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New Toy

Posted by briandh on November 12, 2006

I’ve been very quiet recently, both here on my blog and on my Zooomr collection. The problem is that my home PC is finally dying – it resets itself every now and then. It was a relatively cheap PC-World box bought as an emergency stop-gap when its predecessor died spectacularly over three yeas ago. Starting about two-and-a-half years ago I’ve been promising myself a new machine – and this time it was going to be a “real” machine.

Doing the sums

Convincing myself, and my wife, of the need for the new machine has taken a while – and in that time the specifications have sky-rocketed but the price has stayed much the same. Over the years I have noticed that the cost of new PC’s has remained relatively constant:

  • A cheap entry level machine will cost around £500
  • A reasonably machine will be around £1000
  • A good gaming machine will be around £2000
  • A top of the range, must have the latest bleeding edge components, machine will be around £3000

The above includes a reasonable monitor matching the spec of the machine. It doe not include very-large very-high-resolution monitors which are into the silly-money bracket.

My previous machine was somewhere between a reasonable machine and a good gaming machine. My old monitor was still working so I opted for a store-bought £1000 system-only box. It could play all the games of its day reasonably well.

No excuses

“Play games reasonably well” – tut-tut I hear you say – surely you can justify your home computer on better reasoning than that!

Nope. Sorry. It is for playing games – and messing around with photos and maybe a little household chores, bookkeeping and Internet shopping.

Back to the sums

So, this time I was opting for the top of the range, so I am expecting to pay around the £3000 mark. I did a little initial research and came up with three machines ranging £1k, £2k and £3k and examined the differences. A little cost-benefit analysis showed that the £1k machine was not worth it – it was only a small step up from what I already had so would need upgraded relatively quickly. To be brutally honest the £3k machine fell down too – the extra performance gain over the £2k machine was really not justifiable.

Some techie details

There were two main differences between the £2k and £3k machines:

  1. The processor moved up from an “Intel Core 2 Duo E6700” to a “Intel Core 2 Duo E6800”. The performance jump here is tiny, less than 5% in tests, but it costs about £350 more for the faster processor.
  2. The graphics card went from a pair of “ATI Radeon 1950’s” to a pair of “nVidia 7950’s”. This is, in theory, a more significant jump. The nVidia cards are actually pairs – so you are talking effectively 4 graphics cards instead of two. However, trawling the Internet for comparative reviews I found that the paired ATI cards actually performed slightly better at the 1600×1200 native resolution of my preferred monitor. The ATI cards were also found to be compatible with more games.

So I settled – one step down from the bleeding edge. Having done that I took a half step back up by doubling the disk space and system memory and a more expandable “gaming” case. Taking in opting for XP Media Centre, a surge-proof power socket and delivery I got the whole deal in just under £2.7k.

Dealing the deal

I did all this through MESH, I’d used them successfully before and some checking of other suppliers they seemed the cheapest (like for like). Working through their site I discovered there are three ways to pick a machine with them:

  1. Build it yourself from the box up.
  2. Pick from their standard catalog of systems.
  3. Pick on of their “reviewed” PCs – machines that have been reviewed by magazines and Web sites.

In all cases you can tailor the selected machine further by upgrading certain components.

The fun thing is that I found the cheapest technique was to pick a reviewed machine that was one step down from what you were aiming for and then upgrade it to the spec you want. The cost saving were very significant – well into the hundreds in my case.

So, how is it?

So, I’ve picked my machine, placed the order and got an estimated delivery date – yesterday.

I came home from work on Friday night somewhat jubilant – we’d made significant progress on the project I’m working on and I had a new toy arriving the next morning. I turn on my machine to find an email from my boss – “MESH called about your order – please call them back”. It is 7pm on Friday night and they close at 6pm so how can I possibly call them back – until the next morning.

They waited until the last minute on the last day before delivery to call me – they didn’t even try the alternative number I gave them when they couldn’t get me. I had to wait until the morning to contact them to find out if there was a problem or if they were just phoning to let me know it had been dispatched on schedule.

Actually I did try contacting them that night – I hoped to contact their 24/7 support service in the hope that they had access to the same systems and could tell me what was going on. Their web site has about a dozen different number – each one you phone gives you an automated message with a choice of two or more other numbers to try – some premium rate numbers and all of which give you yet more numbers to try. I gave up on that – just after I dialed one of the numbers a bit wrong (I hope!) and got a sex line!

So, I phoned yesterday morning. “Sorry sir, we ran short of the graphics cards and don’t expect new ones in until the middle of next week.”

So, at best, if I’m lucky, it will be a week late.

No new toy for Brian this week and no report of how wonderful it is – sorry.

In the fine old tradition of shooting the messenger, I will be blaming my boss and grumbling even more than normal on Monday morning (probably the whole week).

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