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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Kicking the PC (?)

I've been a PC gamer since those two terms got slapped together. Actually, to get real old school I was a TI gamer before that. While the Atari 2600 is probably responsible for making me a junkie, and the Intellivision for making me a believer ... the PC was always home for me in the end. Nothing could beat the horsepower and versatility of a PC game.

So why is it now, a month after I stupidly broke my rig, am I contemplating just trying to get the data off the hard drives and not getting it running again?

Well my cheapest solution is to buy a really low end 939 chip and just use the old, insufficient, cooling system I had before. That would run around $200. Course, that wouldn't solve any of the original problems which made the PC a pain and probably not long for this world (noise = open case, open case = cat hair + electricity ... do the math). Plus, I've clearly shown an inability to handle CPU installation well, so I'm taking a gamble. So the reasonable solution would be to replace the case, mobo and ventilation system as well - which brings us closer to $600 on the low end (but still using quality, quiet PC parts).

Now, here's the problem with that. I have an old Radeon 9700 which I hold dear to my heart. Course, that's an AGP card. Everything now is moving to PCI-E. nVidia just released SLI technology and ATI is following suit. So I could spend $600 on a setup which could become obsolete in about a year. Previously my rationale for having a high end machine was that I did development work on it ... but now I've grown accustomed to doing that work on the Mini. So the PC would mostly be for games now.

And for $600 I could get an XBox, a GameCube, a hefty amount of games and still set some aside for one of the upcoming consoles. That's about three times the current gaming power that I would have.

Chances are, I'll probably cave in - since I have some stuff invested with Windows XP anyway. However, I gotta say that the PC world doesn't do itself any favors by re-inventing the framework so often. I don't even think there's much out there that really uses the power of my AGP card yet. In other words, PC technology can become obsolete even before it's fully utilized. Consoles, on the other hand, continue to max out their technology until the next generation comes along.

This isn't a "Peecees drroool" rant, it's just a statement of frustration. In the next couple of months, the current consoles are going to plummet in price while the new kids come into town. The 360 and PS3 are, for a little while, lay shame to PC graphics for a fraction of the cost. Then, when dual core chips and dual video cards come down to reasonable levels, the PCs will probably be back towards the top. The advantage of PC's is supposed to be their "standards based architecture" as I keep hearing it called, and yet those standards change like the tides. So people trying to assemble a PC are always stuck in between this issue of "what's acceptable right now" and "what's a path for the future" ... and the rewards for both seem somewhat limited.


A. LaMosca said...

I've officially decided to no longer keep my PC hardware current. When it's too slow to run anything well, I'll buy whatever cheap, outdated components are needed to just barely get the job done. The point is, I'm no longer treating it like a gaming rig.

It's a cost issue. Like you, I could buy all three current-gen consoles for the amount of money it'd take to upgrade my video card to the latest bleeding-edge model. And soon I'll be able to buy one of the next-gen supercomputer consoles for a fraction of the cost it would take me to put together a high-end PC that probably wouldn't run games as well.

I'm not a PC hater either, but when you do the math, gaming is a much cheaper hobby if you stick to the consoles, especially considering the fact that you can rent console games.

Hieronymus @ The Game Chair said...

Well, I certainly wouldn't buy a PC purely to play games! As you say, the consoles do a much better job at that. But I also wouldn't worry about an AGP card being obsolete - just because newer technology (PCI Express) is available doesn't automatically mean that current tech (AGP) won't work very well for the foreseeable future. I saw a very nice Toshiba laptop on sale at CompUSA (3.0 ghz chip, etc) for under $1000. Not too bad for something that does alot more than just play games.

Josh said...

That's the advice I think I'm going with guys. I'm not going to pimp this thing out so that it can play Doom 4, should it ever arise - but I can still use it to do a Windows build of Torque and play games from this generation.

Then if the industry wants me to be playing PC games in 2007, I guess they should keep making AGP cards.

Josh said...

In the end, I got something for really cheap.