8 Oct 2013

Upgrade Season


Just over two years ago, I built a PC that would be able to play the ‘next generation’ of MMOs. It was a silly notion considering that, at the time, I didn’t have an idea what next generation truly meant. I just wanted to build something that would provide obscene frame rates without leaving me penniless.

It’s a strategy that worked. I’ve gone from WoW: Cataclysm, to SWTOR, to TERA, to The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, all without a hitch. I’ve managed to run them on high settings and capture stunning video. Whatever game I’ve wanted to play, my hardware hasn’t held me back.

This time round, I’m being a little more pragmatic. Getting technical, the latest Intel Haswell processors don’t provide a dramatic bonus over my Sandybridge i5, so I’m in no rush to strip out the guts of my rig. Instead I’m going to double-check the cooling, replace some fans and overclock the processor.

There is one part that’s getting the boot though, and that’s my NVidia GTX 480. Although it has graphical grunt, it’s not nearly as powerful as the latest cards from both them and AMD. It also guzzles electrical power and gets pretty hot as a result. Plus, the triple-fan variant I bought makes an absolute racket when installed. I’m not sure if it’ll be replaced by Team Red or Green this time round, but I’m eyeing both carefully.

As a result, I’m going to be upgrading my wife’s gaming PC. She’s also an avid MMO player, and has been suffering from poor frame rates in Guild Wars 2 and SWTOR. With both WildStar and Elder Scrolls Online around the corner in 2014, we’ve got enough time to do some major upgrades. I’m going to be swapping out her first-generation i3 with something that has substantially more horsepower.

Apart from that, both systems will get backed up, scrubbed down and reformatted with a fresh installation of Windows 7. Microsoft’s newest operating system doesn’t offer us anything that our existing versions don’t already have, and we’re not fans of the touch-inspired interface.

One area that I haven’t previously considered is peripheral upgrades, instead buying replacements as needed. I’m still rocking the same Razer Naga Molten that I bought some two years ago, although I get the feeling that it’ll need replacing soon. I’m also using an excellent Logitech G930 wireless headset, so audio is fine. I’m considering a couple of new 1080p displays, but it depends heavily on cost.

Which leaves me with one more thing – a new workhorse laptop. Something that’s durable, lightweight, comfortable and professional. Perhaps a MacBook Air?

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4 Responses to Upgrade Season

  1. Lethality says:

    I’m also toying with an upgrade… something I’ve never actually bothered with in a PC before. It just always seemed better, if not a whole lot easier, to just build something from the ground up. The machine I built was just ahead of the release of SW:TOR in late 2011, so, while it has held up well, it’s due!

    I am considering going to an i7 from my current i5. On the Mac side, my day-to-day use of systems with both processors seems to result in a tangible difference. Wether that will translate to gameplay improvements though, I don’t know.

    Also looking at a graphics update… currently have 2x 6950s in CrossFire, but, for MMOs (which is all I play) that is overkill, and most MMOs seem to be more CPU intensive anyway.

    And I’ll probably bring the machine up to 16GB of RAM from 8.

    My dream however? That game studios will abandon Windows all together and throw support behind SteamOS. Then, I can finally have the high powered “desktop console” I always wanted (since I only turn on my Windows PC for a select few games.) It will hook up to nice displays, mice, keyboards… without all of the unnecessary overhead in Windows!

    • Gazimoff says:

      I thought about a similar move on the processor front. I have a Core i5 2500k – one of the Sandybridge family that’s a nice overclocker. If I wanted to move up to the latest Haswell i7 chips, I’d need to replace the motherboard as well. That gets a little pricey for minimal benefit, so I’m going to stick with what I have for now. Another option was to grab a Sandybridge i& from Amazon, but they’re also not great value at the mo.

      16GB is definitely tempting. After checking my current memory specs, I could probably bump my rig up for a reasonable amount, so I’ll definitely toy with the idea.

      And SteamOS? Completely with you there. If anything can break Microsoft’s stranglehold on PC innovation, it’s this.

  2. Seth says:

    I just went from a GTX 460 to a 660 a few months ago and I couldn’t be happier! If you look for promotions, you can usually get a few free games or something with it too. I got a copy of the new Batman waiting for me when it’s released.
    Seth recently posted..TSW: Portal to… Limbo (for Now)My Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      I agree, stepping up to the latest series of cards seems to give a huge boost. I’m considering the NVidia 760 at the mo, but that’s only out of brand loyalty. This time around, I’ll be looking purely at performance/cost.