I can justify anything.

A few days ago, I was napping on my couch as I usually do before I go into work. I was just drifing off as I started smelling something unpleasant. At first, I thought it was just a truck passing by outside; after all, I do live just a few floors up from a major street in Seattle, and I leave all my windows open. It's not uncommon to hear or smell an undesirable vehicle passing through. I kept my eyes closed, hoping it would go away soon, but the scent kept getting stronger. I then heard my computer speakers turn off, so I got up, walked to my computer, and to my dismay, that's where the smell was the strongest.

The order of events went as follows:

Sniff, sniff.
"Oh, crap."
Run to the other side of the room.
Stare at computer.
Walk back over to computer, gingerly hit the power button on the power supply.
Run back over to the other side of the room.
Realize my phone is on my computer desk.
Retrieve my phone, then back into my panic corner.
Start up WoW mobile in hopes of finding the hardware guy in my guild on guild chat.
Realize I have a perfectly capable Alienware M15x sitting on my coffee table.
Power it up, finding a different power outlet than the one my smelly PC is currently plugged into.
Get on my guild's ventrillo server. Find hardware guy there.
Start panicing on guild chat.
Hardware guy calms me down. I think he knew I was about to cry.
Was informed I should unplug it. Refuse to go near it.
Was told to go open up the case. Refuse to go near it.
Get off ventrillo.
Tweet and post to facebook about my misfortune to try and find someone to come over and fix it. (Unrelated: "post to facebook" is not nearly as catchy as "tweet". This is totally why twitter has caught on.)
Have a shot of vodka.
Remove the side of the case, keeping my body as far from it as possible.
Sniff, sniff - seems to be coming from PSU.
Still refuse to unplug it.

I am terrified of hardware. Go ahead and laugh, you won't be the first. I can only explain this behavior by making it clear that I am always convinced something is going to try to set me on fire, electrocute me, or explode next to me. I don't really have much to back up these fears. I was mildly zapped by a payphone that I was taking apart when I was a teenager, and I've only had one computer try to kill me while I was sleeping. (The computer was turned off, but the power supply still shot sparks at my head. I don't even know.)

By the time I had gone into my office, it had been determined by people of the internet that my PSU probably blew, so I started poking around on amazon. I purchased a Corsair Professional Series Gold High-Performance 1200-Watt Power Supply and had it shipped via next day air. Season 10 of PVP in World of Warcraft just started, and I wasn't sure how well my Alienware M15x would handle my gaming demands, so time was of the essence. A coworker was kind enough to grab my PC after work to take it home and test the PSU, and he confirmed the it was blown.

The next day, I started thinking about my options. It was possible that my computer was trashed. When a PSU blows, it can take out components with it. I built this computer nearly 3 years ago, and it's still pretty awesome: i7 920, ASUS Rampage II Extreme RoG edition, 2 nVidia GTX 285 3GB cards, 60GB SSD, 6 GB DDR3 1066mhz RAM. Not stellar, but still perfectly acceptable for a gamer today. When I built this computer - including both 27" displays - it cost me around $3000. This is not an inconsiderable amount of money. It has been a while though, and I've been considering upgrading for the past few months.

When I started talking about this on IRC, a few other gamers disparaged some of the hardware I was considering, saying it was too expensive. They think a gaming computer can be built for $800. This is true. I will not argue that point. You can build a computer perfectly capable of playing most games for $800. However, will that computer be capable of playing the latest and greatest games three years from when you build it without sacrificing quality? Probably not.

I view my computer as more than just a tool. I spend more time using my desktop than I do any other item that I own. I don't go to many concerts or movies, I don't buy expensive shoes (anymore), I don't like expensive cars, and I don't have any vices to spend my money on, despite what you may have read on *cough* some other website.

My budget for my new computer is $3000. This sounds like a lot of money. Given that my average computer upgrade cycle is 3 years, I don't see it as such. I budget $1200 a year to computer hardware, including misc peripherals. "But peripherals don't cost that much," you might say. Read on.

Unlike video cards, RAM, processors, and other hardware components, displays are something that don't require upgrading every few years. I'll keep my 2 27" displays, but I'd also like to get a third, smaller display that is capable of doing 3D, as well as the nVidia 3D Vision. Gimmicky, I know. I have some vision problems, so I don't have any depth perception normally. When I saw TRON Legacy in 3D, it was amazing. I think the first words out of my mouth when we left the theatre were "So this is what normal people see". It's definitely not a piece of hardware I plan on using every day, but I would like to have the option. These glasses are not that cheap given that they require a display type that I don't currently have.

I'm very picky about my computer keyboards. I used to go through a keyboard every 3 months. I don't spill things on them, I don't go all angry German kid, they just die. Cheap keyboards, expensive keyboards, it seems to make no difference. For a while, I was going through $60-$80 keyboards trying to find one that would last. Finally, I found the Steelseries 7G, which retails for about $150. Even I thought this was crazy expensive... until I used it. This keyboard is magical. When you use it for the first time, typing will feel better than falling asleep in a cuddle puddle of declawed kittens on the back of a giant unicorn that reads you bedtime stories in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. It's mechanical. It's heavy enough to beat someone to death, and it would probably still work afterwords. Each key easily pops off for cleaning. There is no windows key on the left-hand side, which keeps me from accidentally hitting it mid-game. If I could recommend one piece of hardware to anyone, this would be it. It's worth mentioning that Steelseries has since then released the Steelseries 6Gv2 which retails for $100 and is just like the 7G, though it lacks the built in USB hub and gold plated audio connections.

I'd been using the Razer Lachesis as my preferred mouse for a while, but I just upgraded two weeks ago to the Razer Naga Epic for $130. This mouse is ridiculous. Don't get it unless you play a MMORPG, in which case you should hit yourself for not already having it. It looks far less awkward than it actually is.

My last set of headphones (which you may have seen me wearing on FLOSS Weekly) had a microphone that is inadequate for expressing my rage while gaming, so I picked up the Steelseries 5Hv2 for about $90. Excellent headphones, but only for gaming. These are optimized to pick up things like footfalls in first person shooters. They are not meant for watching movies or listening to music.

See how the cost of hardware can add up? These are just peripherals, not even the internals. My philosophy with computer hardware is buy the latest and greatest, but only do this once every three years. Benchmarks can look great when you're comparing with the next model up. You may be kicking yourself for buying a video card last month when a new one comes out today that has some great looking charts on your hardware review site of choice. However, in real world use, one revision to the next often makes no difference at all in your personal usability. The flipside of this is that if you don't want to have to upgrade for a long time, getting the low to mid range hardware for gaming just isn't going to work out. There's always going to be a new game coming out that requires more from hardware. Given my hatred of hardware, you can understand why I would like to avoid upgrading for as long as possible.

It turns out that replacing my PSU let my old PC boot, but I think I'm still going to proceed with my plans to upgrade, though I will probably wait until Q4. What hardware am I getting? Stay tuned.

Posted at 2011-07-07 13:20 | Permanent link | Comments

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