Maybe it's because I have to exercise some degree of fiscal discipline, but I have to say I'm perfectly fine with not "upgrading" to all the latest hardware. In fact, I've not felt any desire at all to move on from my present platform, as Socket 939 still fulfills my personal needs more than well enough at the moment.
Sure, I've bought different video cards from the time I first built my first machine in May 2006. I started with a single 7900GT, then doubled up with an identical card several months later to run in SLI. Last year, I bought a G90 8800GTS 640 (actually, I bought first one, sold it to a client, then bought a cheaper one afterwards), then my girlfriend gave me a G92 8800GT. These, aside from various air coolers, a new case (from an Antec P180 to a Silverstone TJ09B/W), and a sound card, are the only upgrades I've done to my favorite rig.
Well, to be perfectly honest, I've also run around a dozen different CPUs in that rig when I was using it not just as my dedicated gaming machine, but also as a platform for experiments and testing. For the sake of clarity, though, I won't call all the CPU changes "upgrades," since these all were essentially the same CPUs in terms of stock performance. In fact, all the CPUs I've bought for myself after an Athlon64 X2 4400+ were slower at stock.
I got into overclocking a little less than a year after building my first machine, and became addicted to it. I overclocked that first Toledo X2 4400+, then acquired the first of many dual-core Opterons. Even when AMD and Intel both moved on to newer and ostensibly better things, I never felt the need to "upgrade" my entire rig.
From a gaming perspective, I've found that far more gains can be experienced with a video card upgrade compared to a CPU+RAM+motherboard upgrade. It's absolutely true that you'll have a faster system overall if you do make a total platform upgrade, but as far as gaming is concerned you'll never notice it because of the limits of your own senses. Your eyes won't perceive one FPS over a certain range (35-40, if I'm not mistaken). If your monitor and resolution don't change, the difference might lie in how much "eye candy" your system can have on, but beyond a certain point you won't ever notice any surpluses. Moreover, with my entire system under consideration, I can play all the games I have on max settings with absolutely no problems.
(No, I don't have either Crysis nor Bioshock; I don't feel the need to buy either game at the moment. I do have Call of Duty 4, and my rig can handle that very well.)
I have never cared to wave my e-peen around, so I've never felt the need to really bench my rig against other peoples'. The only real benchmark that counts for me is what I personally can perceive for myself.
From what I have on hand, that is, my monitors with which I can experience gaming performance and the same video card, I honestly cannot tell the difference between my favorite rig and any of the AM2 or Conroe rigs I've played with at home.
"But wait," I can already hear some of you say, "I thought you said you've yet to move on from Socket 939?" This is absolutely true. So what qualifies me to say anything about Conroe or AM2, platforms that are newer and therefore faster than S939?
Well, I build PCs occasionally for paying clients, and some have wanted the latest and the greatest for themselves. I've put together a few newer machines, have even dabbled in OCing a couple of them (for a good premium, too), and were generally impressed with them. For sure, though, despite the undeniable performance improvements in these clients' machines, I feel no need to change my own equipment.
From what I've read about the history of the hobby, it used to be all about getting cheap gear, and then making it perform like a far more expensive piece of kit. Even though I'm really just still in my formative years as an overclocker and PC enthusiast, I feel a kind of kinship with this dying breed.
(Okay, fine, perhaps the fact that my gaming rig has a superb video card may give some of you cause to contest my personal claim that I am, in spirit, tied with old-school overclockers. "That G92 8800GT is hardly a cheap piece of equipment," I can hear some of you say. Well, fine. Remember, though, that it was a gift. I promise I'm not being a hypocrite about this.
Pardon the digression, please.)
Much more common in enthusiast and overclocking circles today is the guy with the really deep pockets, as well as the wherewithal to outspend someone else just so he can brag about having the greatest benchmarking figures. Perhaps it's a fascination with statistics that drives this attitude (for the sake of comparison, I'll label it "new-school"), but at the end of the day it's really all just about bragging rights, in my opinion.
I guess I've never had that itch to brag to scratch.
I honestly don't really care about having a better rig than someone else. To me, it's all about making a smart purchase. I can actually hear some people say, "Why invest in old tech? It's already obsolete!" Well, why buy new tech when it first comes out? I bet you'll agree with me that even the newest today becomes old (and therefore cheaper) really really fast...
I get a certain satisfaction, actually, knowing that all my needs are being met by what I still hang on to. I'm pretty sure, though, that other peoples' needs are far different compared to mine. That's one of the beautiful things about this hobby.
I guess the real differences can be defined thus:
- There's fast, there's faster, and then there's fast enough.
- There's smart, there's smarter, then there's the need to brag.
- Finally, there's the new generation, and there's the old school.
Stealth rods FTW.