Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Best PC for Me

A month ago I told you of four gadgets I covet. A month later, with two down, and one only expected to be released at this year’s last quarter, I find myself devoting gray matter to the most expensive of the lot: a gaming PC. As in, which one should we go with?
Options generally start with a $1500 price tag. That could fetch a gaming laptop that could be quite nice, or a relatively basic gaming desktop (albeit one that would be much stronger than the laptop). I would hesitate to spend more on a laptop, given that a laptop’s limited capacity would mean that even a top notch model would not be able to deal with the latest crop of games in two years time. On the other hand, investing something like $2500 on a desktop would return a monster of a gaming PC.
Further complicating this exercise in optimizing our gaming money’s yield are the following considerations:
  1. Gaming PCs, by their very nature, run Windows. Me, I don’t like Windows at all, particularly Windows 8 (it’s horrible!). I therefore doubt I would choose to use the gaming PC for anything other than gaming, preferring Mac/Linux instead for the bulk of my computing needs.
  2. Whatever gaming PC we buy will also be used for work, where Windows based applications are still dominant.
  3. Due to ergonomic related reasoning, the household would like to use a proper monitor on its computers instead of hunching over laptops.
  4. With my eyes being a rather sensitive affair lately, I would take no less than an IPS monitor.
  5. We would prefer a portable solution that would allow us to work wherever we like around the house. In winter, for example, it’s nice to sit by the big window as opposed to our home office.

This mess of requirements seemed quite frustrating until it occurred to me: What is the best personal computer out there? The answer, by my book, is an iMac. Why, then, shouldn’t I use an iMac to play PC games?
It is entirely possible. In fact, many would argue the high quality Mac is the best Windows PC ever: all it takes is installing Windows in dual boot mode via Apple’s free Bootcamp. Apple supplies all the necessary drivers. The end result would not differ much from the Linux machines I have been using, most of which dual boot with Windows.
The advantages of using a Mac for PC gaming are obvious. First and foremost, I would have a good operating system (my favorite, actually), OS X, to work with most of the time. That would also work well with the Apple TV I already have, making our home entertainment better in the process. Then there’s the monitor: the iMac’s is probably one of the best computer monitors one can put one’s hands on, period. And the whole thing comes in a very neat package that won’t overtake our office and also allow us to move it around relatively easily if we feel like it.
I’m excited. Clearly, I have found my winner.
But then I think of the drawbacks.
First, for something that is intended to be a powerhouse of PC gaming, the iMac is relatively incapable. At its top specs it is no match for a similarly priced PC; it’s more like a fine $1500-$2000 desktop with a superb monitor thrown on top.
Which brings me to the painful matter of cost. Painful? Torturous. Essentially, to get anything worthy of gaming out of an iMac, one has to start off with the top model 27”. The one that sells for $2000+. Spec’ing it for gaming, as in replacing the default CPU with a higher grade i7 CPU, the graphics card to a 2GB Nvidia and boosting RAM to 16GB, increases the cost to almost $3000. And that’s without replacing the iMac’s lame default disk drive with something that has some solid state capacity, a quality I doubt I’d be able to live without on my main computer. That’s not it (yet): A Windows 8 license would cost $108 extra.
Overall, we are looking at $3000 plus, potentially much plus. True, we will have a beautiful computer on our hands, but it won’t be a cutting edge PC. I also do not see the point of getting one now, given the iMacs line-up was not updated since December 2012 and still carries Ivy Bridge architecture instead of the current Haswell. [The rumor mill says better monitors are due, too.]

The bottom line is that I can’t afford such an iMac. It’s not a matter of complaining but then opening my wallet, it’s past that. However, now that I know what I’d like best for playing PC games on, I doubt I’d be able to compromise on anything else.
I therefore suspect two things will happen to my PC gaming aspirations: First, I will continue being a console boy, at least in the near future, while eyeing the new Xbone and the PS4 to see which is the lesser evil. Second, when, eventually, we will need to buy a PC for work, we will probably get something that can manage gaming to one extent or another.
Either that or rob a bank.

Image copyrights: Apple

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