There comes a time in the course of a computer geek’s computing that he (or she) realizes that upgrading has been put off for WAY too long. That time came the other night as the desktop started choking on HD episodes of Lost, sputtering to a halt as it struggled to find enough CPU power to turn the bits into video. Granted, this only happened about 1-2 times per episode, but it seems like such a basic task. How could I, a certified computer nerd, have gotten to a point where the Tower O’ Power lets out a mere whimper?
I’ll admit, it’s been a while since this PC saw an upgrade. It was pretty close to top-end when I built it in the summer of 2003 though the only upgrades it’s seen since then have been a newer video card and a ton of storage space. This may not seem like a long time to most non-techies, but it’s considered a small eternity when talking about PC capabilities. I didn’t consider it a problem until my actual non-gaming usage started to be impacted.
Price can’t really be a factor either. When I could do a cheap and simple upgrade, building or buying a new system just didn’t make financial sense. Upgrading now involves a lot more than it used to. Instead of picking up a new CPU, motherboard and possibly memory, I’m also going to have to go for a newer power supply (the old ATX12V just doesn’t cut it anymore) and pony up for a new video card (AGP has given way to PCI-E). I’d also have to ditch my old UDMA-100 drives for newer SATA ones. By that point I’m only keeping one of my hard drives and replacing the rest of the guts. This puts me a stone’s throw from just building an entirely new PC. So now I’m researching and browsing on many sites like, GamingBuff.com to get my finger on the pulse again.
This brings me to a conundrum. Since my first hand-me-down computer from my grandfather (a glorious 286 running at 20MHz), I’ve always built my own computers. Not only was it much cheaper, but I enjoyed knowing that I had hand-picked every part and put it together with painstaking attention to detail. I still enjoy the idea of building a new PC to replace this one, but I’m lured by the siren song of Apple.
Back in the day, Macs were more expensive than PCs and mainstream programs just didn’t run on them. They were a niche solution to my mainstream (read: gaming) needs. This changed when Apple decided to start using Intel processors, the same type that powers PCs. Suddenly a Mac could run Windows AND MacOS, the best of both world. Then Parallels entered the realm and I could run my Windows programs in MacOS without even rebooting. It’s like some kind of computer nerd’s wildest fantasy.
Thus my dilemma: a Mac would come with a very powerful combination of software and hardware whereas a custom-built PC would give me more of the hardware features I want. It’s the difference between buying a Porsche or rebuilding an old Mustang that could perform about as well. You’ll have a lot more fun doing the rebuild yourself, but it’ll never be a Porsche.