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Building a dream machine

Posted by iKnowHOW on December 1, 2006

Buy a Windows Vista-ready PC if you want to enjoy an eye-popping multimedia experience

Buy a Windows Vista-ready PC if you want to enjoy an eye-popping multimedia experience

Are you planning to buy a PC any time in the near future? If so, wait and think before you rush to your computer vendor. You do not want your machine to be obsolete a month or two after you buy it.

So what should you consider before buying a PC? Do you want to use it just as a typewriter and browse the Internet once in a while? You would probably say “yes”, but believe me you will rue the day when you realise what you actually wanted was something that would give you an eye-popping multimedia experience. This is because as you get familiar with your computer, you will want do more with it. First, you will want to listen to music, then watch DVDs and, finally, edit your movies shot with your handycam. If that is not all, you will then want to run some killer applications and also play games to while your time away.

To do all this you need your machine to have power. You can make a pretty powerful machine without burning a hole in your pocket if you choose the various parts that make up your computer carefully.

Two months from now, Windows Vista will be launched. You have to take this into account when you go for a new PC. Windows Vista will be a big resource hog. You will need at least 2GB RAM if you want to run Vista smoothly. Your processor speed should be above 1GHz.

And to top it all, you will have to invest in a separate graphics card with at least 512 MB memory if you want to run the Home Premium version of Vista.

Powerful processor

Here are some guides to build a Vista-ready computer. Let us first consider what processor you should buy. Intel is now back in the reckoning after having given way to AMD for the past few years. Intel’s new range of desktop processors are up to 40 per cent faster than its counterparts. A good processor for those on a budget is the Intel Core2 E6300. It has a 2MB L 2 cache and clocks 1.86GHz. This will cost you around Rs 8,800. Those who are willing to spend more can go for a Core2 Duo E6700 CPU.

Motherboard

To match the processor you need a good motherboard. There is a very confusing array of motherboards from Asus. If you are looking for high definition audio quality and integrated Wi-Fi, you could go for the Asus P5B Deluxe. It is based on the Intel 965P chipset. This motherboard will last you several years should you decide to upgrade your PC in stages. I suggest you spend the Rs 11,000 and future-proof yourself. Of course, you will get other motherboards based on the Intel 945P chipset which are cheaper. The Intel 945P is a pretty powerful chipset for personal computing. It supports 1066MHz FSB (Front Side Bus), PCI Express graphics and dual-channel DDR2 memory, and Intel’s dual-core CPU for fast multitasking. Combined with the Intel ICH7 that provides four Serial ATA II ports and PCI Express interface, the motherboard is an excellent foundation for a powerful desktop. The motherboard is the core of your PC and so take an informed decision.

Memory

Don’t be stingy on your RAM or else you will regret it. Buy at least 2GB of RAM. The products from Simmtronics or TwinMOS are good and inexpensive. You will need to spend around Rs 12,000 for 2GB. Or you can buy 1 GB for Rs 6,600 and upgrade later. Make sure you buy DDR2 RAM.

Graphics card

You will want to play movies and games on your computer some day and for this you will need the hardware to display these properly on your computer. Leadtek offers graphics cards at affordable prices so that you can indulge yourself in gaming and movies. WinFast PX7900 GTX TDH Extreme is HDCP ready and has 512 MB memory. HDCP stands for High Definition Digital Content Protection. It is a technology developed by Intel that allows Windows to play protected DVD movies. This technology was developed to prevent the unauthorised distribution of digital video through copying. There are cheaper options available that will set you back by around Rs 3,300. Do not go for an onboard graphics solution as this will slow down your PC by drawing resources from your RAM. To get the full effects of Windows Vista, the graphics card must support DirectX 9 with a WDDM driver. It should have at least 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum), with Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel.

Hard Disk

Over the last few years, the cost of hard disks has come down drastically. Choose between Seagate and Western Digital. Western Digital’s SATA II HDD 200 GB will give you lots of space to store your videos, music and podcasts. This will cost you around Rs 4,000.

Now that you have got the essentials in place, you can decide on your DVD writer, monitor and speakers. The Asus DRW-1608P3S 16X DVD Writer costs around Rs 2,250.

Samsung’s LCD 17 inch monitors come for around Rs 10,500.

Altec Lansing has the best speakers. Prices range from Rs 2,700 upwards, depending on the model you choose.

The keyboard, mouse and the cabinet will cost you around Rs 2,000. So for around Rs 54,000 you can have a pretty good gaming and multimedia PC that will last you at least till 2009 comfortably. Most of all, it will be Windows Vista capable and you will not fret in the years to come as programs get more complex and more resource hungry.

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Picture perfect phones

Posted by iKnowHOW on October 30, 2006

What should you look out for when buying a new camera cellphone? Here’s a checklist

Say cheese: The K790i from Sony Ericsson has the best sound quality among all the new phones

With a clutch of new 3.2 Megapixel camera phones in the market, it is quite a feat to choose one that is worth the money forked out for it.

Leading the pack is the exquisite N93 from Nokia, which is more a handycam than a phone. Close on its heels are the Samsung D900, Nokia N73 and the Sony Ericsson K790i. And now, there is the world’s first 10 megapixel camera phone. Or is it a camera that doubles up as a phone — it’s difficult to tell. However, the B600, from Samsung, is slated for launch only in South Korea. We will have to bide our time before we can lay our hands on it.

So what can make phone shopping a rewarding experience?

Remember five important factors when you go out to buy a mobile:

• Portability

• Good call quality

• Good battery life

• Great music playback

• Ease of navigation

No phone can score equally high on all the qualities, so you must obviously weigh your options and buy what best suits your priorities.

Nokia’s N93:

Anything but portable, this phone has terrific video camera features that more than make up for its bulk. The N93 runs on the Symbian S60 v3 operating system that makes it capable of running applications like Adobe PDF reader and QuickOffice for viewing PowerPoint, Excel and Microsoft Word documents.

Samsung’s D900:

The B600 (top), from Samsung, is the world’s first 10 megapixel camera phone

Part of the company’s new ultra slim range of stylish phones, this slider phone has an internal memory of 60MB which can be augmented by an external memory slot for a MicroSD card. One of the drawbacks of this phone is that it does not support voice dialing, which is an essential if you are using Bluetooth headsets. Also missing is EDGE (enhanced GPRS) for high speed internet access. It only supports GPRS Class 10 which has a download speed of 32 to 48 kbps. The camera shoots pictures of an average quality, but fails in situations that need high speed photography, so that the slightest movement produces blurred images. A terrible shutter lag in this phone leads to these blurred pictures. However, all this is offset by a Document Viewer which allows you to read Word and PDF files and its ultra stylish appearance.

Nokia N73:

Nokia brought this out to compete with Sony Ericsson’s K790i. By Nokia’s usual standards of clunky looks, this phone is surprisingly sleek and slim. It has a 42 MB internal memory that is expandable with a miniSD card. The Carl Zeiss lens with auto focus takes pretty decent photographs. This phone too runs on the Symbian S60 Version3 operating system and those who want to use this 3G handset for work will be happy with the PDF reader and QuickOffice for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

Sony Ericsson K790i:

This phone takes equally good pictures as the N73, if not better, with its Cybershot camera. Cybershot is the line of digital cameras made famous by Sony. So when it was incorporated into the phone it created quite a stir. The phone more than serves your camera needs. In addition, among all the new phones the K790i easily has the best sound quality. Along with HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data) and EDGE, Internet access is quite fast. The only problem with the phone, as I have found since this is what I use now, is that I don’t have a viewer for PDF and Office documents. The browser on the phone swiftly resizes websites to fit the mobile phone’s smaller screen. There is no horizontal scrolling involved which can get to be quite a pain.

A word of caution for those going in for a new phone. Do not get swayed by 3G phones. This is because 3G networks have not arrived in India as yet. It is slated to come only around 2008. 3G refers to network systems that allow a data transfer rate of nearly 2Mbps. EDGE gives you a data transfer rate up to 384kbps. With 3G networks video calls and streaming movies will become possible on your mobile phones. EDGE gives you streaming video on your phone. You can even watch TV channels such as Aaj Tak and CNBC. However, this is not possible with the current 2.5G networks in India.

The EDGE reception in Calcutta varies from place to place. Certain residential areas like Ballygunge and Alipore or even Park Street have towers which support faster internet access. In other areas internet on the mobile can be painfully slow because just general radio packet switching (GPRS) is available at speeds of only 30 to 80 kbps.

All these phones come with FM capability. But if you are bored with the same kind of music you can listen to Internet radio with your EDGE-enabled phone. One such radio site is Spod radio. You can download the software for your phone from www.spodradio.com and listen to different genres of music ranging from pop, hip hop, rock, classical, jazz, to music of the sixties and seventies. You will get Hindi songs under World Music. For Nokia phones there is Visual Radio. Go to www.visualradio.com on your computer and follow the instructions on how to hear the music on your phone.

I have found a virtual pet shop for my mobile phone to make up for a lack of the real thing. I have two pets now, one dog and one monkey. I have to take my pets for a morning walk, feed them, bathe them, play with them and even take them to the vet regularly. If I neglect them even for half a day, they start withering away. A full day of neglect means my pet will die. Believe me, when that happens it can be very disheartening. To divert your mind you could either play chess or Sudoku. All this and more is available from www.cellufun.com. The Sudoku on your mobile is especially good with different levels. All you have to do is register at the site and then you can download the Sudoku games of your choice for free.

Before you go shopping for a phone check the reviews on the internet. Follow this up with readers comments — they can be quite revealing. Don’t get swayed by the advertisements. There are tools to compare phones at several sites too. A good starting place would be www.gsmarena.com.

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