Some clarity to my PC upgrade path

For some weeks now I have come with multiple iterations on my new gaming PC rig. Each iteration is an idea as to how my upgrade path will follow. Some of which became more expensive, some of which became cheaper. Each iteration follows a different idea of what it means for me to upgrade. What do I want to get out of it following an upgrade after having my gaming PC for a year now?

Every time a new iteration was created, I gain a little more clarity as to the sole purpose of the upgrade. In the end, I decided upon an upgrade path that salvages most of the PC parts, mainly the storage (SSD and HDD), PSU, and my beloved NZXT Manta case. It dawns upon me several factors that made me decide to choose such an upgrade path.

  1. A total overhaul is just too expensive.

I have calculated the cost it would take me to do a complete overhaul in addition to a substantial graphics card upgrade from 1070 to a 1080ti. It is very expensive. An endeavour that I would like to embark, but just goes beyond what I am able to spend on. Rationally, my current rig works perfectly. It has just passed its one year mark of usage. It is still in pristine condition and all of the parts are still working fine. Having to sell the entire rig and then build a new one from scratch is expensive, even after factoring what I can potentially earn from selling my previous rig.

2. I still find the NZXT Manta a hugely unique case in terms of design.

The NZXT Manta was space age when it was first released. And I still find it so, despite the fact that it still sports an acrylic window. Now, every case maker has gone the tempered glass route. While it is highly tempting to own a sleek, tempered glass build, the overall looks and design of the Manta, still holds dear in my heart. I simply cannot part from an ITX build, especially when using the NZXT Manta case. It is simply unlike any other.

3. Upgrade to mATX or ATX motherboard in the hopes of upgrading to an SLI build is just wishful thinking.

It is tempting to dream of a time of building an SLI build in the future. I have factored that idea in several iterations of my PC upgrade path process and still, it is deemed an extremely expensive investment. Costs aside, I have come to a conclusion and is backed by official sources from GPU makers themselves that SLI support is in decline. Several gaming enthusiasts have also highlighted the fact that owning and using an SLI build may be more trouble than it’s worth. When games no longer support SLI, your return on investments are severely curtailed. At the end of the day, spending potentially 1000 bucks or more just to have another graphics card installed for aesthetics purposes is meaningless. Therefore, I still feel that an ITX set up is perfect for my use case scenario.There is simply no need to spend unnecessarily on a second graphics card.

I have gained a little more clarity in my upgrade path now. Even the cost of it has gone down significantly. For example, I have calculated that a complete overhaul of the system (getting a brand new gaming PC) would cost me $2571, excluding graphics card (the reason why I exclude graphics card is that the GTX 1070 is still hugely relevant in gaming and there is technically no need to upgrade). However, If I were to simply upgrade my current gaming PC, the Dark Rage build to a Dark Rage ver.2.0, it would cost me $1242. I would be saving around $1300 just from upgrade Dark Rage alone. The only thing that I would need to upgrade is a new CPU, (I am going for AMD Ryzen 7 1700, more on that in another post in the future) motherboard, AIO cooler RGB RAM, and a couple of RGB fans. That’s it. With the new upgrade, especially the AIO and RGB fans and RGB, my upgrade rig will look even better. Dark Rage ver.2.0 would closely resemble the ideal build I have always dreamed off for my Manta. That way, I can enjoy my Manta case for a couple more years until something better than a Manta comes along the way. Who knows, maybe NZXT may release Manta 2.0 with a curved tempered glass build. That would be wicked! So why AMD? Well, for a couple of reason, but I will explain them in another post someday.

 

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PC upgrade woes

Ever since AMD released their latest line of ‘Zen” CPUs, the CPU landscape has never looked so exciting in a long time. With competition from the red camp, Intel is now upping its game in pushing forward the release schedule of their latest ‘Coffeelake” CPU, the 8th Generation of new CPU from Intel that is rumoured to launch in the 5th of October. Consumer now have a myriad of CPU choices from both the blue and red team. And both of them are offering, or will be offering excellent CPUs at every segment of the PC market. Anything from the most budget conscious consumer, to the PC enthusiasts, or someone who wants the best of the best to maximise their productivity.

That has led to some upgrade woes for me. With so many choices, I am faced with so many issues in choosing the ideal parts for my next build and making sure that they all play nicely without any hardware, software or even physical conflicts with one another, especially when you are actually building a new rig from scratch. With so many offerings, all clamouring for your attention, it is very difficult to separate the signal from the noise.

One good way to do that, is to question yourself critcally; what would be the ultimate use of your upcoming PC rig? What will it ultimately be used for, for most of the time that it is switched on?

Suprisingly, I haven’t been able to answer that question myself, despite the fact that no matter how I use my new gaming rig, there will always be a build that is suited for it.

I play games on my PC. That is the primary use when building a gaming rig. Sounds straightforward. Get a decent performance CPU (no need to get the highest end model with the highest core count or clockspeed) and invest more of your money to getting a good GPU that will get decent framerates at maximum setting over a 1440p resolution screen. That is my set up at the end of the day.

However that is another use of my PC, one that does not involve gaming, but rather, involves donating idle computing time to useful causes through Boinc. Boinc is a platform that allows users to pick a project from a list, (scientific or otherwise) and donate your computer’s processing power (either from the CPU or GPU, or both at the same time), to help people in cruching mathematically complex data for useful causes. It could be as noble as climate change model modelling, chemistry and protein-protein interaction modelling, or to a more benign project like searching for signal out in space for intelligent life (SETI) to a downright hobbyist type like finding the largest prime number.

And so I find donating my spare processing power for the benefit of mankind to be a noble cause. Afterall, it’s easy to set up. Just download Boinc, and choose a project that you think is interesting to you and you are well on your way to potentially contributing meaningfully to society, all while sitting on your desk behind your monitor.

Therefore, having a more powerful PC would greatly help in the cause. That is where the conflict arises. I don’t need a powerful PC to enjoy my games, and yet, I want to build a rather powerful one, because I find using Boinc and crunching scientific data for good a cause to be fun.

So which is it, to spend more on a more powerful rig, or simply save money and get a decent specced gaming rig?

My idea of a power rig involves multicore CPUs with adequate cooling (preferably water cooled) and at least 2 powerful graphics card. But adding just another graphics card costs a lot of money and will definintely increase your overall budget on a PC considerably. Do I want to walk down that path.

And thus, this is my source of my dilemma. I simply cannot decide. Of course, there are other smaller problems when it comes to upgrading your PC. Do you salvage parts from your previous PC, or do you sell off the entire rig? What parts can I salvage? Do I want to start from scratch and create something different? Or do I want to stick to largely the same build but just some beefier parts? Each has it’s own pros and cons.

Personally, I want to upgrade. I really do. It’s just a matter or which path to choose and then sticking to that path and commit myself in choosing the correct parts that would bring me the greatest benefit without breaking the bank. And once I am on that path, I must not regret that decision. It is hard to know where I will go. I have never dont a PC upgrade before. I don’t know what are some of the considerations when making an upgrade. For example, is it more feasible to sell the entire rig and start from scratch, or is it better to sell off certain parts and salvaging others to add to my new rig? How do I go about doing it efficiently and effectively?

I still love my rig. It still performs extremely well. Given a choice to upgrade one component, I would most definitely go with the graphics card. I do fancy a shiny new GTX 1080ti. It’s overkill for gaming over 1440p, but at least with a 1080ti, number crunching would be faster by a slight margin, and when it comes to GPUs, one can always bring it forward to whatever future gaming rigs you are going to build.

All AMD build?

In the past couple of days, there has been a deluge of information regarding AMD’s new product offering from the CPU and GPU departments. The latest monster of a cpu, Threadripper was launched to much fanfare and I really dig the review kits AMD distributed to all major influential tech reviewers on YouTube. The review kit they received was really badass! AMD also announced their new Vega GPUs for the mainstream market and so far things are looking really promising for AMD. I have heard nothing but praises for AMD from the tech community, especially when it comes to really listening to feedback and acting on that feedback to give customers what they truly want from AMD.

Which got me wondering now about my future gaming rig. And all AMD build seems an interesting prospect. It would be doubtful for me to get the Threadripper lineup of CPUs. Those are overkill, but the Ryzen 5 or even the Ryzen 7 series is competitively priced against Intel’s CPU offerings. Having an 8-core, 16-thread CPU is a bonus. Definitely still overkill, but nice to have.

As for GPUs, I’m reserving judgment over them. Vega is an interesting product, but I am more interested in what Nvidia has to offer next year. Honestly, I am still a Nvidia fan, and their recent 10 series GPUs are nothing to scoff about. But one thing is for sure, and that it I will go for multi GPU set up for my next build. I am aiming to get 2 enthusiast level GPUs to be included in my future build. More power! It could be possible that I could go for an AMD CPU coupled with a pair of Nvidia GPUs in my future builds.

By the way, in about 15 days or so, my current Dark Rage build will be official one year old! Time truly flies! It doesn’tĀ feel like a year has passed. At. All. But believe it or not, a full year will soon pass since I first built my new gaming PC. It is still going strong and I have made zero upgrades to the PC since then. I just love my PC to death. I imposed a moratorium on PC upgrades for 2017 and I have kept to my end of the bargain. Reason being is that I personally feel a waste of money to make incremental upgrades to my current PC, when I can use that money and more as I save up to build an even bigger and better PC in the future, hopefully sometime in 2018.