What to Look For in a New Desktop

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Monitor: Big LCD Displays = Pricey Video Card

You can buy stunningly large LCD displays from several PC makers--30 inches at 2560 by 1600 pixels, say--and video support for using a single one of these behemoths is typically an included cost for any business desktop. The PC will need a dual-link DVI connection for such a big display, because of the sheer number of pixels involved.

If you need to use two or more monitors, especially two 30-inch beauties, costs can mount for the video card upgrade. Typically, you can manage two monitors, at least one of them 30 inches in size, with the included card or a very cheap upgrade ($15 for one Lenovo model, for instance).

Driving two 30-inch LCDs, however, means that the dollars can start to add up. Apple builds the cost of two dual-link DVI connectors into all its Mac Pro models, which tend to start with options that bring their price higher than comparable PC makers' workstations.

Other manufacturers offer cards at an upgrade cost starting at $400 for such support, with prices that can reach into the thousands for the highest-performance cards.

Our verdict: If you consider two or more 30-inch LCDs vital to your work, you're simply choosing how much power under the hood--from the video card--you're going to buy.

Hard Drives: SATA vs. SAS

Both SATA and SAS drives offer high performance, with transfer rates of 3 gigabits per second. But SAS is full duplex, providing this speed in both directions. That's why SAS drives have differentials of hundreds of dollars for higher capacities.

Some PC makers offer only SATA drives for most of their midrange business models, requiring the purchase of a higher-cost workstation to upgrade to SAS storage.

Our verdict: SATA is fast enough for most business purposes, but if you read and write massive amounts of data, only SAS will meet your needs.

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