Technology is Crazy

Or maybe we’re the crazy ones.

After my daughter and I finished up her hockey practice, I decided to go and pick up the RAM for the laptop.  I had already done some digging into which specific specs I had in the box.  I need to properly set the picture.  We had stopped at Booster Juice so she was standing in the computer store with this big container and straw, looking at what most sane people would call a junk store.

Anyhow, I catch the guy at the counter and he asks if I have the old stick.  I don’t, but I spit out the important bits:  DD3, 8Gig, 1600Mhz, 1.35volt.  (Say that out loud for a second.)  The look from my kid like I was talking some sort of space language…It’s enough, and he looks through a wall of RAM to find what’s needed.  This tiny little thing and we leave the store.

There were a lot of questions in the car ride back.  I start explaining what all that jargon means, and she asks that golden questions “why is it so complicated?”, followed by the geek question “can we build a computer?”.  To answer “to make people feel smart” and “sure, but we need to to some studying first.”

Computer Jargon

Or perhaps, I should say the abundance of ridiculous choice.  There are a half dozen viable choices of thermal paste today.  RAM comes in multiple sizes, speeds, and voltages.  CPUs are near indistinguishable (i7 has been around for 6 years).  It’s near impossible to pick a motherboard, or know what you’re buying.  And video cards…sweet baby jeebers – the GTX1080 has 3 variants (base, VR, TI).

And that’s aside from things like proper cases, power supplies, hard drives, and cooling systems.  Feels like I need an engineering degree so that I have a chance to see reflections in a puddle.  It’s such a ridiculously high barrier of entry.

I won’t talk about POST tests… argghgg

Simple Solutions

The PC market isn’t dying, it’s simply getting a smaller form factor.  I do get that PCs are even more niche now, but let’s be honest, laptops are the way forward.  At $500 you can get one that can do nearly everything you need, including some basic gaming.  For $2500 you can get a super slim ultra powerful laptop too – know that it’s entirely covered by warranty, and that it will work when you boot it up.  And with decent power management options, it can get through a day of work without charging.

I could build a PC for half the cost, but it would be physically stuck in a single place and 3x the size.  It’s pretty hard to “co-game” with someone with a PC, while a pair of laptops is stupid simple.  A port replicator gives that desktop feeling too.

Next Steps

As much as I would like to build a PC, I think for practical reasons it will be easier to get a gaming laptop.  Practical in terms of use, not purchasing.  Looking at options:

  • Sager/Clevo custom build (exact specs, great price, massive size)
  • MSI make some amazing rigs, at different form factors.  Stealth is almost an ultrabook.  Titan is a tank.  Raider seems a reasonable size.
  • Alienware was bought by Dell and reports are all over the place.  Build quality is strong, but cooling & fan noise seem to be a problem.  They look amazing.
  • ROG fits in-between the last two, with odd price points.

Key points I’m looking for:

  • 16GB of RAM
  • 256 SSD + 1TB of hard drive
  • Upgradeable storage/RAM
  • Thunderbolt 3 port (for docking/daisy chain to other things)
  • GTX 1070
    • Not enough games actually support ray tracing, and this card is still gives 4K, at less than half the price of an RTX2080.
  • 8th gen i7 CPU
    • 9th gen is marginal performance (5%) for ~$100 more.
  • Solid cooling to keep CPU < 80, and physical laptop < 32
  • Low noise levels when fans are at load
  • Screen size isn’t all that important, but a 17″ would be nice

That fun stuff runs around $2500 – with that Thunderbolt port being the tough one to find.  More digging required…and no real rush either.

11 thoughts on “Technology is Crazy

  1. I disagree with you about laptops. My last machine was a gaming laptop, and I regretted buying it. A decent gaming laptop is heavy, and I found it hard to travel with. It ended up stuck on my desk. And given that laptops are more expensive than desktops (for comparable power), it felt like I had wasted a lot of money.

    I’ve gone back to a regular desktop for gaming, and I’m much happier with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A personal question, and no need to answer. Do you have kids? My mobility requirements are driven 80% by my kids. Or perhaps my perception of the need is driven by my kids.

      Regarding price, it seems to be about 10% savings for desktops that are comparable to gaming PCs. Going to need to do more digging.

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      • No, I don’t have kids. Actually, I was going to comment/ask about that, but I couldn’t figure out how to word it. I imagine that tacking on a laptop to all the family gear isn’t that much of a increase. Whereas I much prefer travelling light. I don’t even take carry-on luggage on a flight, for example.

        What’s your usually use case for travelling and gaming?

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      • Kids really change perspective on packing 🙂 Travel, we try to limit it to tablets. Sitting in an airport for 2+ hours… there are limits.

        The laptop is about having the gaming ‘tool’ in a physical location where I can look at one kid, while the other kid is nearby as well. So the mobility needs are within the house – e.g. homework on the kitchen table, or group gaming on the TV in the living room vs. gaming on a desk with a monitor. I mean, I could convert my basement to a full media center too…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I see. I’ve never really considered that case before. Gaming from multiple locations within the same house. I can see how a laptop, even a heavy one, would work well. You only have to carry it a short distance between points. You’re on the same WiFi network always. You can count on having a table and comfortable chairs, rather than having it on your lap and dealing with heat issues.

        I associate laptops with external travel, and I think gaming laptops are a bad fit for that. I’d rather take something thin and light, and do some programming, writing, or surfing the web.

        Like

    • The 2019 stealth model is more ultrabook, since it only has dedicated video. The Blade 15 has either a GTX or RTX (for $1000 more). It’s certainly one on the short list.

      Like

      • Ah crap yeah I do have the blade go on at the GTX in it some reason I thought it was a Razer Blade stealth how well it was three years ago all I know is that it kicks ass. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have forever been grateful to my dad helping me with my first computer build, between “you can do it” encouragement, explaining and demonstrating how to avoid static electricity discharges of tech component death by grounding and the odd pair of hands and extra body weight to force that dang RAM into place.

    It’s a valuable skill to learn, imo. Just like cooking, or the basics of car maintenance. It saves you from being forever at the mercy of technicians speaking a jargon you don’t know, while you don’t actually have to do it yourself all the time if you don’t want to.

    Maybe consider a cheap budget PC build if your kid has the interest, just for her to play around with. What they make themselves, they value.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a thought that has crossed my mind. The challenge here is that it is harder to find parts for a cheap build than it is to get a gamer rig. Maybe build a plex server from it? Down the rabbit hole I go…

      Like

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