Some people spend their time and money on cars, fiending after the new models and tweaking their existing vehicle to ink a few more HP out of it. I don't much care about cars, I drive a Lincoln TownCar that I bought for $800 at auction, but I run and build PCs like enthusiasts at Hot August Nights do hotrods.
It's been over two years since I last upgraded my home PC so I figured it's just about time for me to rebuild. When replacing a PC I usually wait until I can get a computer that will be roughly twice as fast as my previous. I have a feeling this build will be at least that :)
The "Old" Machine
This is what my current laptop looks like (images from Geek.com).
My current computer is an ASUS G51VX-A1 [geek.com], one of the flagship "Republic of Gamers" laptops and it has been a blast to own. It was the first gaming laptop I have ever owned and was an amazing buy at around $1500. Quad core Q9000 processor, GTX 260m, etc. It also has some fun bells and whistles like a blindingly bright backlit keyboard, startup animation, and thumpingly loud subwoofer built into the PC. When the machine came out, it cost less than a MacBook Pro and was basically 2-3x as fast in terms of graphical power and 2x as fast in terms of processing power. Yes, it plays Crysis, with AA turned on, at higher resolutions than 1024x768. I upgraded the machine to an SSD in 2010 and it has felt plenty fast and snappy ever since. In fact, my laptop from 2009 flat out smokes the workstation that I was provisioned for my work PC and my work PC is supposedly a top of the line HP. The only drawbacks of the machine were heat and power - the laptop struggled to get much over 90 minutes of battery life and saved me from needing to heat my apartment. I recently hooked up two monitors to this PC though and it seems to be having trouble with ultra-high resolutions like 3840x1200 which I am running across dual screens.
The New PC
So... it's time. My new build - the important bits - will consist of:
Some of the components are a little over the top (case, Revodrive) but I tried to create a balanced value/enthusiast PC. Shipped, the PC will cost a little over $1500 which is pretty good considering the performance I expect to get out of the machine. In planning out the PC I had first created a "crazy build" where I went about one tier under the fastest machine I could build (this build would have cost me ~$2500 but had a GeForce GTX 580 and 6-core i7 ), then I created a "value" machine where I went and found the best bang for the buck components (many which were the hot components of 2010 like the Phenom II X6) and then went ahead and found something in the middle. All of the components I got are enthusiast components, just the "budget" enthusiast components. For example, the Revo has a number of faster and newer models but I opted out. The Revo is still marginally faster than most SSD drives and does not occupy a SATA port which was what really drove my decision there. At any rate, all these components are ridiculous compared to anything I have used before so I'm very excited!
Some options that I really fought over:
12GB 9-9-9- vs 8GB 7-9-7 timing PC3-12800 memory
This could make a big impact both ways. In VMs the extra memory could help. The faster memory would translate to reduced load times. I opted for more memory and slower timing, and I think this was one place where I might have been better off going with the highest end versus mid-high-end. The price difference was pretty significant too, the faster timed memory costs about twice as much as the slower timed memory.
Nvidia vs. AMD
Ever since the days of 3DFX vs. Nvidia, I was first a 3DFX fan and later an Nvidia fan. I tried to set emotions aside though, the ATI - err AMD - option has more memory which will be better for me because I'm running at high resolutions. The motherboard I picked also is CrossFireX which is AMD. I have been weary of AMD cards paired with Intel but I don't think this really is an issue.
Conclusions and Comparisons Old to New
I just pulled some random synthetic benchmarks for the components to see just how much faster my new build is going to be. These numbers aren't necessarily representative of how real world performance will be between the machines but could give you an idea.
4911 3dMark in Vantage
28017 3Dmarks in Vantage
4GB 800-mhz SDRAM
This is PC2-6400~7.5 GB/s
This is PC3-12800~18.3 GB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+
Seq Read: 242MB/SecSeq Write: 167MB/Sec
4K Read: 19.64K Write: 13.7
Seq Read: 390MB/sSeq Write: 285MB/s
4K Read: 23MB/s4K Write: 63MB/s
My new machine will probably be more than twice as fast as my older laptop. I'm now really excited. We'll see how the build goes after the components arrive and I get back from vacation next week!