Monday, March 18, 2013

Going for bonkers

I (half) read something on The Register earlier ...

It was at my lunchtime at work so I didn't really have the time to really properly read it but it's worth a look if you're thinking about buying something PC related.

Here's the link : Build a BONKERS Gaming PC.

The story has a lot going for it and I agree with a significant amount of it. But ... I wouldn't advocate buying what they say you should buy. Great article ... but you can be more efficient with your money. The secret to buying PC bits is to just spend enough to get what you need and to resist the temptation to get what you want.

For my last build, I had a choice between the best desktop cpu at the time (Intel i7-2700k) and the second best (Intel i5-2500k). There's not actually that much difference in performance between the two, except for a £80 price difference. And ... guess how much a SSD hard disc cost ? Going for what was "need" freed up enough budget to get an SSD that transformed the performance.

I'm not going to tell you here exactly what to buy, because that specific component advice will be out of date literally next week. But what I will say is follow these guidelines :

If you don't need a desktop, buy a laptop. They're more flexible.
If you don't do gaming, then you don't need a desktop.
Desktop - Spend your budget. Getting the best you can now means it'll last longer and you'll spend less in the long run.
(my working person budget PCs lasted for years, my student budget builds lasted 18 months)
Go for Intel over AMD, they're faster and run cooler which means they also run quieter.
If you can get an SSD hard drive, go for it. They make Windows fly.
Nvidia vs AMD/ATI - don't listen to one person's advice, get many statistics based reviews. Too many fanboy arguments dominate which graphics device is best
Separate sound card ? Waste of money. Get the next graphics device up instead.
Cooling system ? Go MASSIVE. They're much quieter.
Power supply - do not underestimate this. A weedy power supply leads to Blue Screen Of Death when the machine is worked hard.

What else ? Avoid water cooling. It's unnecessary unless you want to shorten the life of what you buy by burning it out. Plus water + electronics don't mix and water cooling means maintenance beyond occasionally blowing the dust out.

Buying PCs is a topic closer to my mind than it could be - my mum got let down by an Android based tablet bought (mis-sold) to replace a netbook. That's all my mum really needs, a netbook. My requirements in a laptop are different ... But for my mum, the advice is to not spend any more than they need to but to make sure it's an Intel box.

My desktop will last me quite a while because it still has the grunt to cope with new games. It may get another graphics card in a year or three but that'll be all it needs. Honestly, PC components aren't advancing in power the way they used to.

My laptop is another story ... It's done really well. I think Eve Online was one of the first things to go on and has a date of "20/12/2009" in its program folder entry. That's one sign of how well it's done, I couldn't remember how many years I'd had it and had to look it up. 3 years 3 months so far and the only scare it's given is the hard disc. It is struggling to keep up with HD video though, that's a bit much for the (AMD) processor. It's struggling to cope with me too, the keyboard is suffering from the increased dust from my skin condition.

I don't honestly know what I'd replace it with. Something big still, however 17" widescreen laptops are out of fashion. I'd definitely want to get an SSD or hybrid hard disc as that makes a massive difference in performance and smoothness. But you have to go for more expensive laptops to get an SSD. A touchscreen would be nice.

But that's for another day. This laptop's got at least another year left in it, touch wood. We'll get something that fits my mum soon too. Something that fits, not something that the shop want to sell.

Oh - before I forget, there's one more critical rule. Whatever you buy, you made the right choice.

And another critical rule - when you buy techie PC stuff, whatever you do, don't look at prices for the next few months. Seeing what you bought available for £100 less a week after you spend the cash is ... depressing.

Takes the gloss off getting the new toy !

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