The 5 Stages of PC Shopping

Stage 1: Denial

I just got a new computer about two years ago. Everything runs completely fine!* What would I even do with the old computer? You know those people who buy a brand new car every other year, and how much you hate them? Don’t be that guy.

Besides, you have plenty of indie games and MMOs to keep you busy practically for years to come. Who cares that everyone is talking about Skyrim?

Stage 2: Anger

Why do developers do this shit?!

I paid something stupid like $1400 on a computer two years ago and already I’m being priced out of videogames? I could have spent that money on a PS3 and XBox 360 on launch day and been good for the next seven years! This is why there will always be a market for consoles; what kind of insane person buys the equivalent of $700 videogames?

And when did the computer component world pass me by? “Sandy bridge” my ass.

You know, I had a real handle on graphics card models back in the day. I could explain that a NVidia  8700 was more powerful than a 9500 – the trick was that the first number was a model number, and only the last three digits meant anything important. Nowadays, the NVidia guys are telling me that their goddamn GTX 295 outperforms their GTX 560. Sounds sorta like the old system, right? But wait! The GTX 480 spanks them both. You can’t explain that!

Stage 3: Bargaining

Okay, you win. I spend probably close to 90% of my free time using the computer, and two years is like a decade in internet years anyway. If I just cave and buy a console, I’ll miss out on all those ridiculous Steam deals; the money I’ll save probably makes the price a wash. Nevermind that my computer monitor is larger than any TV in the house… and I really, really want to play Battlefield 3/Skyrim/etc.

I don’t need the bleeding edge stuff. Maybe something that, you know, is done bleeding but still warm. For about $1000.

Stage 4: Depression

I have no idea WTF I am doing. NVidia helpfully says I can buy everything off of Newegg for ~$700 and then build it myself. That’s great… until I start reading shit like this:

Static electricity is the biggest danger to the expensive parts you are about to assemble, even a tiny shock, much too small for you to feel, can damage or ruin the delicate electronic traces, many times smaller than a human hair, that make up your CPU, RAM and other chips. It’s important to use your anti-static wrist strap to prevent damage to these components. Once you have the power supply installed in the case, clip the end of the wrist strap to the outside of the power supply. (Never plug your computer in while you are connected to it by a wrist strap.)

[…]

Installing the CPU, and the CPU’s heat-sink and fan, are by far the most difficult steps you’ll have to complete during your build. Here, more than anywhere else, it will pay to read the instructions carefully, look at the parts, study the diagrams that came with your CPU and/or third party cooling solution, and make sure you thoroughly understand what you are going to do before you try to do it.

There is no getting over the sense of impending doom that is knowing it is possible to destroy a CPU with static I won’t even feel, and can probably launch just by looking at it funny. Christ, I cannot even look at a Micro SD chip without getting an insane urge to put it in my mouth.

There is no way this is going to work.

Surely though, with components at $700 I could find some place willing to build it for me for like $300, right? Everyone tells me its easy, so that should be an easy $300. Except… not so much. Oh wait, this computer looks pretty cool. Hmm, let me check out the comments.

Negative Newegg.com comments make me mistrust all technology, everywhere.

I don’t know what to do anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t scrimp on a computer. My current computer was like $1400 at the time, so maybe I should look at the higher end machines and just go for it.

Wow… look at this $1600 machine. Liquid cooling is badass. Alright, having the liquid cooling leak all over the inside of the computer during shipping sounds less cool in the comments. I suppose I could at least look at the Youtube video they provided.

Holy mother of Christ, is that Asian chick just tiny or is that case really the size of a goddamn diesel generator?

You know what? I can’t do it. I just can’t. That thing costs about 1/4th of what I spent on my car, and is about 1/4th the size of the car to boot – at this point, I would be shopping for a new desk just to have somewhere to place a computer, a new chair to fit the desk, and renting a crane to lower the case through a recently installed skylight. All the while praying to any god that would listen so that some component I cannot begin to touch without frying it did not come loose in shipping.

I can troubleshoot software no problem. But I know just enough about hardware to know I will A) screw it up building it myself, B) get screwed buying pre-built machines on the cheap, or C) get screwed buying expensive pre-built machines only 1% better than the half-priced prior generation machines.

Stage 5: Repeat Stages 1-4.

Until I break down and buy something from Best Buy simply because it offers the safety of having a physical location to direct my ire. Not that any of them ever have an idea of what they’re talking about, aside from sending the computer off to Asscrack, Alaska for the next eight weeks.

But hey, the devil you know…

*For given amounts of fine. For example, my audio-out only delivers sound from the left speaker. Headphones work fine, but I have bought 3 different sets of external speakers over the years, and all of them had the same problem. Of course, none of the audio cables fit in all the way, but I’m tired of spending $20 a pop guessing.

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Posted on November 16, 2011, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Having gone through similar steps, or the European version of them, earlier this year, I can give a recommendation: I found the best way was to look for a small computer shop. At least over here they are quite willing to assemble a computer for you, even recommend the components to you, but with you having the ultimate choice. The components might be slightly more expensive than if you bought them over the internet, and they’ll charge you another 50 bucks for the assembly, but you avoid the pitfalls of self-assembly, and don’t need to take a pre-built computer.

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  2. I’m totally with you on everything, right up until the “scared to assemble it” part. I was shitting bricks the first time I assembled a computer, and I’m like “oh god oh god oh god please dont fuck up my processor oh god that would suck i worked all summer for the money for this shit”

    and then I found out that it’s all actually pretty easy and fine. Really not a problem at all, and now I’ll never ever ever let anyone else touch my computers precious insides again, except for me. Then I taught a friend how to assemble a computer, and he’s the same way, so he taught a friend, and now he’s the same way…

    Really, Az, it’s intimidating to do the first time, but it’s not too hard, and you’re pretty safe, with regards to breaking your own shit. And really, if you’re just gonna end up spending the money at Best Buy anyways… well, I have to stop now, before I start crying.

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    • My last three computers were from Best Buy, but I’m in a much different (read: better) financial state this time around, so I’m willing to break the vicious cycle. It’s just when I start reading about applying thermal paste and shit like that that I realize it’s a lot more involved than snapping in some RAM (which I have done before).

      Did you simply go off the part directions when you tried the first time? Internet sites?

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  3. There are many pages on the internet where people discuss the currently most price-efficient computer. For example:
    http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/2187-Battleground-Horde-Alliance-Win-Ratio-Setup-of-the-Month

    Take these as a baseline and then go to a shop like:
    http://www.mindfactory.de/

    They assemble the computer, stress-test it for 24 hours, and send it to you. You can send it, or any part of it, back, without any reason, and for no extra charge for the next 14 days. Oh – wait – you’re in the US? Less regulation, less consumer protection. Well, go with Tobold’s comment ;)

    Alternatively, go copy my current computer:
    http://nilsmmoblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-new-computer.html

    I later modified this one to 2x 1000GB Samsung Spinpoint F3 and the 30″ Dell U3011 and am quite staisfied. Skyrim runs at ultra at 2560×1600 and mostly 60fps, never less than 40fps.
    You can scale things down if you want to spend less money on it. A smaller monitor doesn’t need this graphics card. But remember that the monitor is what you actually see. It’s difficult to spend too much money on a monitor and easy to spend too much one a CPU.

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  4. Tobold’s comment here is the best way to go about it given your post.

    Its exactly what I did, I got a recommendation for a local computer store from a friend and went to their website. (The store is one of those little ones you see in strip malls, nestled in between a subway and great clips).

    Their website let me pick out all of the components I wanted for the computer through an easy to use form so I could plan everything out exactly how I wanted it. I then called them and ordered what I had picked out. They put it together/install windows etc.

    The next day I drive over and pick it up, nothing to it. I’ve had the computer for over a year now and its been perfectly fine.

    This is just a much better alternative then best buy, where you’d be paying much more for probably much less. Plus you can still get a warranty from the small store in case something breaks and its easy to drive down there yourself to collect.

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  5. ROFL

    BTW static electricity is overrated: I’ve assembled multiple PCs with my cats around checking on me to make sure I was connecting the right connectors, and I’ve yet to fry anything.

    I always go for the “buy parts on the internet, assemble” and it has always served me well. On my current shopping list:
    – intel 2500k, people say good things about it
    – a random Asus motherboard which can socket it
    – semi-random 8GB of ram (Corsair has always worked well)
    – a definitely non-random Crucial SSD M4 – 128 Go – SATA 6 Go/s
    – some kind of power supply to replace the ultra-noisy one I have on my second PC
    – a mini-pc to replace the 128MB RAM / 350 MHz K7/2 I have somewhere running as firewall/gateway (harder to find than it sounds, at a reasonable price I mean).

    I tend to steer clear of the bleeding edge, something which is 1 year old and it’s still selling usually works well and it’s a whole lot cheaper.

    I’m not a big fan of the “local computer shop”, because I’ve seen a lot of them go bust in a very quick time and also there’s a lot of people who don’t have the faintest idea of what they are doing. If I have to get stuff plugged in randomly, I’d rather have the fun to do it myself, thank you. My cats are also always willing to help :)

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  6. If you have grounded power, hook up the power supply, to the case, leave the main power off on the back of it then plug it into the wall. If you are touching the case you are grounded. Make sure you touch the case before you reach in and touch the other components. works almost as well as the old grounded work mats we used to use.

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  7. Hi Azuriel,
    I’ve used this forum and site for suggestion for computer parts and proper assembly. I had my computer for a good solid 3 years and had to do no more then $300 worth of upgrades and repair (I had two video cards and one blew out). So if you are looking for a very cost effective computer system I highly recommend reading it and checking it out :D

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/269162-31-recommended-builds-usage

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  8. Building computer yourself is really not that bad. Well I been building them for last 15 years, I used to follow the hardware market pretty close, but not anymore so every time I build a new one I have no idea what the models/abbreviations are.

    So my approach is this

    1)decide on what cost/performance you want (from sites like anandtech/tomshardware)
    2)pick the particular setup (cpu model, video card model) – this is where you check generalt compatibility
    3)Pick most reliable motherboard (very important) (based on newegg feedback/anadtech reviews)
    4)buy best rated power supply (2nd most important) –
    5) Buy cpu, buy best rated memory, videocard

    In general building yourself is really inexpensive. My total cost for new upgrade is usually in the $500-$600 range(cpu/memory/motherboard/video card) and I build them every 2 years. I reuse HDDs , case and power supplies from time to time. Monitors last me 5 years or so while peripherals around 3-4 years (keyboard/mouse/headphones)

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