Upgrading my Desktop (and Other Anachronisms)

I’m one of those dinosaurs whose computer still exists as a collection of components mounted in a large aluminum box. Therefore, unlike the mobile device users who are laughing at the crusty immobility of my platform, I don’t have to throw the whole thing out when it gets too slow. I can fix it! Desktop computer builders fix their machines by upgrading them. Virtually every significant problem is a good excuse for an upgrade. It’s a testament to the quality of the components available now that my last upgrade was over three years ago.

I’m currently running an E8500 wolfie on an Asus motherboard with a P43 chipset and 8 GB of ram. The wolfdale has really been struggling lately. I have Visual Studio solutions that take 3-4 minutes to load. That’s unacceptable. I need more cores. I also have a GTS-250 graphics card w/512MB. Similarly unacceptable! Battlefield 3 and Skyrim are coming out. The latest generation of any classic game title also provides a valid excuse for an upgrade, and I have two coming at me. Clearly work must proceed on a component list forthwith.

But wait, it is a damn interesting time to be planning an upgrade. I don’t think I’ve been faced with this many tough choices in a long time…

Processor: I5-2500K vs I7-2600K

The 2600K is roughly $100 more, and clocks just .1 Ghz faster. It has hyperthreading on all four cores, and 2MB more L3 cache. I think that’s about it. Do I need hyperthreading? Four cores is a pretty good upgrade from my dualie already. Do I need four more virtual ones? Will I care about that 2MB of cache? I think I might. Leaning 2600K but not sure.

Chipset: P67 vs Z68

The P67 chipset is the tweakable “geek” version of the last Intel platform. The H67 was the mainstream “never touch the BIOS” version. The H67 supported the Sandy Bridge on-chip GPU, but the P67 did not. Now the Z68 combines the tweakability with the onboard GPU support and some drive-caching technology for SSD owners. Do I care about the onboard GPU? Not really, but it might be nice if my graphics card craps out. The rest of the stuff I don’t care about. Leaning P67.

GPU: 560ti/1GB

No real dilemma here. There’s zero chance I will pop for $300 -$500 for a GTX-570 or 80. Midrange for the win, and this will be a major upgrade over my GTS-250.

Monitor: too many factors to list

The monitor is really driving me nuts. I have a 5 year-old Dell 2405. It’s a slow panel, but it has served me well. I now need more screen space, and so I am adding a second display. The problem is that I detest 1080 line LCDs. Please. I had more lines than that on my NEC 17″ fifteen years ago! As a developer I need those lines. On the other hand I would love LED backlighting. It’s cooler and you get far better dark range colors. I would also like a fast panel. I would also like to match the 24″/1920×1200 of the current monitor, just for the sake of symmetry. Really have no idea which way to go here. Choices seem to be something like Dell’s 24″ S-IPS, which is 16:10 but fairly slow at 8ms, or the larger 25″ or 27″ 1080 (yeccch) displays from Acer or Asus.

I guess it’s nice to have choices.