while I have said before that I don’t like to turn my blog into a document of my materialist purchases, every now and then I simply find something that excites me and is after all part of a larger construct, as one finds relations between the hardware one uses and the work they produce.

I’ve never been a Macintosh user and I think it will be a long time before I ever am. I can appreciate what Apple have done in bringing advanced computing and a luscious user experience to such a large market, especially in recent years (I would go so far as to say the last decade). They’ve simplified the knowledge needed to use the computer as a tool, so that people can focus further on the content of their work. They can do this simply because they control the software as well as the hardware tied to their products. But one reason I’ve always been put-off from being a Mac user is the hardware: lack of diversity, of choices, and the absence of an ability to mod together a system that’s tailor-suited to your needs. Also money, but this stems from the lack of hardware choices, not the other way around. As Apple control the hardware used in their systems, they can charger a higher price for the product, a product which I ultimately absolutely cannot afford. I will elaborate:

I have had my current desktop machine since August 2004. I built it myself, as I have built every PC I’ve used for the last decade or so. It’s an Athlon XP 2800+ 2.0Ghz with 1Gig of DDR SDRAM. Those are the crucial stats. At the time this was a beefy machine. Everything else is pretty straightforward: a DVD ReWriter, firewire card, GeForce3 AGP video card with 256Mb of RAM, and lots internal hard drive storage. After 3 years that 1Gig of RAM is starting to be overwhelmed, and the processor just can’t handle the amount of programs I want to throw at it. An upgrade is in order.

I shop almost exclusively at newegg.com, with occasional purchases from tigerdirect. But newegg have great customer reviews, which I’ve always trusted and even contributed to myself. I spent about two hours researching components and reviews and have decided to upgrade the vital organs of my desktop machine: the motherboard, CPU, graphics card, power supply and RAM.

My laptop uses an Intel processor, but I’ve been more-pleased with AMD for my desktop solutions, so I settled on a Athlon 64 X2 5200+ running at 2.66Ghz frequency. This chip is dual-core, so it’s nearly tripling my computing power. The graphics card will be capable of running DirectX 10 should I ever upgrade that, and has 512Mb of Nvidia’s 8500GT chip to handle any games I might throw at it. Power supplies are more-crucial than people think, so to power these chips and the board I’m getting a full-650W PSU that can go up to a max load of over 700W. This should be more than enough energy to last me another 3 years!

upgrade motherboard
upgrade cpu
upgrade cpu hsf
upgrade graphics card
upgrade psu

All of these components are costing me just over $600, and that’s only because of shipping! After some rebates, the actual cost of the upgrade will float around $604! The comparable machine at the Apple store has two 2.66Ghz Intel Xeons and only supply the Nvidia 7300GT video card with 256Mb of graphics. Granted the processor is arguably better, but the graphics are cheaper and the rest of the hardware – firewire, DVD, wireless, etc. – is pretty standard. And that comparable Macintosh desktop? $2499!

apple store

Oh! MEMORY! I forgot about memory! (Or I planned to forget to defend my argument!)

My upgraded machine will include a whopping 8Gigs of DDR2 800 memory. 8 GIGS! 8 Gigs for an Apple Mac? Add $2099 bringing your total costs to $4598!

Fact is that all computing slows down over time, and all hardware becomes obsolete compared to the standards of the future. But if every three years I can save nearly $4000 then I don’t think Apple will make a convert out of me anytime soon. Especially not in a city like NYC where so much of my income already goes to rent and transport just so I can have the luxury of living here in the first place! I have the knowledge and the means to make this work, cheaply, and thus far my experience has been extremely rewarding. So be it!