The chronic (and costly) disease of upgradeitis has reared its ugly head again. And this time, it's the worst yet. The symptoms were all over the place, I just didn't realize it.
It all started when my mouse finally decided to die on me. The shop-keeper said that my mouse is out of warranty period and there's no way of resurrecting my high-dpi pet. It had pined-for (and reached) the fjords. Fine, I said. It is time for a mouse upgrade anyway, I said. In the meanwhile, I am back to using my faltering old mouse.
I was researching (choices, choices) my next mouse when another peripheral, my Razer Barracuda HP-1 5.1 channel gaming headphones decided to act up and its front-left channel went silent, permanently. I was disgruntled at this and asked Razer web store for a refund instead of a replacement. I got my refund, but now I was without a high-end headphone pair. Fine, I said. It is time for a mouse upgrade and a high-end headphone pair upgrade, I said. In the meanwhile, I am back to using my old and so-so philips shp805 cans.
While all this was happening, I had noticed that my rig, especially after my new Dell 24" upgrade, was being brought to its knees by recent gaming titles. Playing at less than native resolutions and/or with decreased eye-candy might be an option for most, but not for me (of course, Crysis would be the one exception to this. For now.). This, of course, would entail upgrading the core system components, i.e., processor and video card.
My initial findings indicated that an upgrade to a quad core 45nm Penryn was the best upgrade path for now. But my current motherboard, the legendary Asus P5N32-E SLI, has iffy support for 45nm CPU s, and this of course calls for a motherboard upgrade, and possibly a memory upgrade, depending on the motherboard chipset or other factors as you will find out below.
Now there's another reason that enticed me to consider a motherboard upgrade, and that is the power consumption and, in-turn, the heat situation. The 680i chipset of nvidia that is in my motherboard is a sucker for watts and produces so much heat that I am still amazed that the solder hasn't melted and run off the motherboard. High power draw also decreases the UPS's on-battery time, which is made all the more important now because of the recent scheduled power-cuts happening all over Tamil Nadu. Another smaller issue is of the electricity bill. To give you a clue of why this may be a concern, take a look at the current system power draw as I type this blog post:
All these reasons create a case against the current generation (65nm fabrication) mother board/CPU combination and the move toward a more recent (45nm) componentary. So, I had almost decided on the Intel Q9450 CPU on a P45/780i chipset, with the possibility of moving to a power-efficient DDR3 memory modules. And hence I went about trawling the inter-wibble for reviews on the various brands of the chipsetery. I had selected the CPU, but the choice of motherboard and memory was a lot tough to make. Inter-wibbling after a day of work, I took about a month's time looking around for the perfect deals or looking up on some fault or the other that someone in a forum would report regarding one of my components.
Many a times I had filled up the online shopping carts with a motherboard or a RAM module and come close to clicking on the checkout button. I have also asked most of the shops in Ritchie street for the best deals on the components. I heard that Intel was slashing the price of the CPUs. So I waited for that.
In the interim period of this waiting game did I hear of the arrival of Nehalem (pronounced NAH-HAY-LEM. Bet you didn't pronounce it that way till now. I wasn't either!) CPUs "next month". So I decided to wait some more. In the PC Hardware universe, or heck the entire electronics universe, those who wait will get better products at a better price, but at the price of owning an aged hardware that has also depreciated in resale value. And to live in India is to live a year in the past, as most electronic gadgetery is not deemed suitable for Indian consumption (unless at a heavy premium) until it's novelty has been well worn off in the rest of the World. But to heck with resale value, I decided to wait.
Fast-forward a couple of months, now I have committed to a Core i7 (920) CPU (previously codenamed Nehalem), a X58 chipset motherboard (MSI Eclipse) and 6GB of DDR3 low volt memory modules (G.skill 3x2GB 1600MHz 8-8-8-21 @1.6-1.65V PI-Black series). And about the ageing vide0 card that is my Geforce 8800GTX; it's predecessor will be a pre-SLI ed monster called GTX 295. Yep, after loathing SLI, mainly for its chance of not working in non-SLI-supported games and too much hot-air (literally) for non-linear performance gain (2 cards for around 150% perf increase), I am finally (and tentatively) getting on the SLI-bandwagon. Bring on the kool-aid.
Now, sharp readers might've noticed that the choice of a 130Watt TDP Core i7 processor and a bleeding-edge SLI graphics card are in direct opposition to the points I mentioned under Power Situation. But, the truth is that, because these are bleeding edge componentry, they have good power saving features that make them the very power efficient (i7 , especially, consumes lesser power than any contemporary quad-core processors out there) in IDLE state. Since my computer spends most of its time idly downloading torrents, this is the state in which it will spend most of its time. The LOAD power consumption, is, of course, is among the most power hungry of all. But I really don't care about this as the time spent in fully loaded condition is very small. You get the idea.
That leaves me with the Mouse and Headphones in my shopping list:
After my bad experience with headphones that only vibrate your noggin in the name of "bass", I am forever apprehensive of headphones with so-called "sub-woofers". I am currently researching on the subject of Headphones. Maybe, I could go for a "virtual surround" or Dolby Headphones. Still a lot to research on this subject so I will provide an update when I know more about the choices.
I am almost done with the mouse selection though. It could be the much revered game mouse, the Logitech MX518, or it could be the new champion Logitech G9. Or perhaps it could be the new-kid-on-the-block Microsoft Sidewinder mouse. Razer's DA, CH, Lachesis, etc are dead reptiles to me. While I ponder the choices, I also catch a glimpse of some great keyboards (mmm... MS Reclusa... Oooh, Razer Lycosa...). Come to think of it, I am kinda about the non-illuminated keys on my Microsoft Multimedia keyboard...