The lowdown on super PCs

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Built for speed

What are they? The super PCs of the moment come with Intel Pentium 4 processors with multithreading technology running as fast as 3.06 GHz, or AMD Athlon XP 3000+ and 3200+ processors. They should have 512M or more of RAM, a large, 7,200-rpm or faster hard drive, at least one fast CD-RW optical drive, and one DVD-ROM read-only drive or a rewritable DVD drive. Video and sound cards with plenty of on-board RAM, dial-up and 10/100 Ethernet cards, and plenty of IEEE 1394 FireWire and Universal Serial Bus ports should round up the their basic features.

How much do they cost? Most of the base units I configured for this guide cost around $2,000. But most super PCs will cost over $3,000 once they are fully configured with monitors, software and other extras.

When do you need one? You need a super PC for high-end graphics, computer-aided design, music copying, digital photo editing and digital video capture and editing tasks.

When don't you need one? If your main computing tasks require standard word processing, spreadsheet and e-mail applications, save your money and buy a unit priced around $1,000.

Must-know info? You can buy a super PC off-the-shelf from most retail computer outlets. For the best price and features, however, configure your PC online and then order it from a reputable vendor.

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