Gaming Rig – Finishing Touches

In this final part of the series, I’m going to finish choosing the parts for my new gaming rig. So far, we’ve got CPU, RAM and motherboard. These are very important parts of any computer, but we’re still missing some crucial pieces.

Graphics Card

This is the meat of a gaming rig, isn’t it? At the end of the day, your FPS (or “fips“) and gaming experience are largely dictated by your video card. And the field is huge. If I thought CPU model numbers arbitrary and RAM specs transparent as a battleship bulkhead, then this is the moment I’ve been dreading.

The last video card I bought

Back in the day, life was easy. ATI was only just finding their feet, so I was able to boil the choice down to Nvidia GeForce2 (easy on the wallet) or the GeForce3 (easy on the eyes). The current state of play is much more confusing. It’s still a toss-up between these two brands, but they sell so many models.

With a sigh, I start up the searches again. Once again, it’s Tom to the rescue with “Best Graphics Cards For The Money: June 2012“. Conveniently, this article is organized by price and tests each card against a number of benchmarking programs and games. Continue reading

Gaming Rig – Core components

So, having decided to build my own computer for the first time in almost a decade, I need to figure out what parts I’m going to buy, and how much I’m going to spend on them. In this first part, I’ll choose the three components that I think about when building any machine: the CPU, the memory, and the motherboard.


Let’s start at the heart of any computer. There are only two CPUs manufacturers in the PC market, and they’re probably much of a muchness. I’m going with Intel mainly because they’ve recently released a new line of processors (codenamed Ivybridge).

So far, Intel have only put out a limited range of Ivybridge chips, but I’m sure there will be something that suits my needs.

A nice feature of these Ivybridge chips is that the built-in HD Graphics 4000 module (apparently it’s called “discrete” despite being part of the chip) is quite beefy and supports DirectX 11, which is something my iMac can’t handle. Should I need to stretch my budget, I can take advantage of this by delaying the purchase of the video card. Continue reading

Gaming Rigs

Arcade Machines

It’s been a long time since I really cared about gaming hardware. Indeed, I got into console gaming and Macs partly to get out of the eternal upgrade cycle that comes with PC gaming. But then I got hooked into Lord of the Rings Online, and discovered that my iMac is a decent low/mid-range gaming machine.

I’ve been puttering along for over 12 months, and with a few exceptions, I have been quite satisfied with the performance I’ve gotten. And then, E3 came along with all its demos (which I have been ignoring), but I couldn’t quite pass up news of the Riders of Rohan update for LOTRO. Massively had this to say:

What really shined was how the character was able to roam the rolling fields of Rohan freely. Wherever the character walked, grass, weeds, and flowers reacted and gave way. When the character stepped into the Fangorn Forest, the light shining through the trees was very dynamic. It’s clear there was a strong graphical upgrade from previous versions.

Now, it’s a given that any update to a 5 year old game is going to seem miraculous, but it got me thinking: my iMac is two years old. For most tasks, it’s fine; the most strenuous non-gaming activity I put it through is basic photo work, and it’s more than adequate at that. Also, the ATI HD4670 is getting a little long in the tooth: it doesn’t support DirectX 11, and was kind of old and cheap when I bought the iMac (which was a recent model).

So I asked myself, “Assuming that I have the finances and will, what are my options?” Continue reading

PVR: Choosing a CPU

This is the first in a series of posts about choosing the right bits to build a Personal Video Recorder. A couple weeks back I decided that neither PlayTV nor TiVo really suited my needs, so I will be building my own.

It’s been a while since I looked at computer components, and the market has changed dramatically. Nowhere is this more evident than the CPUs. Originally, I had flagged a dual-core desktop chip like the Intel CoreDuo or an AMD Athlon II. However, there’s a new entrant to the CPU space: the Intel Atom that is at the heart of a lot of lightweight applications like netbooks, mobile phones, and media players. Continue reading

Touchy Feely

Having to go several days without one’s primary PC makes one appreciate anything that can help replace the lost functionality. And so I spent a very intense couple of days with my new iPod Touch.

This second generation is very sexy. I’ve been interested in upgrading my Nano for a while, but couldn’t justify the iPhone to myself. As an all-in-one package for media play and portable web access, it really is a great device. Continue reading