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Walk into a newsagent these days and you will be presented with a huge range of magazines to choose from, should you be inclined to browse this section of the store. One of the largest special interest sections will undoubtedly be computing and you will be offered an array of publications targeting a variety of sectors beneath the generic ‘computing’ heading – gaming, new PC user advice, digital music, digital video, component sales and so on. Dennis publishing have spotted a gap in this particular market and produced a new monthly magazine to fill it, ‘Custom PC’.
Now on issue 6 (Mar-04), Custom PC (CPC) costs £3.50 and (praise be!) comes without the seemingly obligatory CD-ROM/DVD-ROM that graces the front covers of most publications in this sector. So you suspect that, quite apart from the 50% cost reduction in comparison to its DVD-sporting competitors, CPC must have a new angle with which to attract readers. You’re right – it does!
CPC is aimed at the (eponymous) user of custom PCs. That is, PCs which are homebuilt for extreme performance and/or non-standard looks. Beige (or otherwise) boxes from the likes of Dell et al, don’t get a look-in in this magazine. However, this is far from the minority interest that you may think it is – ‘modding’ (modifying) PCs for performance or looks is an increasingly popular hobby these days. In fact, it has risen so far into the mainstream that even key branches of out-of-town technology chain PC World have started stocking specialist modding products.
By this point you will probably be thinking either ‘sounds interesting’ or ‘why bother’. If you fall into the latter group, keep reading – you may be surprised!
PC Performance Enhancement ------------------------------------------- The rate of PC evolution is pretty fast. Buy into today’s bleeding edge technology and you will pay a significant premium for the privilege of owning the latest and greatest. That privilege will last maybe six months if you’re lucky, and you will end up with a piece of mainstream hardware that has depreciated at warp-speed. Alternatively, buy a mid-range product, where price competition is at its fiercest, and push it beyond its nominal level of performance and you can end up with a high-performance piece of kit on a budget. A typical example of this would be overclocking* an AMD Athlon XP CPU – my XP2500+ cost £70 but, right out of the box, I had it running faster than a top of the line XP 3200+ which, at that time, retailed for around £350. Choose your components carefully and with a little understanding, and you too can achieve a similar bang for your buck. CPC is the publication to help you here. Its articles and how-to’s on overclocking itself are supported with overclocking-oriented reviews of the latest products and supporting technologies – such as water cooling kit for your PC.
Custom Look PCs ------------------------- This facet of CPC’s focus varies from reviewing fairly tame aluminium PC cases all the way through to outrageous, one-off modded PCs. Recent examples include a PC built into a model of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars and even one built into the body of an acoustic guitar (nope – I don’t know why). The more extreme ideas will either appeal to you a lot or not at all, but they are still interesting to read about. At a more moderate level, many people will be interested in ideas to make their PC look less of an eye sore in their lounge and there are plenty of those, too.
CPC also looks at pre-built systems and components where the focus is on unusual levels of performance or looks.
CPC encourages a strong level of participation from its reader-base with regular features such as ‘Beat The Office’, where a downloadable benchmark program is used to evaluate your own machine’s performance relative to the best that the CPC team can build, ‘Reader’s Drives’ which focuses on readers home built machines and an online presence at www.custompc.co.uk which includes active readers forums.
The written style of the magazine is generally good. It manages to strike an impressive balance between accessibility for newer readers and supplying sufficient detail to interest the more experienced. The layout and print quality is good and although the usual high volume of adverts are present, they typically correspond well to the magazines target customer’s interests and so even they provide some content of value.
I bought the first issue of CPC from a newsagent shelf and promptly subscribed – the only magazine I currently have a subscription to. Although I am less interested in the cosmetic aspects of custom PCs, the balance of the content is more than sufficient to ensure that I’m ready to rip the cellophane off as each month’s issue hits the doormat. Personally, I would like to see a heavier hardware focus but that’s a minor gripe. I’ve not spotted any particular editorial bias which is always good to see in a publication assisting readers make potentially expensive purchasing decisions.
If you want more from your computer, take a look at ‘Custom PC’. You can currently do so for free, by taking a look at the CPC website where selected articles from issue 1 are available as a downloadable PDF file.
‘Custom PC’ is published monthly by Dennis Publishing Limited at a cost of £3.50.
* Overclocking refers to running a component, typically a CPU, GPU or RAM, at a speed that is greater than that it is rated for. This is often possible to do safely as a result of the ‘headroom’ built into components to ensure they run at nominal speeds or as a by-product of production yields where high speed parts are downgraded (e.g. an AMD Athlon XP 3200+ marked and sold as an XP2500+) to meet current sales demands.
Dont be put off by ripping your PC to shreds. As with anything else, due care and attention are needed, but know your stuff and get some great results. A good review that should bring more people into the hobby. Nice one!
Oh, bit-tech.net is a good place to start.
littlemissdrunk 19.06.2004 13:38
I've always wanted to be able to build/customise pcs...down to modding the case etc....but unfortunately I'm paralysed by a fear of touching things inside the case (I had a bad memory installation incident that killed a computer......I still don't know how i managed that when I was being tentative, but I digress). Perhaps one day I'll attempt it....but only after some expert tuition I think.... L xxx
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