This past spring I embarked on a mission to build a gaming PC for the very first time. The result: it was surprisingly cost-effective and relatively painless – especially for this greenhorn.
But wait a minute…after having spent the past eight years as a die-hard OS X fan, this then begs the question…
Having Been a Long Time Mac User, Why Did I Build a PC?
The reasons are many, but here are the key factors – ranked in order of importance.
For starters, both of the macs in my household were getting quite long in the tooth, and after looking at the cost to replace them…Yikes! Macs are expensive, as most computer enthusiasts know, so this is no real surprise, but…like, wow. A 27″ i5 with my desired specs would run me nearly 2.5 months rent and I’m not feeling that so much, especially since they’re a lot less future-proof than the competition.
I’m definitely a fan of the build quality and reliability, so I won’t say they are way overpriced, but they’re expensive enough these days to where it’s prompted me to look at an alternative upgrade path.
Cost vs Performance
Although I consider myself to be quite the computer nerd, I’ve never really paid much attention to hardware and performance. As long as my upgraded PC was more capable than its predecessor, that’s all I cared about. I understood the basic things like hard drive size, CPU speed, available ram, and GPU memory, but as long as the computer seemed fast and the display looked nice, that was enough for me.
Once I started diving into actual benchmarks and taking a hard look at how iMacs are hamstrung by having to use laptop components, I began to see the light. While I do appreciate the nice form factor and small footprint of the iMac, I now fully understand why a PC tower requires the volume that it does. Cooling.
I consider myself a casual-hardcore gamer. I only play a couple of games typically (World of WarCraft, Diablo 3, Minecraft once in awhile…) – none of which are terribly demanding on a modern PC; however, they have been taxing for my 5-year-old iMac. 5 years ago I was able to blast the settings on most Mac-friendly games, but nowadays I have to turn the settings way down in order to have fluid performance – negating the beauty of my 27″ 1440p IPS display. Couple that with the fact that my iMac gets extremely hot while gaming, and it raises concerns over system longevity.
For my son, the gaming limitations of the Mac are a lot more apparent. Kids enjoy a variety of different games – many of which are not available for OS X. He’s also been really eager to learn programming so that he can create his own games, and OS X is extremely limited in that department. I want to foster that creativity and motivation, so again…another vote for PC. I tried finding desktop game development software for Macs, but I quickly realized that was an oxymoron and I’d just been in denial. Macs may be able to run games, but gaming machines they are not.
Windows Seems to Suck Less These Days
I switched to Mac during the Vista era and never looked back. I was not a fan of Vista, and even worse, my primary machine was using the 64-bit version of XP which never really became widely adopted. Using that OS was a living nightmare. In fact, the only version of Windows I ever really seemed to not hate was Windows 98.
My expectations have been really low, but I have to say my first impressions of Windows 10 have been favorable. I’ve found it easy to navigate, very stable, and much more intuitive than the Windows of years past.
Small Form Factor PCs
I’d been out of the PC loop for so long, I had no idea that it was possible to build a powerful desktop computer within a tiny case. Once I discovered the wonderful world of Mini ITX builds, I found myself diving straight down the rabbit hole of small form factor PC building.
Coming up next…the build.