Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 144 / SEPTEMBER 1992 / PAGE S1

What is power computing? (leading edge of technology; buying and upgrading computers) (Compute's Getting Started with Power Computing)
by David English

Do you have to run twice as fast, just to stay in the same place? That's how it feels when you try to keep up with the dizzying pace of PC technology. It's not uncommon to see desktop and notebook computers selling for half the price they sold for just a year ago. Perhaps you bought a fast video card last year, and now you're wishing you'd waited for one of the new local bus computers that promise to double or triple the speed of your graphics.

With 486 computers selling for less than $2,000, should you buy now or wait for the 586 computers to push prices down even further? Should you buy a CD-ROM drive now or wait for faster and less expensive models? Should you buy an inexpensive 386SX or 386SL notebook, or wait for cheaper 486SX and 486SL notebooks? Or should you wait for one of the new 3-volt notebooks that promise 6-8 hours of battery life? And what about the new subnotebook computers?

Confused? It's all moving so fast, and there's so much information about upcoming technologies, it's hard to know what to do. If you're like most of us, you need the equipment now, but you're willing to hold on just a bit longer for that illusive better deal.

At some point you just have to jump in. If you're looking for a new PC, there's never been a better time to buy. Prices have taken an unprecedented fall during the last twelve months (thanks largely to Intel's increased competition with AMD and Cyrix). Many companies now offer PCs with upgradable processors. Some models, such as the Zeos 386-33 (which costs as little as $1,395), can be upgraded with a special processor module. Others, such as the Gateway 2000 486 PC, use the Intel upgrade processor slot. It lets you upgrade your PC with one of Intel's new Over Drive clock-doubling processors.

The other approach--to upgrade the PC you already have--is equally attractive. Less expensive processors and memory chips mean less expensive replacement motherboards, SIMM upgrade kits, and high-end video boards. In addition, when you upgrade your PC, you can do it piece by piece and spread the cost over a longer period of time.

Maybe you just want to make your Windows environment more powerful and responsive. Adding additional RAM can really make Windows fly. So can adding a faster hard drive (if you don't have extra megabytes of RAM, Windows spends a lot of its time shuffling your programs to and from your hard drive). If you'd like to run Windows with 256 colors instead of 16, but it slows down your system, check out WinSpeed (Panacea, Post Office Square, 24 Orchard View Drive, Londonderry, New Hampshire 03053-3376; 800-729-7420; $79). If you're buying a new machine, look into PCs with local bus video. And if you haven't done so already, upgrade your Windows 3.0 to version 3. 1.

So what is power computing? It's being on the leading (some call it bleeding) edge of technology. Of course, today's power computer is tomorrow's midrange system, and the day-after-tomorrow's discount special. There's no other area of commerce where prices tumble and features expand so quickly. Yet even after you buy, the price cutting still works to your advantage. Think how powerful and inexpensive your next system will be when it comes time to replace the system you're upgrading now.