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Friday, February 4, 2011

Upgrade fever just aint what it used to be

Way back when PC Week, InfoWorld and Computer Shopper were monster magazines there was a ton of fun things to read about new hardware. Processors were getting faster, video cards made performance jumps in leaps and bounds, sound cards were not on the motherboard but something you bought as a separate item. That has pretty much all gone away and it is making hardware pretty darn boring.

I have run my current computer for a bit over 4 years. It handles pretty much anything I toss at it. Sure I might not be getting over 100 FPS in the latest game and I am only running 1680x1050 but I am not seeing stuttering or any real game issues so what the heck. I am running the on-board sound on my Intel motherboard and Intel does not officially support Win7 drivers but even this has caused few issues.

The problem is I have the upgrade fever. Don't really need to upgrade but the fever has set in. Of course it shows up just in time for Intel to announce a flaw in their chips.

I have a better box at work than I do at home. It has more memory, a better processor, better graphics card and an SSD drive so it boots really fast. I boot it about once a month due to some MS update otherwise the machine just remains on all the time. After reading reviews on NewEgg I find these drives seem to have a higher failure rate than I would be happy with although none have failed at work and no one I know that owns one has had a failure either. I currently have dual 250g drives at home and neither is close to full. I am not a big collector of movies or music. All the music on my PC I also have the physical CD for in a cabinet. I rip them so I can listen to them via Media Monkey as its random play feature seems to work were as the one in MS Media Player sucks.

I put together a price list at one point of parts - i7 processor, decent motherboard, memory, mid level graphics card, large power supply, SDD drive and mid tower case. By the time you do all that and you look at getting a legal copy of Win7 64bit you might as well just by something off the shelf. I would not spend the big bucks on Alienware or another boutique vendor but there are a lot of solid configurations, some even with water cooling, available and the OS is already included via some MS kickback they get.

But I always run into not being able to get the perfect configuration. They use some weird motherboard or a graphics card two steps below what I want or no SSD option or a suspect power supply. Maybe I find the perfect configuration then the price is shot through the roof pointing me right back to building my own.

In the end it will probably not be much of an upgrade and I will be out the cash and I will be reinstalling tons of software - Office, various IDEs, media players, USB drivers, utilities, games, text editors etc. and will really have nothing but eaten up time and 10FPS gain to show for it. Hardware used to be fun.

I guess this is why phones and tablets are the rage now. Something new. The PC and the Mac are boring. Let's go find something else that is in a constant upgrade cycle so we can again compare what we have to our buddies. My tablet is dual core, mine has 7.1 sound system, mine has 10 cameras. People upgrade phones like they once upgraded computers. Now pretty much any computer out there can run most games and can run all the productivity software with zero issues.

Talk me out of the upgrade, talk me into an upgrade, point me to a reasonable vendor with a great gamer build at a reasonable price, help a buddy with the fever!