Buying Guide – Desktop Vs Laptop, Which Do I Buy?

It’s time to get a new computer and you are not sure on getting a laptop or desktop. Well it comes down to a few main things and here they are.

Laptops
· Do you want portability?
· Do you mind the size?
· Is your budget high enough for a laptop?
· Do you travel a lot or want to roam around the house?
· Are you a student?
· Will you just be doing the basics or will you be gaming and doing multimedia?

Laptops can come in many different ways. You usually pay for the extra power and features just like anything else. They are more expensive due to size and portability. You can get small laptops for just basic usage for students and beginners, or you can get a desktop replacement laptop for gaming and multimedia if you are willing to dish out at least $1,500. Now laptops can still pack a punch don’t get me wrong, but desktop power is still quite a bit more. I recommend laptops for any person on the go who wants to have a computer and internet right beside them.

Desktops
· Do you need a lot of power?
· Do you play graphic demanding games?
· Do you not mind the space being taken up?
· Will you be using it for basic tasks or advanced?
· Are you on a budget?
· Do you want easy upgrades and replacement parts?

Desktops have always been the number one choice but have started to get less popular with laptops coming around. To me they are still great because you can customize them easily, upgrade your own parts in minutes, and have a lot of power for all of your needs. If you don’t mind the space being used by a desktop and are usually sitting in one spot, then desktops are fine. For gamers and multimedia editors, desktops are a powerful tool and usually get better performance. Pricing on desktops have dropped a lot and can usually start at around $300. Depending on what you need it for, price is going to vary. If you are a gamer or need higher requirements I recommend customizing your own and building it. That way you know what your getting and get your bang for the buck.

So that is the lowdown on laptops and desktops. Good luck on your next purchase!

Graphic Design Services – A Hiring Guide

You most likely can’t afford not to hire a graphic design service. You may have a great product or service but if your branding and marketing material is glaring “homemade”, getting a sale will be harder. First impression of your company is conveyed by the visual impact of the marketing collateral, including print advertisement, brochures, catalogues, packaging and web site design. Updating or creating new marketing collateral can be an effective way to create new excitement around your company and its products. If you already have a graphics designer, it is natural to go back to him or her for new designs. But if you want to infuse new thinking and a fresh look, it is advisable to consider new designers.

How do I select a graphic designer?

Search for graphic designers on the internet at places like Google, B2B marketplaces or the yellow pages. Also ask your business associates and friends for recommendations. Shortlist about four designers for further evaluation. There are a number of things to keep in mind before hiring a graphic design service.

  • Check the portfolio: First step in evaluating a graphics design service is to ask for their portfolio and review specific projects that are of the same category as your design project. A graphic designer’s style is evident from the portfolio. The material she creates for you is likely to be in the same style, so it is important to feel comfortable with it. If you are going to hire a design firm, insist on reviewing portfolios of specific designers who may work on the project.
  • Check for expertise in web design: If your project includes web design, make sure the graphic design services company has software developers familiar with good web design principles. Don’t be impressed with snazzy web designs that use a lot of multimedia, heavy graphics and advanced features. Such designs usually raise a lot of challenges, crash often and are frustratingly slow.
  • Agree on the number of concept designs: A good graphic designer will create several concepts for you to review before finalizing the design and creating the final product. What would happen if you don’t like any of the concepts?
  • Graphic Designer should be a good listener: If you want to provide input before the design process, make sure the graphic designer is willing to spend the time to listen and consider your ideas. She needs to strike a good balance between soliciting input from you and using her creativity and imagination to develop the concepts.
  • Check references: It is important to check references before hiring someone for the project.  Specifically ask if the graphic designer is good at understanding the requirements, incorporating your feedback and providing revisions.

Here are some tips regarding working with a graphic designer.

As with any other project, it is important to define the scope of the project and definite milestones with expected deliverables. Also agree on the number of expected revisions.

In what shape and form are you going to receive the graphic design? Clarify file types, sizes and preferred color scheme if any. It is generally a good idea to take ownership of the soft copies of the design. They will come in handy if you want to make minor tweaks later or reuse the design. To avoid any future conflict, also take copyright ownership of all material developed for you.

Communicate frequently with the graphic designer and provide continuous feedback. If the project is not going as expected, meet and resolve issues without any delay.

How much does it cost to hire a graphic designer?

Good experienced designers can be expensive. It is best to get a few competitive quotes before hiring. If you are on a budget, it does not hurt to look for up and coming graphic designers who are eager to get established and may offer substantial discounts.

Many graphics designers charge by the hour. Avoid such a relationship unless you have worked with her in the past and are comfortable with such an arrangement. Instead ask for a project based quote. You will pay above and beyond the basic charges if you use licensed material like stock photos. Payment for the project should be tied to the milestones.  Be wary of graphic designers who ask for a large and non-refundable upfront payment.

The 2010 Netbook Buying Guide

Screen Size and Pixel Resolution: Most netbooks have a display screen within the range of eight inches to 11 inches. If you like to watch movies and multimedia get the netbook with the larger 11.6-inch screen and bigger pixel resolution but if you’re fine with anything a 10.1-inch screen is more than enough.

Battery Life: Always look for the larger battery as they offer longer usage without the need for a power cable. Go for the 6-cell battery instead of a 3-cell battery. In general a 3-cell battery lasts about two to three hours while a 6-cell battery can last from five to seven hours.

Processor: Insist upon Intel Atom processors like the N450 as they offer better performance with energy efficiency. Anything less like an older Intel Pentium, Celeron or Core 2 Duo should be ignored.

Memory (RAM): The more memory you have, the more stable your system so if you can get 2GB then this is good. If you don’t mind a slight decrease in speed and stability you can go for 1GB.

Keyboards and Touch-pads: Always try out the keyboard and touch-pad first. If they’re responsive and comfortable enough for you, then that is the netbook to get. Usually netbook’s with larger 93% sized keys are more comfortable while new island keys are also quite popular as well.

Operating system (OS): If you’re going for Windows get Windows 7 or Windows XP. Windows Vista is meant for larger laptops. If you want Linux bear in mind that while it is free, it is also incompatible with plenty of other applications.

Graphics: The better the graphics, the smoother and nicer your games and movies will look. If you can get Nvidia ION graphics then do so. If not, don’t settle for anything less than the new Intel GMA 3150 graphics. Netbooks with older Intel GMA 4500MHD or other integrated graphics will probably be older netbooks.

Storage capacity: If you need robust stability and blazing fast storage speed over storage capacity then get a solid-state drive. It will burn a hole in your pocket but it will be worth it. If you need more storage capacity and don’t have money to burn then go for a 320GB or larger hard disk drive.

A Gamers Guide to Graphic Cards

Whether you are watching your favorite movies over the computer, playing massively multiplayer online games or just simply scanning or uploading pictures over the Internet; the quality and intensity of the graphics you experience is only as good as the video card you have installed.

A graphics card refers to any computer device or program that makes a computer capable of displaying and manipulating pictures. It is a computer component designed to convert the logical representation of visual information into a signal that can be used as input for a display medium. In simple terms, a graphics card is an integrated or expansion card whose main function is to generate output images to a display medium. Display mediums include monitors, LCD (Liquid Crystalline Display) TVs, High Definition (HD) TVs, and projectors.

Most of these graphics cards have added functions which include the following: accelerated rendering of 3D scenes and 2D graphics; video capturing; as TV-tuner adapter; decoding of MPEG-2/MPEG-4; ability to connect multiple monitors; and as TV output. Modern high performance cards are used for PC games purposes some of which are graphically demanding in nature.

Graphics card can be used interchangeably with the terms vide card, video adapter, graphics accelerator, and display adapter.

Components of a Graphics Card

Aside from the motherboard interface and a printed circuit board as a base, modern graphics card contains the following components:

1. Graphics Processing Unit

A Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is a dedicated processor which is optimized to accelerate graphics. It is designed to perform the fundamental floating-point calculations for rendering 3D graphics and drawing 2D pictures. One of the main characteristics of the GPU is its core clock frequency which translates a 3D image characterized by vertices and lines into a 2D image formed by pixels.

2. Video BIOS

The Video BIOS, also known as the firmware, contains the basic program that controls the graphics card’s operations and instructs the computer and software to interact with the card. The Video BIOS may contain pertinent information such as the Random Access Memory (RAM), memory timing, operating speeds and voltages of the graphics processor.

3. Video Memory

Video memory is used to store many data as well as the screen image, such as the Z-buffer. The Z-buffer manages the depth coordinate in 3D graphics, textures, vertex buffers, and compiled shader programs.

The memory capacity of a modern card ranges from 128MB to 4GB.

4. RAMDAC

The RAMDAC, or Random Access Memory Digital-Analog Converter, is responsible for converting digital signals to analog signals which will be used by a computer display that uses analog inputs such as Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) displays. RAMDAC functions like a RAM chip that regulates the performance of the graphics card.

5. Outputs

Graphics cards and the display modules must be connected by some means. The most common connection systems between the two are: the analog-based Video Graphics Array (VGA); digital-based Digital Visual Interface (DVI) such as flat-panel LCD and video projectors; Video In Video Out (VIVO) for connecting televisions, DVD players, video recorders and video game consoles; and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) commonly used for game consoles.

6. Power Demand

Nowadays, high performing graphics card tend to consume a large amount of electrical energy. As the processing power of the graphics card increases, so does its demand for electrical power. Despite efforts to make recent CPU and power supply more efficient, the power demands of GPUs still continues to rise, thus making the graphics card the biggest electricity consumer in a computer.

7. Cooling Devices

Since graphics card uses a lot of energy, it is expected that some of this will be converted to heat. If the heat generated is not dissipated into the atmosphere then the graphics card will overheat and in the process be damaged.

To answer this problem, developers have incorporated cooling devices that allows heat to be transfer elsewhere. There are three types of cooling devices employed on a card. These are by using a passive heat sink cooling device, a computer fan, and installing a water block.

Card Types

Currently there are two type of cards that are available in the market. These are the Integrated type cards and the Expansion type cards.

The Integrated graphics cards are components that are already built-in to the system motherboard. It uses the system’s processor (CPU) and memory to create the actual graphics.

While Integrated cards can process some complex graphics such as 3D images, they have to share the CPU and memory with other programs. If in some instances both the CPU and memory are overloaded, the graphics card is greatly affected in speed. Thus this type of card is useful for applications like word processing and Internet surfing but not much on gaming or other graphic-intensive programs.

The Expansion type card on the other hand operates autonomously and does not depend much on the computer CPU and memory. It is because of this that expansion type graphics card are considered to be the most powerful graphics hardware capable of delivering high-quality 3D graphics. The Expansion type card is further subdivided into two: Discrete video card and Dual video card.

Since the 3D cards for model rendering in art and animation is different from those intended for gaming, specific type of expansion card are used. Despite having similar hardware, their drivers and firmware are optimized for specific tasks. Discrete graphics card are geared towards achieving high performing 3D graphics quality and thus are suitable for gaming, while the Dual graphics card are used for displaying immense files at top speed usually used for high precision rendering.

The graph below sums up all of the different graphics card characteristic and the different application that they can perform. It is a good guideline in selecting a good graphics card for your needs.

If you want to…

Use this card

An entry-level solution for typical office productivity applications, Internet use, relatively small digital images, low-resolution video, simple games and other relatively undemanding applications. Integrated video cards are generally acceptable for:

• Word processing

• Instant messaging

• Small presentations

• Spreadsheets

Integrated

To tackle complex graphics, applications and gaming. A discrete video card you can handle all the applications an integrated card can handle, plus:

• Complex presentations

• Graphics design

• Financial analysis

• High resolution video

• Video conferences

Discrete

To process immense graphics files at top speeds for application such as:

• Video editing

• Game creation

• Complex graphics design

Dual

Graphic Design Programs – A Beginner’s Guide

People keen to learn how to make graphics on their own will find a good number of programs available on the Internet. As a matter of fact, the number of people getting interested in this subject has led to the development and introduction of many new products in the market.

With the passage of time, these programs have undergone a lot of revisions and changes, making them more reliable and popular amongst users. If you intend getting software for graphic designing, you might choose one of these favorites:

CorelDraw

This program is indeed so easy to use that you can really concentrate on the job at hand rather than trying to understand how to use this software. This is a very powerful program for making layouts, tracings and editing photos. It comes with a complete tutorial kit and useful tips for beginners, enabling them to use it for graphic designing without making any flaws.

Photoshop

This program offers everything you could ever expect from Photoshop, along with tools for editing 3D images, meaning you can edit even moving content. Professionals in the field of making films, videos and multimedia industry will find this program the most appropriate.

Adobe

Its availability in three editions enables you to choose the prefect program that matches your requirements. The three editions are Web Premium, Production premium and Design Premium. Whichever program you select and invest your funds, you can be sure of having the ability of creating remarkable designs for the Internet and books too.

More options

You can get many options when looking for software for graphic designing. Though there are some that have just the basic requisites, others come with very elaborate features. As you can guess, the price varies with the features offered by the program. That’s why you’ll find a large range of programs with an equally large price range.

You may come across some very economical program that seems to contain all the features that you could require, but it may not offer the desired quality. Therefore, you should do a thorough homework before investing funds in any program otherwise the savings you make may finally prove to be costly.

Don’t know what to choose?

In case you find it difficult to decide on the software for graphic designing, you should think about what you need from the software and what is your budget. A high price is not always a sign of quality, and you might find incredible software programs at very low prices. So do your research: check the forums, the answer & question sites, read the reviews, ask the people using such software everyday.