My Existential Problem With Gaming Rigs

Here’s my problem: I’m at the point where I’m thinking of getting a new computer, and all things being equal, I’d like to get something that’s tricked out to a reasonable degree, so I can play all the ginchy new computer games at near-max frame rates; which is to say I want a gaming rig. What keeps me from buying a gaming rig, however, is that almost without exception they look absolutely idiotic, like pimped-out nerd versions of rice burners. And just as I don’t need neon runners on my car, neither do I need my computer to glow extraneously. I want it to run programs, quietly, efficiently and without throwing off any more electromagnetic radiation than is absolutely necessary.

As an example of this problem, note the picture above, of CyberPower PC’s “Lan Party Commander.” Leaving aside the name of the PC, which screams “I am encrusted in the residue of Cheetos and Mountain Dew,” this rig is one of the more subtly-designed of the gaming rigs CyberPower puts together, and it still looks like a cooling tower at Chernobyl. If I walk into a room and something is glowing like this thing is, my first instinct is to dive toward the lead shielding.

This is not to bag on CyberPower in particular — as it happens, my current computer is a CyberPower rig, and it’s given me fine service for almost three years. They make good gaming computers. But three years ago, when I bought this rig, it was still possible to specify the computer get put into a tower that didn’t telegraph that the owner’s complete inability to find and keep compatible sexual partners. It really doesn’t seem to be the case any more.

Nor is it just CyberPower — every gaming rig maker houses them in ridiculous towers that glow and/or look like alien skulls and/or have silk screened pictures of exploding ewoks (or whatever) on the side. The only one that really doesn’t is Falcon Northwest, who gives their computers (relatively) understated brushed metal towers, as long as you can overlook their oversized logo. But Falcon Northwest is also under the opinion that $2,000 is a fine starting price for their “budget” rig. If I wanted to pay that much money for a brushed aluminum rig that didn’t make me feel like I was riding on the aesthetic shortbus, I’d just get a Mac Pro and have done with it.

To be fair, I understand that the primary market for gaming rig makers are 20something dudes with more credit card bandwidth than aesthetic common sense, so it makes sense for them to build their rigs this way. But it’s not really that much to ask for to have a single “bland box” tower option available for those of us don’t actually want their desks and walls bathed in a neon glow. I know, I’m boring. But I’m boring and I also have money to give to a PC company that doesn’t force me to look like a gaudy asshole because I want a gaming rig with decent frame rates. I’m too old for that now, and I say that proudly.

165 thoughts on “My Existential Problem With Gaming Rigs

  1. Personally, I am now a little disillusioned. I had thought I was following a brilliant author and geek. I thought all of Geekdom custom built their own gaming rigs. So you could pick your own cool neon, glowy, Bacon related case. Oh well…the brilliant author part still stands………right?

  2. I had to buy this laptop recently, even after giving the salesdroid puppy dog eyes and saying “Does it come in any other case? Please?”

    It has LED’s that flash in tune with the hard drive spinning.

    I feel like I stole it from a 17 year old boy every time I take it somewhere. My loved ones trot it out at parties for people to giggle at.

    But dammit, I wanted to be able to play Sims3.

    (That makes me twice as lame, I know.)

  3. Shane:

    I could build my own rig, but then it wouldn’t work. Years of experience swapping cards, etc. has taught me to know my limits.

    Jay:

    Indeed I’ve been looking at the Firebird. Not entirely sure I like its form factor (or from what I hear relatively limited expandability), but it’s on my list.

  4. Isn’t “compatible sexual partner” kind of redundant?

    I mean, why would you want to find, let alone keep, an incompatible sexual partner?

    But I build my own boxes and am about to celebrate my thirteenth wedding anniversary, so what do I know?

  5. Georgmi:

    “I mean, why would you want to find, let alone keep, an incompatible sexual partner?”

    Says a man who has not been SO VERY DESPERATE FOR SEX for at least 13 years.

  6. uh, what you do is you pick out all the individual pieces from an independent computer dealer (I go with memory express here in my home town) and then they assemble it for you and ship it (or you go pick it up.)

    It *does* mean that you have to know a bit about which pieces of a computer you need, but I’m certain you could email and ask for a double-check on your choices. but bingo. no need for a static pad or screwdriver set, hot custome computer. Seriously, it’s the only way to fly.

    I don’t know who would do this for you in your area. most of my guildies order their DIY upgrade components from New Egg, though, so you might want to look there.

  7. I would have thought most machines out there would do once you put in a decent graphics card. I think the Dell I bought cost about as much as a high end graphics card, but I didn’t need it for Aces High, as it turned out. I did make sure the Dell I bought would support the type of graphics card I thought I might need to buy, just in case.

  8. This might sound silly, but I’d recommend a Dell Optiplex. Order a fast machine with a good sized drive and very little memory. They get yourself a good card from NewEgg, and some additional RAM from Crucial. Make those swaps, and you’ll be good to go.
    .
    My 2 pennies.
    .
    //Ex- Fox Interactive, Sony Online, and EA guy.

  9. Is this going to become the “who wants to build a gaming rig for John Scalzi” thread? Lemme know, John, I do it for a living. :D

  10. Rather than the HP Firebird for 1200 bucks, why not the HP Intel i7 model, for the same price, which gets you more RAM, a 500GB disc, and the i7-920 quad core? I’m planning on getting one in a month. Comes with an NVidia 9xxx somethingorother with a gig of onboard memory.

    Any geeks with experience with this line, or contradictions as to why I’m wrong?

  11. Is it okay to advocate NOT buying HP products because of the questionable ethics of its senior management? Yes, the ethics scandals were in the news in Sept/Oct 2006. Yes, we’ve heard nothing since then. But to my knowledge not all of the HP leadership team was tossed out the door at that time; some still remain.

    And I, for one, don’t buy HP products anymore.

  12. Christian @ 13, I was just about to make the same suggestion, and for the same reasons: seems like every game studio uses Dells. Perhaps it’s just the ability to buy in bulk, but I can’t imagine game developers settling for half-assed machinery.

  13. Oh, and John, for your own sanity, you may want to consider the fact that your experience with Cyberpower may be atypically positive. I ended up having to send my machine back twice, and send the video card back three times, before I finally got sick of dealing with their horrendous customer service and started replacing stuff myself. One more video card and power supply later, I have a reasonably stable machine that I only have to kick occasionally to get the fans to stop making awful screeching noises.

    I’ve had the machine for less than two years.

  14. First of all.

    Well done. Well done indeed, i’ve been waiting a while now for someone to call out this tradition of light and stupid cases. Its important to realise that this is just another way for companies to make money from stupid people. This isnt water cooling, or case modding for cooling reasons, or even making your computer case look steampunk ( http://godmode.me/wp-content/plugins/wp-o-matic/cache/83e5d_frankensteinpc_1.jpg ) which is cool, neon lights and a case cut of my little eskimo pokichoo isnt.

    Now. If you must insist on not building your own, try alienware. Their cases are cool looking but still not too neon like, and there service/warranty terms are excellent. If you plan on keeping the box for 3 years dont forget to buy the extended warranty, or at least get the box coverd by your home insurance. Alienware desktop can be found here ( http://www.alienware.com/products/desktop-computers.aspx ) They where recently bought out by dell, and surprisingly all that has done is fix some of the problems that they had in their production line.

    One other alternative is a trip down memory lane ( http://www.commodoregaming.com/ ) the most awesome thing ever is your personalised commodore.

  15. I used to work for Dell not so very long ago. A fair number of the base configurations are sold near, at or below cost. They count on upgrades to make their profit. I’m sure most of the major vendors that compete with Dell are the same way. I used to build my own systems, but I doubt I’ll ever do that again. Why pay extra for the hassle of building it yourself?

  16. Looking for something with enough fans to keep my new system cool, I settled on an Antec Nine Hundred gamer-like case for my latest PC. And it’s pretty elegant looking, too, keeping in mind that “elegant” in the gamer case world means, “doesn’t sport a decal of a half-naked woman wielding a sword.”

  17. I’ve always been partial to Shuttle systems, and throwing a huge video card at it.

    You can probably find a local beige box retailer (do they still exist in the US?) who will build to order.

    Here in NZ, you can either buy the parts and assemble it yourself, or else they’ll assemble it for you for another US$20.

  18. I don’t need a computer that glows neon, but my awesome boyfriend did build me one in a fuchsia/magenta glittery case. <3

    Er. I guess I can see how that might not work for you, either.

  19. #1 Hold out another 5 months. Supposedly Win7 is shipping late October. Or wait for the free upgrade.

    Avoid Vista!

    #2 Find someone to build one for you. If you are getting a decent gaming rig you can either pay through the nose for a brand name, or pay a decent price for an awesome system that is built with love!

    Although when recommending systems for normal peeps (people who don’t know what Bioshock2 is or care (left4dead, etc..) I would recommend a $600 box from your local store.

  20. I *am* a 20something male with a complete inability to find and keep compatible sexual partners, and even I find that kind of case to be hideous.

  21. Have you tried calling CyberPower? I have a computer from them myself and I remember their customer service being decent. You might be able to make a special order with a basic case.

  22. I usually just read the Ars Technica system guides and go from there. Let them do the legwork of making sure everything plays nice together.

    Plus, I just like getting 14 boxes from NewEgg.

  23. Hmm… I’m stuck on the fact that you seem to consider exploding Ewoks a bad thing. Being explody is the highest, best use of an Ewok. Especially if it’s near Jar Jar Binks.

  24. I’m gonna get rocks thrown at me for this… but oh well.

    As a former hardcore PC builder, I can say with certainty, one of the best decisions I ever made was to buy a Mac with a crappy graphics card, and an Xbox 360.

    And the whole affair ran me less than $1500.

    *ducks incoming stoning*

  25. I had exactly the same problem a year or so ago. Had to settle for the least glowing-blue-laser-burst case that still had the specs I wanted.

    I kept meaning to go onto the mobo and unplug the connectors for the LEDs, to at least tone it down a little, but never got around to it. After a while, I just learned to ignore it.

    Still, it gave my brother-in-law a chortle when he was here last Christmas. I had to put up with a few riceboy jokes. He came with his sleekly color coordinated (i.e., white) MacBook, iPhone and iPod shuffle

  26. You could get one of your super geeky friends to help build your machine.

    If you do end up taking that route, Lian Li cases are stylish and sans LED in most models. (They run a little pricey depending on model) but if you want a kick ass and quiet rig, these are probably the best cases on the market right now. (Provided you have geeky person who’s built her err, or his own computer to help you out.)

    Lian Li Cases

  27. I paid a local shop to build a gaming rig in a nice plain tower. Keeps the economy going, better service and doesn’t look like an ex-Battlestar Galactica prop.

  28. Alright. (all right?) [I could never figure out which is which for those two.]

    hand in your geek credentials and see the man at the back of the room for directions to the nearest walmart.

    :)

    could you not simply reach in and unplug the neons, LEDs, and other light emitting nuisances? I know you said you know your limits, but this technically qualifies as “breaking things without ever having to worry about making it work again” skills.

    I do recall having a similar conversation with myself a few years back. I nearly bought a bleeding edge gaming PC and it had a weird housing with glow in the dark LED’s and stuff.

    I ended up getting a cutting edge PC rather than a bleeding edge gamer box, and was fairly happy with it for a number of years. But, yeah, the cases are kind of silly looking.

  29. Oh, and I forgot, I got a PS3 recently with Call of Duty 4 and holy crap those things have smoking graphics and I don’t have to worry about incompatibilities for nothing.

    And they’re a Blueray player, which is an added bonus for an HD-lacking home.

    (you do need a monitor or TV with an HDMI input to use PS3, so, be advised.)

    The PS3 case is kind of weird looking. It’s curved so you can’t really stack stuff on top of it, but you can put it on its side.

    If you don’t have a bluray player, it might be worth considering a PS3 as your gamer system.

  30. There’s nothing I see in any PC maker’s online store that I can’t put together myself with a box of parts from Newegg at half the price, with plenty of non-gaudy case options.

    I don’t care how well it runs Left 4 Dead–if it looks like a riced-out Acura, it’s not going on my desk. And a case with more neon than a pachinko parlor doesn’t say “geek”. A proper and true geek rig never has the side panels on the case, because those get in the way of futzing with the interior.

  31. Ugh. I had this same problem when case-shopping earlier this year. My options were all either overpriced, glowy, flashy monstrosities, or they made me suspect that someone had grabbed a Sony VCR designer from the mid eighties and brought them to the present day to design cases.

    I ended up choosing from the latter category the one with the best fan/slot/access configuration, then using spray glue, scrap leather, and a fabric remnant from an interior decorating place to make it look like an old suitcase. It still needs some finishing touches, but at least it blends into my bedroom and doesn’t offend my eyes.

    Not that my story in any way solves your problem, because you’re not building your machine.

    Has anyone seen those cases where the whole side of the case is one gigantic fan? Who the heck would want one of those things? Isn’t the point of a case to, I don’t know, not have a gaping twelve-inch hole in the side through which cat hair and coke can enter?

  32. Hey hey heyyyyyy, now…. there are some of us out there who are NOT 20 something males who happen to LIKE lighted cases! (skull decals I can do without, though). I personally think the computer shown at the top is awsome looking. :)

    Yes, my desktop has lighted case fans, and LED’s running up the front – I’ve also been called a magpie because of my liking for bright shiny things. :P

  33. Kevin @43,

    the iMac is a spiffy all-in-one, very sleek and elegant…but when you look up the term “gaming rig” in the geek lexicon, you’ll find a picture of an iMac, captioned “Not this.”

  34. Bob @21, I have the Antec 900 case on my machine and it’s a thing of beauty. All metal (except for the window on the size, which is good for seeing if there’s a dust issue inside the case), three or four fans–including one massive one on the top–and lots of room for stuff inside. And no stupid plastic door that I’d just have to take off anyhow.

  35. Personally, I’d vote for the “buy the parts from Newegg and hire a neighborhood teenager to assemble it” option. Or, maybe you could find a local IT-working fan who wants something signed and “holycrapIbuiltScalzi’scomputer!” rights?

    I built my latest rig in March, and this was my shiny, no-frills, sleekly functional prettypretty case of doom. :-)

  36. My new iMac 24″ has the ATI 4850 card. I get 40+ FPS in Dalaran in prime time. No it’s not a ‘gaming box’ but it’s pretty darn nice.

  37. I bought my last computer around 6 years ago, from Envision Computer Solutions ( http://www.envisioncs.net/calculator.cfm ) I built it when I was still playing a lot of PC games, and it turned out very well. It’s still going strong, though I wouldn’t expect it to play much of anything at this point. What I liked was the ability to pick just about all of the individual components. At the end, when I was ordering, I got some pretty good advice on a few things that saved me around $50.

    I mention this for two reasons: first, because I had a good experience, and although I am currently too impoverished to purchase a new rig, if I ever do need a pc, that’s where I’m going. When the computer shipped, the video card didn’t work, within hours we worked out that the problem was the card, and they shipped me a new (actually, a nicer) card overnight. Again, the computer is still running as my wife and son’s main PC.

    Second, they’re located in Kansas, which if I know my geography is within approximately 1000 miles of your homestead.

    Anyway, I have no interest in Envision, and have not bought anything from them in years. For all I know they’re utter shite now, but my experience was positive. I have a macbook now, and I game on the xbox 360, but I have fond memories of Myth: Soulblighter and Neverwinter Nights 2 on that pc…

  38. Echo what cpolk said. Go find a good indie computer dealer that will build you a custom box: rockin’ on the inside, frumpy on the outside. Or whatever floats your boat. And +1 on Kate, as well. Lian Li cases rock. Just… if you do get inside it yourself, don’t force the screws. Steel screws in aluminum fixtures… if you cross thread it, you’ll end up re-tapping it. Ugh. They’re otherwise verra nice.

    Also, -1 on the Macs. Overpriced, proprietary, and not everything runs on’em. Even Linus Torvalds says, if you want to do games, run Windows.

  39. DUDE! Do you not have some non big-box store in your area where you walk in and say I want that tower and that MB and those ram sticks and that HD and that vid card and oh yes that sound card (I don’t care that MBs come equipped with sound now, its garbage) and that chip (not Intel, go for the quad-core AMD setup if you go PC) and throw in that and that and that etc.

    The mom and pop stores here are great for that. PLUS all my warranties are in-house for 3 years. So if something goes wrong, I bring my tower in, they pull out the part and replace on the spot free of charge. NO having to deal with big box stores trying to rip you off of your shitty warranty or having to ship the tower off should something go wrong, and much easier to upgrade down the road.

    Then what you do is set up the new tower to your surround sound system and to the projector system so that you can play WoW in surround sound on a 60″+ screen and if you don’t have a screen, well the wall will do. Best gaming experience ever!

    Nothing like playing WoW and you feel as if your whole house is about to blast into orbit.

  40. GL @# 35: Ohhh, don’t get Mr Scalzi started on the “all right”/”alright” thing. The editing gerund of death comes out.

    Christian @# 13 suggests buying a Dell and putting in a new memory card. The problem with that is that Dell has a reputation for shipping machines with a power supply that is sufficient to support what it comes with, and no more. I just bought a mid-range video card for my Inspiron, and had to swap out the 350W power supply for a 500W model. Which is not too hard, but it took an afternoon of pinching fingers and swearing to get all the damned cables unhooked from the case and all the new damned cables routed around without getting in the way.

    That said, I have no useful suggestions to contribute.

  41. *…gets off Scalzi’s lawn*

    (Incidentally, this is why I stick with consoles. Much less hassle. Besides, I have enough problems keeping my fanfic from growing completely out of control. If I added games to this thing I’d have a mutiny on my hands.)

  42. You’re north of Cincinnati, aren’t you? I was in the vicinity last year, visited a big retail shop in Sharonville (Microcenter?) and noticed that they have a ‘pick out the components, we’ll assemble them’ computer-building service.

    I have no idea what they charge for doing so, and it’d leave you doing quite a bit of research to select each part. It might end up being easier find something pre-built that’s ‘good enough’ for you on both the looks and performance scales. But if you’d *like* to assemble a system to meet your own needs, and it’s only the actual plugging bits together that’s holding you back, there are big, relatively solid organizations that happily sell you that service.

  43. Jed @27: Ditto. Sigh.

    Annalee Flower Horne @41: A large fan can move the same volume of air as a smaller fan while spinning at a lower rate, which makes it much quieter while retaining the same cooling power. Does seem to lead to somewhat more dust build-up, but that’s something I can live with.

    John, if you find somebody who does this properly who’s not extremely Ohio-local (ie. the pimply-faced kid down the street), please do blog about it, because I’m right there with you. I’m nursing my 4-year old homebuilt machine along (amazing what a RAM upgrade will do), but I’m going to want to play Supreme Commander eventually and it’s just not happening on a single-processor machine. And when I do upgrade? I want something that doesn’t look like ass, or, since I sleep in the same room, throw off light like the Vegas Strip or sound like a 747 taking off. (Before the RAM upgrade, I was spec’ing new systems, and I decided that I’d just call around to the companies until I found somebody who would do a custom job in an Antec Sonata case for a reasonable amount of money. The current state of gaming cases is *hideous*.)

    I’d build a new system myself, but I’ve lost the taste for it, and the last time I spec’d stuff out it looked like homebuilding wasn’t going to be any cheaper either. It just requires too much time spent worrying about making sure the motherboard has enough and the right kind of slots and everything else is compatible (and is supported by Linux — where I live when I’m not gaming — which is a whole nother ball’o’wax), and even if you get it right you discover that maybe there’s some weird timing issue and the components don’t play nice together, or they don’t all fit in the case properly, or you find that something is busted and have to do the RMA dance, or whatever. That sounds like *work* to me, and I’ve decided that I just don’t care enough about the mechanics of the system at that level to make learning the ins and outs worthwhile. I’d rather dedicate that time and energy towards, say, finding and retaining compatible sexual partners.

  44. Dell XPS desktops are frequently the subject of decent sales and are pretty restrained. I’ve bought two for development work in the past year, only minor quibble is it is a bit of a pain to install XP if you still care about such a thing. When they are on sale, for a high end home system supported by an actual company, they get my recommendation.

    At this point I’d definitely get a quad-core, although an i7 system may worth the price difference at this point for the marginal bump on real-world stuff. Both the ATI 4890 and the nVidia GTX 280 are solid choices for reasonably future proof graphic cards that don’t cost an arm and a leg or require an obscene power supply.

  45. 7. matx said You have a friend build the rig, and credit him in one of your upcoming books. :)

    …or in lieu of credit, you kill him/her off in some horrible yet creative way. ;)

  46. Dear Mr Scalzi,

    I’m in complete agreement with your aesthetic judgement, but perhaps, just perhaps, given your many and obvious intellectual gifts, it might be time to give up playing games period.

    I’m just saying…more time for writing…..

  47. I’d have to 2nd ironymaiden (great handle, btw) on http://www.pugetsystems.com. They have some decent prices and they have reviews by their staff on most of the items that you can choose from in the configurator. (am I the only one who has the tendency to say anything that ends in an “or” in a loud robot voice?)

    If you’re not going to build your own, definitely go with one of these smaller companies. Most of them have decent support and warranties.

  48. I share your frustration with riced-out bling-boxes. Like an above poster stated, we prefer the understated.

    Chris Morley
    CTO
    MAINGEAR Computers

    /plug

  49. Well, I know that the BFG Phobos is specifically targeted at people like you, so that might be something to look at. You’re going to end up paying as much as that Mac Pro, though…

    Me, I’m getting ready to build my new rig. I’ll be using my old Silverstone case, aluminum with only a few lights (yes, and a side window…sigh)

  50. Well, two things:

    1. Gaming computers ain’t what they used to be. Because every game these days (to a first approximation) is actually made for the 360/PS3 and then ported back to the PC, you don’t need a monster PC like you used to, because the game has to scale down to 2005-era hardware. Except Crysis.

    1a. I bought a quad-core 4GB 64-bit behemoth a few months back… from Dell’s value line for $450. After tossing in a years-old videocard (Radeon 3850) from an old machine, it’ll play any modern game just fine. Except Crysis.

    2. But if you want an ultra-high-powered massive overkill machine, buy a Dell Studio XPS with 6GB of DDR3 and a Core i7 (and a discreet black look) for $899, toss in a $120 Radeon 4850, and you’re set.

  51. So why not just buy the parts you want and put them in a nice plain case? It’s not overly difficult and probably quicker than waiting for whoever to deliver your PC.

  52. I bet if you posted the specs you wanted, you could get a comment thread’s worth of suggestions and cull that info to get someone to custom-build one for you. I thought that was the whole appeal of PC v. Mac anyway.

  53. My gaming rig is a Mac Pro. I added a second drive and loaded Windows XP on it. (I should really upgrade to an OS that can use all my RAM.) My girlfriend’s system is the same, except that she runs Vista. To give you an example of performance, it can run two copies of Everquest II at the same time. It should hold you for a while.

  54. Truly my tongue was most firmly in my cheek – although I totally fail to ubderstand the appeal of computer games on any level.
    (possibly because I’m utterly crap at them)

    sigh…sometimes I feel like a dinosaur, omly more out of touch.

  55. I’ve always built my own computers so at least I get to choose my own case right along with everything else. And, in the interest of supporting local business, any half-way decent local(-ish) system builder is going to put a system together any way you want it be basic black or screaming neon with cooling towers and glow-in-the-dark peripherals. Give your local nerd a shot and see what he can come up with. Besides, if and when things go wrong it’s so much more fun to grip a real human by the throat and extract promises of instant rectification then to listen to really bad 70’s muzak on a support line of indeterminate nationality.

  56. I have such exquisitely bad stories about Dell… but I’m typing away on a Latitude D630, and have a destop of theirs, so I’m obviously masochistic. Wait, we knew that, I argue not-always-liberal-politics here and struggle not to be a giant you-know-what.

    Dell would not be the worst choice.

    I have had solid luck with HP, but that little ethics scandal was sort of annoying. Despite that I’ve bought many (7 or 8) metric tons of HP rackmount servers over the last 3 years. (More Rackable -> SGI servers than HPs, but I don’t recommend Rackables for desktops, though they can *do* that…).

    Many of the games can’t use quad core CPUs. Many can’t use dual core CPUs effectively. Buy one anyways – they’re cheap.

    Get the honken’est Nvidia (or ATI, or Intel) card you can. Even the expensive ones are cheap.

    Get 4 gigs of RAM. Probably won’t use it, but it’s cheap. Beat up your salesperson until they sell it for $22/gig, which is the current spot price as of last Thursday’s DRAM Exchange market survey.

    Get a pair of 1 TB hard drives and mirror them. They’re cheap. And they fail. Oh, yes, they fail.

    I recommend two monitors – one of which you can rotate so it’s portrait rather than landscape, for writing on – but that’s just me.

    If this costs over $1,200 by now screech and throw poo at salesperson until it costs less than $1,200.

    The screaming and throwing poo probably works better when ordering ton lots of servers than one-off desktops (apologies to my VARs if any are reading, who I try to treat nicely in real life despite the above suggestion). But it’s a viable strategy at any scale.

    You can spend more money – A Sun / Soracle Ultra 27 with Nvidia Quadro FX 1800 and RAID 10 SAS drives would just be smokin’, and Sun’s hardware is much less flimsy than any other PC maker – but very few people ever care about the other stuff. Dell or HP work just fine. Pick another brand if you like ‘em.

  57. It would help a lot if you checked out the specs of the games you would like to play. Despite all the blathering on the Intarweebs and gaming magazines (print or electronic), you most likely don’t need 14 processors, 6 video cards and 8 terabytes of RAM (the nice, expensive DDR3 4 GB sticks, of course), liquid nitrogen cooling and a 3 kilowatt power supply. While the alpha geeks will insist on owning the fastest rig on the planet (for the 3 milliseconds it takes for the next moron with more money than sense to outspend him), most games have relatively mild hardware requirements. The notable exception are the elite games like Crysis that were deliberately designed for the high end gamers. For somewhere between a grand and $1500 or so you can get a nice off the shelf system that will stand you in good stead for a good number of years. Good websites to check for machines you might want to look into are Ars Technica (www.arstechnica.com), Tom’s Hardware (www.tomshardware), AnandTech (www.anandtech.com) and if you can’t resist some Ziff-Davis propaganda ExtremeTech (www.extremetech.com).

    HP management practices notwithstanding, HP does make some decent machines, especially if cheap is not on the table. The consumer machines tend to have a bunch of spyware and other useless applications preloaded but they are relatively easy to remove.

    My family lives close to the Micro Center in Columbus so I get parts there fairly often. I’m not sure I’d pay them for one of their store-built machines though. I typically get my parts from NewEgg.com.

    Some of the case and motherboard makers are selling fully-populated PCs ready to turn on. ASUS and Shuttle are the only 2 I can think of at the moment.

    If you are open to a small amount of self-building, a barebones PC is just the ticket. I just built a Shuttle SG45H7 (which does have a few design flaws) but it was operational in about an hour of actual work. You buy the barebones case and a CPU, RAM, and a hard drive and then stick the pieces in. If you are halfway mechanically inclined, you shouldn’t have any trouble.

    For gaming I recommend not using integrated video as they can’t hold a candle to even a $100 video card. There are other companies besides Shuttle that make barebones.

    The Apple fanbois can foam at the mouth all they want, yes you can play some games on a Mac, you can’t play ALL computer games on a Mac. If you’re gonna game, it’s either game consoles or a PC (or both) for maximum options.

  58. I remember when a gaming rig computer meant the world to me. How fast it was. What it looked like. Would my friends think I was super cool while not getting the chick.

    Now I have a great wife and a nice job. That computer would make me fel like I was having some sort of geek mid life crisis.

  59. I’m seeing some Shuttle in here, and I like that. Build a cute little micro-ATX form factor machine, throw a top-end processor and video card in there with at least 2 gigs of ram, and don’t fret about it. It’ll be a reserved little box, a bit crowded on the inside but quiet and cool. Then get a big damn monitor and use a stereo system for your speakers.

  60. John, if you’re worried about building it yourself, I have 2 options that should deal with that problem:

    (1) run the parts list by us, your adoring fans. We’ll be able to tell you what’ll work. Then when you’re building it, make it into a cam show. We’ll supervise, and make sure you’re doing it right. Between all of the Whatever’s readers, plenty of us are certified IT guys. We’ll get it working. (with Windows 7 RC 1, even, if you want)

    (2) I’m sure you know a guy who knows a guy. In fact, drop Gabe or Tycho an email – you’ve collaborated with them before and you KNOW they’ve got the info you need.

    Now here’s why you should find a way around the build it problem and make your own: you’ll have an easier time avoiding Vista this way.

  61. Linux for the win.

    And yes, that probably kills any chance I have of finding a prospective mate, far further than the warning lights emitted by aforementioned glowing computer case.

    It is stuff like this that makes me realize that I really should get a life…

  62. I’ve built every computer I’ve ever had, I hate riced-out LED cases, I live in Dayton, and I just graduated from college so I have nothing to do. Just sayin’.

  63. The key is to just build your own computer. Or find a friendly geek that can. Not only will the individual components likely be cheaper 9/10 of the time, but you get to avoid having a huge markup /because/ the manufacturer thinks that having X specs means utilizing Y obscenely designed computer tower.

  64. If you are gaming when you are 40, you will be gaming the rest of your life – something I just recently realised.
    I’m 41 and have just installed S.T.A.L.K.E.R (which I bought a year ago) on my Windows Vista laptop (which I bought last month).

    Contrary to others, I *like* Vista (as long as you disable the question thingy that pops up).

    Methinks that soonish some company will realise that the gaming public has enlarged to those who are older and *still* play games that go KaBoom! The wii is for old folks or playing with other people.

    Hopefully, by the time we gaming folks are 60 or so they will bring out shoot’em’ups with a setting for “I’m old and my reflexes are bad” so that we can still play em…

  65. I just looked into this very existential problem myself before deciding to build my own. Since you already stated you didn’t want to go down that path, my second choice would have been Velocity Micro.

    http://velocitymicro.com/

    Good reviews, highly customizable configurations, nicely rectangular grey and black boxes with minimal blue LED’s (they’d probably leave those disconnected if you asked nicely), and not cheap, but not Falcon prices.

    Good luck.

  66. You know, it’s not always a bad idea to tinker with a bare-bones system.

    Depending on your desire to:

    1) feel geeky
    2) stay cheap

    You could pick up a basic system from Fry’s Electronics (or local equivalent, or newegg online) with a reasonably cool looking case, and then simply plug in a beefy video card, beefy sound card, and then have at it.

    This works reasonably well for me, with the added bonus of making me feel competent.

  67. This is the problem with trends in general, whether it is technology (computers, laptops, phones, mp3’s, etc) or clothes or anything else. If one design or feature is the flavour of the month, expect every single brand to have it and just try finding one that neglects it. This could be the reason I haven’t bought new boots in two years even though mine are in desperate need of replacement. I very much understand this problem and think it is time that businesses realised that not everyone wants the latest unnecessary trend, but want function with simplicity.

  68. Have you looked at Gateway? Their FX series has Made Me Happy in notebook form-factor (17″, 4Gb RAM, GeForce 9800GTS with 512Mb dedicated, dual-core 2.25GHz 1920×1200 panel, yada blither $1,400). Goes like a freight-train (my quad-core rig is barely twice as fast), and pleasingly minimal “bling”. Yes, it has an LED that blinks on HD access, but it’s the same size as the Caps Lock LED, and situated adjacent to it. Their desktop rigs look like much the same ethos: Powerful system, minimal poncing about.

    http://www.gateway.com/systems/series/529598057.php

  69. Ambetanterik @79: I realised that gaming was a lifelong thing when I was thinking of my memories of my grandmothers. One of whom, after dinner every night I can remember, did the Telegraph crossword and played patience for a couple of hours; and the other of whom was a demon whist player who taught us a wide range of card games.

    And hey, my gaming rigs are an iMac and a Nintendo DS, and I’m hoping never to purchase another PC; but if it were me I would either find a local store I liked the look of, or phone CyberPower and ask if they have special models for old farts.

  70. Another advantage of the Mac Pro is how silent it is. So silent, that in my quiet home office I have to look at the little LED to tell if it’s on or not.

    And yes, it does run Windows games and Mac games very well, given the proper GPU, available as a build-to-order option.

  71. From what I’ve heard of them, I’d be amazed if Cyberpower wouldn’t do a custom build with the case of your choice. The only thing is that if you need “high end” fan cooling, the current trend is to have 2 or 3 very large fans, rather than 7 smaller ones. It’s quieter, and moves more air. Unfortunately, most such cases do look somewhat like the monstrosity you posted, though you can disconnect most of the lighting, I think.

    The one exception I’m aware of is the Silverstone Fortress, which has big fans and fairly understated looks. I would seriously suggest you look into it. Although I think some people have found that although the CPU and PSU cooling is excellent, the fans create a wind tunnel that doesn’t actually get as far as the graphics cards.

    For looks and build quality, I’ll second the Lian Li cases, but I’m not sure how well they’ll cool a really high end rig. That said, I’m using one in an i7 rig (but only a single GTX260) and it seems to work fine.

  72. Adding my comment to the chorus of “spec it yourself, get someone else to build it”. It should come in around the same price as the equivalent monstrous gaming rig in a neon-lit silk-screen-be-ewoked case, but you’ll be able to spec a neon-and-ewok-free tower.

  73. haha. Personally, I like them. I have one from CyberPower as well, got it back in the summer of 04 (am rebuilding it with nearly entirely all new parts this summer, same case though ;P), and it has a large alien head shape on the side, which is clear, so you can see almost the entirety of the box (which I like). It also has some blue and red LEDs (not nearly as obtrusively glowy as that box though, lmao, you don’t see them unless you’re looking in to the side). The front also has a raised alien face, with red eyes.

    I think it’s fun. I don’t care about “cool” or anything, whether it’s supposed to be “in” or not to have that kind of junk. I simply find it fun and amusing. And even more amusing when my mother’s friends see it and go, Oh my gosh what IS that?! hahaha. Even my own friends get a bit surprised by it (none of them are really tech/computer geeks at all, they tend to stick with Dell et al on the branding).

    My fiancé, however, has just what you seem to be looking for. High end (well ok his is old now in computer years also, it’s like a year newer than mine), black aluminum case, everything super extra quiet, some special cooling stuff… if you’d like I could ask him if he knows where to still locate such things?

  74. Gotta chuck this one in. A few years back, t’other half was telling me not to criticise her TV viewing while I was playing “those silly games”. Now, she’s all happy ’cause I installed XP on the tablet she’d been using for gaming, making everything run much faster and more smoothly (lower memory overhead, y’know). From 0 to Hardcore Gamer with a GPU Jones in 30-odd months.

    I feel pride. ;)

  75. Why no console? I gave up on keeping up with the ever more insane gaming requirements on PCs, and I’ve never gamed happier. You could buy both a PS3 AND and XBOX 360 for less than a gaming rig, plus you get a Bluray player AND online capability to boot. Plus you can (LEGALLY!) download lots of old favorites for chumpchange. Same with the Wii.

  76. I’d recommend one of these two configurations:

    http://www.anandtech.com/guides/showdoc.aspx?i=3552&p=4

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-2-overclock,2146.html

    Go with the AMD one if you want to buy some karma points too. It also comes with the bland, black box you so crave, at probably half the price of an equivalent prebuilt desktop. I’m sure you can find a competent geek to assemble it, or at least give you a hand. If in doubt, you can always get a more powerful video card and then add another one when this one isn’t enough any more.

  77. I’ll also vote up Alienware. They have cutting edge tech, but a nicer, more conservative look. Plus, you can choose glowy colors.

  78. You realize that for twenty bucks, you can get the neighbor’s twelve-year-old to run around the yard while you fire paintball guns at him, right? The cost of a real gaming machine would add up to a lot of afternoons of paintball..

  79. http://www.gamepc.com/

    We bought one of the high end rack mount machines with multiple GTS 295s for doing number crunching at work, and it is very well put together and has no annoying neon. They offer cases that are plain as well as glowy boxes.

  80. I bought my last gaming rig from ibuypower.com. The nice thing about them is you get to specify the case they use. Now, admittedly, they mostly run the gamut from ridiculous to obscenely ridiculous, but they do offer the Zalman GS1000 case, which is fairly slick looking, with no neon. The only other no neon one I see is the Coolermaster Camouflage version, which probably doesn’t qualify for other reasons.

    By the way, if you take the suggestions of those folks who say ‘buy an optiplex and swap out the card and add memory’ that’s certainly viable, however, you’ll almost certainly want to swap the power supply as well. Most of those systems only come with at most a 420w power supply, and a top-end card will need about 300w of that. My previous gaming rig was exactly that, and until I swapped the supply out occasionally (very occaisionally) you’d hear the fans in the case all bog down, the video would kind of stutter. Now, you probably don’t need an 800w supply since you don’t want to drive lights with it, but I’d definitely get at least 600w.

  81. Tell the company that you’ll be ratring said computer and the service the company provides in your various online vehicles. You have power John, use it wisely, or, in this case, threaten very public hissy fits.

  82. I go self-assembly. I see that Mr Scalzi is not cool with that for personal reasons, but really, its not so hard – given that I’m extremely clumsy I have yet to screw up building my own PC, and the current one is the 5th.

    What I find more difficult is to keep in touch with the changing landscape, a.k.a “which is the best bang for the buck now”. So far what I do is just copy the Ars Technica guides, going for the medium system.

    I think the current one was build acording to the guide a year ago, so its going to either last another year or have a video card replacement, depending on how the next games I try go. So far so good.

  83. I recently built a machine from parts that I’m extremely happy with – it does have some blue LEDs, but most of them can be turned off. I suspect that the case in the photo posted above could be made to look respectable with very little work: turn off the lights, replace the weird-looking status readout on the front (which is almost certainly not needed for actual operation) with a flat panel, and you’re most of the way to having a machine that is pleasing to the eye.

    Now, Antec makes some very nice-looking cases, and generally sturdy and well-organized to boot. But it’s going to be tough to do *too* much about the “Chernobyl cooling tower” thing: A lot of the problem is that high end systems put off a lot of heat, which means that they need space, airflow, and fans. Your computer will wind up having a few hundred CPU cores in it, after all: 2-4 for the main processor, and a hundred or so small ones working in parallel in your graphics card.

    For gaming, keep an eye on RAM and RAM speed: in modern software that’s where a lot of the bottleneck is, between the processor cache and the main memory. And you want to make sure to have enough memory that you never swap to disk: I like to tell students that the difference between fetching a block from RAM and fetching it from disk, timewise, is akin to the difference between getting a potato from the pantry, and driving to Maine, buying land, growing the potato, and driving home again. (If anything, that’s underestimating the difference)

    Also, I’d strongly recommend against buying overclocked parts – it’s really not worth it. In order to get to the point where overclocking makes even a little sense, you’re already at the point of diminishing returns price-wise.

  84. Jules @51

    Clearly, your’e not from around here. Srsly MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Nearest Big Box store of any kind to John is 20 miles. Nearest Best Buy (closest remotely geeky store) is over 40 miles away. Not really handy places to go for getting stuff fixed.

  85. @98,

    the MX revolution is the finest mouse money can buy. I absolutely love mine – for WoW, for example, I’ve mapped forward, back, wheel click, wheel left, and wheel right to #1-5 and never have to touch any numbers on my keyboard.

  86. Hey John,

    Nice post. I’d have to agree that many gaming PC builders seem to go for shock and awe with their look, using glowing plastic and flashing lights to grab the attention of some gamers. It’s done to help them stand out from the big name builders out there, and for better or worse, it works.

    If I may, I’d like to suggest you take a look at some of the machines that we build. We’ve spent years designing desktop PCs that are both powerful and stylish without being flashy or gaudy. Every system we put together is constructed out of 100% aluminum with lighting options kept to the bare minimum. Plus we offer gaming rigs that start at under $1000. I think you might dig them.

    http://www.velocitymicro.com

    Josh Covington
    Velocity Micro

  87. I’d suggest Puget Systems (http://www.pugetsystems.com/). They’re a smaller outfit, but I was quite impressed with the kit they put together for submersion cooling (you don’t care about submersion cooling, I’m just pointing out that I’ve done business with them and was pleased).

    Because they’re a small company, you’d have a pretty easy time getting a custom request completed. Such as “And no glowy bits please”.

    I always build my own, but I can understand those who’d rather avoid choosing all their parts by hand. Still, if you’d like a good benchmark for a powerful gaming system, I’d suggest Ars Technica’s System Guide (http://arstechnica.com/hardware/guides/2009/04/ars-technica-system-guide-april-2009-edition.ars). They put out a new one just last month. It gives a really good idea of the current best-of-breed components. Knowing what’s leading the performance race will help you shop for a computer with the right parts inside.

  88. Joel @104

    I understand this. I live in a similar situation that is why I asked if he had a mom and pop type store there where you walk in and buy the parts and have them all throw it into a machine.

    Nearest city to me is almost an hour away, yet we have quite a few computer stores that will build a system for you instead of having to deal with a crappy box store.

  89. I think Phobos might be the machine for you, John. http://www.bfgsystems.com. We specifically designed the case to look good anywhere you put it, whether in your office or living room as your HTPC. We also have one-touch overclocking via a LCD touch panel on the front of the case. We also install it for you and come back out six months later to update drivers and clean the system. It has maintenance free liquid cooled CPU (CoolIT Domino) on every system.This is NOT a system you can build yourself, since the custom LCD software works with the overclocking we have hand selected, binned and tested the CPU and graphics cards to work together in a high-performance ecosystem. And of course you get a full warranty and free 24/7 tech suppport, which you can’t get from a home-built system. /promotion

  90. I think you’re taking the wrong approach. Instead of rejecting the flashy case you should embrace it. You need a case inspired by your Old Man’s War universe. You could even work with CyberPower (or whoever) to offer other cases of that style for sale with you getting a percentage. Or, failing that, at least get the prototype for free.

  91. I bought a Dell 730c. I just turn the tower around backwards in order to access the thicket of cables and wires. Also too hide the light show.

  92. Hi John,

    Just a quick plug for the company that issues my paycheck, in case you’re not yet decided:

    The Dell XPS 630 is an excellent rig for a good price- maybe just a half-step down from super hardcore gear for about half the money- in a relatively understated case with a minimum of bling. Take a look at http://www.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/xpsdt_630?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&~ck=mn

    As someone mentioned upthread, Dell bought Alienware a few years ago, and one of the benefits is that many of the bonafide performance bits (and engineering) have trickled down into the ‘mainstream’ products at economy-of-scale value.

    Another benefit: All XPS lines come with upgraded support, meaning you get routed straight to a US-based agent with a lower queue time. Worth it.

    As an aside, I built my own systems for 10-15 years, and I’m not immune to the siren song of a cart full of hand-picked performance components for less than the cost of a much slower off-the-shelf machine. However, as I’ve upgraded to husband and dad with the accompanying time demands, I’ve realized that time and hassle saved not having to work out compatibility kinks and self-repair is well worth the extra cost associated with major-league testing, burn-in, and a warranty.

  93. Assuming you aren’t looking for a super-light aluminum case, why not browse newegg.com for a simple black case. I found several in under a minute, including a $65 Enermax case, no power supply, no side window, and most importantly no neon. Pick yourself out a PS to put in it (or just snag the one out of the CyberPower you have now.) Not to disparage a “brilliant” author, but in the time it took you to write the rant above you could have found several dozen replacement cases and significantly lowered the amount of light pollution in the general vicinity of your machine.

  94. People are forgetting here that I have neither the competence nor intent to build my own computer.

    Also, Glyttch, you have no idea how quickly I write. I WRITE LIKE THE WIND.

    Finally, my current rig is of course entirely neon-free.

  95. John-

    At the risk of pimping our company too much – give me a buzz and I’ll make sure you get a killer price. (we’ve had enough traffic from this thread alone for me to notice it in our Google Analytics – it’s the least I could do)

    Best,

    Chris Morley
    CTO
    MAINGEAR Computers
    http://www.maingear.com
    832-236-0834

  96. Oh, just quite whining and build your own box. It’s more fun anyway.

    Or you can cheat and buy a pre-made box with all the gewgaws and simply move the guts to a new case.

  97. Hey Chris,

    I will call. I will use the pseudonym of Tom and will have it delivered to Utah not Ohio. But it is really me.

    John.

  98. re:
    “To be fair, I understand that the primary market for gaming rig makers are 20something dudes with more credit card bandwidth than aesthetic common sense, so it makes sense for them to build their rigs this way.”

    Not to nitpick the negligible differences, but the ESA (http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp) reports that the average gamer is 35 and that 40% are women. Or is your point that, upon graduating to their 30’s, game bois find more important things to spend their money on?

  99. Ars Technica’s Hot Rod box is probably what you want; link . You can use that as a spec for a local company to build one for you, but it’s really not that hard; call your local college or university, get a math or CSCI student to hold your hand for an evening in exchange for a signed copy of something and a home-cooked meal.

  100. Amen to this! I feel the same way. Thanks for the recommendation, fellow commentors! Apologies if this is duplicate, I posted hours ago but it didn’t appear (yet I am getting email updates…odd).

    At Puget Systems, we call those cases “dragon cases” and they are indeed ridiculous. They also tend to be made of cheap plastic, do not cool as well, and ironically look better in pictures than they do in person.

    While there have always been system builders that embrace simplicity, I do think the industry as a whole is headed back in that direction. Look at netbooks, Windows 7, NVIDIA ION, and even Apple. Lightweight, simple and sleek is coming back into style.

    Jon Bach
    President – Puget Systems

    http://www.pugetsystems.com

  101. Tom – that’s fine, I guess it wouldn’t be fair to offer a discount to one and not all.

    Remember, we can slap a Type-R sticker on the chassis for a 5% speed boost if necessary!

    Chris
    MAINGEAR

  102. When asked by people about the purchasing of computers (IT guy sighs…) my advice remains simple. It is not what you buy that is important, it is where you buy it from. With the continuing homogenisation of hardware components you can get pretty much anything from anywhere. It is where you get to go back to when it inevitably crashes and burns that really matters. I support my local computer shop with every component I buy (or special order) and I have a real live human being to approach when things do not come up to spec. I cannot say as I know what your local burg has to offer but, if it is there, I heartily recommend supporting it.

  103. 1) by parts from Newegg
    2) have Athena assemble your new computer.

    Problem solved.

    Oh, and could you please tell me where to get that graphic of an exploding Ewok?

  104. I can understand the hesitation to build a new machine: it’s not something that generally comes with instructions, and in order to make good electric or thermal contact, you usually have to apply a lot more force than you might be comfortable with. The last Intel processor I bought and installed, I had visions going through my head of the little thing snapping like a potato chip as I levered the fan into position – it didn’t (not even close), but it was certainly intimidating.

    Still, why pay someone to build a rig? Surely you have at least one friend who’d be willing to help you spec out a machine and lend a hand building it in exchange for dinner or a six pack or three. Even if you wind up bribing your friend to do the whole assembly for you, it’s a good excuse to spend an afternoon geeking out with your friends.

  105. Interestingly a lot of comments from PC makers got dropped into the spam queue; I’ve liberated them now so it’s worth scrolling upward again if you’ve not seen them. Sorry about that, guys.

  106. If you want to extend the life of your current machine, and it has a decent dual core processor of some sort, upgrade the memory and video card.

    If you are still on 32bit windows, 4gb is the most you can put in, and the system will only use 3.5gb. Anywhere between $100-$200 will get you a smoking fast video card.

    That is a good way to extend the life of the current box, and only takes about 15 minutes to do.

    That is me being cheap though, and probably not an issue with you as system would be written off as a business expense due to being a “writing tool”.

  107. It IS a writing tool! But also, since I more than occasionally write about video games, the gaming rig would be tax-deductible regardless.

  108. In my opinion, you can build your own for cheaper and customize it to look however you’d like. I’ve built my past 2 computers and it’s really not difficult. If you’re looking for a gaming rig I think your best bet would be to go SLI with a couple of the new high-end Nvidia cards. You’ll have all the power you need.

  109. Aieeeeee!

    Tax Deduction.

    No fair.

    Now I have a reason to do a blog and maybe one day get some writing gigs to do that.

    Ok, whoever is going to ConQuest needs to get a cardboard box, battery, christmas lights, other annoying spinny thingies and make John a nice case for his system.

    Must Blink, buzz, hover, make raspberry noises.

  110. Dude, build the rig yourself. It’s cheaper, and better. If you want a case that’s not obnoxious, just get a Coolermaster Centurion. Then your computer will just look like a black monolith, which is the look I prefer myself.

    Seriously, though, any time you order Pre-Built computer you’re getting ripped off. At a place like Cyberpower or IBuypower you’ll be paying about 30% more than you would be if you built it youself. If you buy from AlienWare or Dell the markup is as much as 100%.

    Look, I’ll even provide you with a part list. Here’s a pretty strong gaming rid you can put together, for under a grand:
    Mobo: ASUS M4A78 Plus AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard 80$
    CPU AMD Phenom II X4 940 Deneb 3.0GHz $189.00
    Videocard SAPPHIRE 100259-1GL Radeon HD 4870 1GB 189.00
    RAM G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 $30
    Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB $70
    Optical Drive LG GH20NS15 – OEM $25
    Case : COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC 75
    Power supply: Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL-S 600W 65$
    Total: 723$

  111. Or, if you just *have* to have Intel:

    Intel Build:
    Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3L LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard 100$
    CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad 3.0GHz LGA 775 $270.00
    Videocard: EVGA 896-P3-1260-AR GeForce GTX 260 896MB 448-bit GDDR3 189.00
    RAM: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $46
    Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB $70
    Optical Drive: LG GH20NS15 – OEM $25
    Case : COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC 75
    Power supply: Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL-S 600W 65$
    EDIMAX EW-7128G PCI Wireless card: 20$
    Total: 870$ Approx

    These builds assume that money is an object, and that you’re not going to go balls-out Core i7 Three-way SLI madness, of course.

  112. I am fascinated by the number of people who don’t seem to be able to believe that someone just might not *want* to build their own PC, no matter how many times our gracious host explains that he’s not interested in doing that.

    It’s like there’s somehow this geek axiom that OF COURSE everyone secretly wants to build their own PC from scratch, and there can’t possibly be a reason not to spend your free time that way.

    Geek myopia fascinates me sometimes.

  113. haha, I’m not fascinated by the amount of people who don’t believe it. I mean, we ARE a bunch of geeks here, and it IS more cost efficient, as well as giving you the benefit to choose exactly what you want/don’t want.

    However, it is getting annoying to me that people refuse to acknowledge his repeated statements that he IS NOT going to do it. And it’s not even my blog!

    My suggestion at this point, if none of the links to actual computers provided specs + case you like, would be; do you have any techie friends in the relative area, or your own know-how, to be able to buy a glowing one that you like the specs of, and unplug the LEDs on it? Or you could always cover it with something…

  114. Personally, I always start by gathering sand, refining it into ultra-pure silicon, and casting billets to make wafers…

  115. Well, for me it’s an issue of time. The last time I put a rig together myself I probably spent 10 hours getting it all working. I figure the markup on the box I bought last month was about $300, and I value my time at way more than $30/hour, so it’s a no brainer. Now, if I actually enjoyed doing it it would be a different story, but I don’t.

  116. Skip: With you 100%. I built my last machine; as someone who’s played with computers for 20 years I figured “I really should do my own build, at least once”.

    Machine kept crashing under load – after 2 days trying various things, I went with the time v.s. money analysis and went to the PC shop where I’d bought some components, saying “sort it out and bill me”. It took them days to pin things down to a faulty motherboard, and they have the luxury of being able to easily swap parts in and out to isolate the faulty component. If I’d really been “on my own”, I’d have been left randomly RMAing parts for weeks.

    Funnily enough, the repair shop had supplied the faulty motherboard, so I didn’t get charged for their trouble shooting.

    In hindsight, although I might still build a cheap and cheerful rig myself, I’d always pay for someone else to build a high end machine. Although by choice I’d try to find someone to custom build to my spec and choice of parts, rather than get a mass produced model.

    Incidentally, to those recommending Dell. I’ve seen a lot of issues with components being specced “just good enough”. So the base machine runs fine, but if you want a high end graphics card, you need to upgrade the PSU as well, and possibly the cooling. Since I’ve also had issues with Dell’s using non-standard PSU connectors, this was something I was very wary about.

  117. @David #149, I wouldn’t really consider ending up with a faulty item a reason to not build your own. From what you said, it seems like you did everything just right and it would have worked fine had the piece been working.

    I agree with not going Dell. Strong agreement there. My desktop that is from CyberPower, an ex had helped pick out the components. He had built his own before, and he kept telling me, Just get a Dell it’s cheaper and they’re a big company, it’s better to just get from them!! Except a) it turned out to be like $100 (or maybe more? I forget) less than Dell, and b) he ended up getting a Dell a short time later, and it totally crapped out in like a month, and he had the worst time ever dealing with them.

    Everyone says Dell’s service is crap, and most people here also say that their parts are just barely good enough for what you get. My own recommendation on Dell, is DON’T.

  118. I was going to suggest Velocity Micro, but others have done that for me. They also have amazing customer service.

  119. @ Melby#150. Yes, it would have been fine (the shop said exactly that), but that’s almost my point. If it’s your first build, and you do everything right, but you get a dodgy component, you are going to have a pretty miserable time finding the problem. Not just from lack of experience, but because isolating a hardware problem pretty much requires having spare hardware to test against.

  120. Building your own rig isn’t rocket science. You just need to know what you’re doing, do your homework on components, and be handy with a screwdrive. If it’s taking you 10 hours, barring major hardware defects, you’re doing it wrong.

    Ordering a pre-built rig is for sheeple, for mass-market consumers that treat technology like black magic. If you’re going to do that, you might as well just buy a console instead.

    We’re educated people here. Building your own rig should not be a daunting task.

  121. It doesn’t matter if it’s “not daunting,” some people just don’t WANT to, and that is their choice. Nothing says that “just because someone is educated, they have to build all their own products.” If the man doesn’t want to build his own, he doesn’t have to friggin build it!

    There is nothing wrong, or uneducated(!) about not wanting to waste the time (however much it may be) and effort, to put together something yourself that you can more easily get ready-made for you.Is that really so difficult to grasp? That sometimes people like pieces of equipment to come ready-built for them??

  122. I like how he says he doesn’t want to build his own, then 90% of responders tell him he should build his own. I also like the people who, seeing a post asking about new computers, suggest he should get a console. Are these the same people who, when asked what kind of car to get, suggest a bicycle?

    Although I gotta third that MX revolution mouse recommendation. We have two (one RF and one Bluetooth) and also got one for a family member. The original ones had a problem with the chargers (but when we told Logitech they just RMA’d it in about a week), but now that’s fixed.

  123. Remember what they say about Dell: Dude, you’re getting a Dell… and you’ll be getting another one in 12 months when the first one craps out.

    I should also point out that I’ve built several systems from scratch (including one watercooled system) and I’ve been there, done that, and am 100% behind John on not wanting to do it (again). It was fun, but so was staying up until 5AM playing D&D and drinking Mountain Dew.

    One point that has not been mentioned is noise. High end PCs can be very, very noisy. Unfortunatly, you don’t generally see that information on the product page. If a silent PC is important to you then you have much more work to do.

  124. http://www.newegg.com

    Build your own gaming rig, its pretty darn simple honestly. I’ve got a nice Antec case for mine, good airflow, roomy case, and its of the “plain black box” school of thought in aesthetics.

    But since you won’t build it yourself you could try the whole “bribing college kids with pizza” method (yes I know that is not the normal use). Any decent nerdy kid could pick out the parts in a couple hours, or less, depending on how useful your input is. And putting computers together nowadays is pretty simple, but if you can’t/won’t invite the college kid back.

  125. Well, if you’re going to buy a Cyberpower or IbuyPower computer instead of building one, you should probably do it *right now*, because I just priced out a NewEgg parts list, and then put together the same build at both IBuy and Cyber, and it looks like, at least for this week (with the specials they’re running) the price difference has shrunk to as little as 50 dollars between building it from parts and buying it complete.

    In principle, I still hold that building your own is better. At this moment, though (demand for gaming PC stuff being at a very low ebb) it looks like you can take advantage of temporary economic conditions and just order one for the same price.

    Having said that, don’t fall into the Intel trap. The only reason to go Intel is if you’re going to go Core i7. AMD Phenom II is every bit as fast and powerful as the Core 2 Quads, moreso than the Duos, and a Phenom II X4 will run you the same price as a 3.0GHZ Core 2 duo, with double the performance.

    Likewise, if you want powerful, but not exorbitant price, GTX 260 or a 4870 1GB are the sweet spot in the card market right now, in terms of price vs performance.

  126. Pickup a copy of the build your own rig issue PCGamer put out. If nothing else, they have a fantastic rundown of the various parts and top to bottom performance listings of all CPU’s and graphic cards.

    It really isn’t that difficult to build one yourself, and the issue will walk you through it.

    Even if you don’t wind up building it, you’ll have a good idea of what you want built into yours.

    And at least one of the cases they recommended doesn’t have any flashy shiny stuff.

  127. a.) I always build all my rigs from scratch. I build them in the grungiest battle scarred server cases available from the junk heap (with new power supplies fans etc.) . The resulting rig looks like something out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. At work nobody claims eminent domain over my systems.

    b.) With the appropriate upgrades and “ports” your gaming rig can be a compatible sexual partner.

  128. Mr. Scalzi:

    An additional 2 cents (plain). Think hard about going to your nearest locally owned computer store. In times like this, any way we can keep dollars circulating with in our communities is a VERY good thing.

    Obviously, references and recommendations are a must. But, I have to believe there are some good folks in your area who can take your specs and build your newest toy.

    Of course, you may have already made up your mind.

    Ric York

  129. I have the same sentiments with rigs too. I used to have a tower that’s really a show off. At first it was cool and all since it can just serve as a dim light in my boring room when I’m just downloading stuffs and taking a break from raiding with my guild mates in WoW. But then, there are times that I want a simple tower as well. Maybe I can still opt for a rig but then I dunno where to start when assembling my own rig..

  130. think of buying core i7 if you have the money, majorly fast when having multiple threads running at the same time and the coolmaster cosmos cases dont look that geeky, even though the name clearly is

  131. I am the Last Tasmanian Badger. I rule gaming rigs with an iron paw. I laugh at their foolish glow. I laugh at their Fluffy Dice. I have NEVER owned a pc with a mirrorball in it at all. I can fly using only my mind and paperclip. One of those last two things is a Lie. I am the last Tasmanian Badger and I say get whatever rig you want… throw it’s gaudy case away and get a Lian Li blue ring case. Its like a piano and a PC did it and this is the result. With a ring. Sleek and Stylish. Just like the Last Tasmanian Badger. I laugh at Mac’s.

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