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What's the current hardware situation?

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It's been four years and I'm thinking it's about time to get a new computer. Problem is, I haven't really kept up with what the current hardware out there is - when I put together my current system a Core2Duo was still near top of the line and 2GB of RAM was plenty. I played around with selecting every top of the line bit of equipment just to see the price and it was about 3k, which seems a bit steep when I'm not needing a new monitor!

I'd like to reasonably future proof for 3-4 years without going overboard on top of the line gear that'll never see it's full potential with me.

Who're currently seen as faster/more stable, intel or AMD? What are considered to be mid-high end processors these days? Are Quad Core still where it's at?
What's a good amount of RAM for Windows 7 where other than games I'm not going to be doing really intensive stuff? 4GB?
Who're the current leaders in graphics cards? Last I checked ATI were out in front but that changes all the time.

Just so I don't wind up accidentally getting a dud, who's considered a really stable motherboard manufacturer? I'm using a Gigabit one and I've never had a hardware problem so I'd like that trend to continue!

Last but not least, what's the advantage of 64bit over 32bit Windows7? Which is the better option in a new computer?

Thanks in advance!
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Neil Jones

Neil Jones

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Unfortunately hardware changes very quickly these days and whatever you buy is obsolete as soon as you get your hands on it as there's always something new round the corner. You can't future-proof a PC in any way, shape or form.

Processors: Intel have the faster processors but with appropriate sized price-tags. AMDs are value. For non-gaming and non-intensive stuff it makes absolutely no difference either way.
RAM: Any half-decent PC should be expected to come with a minimum 3Gb.
Graphics: Too close to call, changes more often than the direction of the wind. Again for light use no difference whatsoever.

MB Manufacturer: They are all as good or as bad as each other. Most boards fail relatively quickly because they're used in conjunction with cheap and nasty power supplies, which when blown tend to take everything else and then some more out with them.. Every manufacturer has a bad board on occasion, in fact between 1999 and 2007 the so-called "Capacitor Plague" meant a load of capacitors that went into motherboards leaked and popped. This affected pretty much every motherboard manufacturer.

64bit and 32-bit: No difference between the two, but if you want to use more than 4Gb of memory you need 64-bit. Some older hardware and software may not work at all in a 64-bit environment. Pretty much all current shipments now use 64-bit 7, and Windows 8 will be exclusively 64-bit only.
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