It'sTime to Cross the Final Frontier

It'sTime to Cross the Final Frontier

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I’ve been building computers for more than 10 years now. I’ve built dozens-upon-dozens of desktop machines for friends, family, the Maximum PC Lab, and my own personal use. Odds are if you’re reading this magazine, you have too. Despite being a card-carrying member of the PC-building elite, I still use a laptop that was built on an assembly line somewhere in Texas. But I won’t have to anymore.

This month, Editor Gordon Mah Ung shows you how to build your own laptop. At first we weren’t sure it was a good idea to run the story, even in Maximum PC. After all, it’s one thing to build an easily serviced desktop machine without a benevolent manufacturer to handle broken parts and software snafus. When you build your own laptop, though, you’re really on your own. Before he started, even Gordo questioned the wisdom of a DIY laptop—and the story was his idea!

When he got a look at the variety of parts he could use to build the laptop, his tune quickly changed. He purchased exactly the components he needed to get the most bang for his laptop dollar. He built a kick-ass laptop with a super-fast 2.1GHz Pentium M, a 100GB hard drive, and a GeForce Go 6600, for about $1,500. I spec’d out a comparable laptop from an online retailer and the total cost was over $2,300—with a pokey 5400rpm hard drive instead of the 7200rpm one Gordon used!

The laptop manufacturers limit your configuration choices so they can extract the maximum cash from you for premium hardware. If you start with a vendor’s cheapest machine, you might be able to make some small configuration changes, but you won’t be able to add a huge hard drive, first-class CPU, or 2GB of memory. Some of these are actual limitations in the hardware—many notebook mobos don’t support tons of RAM or the fastest GPUs—but mostly the limitations are artificial. By building your own, you can get the most powerful hardware at a better price. I don’t know about you, but that’s precisely the reason I started building my own rigs.

Keen-eyed readers will also notice that we’ve devoted nine pages to backing up, copying, and converting all of your digital media. I’ve pissed and moaned about the anti-consumer DRM technologies enough, so we decided to do something about it. Starting on page 22, you’ll find our most complete guide to converting your media into consumer-friendly, DRM-free formats that work anywhere. Enjoy the story, but please use your unlocked media responsibly. Don’t steal.

Now I’ve got to get back to the Lab; it’s time I built my laptop!

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