THE PCG Q&A
What did you buy immediately before it went on sale? What broke as soon as the warranty ran out, or just never quite did what you wanted? What did you buy before moving and then realize you didn’t have space for in the new place?
Don’t limit yourself to computer hardware if you ever splurged on a gadget like Google Glass, or a Zune, or a Juicero, and then regretted it.
What hardware do you regret buying?
Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.
Robin Valentine: I’m not sure I’m quite at the point of regretting it yet, because it is an interesting novelty and it was very cheap, but I grabbed a Steam controller during their big clearout sale and I’m still yet to take it out of the box. I’m not really sure what I want to do with it, if anything.
Andy Kelly: Also the Steam controller. I really tried with this thing. Like, really, REALLY tried. I bought it cheap and was convinced it was going to be my new thing. I was going to get used to having a trackpad instead of a physical analogue stick. But it just never felt right, despite me trying to convince myself otherwise. It’s fudgy and imprecise, and moving the camera around in third-person games was especially frustrating. After much fruitless struggle, I ended up selling it. It was cool that Valve tried something new. A bold attempt to make a PC-specific piece of hardware that let you play mouse and controller games with one gadget. But, alas, it sucked. And it felt really cheap in your hands too.
Phil Savage: I upgraded my CPU this year, which, naturally, also meant upgrading my motherboard. And once you upgrade a motherboard, you’re in serious danger of going the whole hog and just buying new everything. In the end, the only bit of my PC I kept was the graphics card, and even then only because I was holding off for an RTX 3080. (Still am, in fact.) The oldest bit of my PC to receive an upgrade was the PSU, which was bordering on 10 years old. It still worked fine, but there’s something about sticking a decade-old bit of kit in what is otherwise a brand new PC that feels wrong. So I added all my components to PCPartPicker and decided that a 650W PSU would do the job just fine. And then the RTX 3080 cards came out, and recommended 750W instead. While it’s probably fine, just the suggestion that your new build might blow up under the weight of its extreme power draw—I’m informed this is not how it works, but still—is not great. In the end, I’ll probably end up buying another new PSU, just for the peace of mind. That’s assuming I’m ever actually able to get a 3080.
Evan Lahti: Every year around Black Friday, I regret my previous SSD purchases.
In 2015 I paid $145.98 for a 500GB Samsung 850 Evo.
In 2017 I paid $279.99 for a 1TB 850 Evo.
Now, like clockwork, I’m looking at a 2TB 860 Evo for $200. I’d be dumb not to upgrade, right? The consequence of this “good decision” is that it makes my previous buys, even if they were smart then, look like a bad deal in the context of the ever-shrinking price-per-byte. In five years will I have 10 SATAs and NVMes plugged into my motherboard? Right now I’m splitting my various launchers across various drives—Steam sits on T:, Riot occupies C: along with Windows, and Epic/Blizzard and my recorded gameplay clips fill up S:. I don’t love having all this stuff, uh, fragmented. It’d be nice to consolidate a little.
Wes Fenlon: I built a lot of computers this year, mostly out of spare parts, just for the hell of it. As I wrote in May: I was so bored in self-isolation I built a mini PC I don’t need. It’s a good little computer! I didn’t buy many new components for it, and I was trying to be thrifty, so when I needed a cooler, I went for the $12 Arctic Alpine 12 CO. That was a bad idea.
Whenever you think it’s a good idea to skimp on a PC component, make sure you know what you’re skimping on. In this case, I wasn’t trying to get the absolute coolest or quietest CPU cooler I could; I just wanted something cheap that would do the job. But what I didn’t consider was the build quality of a $12 cooler, and what would happen if I needed to take it back off. During the Alpine 12’s first installation, one of its cheap plastic pegs bent when I tried to push it through the motherboard, so it wouldn’t secure in place. When I finally got it through, I stripped the plastic off another peg while rotating it to “lock” in place. And then, a few weeks later, I ended up swapping out the motherboard and CPU in this PC for something a bit different when I turned it into a homebrew router. That meant taking the cooler off and reinstalling it on a new board, with one of its pegs hard to properly lock into place. I got it there eventually, but if I ever have to take it off again, I’ll just have to throw this thing away. There’s no way it’ll survive a third installation.
Don’t waste your money on cheap parts. If I’d bought something like the Noctua L9i, I’d probably be able to use it forever.
Tyler Wilde: In 2016, I bought a Dell 1080p, 60Hz ultrawide monitor. It was cheap, and I was on a budget, and there was nothing wrong with it, but it also wasn’t very good. Earlier this year, I finally bought a 1440p, 144Hz IPS display—an Acer Predator XB271HU, specifically—and it has dramatically improved my experience. I should’ve just spent more back in 2016 to get a nicer display, but I tend to be stubborn about these things. 800×600 was good enough for us when I was a boy, and now I’m supposed to spend all kinds of money on numbers over a thousand? Get outta here. Now that I’ve admitted I was wrong, I’m stuck with a cheap ultrawide display that I doubt I can sell for more than $40.
Tim Clark: At pretty much precisely this time last year I bought a new computer from NZXT in the Black Friday sale. I wouldn’t say I regret it, as I’ve had brilliant fun with it so far (I’m using it on the living room TV to get my 4K Destiny 2 fix). However, I did spec it with a 2080 Ti, which the internet now regularly assures me was the worst economic decision this side of setting up an igloo factory in the Sahara. Do I wish I’d waited and bought a 3080? Of course. Can I get a 3080 and swap the 2080 Ti into my desktop machine? The chance would be a fine thing. Do I blame my beloved hardware colleagues for not warning me better? Not at all. Will their annual reviews be trickier this year? Quite likely.
badman: In september I bought my used Oculus Rift S, for about 250 pounds. At that time it looked like a good deal, but 2 months after that…the Oculus Quest 2 was there and things suddenly went dark in my head I must say: I didn’t know about the Quest 2, and even then: I probably would have thought prices would have been much higher. Wasn’t the best decision.
Zloth: Microsoft’s Sidewinder Strategic Commander controller. A control for the left hand that’s shaped a bit like a giant mouse but functionally more of a joystick with a bunch of buttons. When somebody says “a solution looking for a problem” – that’s what I think of.
Johnway: At the time? The Tiny branded PC for university that i got my dad to buy for me in 2004. UK readers will probably remember, Tiny had a reputation for cack PCs. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and when i got it, the pc would crash within 15 minutes of playing any games. about 30 min if i turned bios setting to x4 AGP.
I was too ashamed to tell my Dad and kept it. I spent over £500 of my own money trying to troubleshoot the issue as to what was causing it. By the time i solved the issue (it was the graphics card) i had practically built a new PC; new antec PSU instead of the one weighed less then a bag of crisps, doubled the memory and put in a new graphics card before the issue was fixed.
In some ways it was a great learning experience and through necessity gave me the courage/motivation to crack open a pc and teach myself the foundations of building a PC. It’s probably what gave me the confidence to build my own PC from scratch several years later.
mainer: It was a Corsair mouse, MS65 Pro RGB gaming mouse. The scroll wheel broke after 2 weeks. Plus, I thought it was way too light, I like a much heaver mouse. I went back to my Rat7, and have since upgraded to a Rat 8. If you search online you find multiple complaints about this the MS65 and the scroll wheel breaking. The only Corsair product I bought that I didn’t like.