It was late summer 2002 when I finally decided to build my own gaming PC. Up to that point, I had to suffer with a Dell Inspiron 3800 laptop, where I learned the hard way that laptops make crappy gaming machines. Armed with my new-found knowledge, I poured over hardware reviews until I finally settled on components that would give me the most bang for my limited buck.
- AMD Athlon XP 1800 processor. This CPU was released a year earlier in Fall 2001, but back in those days you didn’t just go out and buy the latest shiny CPU whenever you please. No, first you’d wait a few months until the released CPU was actually available in retail. Then, you’d wait several more months for prices to come down to sane levels. So it was entirely reasonable to build a new PC with a year old processor.
- Asus A7V333 motherboard. This was the latest technology with all the bells – USB2.0, DDR 333 memory support, and temptations of being ready for the future. Of course, little did I know that my rev 1.0 board will not support the upcoming 333MHz FSB processors, despite the wishful “333” moniker. Neither did I know that the board would much later become a sought after item for its Universal AGP slot that works with 3.3v and 1.5v video cards.
- Ati Radeon 9000 Pro 64MB video card. What I really wanted was the awesome Radeon 9700 Pro, but the price was out of my reach. Nonetheless, the budget 9000 Pro was a very capable performer for the price of less than $100, more so than the outdated Geforce MX budget cards from Nvidia. Running 2002-2003 games on my 14-inch CRT at 1024×768 resolution was no big deal for this video card. By the time I realized that its RV250 GPU was incapable of doing trilinear and anisotropic filtering at the same time, I had already moved on to faster hardware.
- 512MB DDR 333 memory from OCSystems. Looked good on paper, failed after about a year. Eventually I upgraded to 1 GB of memory.
- Sound Blaster Audigy sound card. Worked pretty well for gaming, I even hooked up surround sound speakers to it, which made for an awesome Counter Strike gaming experience. It also supported ASIO, which was useful when I later used it for music production. Music production snobs would always poo-poo Sound Blaster cards, but I had no complaints about its features or sound quality. It could even apply chorus, reverb and distortion effects to line-in audio in real time, something I also enjoyed.
- Maxtor DiamondMax 80GB IDE hard drive. It eventually failed, and foolishly I replaced it with another Maxtor drive, which later failed again. I vowed never to buy anything Maxtor again, and got a Samsung Spinpoint 120GB IDE drive later, which worked for many years without trouble.
- The case was some generic aluminum one with an acrylic side window and came with some no-name 300W power supply. The airflow was pretty terrible with only one measly 60mm exhaust fan. But at least it looked cool compared to generic beige cases that were still common then, with the same terrible airflow. I never liked the beige cases, even when they were common. And the power supply ran without exploding for the few years that I used it.
Video: the build and game play testing
Image gallery from 2002-2003: