PC gaming is an expensive mistress. Since Sam was born I’ve managed to play on the cheap by buying older games, but the time finally came when my old computer was too …old. When a typical first person shooter started looking like a slideshow, I knew it was time to upgrade. And with must-have titles like Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and The Sims 2 (one of these things is not like the others…), I had to upgrade.
What I got wasn’t top of the line. Instead, I went with my tried-and-true system of buying near the top of the line, but not quite there. Maybe around the 75th percentile. I also decided that I didn’t want to just upgrade parts of my existing system or go through the trouble of building a system from scratch. I’ve done both of those things before, and while I probably could have saved some money by doing so (and earned some l337 bragging points), I decided it would fail to outweigh the cost in terms of time, trouble, and anxiety required to make sure I bought all the right pieces and fit them together properly. I wanted a solution where I could just unpack the thing, plug it in, and go.
So once I had the money earmarked, I watched sites like Gotapex.com until one of the major retailers announced a deal that was too good to pass up. I ended up going with a Dell Dimension 4600. Here’s a before and after comparison:
Old and Tired
Athlon 1.1 GHz
256 MB of some kind
GeForce Ti4600 (128 MB)
CD Burner, DVD Drive
Crappy built-in to MoBo
New and Randy
Pentium 4 2.8 GHz
512 MB DDR SDRAM
ATI Radeon 9800 PRO (128 MB)
CD Burner, DVD Drive
64 MB thumb drive
Sound Blaster Live! card
I’m keeping the same keyboard (Microsoft Natural Multimedia), mouse (5-button Intellimouse Explorer), and monitor (a 19-inch Trinitron CRT). The monitor is getting kind of tired, but I really don’t want to bother upgrading until I can get at least a 17-inch flat-panel LCD (preferably 19- or 20-inch), and those run several hundred dollars. That’s next, though!
Another thing to notice is that this new rig has no floppy drive. No floppy drive! I got the 64 MB USB thumb drive instead, which holds about as much as 45 floppy disks. I remember mocking the iMacs when they first eschewed the floppy disk, but that was at a time when thumb drives were practically nonexistent and CD-ROM burners were rare. Time to get with the future!
The rig came yesterday and I set it up, easy as advertised. It’ll probably take me weeks to download and install and configure things to get them just right, but in the meantime I’m playing around with it. One of the first things I did was run a benchmarking program to compare the speeds of the two systems. I used 3DMark, which gives you a score for each system.
- Old and Tired: 1,411
- New and Sexy: 5,720
Not really a score to brag about relative to the monster machines I know are out there, but that’s over a 300% improvement. Whee! It’s not really a fantastically impressive system, but I got a pretty good deal on it and it’s a big improvement.
One of the things I was most worried about was that the computer would come bloated with annoying junk programs and trial versions of this or that. It had been my past experience that these pre-built systems were plagued by such things. I had even considered just reformatting the hard drive as soon as I got the thing. I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find that I only had to delete a couple of things (e.g., icky MusicMatch) and tweak a few settings before everything was just peachy. The much more difficult part is downloading and installing from CD the hundred and one little programs I used on my old rig.
But tonight, Doom 3.