Barring some determined technical work from the likes of CD Projekt RED in The Witcher 2 and DICE’s remarkable Battlefield 3+ Frostbite engine, gaming has been in a bit of a rut for a few years now, thanks to the aging PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles holding everything back. Sure, there have been some incremental advances in Unreal games, with Arkham City looking noticeably fancier than Arkham Asylum, but we haven’t seen the seismic shifts that pushed gaming along in the 90s and 2000s.
Now, at last, the PS4 is out, unlocking a new development ceiling for cross-platform devs. This will also inevitably drive a bunch of PC gamers to upgrade their rigs to keep pace and fairly rapidly outstretch the console’s capabilities. Including myself.
While I have a PS3, for me it’s really been a media centre and a way to play Journey and Flower. I’ve always been a PC gamer, for various reasons. Most recently it’s due to the vibrant indie scene, which is consistently thrilling. At the same time all the big AAA titles tend to show up on PC as well as the consoles, often with a few technical enhancements.
There’s a bit of a misconception that PC gaming is expensive. Most of my hardware is about 5 years old, so has lasted rather well. The only part I’ve upgrade is the graphics card, which currently is a pretty old NVIDIA 560ti. This has kept me trucking at 1680×1050 on high settings for the last coupla years without any problems, but I’m starting to hit the limit. This will no doubt increase once devs start to embrace the PS4 as well.
So, hardware-wise the cost isn’t bad, if you buy carefully. Additionally, games tend to average around £20, often much cheaper and only occasionally more expensive (as long as you ignore EA’s ridiculous pricing, as with Titanfall). So if you buy a fair number of games, the savings over the £40-50 console prices adds up pretty substantially over the years.
Anyway, it’s 2014 and it’s time to start upgrading my system. In previous years I upgraded the whole lot in one go but that’s not really an option this time round due to now being a Responsible Parent and having to be rather more careful with my finances.
I’m therefore going to be upgrading gradually over the course of the year, incrementally. One major benefit, other than spreading the cost, is that I can time my purchases to maximise either value or power.
I thought I’d blog about it, in case anybody else is in a similar boat – and also to get some feedback on my purchasing choices in case I’m making any epic mistakes.
In today’s blog post I’m going to summarise my current rig, for reference.
The current rig
My system currently breaks down like this:
- Case: Antec something-or-other. It’s big, black and nondescript. It has a nice compartmentalised interior which is good for heat distribution but a bit of a pain in the arse for cable routing. A bigger issue is that it’s easy-to-use HDD bays weren’t designed with SSDs in mind, which means my current SSD is simply taped to the interior. Not ideal!
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600. They stopped making these in 2009, which gives you an idea of how old it is. Remarkably, it’s only now starting to creak, and that’s mostly in stuff like HitFilm. Games really haven’t hammered the CPU much in recent years.
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 560 Ti. This came out in 2011 and was the sweet-spot for power-value at the time. Still holds its own.
- Memory: 4GB DDR2. My current mobo doesn’t support DDR3, which is a bummer.
- Monitor: Samsung SyncMaster 226BW. A lovely monitor, but uses a 16:10 ratio which prevents me from running at a standard 1920×1080 res.
- Motherboard: Asus P5k Deluxe. It’s pretty good, other than putting all the SATA connectors right underneath where the GPU hovers. Gah.
- PSU: Purepower 680W. I’ve borrowed this from a friend due to my old Corsair PSU dying a couple of months back. Hence a first priority is to get a proper replacement.
- Storage: I have a bunch of old bust fast HDDs accumulated over the years, plus a single 128GB SSD which is my main system drive.
Incidentally, you can find out the spec of your computer easily using a little utility called CPU-Z: http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z/versions-history.html
In part 2 I’ll be embarking on part 1 of my year-long system upgrade, which will begin with a power supply and a new SSD.