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by adam mathes
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Platform Changes

I recently assembled a new PC to go along with a 34” ultrawide (21:9 aspect ratio) monitor.

Spending money to buy a bunch of PC components, then assemble them into a working computer by myself is something I have mostly avoided in my life, opting for the simplicity and peace of mind that comes from being primarily a Mac user since OS X 10.0 debuted, and letting companies build PC’s for me the few times I’ve bought them.

But the cost/performance ratio between self-build and pre-built seems higher than I remember, and also why not?

The sole purpose of this machine was gaming, and the simpler answer is to just buy a next generation console. But the latest generation of consoles seem to have almost all of the downsides of consoles and other “modern” hardware platforms - can’t run arbitrary software - but they also seem to exhibit the downsides of modern Microsoft powered PC’s: nothing ever seems to just work and you’re constantly barraged by bad user experiences and multi-gigabyte downloads before you can even do anything.

The days when you could buy a cartridge of READ-ONLY memory and expect it to just work more or less flawlessly on hardware are so long gone so as to seem quaint. If Microsoft and Sony want to just release PC’s for the living room that I can’t run software on (cough Steam cough) or the most interesting hardware (Oculus Rift) and force me to buy software from them and deal with their authentication/social experiences then basically the UX/annoyance hits seem so high I might as well just deal with the headaches of having a real PC that can play games better on my own terms. And probably I should also build the damned thing from parts to give myself a crash course on what I’ve missed in PC stuff from the past 15 years.

Also, did I mention the 34” ultra-wide monitor? That’s never going to work with an XBox One. (It barely works with PC games half the time.)

And I am now able to use my Oculus Rift DK2 and have it properly sync at 75hz. (Trying to use it with a 2012 Macbook Pro with Retina Display just made me sad.)

Overall the entire process of building a PC from parts is about a million times easier than I remember from previous decades (Cases! cord management! All so easy to use now!)

I had one “oh god I’ve made a huge mistake” moment because I couldn’t get the BIOS screen to show up on my new monitor. Turns out the motherboard’s onboard HDMI output wouldn’t sync to my crazy monitor. (I realized this when it would sync to a television at 720p just fine.) Turns out putting one of my two video cards in and connecting via DisplayPort made everything copacetic.

It’s really satisfying to see it all come together except after all that careful thought, purchasing, anxiety about possible DOA parts, and assembly, you turn on the machine and you install and then boot into Microsoft Windows 8.1 which is just so disappointing. Expected, but disappointing.

After dealing with the “PC tax” of drivers, software upgrades, Steam, and the rest of it, it’s kind of nice.

In the past weeks I have played and completed:

  • Far Cry 4
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

running at 60FPS at 3440×1440 resolution and that has been pretty cool.

For more on running games like that see WSGF.

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