To Upgrade Or Not To Upgrade

Get the facts before you add components to your system

Newer, better, faster! If computer hardware and software manufacturers are to be believed, every day is a good day to upgrade. Of course, the decision to invest in more technology should be based on your growing computing needs and fiscal ability, not marketing hype. And don’t forget to research the product before you decide to add it to your system. If possible, talk to someone who has used the product. As with any hardware or software upgrade, be sure to check requirements and compatibility Issues between your system and the proposed component. With many new products, it may make sense to wait until the kinks have been worked out before you make a move.

Consider the new 56 kpbs modem technology which promises to let you surf the Web at rocket speed. The claim is not untrue, but there are underlying factors to consider before buying into this technology. Most importantly, there are competing standards for 56 kbps modems. Both U.S. Robotics (www.usr.com) and Rockwell (www.rockwell.com) have developed methods for achieving this speed and have in turn, licensed to other modem makers such as ZOOM Telephonics (ZOOM has licensed Rockwell’s technology).

Unfortunately, the two methods are incompatible a with one another, which means consumers must find out which technology their ISP uses in order to reap the benefits of the faster modem (although they will both support speeds of 33.6 kbps regardless of the technology). International standards for 56 kbps modems should be set by mid-1998, but they will likely be a combination of various parts of the two technologies and will therefore conflict with both of the current methods.

A surer upgrade decision is to increase your system’s RAM. Mac or PC, a RAM upgrade is generally a simple procedure that will boost computer performance, and with memory prices continually falling, any day really is a good day for a RAM upgrade. You can get 8MB of RAM for around $50. For the boost in performance, it’s worth it. Even neophyte computer users can manage the task effectively if the directions are followed closely. Most computers have specific upgrade paths for memory modules. Also check your computer manual to find out the specific type of memory needed. Here are some other upgrade ideas:

IBM ThinkPad 560: The ThinkPad 560 is a lightweight and speedy notebook computer that is a good choice for the mobile professional. At a minuscule 1.2-inches thick and 4.1 lb., it’s compact enough to fit into a briefcase along with the rest of your documents and it won’t cause back problems from carrying the unit around all day.

The 560′s 133 MHz Pentium processor is speedy enough for most users, and the unit is available in two basic flavors: a 12.1-inch active matrix display ($3,899) or a 11.3-inch dual scan display ($2,499). The 2.1 GB hard disk is enough to hold numerous PowerPoint presentations, although the standard 8MB of installed RAM leaves a “bit” to be desired. An internal modem would also be a welcome addition to the standard version.

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