Thursday, December 13, 2007

December 13, 2007
How much did you, or do you intend to spend on your new gaming computer?
Are you going for a PC, Mac, Linux? Desktop of Laptop? Will you build it yourself, or buy a prefab from the store?

There's a dozen more questions you can ask yourself, and most people won't know the answer to at least half fo them.
So, where to start? How much are you willing to spend?

Dell has just come up with this little promo in the hope of attracting some Horde and Alliance players to their new XPS laptops.
The estimate price of this system at the time of writing this is about $4,499, or about €3000, and they still offer you about $2000 worth of expansions and upgrades that you "could" add to it.
Are you willing to spend $6000 on a gaming pc, that will be outdated in less than a few monts? Even though you get a pretty awesome coupon with it.
Are laptops any good for gaming to begin with? Personally i don't think so.

Call me a critic, but why spend $5000 on a laptop that is "guaranteed" perform less than a desktop with the same specs, and the desktop will only cost you about $2000 ?

Let's take a look at the 2 options.

Benefits of a laptop :
* It's mobile, you could work upstairs, downstairs, etc.
* Doesn't take much space on your desk.
* Laptops use about 1/3 the power of a desktop, thus reducing the overall cost over time.
* You could combine your home / work computer in 1.
* Less sound production than a desktop (cooling fans), some laptops are very noticeable though.

Cons of a laptop :
* If any part breaks you'll need to send the "entire" thing to the repair guy, instead of just the broken part. You'll be without your computer for weeks.
* Heat generation. Especially high end laptops have a tendency to get really hot, making it close to impossible to really use as a "lap-top" and slouch on the couch. Basically they're to be used as desktops.. on a desk.
* Upgrading parts is almost impossible.
* Ergonomics, laptop keyboards are horrible to work on imo, and you'll want to get an external keyboard and mouse at the very least. But, you won't be dragging that keyboard around with you everywhere.
* Wireless networking is great if it's secure, but a major liability otherwise.
* You're stuck with a LCD / TFT monitor, which has it's own disadvantages. As long as those aren't widely available at 1:ms refresh times, i'd personally prefer CRT.

Benefits of a desktop :
* More power for less cost
* Parts are easy to upgrade, and a lot cheaper than the laptop variations. You can easily replace your monitor, diskdrive, memory, keyboard or mouse.
* Room to upgrade, you can buy a different main/motherboard get a bigger case, and add 2 video cards if you wished to do so.
* If you find your desktop to be too loud, you can change the cooling devices to suit your needs. Water cooling, bigger fans, etc.

Cons of a desktop :
* Noise, desktops can be quite loud if you don't have the proper parts for it.
* Bulky and immobile. Ofcourse you can drag is up and downstairs all you like, but not many people do.

And finally reliability.
* The average desktop lasts 2-5 years. Mine's working ok enough for about 6 years now, but it's time to find a replacement sometime soon.
* The average laptop lasts 2-3 years. Your battery, keyboard, and most likely your monitor will be the first to give up on you.
A major benefit of desktops mentioned earlier, is that its easy to replace or upgrade parts to improve their lifespan.

The investment
So, how much are you planning to spend? 1000? 2000? more?
Keeping in mind the 2-3-5 years rule, desktops are a lower cost per month of it's lifetime.
Looking at an example of Moore's Law applied to intel technologies.
Currently we're looking at the 45nm processors, in 2 years we'll be able to buy them with 32 nm, and another 2 years later they'll be baked with a 22nm process to allow even more transistors and more speed.
Intel sure isn't slowing down anytime soon. As faster processors become available, older ones are made cheaper.

So, what to buy? The latest tech, or something a year or 2 older?

I would suggest setting an estimate of 1500-2000 for buying new computers, but it really depends on your own budget.
There really isn't a lot of point in buying the absolute latest high tech material "today" if 1 year later you can get the same tech for half the price.
Building your own computer is very cost effective, but if you have no clue at all what to put into it, you might end up spending more than you would by simply buying a premade one from the store. If you got a smart cousin or friend that does this for a living, i recommend asking him. It might save you 500-1000, or simply get you a much faster computer.

For example, at about €1139 you can get a Dell XPS 420 ready made and delivered to your doorstep.
* Intel® Core2 Quad (2,40 GHz, 8 MB, 1.066 MHz), 4G ram, 2x250Gb HD Raid 0, Vista(ugh), 256 MB nVidia™ GeForce 8600GTS, DVD Burner, no monitor though.

For the same money, you could build yourself a PC with
* Intel® Core2 Quad (2,40 GHz, 8 MB, 1.066 MHz), 4G ram, 720Gb HD, Windows XP (ftw), 512 MB ATI Radeon™ X1950 Pro, DVD Burner, CD Burner, and again no monitor.

If you're Dutch i'd recommend looking at sometime, alternatively there's Tom's Hardware to help you out configure and sort trough available hardware products and providers.

For ready made products you could look at Dell, HP, Gateway, Apple and probably dozens of others.