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New Computer 2011 – Part II

July 10, 2011

[Originally written at the mine, sometime in mid or early July]

Alright, so I’ve got new “plans” as far as a new computer.

The reason I’m posting this is because I /am/ going to buy a new computer (by the time I post this I will likely have already bought it and will be playing the heckout of my games on it).

I got into Rift recently, as I posted about, but it runs very poorly on my two machines, even on the lowest settings possible. I doubt it’s as much the game as much as it is me… moreover, I can’t run many of my new games very well on either of my computers. My lovely TM2 is simply underpowered (1.6 GHz with mid-range portable graphics card circa 2010?); and my old warhorse, the GateWay P-7811 FX is overheating, so it doesn’t matter how fast it is – it has become the family media PC. After seeing some videos of what Rift looks like on some better PCs, it has convinced me that I need to upgrade. Absolutely /need/ to upgrade. Remember those snarky comments I made about Rift not looking very good? The fact of the matter is that Rift is gorgeous on a good system. I bet /most/ current-gen games are, I just can’t tell because I play my games on “old” laptops. <smirk>

Ultimately I would /really/ like to get a great gaming /laptop/ for use at the mine, however gaming laptops are simply too expensive, and laptop gaming technology hasn’t advanced very far, at least in comparison to desktop gaming equivalents. As far as the Falcon Fragbox goes – I’ve found that I’d mostly be paying for the case, since I can get the same hardware for about half the price elsewhere; moreover it’d /still/ be too delicate to travel with me on the plane, since I’m only allowed one carry-on, really. If I checked it as baggage, it’d be destroyed. I’ve seen how those baggage handlers work – and they treat luggage throwing, slamming, spiking, and dropping like it’s an olypmic sport, or as if they were being paid to trash people’s stuff. It makes me wonder if they /aren’t doing it for fun/, because of how bad the job must be. <shrug> Anyway, I am in the market for a new computer, and laptops are out, as are desktops.

During a recent trip to Best Buy* for some odds-and-ends I took a stroll through their PC department. I was SHOCKED how cheap decent desktops are these days. Maybe they always had been and I haven’t noticed… maybe it’s just the bad taste a $2500 desktop left in my mouth from 1998, since it basically became garbage just a few years later. But decent /looking/ desktops are in the ~$1000 price range. I figured that this couldn’t be right, so I started to do some research.

I have about $250 in store credit at NewEgg, so I looked into buying from them, but they only sell weird, gaming-ish computers that get low reliability reviews and parts. Parts wouldn’t be bad, except I actually like having a real OS license for product updates… and windows is NOT cheap anymore. I remember buying Windows 95 for like $50 back when it came out. <shrug> After looking at their summer parts sales and doing some math, I’d basically be paying /more/ to build the same PC if I payed for Windows 7.

I’m kind of rambling here, but I want to hash out my thought process so I don’t forget; I found this particularly useful when shopping for my other computers and parts.

Modern CPU and GPU numbering conventions are simply /screwed/, if you ask me. There’s almost no sense to it. It’s not like BMWs numbering system, where the first number is the body type and the second is the motor size… comptuer part makers simply throw numbers together. The only “indicator” of performance seems to be the price tag, I swear to high heaven – this is particularly true of video cards, which scale more linearly than CPUs, which scale more geometically (i.e. price grows exponentially beyond a certain point).

All I know is, that based on bunches of research (thank you Google!), and mostly some Anandtech articles and TomsHardware charts, I figured out that I want a Core i7 2600 or 2600K, or the Core i5 equivalent, and I want a video card that scores “Okay” numbers.

I looked at what Best Buy* was selling at the moment, and all of the Core i7 machines come with terrible video cards, and none of them were the 2500 anyway… So, I’d end up having to pony up a bit of cash just to catch up, while the Core i7 2600 machines actually come with an “Okay” video card, the ATI 6770 / 5770. After hunting and pecking, I found the machine that I want, and it’s in-stock all around town. Nice… That’s why I think I’ll already have it in my living room by the time that I actually get to post this blog entry.

*About Best Buy: Well, I’m kind of biased because it’s /really/ the only “big chain” computer store in my town, at /all/, ever since Circuit City took a financial dive a few years back, and the CompUSA stores in my town shut down. All that we have left are BestBuys and little, itsy, bitsy Mom-and-Pop computer stores, which I have had /terribad/ experiences with over the years. While I’d like to support the local mom-and-pop stores in my town, the staff tends to be nothing but pompus computer nerds that sell pirated copies of Windows at full price (hello Alpine Computers, circa 1999), used parts, and overcharge for any computer service. And God forbid you buy a full computer from them and they go out of business, you are /screwed/ as far as warranty or service goes. <sigh>

Anyway… flash-forward to 2008 or so, and I buy myself a kick-ass gaming laptop from Best Buy for an unreasonably low price. I got a lemon, unfortunately, as it would BSOD every 10 to 45 minutes. I did basic trouble-shooting on it before giving up, and I took it back to Best Buy. I spoke with a CSR for about five minutes before he got his boss. I explaind everything again to that guy, fully expecting the guy to just ignore my issue (as most stores have in the past) or to run me through some long, drawn-out “policy plan” where they ship my comptuer away for two months only to have it come back broken again… Nope. At first the guy /was/ going to run a diagnostic test before giving me a brand new one, but after hearing me explain the issue and what steps I took to try to resolve the issues he realized I knew what I was talking about and simply got me a brand new one. NICE. I’ve never had that quick of a turn-around for a return that cost over $100, nonetheless well over $1000. That laptophas run well since then, other than it’s well-past-warranty heating issues. As such, I’ve been a “loyal-ish” Best Buy customer ever since, and have had nothing but good experiences with the products I’ve bought and the service I’ve recieved.

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