No, I'm perfectly satisfied with my gaming PC at the moment, but while doing some research for the gift guide that will be in the December issue of HWM, I realized that the big PC vendors here seems to be neglecting the gaming market.
Now, I'm not going into the whole console vs PC gaming debate, but it would be silly to dismiss PC gaming. Valve's success with its digital distribution channel, Steam testifies to the longevity of PC gaming (btw, there's a Halloween sale going on now). So there are consumers out there playing PC games and they need a decent PC. But where are the gaming oriented, performance systems?
I went to the websites of the top PC vendors available locally - HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Acer are currently the leading PC vendors - ASUS makes no desktops for consumers, leaving us with four.
HP offers the Pavilion Elite HPE, which comes with a Core i7-870 processor and up to 8GB of RAM. Sounds decent right? Except that it only has an option for a GeForce GTX 460 or a Radeon HD 5570 graphics card. Be prepared to pay around S$2.8k for that. The GTX 460 option is obviously the better option for gamers compared to the Radeon HD 5570, but I would have liked to see more custom options here. Where's the Radeon HD 5800 series?
Next up, Acer's website showed that it has a Predator G5900 gaming PC. It looks aggressive and fits the gaming PC stereotype, but inside was a real disappointment. It comes with NVIDIA's GeForce GT 330 (an OEM part and so last-generation) and I didn't see any custom options. It uses the same Core i7-870 processor as the HP, though the configuration is not exactly similar and it goes for S$2.4k.
I stopped next at Lenovo, where its K series desktops offered an NVIDIA GeForce GT 320 1GB while the B series only has an ATI Radeon HD 5450. In short, less appealing than Acer and HP. Of course the prices are lower too, but I wanted gaming performance here.
My last hope was Dell, which now owns Alienware, a gaming PC boutique vendor. I should have no problems finding a decent gaming system here right? Well, I started with Dell's own Studio XPS series. The starting option for the XPS 9100 is a Radeon HD 5670, which is still a tad below my minimum specs, but at least Dell allowed me to customize up to an ATI Radeon HD 5870.
Alienware, which has its own site however, is the real deal. The top Alienware Area-51 ALX gave me the choice of an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480, along with a Core i7-960 and 12GB of RAM. You either like the distinctive Alienware sci-fi inspired styling or hate it, but it will have no issues playing with the latest games at the highest resolution. It does cost a whopping S$6299 for a start, with plenty of extras thrown in.
So yes, if you really need the ultimate gaming rig from a PC vendor, Alienware is the answer, but you'll have to pay for it. Dell's Studio XPS series provides a compromise between price and performance and with the right custom option, it could be a solid choice. And how many people do you know can just splash six grand on a PC?
This brief survey shows the lack of choices when it comes to shopping for a gaming PC. Most vendors are selling their desktops to mainstream consumers, who are content with integrated graphics or at best a budget discrete graphics card. Unless you have a tech savvy friend to bring along to Sim Lim to shop for a DIY system, Alienware and Dell are your best options, with Dell being the realistic choice for the middle class majority.
Somehow that doesn't seem right to me, but I suppose vendors with their customer databases and market surveys know better. Perhaps gaming on notebooks have eclipsed the desktop? Are gamers forced to DIY their systems due to the lack of choices or are PC vendors cutting back on gaming PC offerings due to the lack of demand? In any case, it does seem to me that Dell is in a very good position here.
Vincent Chang / Former Senior Tech Writer
Vincent has written enough about tech to know that he doesn't know enough about tech. But that's not keeping him from going jargon-heavy about processors and mobos. After all, "you can't stop the signal".