Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Checking out the market (again)

I've had a request !!!!

Actually two requests. One of the Chrissa community people is looking to have a gaming desktop built but doesn't know what they should acquire. And then there's my mum, who is looking for a light laptop to replace one that's a little too heavy to be a ... laptop.

But first ...
I may not be able to bring you any more pictures of the lovely Old Ben. When I had a chat to my mum yesterday (Dad's doing fine, recovering nicely and is out of danger), she let me know that Ben was struggling again. Poor lad. His old pain pills have been giving him serious side effects, hopefully the new pills sort him out.

He's an old fella and has been a wonderful little chap to have around but he may not have long left. And like Goldie and Scruff before him, he has his own special place in the hearts of our family and the people who have enjoyed seeing his pictures on Facebook.
Yep. It'll break many hearts when we have to let him go but if they give you a look that says "I hurt too much and don't want to be here any more", that unpleasant job has to be done.

PC Stuff !!!

Let's see what's out there. First up is the desktop. The price range is about £800 but as always, you try and see if you can get top value for less money.

As always, start with the processor because it drives the rest of the machine. I recommend Intel now because they are more efficient, run cooler, run better. They do cost a little more though.

Processor - Intel Skylake i5-6400 (cheapest of the i5's and the older Haswell generation is only £6 cheaper) - £156. This needs a LGA1151 motherboard. I have had mixed results with MSI but they come in with the cheapest Z170 board : MSI Z170-A Pro for £87. The Z bit means it has the faster performing chipset (the glue that holds the system together). This motherboard needs DDR4 memory and this is so cheap, you want a minimum of 8GB these days. The G.Skill memory in this machine has done well, there is a 8GB pair on Novatech for £33. Oh and you'll want to keep that processor cool with something large and beefy (means it runs quieter) like a beQuiet Shadow Rock 2 for £36.

One note there - the coolers have improved but can be scary to mount for the uninitiated.

Processor graphics has improved so much recently but it does help massively to have an external card. I'm pleased with the AMD Radeon R9 380 card I have now and you can get the Sapphire version for £170. You get diminishing returns if you spend more than £200 on graphics cards.

Every system needs storage - I think PCs have moved passed cd/dvd/bluray storage now but you can get a bluray rom drive for £37. I won't include that in the total. For the main storage, you can shave off some cash and complication by using a SATA Hybrid drive (a normal drive with SSD to make it smooth) and Seagate have a 2TB drive for £84. We'll pick that for this but normally, you'd be better putting Windows on a 250GB (for breathing room) SSD plus a 1TB+ conventional drive to put the data and games on.

It all goes in a box, a typical desktop being an ATX mini tower. Watch for cheap ones, they usually have sharp edges that demand a Blood Sacrifice during the build. Antec have the VSK3000 case for £27. DO NOT buy a case with a power supply included, unless that power supply is a beefy enough named brand.

Power supply is very important. If they aren't beefy enough, they will strain until they die. If they're cheap, they will usually fry other components in their death throes. So you buy the power supply from people like Corsair, Antec, EVGA, Cooler Master, Thermaltake. I'll choose the Corsair CX600M for £67 for this build.

How much ?
£660. Wow, didn't expect that, it's cheaper than usual, makes me wonder what I've missed. Boost it a little with a SSD and conventional hard disc combo plus that £37 for the bluray drive.

Also - £80 for Windows 10 Home 64 bit.
Monitor - I am so close to buying the AOC i2369 for £125 (or a bit cheaper from PC World).
Keyboard - I like my Turtle Beach Impact 100 for about £50.
Mouse - no recommendations here except Avoid Roccat, Avoid Saitek/MadCatz.

How much is something similar on PC Specialist ?
I'm going into the "Top Spec Core Computers", not really caring about the box and the rest of the spec is the same as above except for :
Motherboard Asus Z170-P and memory by different people;
Coolermaster Hyper 212 cooler.

And that comes out to £722 or £801 with Windows. A premium of £60 for them to build it is ... probably marginally acceptable and it avoids the chances of breaking stuff when putting that cooler on and having bad bits slip through, because they'll test it before you get it. The motherboard makes a dent in the price and I think the more expensive Asus motherboard is worth it. Sadly I can't link the build :-(.

REVISION - Do not buy Asus hardware. It is usually feature incomplete or contains unpleasant surprises that will annoy the hell out of you later. With me, it was a lack of 5.1 surround sound support in the surround sound socket, with another it is a random disconnect from the internet while the person is streaming because Asus got it wrong with the network port. Also feature incomplete because £100+ boards usually have 2x network ports (or more), this one only has one plus a broken wifi.

How about the laptop ?
Heading over to PC Specialist again, the one that catches the eye is the 14" Ultranote III with an all important weight of only 1.8kg. It also appears to have a very good screen. Other bits of spec to change :
Processor - more cores with an i5-6200U. The i7 chips are an expensive waste of time. The 6200U isn't as powerful as the 6400 above but that U means lots of battery life and it'll still be good enough for things like watching videos off the internet.
Memory - up to 8GB.
Hard disk - a hybrid 1TB drive (the SSD parts speed up the machine a lot and you don't really have the space or weight for multiple drives in a laptop)

And that comes out to £511.

I'm going to scout to offerings from Dell and from PC World but I think we might be putting an order in for that Ultranote.

PS I'll miss Old Ben. He's adorable.

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