Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Bought Power

This is a quick review of a computer system I bought several months ago.  I bought the iBuyPower i-series 301 "gaming" desktop.  As it turns out, this system is no longer offered, unfortunately, because it's been such a great value to me.  It came with an AMD Radeon HD 6450 graphics card, bottom of the stack and next to be discontinued.  And also Windows 8, which we'll get to.  I'm actually quite happy with this system and give it a qualified endorsement.


The 301 came with an AMD FX 4200 quad-core processor and Radeon HD 6450 graphics card.  The cost effective option for the budget gamer, as they say.  With 4 GB memory to stretch out in, the performance is more than adequate for my gaming library.  I actually have to get into editing video or compiling software to tax the system resources.  Gigabit ethernet, 1 TB HDD for storage, USB 3.0 and enough ports to plug in all my controllers, headset, and webcam; I don't know what else to say about the hardware.  I did add a sound card, Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi if you must know, to move sound processing off the CPU and free up those resources.  It improved performance but the real boost came from software.


Windows 8 came pre-installed and was actually a drawback to me.  The typical complaints from a long time Windows user.  It isn't as familiar as Windows XP, it doesn't look like XP, it takes up more system resources than XP, and on and on.  I've been getting into and preferring open source software so I made the computer dual-boot with Linux.  I used GParted to carve up the hard drive and installed Ubuntu from a Live CD.  Linux takes up noticeably less system resources on a PC compared to Windows.  Even better, all of the programs I wanted to run, even and especially the games, are available on Linux.  
I'm using the 12.04 LTS version of Ubuntu, so-called Precise Pangolin.  I must be getting old; I prefer stability and don't need the drama of the nightly builds which is why I chose the long-term support (LTS) version.  Version 14.04 is the latest LTS and was released in April; I'll be upgrading to that when it hits the general repositories later this month.  
After I had the operating system itself sorted, I loaded up my applications.  The Ubuntu Software Center, aka "the respositories", is where you get most of your software from.  The software center has many game titles on its own.  First-person shooters, real-time strategy, and my favorite, dungeon crawlers.  
But everyone else wants to keep the game library they've already bought.  Gaming software Steam has a native Linux client, it's in the Software Center, and it has a growing library of games which run natively on Linux so, of course, it was one of the first to get installed. That gets me my games like Half-Life and Team Fortress 2 that are made for Linux.  Then I installed Wine, WineTricks, and PlayOnLinux, and through that installed the Windows version of the Steam client.  That gets me my other games like Doom and Mount & Blade which don't have Linux versions but play anyway through the Wine "emulator".  If you prefer GOG for your games, PlayOnLinux looks like the easiest way to install those.  Another favorite of mine, Minecraft, is written in Java so it runs on Linux easily.  Just download the "jar" file and set it to run as an executable.  
Anyway, I mention all this gaming software because the iBuyPower i-series 301 was billed as a budget gaming PC and it's doing a very fine job of being exactly that.  


I don't like the games that have a reputation for taxing system resources.  I prefer lighter weight titles.  Even with the "budget" components in this system I haven't bogged them down yet with my library of games.  It's a dirty little secret that PC customers buy more computer than they need.  This $500 gaming rig has been handily sufficient for my needs.  

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