My Computer Set-up: Hardware

  • 29 Jan 2018
My comics are produced almost exclusively on the computer. My fine art is an extension of the work that I’ve learned to do with my computer, so the process is very similar. This article is about my set-up and I will be discussing the computer hardware that I personally use.

First, I’m a PC user and have been for the last 20 years. I’ve used Windows 95, Windows XP, Windows NT, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Now I’m using Windows 10. Why? Because generally speaking, the hardware costs are lower and that allows me to get a ‘good enough’ machine to do the work that I need to do. I have never purchased a brand new computer. I buy all my machines refurbished on eBay. Right now I have two machines that I use to create art:

Machine 1: The Desktop
Dell Optiplex 780
Intel Core2 Duo CPU   2.93GHz
80 GB SATA hard drive

This machine was purchase in January 2015 and cost me $60. I purchased it knowing that I could upgrade to 16GB of RAM, but to this day it’s still running on the 4GB of RAM. Immediately, I removed the 80GB hard drive and replaced it with a 1TB hard drive. I also purchased a USB internal to external hard drive converter that allowed me to add the 80GB hard drive that I removed and a 2TB hard drive. Total cost for everything was under $250.
Machine 2: Surface Pro 2
This is a standard Surface Pro 2, nothing fancy. It was purchased via eBay for around $180 (including two keyboards). This is my portable set-up and it allows me to do everything that I do on my desktop while travelling.
In addition to Machine 1, Machine 2 and the USB internal to external hard drive converter mentioned above, I have several other hardware peripherals that I use regularly. They are:

Monitor: HP W2216H
This 22” monitor was a Craigslist find. $50 and I’ve been using it full time since around 2009. This is connected to Machine 1.
Wacom Tablet: Intuos
 I use the smallest model of for the Intuos. It’s about 6” x 4” and it cost me about $75. I’ve had it since 2015 and it still works fine two years later. This is connected to machine 2.

Mouse: Logitech Wireless USB Mouse
The Intuos doesn’t come with a mouse, so I purchased a standard USB mouse for use. This one used AAA batteries as a power source and was under $20 from Target.

Keyboard: Generic
My keyboard isn’t anything special. It’s there and it works. It’s not wireless, so I have to deal with the cable. It was under $15. I like cheap keyboard because they are easily replaceable after I spill drinks in them.

B & W Printer: Brother Model HL-2140
Color is expensive. Most color printers require color cartridges even when printing in just black and white. For that reason, I got a black and white only printer. The machine itself cost under $50 and the toner costs about $25-60. I’ve had this machine for at least seven years. The last time that I purchased toner for it was some time in 2015. It’s great for printing anything that doesn’t require color printing (contacts, black and white art, flyers, etc). It prints standard letter size paper in most normal thicknesses great. Beyond that, it’s not very useful. This is a connected via USB to a desktop that I didn’t mention above. That desktop is primarily used by my kids (and has a Wacom Bamboo tablet) and it basically the same as Machine 1. This printer could just as easily be connected to Machine 1.

Printer/ Scanner: HP Officejet 7610
This is my color printer/ scanner/ fax machine. It is an all-in-one large format printer able to print and scan up to 13x18. It has an autofeed loader for scanning lots of letter sized pages. It’s the best 11”x17” scanner for under $200. I use it primarily as a scanner. It also allows me to print my layout unto 11”x17” Bristol board ad prints all the normal stuff in full color. I would not use it to make full color prints, as the cheap replacement cartridges are $30 for a full set (yellow, magenta, cyan, and black). This printer will not print if there isn’t sufficient ink in all cartridges, so I always keep a back-up set of cartridges available. This is a WiFi printer with AirPrint so can easily print from any iOS device (iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac) and can easily connect to it locally for printing for scanning.

With everything combined, I think I’ve spent less than $1000 on the computer set-up that I’ve been using for the last three years (it’s late Jan 2018 as I write this). A few of the items are now discontinued, but newer similar models at similar price points are available. Generally, I’m not chasing the latest and greatest hardware. I know what I need and as long as it works as expected, then I stick with it. From the list above, the only thing that I’m likely to replace before June 2018 is my keyboard. It would be nice to have a wireless keyboard, so that I can easily move it out of my way when it’s not needed.