Convenience PCs

Today I took my son to the computer store to buy some parts for his new machine. We’d recently tried to upgrade his Pentium 3 to Windows Vista – but whilst the install worked the performance was terrible. The box only had 512Mb RAM and the aging 30Gb drive eventually failed after so much page swapping whilst attempting to install SP1.

Over the last few years the relative price of buying or building your own decent PC has dropped dramatically, but today when I got home to rummage through the goodies we’d bought the scale of this really hit home. Here’s a few examples:

Transcend 2GB RAM Stick – $38 – assuming 2Gb is today’s standard mid-low end spec – that’s pretty good.

Samsung 640Gb HDD – $84 – hard disk space truly is no longer a problem. I’m finally at the point where all my machines have ample hard disk space, including enough to ensure all information is stored redundantly on at least two drives/machines. Having said that based on this recent review, I’m really looking forward to getting a couple of SSD drives in my development machine. Seems the (Veloci)Raptors reign as the king of consumer priced performance drives is over.

To offset these ridiculously cheap components I bought a few “luxury” items.

Intel Core 2 Quad 8200 – for my development machine, son will get my old Core 2 Duo.

Asus EAH3650 Silent HDMI – ATi Radeon 3650 passive cooled with HDMI output (HDCP) and H.264 & VC1 hardware decoding – for the HTPC.

But then there were the two super-budget items that almost defy reason. Whilst these are definitely budget, no-frills items they come from two of my most respected hardware manufacturers – ASUS and Samsung.

Samsung DVD-RW – $27 – does anyone else remember the original Pioneer DVD burner from 2000 (A01). It cost $8000 and the RW discs were $100 each!

ASUS P5KPL-CM motherboard – $58 – that’s Core 2 Duo/Quad 45nm compatible, gigabit LAN, 4 SATA, integrated graphics, PCI Express x16,x1 & 2 x PCI, 4 (+4 int.) x USB, 8 channel audio in a micro ATX format. Take a look at it – the left is the board from above, the right is roughly a 5x4cm section from below.

DSC08570       DSC08572

Now tell me – how is this made for under $58. Surely the individual electrical componentry, the copper, the included cables and the friggen high quality full colour box must cost that much. Then think about the cost involved in designing this specific board layout, building the dies, setting up factory lines, shipping, support etc.

Now I’m really looking forward to the weekend so my son and I can put all this stuff together, scavenging and replacing bits from various machines to build his new box and then re-install Vista. I’ve been building my own PCs for many years – its great fun and pretty much idiot proof these days. Strongly recommended