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Building a PC....that's right.


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Building a PC....that's right.
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Akumulator
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2004-11-08, 18:44

Okay. I need advice on building a PC. I don't know the first thing about PCs.

I'm looking at Newegg.com and it seems that parts are pretty cheap. Where do I start? Is AMD still as good but cheaper than Intel? I'm going to order a few things at a time whenever I have extra money. I will probably play Half Life 2, but it doesn't have to be the absolute top of the line gaming PC. I'll also get a KVM switch box to use the same display as my Mac.

Suggestions?
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alcimedes
I shot the sherrif.
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2004-11-08, 18:49

two things people cheap out on, Power Supplies and Motherboards. Don't go cheap on either one, or you'll regret it for as long as you own your PC.

Google is your frenemy.
Caveat Emptor - Latin for tough titty
I tend to interpret things in the way that's most hilarious to me
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Akumulator
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2004-11-08, 19:06

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcimedes
two things people cheap out on, Power Supplies and Motherboards. Don't go cheap on either on, or you'll regret it for as long as you own your PC.
Okay.... I won't. What kind do you recommend? It's crazy how many different ones there are. I guess once I figure out whatever processor to get then I can narrow down the motherboard choice.
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Quagmire
meh
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2004-11-08, 19:13

I hang out in a PC forum. They know what you probably need to know. Not saying you people don't know what to do. I am known as Mr. Macintosh.

http://www.techimo.com

giggity
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Eugene
careful with axes
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hillsborough, CA
 
2004-11-08, 19:22

You can't go wrong with Antec or Enermax power supplies. The big name brands like Asus, Abit, Aopen, Giga-Byte, MSI are safe. Inexpensive boards from some manufacturers like Albatron are safe as well. Of course if you are going Intel and aren't planning on tweaking your PC much, I'd just go ahead and get a retail Intel board.

HL2 yearns for something better than my P4 2.4 @2.88 GHz + Radeon 9700 Pro. I get and average of ~40 fps at 1024x768 with medium settings on Counter-Strike: Source. You'll probably want a current graphics card like a Radeon X600 or GeForce FX 6800 GT at least...

The hardest part of building a PC is making sure all the little motherboard power, hdd, reset, etc. cables are inserted the right way. The second hardest part is making a perfectly <paper thin layer of thermal goop on your CPU.
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Luca
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Minnesota
 
2004-11-08, 19:28

I can help you out since I just built one myself .

First of all, a good place to start for general suggestions is arstechnica.com. If you go to the Buyer's Guide, you'll see recommended systems that fit into certain categories - the Budget Box, the Hot Rod, the Gamer Box, and the God Box. But if you want more specific suggestions, here's what you need to know. BTW, I'm recommending AMD since it's much more cost effective than Intel for DIY systems. You will need these components:

- Motherboard. Like alcimedes said, this is very important and you shouldn't skimp out. There are motherboards for all different purposes. The first thing you should look at is the chipset. There's nForce2, nForce3, K8T800, and so on. nForce2 is fine for a basic PC without many frills. The nForce3 is great if you want some extra stuff - nForce3 motherboards usually have onboard SATA, gigabit ethernet, multi-channel sound, and some have Firewire onboard as well. There's also the upcoming nForce4 chipset which will support PCI-Express. I'd say you should spend about $70-$120 on a motherboard. DFI, Asus, and Abit all make good motherboards... mine's an Epox, and it's fine too.

- Processor. For simplicity, get a retail processor. OEM processors are cheaper, but they don't give you a retail heatsink. It's much easier to install a retail heatsink, you don't have to mess with thermal paste, so that's the route you should go unless you want to overclock. I'd go with an Athlon 64. Now there's another thing to consider - socket 754 versus socket 939. S754 is cheaper and more available, but S939 is a bit faster and supports dual channel DDR (5-10% performance gain, nothing huge). I went with S754, but it is on the way out. If you want room to upgrade for the future, S939 will get you that. Otherwise, S754 is probably fine. My S754 Athlon 64 3000+ (2.0 GHz) cost about $160. You can go with a 3200+ (2.2 GHz) for around $200, or a 2800+ (1.8 GHz) for about $140. You can also save some money on the processor if performance isn't paramount - AMD also makes the low-end Sempron line, which also uses socket 754, so you can save a lot of money by going that route.

- Case/Power Supply. For this I'd recommend an Antec with an included PSU. Look for deals on NewEgg, and make sure to look at the shipping charge. I got an SLK3700AMB for $69 with free shipping. It comes with an excellent power supply and the price was about the same as many cheaper cases once you factor in shipping. Antec makes very nice, very quiet cases.

- RAM. 512 MB should be enough, but 1 GB can be nice if you're really demanding. If you have a socket 939 motherboard, make sure you get a matched pair so you can use dual-channel. Otherwise you can pick either a pair or a single module - socket 754 doesn't care either way.

- Graphics card. This one is totally up to you. You can go with a cheap thing like a Radeon 9200 or 9550 if you want video acceleration and light gaming. Those are under $100. The Radeon 9600XT for $140 and the Radeon 9800 Pro for $200 are both great cards for the money. Make sure if you get a Radeon 9800 Pro that you get the 128 MB version, and make sure it has 128 MB of 256-bit VRAM. Some companies like Sapphire sell 128-bit versions as the "9800 Pro EZ," and they suck ass. You can also go the high end route. There's the GeForce 6800 standard for $280, the Radeon X800 Pro for $350 (at Outpost.com, NewEgg sells them for over $400), and GeForce 6800GT.

- Sound card. If you want great sound, the onboard sound won't really cut it. I'd say to go for an M-audio Revolution 5.1 if you want to listen to music mostly. For gaming, the Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 is the best with hardware acceleration and environmental sound. Or just go without, and if you are not satisfied, pick one up later. There are cheaper options as well, like the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz.

The rest of the components are generic things, like hard drives and optical drives. Oh, and you should probably get a floppy drive in case you ever have to load an emergency DOS boot disk or load third-party drivers during Windows installation. It's silly, but you should get one. If Windows only allowed you to use a CD for loading drivers, I wouldn't have bothered.

Anyway, if you have other questions, just ask. It would help if you gave us more of an idea of what you want.
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Akumulator
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2004-11-08, 19:56

Thanks guys. Lots of reading to do and things to decide. I probably will go with AMD. I think the biggest problem for me will keeping myself from continuously upgrading to the next one up... there are so many options.
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pscates2.0
Mr. Farmiga
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2004-11-08, 20:27

Damn, Luca...I'm impressed. You seem to know what's what in that stuff.

Could you just imagine some of the wild-ass stuff out there if people could build their own Macs with mail order catalog/web wholesaler parts?



Guys would be cramming 4 G5 processors into a big box, with a graphics card the size of newspaper wedged in, 4 FireWire 800 ports, three onboard iSight cameras (face, window, crotch), 16GB of RAM, etc.










...and STILL bitching about frame rates or Photoshop performance.
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NosferaDrew
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2004-11-08, 20:30

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luca
It would help if you gave us more of an idea of what you want.
The bottom line is - Tell us how much you want to spend.

There are a billion options when you want to build a machine, but it all comes down to price.

I started building PCs about five years ago to satisfy my addiction to Unreal Tournament.
I've built about 15 machines, and I'll tell you, it's a great learning experience and it can be frustrating as hell too.

So, what's your budget?
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Ryan
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Promise Land of Trustafarians
 
2004-11-08, 20:32

I'd recommend www.tomshardware.com for reviews.
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Luca
ಠ_ರೃ
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Minnesota
 
2004-11-08, 20:38

I only recommend PCs to people who have the technical mojo to handle building and troubleshooting them. What's funny is that implies that about 95% of people should use Macs with only a tiny percentage using PCs.

I would love it if you could just buy Mac-compatible motherboards, processors, power supplies and so on at NewEgg. On the other hand, it would take away a lot of the Mac's advantages - having to support hundreds of motherboards made by dozens of different companies can be difficult. Apple has it easy - they make the hardware, and they write the software. It's just a different philosophy. I'd still like to build a completely tricked out Mac system from NewEgg parts if I could.

Rather than continuing to explain the subject of how tricked out PCs can get, I'll simply show you a picture of a case that you can buy if you really want:



No, my computer does not look like that. It's very plain, kind of a bronze-grey color.
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Luca
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Minnesota
 
2004-11-08, 20:39

Quote:
Originally Posted by pscates2.0
...and STILL bitching about frame rates or Photoshop performance.


It's true though, don't ever expect to game on a Mac. You can trick yourself into casual gaming with one, as long as you stick to really old games and don't do it often. But once you've seen Unreal Tournament 2004 run three times faster on a $500 PC than on a $3000 Mac, there's really no going back.
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Wrao
Yarp
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Road Warrior
 
2004-11-08, 20:40

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcimedes
two things people cheap out on, Power Supplies and Motherboards. Don't go cheap on either one, or you'll regret it for as long as you own your PC.
Yup, Those are also the two parts my brother has had to replace in his gaming PC because he thought to buy cheap.
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Wrao
Yarp
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Road Warrior
 
2004-11-08, 20:43

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luca
I only recommend PCs to people who have the technical mojo to handle building and troubleshooting them. What's funny is that implies that about 95% of people should use Macs with only a tiny percentage using PCs.
this is why tech support jobs are so lucrative.
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Akumulator
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2004-11-08, 21:01

Quote:
Originally Posted by NosferaDrew
So, what's your budget?
No budget really. But since I'm buying a little bit at a time, I'll have to figure price/performance for each part. I'm sure I'll end up spending more then I want.. but if I can keep it around $800 or less that would be good. I really hadn't thought too much about cost... but the less I spend the better. I don't mind spending more then that, as long as I put it to good use.

I do really want to play HL2 and MOA: Pacific Assault, so maybe I need to spend more...
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NosferaDrew
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2004-11-08, 22:36

Quote:
Originally Posted by Akumulator
I do really want to play HL2 and MOA: Pacific Assault, so maybe I need to spend more...
Here's the uber gaming rig I built last March:
MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R (overclock within windows. Yay!)
AMD Athlon 64 3400+
Corsair TwinX1024-3200LLPro (1 Gig)
2 Western Digital SATA Raptor's (74 Gigs each, 10000rpm)
Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro sound card
Plextor PX-708A DVD burner
Cooler Master Wave Master case
ATi 9800 Pro (Upgraded to a GeForce 6800GT)

That was about $2000. You don't need all of that though.

For a solid gaming rig (if that's the main purpose of the machine) you'll spend most of your budget on the proc, RAM and video card.

You can definitely build a damn good gaming machine for $800.

Here's just a suggestion:
  • Athlon64 2800+ = $130
  • ASUS K8N nForce3 mobo = $86
  • Antec True380 Power Supply = $60
  • SAPPHIRE ATI Radeon 9800Pro = $203
  • Corsair Value Select DDR PC-3200 (1Gig) =$157
  • SAMSUNG 80GB 7200RPM IDE Hard Drive = $61
  • Thermalright Heatsink Model "XP-90" = $40
  • (3) Vantec Stealth 80mm fans = $25
  • Generic Mid-tower case (no PS) = $35
  • Generic CD-R = $26
  • Generic Floppy = $7

That's about $830 + tax for the hardware - then, of course, you'll have to buy XP Home ($91) or XP Professional ($146) unless you already have a copy.

I wouldn't spend much money on the case. Just as long as it's well made and allows you to cool the CPU properly.
My first PC gaming rig I built was a generic desktop case - small and unobtrusive. Just make sure you get one without a power supply since you'll be buying a much better quality one.
Also, get a nice heatsink/heatpipe so that you can run quiet, efficient fans (like the Vantec Stealths). Having a quiet gaming rig will make you much happier in the long run.
I swear by Asus mobos. Solid well made with tons of features.
The reason my current gaming rig doesn't have an Asus in it is because I pretty much copied The ScreenSavers Ultimate Gaming Rig 8.0 (R.I.P TechTV!)
I'm building three dual Xeon PCs now (two done, one to go) all with Asus PC-DL mobos - they are rock solid.

I've got a Belkin OmniView KVM. Works great with my G5 and many PCs, but I couldn't use it on my gaming machine because whichever keys that I had mapped for my movement in the game, it wouldn't "read" that I had it pressed down. In other words, it would register when I'd press the forward key, but then I'd stop. The KVM wanted me to keep tapping the key in order to move in any direction.
That pretty much made the KVM unusable for gaming.

Not sure if that was my particular KVM, if it was a software/firmware/hardware issue etc.
I just needed to game, so I never pursued it.

Anyway, good luck with your future PC building. You'll have fun doing it.

Last edited by NosferaDrew : 2004-11-08 at 22:44.
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Luca
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Minnesota
 
2004-11-08, 22:46

Quote:
Originally Posted by NosferaDrew
[*]Antec True380 Power Supply = $60
[*]Generic Mid-tower case (no PS) = $35
The Antec Sonata case comes with a True380 power supply, but in addition to that the case itself is really nice and very quiet. Total cost is $100 shipped from NewEgg. I'd go with that rather than buying the power supply and case separately.

If you want to go cheaper on the case/PSU, I'd go with Enermax. They make good quality power supplies and their cases aren't half bad. There's one for $48 shipped now. If you do want to get a separate case and power supply, Antec is great, but you can also get an Enermax or a Sparkle brand PSU.
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Eugene
careful with axes
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hillsborough, CA
 
2004-11-08, 22:52

Quote:
Originally Posted by Akumulator
I do really want to play HL2 and MOA: Pacific Assault, so maybe I need to spend more...
Oh yeah, you'll need to spend more than that to get a reasonable framerate with the new games.

If I was building a new PC just for games, you would probably need upwards of a $250 video card to get desirable performance.

As Luca said, buy a retail CPU. They're only a couple of dollars more expensive than OEM ones anyway. But about the thermal paste, you'll probaby still want to pack some away. The retail heatsinks usually use phase-change pads, which are single use only. If you manage to fuck up installing the heatsink, you'll want to thoroughly scrub the thermal pad gunk off the heatspreader and heatsink with rubbing alcohol, goo gone or acetone.

Depending on the case you get, you might also want some case fans. You don't have to go fancy here. The higher RPM fans are for insane overclockers only. Get some low RPM Panaflos or Sunons.

Get a floppy drive. ~$10. It's easier to make boot floppies (MS-DOS, DR-DOS, whatever) than it is to make boot CDs. You might need the for component firmware updates or drivers that aren't on the Windows XP Install CD.

Buy a bag of zip-ties so you can manage your cables a bit. You don't need to go overboard. Don't use zip-ties to jury-rig anything else...

If you don't get a beige case, buy components with black face-plates!
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Wrao
Yarp
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Road Warrior
 
2004-11-08, 23:17

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eugene
If you don't get a beige case, buy components with black face-plates!
Friend of mine built an monster PC recently, over $4000 worth of components(though his total cost was far far less than that), aside from being ridiculously fast, it's also pretty good looking, everything is black, like...everything, outside and inside. The only non black part is the temperature display on the front and that's red.
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709
¡Damned!
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2004-11-10, 11:07

Ah, how times change.
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Akumulator
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2004-11-10, 11:26



Yeah, thanks. I've wavered about this for well over a year. I definately don't need to be playing games... but damnit I want to.

Bastard.

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