The lowdown on Power PCs

What are they? Power PCs should have one fast processor, a motherboard and chip set that support optimal performance, enough RAM to run multiple applications simultaneously, a fast, large hard drive, one or two optical drives capable of performing both CD and DVD read/write/rewrite tasks, and top-quality video and sound cards. An Ethernet network connection should be included.

How much do they cost? The systems in this guide are priced from $2,300 for a fairly basic unit to $4,820 for a more fully configured system. You can pay $10,000 or more for a super powerful PC designed to fulfill virtually any computing requirement.

When do I need one? You need a power PC for high-end graphics, digital video capture and editing, digital photo editing, and simulations or games.

When don't you need one? If your main tasks include word processing, basic spreadsheet development, Web searches and e-mail, you can buy a perfectly satisfactory PC for considerably less than $1,000.

Must-know info. It's a good idea to customize by configuring a system on vendor Web sites before buying one. You'll learn a lot this way, and the information will help you choose wisely, whether you buy online or from a retail outlet.

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