Thank you for your answer. That was the type of information I was seeking.
Before I asked my question, I looked at the system requirement page. I couldn't find ArcMap listed so I browsed other products. The system requirements seemed to be minimum requirements, the requirements to install the software on a computer but not necessarily be productive with the software. In my opinion, I found that page to be useless and that is stating my opinion in a complimentary manner.
My dilemma was that I have a "decent" (well above the specs listed on the system requirement page) computer yet I can't do what I need to.
Upgrading the existing computer is not an option. I have the authority to purchase a new machine and my existing computer will be passed on to a deserving soul.
There are 2 Dell systems I am considering:
1. Dual Xeon capable Dell Precision Workstation 670 ($3,800)
CPU: Intel® Xeon™ Processor 3.20GHz, 2MB L2 Cache
RAM: 2GB, DDR2 SDRAM Memory, 400MHz, ECC (4 DIMMS)
HD: 74GB SATA, 10K RPM Hard Drive with DataBurst Cache™, without RAID
Video: 128MB PCIe x16 nVidia Quadro FX 1400, Dual DVI or Dual VGA or DVI + VGA
1. Ability to add a second processor
2. Ability to add up to 16 Gigs of RAM assuming a 64 bit OS
3. Faster HDs and more configuration options
4. Better Video card
2. Slower CPU (based on MHz)
3. Slower RAM (based on MHz)
2. Dell Dimension 8400 ($2,800)
CPU: Pentium® 4 Processor 650 with HT Technology (3.40GHz, 800 FSB)
RAM: 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz (2x1GB)
HD: 80GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM)
Video: 256MB PCI Express™ x16 (DVI/VGA/TV-out) nVidia GeForce 6800
1. Faster CPU (based on MHz)
2. Faster RAM (based on MHz)
1. Limited upgrade ability
2. SATA HD only option available
Money unfortunately is an issue. My limit is ~$3,000. Option #2 fits my budget better.
One thing consistent with your upgrade recommendations is upgrading to a faster hard drive. I am hoping that 2 Gigs of memory will minimize HD swapping. I'm hoping/guessing that the faster CPU & RAM will compensate for the slower HD. Without benchmarks of both systems I don't know.
In my opinion, since I'm not doing 3D at the moment the "mainstream" higher end nVidia 6800 will serve my purpose. A Workstation type card is overkill.
My intention is to keep these machines as long as possible. Having an upgrade path is desirable but only if I can upgrade to a machine that will enhance my productivity. I don't know if ArcGIS is dual processor capable and if I'll ever actually need more than 2 Gigs of memory. I'm assuming that there will be a relative stable and bug free 64 bit Windows in the near future followed by a relative stable and bug free 64 bit ArcGIS. That may be 3-5 years down the road and at that time it may make more sense to purchase a new machine and not upgrade the existing machine.
Pleased let me know if I’m on the right track.
Once again, thank you for your help.