Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Get The Most For Your Money

Get The Most For Your Money

The road to good value starts here

When you're putting together a system, there's a trick to finding the best bargains. Shopping around can save you a little bit of money -maybe a quid here, two quid there - but if you want to get the most power for your pound, the trick is simple: side-step the hardware arms race of getting your hands on the latest, fastest components and instead look for products that are in the pricing sweet spot. The place where the trade-off between age, price and power reaches its optimum point.

Hardware that isn't brand new but is instead towards the middle of its life-cycle is often heavily discounted, while retaining competitive performance, so you save a lot of money and get a system that's still above average. Of course, this doesn't apply to every type of product. Sometimes the best value products genuinely are the newest or the most expensive. So to help you find the best bargains for your system, we've combed the market and compiled the information into this - our guide to buying PC components that have hit the pricing sweet spot.



Mark Pickavance examines the many KVM options, as well as the alternatives and why some choices are better than others

Anyone who works with more than one computer rapidly runs into the problem of finding space for everything, thanks to the fact that PCs need a screen, a keyboard and mouse.

That can be super-annoying if you only have limited desk area and/or you need to access the second system only occasionally. You're cramped by equipment you only need to use maybe a couple of times a day, restricting the space you use all day. Surely there's a better way, right? Indeed, there is, and it's called a 'KVM'.

Microsoft’s Surface 3

Microsoft Surface 3

David Briddock investigates the new Surface 3 tablet and the demise of Windows RT

For decades, Microsoft has been viewed as a software-only organisation. It relied on other companies to create the hardware to host its operating systems, applications and development tools. Only occasionally did it reveal a Microsoft-branded mouse or other computer accessory.

Today, things are very different. It has decided to push the boundaries of hardware technology by exploiting innovations from its Microsoft Research Labs to build a range of industry-leading products. Examples include the Kinect gaming technology, the upcoming HoloLens augmented-reality headsets, the health and fitness multi-sensor Microsoft Band and its Surface range of Windows tablet/laptop devices.

Improve Your Storage

Improve Your Storage

James shows how to get the most from your hard drives and SSDs

Storage is a constant concern with any system. If you're not worried about the amount of space you have, you might be worried about the speed it runs at or the gradual effects of aging - not to mention the ever-present, unpredictable threat of a catastrophic drive failure.

For those reasons, improving your system's storage should never be too far from your mind. And in case you're not sure how much thought to give it, we've put together this collection of our tips and expert advice for making storage upgrades.

Remembering... The Amstrad Mega PC

Amstrad Mega PC

David Hayward like his PCs to be a little different

Back when 16-bit consoles were still king of the hill in terms of gaming,and the PC was only just starting to emerge as a gaming force to be reckoned with, there came along a bizarre marriage of both forms of entertainment. A kind of Jekyll and Hyde of systems, if you will.

The Amstrad Mega PC had all the look of a slimline PC. The familiar beige exterior, full-sized keyboard, mouse, and 14" monitor spoke of a smaller, new breed of personal computer. However, the Mega PC had a secret.

Graphics Cards: Old vs. New

Graphics Cards: Old vs. New

Upgrading a graphics card could make a real difference to your system, but knowing if you need a new GPU and how much to spend can be tricky

If any part of your system costs more than the processor, it's a safe bet that it's the graphics card. That makes choosing a the right GPU a particularly important (and expensive) part of any upgrade plan. Should you go straight for a new card, though, or will an older one deliver better value? if you're putting together a new system, how bad does your graphics card have to be before replacing it makes more sense than keeping it? We'll answer those questions, and more, as we try to find out how you get the best value out of a new graphics card purchase - and whether you need to make one at all.

Repurposing Old Hardware

old pc

Don't just throw out your old parts. They might be more useful than you think

When you upgrade your system, it can be tempting to just chuck the parts you've replaced in a skip, or give them to someone else. After all, second-hand computer hardware is usually difficult to sell on, and there's no sense leaving it in a cupboard somewhere to gather dust.

But before you get rid of your old components, think for a moment about what else you might do with them. An upgrade isn't just about adding new hardware to your system; it's also about extending your system's capabilities, and with a few tweaks that's exactly what old hardware can do.

Obviously some components are single use. You won't find many ways to incorporate an old CPU or motherboard into your system, and your RAM either fits or it doesn't, but there some components and peripherals that can be reused in unexpected ways. Before you throw anything away, read through our guide so you know exactly what can be salvaged from obsolescence and how.