Monday, September 16, 2013

PC Silliness


Been toying with this idea for a while and someone at work prompted me into it by telling me how much one of their contacts pays for his laptops (£7000 each ...). How much could you actually spend on a desktop PC ? I'll take it back to the real world at the end.

I'm setting three rules for this one :
Everything has to go into just the one box
It has to be air cooled*
Bits that don't really contribute anything get left out

*Water cooling is a genuine option for PCs these days (and I'd like to see it come back for the kit we buy at work too!) but for domestic PCs, I think it's more trouble than it's worth. It still needs fans, it needs a pump. Expensive air cooling can still do a similar job.

All these prices come from Novatech UK. I trust these guys, they're cheap, have a good range and most important, they're just down the road from where I live.

Before going into the gubbinsy bits, every PC is built on a foundation. The box has to be big enough to fit everything with lots of room for cooling air to get around it. The power supply has to be meaty enough to do the job.

Foundation -
Case : Zalman Z11 Plus : £53
Cooling : Zalman CNPS12X Ultimate Performance : £66
(honestly, a cooler that costs more than the box is Silly - £40-£45 is a target price for a cooler, just make sure it has a BIG fan. Big fan = slow fan = peace & quiet)
Optical drive : Pioneer blu ray writer : £62
Power supply : Corsair Professional AX1200i : £269
Total - £335

I like Zalman bits. I've used them for a long series of desktop PCs. Never used one of their cases though. The power supply is incredibly silly but the most important rule in PC building is : "Never, ever skimp on the power supply". The power supply has to be strong enough to support what you put in the box, plus it has to be resilient enough to not break anything else if it goes bang. This is critical again, one of my older boxes had a power supply expire, which took the cd drive and sound card with it and damaged the hard disc.

I've chosen Corsair because of more brand loyalty, my current desktop has a 600W Corsair psu which hasn't missed a beat. However, I'd be very wary about putting a second graphics card in the machine, I'm not sure if 600W is beefy enough for that. It would cost a more reasonable £60 today, rather than the £270 which is more expensive than a cheap laptop.

Engine -
Motherboard : Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87 board : £360
(target price for a motherboard is £100 - £150 but ... this is a Silly PC!)
Memory : G.Skill 32GB (4x8GB) DDR3-PC19200 : £256
Processor : Intel i7-4770k : £270
Graphics : 2x EVGA GeForce GTX780 : 2x £570

Total : £2026

The "engine" is where the most component selection mistakes happen. The motherboard is the core of the "engine", with everything slotting into it. So a Socket 1150 board will take an Intel "Haswell" i3/5/7-4000 series chip but will not take the older Socket 1155 "Sandy Bridge" chip I have in my desktop. They're based around a "chipset", which is code for the glue that connects everything together. I couldn't go brand loyalty again here (no Asrock in the Novatech list), so it's a Gigabyte board.

And they take specific types of memory. I couldn't put the memory from my current desktop into my old desktop, it wouldn't fit in the socket. Here it's "DDR3", with that PC19200 saying how fast it can go. This is silly time again, as you only use that kind of speed if you're burning out the machine trying to run it far past the design specs. 32GB of PC12800 DDR3 costs £204. Curious ... memory has got more expensive ...

Storage :
SSD : 2x Crucial M500 : 960GB : 2x £470
Yes. You can get solid state device drives with almost 1TB. That's Nuts.
Bulk storage : 2x Hitachi Deskstar 4TB : 2x 165
Chose the Hitachi because it has the highest rpm. This means a faster data rate and less time to find what you want on it.

Total : £1270

The drives are in pairs to take advantage of something called RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Discs). The setup I'd use is RAID 1 for the SSDs and a separate RAID 1 again for the bulk storage. What RAID 1 does is have both drives containing exactly the same thing. So if one drive breaks, you lose nothing.

And ... other bits :
Sound card : Creative labs Sound Blaster ZxR - £190
Cos you want those blu-rays sounding crisp and the only extra noise you want to hear from the gaming is the fans inside the case. Normally, I wouldn't consider adding a sound card to what's in the motherboard but - Silly PC rules.
Centre Monitor : Iiyama 27" touch screen : £613
Left & Right Monitors : Iiyama 27" 4k screens : £516

Total : £1835

There's a 65" Iiyama monitor in Novatech too but ... 65" is kinda intimidating. I'd have serious feelings of inadequacy if I got something that massive. Plus I'd get a terrible neck ache from looking left and right at it. Seriously though, I tried playing WoW on my 32" telly and gave up quickly because I couldn't read the small text at the viewing distance necessary to see the screen properly. 65" would be incredible for the blurays though.

Extra silliness would come from what people would want to spend on keyboard, mouse, steering wheel, joystick. Those have gone into truly Silly territory these days, to the point where I refuse to replace my aging keyboard and mouse because I know that what's for sale was 1/10th the price 10 years ago. It's just been inflated to Fashion Victim price levels.

What's the total ?

A cool £5466 plus £120 for Windows 8 Pro (Win8 to take advantage of the touchscreen). Hurrah ! I can still break £5000 :-). That's a very silly price though and a rather silly spec. For a domestic gaming machine, the following wouldn't break the bank :
i5-4670K, one GeForce 760, 8GB Ram, 128GB SSD + 1TB drives, 23" monitor. Target price £900

I could have hit £10k+ easily (the 65" screen costs £3800) but there's a point where Stupidity overtakes Silly. Like getting entertainment format widescreen monitors for the office. WHY ?

Back to reality ...

I'm seriously considering a Macbook for my next laptop. They pretty much meet the important bits of the spec (at least 900 lines and iTunes compatibility) and would let me break from Windows. The one problem is cost. There's a refurbished Macbook Air with a 256GB hard disc for £870. That would fly ... and have enough room for my iTunes library. But it's double what I wanted to spend.

We shall see. Decisions ... decisions ...

PS This extended post has happily let me avoid England steadily grinding to a loss (it's not over yet but ... 9 an over to win) in the cricket. And it's got nothing about my health in it ! I've talked too much about that lately.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So much for anonymous commenting ... If you would like to leave a message and don't have a suitable account, there's an email address in my profile.