Here is the continuation of my post last week on what to consider and look out for when upgrading your computer. It is very important to know these things especially at this point when a lot of established standards are being replaced by new ones.
Having already discussed processors and RAM, let us now focus our attention on storage and graphics:
Storage – With programs and different software eating more and more hard drive space and with most games needing faster access time to data and files in order to run smoothly, it is definitely important that faster and higher capacity drives are purchased. One of the more recent advancements in hard drive technology is perpendicular storage. For this year, Seagate was the first out of the gate by releasing their own perpendicular storage drive. This means that they have been able to ship a 750GB hard drive, which is the first in the market. At this point, hard drive manufacturers like Hitachi, Samsung and Western Digital have yet to release any perpendicular storage drives.
In terms of DVD recordable drives, purchasing one is now not a matter of budget as the prices of these drives have gone down drastically and this includes the price of DVD+/- RW dual layer writers. It was recently announced that companies like Pioneer and IO Data will be releasing Blu-ray burners for computers but at this point the technology is still at its infancy, which translates to exorbitant prices. A $1,000 drive is not really appealing unless you really have the money to burn.
The price of flash memory is also going down. It is now possible to get a 2GB or 4GB flash memory portable storage device for less than $100.
Graphics – There seems to be a holding pattern going on now in the graphics card market as the release of Windows Vista is being anticipated. For the time being, both ATI and Nvidia are just releasing the same products to the market, only that they are posting lower and lower prices for these graphic cards while at the same time bumping up the performance in all of the product lines. There is speculation that Nvidia is very near to launching its first DirectX 10 capable Graphics Processing Unit. The expected timeframe for when the product will hit the streets is likely by the end of the year. ATI, on the other hand, is lagging behind its rival when it comes to DirectX 10 enabled graphics cards. There is talk that ATI will only be able to release its own DirectX10 enabled GPU nearer the street date of the Windows Vista, which will most likely happen during the first half of 2007.
There is no reason just yet to panic over DirectX 10 though. It would likely take the whole year after Vista is released before games that are DirectX 10 maximized will be introduced to the market. Additionally, most high performance DirectX 9 graphics cards can more than handle the Vista Aero Glass theme with no problem at all. Most of the games that will come out this year will also most likely be just DirectX 9 games.
Nvidia and ATI are currently promoting their respective dual graphics card technologies – SLI and Crossfire. Although the technology has matured, with Crossfire now no longer requiring a passthrough cable or master card to make the bridge, the price is still quite expensive and only hard core gamers would really appreciate the performance improvements it brings.