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Advice for new lab equipment


#1

TL;DR: If you had about £2,000 to spend on PC, monitor, & response box for decent-timing & decent stimulus presentation quality using PsychoPy, what would you buy?

Longer Version:
I have approximately £2,000 (about $2,680) to spend on new lab equipment (PC, monitor, & response units). I typically run pretty-standard cognitive experiments, and my primary dependent variable is response time. So, I am pretty keen on making sure (as much as possible) that my timing is good. Stimuli are typically pretty simple (small images or brief text).

Whilst these types of experiments are my bread & butter, I want to future-proof my new purchase as much as possible, so it would be handy if the PC I go for also has the potential to present reasonably hi-tech stimuli (e.g., for visual short-term memory experiments and/or visual psychophysics work).

I am after advice on which PC & monitor setup you would recommend for using with PsychoPy. I have had a look at the PsychoPy website (e.g., http://www.psychopy.org/general/timing/millisecondPrecision.html#can-i-have-my-stimulus-to-appear-with-a-very-precise-rate) on general timing issues in PsychoPy, and looked here (http://psychopy.org/installation.html) for general information about graphics cards (but note that the link to a list of graphics cards that work with PsychoPy is dead: http://upload.psychopy.org/benchmark/report.html).

Basically, if it was your money, what would you buy?

Cheers,
Jim.


#2

For graphics cards I would still try to get something from nVidia or AMD as a dedicated card, although I haven’t actually heard of anyone having trouble with any specific card lately (I guess intel cards have improved). Still, the faster the graphics card the better. Beyond that there’s very little you need beyond that from PsychoPy’s perspective.

An SSD (instead of a traditional hard disk) is useful to loading images/files faster from disk, if you care about that sort of thing (e.g. should have faster handling of an HD movie) but beware that SSDs are often smaller and then you have to buy a new one sooner for lack of space!

For a screen get a decent brand 120 or 144Hz LCD and make sure you set it to use “Direct Drive” or whatever the manufacturer calls it (i.e. turning off all image processing designed to make movies nicer etc).

That’s about all the advice I have


#3

Plus if reaction times are your thing, consider getting dedicated response keypad hardware rather than relying on whatever keyboard comes with your system.


#4

I don’t have much to add to the discussion above except some minor things. I agree with Jon that you should focus on the display and video card.

  • Adding to Michael’s suggestion, there are many response boxes available. I have good experiences with these.
  • If at any point in the distant future you think you might want to send triggers, get a pc with parallel port. Seems silly to state this specifically, but many new computers don’t come with them anymore.
  • A little on the OS, which actually matter very little for Python programming: if you’re happy with Windows and your department provides your licence, go with it. Not in the last place because PhD/project students will likely be familiar with it, and my guess is that PsychoPy is developed and tested on Windows as well. But you could always consider running Linux. It’s free, more ‘open’ and moreover, I couldn’t do without the terminal these days (I find the Windows cmd shell tedious). You could go for a tried-and-tested distribution such as Ubuntu. But like I said, this is absolutely no requirement or even preference for PsychoPy.