With the obsolete-by-tomorrow pace of improvement in the computer industry, we've finally reached the point where speed surpasses need. And although this may not be good news for Intel, which recently introduced a high-end Pentium III processor that's faster than anyone needs at this point, it's terrific news for buyers.
If you're shopping for a desktop computer, look for a model with at least a 333 MHz Celeron or an AMD K6-2 processor, 64MB RAM, and a 4GB hard drive. If you have dial-up access to the Internet, make sure the computer comes with a 56K modem. And if sound and video are important for multimedia applications you use, look for a model with a 24X CD-ROM drive, a video card with 8MB of memory, and a sound card.
What to forgo? You can probably do without a 32X or 40X CD-ROM drive. Few users will be able to tell the difference between these drives and cheaper 24X models. If you want to move up to a Pentium II chip, commit to a 400 or 450 MHz version. Most users will otherwise be unable to notice much difference between a 350 MHz Pentium II and the less expensive 333 MHz Celeron.
Found at prices as low as $1,100, IBM's PC 300GL is a terrific option for straightforward computing needs. Equipped with a 366 MHz Celeron chip, 64MB RAM and a whopping 8.4GB hard drive, this model has enough power for most business applications. The software package is also quite appealing: It comes bundled with both Microsoft Office and Lotus SmartSuite.