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Cahn: Returning to the desktop computer
(April 6, 2015)
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I don’t know if other 50-year-olds are like this, but when it comes to major birthday gifts on my wish list, I tend not to bother others about trying to get them for me.

For example, if I’m going to take that trip to New Orleans I want to do someday, I need to find a way to save up for it. If someone wants to make me such a gift, wonderful, but I’m certainly not expecting anyone to do such a thing. It’s just too much.

Even though prices have dropped considerably the last few years, the same goes for computers: I do not expect someone to drop several hundred dollars or more on a gift for me, even for this birthday.

So, I’ve been saving up my dollars and cents in order to make a new computer purchase. For nearly a decade, I’ve gone with laptops. Before having things like my iPhone, it was a great way to keep in touch with things while on vacation, do work from home or on the road when necessary and play games or watch movies pretty much wherever I wanted.

That’s become less and less necessary as I’ve migrated to the iPhone 6 Plus, which grants me lots of smartphone real estate at a price I was able to afford, thanks to a deal with my cellphone company. Also, laptops are notoriously more expensive than desktops when you’re looking to have certain features.

That’s why I’ve decided to move back to a desktop computer. As a member of a sort of inbetween member of computer users, even at 50, I still enjoy playing role playing and strategy computer games during my downtime. It’s just something I got into during my college years and still enjoy today. More and more, however, software companies are making their games for high-end hardware instead of scaling them in a way everyone can enjoy.

One of the best-selling fantasy role playing game franchises is I like is Dragon Age. Launched nearly a decade ago, it’s now on its third title, Dragon Age: Inquisition. It is literally impossible to play on my current laptop. Another great series is Sid Meier’s Civilization. Late last year, I was able to download and play a version called Beyond Earth. It runs a little quirkily on my laptop, but is still quite enjoyable. It’s sequel, Starships, won’t even launch.

Yes, I’d prefer the respective companies had made their latest and greatest games playable on nearly any computer. At the same time, I would love to enjoy them the way they were meant to be enjoyed.

At the same time -- despite enjoying these games -- I realized my online and productivity habits have changed. I use my iPhone to check email, Facebook and other forms of digital communication far more often than I do on my laptop. And, since I don’t have an iPad (now, if someone wants to get me one of those as a belated birthday present, go for it. LOL, as they say), I still do more of my financial and document creation work on the laptop.

A laptop which is, basically, stuck on my desk at home 24/7 nearly all 52 weeks of the year. It, essentially, is my desktop.

Look, the old horse is showing her age, with a broken power button housing, occasional OS glitches and -- as I’ve pretty much already detailed -- not enough computing power to do what I want.

A desktop simply makes more sense at this point, and I can repurpose the laptop for my sons (who really do need one at this point). I can even borrow it back when I go on trips, if there’s the need.

As I write this, I’m still deciding exactly what to get. There’s a lot of choices these days. I’ve usually gone with Dell because you can custom order your PC. However, the more you add on, the more expensive it gets -- and you have to wait a week or so for it to arrive.

In order to keep the price down, I’m thinking of compromising a little bit. As much as I’d love to have the top specifications recommended for the games I want to play, it’s really not necessary. On the other hand, if I can afford to, I don’t want to skimp down to just the minimum specs, either.

Yup, it’s middle-of-the-road me going for something in between. Powerful, but not over the top is the direction I’m heading in. Well, what does that mean? Most of the computer folks I’ve spoken to already actually tout processors and graphics cards from a company called AMD. Apparently, AMD chips are “made” for gaming. The specifications for most of the games I like now are recommending AMD six-core. Let’s just say that’s a lot processing power. And, of course, more expensive than what I absolutely have to get. Hopefully, I can get my hands on a quad-core AMD chip set.

Many low-end computer systems come with integrated graphics cards. That’s why the laptop doesn’t do as well when it comes to the newer games and certain multimedia software. Having a separate AMD graphics card in the chassis should help.

No matter what I get, one of the more interesting things is going to be getting temporarily used to Windows 8.1. For those of you running Windows 7 or even XP, it’s a bit different. Windows 8.0 was really made for tablets and got PC users kind of upset. Windows 8.1 is supposed to be a bit better. The good news, Windows 10 is coming out as a free upgrade -- even for Windows 7 users.

Well, wish me luck. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I’ll have my new rig set up and can enjoy my birthday present to myself. See you online!