Best PC/Monitor Configuration to Research Audio

As I get busier and more pressed for time, I often find myself frustrated with my computer configuration, limited space on my desktop and starved for RAM when I try to open up multiple windows.

If I am reading music posts in Audiogon, for example, I might also like to leave iTunes open with plenty of room to read, while having the ability to search other websites to buy the CD, perhaps while also keeping half an eye on my emails and instant messages and/or working on a document.

Thinking that many of you are probably very good at web based research, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions on

1) operating systems
2) monitors
3) memory or any other considerations that you would recommend to research, ready and shop for music and audio as quickly and comfortably as possible.

Thanks for any ideas.
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I assume PC means Windoze operating system, or is Mac an option?

I get everything I want plus security via Macintosh system (Unix). I often post at Audiogon while watching auctions at Ebay, listening to Pandora Internet Radio, Searching All Music Guide and placing orders at Amazon UK and operate fine with I tunes open and syncing with my iPod. No issues here.

I run a PowerMac G5 quad 3GH with 8MB of RAM. Two hard drives (500GB and 350 GB) each with OS X Tiger and the old Macintosh OS9 system so I can run two programs I refuse to give up.

This system will open my Tiff pro photo files (32 MB or 64 MB at 8 or 16 bit color) and Photoshop corrections appear "real time" on my 30" HD display as the mouse moves over the area I'm working on. That takes a very powerful system, especially with some of the filters and tools in Photoshop.

This works wonderful for me and my son has a new HP and a custom built desktop machine (water cooled) that runs about as fast and is less money because it's Windows. He is a tech guy working for a contractor for the military, so he knows how to get the "bugs" out of his machine when they appear. Windows is plagued with this stuff, often a JPEG or even a MP3 file can contain an EXE file that infects your computer, slowing it down to a crawl due to spy ware and ad ware. Not everyone gets this stuff but with a Mac it's a VERY low occurrence rate by comparison.

Good luck in your search, two options that both work. The Mac is more bulletproof and less hassle but cost from two to four times as much. Depends on what you want, need and can justify.
Just like in audio, the potential answers depend on your budget and preferences.

Here's my 2 cents:

1) Operating systems

I second the Macintosh idea, or try Linux for another unix flavor. (Linux runs on just about every machine around.) Of course, you have to be comfortable in Unix or at least willing to learn. Unix-based systems are going to be the most reliable for people running multiple applications at once. Otherwise, stick with Windows XP (which admittedly isn't a terrible OS).

2) Monitors

Get a good 20" LCD monitor. You're going to need a lot of real estate for running multiple windows efficiently. 20" monitors are at the sweet spot in the price/performance ratio. Get one with a high recommended resolution, such as 1600x1200. Viewsonic and Samsung are two manufacturers that make great products. Try looking at the displays at a local store and see what looks best to you. Or take a look at (the best online computer store, bar none) and check out the reviews.

As a sidenote, you'll need a halfway decent (but certainly not high-end) video card that is capable of handling the full resolution of the monitor. (LCD monitors can look pretty bad when the video card doesn't support the recommended resolution of the monitor.) I don't think you should spend more than $100 on the video card.

3) Memory

Plan on at least 1GB RAM (it's around $90) no matter which machine you choose. If you're just doing web-based research, your internet connection will be the limiting factor, so you don't need to go overboard on memory. (Of course, if you're also doing 3D molecular modeling, I would advise differently.)

4) Other

Insist on good drive storage considering you're downloading a lot of music. And budget additional removable hard drive storage for backup. I would use two 320GB SATA drives in RAID 0, with a 500GB drive in an external enclosure as an external backup. Seagate is my favorite brand of hard drives, but Western Digital makes good drives, too.

Send me an e-mail if you have any further questions. Building computers is another one of my hobbies.

I'll third the MAC thing, once you go Mac, you won't go back!

While I love Sufentanil (the drug silly!) I must encourage you to go bigger than 20", I use the Apple 23", which is 1920x1200 and it does well for me on those multi site days.

I once again am in envy of Albert Porter's toys, I am debating buying the 30" monitor he has, but to be honest I doubt I, or you CW would need that much real estate, Albert does a lot of photography work and obviously needs the space, on my 23" I typically have several apps running multiple items per and can easily navigate them all on the 23"s I have, and yes the 30" is ~$1K more...