I just built a PC this weekend, mostly because I’d never built my own before. It was surprisingly painless – almost unsettlingly so – and I haven’t run into any significant problems so far. And including sales tax, shipping, and rebates (which are such a ridiculous hassle I wish I hadn’t bothered), it came out to around $200 than the same build on ibuypower or cyberpower.
Still, the whole time, it felt kind of stupid. Almost everything I’d be interested in playing is getting a console port these days. Playing Portal 2 on the 360 convinced me I can get used to playing first person games without a mouse & keyboard. I’m starting to wonder if the whole “post-PC” business might actually be true.
The worst thing was realizing that if Apple would just support a competitive video card for Macs, it would’ve saved me the time and money. The whole reason I spent too much money on a Mac Pro* was on the false assumption that I could upgrade it. The model I have is already not supported by anything, and my laptop runs faster.
No, I didn’t get a Mac Pro just for gaming, but I’d still hoped that it would run them decently under Boot Camp.
After removing all the irrelevant information, the article appears to be:
“I no longer play PC games, I only fiddle with my iMac.” Yes indeed, that does mean you no longer need to build PCs for yourself.
Back on the plane of people who still play PC games, the retail vs. build price advantage has collapsed, but there’s still a real convenience and cost benefit in self-built PCs being a lot easier to upgrade and fiddle with.
This PC (about 20 months old) is the first one I’ve built in my life (I’m 42). I did it because I wanted a super quiet system and you have to pay through the nose to get one of those prebuilt. I’m definitely done with COTS systems like Dell, HP, etc. They’re just crap and noisy.
I’ve always built my primary PC myself. The control freak in me likes being able to get pretty much every feature I want just right, whereas it usually feels like I have to compromise on something when looking at the prebuilt systems. I also like to make sure they’re made with Linux-supported components, since when I do an upgrade I typically rotate the old parts down to my Linux server box.
But I’m expecting to do my next upgrade next summer, and I’m just not feeling as enthusiastic about it as I usually do. Maybe my interest will pick up as the time approaches and the tech solidifies and I can dive into research again, but I didn’t feel it a couple years back when my Linux box motherboard died. Faced with having to suddenly assemble a new system, my reaction was instead “I do not need to put up with this shit right now” and I grabbed a Dell system to replace it and it’s done pretty well.
I think I have built five PCs now. Never had any problems except for one that had the motherboard fail after a couple of years, which turned out to be common problem with those boards. The main reason I build my own is that I can choose quality components. The components used in prebuilts are usually cheap and nasty. Also, prebuilts always come loaded with a lot crap that’s only purpose seems to be slow everything down.
I absolutely recommend you do so. Parts of the experience will be frustrating. Parts will be terrifying. When you’re done, the sense of accomplishment will be palpable. Assuming the rig works well, you will love it, because it is yours.
Now, when you get to rig number twelve or thirteen, the emotional parts of the experience flatten out quite a bit and you begin to wonder why it all has to be such an ordeal. At that point, though, you understand what you give up when you buy consumer stuff, so you keep on building.
I built 2 rigs this year. It has never been as easy as it is now. The only complicated thing was attaching the monster cooler everybody uses nowadays to the CPU because a mistake here can be costly.
I’ve lost my enthusiasm for building PCs years ago, but I know it’s the only way to get the quality I want - unless I pay a specialized shop to build it according to my specs. Now I see it pragmatic. I spend 5 hours with a screwdriver and a Windows DVD creating my PC from scratch instead of wasting 3 hours uninstalling bloatware from an Acer or HP rig.
PCs which are silent, fast and reasonably priced are simply not available here. Pre-built PCs always have at least one weakness. In most cases it’s the graphics card, typically a 50 EUR card in a 800 EUR i7 PC. And if a PC is complete it either doesn’t have silent parts (or rather has unknown parts) in it or it’s at least 200 EUR too expensive.
Finding the perfect PC is impossible …
… so I thought. Then I found it. Used. 2 weeks old. Self-built by an enthusiast just 10 km from here. Bull’s eye, exactly what I wanted and ca. 25% cheaper than new parts. Even a clean Win7 was installed, all I had to do was enter a new serial and activate. A consequent, spartanic, silent and reasonably fast gaming PC. My precious!
Have fun installing a heat sink for the first time! That part was the most harrowing to me on my first build. I’ve done about four builds so far, the first three went relatively smoothly but my last one sucked. I build it, turn it on, and it’s running but nothing is on the monitor. I look online about how to fix this and basically learn that it could be: Faulty monitor, motherboard, processor, ram, power supply, or the graphics card. Well gee, that narrows it down! I eliminated ram as the cause right off the bat since I tried it with one and no ram and there was no change. I think I read somewhere that even with no ram you should get error beeps or something and since nothing at all happened differently I thought it was a faulty motherboard. New motherboard and power supply later and still nothing. Turns out it was the ram after all. I thought I tried each stick individually, but I must of tried the faulty one twice by mistake. Good thing returning stuff to Newegg was pretty effortless.
The frustrating, though engaging, part of building your own PC is shopping. It’s pretty much like a massive RPG item shop with whole classes of items that are near copies of one another. Is my Sword 800 +2 better or worse than the Sword 800A +2? The frustrating thing is that on some level it is something of a roll of the dice, as even good or reliable companies occasionally put out lemon runs of a particular motherboard, memory chipset, hard disk, or video card. On another level, sort of like speccing a class, you’re not really that free to pick and choose, and more than likely the computer you build for 800$ is going to be similar in performance to another persons’ computer they built for 800$ despite all the effort you put into building it. It’s not like you can choose grippy suspension and a 250hp motor and he chooses horrible suspension and an 800hp motor, and you take it out and see what happens. If you have any idea what you’re doing, and have some idea of the software limitations today, you’re not going to stray very far from the mean (ie, you’re not going to build a computer with a top end video card but low voltage Celeron, and 1gig of RAM. and an 40 gb 5400 hard disk). Where you start getting off kilter kits is when you start building for size, energy efficiency, and noise.
This will actually be the first year I build my own PC! It won’t be a monster by any means (I’ll be putting a Radeon 6870 into it), but a future SSD+video card upgrade should probably see it being viable for my needs for the next 5+ years.
I had one of the videos on tested.com running in the background on a laptop, partly to check and verify by sight that I was doing things right, but mostly as reassurance that it wasn’t all that difficult. (And don’t let the cost scare you off, either; mine came out to be at least $600 less than theirs, and it’s plenty powerful enough for everything I want to run).
My build for October:
Asus P8Z68 or P8P67 (I’m feeling a bit lost on this: LE P67 or PRO of either? The LE is really cheap, about 60% of the PROs which are almost equal in price)
Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz
Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600
Asus Radeon HD 6870 1GB
Samsung SpinPoint F3 1TB
Fractal Design Core 3000 (chassi)
Corsair PowerSupply CX V2 600W