important than ever.

The more memory, the better. Five years ago, many would have considered a gigabyte (GB) of RAM plenty, but in today's world, it's more of a minimum.

DVD drives have also be come must-haves. Many DVD drives can also burn a myriad of optical media discs, from CD-Rs to DVD+RWs. Blu-ray appears to be the new emerging format but are not yet commonplace among consumers.

With high megapixel digital cameras and digital video recorders becoming more and more commonplace, the need for higher capacity hard drives is also greater than ever.

250 gigabyte (GB) hard drives are probably a minimum for many computer users. Some many even find one terabyte (TB) hard drives (1 TB = 1,024 GB) appealing.

The debate between traditional CRT computer screens and the newer "flat panels" (usually LCD) goes on.

Flat panel monitors will provide better clarity, use less power, take up less desk space, and are easier on the eyes.

But this battle isn't over quite yet. Most CRT monitors are still considerably cheaper than flat panels of comparable size. Some even argue CRTs are still more durable and more accurate with color representation.

But if consumers aren't certain what they need, it doesn't hurt to consult with different sources to determine what to buy.

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