Maximum PC August 2019
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Published 23rd July
We get to play with a lot of high-end kit in the Maximum PC offices. Our kit cupboard is bursting with premium processors, expensive graphics cards, superfast SSDs, feature-rich motherboards, and indeed everything else that goes into producing the best machines we can put our minds to. If we need to build a specific machine for a particular use, then we can generally lay our hands on the core components quickly, and piece together a machine that excels at the task at hand.
There’s a bit of a disconnect between having all this kit to play with and building in the real world though, and this is most obvious when we’re building to a tighter budget. It’s rare that we have everything we need for a budget build, and this is for a couple of reasons: Firstly, new technologies tend to appear in top-end components initially, and that’s the kit that makes into our labs and kit cupboards. The more-budget oriented hardware tends to come later, and it can be quite hard getting our hands on it. This is compounded by the fact that when there’s less profit to be had, there’s a general reluctance to promote the kit in the first place. Budget hardware that makes $10 profit just isn’t as well supported as kit that makes $100s—not for any sinister reason, purely down to economics.
Which in a roundabout way brings us to this month’s cover feature: our $350 kick-ass budget build. When we were originally working out what we were going to do for this feature, we priced up a number of budget machines, but eased back on the crazy low price points, because we didn’t feel that they would produce the kind of performance that we demand. It isn’t just about building the cheapest machine you can. It’s about ticking that great value box as well. So while there are cheaper CPUs available, we felt that too many of them were too compromised to be considered. To find out exactly what we did end up building, grab the latest issue: The final machine is impressive, and can stand on its own, or form the basis of a more capable system.
There is one element of this build that we always consider far longer that we probably should, and that is on the operating system front. Essentially we’re predominantly about Windows here on Maximum PC. We definitely talk about Linux plenty, and when it comes to specific tasks it can often be hard to beat, but when it comes to general purpose computing, our preference is still Windows 10. It’s just so easy to use, so predominant in the marketplace, and has so many great tools.
There’s just one problem with it though: cost. While you can argue that Windows is great value for money because of how well supported it is, it’s hard for Microsoft to compete with operating systems that essentially cost zilch. Of course you should donate some money when you download the latest version of Ubuntu or whatever, but you’re not forced to, and it makes no difference to the software whether you do or don’t. Which means it comes down to $0 vs. $100. Ultimately it’s not hard to see which one gets the nod from us: something that is made easier by the fact that the latest versions of Ubuntu are incredibly straightforward to use, even for novices. Still, if you can afford an extra $100 on your budget, then upgrading to Windows 10 make sense.