Every once in a while, we get asked about what would be included in the ideal presentation machine. Usually we refer those questions to our minimum requirements, but that doesn’t really answer the question. Minimum is different than ideal. So, I set out this week to build the ideal presentation PC for less than $700.00.
If you prefer Mac, this process is a little simpler. iMac fits the bill. It’s unibody design is easy to transport and set up, and even the lightest 21-inch model has plenty of horsepower to run your presentations in eye-popping high definition.
But if your budget is a little tighter and you have the expertise to go the DIY route, a custom-built desktop PC will save you some money and give you the satisfaction of having built it yourself. I used PC PartPicker to check compatibility and compare prices across several different online merchants while leaning heavily on Lifehacker’s post on the subject. The resulting machine comes in under $700.00. Let’s walk through the technical specs.
Processor & motherboard
Admittedly, an AMD chipset would offer a little more power at this price point, but I harbor an irrational bias toward Intel, so I started with an Intel Core i3-3220, and the compatible Asus P8B75-M. The i3 isn’t as flashy as its big brothers, the i5 and the i7, but it performs admirably when surrounded by a strong supporting cast. The CPU and motherboard are components on which you can afford to save some money since Proclaim draws more heavily on the graphics card than the processor.
RAM is cheap. I put a single 4GB stick into this machine to start, but expanding would be be an easy upgrade because the Asus motherboard we started with has room for three more sticks. For an additional $50, you could double the memory if that became an issue.
Proclaim uses a lot of graphics resources—especially when you are outputting signal to a pair of large displays, a confidence monitor, and a PC monitor simultaneously—so I included a hefty 2GB video card that sports a pair of independent cooling fans. For comparison, this video card costs more than the combination of processor and motherboard we selected. It also has twin DVI outputs so you won’t be short on outputs.
Since Proclaim runs in the cloud, you won’t really need a ton of storage space, but you’ll want it to be fast storage. I selected a 1TB 7200RPM from Western Digital.
Power supply & case
There are a lot of cool-looking computer cases on the market, but you don’t need them. You want something simple, inexpensive, and large enough that you can get your hands inside while you’re working on it. I selected an NZXT Tempest 210 and a Corsair Builder 430W power supply. The machine as constructed will probably only draw around 300 watts of power, so that will be more than enough juice.
Optical drive, operating system & extras
You could save a little money by cutting out the DVD drive I added here if you’re not likely to use any disc-bound media during your weekend services. I also added a copy of Windows 8.1, but you could shave off another $100 if you already own one. I added a USB Wi-Fi antenna for a measly $7.00 to make up for the motherboard’s lack of wireless card. If you plan to plug your presentation machine into an Ethernet cable, you could skip that as well.
I left out a keyboard and mouse, since most people have extras lying around. You might consider adding a battery backup to protect your presentation computer from unexpected power outages or surges. It will also help smooth out the stream of power going to your PC, making your components last quite a bit longer. But it’s completely optional.
Since Proclaim lives in the cloud, you can leave a dedicated presentation machine like this dormant in the auditorium all week and edit your presentation from your office. Just be sure to fire it up in plenty of time to download software updates and new presentation media in time for your service.
What do you think of my ideal presentation computer? What would you add or change? Tell us in the comments.
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Proclaim comes loaded with a library of multimedia resources worth more than $1,000 (and growing). Kill two birds with one stone: download Proclaim and you’ll get a ton of great stuff that you can use right away.