High-end PCs are really affordable these days



My current rig (top: stock picture, bottom: what my version looks like with all the LED lighting from the front fan and the MSI mobo. Ah Bengish, but subtle. I like.) 

I’ve been trying to remember how many different PCs I had over the years.

My first one came at the end of Sec One (1989), a really memorable green and beige Datamini Intel 286 (16Mhz, 1MB RAM, 20MB HDD), which was later upgraded to a Intel 486DX (33MHz?) in Sec 4. That PC was my golden age of PC gaming – all the Police Quest, Bitmap Bros, Space Harrier and Sim City goodness…

The 286 was really expensive, easily over $3,500 then.

I don’t believe I had another PC until 1997, when I offered my mum to pay half the price of a new computer with the then bleeding-edge Rendition Verite 3D chip just to play Quake and Tomb Raider in true 3D.

The Rendition Verite was a combo 2D/3D card, and was truly a luxury to have. I later upsized the Rendition with another 3Dfx Voodoo card (remember those legendary cards?). I remember lying on my bed (which is now Isaac’s) and just looking at the Creative Voodoo sales brochure for the longest time.

After that, it becomes a blur, because that’s when I stopped buying off-the-shelf PCs and when Weizheng taught me how to assemble my own PC for the first time. Since then, I must have owned at least four or five different configurations, with each one being sold off after the sequel was built. Main focus then was on getting better graphics cards to deal with the games. These days, I play mainly console games, but I still hanker after a fast PC mainly for Photoshop and Illustrator uses, plus editing of HD videos of course.

Looking back, it’s amazing how prices have come down. Here’s what my latest configuration looks like and the estimated pricing (I can’t be bothered to look at the Fuwell receipt again):


Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 $529
(45nm Intel quad-core rawks man)
Corsair DDR-2 CL4 RAM 4GB $200
(I decided to stop buying cheap Kingston ValueRam for once, and yes, the Corsairs do provide better performance. The Vista memory performance rating jumped from 5.3 to the max of 5.9)
Leadtek Nvidia 9800GTX 512MB graphics card $510
(this is the real shocker, because an Nvidia GTX always cost $900 at previous launches. But it still won’t run Crysis perfectly at 1900×1200 resolution!)
MSI Neo2-FR motherboard $189
(a weirdly-designed board with two critical SATA ports blocked by my GTX, but well, it does the job and supports the Q9450 well)
500GB Seagate hard disks x 2 $280
Coolermaster CM 690 casing $130
(It’s gonna collect dust like siao with all the meshes but it’s my fave to date)
LG DVD burner with SATA connector $43
(yay, no more stupid and fat IDE cables)
TOTAL $1881


If you were to throw in a decent 22-inch Samsung widescreen LCD monitor, Microsoft keyboard and mouse, speakers, the whole setup still won’t bust $2400.

What’s the big deal you say, most of the retail shelves are selling desktops around that price too. But dudes, please note that the above configuration is considered pretty high-end. With Vista’s performance benchmarking, my PC reached max levels of 5.9 for all tested components and trust me when I say Vista feels as smooth as butter using this current rig. I couldn’t be happier in my nerd mode.

I went to Dell’s local online store and tried to configure the same – well, they don’t have the Intel Q9450 chip nor the 9800GTX at time of writing.

Of course, you could say high-end these days require Intel Extreme chips and water-cooling. Alf jus did that for his latest Digital Life article. But hullo, I’ve never overclocked my PC and never will, I’m not at the level of geekdom and I want a PC that won’t suddenly die on me from unexpected overheating.

Bottomline is that it’s become really affordable to build the PC of your dreams. In the past, no matter how much I spent on my PC, they were never good enough for next year’s games. Today, there is sheer abundance of power that won’t bust your wallet…provided you know where to find it, of course.

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