Victory is mine!

On my last commentary, I was pictured with the caption stating "It's hell inside." Nothing could be more truthful after the ordeal that I got myself into over the weekend.

It all started last week when my new barebones computer arrived: a brand new Athlon XP 2000+ with 256 MB of PC 2100 DDR memory and a Gigabyte 7DX motherboard. I ordered it from the same company (Infinity Solutions Plus) because I have a good history with them, and the last computer I ordered from them worked almost flawlessly. After getting the case opened I noticed the first major hurdle I had to overcome: the lack of an ISA port for my modem, which meant I had to purchase a new PCI model.

Cost: $30, in addition to the $305 I paid for the barebones kit.

So with my new PCI modem installed, I plugged all my drives into the IDE slots, and turned the power on. It was reading my one larger 13 GB hard drive, but not the 4 GB drive (with a CD drive as the slave). Now 4 GB might not have been much, but it was the drive that had my Windows XP installed on it, and with the drive going bad, I again had no choice but to buy another hard drive.

Cost: $100 for a Western Digital 40GB 7200RPM hard drive.

As the result of a new hard drive to run XP, I obviously had to install the OS again. My next step required me to use my floppy disks I formatted exclusively for XP installation (6 of them!). The only catch is when they booted, I got an error message stating they were corrupted.

Cost: 15 minutes of frustration, followed by some walls being punched in.

After cooling down, I noticed that my new BIOS was capable of booting directly from my XP CD. I gave it a shot, and success! XP installation was underway and I went to get something to eat.

Cost: 35 minutes of my time to install XP.

After waiting for the install to finish I noticed something wrong, my sound card was hissing for some strange reason. Assuming it was a resource conflict with my modem, I pulled out my Sound Blaster Live, reformatted, and reinstalled Windows with only motherboard sound.

Cost: 50 minutes for reformatting, reinstallation of Windows, and later on reinstallation of my soundcard.

Now with the soundcard working, it was just a matter of reinstalling all my drivers that XP didn't provide, such as my GeForce4 MX drivers, and all my internet/audio/MP3 software, all done with success.

Cost: 1 hour of installation and downloading.

Then finally, it was time to do some serious gaming tests. Since a lot of people use the Quake 3 built in demos to benchmark their computer, I decided to give it a try. Running at 1024×768 at 32-bit color, the benchmark came out to a once unheard of 95 frames per second! I never thought I could afford a system that can run this fast.

But for me to perform a true benchmark, I had to download 3DMark 2001, which in itself took almost 2 hours to download but was worth it. During all the high detail game tests, my computer was averaging well over 30 frames per second, and I can easily deal with that. However, the final benchmark score was only averaging 4,060, and it got me worried because all the dream systems out there by Falcon and Alienware had benchmarks well over 10,000.

Then it occurred to me, during the benchmark there were some tests that could not be performed due to hardware limitations, and I can only guess it was because of the MX card I had, so I went off to to compare different video card benchmarks on my type of system, and noticed the G4 MX420 was in the middle at 4,000, while the top of the line GeForce4 TI 4600 racked in the 10,000+ benchmarks. Now if I had the $300 extra to buy a GeForce4 TI card, I would in an instant, but that's an upgrade that will happen in the future.

Cost: 3 hours for downloading, installation, benchmarking and comparisons.

There was only one last thing to do: test my new computer with some new titles. I started off with something simple: C & C Renegade, and to my surprise, it not only ran at 60 fps, but also at 800×600 resolution. I was impressed. Medal of Honor Allied Assault also fared well, running at a smooth frame rate without any problems whatsoever (it was only at 640×480, however. But my real test came with Dungeon Siege, which also ran near perfect, with the only possible exception being when I entered a town, where there was a lot of hard disk access, but nothing that ruined the whole experience.

So needless to say after spending approximately $450 on upgrades and many man-hours, I am now back into the realm of PC gaming, and in perfect time too. With both Warcraft III and Unreal Tournament 2003 in the near future, not to mention the looming arrival of DOOM 3 (which will propel me to buy a GeForce4 TI), maybe it was the best thing for me to have the power supply on my old computer blow up on me, because what I have now smokes the old system easily!

I love the smell of burning power supplies in the morning. It smells like victory.

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