Computer Hardware for Beginner

I apologize if this is not the proper forum for this. If it is not, please direct me to the website I should take this question.

  1. Graphics measurements on flat-panel screens seem to be different from those of regular monitors. Monitors are measured in dot pitch (like .25). Flat-panel is measured in something else. How to compare the two? Flat panels more expensive? Monitors offer better resolution?

  2. CD-ROM drives are measured in speeds up to x48 (I think). DVD drives are at much slower speeds–like x2 or x4. Does a DVD drive at x2 mean that its cd-rom capabilities are also limited to x2 speeds?

  3. Do they make DVDs which also allow cd writing? Is that practical, or are cd-r’s cheap enough that I’d want to get a DVD drive AND a separate cd-r drive? Is it possible/easy to route the DVD output to a television in the family room (for movies)?

If it isn’t obvious, I’m going to be buying a computer pretty soon. I’m looking to play those 3D multi-player games over the net and am going to be doing web-page design. Therefore, I know I want a VERY nice monitor, VERY nice video card, VERY nice sound-card, VERY nice amount of memory. However, I just want middle-of-the-road cpu and hard-drive.

My thinking is that to ensure that my system remains up to snuff for many years to come, it is better to upgrade the cpu over the years rather than go for top-of-the-line right now. It, too, is going to be obsolete eventually anyway. So… what’s the best pc configuration in terms of ease of upgrading?

Sorry for the length of this. I’m just overwhelmed with all the choices. I want to stay on the cheap side of things, but I’m afraid that having nice cards will require a high-grade processor and so on.

Any advice is appreciated, including “this is not the right forum” or any website where this type of thing is set out.

Thank you.

I think your idea to get top-of-the-line add-ons and a medium-range CPU is going to be difficult to implement – most computer vendors bundle the high-end video cards, etc, with their high-end processor boards. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it just might not be cost effective.

I can’t help much with your other questions. Monitors generally have better resolution than flat-screens, particularly for the $$ involved. A DVD drive can’t write CDs. You should be able to pipe the DVD output into your TV. (I guess you want the DVD for game-playing? Otherwise why not buy a DVD player for your TV rather than getting something that’s neither fish nor fowl? Just my opinion.)

You are right to fear obsolescence. If you find an answer, millions of computer users will want to know what it is. One possibility is some vendors (like Dell? or is it Gateway?) offer guaranteed upgrades. I don’t know if their plan is actually useful but it seems like a good idea.

To OP, no DVD is not slower than a cd-rom drive. I’d reccomend(sp?) it for you to. Current CD’s can hold almost 1 gigabyte(~90 minutes). Yellow DVD is about 17. Blue DVD(this is actually is just a color difference here) have been heard to store 74 GB of information. This is fairly irrelevant, but cd-rom drives can’t read DVD, so i’ say go with a DVD and a Cd-R if you plan on making some music mixes(or maybe something “unlawful”).

  1. I’m not sure how flat screen vs. crt monitor measurements compare, suffice it to say that unless you are extremely short on desktop space, flat-panel monitors are really only good for showing off at this point in time. You will be much happier with a standard monitor provided you don’t go with any “ultra-cheap” models. The difference between a $200 no-name 17" model and a $4-500 Sony or Viewsonic is quite pronounced, and you can spend much more than that if you so desire. Unless you go for an ultra-ultra-highend monitor, you’ll still end up spending less than half of what you would on an equivalently sized flatpanel.

  2. The 2x or 4x speeds for dvd drives are the speed at which they read dvd-rom disks. The read speed of standard cd-rom disks in these drives is usually equivalent to anywhere from 24x to 32x depending on the model. The speed at which they read dvd movies is always 1x for obvious reasons. Since 99% of all software still comes on cd-rom, the dvd-rom read speed is not very important for most people.

3)There are actually a couple of new drives on the market that are dvd-rom/cd-rw combo units. Samsung makes one, but I don’t recall who makes the other. The October issue of MaximumPC Magazine has a review of them both. Unfortunately, if you are looking to buy your pc from a major vendor, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find one that offers one of these as a standard feature. Most offer a separate DVD and CDrw drive on their highend models.

Piping your dvd output to the TV is possible provided your video card has a TV-out or you purchase a separate dvd decoder card. The separate decoder card is relatively cheap (around $60 to $75) and has the advantage of a digital-audio out (required for Dolby Digital sound) which most video cards with software dvd decoding do not. It also is not as hard on the cpu. If your home a/v setup is pretty basic however, you’re probably better off with a software decoder in conjunction with your video card.

Pluto is right in that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a major manufacturer that offers this type of configuration, your best bet is to try the mom & pop computer shop in your
neighborhood if you have one. They’d be much more likely to customize a machine for you, as long as you’re not too worried about the lack of round-the-clock tech support and a three-year warranty.

How much were you planning on spending?

In response to your question # 2 - the DVD read speed does not reflect the maximum read speed of a CD in the same drive. My current DVD drive has a max read speed for DVD of 4x and a max speed for CD of 32x.

question #3: Ricoh makes a combination cd-r/rw and dvd drive. It costs about US$250. You may wish to compare write times though. I believe that there are some differences. I have a CD-r that is 8x write and it takes about 15 minutes to burn an entire cd. You also need to look at what type of buffer underrun software is offered, because you may get a cheaper drive that will produce a lot of “coasters”.

You may be better off in the long run by getting separate DVD and CD-R/RW drives. It does make it easier if you are going to make legal copies of CDs that you already own if you have 2 separate drives(if you only have the 1 drive, you have to copy songs off of the original disk onto the hard drive then burn the copy from the hard drive).

First: If you have an 8x and it takes 15 minutes to burn, there’s something wrong. An 8x writer should take no more than 10 minutes to burn a FULL 80 minute CD. Most burns should be about 7-8 minutes. I have a 4x burner, and most of mine take about 15 mintues.

Second: Unless you get the new Plextor drive with it’s buffer protection, there’s really no software that helps. What you need to do is just make sure you get a writer with a large buffer. Ideally, you should have a CD-CD SCSI chain for burning, but that’s expensive. I don’t do that. As far as buffer size, a burner with a buffer with 512k of buffer mem for each speed grade. eg, a 4x writer should have a 2MB buffer, an 8x writer a 4MB buffer, etc.


You are right - I use Adaptec Easy CD Creator and usually leave the “test then make cd” option on, so making a cd takes twice as long. Thus about 15 min. Sorry for the oversight.

As far as buffer underruns, if you have software that allows you to create a disk image it can help prevent them, but ultimately a bigger burner buffer is best.