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My thoughts: enjoying your hardware without the anxiety to upgrade (2023)

My thoughts on enjoying gaming without succumbing to the upgrade race in the world of PC hardware
James Birkenau



November 27, 2023


Sometimes I get caught up in the rush of upgrading my PC. It’s easy to get swept up by the newest tech on the market and the promise it holds for gaming prowess. But recently, I’ve started questioning if the constant chase for new hardware is really worth it. In this piece, I’ll explore the paradox of the perpetual upgrade cycle, its psychological grip, and how finding contentment with current capabilities can be surprisingly rewarding.


The Psychological Pitfall of Perpetual Upgrading

An endless staircase leading to the clouds showcasing an infinite ascent

The pursuit of upgrading PC hardware can sometimes feel like running on a treadmill that’s always speeding up. I’ve seen it happen, both online and in my personal circle - this constant chase after the newest, shiniest, and most powerful components. It’s a cycle that can be tough to break out of, given how rapidly technology evolves.

Here’s a simple list illustrating the mental tug-of-war that comes with perpetual upgrading:


  • Staying on the cutting edge of technology.

  • Maximized performance for the latest games and applications.

  • Bragging rights within the PC enthusiast community.


  • Financial strain from frequent, expensive purchases.

  • The stress of keeping up with the latest releases.

  • Diminishing returns as improvements can be incremental.

I’ve personally experienced the allure of top-of-the-line parts. There’s a genuine thrill in knowing your PC can handle any task you throw at it. The peace of mind that comes with computing power to spare is undeniable.

But I’ve also felt the drawbacks firsthand. Dropping a significant portion of a paycheck on a new GPU, only to hear rumors of an even better one on the horizon, causes a mix of frustration and buyer’s remorse. There’s a mental cost that comes with the financial one. Will the new component even yield that much of a performance gain over my current setup?

I’m now trying to live by a revised mantra: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My current rig might not match the most recent benchmark king, but it’s serving me well. Games run smoothly, and the overall performance still feels snappy. Each part, from my solid-state drive to my trusty CPU, continues to meet my needs effectively.

What’s more, the sense of satisfaction that comes from making the most of what I already have is surprisingly rewarding. Squeezing out performance through optimizations doesn’t just save money; it gives me a deeper appreciation and understanding of my system. It fosters a more sustainable relationship with my tech, where I’m not constantly looking to replace it, but rather, I’m learning to make the most of its capabilities.

That’s not to say that I won’t upgrade when it makes sense – like when a part genuinely becomes a bottleneck or when there’s a significant leap in performance per dollar. For insights on when to upgrade, you might want to read My experience with Apple’s new M3 chips so far. But until then, I’m happy to resist the psychological pitfall of thinking my hardware is never good enough just because it’s not the latest model on the market.

The Reality of Hardware Lifecycle and Performance

A half-full hourglass with computer chips instead of sand depicting passing technology time

Understanding the lifecycle of PC hardware and real-world performance needs can often feel like navigating a dense jungle. Every component inside our beloved machines has an expiration date—though not necessarily the doom-and-gloom situation it’s made out to be. Here’s my list that distills the truth from the frenzy:

  1. Hardware ages, but not as fast as the anxiety-inducing marketing would have us believe. Yes, the moment you hook up that shiny new GPU, it’s arguably not the latest and greatest—but that doesn’t make it any less capable of delivering stunning gaming experiences.
  2. Performance is subjective. What constitutes a solid, enjoyable gaming experience differs from one person to another. While some may crave the cutting-edge visual fidelity offered by the latest AAA titles at the highest possible settings, many gamers (myself included) find satisfaction in current titles at high but not necessarily ‘ultra’ settings.
  3. The VRAM debate is often overblown. In truth, the amount of VRAM required is closely tied to game development trends and individual user settings, which for most, makes a GPU with less VRAM than the highest-end models still perfectly viable.

From opening the newest games to running multiple high-resolution monitors, I’ve come to value a balanced approach to the tech I use. I relish in the performance my hardware offers right now and accept that eventually, it might not keep pace with future software demands. Yet, I’ve seen firsthand through various cycles how gracefully PC components can age if you focus on actual usage rather than chasing spec sheets.

When considering upgrades, I often reflect on whether my current setup actually hinders my enjoyment or if I’m simply being swept up in the “more is better” wave. This allows me to appreciate the cost against benefits of potential new hardware without feeling discontented with what I already have.

I will admit, there’s a drawback to not riding the latest hardware wave—some exciting innovations might pass me by. For instance, I won’t be the first to marvel at a game’s real-time ray tracing glory or bask in supremely fluid frame rates that new tech affords. Yet, for now, these are luxuries rather than essentials, and my setup still offers an immersive and responsive gaming experience that I find deeply satisfying.

In conclusion, while the allure of new hardware is undeniable, we must remember that the PC we build is not solely about the components—it’s about the experiences they enable. So, as I continue to navigate the ever-evolving tech landscape, I hold onto the joy my current PC brings, even as the whispers of the next big thing echo in the distance.

Finding Contentment in Current Gaming Experiences

A close-up of a happy gamer’s hands on a keyboard glowing with rgb lights hinting at enjoyment

Finding contentment in my current gaming experiences came down to a simple set of realizations that really helped me combat the allure of continuous upgrades:

  • The games I want to play work well on my existing system.

  • I don’t need to play every new release on ultra settings; “high” often looks nearly as good.

  • Frame rates above 60fps are smooth enough for enjoyable gameplay.

The excitement of having the latest and greatest hardware is undeniable. However, the constant chase can lead to a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction. In my case, I decided to step back and evaluate the performance of my own system, a rig that is still going strong with components like a GTX 970 and a decent i7 processor. This setup may not be flashy, but it runs the games I love smoothly and provides a satisfying gaming experience.

Yes, there’s always something new and more powerful out there. But focusing on what I have reveals plenty of positives. For example, I appreciate the customization options and the tinkering that PC gaming allows. I’ve become more creative with setting adjustments to optimize performance. Plus, I’ve discovered a community of gamers who share a similar passion for getting the most out of their existing systems.

Here are some drawbacks, though. I’ll admit, sometimes a new game comes out with requirements that are a bit too much, prompting the occasional pang of upgrade envy. And yes, there’s the reality of diminishing returns, where significant investments return minor improvements.

But ultimately, my perspective has shifted. I started to focus more on the playability and enjoyment of games rather than the relentless pursuit of technical perfection. The inclusion of adaptive sync technology has been a game-changer, as it smooths out the performance and makes my old workhorse seem like it’s still in the race.

In terms of user forums like MacRumors and others, instead of zeroing in on the hardware that I don’t have, I’ve joined threads that discuss optimizing old systems and engaging in community challenges. We share tips on how to breathe new life into our setups while also marveling at the level of detail and gameplay we can achieve without breaking the bank on new GPUs or CPUs.

To sum it up, the satisfaction derived from making the most out of my current PC does outweigh the fleeting thrill of having the latest tech. It has become more about the games and the community rather than boxing myself into a cycle of constant hardware turnover. And to be perfectly candid, my system may not be a speed demon, but it’s my speed demon, and it gets the job done just fine.