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ADVENT DT2204

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      02.08.2012 18:02
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      I didn't know I needed a new machine until I got this one.

      Last month we decided to buy a new computer so that our son could have my old one, and started the process of searching online. I wasn't able to find any reviews on this computer, which was disappointing. I always like to read as many reviews as possible before a major purchase. I chose this simply because it was far and away the best specs I could find in my price range. I ended up paying £319 for this, and this is still the advertised price. I was expecting this to be a tower unit only, but it did come with a wired keyboard and wired optical mouse. These look to be perfectly satisfactory, but I have to admit, I have not used them. They are packed away as spares, as I preferred to keep my old mouse and keyboard.

      THE BRAND:
      This computer is branded as Advent, which is a name I was not really familiar with. After carefully researching this I discovered that Advent is the Dixon group's own brand, manufactured specifically for Dixons, Currys and PC World by various manufacturers. I tried very hard to find out exactly which company is actually building these but can not come up with any reliable information other than it varies, depending on who has the contract at the time. There is one serious disadvantage to this brand though. Should you need replacement parts at any time, I expect you will need to order directly from Curry's Partsmaster. I have used this service in the past, and while I found them courteous, professional and very fast - I also found them to be expensive. I balanced this with the fact that I am unlikely to attempt major home repairs on a computer. It does often work out a better option to just replace an older computer, but if I should need to send one in for repairs, I would use Curry's repair service. In short, I am willing to accept the fact that I may end up paying more at some future date for repairs, as it means I save a good bit of money now. I was not able to find anything with similar specs without paying an extra £150 or more.

      SPECS:
      This computer comes with a whopping 6 gigabytes of 133s megahertz ddr3 RAM and a full terabyte of physical memory. It has windows home premium 64 bit pre installed. It also has nine usb ports. Six of the usb ports are located on the back of the unit and three on the front. Of the ports on the front, two are standard and one is usb 2.0, a high speed port. The media card reader has slots for micro sd, xd, sd, cf and ms/ ms duo cards. This means most memory cards can easily be slotted in without the need for an adaptor.

      MEMORY:
      I am not a techie by any stretch of the word, but since I placed so much importance on memory, I thought I should mention why. RAM is more like short term memory. RAM is short for random access memory. This is memory space available right now, for any application you are running and more RAM does speed up gaming. There is a bit more to it than this, and serious gamers would want not only more RAM - but also faster RAM. For everyday useage though, 1333 mhz is fine. RAM can only hold so much though and as new information comes in the old stuff gets pushed out. Being able to hold as much as possible means high graphics applications run much more smoothly. I understand that few games would need over 4 gb of RAM today, but it's always best to go for as much as possible. After all I remember when 16 megabytes was enough to run brand new games! I can certainly see the difference in speed with 6 gigabytes as opposed to 3.

      As to physical memory - This has a full terabyte. In case you are wondering how big a terabyte is - keep wondering. I had always understood it to be 1,024 bytes, but further research has shown that this isn't always true. It is 1,024 bytes if you are dealing with virtual memory, but for disk memory it is something under 1,000 gigabytes. Other definitions tell us that it is 10 to 12th power, or a trillion bytes, but I'm afraid my head isn't really capable of comprehending such large numbers so I will just say this - it's big.

      Again I am not a tech expert and do not claim to understand everything about how computers work. I do know the experts recommend freeing up disk space to improve performance, and I know that I have improved performance on several computers by "cleaning house" and creating more free space. Windows does need a certain amount of space for swap files, and a large hard drive like this means windows will never be competing for space with other programmes. Although newer applications take more and more disk space, I honestly do feel such a large hard drive will suit the average user for many years. I would say that there is no way anyone would ever need more than a terabyte, but I'm afraid I said that many years ago after upgrading my first computer to a full gigabyte. Computer technology moves at breakneck speed so it is hard to predict what will be required several years from now.

      SOFTWARE:
      There is a pretty basic software package included. You get Microsoft Office starter 2010, Paint, basic accessories and a collection of games. This has chess, hearts, freecell, mahjong, minesweeper, spider and solitaire as well as Internet versions of spades, backgammon and checkers.

      SET UP:
      Set up was a doddle. My husband unplugged the old computer and plugged this one into its place. After booting this up, you need to create your restore disk. This is an absolutely critical step because if you put this off for later and something goes wrong you may find yourself unable to restore your computer and need a costly repair rather than a quick home restore. You are given two blank cd- roms, and this process is quick ( perhaps 5 minutes) and completely painless. It is so simple my 7 year old could do it. Next I deleted all of Currys' Knowhow software. I expected to have to run my Virgin Internet software, but this was not necessary, it picked up the Virgin media hub which my husband had plugged in and ran with no extra installation. All I had to do after that was install my own antivirus, and various educational programmes my children use. Again, all of this was quick and painless.

      EVERYDAY USE:
      I was honestly happy enough with my old Mediacom computer with 3 gigabytes of ram, but this machine is noticeably faster. I really didn't know my computer was getting old and slow until I saw the difference with a new machine. My primary use of the computer is simply surfing the net, reading sites like the BBC and of course my beloved Dooyoo. These are simple applications almost any computer can do easily. True the pages load even quicker, but the difference is not significant. There are however, a few areas where this computer really does make a difference.

      DOWNLOADS:
      The first major difference I noticed was download speed. I do not download music, and as my Love Film subscription is cancelled until the winter comes again, I do not download films either. However, I have purchased some extremely graphics intense educational programmes which are delivered as downloads. Thankfully this company keeps track of all my stuff, and if I get a new computer or wipe an older one I simply enter my details and it allows me to download all my programmes as many times as I need to. I was amazed at the download speed. I set the first game to download and went to turn the kettle on. I expected to spend several minutes for each game, but found they downloaded in perhaps 2 minutes each. Even downloading two at once was very quick.

      GAME PLAY
      The next difference we noticed was in game play. Please note that we are running children's games. While the programmes I use are graphics intense, use cutting edge technology and involve a huge online virtual world, there is still a far cry between this and serious overclocked gaming. As to serious gaming, I know only enough to know that I am ignorant of the subject. This more than meets the minimum requirements for most serious adult games I have checked, such as World of Warcraft - but there is a huge difference between minimum and optimum requirements. I do not think this is a computer for the serious gamer. However, for the games we play - this computer is absolutely magic. Where before we might have waited up to a minute for a single page to load, everything comes up in seconds now. The games play smoothly, without any interruption or freezing. The difference is really remarkable. Although my old computer had a reasonable amount of ram ( 3gb) and a good sized memory - we do regularly get the systems resources warning with these games. It doesn't stop us playing, it just slows down a bit. This one has never slowed down at all yet. This has really made buying this computer worthwhile as my sons both use these programmes quite a lot, and as well as being very entertaining, the programmes are also highly educational. The difference in gaming really is huge. The only downside to this is my youngest really doesn't want to use their computer - he always wants Mommy's computer instead.

      VIDEO:
      Although this computer was meant to be mine - in practice one child often uses one computer while the other uses this one, and I usually have to help my youngest anyway. Both boys really enjoy watching video online, and this is excellent for streaming video. No delays - no buffering - just smooth and easy viewing.

      MULTITASKING:
      I have a habit of leaving too many pages open, but especially when researching something, I like to have a very large number of pages open at once. When my children want to know more about a subject I do not understand I often have as many as 15 pages up at once, choosing which ones best explain the subject. Even with a vast number of pages in the background, I have had no problems with watching video, loading new pages etc... Although it can take a few seconds more to load a graphics intense page if you already have a dozen pages running.

      PROBLEMS:
      I do really love this new computer. It is fast, efficient and easy to use, but we have already had one major problem. The first computer we bought had a fault in the memory card reader. We had to return it, and take a second identical computer. It took us a few weeks to notice this as I never use the card readers, and my husband hadn't had anything he wanted to transfer over. I would have lived without the card reader, as you can just plug a phone camera or other device in via a usb cable, but my husband insisted we had paid for a computer with a card reader and he wanted a card reader, which is fair enough. I considered knocking a star off for this, but I honestly believe it to be one off and unlikely to affect other buyers, so I am giving this a full 5 stars, but I would recommend checking the card reader right away just to be certain. I do believe there are faster, better coputers available, but I also feel that this machine is excellent for everyday internet use and games, and I don't think you'll find a better machine in this price range.

      RELIABILITY:
      I have given this computer good as a default for reliability. After only a month, I don't think I can give a fair assessment on this. I don't want to wait until I have owned the computer 3 years though, as by then it will be out of date. In fact, my old computer was only about 2 1/2 years old, and the "ancient" one which was so outdated we gave it away free was 5. I do always update reviews for expensive purchases like this if anything goes wrong though, so if you are reading this review a year from the date it was written, you can rest assured the computer is still running smoothly or this will have been updated accordingly.

      UPDATE:
      My old keyboard died so I had to give the Advent one a go. I'm afraid it is very bad. The keys are the smallest I have ever seen, barring a special keyboard made for tablets, and take far more pressure to use. I am not rating down for this - as the product description did not even mention a keyboard -but I can't imagine anyone wanting to use it. I'm getting areplacement from Argos as I couldn't live with this one even long enought to wait for one from Amazon. I have very tiny fingers, but even so hitting a single key is a struggle and the pressure required is just too much for me. It is also the loudest key board I have ever used.

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