Upgrade time

Just to prove I’m not falling under the sway of the oh-so-beguiling XBox 360, I’ve decided it’s about time to upgrade my PC. On the plus side the time between mandatory-if-you-want-to-play-the-latest-game upgrades is getting longer, it used to be pretty much every two years you’d need a complete new rig but I’ve had my current PC for a fair few years now, and with a processor upgrade and couple of graphics card changes (mostly prompted by previous components falling over) it’s still a reasonable system. On the downside, it’s getting ever more difficult to actually decide on what to upgrade to.

For our first PC in the late 80s there was basically one choice, the Amstrad PC1512, though there were two options: two 5.25″ disk drives and a mono display, or one disk drive and a colour display (it was another £100 or more for two disk drives *and* a colour display). I lobbied hard for the colour display (doubtless suggesting it would’ve been vital to some aspect of homework, though I can’t think what now; better for drawing graphs for maths, maybe), but thankfully was overruled. With the display being CGA capable of four colours it didn’t really matter so much whether, after black and white, the other two were cyan and magenta or light gray and dark gray. Curse of the Azure Bonds, on the other hand, came on four (or five?) 5.25″ disks, and every encounter required about three disk swaps; I dread to think how many it would’ve needed with just the one drive.

By the time of the first upgrade the PC boom had kicked in and there were plenty of options for vendors in the adverts in PC Plus, Computer Shopper and Micro Mart, but spec wasn’t too difficult. Intel processors were the only game in town, graphics were just “VGA”, and the price of memory and hard drives meant you usually didn’t have much choice with a limited budget. After that rivals to Intel had started arriving, my third PC had a Cyrix chip, and then the graphics card was something to pay more attention to as 3D accelerators came in. Though computer magazines kept expanding with more and more adverts, it was still nothing compared to the array of options brought by the internet, so these days it’s not just Intel or AMD, it’s i3, i5, i7, Opteron, Phenom and all points between available at a variety of speeds, sometimes with yet more options of cores and lord knows what, and every one has someone singing its praises and someone else panning it for some reason. Graphics cards, well, if you’re not bamboozled by the array of cards out there and their ever-shifting alpha-numeric appellations, you’re just not trying. For the first couple of PCs the case never even crossed my mind. Later it was “desktop” or “tower”, now there are choices out the proverbial wazoo, with their own merits in aesthetics, size, cost, airflow, cable management… For every vendor out there, somebody has had a terrible experience of faulty components and rude staff, and somebody else is full of praise for helpful people and an amazing product. Plumping for a Dell would be a simple option, and result in a perfectly satisfactory box I’m sure, but after a particularly noisy unit a few years back, and with the PC sitting in the lounge, I like to select quiet components where possible, so it’s time to draw up a list of bits then try and find them all in stock somewhere. Wish me luck!

3 thoughts on “Upgrade time

  1. Robert Schultz

    Since I was in high school I’ve always built my own PC’s. Selected every part by hand.
    As I’ve gotten older I’ve still wanted the flexibility of picking my own parts, but I don’t want the hassle of actually putting it together myself.

    I discovered http://cyberpowerpc.com and couldn’t be happier!

    You get to pick all the parts. CPU, fans, CPU coolers, case, motherboard, etc. etc. and they put it all together for you and ship it out to you.

    They don’t have the huge selection you might get from newegg, but they got a respectable number of choices, including several ‘quiet’ components.

    Best of all, they are really inexpensive. Not much higher than it would cost you to do it yourself via newegg.

    Good luck with your new PC :)

  2. Caspian

    I recently went through an upgrade spree myself (well, I needed a shiny new machine to put Windows 7 on) and got a very good deal from Dabs.com

    They are currently doing an AMD Phenom Quad Core Black 3.2 Ghz (Top of the line AMD processor) and liquid cooler bundle for £150. The Gigabyte motherboard I bought with it has proven very durable and came in at just over £50. RAM and hard drives are well priced as well.

    The price of the CPU, memory, hard drive. optical drive, cooler, case and motherboard came to around £400 which struck me as very well priced…

    I run it with an ATI 4850 graphics card and average around 80-110 FPS in Fallen Earth (current game of choice). If you need to upgrade the graphics card as well, the 4850 can be had for less than £100 now…

    Good luck!

  3. Zoso Post author

    Thanks for the pointer to Cyberpower, I’m strongly tempted to use their UK branch or maybe Scan’s 3XS rather than self building to save some time.

    Mmm, the Phenom looks nice; I’d been looking at i5 or i7 CPUs, but a liquid cooler as well is tempting. Argh, more choice!

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