Wednesday, October 28

A PC build to save for. Or?

My computer uses are varied and not very similar to one another. Of course I surf, check email, and check My Zoo on Facebook, as well as download files using BitTorrent and blog about stuff like what I use my computer for. These things, any computer can do. Hell, an iPhone can do them.

But I use my computer also to: 1) Play technologically-demanding games, and 2) Participate in creative activities like photo-retouching, messing around with 3D apps, architectural software and the like.

I don't have any money and I'm not making any money. But if I do at some point, I would face a choice: To save for a Mac, or to substantially upgrade my PC. Given the looming obsolescence of my current computer, I should start saving what I can for one option or the other. Here are the benefits and shortcomings...

I'd love to have a new 27" iMac with the i7 CPU upgrade. The benefits are compactness, reliability, OS satisfaction, aesthetic satisfaction, and fairly cutting-edge technologies. The shortcomings are price (slightly) and mediocre 3D graphics. It's odd how everyone thinks of Macs as "good at graphics" when they're not... yes, the OS looks nice, the cases are beautiful, but the actual availability and compatibility of the best 3D videocards on the market, for both workstations or gaming machines, is well behind that of PCs. And the expandability on an iMac is basically nil. I'd have to shell out for a Mac Pro to get any future-proofing, and I have no illusions of drumming up that kind of money.

If I simply upgraded my PC, it would basically be replacing the entire guts of my PC. The problem is that while PCs are viewed as part-upgradable, that's really a bunch of crap. You almost always have to upgrade your motherboard, CPU, RAM, and power supply all at the same time, and likely you're wanting a new videocard or two as well. So what's left? The case and HDDs? Basically, yeah, as well as DVD-ROM and external peripherals. I would want an i7 920 (entry-level Nehalem, very overclockable), a mainboard that could run it, 1333 or 1600 DDR3 RAM, two ATI 5850 cards in Crossfire mode, and a buff PSU to power it all. Hell, might as well get a new, quiet case while I'm at it, and a backlit keyboard to replace this POS that I'm using at the moment. The upside? More bang for the buck than the Mac option, more expandability for the future for games and for Photoshop. The downside? Still using Windoze. Barf.

I wish there weren't so many options sometimes. I hate computers - sometimes. Either way I go in the future I'm looking at either a new computer or an almost complete new build; thus between $1300 and $2500. That's not even comprehensible to me right now as someone with NO money.

Guess I will have to work on my real life and find a way to work and make money if I'm to keep up, and continue to enjoy my computer-oriented hobbies. Or I will have to give up on computers and take up outdoor activities, which is surely infinitely more healthy. I... just... love... computers. Well, sometimes. Sometimes I loathe them, too.


billybytedoc said...

First of all, you need to think about the difference between what you "want" and what you "need". There can be a large cost difference between "good" and "the best". The technology now is at a point now that it is a rare individual who needs the "best". An $800 ( not including display card ) home built would be so much better than what you have now that it should amaze you.

The display card(s) is (are) the most expensive part of a home built and one has to really examine how one is going to use the computer to decide if one wants to spend $1000 or more to get better frame rates on some high end games. Would you play them enough to make it worth while?

Apple vs. PC
The reviews are saying that the new iMac has "stunning" graphics. True they are and always have been a step below the "best", but again what do you "need". The closed architecture is more important for you. I think you "want" ( and may need ) the ability to upgrade/change your computer. You have to balance this against OS X vs. Win 7. Only you can answer that. No contest for me.
All in all PC is probably better for you, but you may be sorry later as Win slows down, crashes, and is generally a pain to maintain.

Upgrade vs. New build PC

The only things you can realistically keep with the current system are the case and maybe the hard drives but TB hard drives are getting pretty cheap.
So I think a new build is the best option and that way you have a computer to use while you build.

You don't hate computers, you love them. You hate the problems associated with them. If that is a major problem for you, decide what you need, get a Mac, and stick with it, don't try to modify it

Job vs. Outdoor activities.
Come on! Outdoor activities are good but they will not replace your day and night enjoyment you get with your computer.


Metamatician said...

All good advice. Thanks. I do tend to be an extremist about everything. I need to learn to just like 'good enough,' I guess.

The graphics card(s) are one of the most important things to me not really because of high-end games, but because I have a large monitor, and multiple monitors, and I need some horsepower just to power even normal games or HD movies at that res.

Now, do I "need" all that screen real estate? No. But it's hard to go back to something smaller when you're used to it. That's the problem. The 27" iMac is awfully attractive and could probably replace everything I have now, but then again, it's expensive.

The good things is everything gets cheaper over time, so even if I do nothing, which will be the case for awhile no matter what, prices will go down and power will go up. It may be that by the time I can afford a new computer, a 27" or 30" screen is pretty standard and not a big luxury item. And even mainstream, affordable video cards will be powerful enough to support them. That's almost becoming the situation even now, but really you still need a pretty high-end card if you want playable framerates at high resolutions.

Ah...well, anyways, I've got lots of time to think. Thanks for the comments!

Metamatician said...

Also, I don't have an HDTV, or a Blu-ray player, or cable television, or an Xbox360 or PS3 or Wii, nor an iPhone, or friends to play board games with, and my knee's too messed up to run or rollerblade or bike or play basketball or tennis. I don't have money to go to the movie theater or travel and I've read almost all my books. The only piece of entertainment I really have at all is my PC, and I can't afford new games for it and my speakers are dying and it's getting slow for newer software to run on. It won't even play 720p movies reliably, and 1080p is just a slideshow. So all I can do is listen to music in headphones, do internet stuff, and play older games.

That's why I'm mulling what it would take to upgrade it. Not because I want fancy equipment, you just have to upgrade every so often because things wear out and newer stuff won't work. An Intel i7 920 processor is around $200, and an AMD 5850 video card is around the same, so is a decent amount of DDR3 RAM and a compatible motherboard. New speakers would be similarly priced as well. Everything just adds up to $1000 or more pretty quickly, and a Mac doesn't even start being priced until well over $1000. I don't see how $800 could build a good computer right now. I'd rather wait longer I guess until that $800 really can push a large monitor or two, or buy a Mac, or until I have more than $800 (which I don't have anyway).

I dunno, I'm trying to get back into programming and I'm still keeping up my blog, and other things that don't require any horsepower. It's just a bummer to know Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 will be coming out probably in not too long and I can pretty much forget about playing them. And I'm bored of the same few games I have.

Blah blah blah... (end of selfish complaints). Like I said before, it all goes back to the fact that I need to get a source of my own income, which means I need to get well somehow. And in the meantime just learn to live without "things" ... they don't really make people happy anyway. In the future, maybe I can get back in the moving river. If I had a yard, I could take up gardening at least. I guess I just need hobbies that don't cost anything, or very little.

Metamatician said...

Ah...just saw that you said "$800 without display card" ... yeah, that's a lot more reasonable. I did a mock build on New Egg and for around $1000-$1200 I could build a PC that's a lot better than mine now and could play HD movies and current games with decent settings, and probably remain viable for a number of years. I guess I'll sell my bike, maybe my good camera, and all the other things I have and it might add up to something like that. Although I probably ought to take care of debts and taxes first, and then my part of further schooling and also helping out with what SSI isn't paying. :-|

billybytedoc said...

Yeah, I said not counting display card because there is such a huge variation in what one could spend.

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