As alluded to in a couple of past posts, a new CPU has shown up at our house. My four year old, giant purple Alienware box is on its way out of my home office, replaced by a new contendor.
Before I start off, somebody is going to be tempted to take me to task for not building the new machine myself.
I actually offered, when talking this purchase over with my wife, to save some money and build it myself.
The response was along the lines of her being more inclined to spend the extra money than lose sight of me in my office for even more time than usual as I put together a new machine.
That decided, I had to make some choices. Building from scratch would have allowed me a little more leeway in features. Now I had to decide what I really wanted.
I came up with the list:
- Intel Q6600 Core 2 Quad Processor (Quad 2.4 GHz)
- Video card better than nVidia 8600 or ATI 2600
- 2GB of RAM
- Dual optical drives with at least one DVD burner
- Extra capacity power supply
- Windows XP Professional
- Price under $2K
Things that did not concern me:
- Sound Cards (I have a tin ear)
- Fancy lit cases
- Keyboards, mice, accessories
- Software beyond the OS
I went looking through reviews and such as well as the configuration tools of the various vendors of gaming PCs to find what I needed.
I looked at:
- Dell: I couldn’t get the items I wanted without a lot of extras that drove the price up. Plus Dell has screwed over the buyers of their gaming systems in the past… and continues today according to some reports.
- Alienware: Same problem with pricing and they are now owned by Dell. Plus, everybody I know (3 people) who purchased an Alienware since I got mine back in 2001 has had problems.
- Falcon Northwest: I have a friend who swears by his, but broke the budget again.
- Voodoo: What Curt Schilling drives when he plays, but seriously broke the budget. They have gone seriously up market since last I was buying a machine.
- Hypersonic: Close, but the video card options were all high end, going over my price point.
- Various companies in game mags: Pricing seemed to be right, but searching the web tended to show unhappy customers.
In the end, I went with Velocity Micro. They seem to get pretty decent reviews and their low end gaming system, the Gamers’ Edge 1500, came with all the bits I wanted, allowed me to delete the ones I did not, and came in at the right price.
I ordered it up and it arrived late last week and now its silver aluminum case sits where my big purple Alienware used to live.
In the video card department I went with the nVidia 8800 GT with 512MB of video RAM. I had thought about the ATI x2900 that was also offered, but it required the 850W power supply (for just one card!), cost a over $200 more, and I have read that it has some heat issues. (With all that power consumption, I shouldn’t wonder.)
I did go with the 850W power supply all the same, for future upgrades. The motherboard (An ASUS P5N-E SLI) supports SLI, so I should be set for that route should I want to take it in the future.
I also added on every additional cooling or fan option they offered. That put me just at the limit price-wise, but heat is what kills computers.
It was quite something to have a new CPU with nothing on it. If you have ever bought a Dell, you know how much crap PC vendors can shovel onto a new system. My mother-in-law’s Dell laptop came with layers of demo apps and the like.
I spent some time loading up a few things. EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, World of Warcraft, Microsoft Office 2003 (save me from Office 2007 please!), Skype, Trillian, Firefox, and PaintShop Pro all went onto the system, being items I use daily.
I actually just copied over EVE and WoW from my old drive and both ran fine. I installed EQ2 from the Echoes of Faydwer DVDs and then copied over the new files from Kunark and let it update from there. EverQuest I installed from scratch, because it was not running on my old system, and let it patch.
And everything runs just brilliantly.
Two boxing EVE, which used to really give my old system a work out, is now as smooth as silk. Task Manager shows two of the cores working away with EVE and the other two just ticking along handling all the house keeping and such.
EQ2, which was a bit taxing… I would never dream of two-boxing it on my old system… runs as crisp as can be now. I have not change the video settings much, but it is much more responsive at the same settings.
WoW… well, WoW ran just fine before, having low system requirements, so it is hard to tell the difference.
And EverQuest? The release notes for Secrets of Faydwer said that they made EQ multi-core aware so that multiple copies being run on the same system would all try to affinitize with their own cores. I couldn’t test that, but it runs and it runs very smoothly. I think I could quad box EQ in four 800×600 windows on my 1600×1200 monitor.
So now if I ever get the urge to try Vanguard, I think I might be ready.
Of course, not everything is perfect. Their cable routing in the case, while admirably neat, is also so tight that it was all I could do to pull a power drop far enough off the wrappings to spin up an additional hard drive that I wanted to add to the system. (The one with all my data and such from the old machine.)
And then I found out that they set up the SATA interface for raid, and since my old drive did not match the current drive, I couldn’t get it to mount. In the end I had to go get a cheap USB 2.0 external case for that drive to get things moved over.
And there was the usual annoyance of starting up Windows XP for the first time, which involved typing in a long string of letters and number which were printed in teeny, tiny, eye-strain font size on a sticker on the bottom corner of the back of the case which was already shoved in the darkest corner of my office.
Still, the system is sweet. It boots up and shuts down lighting fast… almost as fast as the iMac. Windows XP can actually seem light on its feet when it is fresh and the registry hasn’t been bogged down by the installation and removal of dozens of games and applications.
I hope it will stay sweet for the next four years. It will have to last at least as long as the system it replaced.