The Penny-Pincher

Published Date
01 - Aug - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Aug - 2006
The Penny-Pincher
Month after month I receive mails asking about optimal PC configurations. That "optimal" might as well read "cheapest." The performance crown might be high on Intel's and AMD's wish-lists, but the ground reality is quite different. Cheap sells.

A few years ago, Rs 25,000 used to be the price for "a very affordable PC"; today, that figure is something like Rs 10,000. I often come across ads offering PCs at around Rs 10K. What kind of components do these PCs come with?

It's not possible for me to go about checking the hardware components that go into each and every brand's sub-10K offerings-besides, there's often fine print involved in those cases-so I decided to do my own investigations and assemble the cheapest PC remembering not to compromise too much on the quality of components. Everyone wants to strike a deal and get the cheapest possible rates; however, it shouldn't come at the expense of performance. In other words, "the cheapest PC" should not be defined by cost alone, because at the end of the day it's a utility device-something you'll be spending time with every day. Assigning some weightage to performance is therefore a must.

"Performance" by itself is a vague term and has different connotations for different people. So instead of giving you a magic configuration-a one-stop solution for everything-I am offering two different solutions, addressing two different performance levels.

Configuration 1
You want: A PC for basic Internet usage, word processing, possibly for accounting, inventory management, or perhaps for programming…

My suggestion: Such a PC will be based on the least expensive hardware available. Prices will vary, but not by much. If you want an Intel solution, opt for a Celeron 2.1 GHz with an ASRock 845 chipset-based motherboard; this combo will set you back by another Rs 1,000.

What to expect: Since this is based on a VIA chipset, graphics will be a sore point, and most games won't run-but routine apps won't suffer. This machine will be a great beginner's PC; for example, if you want to introduce your kids to the world of computers without hurting your wallet, this is what the doctor ordered.
  • Configuration 1: A basic computer for general use
ComponentBrand / SpecificationsCost (Rs)
Processor MotherboardAMD Sempron 2500 An MSI or Gigabyte board based on a VIA chipset4,500 (for the combo)
RAM Transcend 256 MB DDR 4001,100
Hard Drive Seagate / Samsung / Hitachi /WD 80 GB (give or take Rs 150 here)
Monitor Samsung / LG 15-inch CRT
Optical Drive LG combo drive1,450
Keyboard and Mouse Logitech (ball mouse)500
CabinetA cabinet from Frontech, Kobian,Perx, or other such brands, with a350-watt power supply1,000
Stereo desktop speakers from any Taiwanese / Chinese brand300

Configuration 2
You want: A reasonably powerful, upgradeable, multimedia PC that's not too hard on the pocket.

My Suggestion: This configuration is based around an Intel dual-core and a 945 chipset motherboard. The 945 chipset supports Vista, thus offering headroom for upgrades. It has onboard graphics, but can be upgraded for better performance using the PCIe slot. The PC still hovers round the 25K sweet spot. 

What to expect: Since it's based on reasonably good onboard hardware, the PC will allow you to play recent games at low resolutions and settings. With 512 MB of memory, most multimedia applications won't bog the system down. The 17-inch monitor ensures a good Internet experience.  

You can, of course, tinker around with these configurations, and if you're wondering about a particular point, just drop in a mail!

  • Configuration 2: A multimedia computer
ComponentBrand / SpecificationsCost (Rs)       
ProcessorIntel Pentium D 805 5,750
MotherboardIntel Original 945GNTL 6,200
RAMTranscend 512 MB DDR2 667 MHz 2,300
Hard DriveSeagate / Samsung / Hitachi /WD 80 GB (give or take Rs 150 here) 2,350
MonitorSamsung / LG 17-inch CRT 5,500
Optical DriveLG combo drive 1,450
Keyboard and MouseLogitech (optical mouse) 800
CabinetAny decent cabinet with a 400-watt power supply 1500
SpeakersCreative stereo desktop speakers 500

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