Hardware is a major concern for PC gamers, as opposed to console gamers that don't know and don't care what's under the hood. Like a soccer mom buying a minivan, if they can get from point A to point B without any hassle, they're satisfied. On the other hand, we spend almost as much time thinking about processors and graphics cards as we do the games we play. We're the motor heads, getting our hands dirty and tuning our finely-crafted machines for maximum performance. New parts can extend the life of a computer, but like a car, eventually you'll have to scrap the whole thing and start fresh...
The last new computer I put together was more than two and a half years ago during the Editor's Challenge here on FiringSquad. Having made it to the final round of competition, I scored a bunch of free hardware to write about. I went on to win that contest, which led to me doing game reviews now, but I digress... Much of that stuff was high enough quality that it, combined with the best of what I already had, has lasted me until now.
I upgraded my video card to an 8800 GTS during the summer of '08, which marked the only time other than for my very first build that I didn't buy a top-of-the line, ~$500 GPU. So, while it was definitely an improvement over my old X1900 XT, it was like using bubble-gum instead of concrete to plug the hole in a dam. Lucky for me, I was recently provided a GeForce GTX 275 that helped with testing 3D Vision and Physx as well as playing the newest games. However, performance wasn't my only problem.
Various issues had been cropping up throughout the past year, including but not limited to the following:
- Case wearing out, side-panels coming apart, door warping
- Fans too loud, older ones grinding and/or squeaking
- Sound bugging out, causing BSODs or failing and requiring restart to fix
- SATA drives randomly failing, requiring restart or use of different SATA port
I think the root cause of most of my woes was that I had many aging components in the mix... Needless to say, I wanted to wash my hands of this machine and build an entirely new one. The first step was to figure out exactly what I was going to buy beyond that. I read articles and reviews on sites like FS and Anandtech to narrow it down to a line of products, then use Newegg to figure out which specific part is appropriate. The latter's well-organized and informative product pages, as well as plethora of customer reviews, are very useful in determining the composition of a build and also in getting an idea as to pricing.