As I write this, I’m wondering how long my MacBook will continue to work. This fall will be the third birthday of this machine and I do hope it lasts me the rest of the time I’m in college.
Once I graduate, I was thinking about getting a MacBook Pro but I’m not sure what my computing needs will be when that time comes. I might need a laptop, but I really would like either an iMac or to build my own desktop. Each obviously has it’s own advantages which I plan on discussing.
I already have the parts for a desktop wish-listed on Newegg, a build which I’ve put many hours in to in research as well as finding all the right parts on the site. Since I’m not living on my own or receiving a hefty income stream, I did lean right into the AMD products. I picked a Phenom II x4 for the starting point, which isn’t as energy efficient as I’d like, but one of the most cost effective four core CPU’s out there right now.
AMD does make ATI cards, ever since they bought out the name a few years ago, but I’m not planning on getting an ATI graphics card simply because AMD also produces those. After some recommendations from both Anandtech and Tom’sHardware, I focused on choosing a Hadeon HD 5750 with decent reviews. If I somehow find more money, I’ll gladly upgrade to a 5770, but that’s highly unlikely.
RAM is easy to shop for because there’s a fair amount of competition in that sector. Pick a size (4GB) and then find a reasonable (review score)/(price) ratio. I liked the look of G. Skill, so that got put on the wish list.
My hard drive was chosen in the same manner, but with investigation in the upper ranges of storage capacity. The highest possible size in internal hard dries is currently 2TB on Newegg and the reviews I’ve seen tell me investing in a drive that large is very risky. You’re paying less per GB, but at the same time, taking a gamble that drive won’t fail will all your precious data on it. It’s logical to split up data in my mindset, and buy smaller drives that are more reliable and also force you to split up your data. At this point I wouldn’t recommend getting a drive over 1TB, but since I’m cheap and don’t need all that space, I opted for a 500GB drive with good reviews and the Seagate brand pasted to it.
Motherboards are such a pain. Finding one that has all the features I want, without costing an exorbitant sum is a taxing premise. I like Asus and Gigabyte boards; both brands regularly get good reviews and my family owns an AM3 Gigabyte already. In my case, I went with an Asus with the 790x chipset because I won’t be needing more than GPU, I don’t want to pay for an extra video chipset with on-board graphics, and don’t need USB 3.0 or SATA 6.
I would love to invest in a solid aluminum Lian-Li case, but the price of a solid hunk of aluminum that large is higher than it needs to be. For this reason and airflow worries I opted for an Antec 300 I can fill with fans and run at low speed for effective but quiet cooling. It’s not going to be the most beautiful case, but it’s black and “nondescript enough” for me.
The most confusing and “am I aiming high enough” part about building a PC is shopping for a power supply. I want something that will be efficient, have enough amps and watts, last as long as the rest of my components, have cables that are long enough… it’s hard to know definitively, what power supplies to be looking at. Anandtech highly recommends Enermax PSU’s which are some of the most efficient and well-built, but cost far too much for me. I could save money in the long run, but I have no idea how much. The effort to figure this out seems more than I wish to expend. So I settled on a Corsair 400W which I had also recently purchased for our family machine, to replace the 300W that came with it and hadn’t the required 24 port and 8 port connections for the motherboard.
On the other hand I can get the cheapest iMac and have a beautiful machine to love and use without worrying about making the right choice in every little bit of hardware. I have a Mac right now because I like them. They’re easy to use and the extra “Apple tax” isn’t a tax at all, it’s the price of having a nice computer that runs OS X. The five years I plan on using this MacBook will have been an excellent investment. I refuse to try and code C++ on a Windows machine because gcc/g++ is built right in to the terminal. I can call up vim, and in another tab, compile the code I’m working on. I have no clue how I’d do this on a Windows machine without having to ssh to a Unix server on campus.
What about Linux you say? Yes, I would mot definitely use Ubuntu or any of a countless number of distributions on my theoretical “desktop” but there are a great number of things that fall far outside the simple montra of “it just works”. There are a lot of things in Linux that, most decidedly, do not “just work”. Apt is wonderful, but the display drivers and niche market do not work well towards achieving widespread compatibility or workability. After toying with Linux for the greater part of four or five years as a server OS and in virtual machines has done little to convince me that I want to use it as a primary OS.
Here’s the simple truth, I break things and xorg is one of those things. A desktop without a usable desktop is very limited. Sorta works like a command line interface. Kinda limited until I get around to fixing it.
Mac’s are awesome but are in no way custom.
PC’s are completely custom but can’t use OS X.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Mac’s are the only operating system legally allowed to run the big three operating systems?
For the most part, I feel like I know what I’m talking about when it comes down to picking a computer. There’s a lot to consider and in the end my big question is, what do you want to use it for? Since I don’t play a large number of games, a Mac is where I lean at the moment. I could play more games, but there’s only so much time I can spend on them.
There’s only so much time I can spend on blog posts too, so here is where I call it quits for today. Let me know if there’s something else you want me to address.