Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My New PC: To Build or Buy?

To Build of Course.

I've had the bug to upgrade my home PC for the past several months. To be honest, it is since the game Oblivion was published. My PCs were all old, and were mid range when I bought them several years ago.

The best of the lot could only run Oblivion at the lowest resolution and with all graphics settings turned off. Oblivion is still a great game, but every time I heard rave's about the Oblivion graphics engine, I was tempted a bit more.

I spent many hours pouring over the new Computer Shopper ads and looking with envy at Dell's every new announcement of an XPS 600 or the new XPS 700 killer gaming rigs. But I couldn't bring myself to spend $2500 - 4000 for a killer rig. And, I couldn't find a midrange system that made the right compromises, so I kept putting it off.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on the article: http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/05/10/dual_41_ghz_cores/

which talks about overclocking a $130 Pentium 805 Dual core processor from the 2.67 base speed all the way up to 4.1 GHZ.

While I've never tried overclocking a PC before, I decided to give it a try. To make it more interesting, I convinced my 16 year old son to get involved, and made this a father son project.

I'm not going to go for the extremes that the article goes for, but I am going to try overclocking it a bit and see if I can't turn this into a very solid mainstream pc that can handle Oblivion.

Warning: Spoiler Coming...

I'll publish a few more articles on the intermediate process, but on this Sunday (Father's day here in the US) my son and I put together our first PC. It was up and running in about 3 hours and is doing very well. And it was a success as the weak point in my system for Oblivion is now my 3 year old LCD panel, not the base PC. (Ah well, now I can move on to monitor envy).

We've moved from playing Oblivion with all graphics turned to the lowest settings at a resolution of 640X480 to all graphics settings enhancements turned to high and a resolution of 1280X 1024 and it still plays better. And, Oblivion's graphics are as awesome as the raves claimed even on a 3 year old LCD Panel.

The hardware without mouse, monitor and keyboard cost me a total of $900. Performance is dramatically better than anything that I have access to at work, and it cost a lot less than some of those machines.

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