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The Well Cultured Office

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 in Q&As

I’m in the market for a whole new rig for my office. What do you recommend I do to stay classy?

There’s a lot of ways you can approach this, but allow me to provide a list of tips:

  • For obvious reasons, avoid tacky “gamer” oriented cases and the like. Obnoxious ricer-esque LED illuminated cases may have looked cool back when we were all playing CS 1.6, but nowadays they look tacky and somewhat cheap, and in many cases, their cooling is abysmal. Invest in a case with good construction, excellent cooling, and no silly decals or graphics — you want something stylish and inoffensive, not massive and ridiculous. Mini-ATX cases are great in this regard, because in many cases they hide away on a nice desk well, but obviously you lose quite a bit of flexibility and lose many features. Don’t worry about spending too much on a case — good cases last years, bad ones last months.
  • Second, silence is everything. The ideal office is not overwhelmed by loud, annoying 90mm fans going full blast trying to cool down an overheated computer. On top of investing in a good case, make sure to get a substantial heatsink and a nice and quiet video card. Not only will this be more pleasant when you work or game, but it will (in certain circumstances) result in less heat on your parts and thus a longer lasting computer.
  • Third, invest in a good keyboard, mouse, and monitor. A well structured office absolutely requires good tools, so don’t skimp on what you will be using the most. Get a nicely constructed, well built, and long lasting keyboard and mouse, ideally ones that fit your hands well. Additionally, get a good monitor — find one large enough to provide plenty of desktop space, bright enough to be easily visible, and with a contrast range enough for movies and other visual effects.
  • Fourth, simplify your peripherals. Don’t buy extra peripherals if you can consolidate your needs into one form factor. For example, a USB hub built into a keyboard or monitor is a great way to have access to nearby USB plugs (which allows you to hide your PC case away) without purchasing an additional USB hub. A cheap bluetooth card obviates the need for game controller or cell phone dongles/cords. Speakers built into a monitor save valuable desk space. It should be noted, however, that sometimes simplicity sacrifices quality — a built in webcam might not be easily configured, built in speakers may be of less quality than independent ones, and wireless keyboards might be less responsive than corded ones. Your mileage may vary.
  • Finally, install things right. When you build your PC, take the time to zip-tie down all cords to the case, opening the case up and allowing plenty of air flow (and making cleaning with compressed air a hell of a lot easier). When you place everything around your desk, use velcro ties to bundle together cords and keep them out of your way. The goal here is to make your PC work for you and to give you as much free space as possible — don’t let your computer dominate your workspace.

These are admittedly vague tips, but building a PC involves a lot of factors unrelated to the classiness of a PC. Thus, insofar as building a nice, classy office is concerned, your main concern is simply keeping things simple and functional. Everything else is up to you.

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