When browsing the internet for information on a new system build, it’s important to remember one very critical thing. The internet is full of bullshit. Deftly navigating the river of bullshit to fish out the useful information takes years of practice. Here are a few things I’ve learned that will hopefully help you. A lot of this is just simple psychology with easy-to-follow examples.
Bunkering is when people take sides on a particular matter and dig themselves in behind mighty fortifications that prevent contrary facts from getting in. People love to Bunker. I’m sure you know people who are die-hard followers of a particular political party and will support it no matter the circumstances. Hell, maybe this describes you yourself. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. People love to feel like they’re part of something. Most people aren’t actually part of anything besides the staff of Sears and maybe a bowling team. So we align our opinions with and join the camp of an ideology we find appealing.
The reason this makes no sense in computer parts is this: in this case all you are doing to ally yourself with these corporations is to pick column A or column B and click “buy.” Although your money does affect the greater success of the product, it is in no way as personal as a vote. These companies don’t give two bantha turds what you think as long as you buy their products. They don’t care how much fun your son is having with his new PC and therefore they would not hesitate to cut the production quality of the parts you bought without warning. They even call these things “calculated risks.” How many people will they piss off with a few RMAs vs. the money they could invest in another product to win them back?
Basically any time you go into a forum about parts and see “brand-x is always better than brand-y blah blah blah” you should disregard any further posts by that author. The following paragraph is an excellent (and long-winded) anecdote on why, feel free to skip it if you take my words for it.
When I started building PCs as a small boy in the mid 90s, the CPU war was between IBM and Cyrix. Long story short, Cyrix’ assets were bought by AMD in 1997 and IBM only survives making game console CPUs after losing the Apple contract. What I’m getting at is it doesn’t matter so much now if brand x or y is better, you can’t buy either one, no matter how much you invested in them before. As far as Intel and AMD, these two are nothing but companies which began as knock-off versions of IBM’s x86 design. Since their older siblings went under, much like the Greek gods they have descended into petty contests and squabbles. To anyone who says that Intel is superior to AMD because of the last 4 year cycle I say this: Was the 2003 Pentium 4 better than the AMD FX-51? No it wasn’t, look it up if you have to. In both the 2000-04 cycle and the 04-08 cycle, AMD dominated Intel in both price and performance. In the previous 2 cycles in the 1990s Intel dominated. Another interesting fact is that each time one brand is dominant, the other brand makes a comeback by securing contracts in the mobile, business and low end markets (see Intel 2006-7 or AMD in 2010-11). Right now we are seeing AMD reap the benefits of dominating the mobile and low-end markets with their APUs. Although the Bulldozer platform was nothing more than a red-herring to buy time (hey, kinda like the Pentium D and Core1), Trinity is going to be what Ivy Bridge should have been. A system-on-chip CPU that actually realizes the idea. So basically, if you are an Intel fanboy, you should seriously consider what you actually owe to a company you cannot even name the executives of.
PC Professionals Don’t Pay for Parts
Always keep in mind that you need to heavily salt the opinions of any PC journalist or person in the PC industry for this reason alone: they pay little or nothing for their parts. It’s easy for them to say “why wouldn’t you spend the extra XX dollars?” because they never did. PC journalists especially sit atop their mountain of free parts, sent to them for review purposes and tell you that you need to spend at least $200 on a CPU to be taken seriously. Fuck them. You had to earn that money and you could spend it on food, gas or medical care. Another thing to be mindful of is people who build systems will sit there and brag about a system they have with a $500 dollar CPU, failing to mention that the customer is picking it up next week. Sure they can post benchmarks, the pissing contest will be long over and the topic closed by the time they no longer have it.
Once again, we must go to psychology and common sense for an explanation. People want other people to think they are cool or in this case “elite.” Having a rare car, a fast motorcycle or a costly PC can earn you cred in certain circles. Other angry nerds, who probably got their PCs from their rich parents, love to line up behind some asshole who makes average Joes with cheap PCs feel worthless. He does this for no reason other than it makes him (or her) feel big. In reality, they are probably not big. Unlike myself and Charlie Sheen, they possess neither Tiger Blood nor Adonis DNA. They hide behind avatars that don’t show how skeevy they look and have names that usually include the words “lord” or “master.” Once again I’m going to use an easy to relate anecdote that shines some light on reason.
Say for example you had $120 to spend on a graphics card and you had correctly chosen the AMD HD 6790. If you were to go on any forum, PC snobs would tell you that you have to invest another $20 on a 6850 because it is an immensely superior card and “really the cheapest card that can be taken seriously.” They would show you a bunch of colored bars that display how the 6850 is so much better in every way. Now let’s take a look at those little colored bars. It seems to say here that we’re looking at a difference of 93 vs. 97 frames per second. So what you’re saying to me PC snobs, is that for $20 I must have 4 display frames per second -which I might add is above my monitor’s max refresh rate and well above my eye’s “shutter-speed”- to be considered “cool” by your standards? Once again fuck you. I could spend that 20 dollars ordering a pizza for myself and friends. I could fill half of my Honda’s tiny gas tank. I could even buy a small bag of that green herb that makes your status normal. All of these things would provide me more karma and enrichment than an imperceptible difference in my PC’s graphics performance. The same is true for CPUs, hard-drives etc. Always notice that the benchmarks of any modern parts are way above what you need for modern apps. Future proof? That’s a laugh. Save the money and replace everything in 6 months and you will not only save money overall, but have better performance consistently. Since I adopted this philosophy, I have always had a capable PC and sold each one at a decent price to a happy buyer, which enabled me to build the next one for near nothing. Many people still today are playing on my PCs of yesteryear. Because they were the right choice then and at the right price, they’re the right choice now.
What do YOU need?
What are you actually trying to do? If you’re like me, you bought a new game, got hooked on it and now you must max out it’s graphics settings.
So stop at that. If you had bought the best PC available in 2004 and upgraded only the RAM and GPU once each, you could still play World of Warcraft at decent settings. For reference this would be a Pentium D, Extreme or Athlon 64 X2 CPU. That’s 8 freaking years later. If you are any kind of PC gamer, you buy 2-3 systems in that time. On a system of decent specs built in 2010 you could easily play RIFT or SWTOR right now at decent settings. I know this for a fact because several of my friends (Core2quad 2.6 and GTX260, Athlon II 250 and 9800GTX, Phenom X4 and GTX 260 Max OC) have done so recently.
I think I’ve already mentioned my philosophy on future-proofing in the last section, so assuming you read it, I’ll wrap this up quickly. Find out reliably what parts will run your chosen game at 60-75 frames-per-second and buy them as cheaply as possible. Completely disregard any fears of parts wearing out over time, because you are going to upgrade before even the crappiest parts would fail. As a result, you will always have a system that plays your chosen games flawlessly and only need to upgrade it as often as those games change. If all you want is a new system to run the aging World of Warcraft at maxed settings, do not let some asshole convince you this could possibly cost more than $500. I don’t care what new improvements are being made, the graphics engine of the world’s most successful game will never require above what the average user has.
In conclusion I would just like to impart a few things that will be easy to hold in your memory.
-No brand has ever been universally better forever. Ask your grandpa what Oreo cookies and Coke tasted like in his day for an idea.
-Be mindful of the character of the person giving the advice. Someone who has a bullying and critical demeanor is in it for their ego, not for you. Anyone who tells you your system is cool as long as it’s a good deal is a true Good Samaritan.
-Don’t get your feelings hurt or let your competitive spirit get the best of you. Some of these people are online just to beat you. That’s what it means to be a “troll.” You lurk in wait for innocent passerbys who have legitimate business and waylay them with pointless cruelty.
-Always sleep on it. I say this from experience. It is way too easy to wake up one morning wanting a new WoWbox and waking up the next with an iMac, less $1200 and still not happy with your framerates. People will talk you into all sorts of crap you don’t need if you let them get ahold of your emotions.
Good luck young Jedi and may the Force be with you.