5 affordable hardware upgrades for a more efficient new year

Jazz up your system's storage, memory, networking and display without breaking the bank with our desktop PC upgrade guide.

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Business users who are serious about going multi-monitor will want to take a closer look at the graphics card from Matrox, which comes with powerful desktop management software to tweak your multi-display rig to your satisfaction. The new Matrox C420 graphics card, for instance, can drive up to four DisplayPort monitors at 2560x1600 each, and relies only on passive cooling to cut down on noise.

Where monitors are concerned, 24-inch LCD displays are now priced very affordably, and even 27-inch monitors are significantly cheaper than they were in the past. And despite the capital outlay of obtaining a second or third monitor, it is worth noting that they do have a much longer usable lifespan than PCs -- and could hence be used across multiple computer upgrades.

As it is, be sure to go for displays that offer a high screen resolution, good viewing angles and matte panels. Also look out for monitors that support VESA mount specifications, which would allow them to be used together with monitor arms from third-party vendors such as Ergotron for the best viewing angles. [You can find out more about deploying multiple monitors in “How to Set Up a Multiple-Monitor Workstation.” ]

upgrade multiple monitors

Business-centric monitors such as these 27-inch Dell U2715H (2560x1600) monitors have matte panels and can be easily mounted onto VESA-compliant monitor arms.

Speed Up Your Network

If you need maximum network performance, go for wired Ethernet connectivity instead of wireless networking. The former is far more reliable, offers dedicated bandwidth between your PC and the network switch, and factors that commonly affect wireless signals -- such as office layout -- will not be an issue.

Some older workstations may only come with Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) ports, so an upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet with an add-on network interface card (NIC) may be in order. An alternative upgrade strategy would be to go for NICs that offer dual Gigabit Ethernet, which can be link aggregated for higher speed. Of course, a network switch with link aggregation support would also be required for this to work.

Finally, organizations that stand to benefit from an ultra-fast local area network may want to upgrade directly to 10 Gigabit Ethernet instead. The relatively high cost of this equipment means that a switch is not for everyone, though businesses that deal with video production and computer animation may want to seriously look into it.

On this front, a new generation of 10GbE appliances has just arrived, including various 10GbE network switches from Netgear, and a new DS2015xs NAS from Synology that comes with two built-in 10GbE ports.

upgrade 10gbe switch

Businesses that stand to benefit from an ultra-fast local area network should seriously consider deploying 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

Desktop Casing and Other Considerations

We have covered four areas in the typical desktop: storage, memory, networking and display. Each upgrade offers specific advantages, and should be a relatively straightforward DIY undertaking. Businesses can also approach service providers in their locality for help with specific upgrades.

Those who are more adventurous may also want to try out other upgrades, such as changing the computer chassis to one that offers more space for internal parts, or to a slimmer one that takes up less space. Aside from more suitable form factors, some desktop cases are also lined with sound-deadening foam and installed with low-speed fans to reduce the noise profile.

upgrade cpu case

Note the sound-deadening form lining the inside of this mini tower case from Cooler Master.

Finally, it may also be possible to change the graphics card and motherboard, though this is something that is not usually done, due to the high cost and limited benefits. Specifically, the pace of technology with GPUs means that even the use of a slightly out-of-date motherboard and processor can result in a severe performance bottleneck.

And where the motherboard is concerned, the pin specifications for Intel microprocessors change ever so often, and it is likely that a motherboard upgrade would necessitate a change of its processor, too. As it is, the high cost of replacing both is such that getting a new desktop PC would usually be a better choice.

This story, "5 affordable hardware upgrades for a more efficient new year" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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