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Eaglerulez's guides to building a computer Version 2.

#21Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 12:55:51 PMmessage detail
Optical Drives

The optical drive is the component that reads and writes CD's and DVD's. Most optical drives use an IDE connection, though newer drives do use Sata.

Read/ Write speeds

The read and write speeds are listed with a multiplication sign. For instance one optical drive may have a read and write time of X48 for CD's, and X16 for DVD's. Generally speaking the faster these times the better. Most optical drives have a read and write time of X48 for CD's and X16 for DVD's.

Kinds of optical drives

Some optical drives will only read and write CD's, others will only read and write DVD's. I personally suggest getting a combo drive that can read both CD's and DVD's. There are also optical drives that can read and write Blue Ray and HD-DVD's, however these drives cost around 800 dollars, and can't really burn Blue Ray, or HD-DVD's very fast. I would wait until the price drops and the speeds for Blue ray and HD-DVD drives increase.

That's really all I have to say about optical drives. They are pretty cheap, and are simple to understand

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#22Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 12:57:02 PMmessage detail
Cases

Cases are perhaps the funnest things to pick out when building a computer. Unlike prebuilts you can get very flashy, and stylish cases, which simply look awesome. The main function of a case is simple, to safely organize, and hold your components.

ATX

There are a few ways that a case can physically organize your components, the various forms of organizing your components are called form factors. There are a few form factors, such as BTX, ATX, Micro ATX, Baby ATX, AT, etc. However the most popular and almost universally used is the ATX form factor. You want to get ATX, since it is the best and most compatible form factor so far. When buying be sure that your case, PSU, and motherboard are all listed as ATX, or ATX compatible.

Size

ATX cases come in a few sizes.

ATX Full tower: Full tower cases are the largest, and most spacious cases. They usually have the most ventilation, and fans. They are ideal if you are going to have a computer that has alot of components, such as multiple video cards, multiple hard drives, large heatsinks or water cooling systems. The only flaw with some full tower cases is that they take up a lot of room, and can sometimes cost alot, other then that though, they will offer the most space, and the most cooling for your components.

ATX Mid tower: Mid tower cases are medium sized. They are still rather spacious, and they don't take up a whole lot of room. Most mid tower ATX cases have around 3 or 4 fans for ventilation. Mid tower cases are ideal for people that have a fair amount of components, but don't want to take up too much room. Mid tower cases can fit multiple video cards, multiple hard drives, and some large heatsinks. It is possible to fit water cooling system in Mid tower ATX cases but it will be very cramped. Mid tower ATX cases make the compromise between small cases, and full tower cases, I personally like Mid tower cases since they have enough room for most systems, offer a fair amount of ventilation, but still don't take up a whole lot of space.

ATX Mini tower/media. Mini tower and media cases are very small, they are made for fitting a few components. These cases usually have few means of ventilation. ATX Mini tower/media cases are ideal for people who are short on space, or for those who want to make a media center PC to go along with their home theater, etc. ATX Mini tower and media cases are not recommended for people trying to build performance PC's , or PC's with large components, or components that produce alot of heat.

Case Power Supplies.

Many cases come with power supplies however I will warn you, do not use these power supplies, even if they produce high wattage, and amps, they are usually of low quality and will not last long. Case power supplies are known to fry your components, or in other cases under power your components causing them to under perform. I promise you, with very few exceptions, you do not want to go with a power supply that comes with the case.


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#23Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 12:58:48 PMmessage detail
4. Buying Advice

Now that you have a general idea of how computers work, and what each part does, it's time to figure out what to buy for your new computer.

Budget

Before you start with anything else figure out how much you are willing to spend on the PC, doing so will allow you to determine what kind of components and specs you can get. If you are asking for builds on this board, PLEASE post a budget. Here is a general price guide of what you can get for budgets.

Less then 600 dollars- You should be looking at prebuilts and then upgrading them.

600-800 dollars- Decent builds, nothing over the top or fancy, but still rather solid builds.

800-1200 dollars- High end builds, strong processors, video cards, RAM, etc.

1200-2000 dollars- Higher end builds, higher quality motherboards, RAM, processors, etc.

2000+- Over the top, SLI GPU's quad core processors, highest end motherboards, etc.

Use

The other important thing you have to figure out is what you are going to use your PC for. Doing so will help you determine what components you should focus on. For instance if you are building a gaming PC you will want to spend extra money on the video card as opposed to the hard drive. Here's an idea of what components you should get depending on the use of your PC.

Internet Surfing, word processing, etc- Dual Core Processor, Large Hard drive, 1-2GB of RAM, lower end video card. You may want to go with prebuilt computers if you are just going to use your PC for internet surfing and office work, since most prebuilts can get you these specs for a lot cheaper then you can build a computer. You really don’t need anything too fancy if you are only using a computer for internet surfing and office work, but it is important that you get something capable of upgrading so incase you want to use your computer for more tasking tasks, you can upgrade it to perform better.

Video/Audio editing- Dual or Quad Core Processor, very large Hard drive, dedicated sound card, 2GB of RAM or more, strong video card.

Gaming- Dual or Quad Core Processor, 2GB of RAM, Moderate amount of hard drive space, high end video card.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#24Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 1:00:02 PMmessage detail
Overclocking -

You should also determine if you are willing to overclock. For instance if you want to overclock you may want to purchase a weaker CPU (since you will be overclocking it anyways) and focus your saved money towards a higher end motherboard and RAM which will allow you to overclock higher. If you do not know what Overclocking is see the “overclocking” section of the guide.

After you've determined your budget and what you are going to use your computer for it is time to pick out your parts.

There are 9 parts in a computer. The CPU, RAM, Motherboard, GPU, Hard drive, Optical Drive, Power Supply, and Case, make up the 8 physical components of your computer. The last part, the operating system (for instance windows XP), is the software component of your computer.

CPU

When buying a CPU I personally suggest getting the strongest CPU possible. I say this because the CPU is usually the slowest aging component on a PC. Unlike video cards, which even if you get a high end video card will become almost unusable in 2 years. A high end CPU can last you a solid 5 years, before you start to see your CPU on the list for minimum requirements for games.

As a write this, if you are looking for the best performance then you can't go wrong with the Core 2 Duo's. They are easily the fastest performing, most power efficient processors on the market. If you are looking for a high end processor go with the quad core's, otherwise look at the various other dual core Core 2's depending on your budget. If you plan on overclocking you can't go wrong with an E4300, even though it is only clocked at 1.8Ghz, it is easily overclocked to 3Ghz, which happens to be around an 80% performance increase. Plus the E4300 is very cheap.

If you can't spare the money for a Core 2, then go with Athlon X2 processors.

Athlon X2 processors still offer great performance for today's standards, and they are very cheap. For instance you can find some Athlon X2 processors, that where easily the best performing processors a year and a half ago, for only a few hundred dollars.

I would also like to point out that most AMD offerings at the same price ranges of various Core 2’s can actually beat out the Core 2’s in their price range. This is because AMD significantly slashed prices to stay competitive with the Core 2’s, and thus some of their medium end processors fall in the same price range as the Core 2’s lower end processors, and so on. Therefore, if you are not overclocking it may be better to go with an AMD offering in the same price range, as their medium end processors can beat out Intel’s low end processors.

Keep in mind though, that medium end Core 2’s can still beat out medium end Athlons, etc, also AMD doesn’t really have anything that can compete with Intel’s processors above the E6600, but you shouldn’t count AMD out as they still offer a nice bang for your buck, for those who are not overclocking. (Thanks for Hiryuu for pointing this out)

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#25Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 1:00:32 PMmessage detail
Motherboard

The motherboard is one thing you do not want to skimp out on. I suggest paying for a motherboard that costs around 150 dollars. The reason I say this, is because higher end motherboards usually have better stability, and more features.

Think of it this way, your computer is a Ferrari, and your motherboard is the welding that holds all the parts of your Ferrari together. If you get a low end motherboard you are essentially taping your Ferrari together, while if you get a higher end motherboard you are welding your Ferrari together. Meaning if you get a low end motherboard, after a while your computer will begin to get unstable, under perform, will crash randomly, etc. Just like if you try to tape a Ferrari together it will, perform slower since everything is lose, and your Ferrari will eventually fall part. While if you get a high end motherboard you have a much better chance of getting an overall more stable and higher performing system. Just like if you weld the parts on to your Ferrari, it will be able to go faster since everything is held nice and tightly and it won't fall apart.

If you are going with an Intel CPU, you should be looking at socket 775 motherboards. The three best performing chipsets right now are the Nvidia 650iSLI, Nvidia 680i, and the Intel P35 chipset.

If you are going AMD you want to be looking at socket AM2 motherboards, the best performing chipset for socket AM2 is the Nforce 500 series chipset.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#26Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 1:01:17 PMmessage detail
Video card

When buying video cards I generally suggest getting a medium-high end card, which should cost around 170-250 dollars. The reason i suggest this is because medium-high end cards have the best price performance ratio. They can usually play most games on high settings, and they will perform very well for a year and half. While high end cards usually are only marginally better than medium high end cards, and cost almost double the price, meaning they have a horrible price performance ratio.

The highest performing card possible is the 8800Ultra. Though it does not have the best price performance ratio.

If you are looking for high end cards then the 8800GTX, 8800GTS, the HD 2900XT, and the X1950XT are the best high end cards.

The 8800GTX has the best performance out of all these cards.

Right now the 8800GTS 320MB has the best price performance ratio of the high end DX10 cards, while the X1950XT is the best performing DX9 card, the X1950XT also has a pretty good price performance ratio.

For medium end cards you should be looking at the 8600GT, X1950Pro, X1950GT, 7950GT 7900GS, and the 7600GT.

I believe the X1950 pro has the best performance out of all these cards, and it has a very nice price performance ratio.

The 8600GT, is the only DX10 capable card on this list, it is a fairly solid performer offering around a 20% performance increase over the 7600GT for 20% additional cost.

I believe the 7900GS has the best price performance ratio out of all these cards.

The 7600GT is fairly old, but it is the cheapest card listed, and is still a solid performer.

There are a few other medium end cards that are not listed, simply because I do not suggest them since they have bad price performance ratios.

Please note, video card cycles change every 6 months or so, these placings are likely to change as this guide ages

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#27Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 1:03:15 PMmessage detail
RAM

A common misconception most people have about RAM is that more is better. This is true but only to a point. You see, today's operating systems like Windows XP, and some versions of Vista are 32Bit, meaning they can only recognize and use up to 4GB of RAM. Even if you have 4GB of ram it will make very little difference in performance.

Therefore as I write this I heavily suggest buying 2GB of DDR2800 RAM.

2GB of DDR2 800 RAM is more than enough for today's standard's plus you can usually find 2GB of high quality DDR2800 RAM for around $100, which is very cheap considering that 2GB of DDR2 800 RAM used to cost $200 6 months ago.


There are faster RAM speeds like DDR2 1066 however not many motherboards support this speed, and I believe the impact on performance is very little, plus faster RAM speeds have worse price performance ratios.


Hard drives

Unless you are doing video editing, or audio editing you do not want to invest more then 100$ on hard drives. You can easily get a 300+GB hard drive at 7200RPM, with SATA and a large cache for around 80 dollars. If you want higher RPM's you will have to sacrifice storage space and your price performance ratio.

The three main hard drive manufacturers are Western Digital, Seagate, and Samsung. I would suggest getting a hard drive from one of these companies.

Optical Drives

You shouldn't spend more than $40 on an optical drive. When getting an optical drive be sure it can read and burn both CD's and DVD's at a speed around 48X for CD's and 16X for DVD's.

As a general rule of thumb

DO NOT GET AN OPTICAL DRIVE FROM LITE ON

Lite on has poor quality optical drives, with little lifetime, or performance.

I personally suggest getting Sony-Nec, Samsung, or LG optical drives.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#28Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 1:05:07 PMmessage detail
The PSU

The PSU is another thing you do not want to skimp out on, as i've mentioned multiple times a low quality PSU, even if it can provide high wattage and AMPs, can easily fry your components, under power them etc. When buying a PSU I suggest being willing to pay around $60-100+ depending on the components you are powering.

A PSU with around 600 watts of power, around 30 amps on the 12V rails, and modular/sleeved cabling would make the ideal PSU for most people.

I will post a list of quality PSU manufacturers towards the end of this section.

The case

The case is the one thing that you can get away without spending too much money on. This is because cases really don't have too much impact on performance anyways, and therefore, if you need to take money from another component in order to improve another you should always take money from your case.

That being said, I personally suggest getting a high quality case that fits your needs/ style even if it costs more money. I say this because I believe building your own computer should be a reflection of yourself or your workmanship, and the easiest way to express this reflection is through your case.

Now you should consider a few things when buying a case (in no particular order)

1. Use- Are you going to be moving your computer around to lan parties and such? If so you may want to get a smaller more mobile case, or get one that is very durable.

2. Size- How much room are you going to have to store your computer?

3. Ventilation- Be sure your case has plenty of ventilation, generally speaking you want a case with atleast three fans, a front and side intake fan, and a rear exhaust fan. Keep in mind that if you plan on overclocking the more airflow the better.

4. Noise- If you are the kind of person that hates noise you may want to look into cases with less fans, or noise dampening technology.

5. Style- If you are a teenage boy like me and love pretty colors and lights, then you may want a case with a side view window, and many led fans. Or if you are a person who likes simple things, then you may want to consider buying a simpler less extravagant case.

6 Features- Many cases have different features, for instance some cases will come with tool less designs so that you can insert your hard drives, video cards, optical drives, etc, into the case without having to use tools and such. Be sure you find a case that you believe has a useful set of features.

7. Price- Even though I do suggest splurging a little on the case, you should not be paying more than $150 on a case. For instance Zalman makes a great looking fatality case that has nice red fans, a sweet design, great features, and materials, however the case is like $350 and even though I would love to buy that case, I simply can't because it's too much, especially for a case.

8- Materials- Keep in mind the building materials. For instance some cases will be mostly plastic, these cases will be lighter, but are more prone to dings, and are more likely to break. Steel on the other hand is very solid and durable, but is also heavy, and is sharper, which presents a greater risk for cutting your hands.

That's the basics of what you need to consider when buying a case.


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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#29Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 1:06:29 PMmessage detail
The OS

The OS is the computer's operating system. Some OSes include Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.

If you are building a computer you will want to go with either Windows XP home, or Windows Vista home premium.

Windows XP is a bit cheaper than Vista, plus it isn't as buggy, but it lacks DX10 support, and has more security issues.

Windows Vista has more features than XP, is a bit less vulnerable to viruses, and has support for future technologies such as DX10, however Vista is a bit more buggy, is unstable, less developed, and has compatibility issues.

Right now I suggest going with XP since it will be another couple of years before the features of Vista are vital (like DX10) and it will be a while until Microsoft gets Vista to be a fully compatible, stable, and well running OS.

Eventually everyone will be running Vista but until Microsoft works out the kinks, XP will do you just fine.

Other components

There are a few non essential components to a computer that I will explain here.

Sound cards- are dedicated to processing sound, they usually yield higher quality sound compared to onboard audio, and they take a very slight load off the CPU. Most on board sound chips are perfect for most people, so unless you have a high end 5.1 surround sound speaker system, or happen to be an Audio editor, a sound card is not essential.

Physics cards- Physics cards are a ripoff. They claim to improve performance, detail, and physic effects, however all Physics cards actually do is add a few more details to things like explosions, fires etc. Even then it has been proven that games running Physics cards greatly reduce game performance. Therefore, physics cards are actually a negative thing to have. Also physics processing will soon be taken over by graphics cards anyways, so there truly is no need to buy physics cards.

Gaming Network Cards- Most computers come with regular ethernet ports which for the most part perform perfectly for all online functions. However recently a batch of Gaming Network cards have been released which claim to reduce your ping and improve your framerates. After reading a few reviews these cards do improve ping and offer a slight increase in framerates, however these network cards come with a hefty price tag, and therefore are not recommended.

So now that you have a general idea of what you should keep in mind when buying a computer, I would like you guys to consider a few things so you get the best build possible.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA
#30Eaglerulez(Topic Creator)Posted 8/20/2007 1:07:33 PMmessage detail
Price Efficiency

Try to figure out the price efficiency amongst the various components you are considering. For instance if you have a processor that runs at 1.8Ghz and costs only 100 dollars, while the next model up runs at 2.0Ghz and costs 140 dollars. In this case the higher model would offer roughly 11% more performance for a 28% price increase, certainly not a good price performance ratio. So even though the higher model has better performance it comes at a much greater price, and if you are a person on a tight budget or happen to want the best price efficiency, than the first model would be the better choice.

Figuring out your price efficiency like this is very useful and highly recommended.

Think Quality

Remember one of the reasons you are building a computer is to get away from the cheap parts that are used in prebuilts, so unless you are on an extremely tight budget, pay a little bit more money from some quality components.

I will post a list of quality manufacturers, at the end of this section.

Stability is vital

The most important thing first and foremost is to have a stable system. Never skimp out on things like the motherboard, or the PSU, which can cause system instabilities. I heavily suggest if possible, getting a higher end motherboard priced around 150 dollars, since motherboards at that price range usually have great stability, features, and a decent price efficiency

Trust me on this saving an extra 30 dollars by not getting a stable motherboard is not worth dealing with random restarts, low performance, random Blue Screens of Death, etc.

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www.actsofgord.com . Long live Green Earth. Escalators can't break, they can only temporarily become stairs. I Love GREEN TEA