The Internet PC
Thinking of buying a new computer but are confused by all the different types (laptop, server, desktop, etc.)? There is one more option that is just becoming popular that could clear up things for many computer users, the Internet PC. Many of the large companies, such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Compaq have released a new line of Internet PC computers that are revolutionary to the home computer market.
The computers average about two feet tall by about a foot long, which is very small compared to a normal desktop computer. Their specifications are also astounding; most contain at least 20 gig hard drives with 64 Megs of memory. They also have built in Ethernet cards with added keyboard buttons that hotlink directly to your email, the Internet, and your favorite websites. They even sport around a 600-megahertz processor. All in a package about the size of a shoe box. So you are probably thinking wonderful and it probably costs three thousand dollars, not so. Many of these units can be purchased with a monitor for only eight hundred dollars. If you already have a monitor, you can pick one of these up for around five hundred dollars.
So what is the catch? With these computers you do give up some things common to the normal desktop. First the computers almost exclusively use USB ports. These ports have been around for a while but has only recently became popular and are being implemented into almost all the new hardware. The ports allow users to plug in anything from a printer to a mouse and unplug the device while the computer is on (hot swappable). Some come with serial ports but the amount of these serial ports are limited. The good news is that many of the older devices can still be run on these computers if you purchase the new USB cable. And since USB ports are small these Internet computers are loaded with them, most have five ports. You might be thinking I have more than five devices plugged in to the back of my computer. But the real question is how many of those devices do you use at once? Remember USB ports are hot swappable. Done with the digital camera and want to play a game? Unplug the camera and plug in the joystick. Some of the computer companies are still working out the problems with their hot swappable ports, so consult your users manual before you actually try this.
There is one other disadvantage or advantage, depending on your personal computer needs, to the Internet PCs. Many do not have a 3.5-inch floppy drive. You may be sitting there and shock, but then think back, when was the last time you used a 3.5 floppy drive. You can still use a floppy drive with these computers, but you have to plug it in the USB port. On the other hand, the Compaq model, called Ipaq, comes with a DVD drive, CDROM drive, and a super floppy drive, which along with specific floppy disks, lets you save 120 megs to a floppy! There is only space for one drive in the computer at a time and they are traded much like they are on a laptop computer. Pop one drive out and put a new one in.
These new Internet computers are great! At the very least keep them in mind when you are shopping for a new computer. If you love having 2000 devices plugged into your computer at once, or if your devices are more than a year or two old, Internet PCs might not be for you. But for the rest of us, these PCs are great! For more information Dells Internet PCs are called WebPCs (www.dell.com). Compaq as stated before released the Ipaq (www.compaq.com) and Hewlett Packard released the eVectra (www.hp.com). For all you Mac fans out there, Apple has released New Power Mac G5, which is a cross between the Internet PCs and a desktop. It is a lot more expensive than the other Internet PCs ($3,499) but is a great machine.