Help me build a computer! (in Off-topic)


Kefeck [BlackSmith] April 1 2012 1:12 PM EDT

I"m looking to finally build my own PC. I'm going to budget for around $500 on parts (not including monitor, case).

What I"m looking for is a machine that will be quick, reliable and have room for a decent amount of stuff (500gb's+). I'm also hoping it will be able to play just about any game on 'medium settings' or higher.

This will be a first time for me so post good sites for parts/guides..

Thanks in advance!

Demigod April 1 2012 7:48 PM EDT

Skim this, please:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/build-gaming-pc-overclock,3159.html

Demigod April 1 2012 7:49 PM EDT

Also, the card used is about $100 more than what you'd need, so that's the first thing to scale back on.

Xenogard [Chaotic Serenity] April 1 2012 10:59 PM EDT

Meh, I shrug my shoulders at the Intel CPU, as I prefer AMD's Price/Performance ratios much better, all personal opinion mind you. But in saying that I'd have to toss out the MoBo as well.

That being said its still a decent looking system, though I personally would not skimp on the video card at all, as even a decent one like that will last you quite some time, where if you ramp it down a bit you won't have the same longevity. For instance I'm still maxing/near maxing out every single game to date with a gtx285 (which I believe was 2-3 generations old now) and I should continue to be able to do so for quite a long time before a switch is ever -really- warranted.

You say you dont need a case, I'm assuming its a Standard ATX Mid/large tower? I might hop on Newegg and see what deals they have going on for you. I'd like to think I'm pretty good finding the best bang for your buck.


Xenogard [Chaotic Serenity] April 1 2012 11:12 PM EDT

Blah one more thing I forgot to add which is also personal opinion/from experience. Go with a WD HDD over a Seagate, I've had 2 seagates completely fail on me within 1-2 years, while I have WD drives from over a decade ago that still run perfectly fine.

To put it in perspective I've owned 3 seagates in my life, 2 failed within 2 years. I've owned/purchased well over 6 WDs and never once had an issue. Could just be bad luck as I'm sure every batch has their lemons, but I just feel like WD has better quality control, so I've stuck with them and never looked back.

Sickone April 2 2012 1:43 AM EDT

AMD's Price/Performance ratios

Once upon a time, maybe. Today, the differences are negligible, or even in Intel's favour for quite a few actual applications (in particular games) as opposed to synthetic benchmarks, and especially if you DO NOT overclock. Also, SSD caching rocks.
The latest AMD CPU lineup is only really decent after the latest price slashes, and the previous generation was not that stellar either (although more than ok for low-power laptops). Also, Ivy Bridge launches at the end of April, with significantly improved energy efficiency (max 77W TDP instead of 95W for SandyBridge or 95W to 125W for similar performance AMD CPUs).

I don't know how much you care about QuickSync, but for me, it's a GODSENT. Re-encode everything you want in mp4/x264 for tiny space and awesome quality noticeably faster than realtime, how can you not love it.

If anything, I'd say wait one more month and get a Core i5-3550S (the low-power version with 65W TDP, 4 cores, no HT, 3/3.7GHz normal/turbo). Should retail for about 200$. The built-in fan should more than suffice, especially in a decently ventilated case.

A generic Q77 motherboard will suffice, but depending on how much more it will cost, a Z77 mobo would be preferable. Both should support SSD caching (which gives you most of the SSD "regular user" speed benefits at negligible extra cost, since a 20GB SSD will do just fine in that role, or even a smaller one).
Z68 motherboards (most feature-complete for sandybridge, and the only ones supporting SSD caching as of now) start from as little as 85$, and pretty good ones from as little as 120$.
So I fully expect you to be able to get a decent mobo for about 100$, so a total of 300$ for mobo+CPU.


I personally would not skimp on the video card at all

Depends what you're planning to play.
I have a GTX 460 "v1" 256-bit with 1GB RAM and 675 GHz core frequency (factory-overclocked to 715), and I can play almost everything out today at max graphic detail in 720p windowed mode (I don't like fullscreen gaming anymore, no idea why). Skyrim ? Mass Effect 3 ? Piece of cake, excellent FPS.
Now they have a new version of the same out (almost all for sale now are the "v2" 1GB 192-bit, 778GHz base core) which is actually about 10% faster than what I have. And you can find factory-overclocked ones (to around 810) at 140$ (even 120$ with rebates, if you want to bother with rebates).
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127646
So about 440$ so far.

The one thing I would NOT dream skimping on is a nice airflow case with extra fans (the Cooler Master entry series is only about 40$, 55$ with all the extra fans you can possibly add on), and a quality medium-power PSU.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119247

For the i5-3550S + Z77 mobo + GTX 460 1GB 192-bit, you'll probably only need about 300W of power tops (65 CPU, 160 GPU, 50 motherboard+RAM, 25 HDD/SDD/DVD), add a generous 30% "fudge factor" for the GPU overclock, CPU turbo boost, and quite a few years of old age, and you still will only need about 390W from your PSU.
I would recommend a CORSAIR "Builder Series" 430W PSU (the smallest they make anyway), it costs about 45$ and it should be more than enough for this particular build's needs, even if you decide to upgrade the GPU later on (as long as you keep the new GPU under 210W or thereabouts).
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139026
So that's about 540$ so far (100$ for case+extra fans+PSU).

Add a healthy 16 GB dose of moderate speed low-voltage RAM for 90$
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231478
...and you're up to 630$.

Pair a large moderate speed 2 TB HDD (130$) with a very fast 60GB SSD (80$) set in caching mode for lightning fast access for almost anything you use frequently, and you're in awesome business

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136891
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227725
Add some generic DVD writer for about 20$ extra.

Grand total : 860 USD for a totally rockin' machine.
At least, that's what I'd be building for myself if I wanted to buy a new machine in a month or two from now.

Sickone April 2 2012 2:23 AM EDT

P.S. Yeah, I know, way over your initially stated 500$ budget, but think of it this way : 420$ out of those 860$ (so, almost half of the total price) are actually things you can and probably will reuse later on in just about any other machine you might want to build in the next 4-5 years (the case, PSU, HDD, SDD, RAM), which leaves 440$ for the CPU/mobo/GPU combo.

If you reuse your old case+PSU (assuming you already have those, so down 100$), leave out the SSD and go with a smaller HDD like this one
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136769
500 GB for 85$ (instead of 210$ combined before, so down another 125$) and maybe scale back significantly on the RAM too to something like this
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145278
so just 4 GB for for only 25$ (another 65$ down), you get a total reduction of 290 USD, or only a paltry 110$ for those things.
You can then scale down to a cheaper motherboard and a weaker CPU, maybe go with some of the oldies but goldies from AMD's good years, like, say, Athlon II X4 645 Propus 3.1GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103885
for only 110$ and a matching cheap motherboard for just 50$
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157215
...means you're looking at a mere 270$ for everything except the GPU, so only 410$ grand total price.

Sickone April 2 2012 2:40 AM EDT

Or, you know, you could just as well buy a "desktop replacement" laptop.

I recently bought my wife a slightly modified ACER ASPIRE 7750G - 17.3" screen, 1600x900 resolution, i5-2430M dual core@2.4/3GHz CPU, 750GB HDD, 8 GB DDR3, also a Radeon HD 6650M with an extra 2GB dedicated memory (graphics acceleration is software-switchable on a per-application basis between the integrated i5 graphics and the Radeon), plus the inevitable integrated wireless and 1.3Mpix webcam. No OS preinstalled.

Played Mass Effect 3 on it to test it at full capacity (max performance), it's getting more than just a playable framerate, battery lasts well over one hour that way. Sound volume more than decent, but slightly distorted if ramped up to the absolute max (it completely fills a large room though).
Under normal non-gaming conditions (720p movie-watching with respectable sound volume, some office work, internet browsing and such, max power saving) the battery lasts nearly four hours from a full charge.

In total, it cost roughly the equivalent of 640 USD before taxes.
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