You’ll be looking at your monitor a lot so I’d recommend getting the best you can afford.
LCD (liquid crystal) displays have come down dramatically in price in recent years.
In their favour they take up less space on your desk, are more economical, and many people find them easier on the eyes.
On the downside, they can be less sharp than traditional CRT screens, and are harder to see in bright light conditions (as they give off less light).
If you go for a CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor, the flatter picture and reduced glare from a totally flat screen is worth the extra cash if you can afford it.
Invest in memory (RAM) rather than processor speed.
The bottom line for most users is that, for the same money, extra memory gives you better performance than a slightly faster processor.
I would specify at least 1GB (gigabyte) of RAM on any new computer.
The more RAM you have, the more your computer can hold in its head at the same time.
This means you can have more applications open at the same time, before your computer has to start writing stuff down (virtual memory, where the OS uses spare hard disk space as extra memory. Clever but very slow.)
While most web design and development work doesn’t necessarily need lots of memory (for image editor, text editor, FTP program, web server and a couple of browsers), you may find yourself working with some very large image documents, and applying complex filters to multi-layered documents in programs like Photoshop can use a lot of RAM.
I always buy the slowest processor on the market when buying a new computer, as they offer far better value for money.
The latest, fastest processors can cost five times last month’s fastest, but only be 10% faster.
And most of the time you’ll find your computer’s waiting for you, rather than the other way round.
Tell the sales guy in the store you’re spending the money on memory.
Web sites should take up as little disk space as possible, because file size equals bandwidth and download time when accessed over the net.
All new computer systems sold today come with massive hard disks, so unless you’re into downloading music and movies, you shouldn’t have to think twice about storage.
If you’re getting a desktop system, consider getting a second internal or removable hard drive (not a partition, but a separate physical device).
If you use the primary drive for loading your operating system and applications, you can use the second drive for saving all your work.
This gives several advantages:
- If your operating system corrupts (not naming names!), you can happily reinstall the OS and main apps within a couple of hours, without having to worry about backing up and restoring your data
- If you need to work elsewhere at short notice, it’s a quick job to remove the hard disk and take it with you.
- Using your second disk for virtual memory will increase performance. Photoshop will also appreciate this.
I’d recommend getting some kind of external storage for saving regular back-ups, but most systems come with a CD writer built-in.
Make sure you store your back-ups off-site!
Another area worth considering these days is online storage solutions, which offer great flexibility and decent value for money if you’re on broadband.
Windows, Mac or Linux?
Really, it doesn’t make much difference either way, and comes down to your own preference and requirements.
You may want to stick with the OS you’re most familiar with.
Linux is a viable alternative
If you’re brave, you could try a Linux package (like Ubuntu / SUSE / Red Hat), which have become far easier to set up in the last couple of years.
There is a lot of free software available for Linux that reproduces most or all of the functionality you’re familar with.
Notable applications include:
- A free graphics editor. Powerful, but harder to use than Photoshop (which isn’t easy)
- Open Office / Star Office
- Offers a selection of applications similar to Microsoft’s Office suite, and (for the most part) can read and write in the MSOffice file formats.
We’ve tried a few hosts, with varying success. For Windows Reseller Hosting, you might consider M6.net.