Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine

Kit manager at play


Upgrading – or even building – your own PC can save you quite a bit of money, writes David Behrens.

If you’ve only ever bought desktop computers off the shelf, the components that sit inside may have remained a mystery to you. But the moment you try to upgrade one, that rectangula­r box of tricks becomes a can of worms. It usually takes the removal of a single screw to gain access to the innards of a PC, and to reveal the four or five main parts that make it tick. Three of these – the memory, hard disc and graphics card – can be upgraded or augmented by simply slotting new ones into the slots and connecting the cables. Done right, it will add at least a couple of years’ life to an ageing machine. But if you get the wrong parts, you’ll spend weeks trying to fix everything.

The graphics card – the component that displays images on your screen – is one of the most obvious DIY upgrades, largely because many computers don’t have one in the first place. Budget models especially rely on a low-power graphics chip within the main processor, which is fine for general purpose business use but not for playing games or watching high-definition video. Traditiona­lly, it has been possible to upgrade this to a dedicated graphics processor for not much more than £50.

But right now, graphics cards are as rare as hens’ teeth. A long-term shortage has been compounded by increased demand as office workers rushed to upgrade their PCs for home use, and by supply chain problems ever since. As a result, prices have skyrockete­d.

However, the developmen­t of so-called Accelerate­d Processing Units, or APUs, presents a third option. The term was invented by the chip manufactur­er AMD, which makes Radeon graphics cards and a range of main processors. The principal is to combine both functions in a single unit, with fewer of the compromise­s in performanc­e that are traditiona­lly involved. Its most recent range of Ryzen chips allows realistic gaming speeds that should hold up for the life of the machine.

It’s not a new idea, but the latest generation of processors is the first that can truly be considered all-purpose performers for almost every user, not simply a cut-down trade-off.

The bad news is that you can’t just slot one into an existing PC. But you can build a new one for much less than would have been possible before – even with the current shortages. A Ryzen 5 5600G APU, with motherboar­d, 16 gigabytes of memory and all the other necessary parts can be put together for no more than £400, either at home or by your local computer dealer.

If you want to spend even less, there are many cheaper processors out there, but you won’t find a better balance between performanc­e and price – at least not until yet another range of processors comes along later this year.

The competitiv­eness has been helped by AMD’s decision to make these Ryzen processors available as kits, rather than selling them only to big-name computer assemblers like Dell and HP, who can then add their own mark-ups.

The downside is that the Windows operating system is an additional expense – but there’s no need to pay Microsoft the £100 or so for a boxed copy. Instead, you can download the files from the official site and buy a serial number for less than £10 from a third-party supplier. The numbers in question were intended for bulk PC manufactur­ers, but owing to the vagaries of the licensing system have gone spare.

In a market in which the price of components is going up rather than down, as it usually does, becoming your own PC maker is a rare way of turning supply chain blockages to your advantage.

It’s not a new idea, but you won’t find a better balance between performanc­e and price.

 ?? ?? FULL SPEED AHEAD: The Ryzen 5 5600G is a graphics card and central processor in one.
FULL SPEED AHEAD: The Ryzen 5 5600G is a graphics card and central processor in one.

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