colin the dual core is the newer technology,but I'm not sure programming is up to speed with it the way I understand it it is like having dual processors. but am not sure I usually stay about one step behind on the newer technologyI just got notice from my distributor that amd is going to have a shortage this year.I hope this helps I am sure there are some on this list that are more knowledgeable of the newer technologies. Good luck it might be worth it to go big & wait on software to catch up.
There are numerous benefits to running a machine with either a dual core processor or one that has two physically separate symmetric CPUs.
The main benefit is big speed increases in applications written in multi-threaded form. Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular multiprocessor enabled programs (it has been SMP-enabled on the WinNT side for a decade -well ahead of the Mac version). Every professional level 3D app (Maya, Lightwave, Softimage, Autodesk Studio3D Max, etc.) is also SMP-enabled. Numerous video and motion graphics editors, such as Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Combustion, Apple Shake, etc. will take advantage of multiple processors as well.
None of the vector drawing applications and traditional sign making applications are SMP-enabled. I don't know for sure about some high end RIPs, such as Onyx PosterShop Pro.
Even if your application isn't SMP enabled, Windows2000 Professional, WinXP Pro and MacOS X will assign any open applications across the two or more processors or cores. You'll be able to do certain things more safely, such as burn a DVD in the background while doing some other stuff in a different application. The ability to copy large files from one folder to another without the operation commandering your machine is improved.
Chip makers have hit the limit with how fast clock speed can be with a single core. The cancellation of the 4GHz Pentium IV underscored that. Intel and AMD both have planning roadmaps that clearly show dual core and multi-core taking over for the rest of this decade. Around 2008 Intel plans to release one high end desktop processor with 8 cores! By 2010 you probably won't be able to buy a computer with any less than 2 or 4 cores.
You don't have to get RAID. In fact, SATA RAID can be a fairly risky thing. The connectors in the SATA standard are a bit suspect and drive failures have occured over this.
Lots of gamers and other power users will commonly employ use of a RAID 0 scheme where two drives essentially become one. You get nearly double the disc I/O speed from the configuration, but you also get double the risk as well. If either drive fails your data on both drives is toast.
Many of the hard disc drives on the market are very fast. Most hard discs in new desktop machines typically have 7200rpm speeds and at least 8MB of cache. Some even go double to 16MB. Notebook hard discs have also been getting fast. Very fast external hard discs are also available. I'm planning to get a 500GB external disc for my notebook and connect it via Firewire 800.
Here's my recommendation for hard discs in a desktop machine:
Use at least two physical hard discs. But don't automatically hook them up in RAID configuration. Keep the boot hard disc in a normal setup. That's going to lessen the wear and tear on the drive and lessen risk to data on the other drive.
For hard disc #2, hook it up on a separate SATA channel, or even better attach it to a separate controller. Windows won't be able to monkey around with it easily. You'll get better scratch disc performance from applications like Photoshop. Other tasks like video editing will run more smoothly.
IMHO, RAID only needs to come into play for very specialized purposes. RAID 1 (mirroring) makes sense for a data server. RAID 0 works well for professional audio editing (such as a complete ProTools setup), HD video editing, data servers for video and other stuff like that. SATA isn't the best format for it though. In professional environments U320 SCSI RAID or Apple's XServe (FiberChannel) RAID are more stable choices. Be prepared to get out your wallet though.
About the only way I would feel comfortable doing SATA RAID in a desktop computer setup is by using 3 hard discs, one separate boot disc on one controller and the other two drives in RAID 0 on another controller. The RAID setup would only be used for temporary use -such as Photoshop scratch discs, HDV video capture, etc. I would back up captured video to external hard discs.
I would still suggest running RAID 1 on any computer that data loss is critical to avoid.
Ask anyone who lost a hard drive, and whether or not the were able to recover the data through some recovery service, how much they lost in downtime just getting the computer set back up. We lost a hard drive on our rip station some months back, and we didn't lose but an hour of downtime replacing the drive which was done afterhours.
Hard drives are not that expensive anymore, so I feel the extra hundred dollars when I build a computer is well spent as insurance against data loss and downtime.
RAID 1 will provide fault tolerance against one hard drive failure. The only downside is your disc write performance can be slowed down a bit since all data is being simultaneously mirrored on two hard discs. I wouldn't recommend doing something like capturing MiniDV footage to hard discs in that configuration.
IMHO, it's just as easy to "Ghost" your operating system and back up your files to external hard discs and other media. In some ways, that may be a better approach since the back up volume is portable. For instance, what if your office gets robbed or burns down in a fire? Anything on the computers in the office will likely be ruined. I do daily backups to mirror my art files off premise to avoid just that sort of thing.