The lowdown on super PCs

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What is it? A super PC is simply a desktop or tower PC optimized to meet your specific demands, whether they are video and graphics editing, number crunching, CAD/CAM or simulations. Raw processor speed isn't necessarily the chief requirement; for example, a forensics system has many more important requirements.

Why do I need it? Some jobs are simply beyond the capability of a $1,200 desktop PC, either because it lacks the necessary computing power or because you need specialized hardware. Tasks that can slow such a system to a crawl include 3-D graphics creation, CAD/CAM, complex calculations, signal processing, simulations and forensic analysis.
You might also have budgetary restrictions that let you buy PCs but not time on a mainframe, or you might not have access to mainframes or supercomputers.

Must-know info? A number of small but well-established companies offer custom configurations, often using fairly hard-to-get components. They might offer to do a complete burn-in run and give extensive warranties comparable to or even better than those offered by the largest PC manufacturers.

The major PC companies let you add memory and additional drive capacity to their fastest PCs, but these seldom include the latest high-end components necessary in an all-out super, customized PC.

Because what makes a PC super depends on your needs, you might be able to upgrade a standard PC simply by adding peripherals such as a RAID tower, multiple flat-panel monitors, and a superior keyboard and pointing device. You might also fill all the memory slots and add a gigantic second hard drive.

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