GamePC Raptor Review
While Tim Allen's "more power" approach might be wrong for power tools, there's no such thing as "too fast" when it comes to computers. It doesn't matter whether you're a Quakeaholic and never want your worst-case framerate to drop below 120, or if you're just a regular user that needs the extra speed to run the latest and greatest business app bloat-ware.
In short, the need to upgrade is always there. Of course, how to upgrade is a big question. For most computer-knowledgeable people, spending the time to look up reviews, prices and availability for their favorite parts is worth the trouble, and some may even enjoy it. Order all the parts from the internet, slap it all together and you have a new computer. When you build a system yourelf, you don't have to worry about getting a poor assembly job, or even the wrong parts from an OEM. It's all in your hands when you build a system from scratch.
Of course, there is the other option. You can go out and buy a Compaq or HP from your local store, or go online and get a Gateway or Dell. Why would you do this? Well, if anything goes wrong there's only one place to go to, and usually all the costs are covered by the warranty. Also, if you start experiencing problems, you can call tech support and have them hold your hand through it.
Both options, however, have their own sets of issues. The custom-made computer has no tech support outside of yourself, and returning parts (especially across the internet) can be a pain. Many stores charge a restocking fee if their testing finds nothing wrong with the part you're trying to return.
Worse, once you throw in software bundles and accessories, trying to build a comparable custom system isn't nearly as cost effective as buying a pre-built OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) system, since OEMs get good deals on parts and software because they buy in bulk quantities. The large tier-1 OEMs like Dell and Compaq actually contract out orders directly with the manufacturers.
Of course, going with an OEM isn't an easy decision either. OEM systems tend to be more expensive than custom systems. Many of OEM boxes feature all sorts of little gadgets that you can't opt out on, and they also come with substantial software bundles that are only good for a brief microwave fireworks display (MS Works, anyone?). If you don't want the extras, tough luck. You're going to pay for it anyway.
OEMs also have cost-cutting measures on their machines. Onboard sound, cheap motherboards, poor quality CD-ROMs and marginal RAM (i.e., slow memory that won't overclock very well) are common corners that OEMs cut when designing their offerings.
The L33t OEM
However, we've missed one kind of dealer - the performance OEMs. Companies like Falcon Northwest
, Alienware, and GamePC
all make finely tuned gaming machines that the larger OEMs would never dream of making. The market for high-end gaiming machines is too small for the likes of Dell, but the market is still large enough for several specialized OEMs. GamePC was kind enough to send us their Raptor system for review, and let's get this out of the way first: the Raptor definitely isn't your mother's Dell.