For the last ten years I built (technically assembled) my own home computer. I hand-picked the case, the motherboard, RAM, drives and every other part under the sun. It is a fun learning experience each time, because there is always a new problem or wrinkle in the setup before a new PC is up and running. I even went as far as custom painting one of my old cases with a nice shade of garnet to play against the off-white case. But, the next time I’m ready to have a new PC from the ground up (granted this is years off) I might not bother to build my own PC again. Why? Check it out:
1. Tablets are king
At home, tablets quickly take over as primary device for internet and media consumption. My habits drastically changed once I bought a tablet. Need check email? My tablet is ready to go. Need to search for something? Tablet. Need to watch a little MLB.tv and don’t want to fire up the XBox 360 or computer? Tablet. My computer is probably wondering what it did wrong. The answer is nothing, I still love it, but it’s not going to get the same amount of use.
2. The cost-benefit of building is gone
Once upon a time, I realized that I could get a lot more for my money if I built a PC from parts than if I bought whatever Dell or HP packaged for me. Their high-end PCs were extremely expensive and their mid and low range stuff was so generic and cheap under the hood that it insulted me. Now it’s easy to find a well priced laptop or PC with relatively good specs under the hood for next to nothing.
3. A home-built PC is overkill
Quad core? Six core? Eight core with Hyperthreading? For most home PC users it doesn’t matter any more. We’re all web surfing or streaming Netflix. Maybe we’re editing some photos. Ultimately I argue that storage space is more important than horsepower, and with cheap disk drives and cheap cloud storage, it’s easy to have tons of space for our photos, music, movies and books. Anything I buy is good enough to do some programming on in a pinch too.
4. Other devices pack in technology
Smart phones, smart TVs, smart appliances. Electronics are getting to the point where they’re all smart. This vastly reduces what I need in a PC. Most mundane tasks happen on the tablet or smart phone. Even most simple photo editing comes out great in Camera+ or iPhoto. Short of banging out a large blog post or restaurant review (a tablet can’t touch a keyboard and until voice recognition is perfect the PC will win here every time), I don’t need to fire up the computer very often.
5. I don’t play PC games
Gone are the days of Unreal Tournament 2004. Also gone are the days of selling video cards on eBay to recoup some of my expenses because I just decked out my home PC with two new video cards so that I gain a 3 FPS advantage over my competitors. In retrospect it seems really silly that I didn’t want to fork out some cash for an XBox or a Playstation 3, but I was perfectly happy to toss it into video cards. Either way, I don’t play PC games anymore, so a cheap video card or on-board graphics get the job done for me. There’s no need to spend any time researching why X card is a bit better than Y card at the same price point.
6. I might buy a Mac
Oh the horror! I might actually join the evil empire and buy a Mac next time. Why? I’m already in the Apple ecosystem now with an iPad and an iPhone. For me, they work well and most importantly I don’t have to think about them. They do their tasks and get out of my way. A Mac would not just look wonderful in the house (yes they’re overpriced, but at least they’re really shiny), it would integrate with everything else. I can do most things from a PC from iCloud.com, yes, but most Apple fans tell me that the experience on a Mac is better for both iCloud and iTunes. If I’m fully vested in Apple to deliver my music, movies and books to me, then why wouldn’t I bail on a home-built PC running Windows in favor of a Mac?