HOME Technology Nov 2007
PCs in 4-wheel drive
Multitasking power boost

The PC market is recovering some of its sparkle after a couple of lackluster years where home buyers in particular, defected en masse to more affordable, robust and better performing notebook computers.

The maturing of digital media centre technology, the growing sophistication of PC-based games, rapidly reducing hardware prices and performance advances are all driving renewed interest in desktop machines. Many businesses also found notebooks remained on the desk because workers typically had their own PCs and notebooks at home helping put the PC back in favour. 

Hewlett Packard remains top dog across the PC and notebook market (36.6%), having gone from selling an average of 45,000 units a quarter to 60,000 and according to IDC, it guards its market share aggressively. Dell retained its number two position in the third quarter although had swapped places with Acer (12.7%) in the June quarter. Lenovo and Apple were the other major players in the desktop space. 

Most new PCs are now dual core, with have two chips operating on the motherboard to better handle media intensive processes and multitasking. At the high end quad core technology - four chips sharing processes – is likely to become mainstream next year. This chipset is aimed mainly at serious game players, people processing heavy graphics, running multiple tasks concurrently or simply users addicted to speed and performance.

It’s usually best to buy ahead of your current needs to ensure at least 2-3 good years use from your PC. An entry level machine for school projects, accounts and basic web surfing can now be purchased for as low as $800, featuring at least 1.5GHz performance, 1Gb RAM, 80-160Gb hard disk and a DVD writer. Mid range offerings are typically 1.8GHz - 3GHz with 160-320Gb hard disks and 1Gb-2Gb RAM ($1500- $2500).

More useful configurations for gaming or home media centre machines still hover around $2500-$4000, with high-end graphics and video performance, at least a 500Gb hard drive, 2GB RAM and Vista Ultimate operating system.


IDC associate PC analyst Oliver Clough admits it’s not easy to wade through all the terminology. “Intel’s marketing of its various chip sets has become so confusing that people no longer look at processor speeds. Regardless they’re better off spending an extra $100 on RAM because most processors are pretty quick anyway.”

Another thing to watch for is whether the DVD drive is Blu-ray or HD-DVD capable. Some drives now handle both, which is the preferable, as the market remains split over the dominant format for high definition playback.


Monitors are also moving to high definition and widescreen. Cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors are passe and even 17 inch LCD flat screens are being phased out for 19 inch entry level. While there’s a current push to 20 inch monitors, IDC says the market has essentially leapfrogged to 22 inch as the new high end monitor at $400-$550.

HP remains overall market leader in monitors, although in the branded space Philips leads the way with Dell trailing and Samsung, having gone direct through a local office, making a big splash. Viewsonic was the first to market with 22 inch screens but there’s growing competition from the likes of Acer and LG


The PC market is not expected to slow down any time soon with chipmakers Intel and AMD continuing to push quad core as standard, squeezing more onto chips and increasing focus on power saving, efficiency and boosting speed. Disk capacity is growing hugely to cope with the rapid evolution in digital content and increasingly we’ll see twin 500Gb disks and even full terabyte storage heading into the mainstream over the next year.


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