First...I cannot comment at all on laptops. I have a bias against them due to the fact that a desktop is much more easily repaired and components can be diagnosed/exchanged when things go wrong...and this can be done rather easily and cheaply. I don't feel such is the case with laptops...and I don't need the portability feature.
No games...that's a big one. That means that you need a system that's capable of normal, routine functions...assuming that there is sufficient RAM, a decent PSU, etc.
Probably every system made in the last 5 years...meets this criteria, IMO. I could probably go back further but I think you get the point. You don't need a $1500 system...to do the things you mentioned, just ask anyone who ever had a computer from Pentium III/IV spec days.
In the world of computing, most of the changes since then...have been totally in favor of users. Components are faster, cheaper...systems are much better than days when PIIIs were acceptable/recommended for tasks such as burning CDs...when CD-burning was a new task for all.
Sooo...when you buy your system, no matter where...it's probably going to easily meet your desires. The key element for routine use is probably going to be RAM, the amount of memory installed. Based on the prices of RAM today, there's really no reason for a system to be built that has less than the maximum amount of RAM supported by 32-bit operating systems.
If the user decides to use a 64-bit operating system, the max amount capable goes up.
<<1. Currently we use a Dell, several years old, running XP. Should we get a version of Vista, if so which one, or stick with XP? Some folks I know are very unhappy with Vista compared to XP.>>
There is, IMO, little point in anyone ever mentioning Vista again as a primary operating system
. Microsoft has moved on, currently have it's next operating system (Windows 7) in trial format and this has been released to the general public to see how we like it. I currently have XP installed on this system, along with Windows 7 (I am liking what I have seen thus far).
According to what I read, the expected release date for the final version of Windows 7 may be in the Sep-Oct 09 timeframe...so I would not recommend for anyone to install Vista on a system unless it's as an experiment or the user has fallen in love with Vista.
<<2. A large monitor is a must; ours is a 17". The picture quality must be excellent as we spend 4-6 hours a day on the machine. I can get an IBM employee discount. Is the Lenovo line of monitors something we should consider or would another brand be better?>>
I can't answer that one...I still have CRTs
and the way to go is digital. Others will post their comments.
FWIW: I generally don't believe in "brand name" purchasing of anything, I try to purchase based on some sort of personal comparison or web comparison of various components, systems, etc.
My advice on any monitor purchase: Go to some local vendor and check different monitors out. Then go back home and do some pricing via the Internet. IMO, monitors are the one computer component that I would suggest making a local purchase on (due to shipping costs from Internet vendors), but just about any other computer component/system will have the best price online.
<<3. Suggestions for a video card are needed.>>
Since you don't game...and you didn't mention doing video captures via a card...any system or motherboard with onboard video will probably be sufficient for your purposes. IMO, the high-quality video cards that are produced...are produced with gamers in mind...the net result is that novices like me wind up with video capabilities that are more than enough to meet our needs (since we don't game). as yesteryear's technology in graphics...has become commonplace and available to users who don't even necessarily need it.
The basic idea behind onboard video, sound, USB, and NIC (these all used to be separate cards requiring installation in any PC) is to make buying/using a computer as simple as possible for new customers and ordinary consumers.
<<4. We're considering an all-in-one system because of its compactness. Looking at the Ideacentre A series and the K Series currently. Are there other IBM choices that might be more appropriate?>>
Another one I cannot address
. Use Google and the Web to get information about what vendors make available. The Web is the biggest library in this world...and it's conveniently available to anyone with a computer and Internet access/capability.
<<5. How much memory should we actually need?>>
Depends on what you intend to do. Based on what you stated and depending on the O/S...I would say that getting 4GB (the max which XP will use) would be a good move. You can always increase if you later decide that you want to do so.
I pass on #6 because I have no knowledge about either wireless or laptops. Others do and will comment.
FWIW: I know that you stated that you get a discount because you're an IBM employee...but I would advise you to not let that influence your options when it comes to finding a system that is right for you and your family.
Edited by hamluis, 16 May 2009 - 05:56 PM.