Spare some change?
So you managed to scrub together a significant amount of
change, be it leftover student loan money or your parents paying you in
desperation to clean the room.
want to spend it on upgrading your computer but don’t know what you need, and
you only have enough for one component. How to decide?
Well, it totally depends on your
While we could theoretically
write a guide on every possible combination of CPU and video card out there –
since they are the most important bottlenecks – it’s not really practical.
Instead, we decided to give you the theory
and understanding needed to decide for yourself.
It’s really rather simple.
First, however, some ground rules need to be set. We’re dealing in reasonable sums here – from
at least $200 to up to $400. We’re also
assuming that your current system has decent components, not a 3 year old
Pentium 233. With that kind of outdated
setup, the best hope is to just keep saving until you have enough for an entire
new system – upgrading isn’t worth it.
Finally, we need to establish what kind of performance we’re
trying to improve. Do you mainly play
2D games, where you might not like slowdowns in Planescape: Torment, or do you
play 3D games? Do you like to play a
lot with images in Photoshop and 3DSMAX or Lightwave? These are all questions that you have to answer for yourself,
because each person has different needs.
With only $300 or so (or $600 if you’re looking to upgrade to either the
Voodoo5 6000 or a high-end processor), you can upgrade either the processor, or the video card. If you upgrade one, you’ll get its benefits
but then the other will still be a bottleneck – in fact, it will be a more
obvious bottleneck now that the other major component is faster. How so?
We’ll get into that later.
The Ground Rules
We’re going to use a hypothetical (well, maybe to some of
you, not-so-hypothetical) situation to decide what’s the best way to spend your
money on your computer (forget the engagement ring, it won’t affect her Quake
frag count at all).
Let’s assume we’re dealing with at least a 350 P2 or 366MHz
Celeron class processor, 64MB of RAM and a TNT or Voodoo2 video card. The hard drive obviously has to be big enough
to hold the software you want to run now, as well as anything extra such as
that massive mp3 collection. Other
components – modem, sound card, and CD-ROM, don’t factor in as much into the
final performance equation. There are
some notable exceptions, but we’ll point them out when we get there.