Friday, December 9, 2011

Upgrade Time

My home PC is about 2 years old now – it wasn’t exactly cutting edge when I built it, but it’s been getting the job done. It’s a AMD Phenom II Quad Core that I’ve been very pleased with so far overall. I’d toyed with the idea of some upgrades to help me get another year (or more) out of it, and finally bit the bullet on one today.

I noticed that RAM is unbelievably cheap (at least the DDR3 variety my machine needs). I was able to pick up 16GB of quality Corsair RAM for under $80 – you just can’t beat that. I use virtualization quite a bit, and I was very limited by the 6GB that was my current config. I’m sure that I will have more than enough breathing room with 16GB in there.

The other upgrade I’ve been thinking about is an SSD. I’m still really up in the air on this one. You look online, and read what many are saying, and it’s like they are the absolute holy-grail of computing, but I’m simply not convinced. Let me tell you why.

First, *yes* machines with an SSD as a boot drive do boot incredibly fast. But you know what? I very rarely reboot my machine. Perhaps I’m in a minority there, I don’t know. Yes, applications launch faster, but you know what else? Windows 7 Superfetch does an excellent job of keeping frequently used files cached (16GB of RAM can only help that even more), and most of my applications (including Visual Studio) start up nearly instantly. The only place I think I would see a dramatic improvement would be games, but to purchase an SSD with the capacity I need for my OS, major apps and all of my games would simply be out of my price range right now. I would rather hold off until my next machine. I am just not convinced I would see that much difference. I tend to just keep the apps that I use the most open anyway (again, 16GB of RAM is going to help with that even more), and I’m not just sitting here launching applications over and over again just to admire how quickly they launch.

The other factor, quite simply is complexity. I’ve tried reading through SSD reviews at Anandtech and to be quite honestly, even for an old hardware buff like me, they make my eyes cross after a while. They all seem to have different strengths and weaknesses, and there seems to be some compatibility issues with Windows 7 (SandForce3 controllers causing BSOD’s, etc). Also, there seems to be quite a bit of care, feeding and tweaking to get the best results. When it all boils down, I’m not sure all of that (including repaving my machine I just rebuilt on a Windows platform) would be worth all of that considering I have one of the fastest spindle drives already available in there.

I might be wrong, and the right SSD could make me wet my pants with excitement. I’m just going to wait until my next machine to find out.

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