Expensive PC chrome.

September 1, 2008

I like reading both CPU and Maximum PC because I’m very much into computer hardware.  Some people like messing with cars; I like messing with computers.  Some people will pay more for chrome, I’ll pay more for GHz!

In its September 2008 issue, CPU featured some tricked out computers that sell for around $15,000.  That’s the price of a car.  If I were rich, would I buy such a thing?  Because I like building PCs, I probably would never buy a PC like this because I’d rather have the fun putting it together.

Let’s look at one of these.  The Biohazard Rapture impresses me because it uses “multiple evaporator phase-change cooling systems.”  This system allows Biohazard to overclock two QX9775 systems to 4.6GHz on a Skulltrail motherboard.  Whoa.  I mean, daaaaaaamn.  The cooling system brings the processors down to – 20 degrees F.  It’s very difficult for a hobbyist to do something like that.  So here, you’re getting something for your $15k that you can’t really do yourself.

Of course by studying these supercomputers, a hobbyist can see how the big boys do their tricks.  I picked up how to set up Raptor drives in RAID zero from reading about these machines.  I  also got into water cooling this way.  If I bought a Skulltrail mobo and some high end cooling equipment, I could probably create something faster than anything a person could buy at Microcenter.  But there’s no question I could not equal what Biohazard has done.

Could it be done more cheaply?  Relatively speaking, yes.  In this neighborhood of performance the mobo and the chips alone come close to $4,000.  Thus, even if you do it yourself, you’re talking about spending 5 grand.  Now that’s a third of the price of a Rapture, but the performance would be closer than that.  I’m confident that I could get it up to 4 GHz.  I’ve done that with lesser chips.  So while I’ll stipulate that I can’t match the Rapture for $5,000, I can get to 87% for 1/3rd the price.  Moreover, considering the level of diminishing returns right now on using an 8 core box, what difference would it really make day to day?

Sadly, that cuts both ways to me as a computer enthusiast.  You could say to me, “but Thaed, I can buy a Dell for $1000.00 that gives me comparable performance for 1/5 of your $5000.00 price that will be great for Office, Firefox and maybe a little Photoshop.”  And what do I have to say to that?  Well, yeah, but look at the chrome!


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