As for the motherboard, the Asus P6T is one of the new wave of mobos equipped with Intel's X58 core-logic chipset, which makes it capable of supporting the Core i7. Price-wise, the P6T also is eminently accessible to the average consumer, coming in at around $300.
My point here, which the pizza store owner's parts-strewn counter emphasized (they were off to the side, so as not to interfere with the food), is that the performance advantages of Intel's new architecture are easily accessible to anyone who wants to put together their own PC. I've written about the specifics of Nehalem in my post, "Intel Raises Performance Bar With Nehalem Core i7," but basically the deal is that this processor family boasts an all-new micro-architecture, it's equipped with Intel's first integrated memory controller, and it's manufactured in a cutting-edge 45-nm fabrication process.
There's another thought which struck me while I was mulling over the pizza guy's processor choice. Namely, how the build-versus-buy equation has changed when it comes to deciding whether to put together your own system or to go out and buy a ready-made box from the likes of Dell or HP.
In the old days (say, a year or two ago), you built your PC because, in general, you could save some money. Nowadays, with recession-busting prices cut to the bone, that's no longer possible. You can find a really hot desktop system for under $400. Indeed, I myself will no longer build a PC just because I need another system. However, what you can get by rolling your own is a much higher-end box than you can find from the preconfigured market. Plus, you can get brand-new, cutting-edge processors like the Core i7 before they've filtered their way down to every market segment.
In summary, I think the roll-your-own dynamic has been shifting in this direction for a while now, and what it's also doing is broadening the so-called "enthusiast" segment (this is how the industry refers to gaming geeks who covet the highest-end systems available) to include more "average," nongaming computer hobbyists. Like Mr. Pizza Man, who told me he uses his system mainly for Illustrator, presumably to do business- (and side-business) related projects.
If I'm correct about the blurring of the enthusiast and everyday PC builders, another thing which struck me about his project was his off-handed assumption that the rest of his configuration was no big deal. He's using three hard drives, one of which is a 32-GB solid state drive. When I asked him if he was using Vista Home for the operating system, he seemed insulted, and replied that his selection was Vista Premium 64-bit. (Well, excuse me!)
Anyway, so the last observation I'd like to make about processors available to roll-your-own builders is that we're entering an exciting period. Not only do we have Intel's Core i7 family, but AMD will release its own rearchitected desktop parts in 2009. (They'll follow on the heels of AMD's just-released Shanghai server processor.
Finally, Pizza Guy isn't the only one to put together a PC. Check out my (amusing) video from my last quad-core build project.
What PC are you using? Please leave a comment below, or shoot me an e-mail directly at [email protected].
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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.