Author: Robert Bruce & Barbara Fritchman Thompson
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2010
Aimed at: D-I-Y hardware enthusiasts
Pros: Authoritative - doesn't waste time on dead ends
Cons: A bit repetitive
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead
Building the perfect PC is an attractive idea. Not only can you get exactly what you want, but you will know how it all fits together, be able to modify it and you might even save some money.
Well, yes and no. If you build your own machine then you will get what you want - but only if you understand the choices. Far less likely is the idea that you will save money. If you look around there are so many bargains available on complete hardware that you are almost certain to spend more buy building your own, even if you do end up with better spec.
It is an attractive proposition but it can be very difficult to keep up with the latest hardware developments. Which processor is best, what memory to use, graphics standard and so on. This book helps by cutting away most of the irrelevant choices and focusing on the ones that are really current. I like the way it tells us PCI is dead even though manufacturers have been slow to realise it. I like the way it presents a simplified view of the current state of the processor market. There are a lot more choices than the book lists but in most cases they make little real difference. In short the book does a good job of focusing your attention on what matters and this helps even if you are a hardware "expert".
The book starts off with some general words of wisdom in the first two chapters. These take you through a round up of each of the main hardware areas.
The rest of the book consists of a set of chapters, one for each type of custom machine you might want to build. These are:
- Budget PC
- Mainstream System
- Extreem System
- Media center
- Home Server
Each of these chapters is fairly self-contained and deals with the problem of selecting components for, and building, the machine. This is good but it does mean that there is a lot of repetition in the detail. Also it is important to realise that these are real builds - the components are selected down to level of providing web links where you can buy them and then follow the photos showing everything being installed. Of course you can make minor modifications to the choices without altering the instructions too much but if you are a complete novice then stick to the script and be safe. Equally there is the problem of things moving on and leaving the instructions behind. This isn't too much of a problem at the moment but you need to keep it in mind as the book ages. You might also find the extreme system not extreme enough in that it doesn't go in for overclocking and water cooling - it's just the fastest system you can create using standard components. It also doesn't go in for the frivolous activity of "case modding" where you simply make the machine look good without altering its performance.
This book is worth reading even if you are fairly knowledgeable about hardware just to see if you agree with the opinions. Most of the time I found myself nodding in agreement with the common sense approach. The writing style is good and it's an easy read with plenty of practical hints and tips.
This is the best "build your own PC" book I've encountered. You should be able to follow its instructions and it's even fun reading about the systems you have no intention of building!
Highly recommended to all but the ultra extreme system builder.