Help "Building" a Computer

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factorialite
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Help "Building" a Computer

Postby factorialite » Mon Nov 19, 2007 11:07 pm UTC

So, maybe Black Friday isn't a great idea. Those deals are apparently not great and the idea of building a computer sounds like it could be a good experience, so I'm thinking about doing it.

I went for a CPU/Processor first. I checked someone else's thread on computers and they had suggested the Intel Core 2 Duo (good for "overclocking - what is this? I'm not kidding"). I took their advice:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819115003

Question 1: How is this different than this?:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819115029

The second one has bigger numbers and costs less.

Next, I looked at RAM. I hear that 2GB is becoming the new standard. I don't know anything about the different brands of RAM (Corsair, Patriot, Kingston).
Question 2: Can someone help me here?
For reference: http://www.newegg.com/Store/Category.as ... ame=Memory

Next on the list is a Hard Drive. I don't put a lot of songs/movies on my computer (my iTunes is at a mere 2 GB, and I have probably 10 GB in movies on my computer right now)
Question 3: Is this something that I can afford to skimp on (because Graphics Cards are expensive)?
For reference: http://www.newegg.com/Store/Category.as ... ard-Drives

The last hardware question I have right now concerns the Graphics Card. I want to play things like Orange Box on my computer and I'm always afraid my card will get outdated super quickly.
Question 4: What should I be looking for in a graphics card?
For reference: http://www.newegg.com/Store/Category.as ... eo-Devices

Some things to keep in mind:
I'm a poor college kid. I'd like to keep my budget around $500-$650. If this is impossible, let me know.
Purdue offers OSes super cheap (like $15 for Windows XP, and maybe $25 for Vista). That isn't a problem.
I don't know what else I need (I guess a case would be nice...). I have a mouse, keyboard, and mousepad.
I think I need speakers too. And do I need to get a sound card?

I have to take a probability test. Hopefully you guys will have an answer for me when I get back.

eviljebus
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby eviljebus » Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:01 am UTC

Question 1:

Don't know what to tell you there, the second one is definitly better in all area, so go for that one.

Question 2:
I'm not quite sure about the RAM brands, I've always used Kingston RAM. It is cheep and I've never had the a single problem with it. Corsair is like the standard of RAM though as I see it, very popular, reliable, and a good price (not necessarily cheep).

2GB is a good number I'd say, go for 2x1GB for the dual channel.

Question 3:
You can get whatever you think is necessary, but to help you out here are some numbers.
Window XP from my experience does not need more than 5GB of space, a 10GB partition for XP and any other small programs like FireFox, Opera, Trillian, Pidgin, ect should be enough. Then you should consider how many games you have, because games take up quite a bit of space, 500MB-7GB each, depending on your game. Then you have 'Media' things like music and video, and you know how much of that you have. So add those up, to figure out about how much you'd need, and then maybe buy the next size up, remember you'll want room to defragment and all that good stuff.

Another note, getting a 7200RPM SATA drive is your best bet for cost/effectivenss reasons. 10kRPM Raptors are silly unless you want a super awesome computer, and getting old PATA drives seems silly now anyway.

I don't think you're considering a RAID array, but let me know if you are because that adds some other issues.

Questoin 4:
First of all PCI-E 16x is a must.

GFX Card, kind of a tricky issue right now, because of the new Direct X. 10.0 is already out, but from what I've heard there will be a new version released soon. This new version will not be supported by the current DX10 cards, so if you buy a card with DX10 support now, it will not support the new 10.1 or whatever in the neer future.

On the other hand, you do need a graphics card... So I realy only know Nvidia cards so thats all I feel good giving advice on. The 6k series is quite dated now so stay away from them or you're computer will be outdated the minute you turn it on. The mid to high range of 7ks are good enough for most games right now, but its lasting power might be questionable, except maybe the 7950. Unfortunatly I don't see any on new egg right now, the high is a 7600 which I think will struggle with the newest games and will be obsolete soon.

There is always the 8600 or 8800, both of which are graphics processing monsters and should be able to handle anything out there right now well, and last you for a while. The only downside is they are still expensive.

I do belive you can build a good computer that will last you for several years for ~$800, but $500-$600 isn't unachievable either.

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Larson
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby Larson » Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:26 am UTC

Question 1: The 2.66Ghz processor is all around better than the 2.4, by numbers alone. Higher frequency (GHz) and higher FSB (Front Side Bus). Smaller price.

Question 2: 2GB is a good place to be right now. As far as brands are concerned, more expensive does not mean better. You need a matched set (for dual channel) of 1GB pieces for a total of 2GB of DDR2. Any of the brands you mention are fine.

Question 3: Hard drive space is really up to you. A SATAII drive anywhere from 250gb+ will suffice. 500GB is currently the best price per gigabyte at this point. Seagate, Samsung, or Western Digital are solid brands.

Question 4: Staying with nvidia is probably your best bet at this point. The 8600 and 8800 lines would be a good place to start. The 8800GT is an excellent card for the money, but more inexpensive models are available. Orange Box and other HL2 based games are a few years old now, so most modern graphics cards (within reason, mid-range cards) should have no problem.

Subquestions: Most motherboards have sound cards built in which will serve fine for a budget system. Also pay close attention when choosing a motherboard, as incompatibility between your CPU/RAM/Motherboard is an easy mistake to make.

You have a bit of a limited budget for a complete and well rounded machine, but it's not impossible. If you already have a monitor/speakers/keyboard/mouse, you can manage it.

eviljebus
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby eviljebus » Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:37 am UTC

Larson: I think you have it better, the SECOND is all around better and it is cheeper?

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EdgarJPublius
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue Nov 20, 2007 1:25 am UTC

Here's what you need:
CPU: You've pretty much jumped right to the best choices there, your right in thinking the e6750 is the better card, who know why it's cheaper, but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.
Video Card: You can go a couple of different ways here, being an NVidia fanboi, I'm going to go through those first because I'm more familiar with them:
The high end of course is the 8800s, a GTS card is is in the neighborhood of $350, not cheap, but it's going to remain a powerful card for a long time, there's not a huge difference between the 320mb and 640mb versions except you can probably find a 320mb for a little cheaper.
The low end is a 7900 series card, this is only ~$100 and is a very good card as well it will definately run the orange box no problem, and will run most other current games at medium-high graphical setting, but it might start to choke on anything newer/more graphically intense, don't expect to play Crysis on this.
I suggest against going for the midrange 8 series cards, the 860s and 8500s, I've heard bad things about them that would lead me to choose the 7900 over them unless you really want tho DX10 capabilities at the low price, but I don't actually know how much of these rumors are true, if somebody with more experience of thee cards says go for it, then go for it, the price is right.
ATI: I don't know much about ATI cards, practically anybody else here can give better advice than me, the HD2000 series seems to be their top cards, they come in a wide variety of prices, from scarily affordable to 8800GTX range, and that's about all I know about that.

The one overarching bit of advice I would give here is go with a PCI x16 card, that's the new interface and besides the fct that pretty much all of the really desirable cards use it, your Motherboard choice is going to be influenced by your video card interface.


HDDs:
I have no idea what kind of space requirement you're looking for here, but I just had a heart attack looking at neweggs selection of 500gb drives for a hundred dollars, apparently these days you get a metric fuckton of HDD for your buck, I would suggest getting a SATA drive, Brandwise, I'm way out of the loop, I have a Western Digital drive that has survived enough shit to Cause Rambo to just curl up and whimper, but then I've also heard good things about Seagate all my life until this year, where apparently they're no good anymore? I'd just say go with a Western Digital SATA drive that fit's whatever budget you have left over, but somebody else probably knows more than me.

Now back to more Familiar ground: Motherboards, the single most important, and single most overlooked component, this is what you plug everything into so that it's a computer and not just a collection of parts.

There are a few stats you need to look for to make sue you're getting a good motherboard:
CPU socket: This dictates what kind of CPU you can use, for a core 2 duo, that's LGA 775, there will also usually be a list of compatible CPUs next to the socket type, make sure core 2 duo is on that list.

RAM type: loosely dictates what kisd of Ram you can use, more directly dictates what kisd of RAM you want to use, for a budget gaming PC, I suggest DDR2 667 (also called PC2-5300), anything faster is for wankers, on the lower end you can make due with DDR2 533 (PC2-4200) but not much lower than that.
Now, as long as your motherboard supports DDR2 SDRAM, you can use any kind of RAM (except DDR3 SDRAM), you just won't get any benefit from using RAM faster than your RAMBus, so don't worry if you find a great motherboard, only it uses DDR2-800 RAM, because it will have no trouble with your DDR2-667 or 533.

Expansion Slots: You want a PCIx16 slot, two of them is probably overkill.
You want at least two regular PCI slots, the more the merrier.
The PCIx16 slot is for your VideoCard, the other PCI slots are for incidentals, like networking cards, IDE/SATA interfaces if you need more IDE or SATA slots, extra USB ports, or Firewire etc. and if you want a sound card

Form Factor: This is the dimensions of your Motherboard, ATX is the standard, you shourd have no trouble finding a good ATX motherboard for your needs.

Most boards will probably have at least one IDE slot, and boards that support SATA will probably have between two and eight, unless you're using an excessive number of HDDs and CD/DVD drives, that should be plenty.

Extras: Look for onboard networking and sound as the most common features, these are pretty useful to have and don't come at much of a cost. Onboard video is extraneous, but like sound and networking, you're probably not paying to much to have it included, stuill, you are paying to have it included, so try to avoid it.
on board USB/Firewire/eSATA. You probably want a few USB ports, the standard is usually four back panel, two front panel, eSATA and Firewire are cool but not overly useful except for special purposes.

Good Brands are Asus and Gigabyte, MSI, intel, IBM and even Abit sometimes put out a good motherboard too.
Always check the reviews, even gigabyte sometimes puts out a poorly lain out board or ad features that aren't up to par.
A good price range is ~$100, you can occasionally find gems as low as $50 but don't count on it.

RAM: 2gb is good, get DDR2-667 or DDR2-533 for the best bang for your buck. Look for pairs of 1 gb sticks, though you can sometimes get better prices with four 512mb sticks, or one 2 gb stick (if you go for four sticks, make sure your MoBo has four slots)
Good Brands: Kingston, corsair, and PNY are the best off the top of my head, they all have budget lines that are plenty good enough for your purposes.

Cases are easy, make sure it fits the form factor of our motherboard(ATX remember), has enough drive bays for your drives and check the reviews to make sure it will keep everything cool.
Extras:
front panel USB/Firewire/eSATA, these are useful, convenient, and don't really add to cost.
look for 92mm and 120mm fans for maximum cooling, minimum noise. don't be surprised to see lots of 'noise reduction' features, these usually indicate higher quality cases rather than an attempt to rip you off.
Also look for included PSUs, you probably want between 500 and 750 watts.
Brands: Coolermaster and Antec are the big names off the top of my head, but there are a bunch of good brands and few really terrible ones.
Price: you can often find a basic case for as low as 20 bucks, but expect to pay more like 40-100 depending on how much cooling/how quiet you want the case to be.

PSUs: If you don't get one with the case (and sometimes even if you do) You still need one. You want' good one because a bad one can fry your whole computer, and if it doesn't put out enough juice, then your computer won't work and you can still fry things.
As mentioned before, 500-750 watts is a good range, check your CPU and graphics card for special power needs (core 2 duos are pretty energy efficient, but 8800s are notorious energy hogs)
I think most good case and MoBo manufacturers also have reliable PSU lines, but the best are Antecs and SeaSonic.
expect to pay in the neighborhood of 100 dollars for a good PSU and consider it money well spent, a 'budget' PSU can easily cost you more than you can afford.
y
Alright, First question:

Do you have a desktop already? (I assume you do)
What are you going to do with it?
When building a new computer, there are three options, two of them are depressingly similar , you can either keep it as a backup or give it away/sell it.
OR the third, much more interesting option, namely, to take it apart, use some of it to build your new computer and sell/destroy the rest.


Selling it whole can help offset your expenses, selling the parts you don't want is harder than selling a whole computer, but still helps offset costs, and poking around inside your old computer can help you be more confident/competent putting together your new one.

Parts that are typically worth salvaging:

Networking cards: If you have an ethernet or wireless networking card now, go ahead and pull it out for use in your new computer, they'll almost definitely work in your new computer, and no one will miss them when you sell your old computer (as long as you don't mention them).


CD/DVD drives: there isn't a huge number of SATA optical drives on the market yet, these are typically the most salvageable parts, and you can usually sell a computer that's only missing it's optical drives much easier than if you remove any other parts, if you know what model of CD/DVD drive your computer now has, that's good information to have.
Hard Drives, even an IDE drive could be worth salvaging, but your new computer is probably going to play better with a SATA one, so don't worry too much about this.

PSUs: Your computer probably has an older power supply, but if it's a particularly nice model, it might be worth saving, you might even just want to keep it around as a spare as well. Most computer enthusiasts have a coulpe of PSUs lying around, so it's fairly easy to sell a computer sans PSU. if you know the brand/wattage that's good information to have.

Case: There's very little reason you couldn't save some bucks by using your old case, unless its a wild form factor, there's no reason your new computer won't fit in your old case. That said, a computer without a case is not very easy to shift, and a decent case can be had pretty cheaply.
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Larson
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby Larson » Tue Nov 20, 2007 2:57 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Lots of stuff.

There is some good stuff in here.

There is a thread I've been cooking that should cover lots of these bases. It should be done in a day or two.

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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby joeframbach » Tue Nov 20, 2007 3:13 am UTC

See http://www.hardforum.com, http://www.fatwallet.com, and many of the other related forums, to get a jump on cheap parts. I wouldn't recommend buying from only one store just because it's easier to buy from one store. If you're on a budget, shop around. It usually takes me 2-3 months to build a computer because I wait for a decent deal on one certain part.

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b.i.o
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby b.i.o » Tue Nov 20, 2007 7:05 am UTC

I'd just like to second the suggestion of a 7900 or 7950 as a graphics card. They're pretty cheap, they're powerful enough to run new games on medium settings, and you can upgrade it later for a big performance boost. The e6750 processor is a great processor and that and the 2GB of RAM should last you a pretty long time.

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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby Axman » Tue Nov 20, 2007 8:20 am UTC

Because of the CPU price war, any $125 processor will leave your gaming platform GPU limited, unless you're playing at very low resolutions (800x600) or are shooting for multi-GPU setups. You can put together an AMD or Intel computer for $300, with two gigs of RAM, pretty easily, and then spend the two or three hundred remaining dollars you have on either a Radeon HD 3850 (sub-$200) HD 3870 or GeForce 8800 GT (sub-$300) and have an excellent computer.

Don't think brands or features when you're building on a budget, especially since you've said you want gaming. Just buy the fastest damn video card you can, forsaking everything else (except 2GB of RAM and a dual-core processor--you really want that).

Oh, and don't get a 7-series or X1900-series GPU. Current-gen video cards are better and cost less.

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Anpheus
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby Anpheus » Tue Nov 20, 2007 8:26 am UTC

The newest AMD/ATI Radeon series is out, the HD 3800 series, and benchmarks show that they blow everything else out of the water for performance per dollar. The HD 3850 is the new 'mid-range' card, and costs less than my high-value card did when it just came out. That's very important, because it means ATI is really willing to shake up the pricing scheme right now. There's exactly one model of this card still in stock, and it might run out soon. The HD 3870 series will compete with an 8800 easily, while costing quite a bit less, but is currently out of stock.
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Toeofdoom
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby Toeofdoom » Tue Nov 20, 2007 10:26 am UTC

As far as I could see, the 3850/3870 had very similar price:performance ratios to the 8800GT until the prices went up, but were just slower and less expensive. Damn that worldwide shortage... And "high value" is a little bit ambiguous. If it's almost out of stock anyway, the price:performance ratio will end up basically the same as the 8800GTs, ATI aren't really shaking anything up.

Anyway, the deal with those CPUs is: The 6600 is older, and they generally dont make them any more afaik. The 6750 is faster, cheaper and newer, so if you want one of those 2, go with that.
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Anpheus
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby Anpheus » Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:11 pm UTC

The fact that the new 3870 comes out at $230 and not close to $400 is pretty different, given that in the past, price:performance gets significantly worse towards the high-end. That's what's game-changing. The 3870 is pretty damn good at $220 and setting up dual 3870 is only $440. Why is that game-changing?

Image

And...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=40000048&Description=8800+GTX&name=Video+Cards

Cost of dual 8800GTX setup: $1000
Cost of dual HD 3870 setup: $440

3Dmark Score of dual 8800GTX: 12962
3Dmark Score of dual HD 3870: 11111

3DMark points/dollar of dual 8800GTX: 13
3DMark points/dollar of dual HD 3870: 25


The 3870 scores similarly well on other site's benchmarks, actually doing much, much better on Shader Model 2.0, which leads me to believe the SM3.0 code is not as optimized as it should be (nVidia cards will still compare with ATI's until they get the driver difficulties worked out.)
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evilbeanfiend
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby evilbeanfiend » Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:13 pm UTC

factorialite wrote:(good for "overclocking - what is this? I'm not kidding")


this is when you force it to run faster than normal. in exchange for more speed however it will draw more power, disapate more heat (which you then have to get rid of) and become more unstable (which usually means you want to cool it even further), and shorten the life of the component. if you go to far (or get the cooling wrong) you may get to see the magic smoke.

there is probably no need for you to delve into overclocking on your first build (unless you are really strapped for cash and want to squeeze every last bit of performance for your euro)
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby Amnesiasoft » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:42 pm UTC

Anpheus wrote:The fact that the new 3870 comes out at $230 and not close to $400 is pretty different, given that in the past, price:performance gets significantly worse towards the high-end. That's what's game-changing. The 3870 is pretty damn good at $220 and setting up dual 3870 is only $440. Why is that game-changing?

You realize that the 8800 GT performs better at about the same price range (beware of places that are price gouging, the price of GTs on Newegg has gone up since they were released. Probably has something to do with them all being sold out in a day >_>)

factorialite
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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby factorialite » Fri Nov 23, 2007 5:01 pm UTC

Well, I went to Black Friday to see if I could get that HP Pavilion computer. However, my circuit city turned into a mob at 4am, so no items were ticketed, and I didn't end up getting my computer.

The reason I wanted to buy it at Circuit City is I'm afraid I'm going to break this computer if I build it myself. Additionally, I can't seem to find as good a deal as that computer was online. I think this is due to the fact that I don't really know anything about computers...

I think I want to try one of those sites where they build you the computer. My parents gave me $300 towards a computer (and $400 if I give them the printer off my computer, which I will), so I could reasonably spend $800 or a little more on a computer. Do you think you guys could help me navigate a site like ibuypower.com? When I go to build a computer, I get overwhelmed with myriad options of power case, processor, graphics, everything. I'm afraid I'll get whamboozled...

Thanks for your help, guys. xkcd is a great troll-less forum, full of people who don't make me feel bad for my technological ineptitude.

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Re: Help "Building" a Computer

Postby b.i.o » Fri Nov 23, 2007 10:43 pm UTC

I'd be glad (and I'm sure others would as well) to help you navigate ibuypower.com or another similar site. My AIM screenname is the same as my username--feel free to ask questions.


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