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Discussion in 'System Builder's Advice' started by bruins004, May 8, 2007.

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  1. bruins004 New Member

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    Please note this guide is located in the Wiki ( http://reference.techpowerup.com/Category_talk:Guides )

    There are a lot of people who need help with new build or just looking to upgrade components.
    Well I want to help them and many others.
    This guide will help you see how computer components work as well as help people find out what are good bargains for their price range.

    Table of Contents:
    I. Buying a Pre-Built System
    II. System Components (Builds)
    III. CPU Buyers Guide
    IV. DDR2 RAM Buyers Guide
    V. GPU Buyers Guide
    VI. PSU Buyers Guide
    VII. Motherboard Buyers Guide
    VIII. Hard Drive Buyers Guide
    IX. Cooling Buyers Guide
    X. Case Buyers Guide
    XI. LCDS / LCD TVs for Monitors
    XII. Gaming Keyboards / Mice
    XIII. Link to a Build Guide

    I. Buying a Pre-Built System:
    A lot of people like to buy Pre-Built Systems. Of course, these systems are more expensive than building your own, but you dont go through the hassle of RMAing and building a computer.
    Here are some good places to check out for pre-built systems.

    U.S.
    1. Velocity Micro
    2. AVA Direct
    3. Puget
    4. Falcon Northwest (expensive)
    5. Voodoo PC (expensive)
    6. Alienware (expensive)

    Other Companies:
    1. Dell
    2. HP
    3. Gateway

    These companies would be good for getting a really cheap computer. Other than that, it isnt really worth it.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    II. System Components (Builds):
    So here are the best values based on price ranges.

    Budget Build:
    CPU: AMD Athlon64 X2 3600+ Brisbane
    Motherboard: Biostar TForce 550
    RAM: 2 x 1GB of Value RAM
    GPU: EVGA / XFX / BFG 7600GT/8500GT or HIS/Sapphire/PowerColor X1650XT(if want cheaper
    get a lower series card or use onboard)
    HD: Any Hard Drive
    PSU: FSP or Antec PSU (400W - 450W)
    CPU Heatsink: Arctic Cooling Freezer CPU Heatsink
    Drives: DVD RW or CD/DVD Combo Drive

    TOTAL ~ $700 US

    Right now the AMD Athlon64 X2 3600+ brisbane is a great CPU. It OCs very nicely and is only around $65 (by far the cheapest dual core you can get). Paired with the Biostar TForce550 board (which is a sub $100 board), you can OC well beyond 3GHZ. There is no Intel platform that is this cheap and that can perform on the same level.

    Intermediate Buid:
    CPU: Intel C2D E6430
    Motherboard: Gigabyte DS3
    RAM: 2 x 1GB of G Skill / Corsair / Kingston / OCZ DDR2-800 (PC2-6400)
    GPU: EVGA / XFX / BFG 7900GT/8800GTS 320mb or HIS/Sapphire/PowerColor X1950XT
    HD: Western Digital or Seagate 250 GB +
    PSU: Corsair HX 520W
    CPU Heatsink: Scythe Ninja
    Drives: DVD RW or CD/DVD Combo Drive

    TOTAL ~ $1200 US

    This build can easily OC very high (beyond an E6600) and the CPU will have the same L2 cache (4mb). Also, the RAMS use Epilida chipsets which can OC nicely (these chips are only outdone by Micron D9 chips).

    High End Build:
    CPU: Intel C2D E6600 / E6700
    Motherboard: 680i Mobo (EVGA / XFX / etc.)
    RAM: 2 x 1GB of Crucial Ballistix or Buffalo Firestix DDR2-1066
    GPU: EVGA / XFX / BFG 8800GTX 640MB or HIS/Sapphire/PowerColor X1950XTX 512MB
    HD: Western Digital Raptors (in a RAID)
    PSU: Corsair HX 620W
    CPU Heatsink: Thermalright Ultra 120 / Scythe Ninja or Infinity
    Drives: DVD RW and CD/DVD Combo Drive

    TOTAL ~ $1800 US

    This system will OC very nicely with the E6600. Also, the RAM utilizes Micron D9 chips which have the highest OCing potential. Matched with an 8800GTS 640MB this system will be able to run games. Also, this system can easily be upgraded with another 8800GTX, more RAM and a Quad Core Processor.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    III. CPU Buyers Guide:
    With all the different types of CPUs out there, it can be difficult to select the perfect one for you. So here is an idea of the best bang for the buck CPUs.

    CPU Basics:
    The CPU is the processing unit for the computer. There are two components of the CPU known as the ALU (arithmetic logic unit) and the CU (control unit). The ALU performs arithmetic and logical operations while the CU retrieves instructions from memory, decodes these instructions and then sends this information to the ALU (if needed).

    When looking at the information associated with a CPU, there is a lot of information. The first thing you see is the operating frequency of the CPU. This is the speed at which the CPU is set at. The higher the frequency, the faster and better the CPU will work.

    Another thing you will see is L1 and L2 cache. The L1 cache (or the primary cache) is the fastest memory in the computer and is the primary memory used by a CPU. The L2 cache (or secondary cache) is slower than the L1 cache and is used by the L1 cache. So the bigger the L1 and L2 cache, the more memory the CPU has available to use.

    A third thing is the HT (HyperTransport). This is the speed at which the interface between the CPU, memory and peripheral devices can work.

    The last things to look at are the socket type, Core, and if the CPU is multi-core or not. The socket type will let you know the type of motherboards that are compatible with this CPU. So for example if you have a socket AM2 CPU than you NEED a socket AM2 motherboard.

    The Core will let you know the type of Core that the CPU has. This is mostly useful information for people who want to OC since certain cores can OC better than others.

    Today there are multi-core and single core CPUs. Multi-Core CPUs are able to run multiple applications or mult-threaded applications better than single core's can. There are currently dual core (2 cores) and quad core (4 core) CPUs.

    Budget:
    If your on a budget, you do not have very many options. However, currently Intel platforms are slightly more expensive and may be out of your league. So here are some options for you.

    1. AMD Sempron ~ > $50 US
    If your on an extreme budget (below $50 US), than your best bet is one of the AM2 platform Semprons. These can even OC decently, however, they are limited by their lack of a lot of L2 cache.

    2. AMD Athlon64 X2 3600+ ~ $65 US
    This CPU is a great OC and one nice deal at $65. This CPU can easily OC to over 3GHZ making it a nice competition for its much bigger brothers.

    3. Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 ~ $115 US
    If you can splurge a little bit than you might want to get the E4300. This CPU has a lower multiplier than its bigger brothers and can OC really high (higher than 3GHZ). This is a great CPU and can match its brothers (the only drawback from this and the E6600 is that this one has 2MB of L2 cache, not 4MB).

    Intermediate:
    If you still have a budget, but can spend a bit than the following CPUs would be your best bet.

    1. Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 ~ $160 US
    This C2D chip is very similar to the E6300 with only one difference. It has 4MB of L2 cache instead of 2MB (like the E6300). Due to this it performs identically to the E6600 when it is clocked the same. This chip can also OC very nicely.

    2. Intel Core 2 Duo E6420 ~ $190 US
    This C2D chip is very similar to the E6400 with only one difference. It has 4MB of L2 cache instead of 2MB (like the E6400). Due to this it performs identically to the E6600 when it is clocked the same. This chip can also OC very nicely.

    3. Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 ~ $230 US
    This C2D chip is a nicely clocked chip at a nice price. It can even be OCed higher than the E6700 stocks speeds. If you have the extra cash then you might want to look into this chip.

    High End:
    If you still really dont have a budget, than the following CPUs would be your best bet.

    1. Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 ~ $970 US
    This C2D chip is the fastest C2D chip currently out. Also, since this is the same price of the QX6700, might as well get the better chip. This is the fastest Dual Core Chip Available.

    2. Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 ~ $535 US
    If you want a Quad Core chip than this is currently the fastest one. This one will also OC very nicely.
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    IV. DDR2 RAM Buyers Guide:
    There are many types of DDR2 RAM and RAM companies out there these days. It can be really hard to find out a good pair of RAM. So please use this guide to try to help you out.

    Also, please note that DDR RAM cannot be used with DDR2 RAM systems. They are completely different from each other. Please check your motherboard manual to see which type of RAM the system supports.

    RAM Basics:
    Most RAM these days are considered Dual Channel. By doing this, the RAM will have increased bandwith and will be able to run about twice as fast. In order for RAM modules to run dual channel you will need to either have 2 or 4 sticks of RAM. If you have 1 or 3 sticks, the RAM will run in single channel mode. By doing this, your RAM will run much slower.

    Each pair of RAM has timings and speeds. For example a pair of DDR2-800 RAM 5-5-5-15 has the timings 5-5-5-15 and the speed of 800. Below we will discuss more about frequency and timings.

    The timings of RAM is the amount of time it takes the RAM to write and read data per clock. There are many different timings out there, however, there are only four basic timings that are always listed when buying RAM (as shown above). These four timings are the Cas Latency, tRCD (RAS to CAS Delay), tRP (RAS Precharge Delay) and tRAS (Active to Precharge Delay).

    The Cas Latency is the first number in the timings seen above (ex: Cas-5-5-15). This is the amount of clock cycles it will take the memory to respond to an operation request (or the time between the sending a read command and the time the first piece of output is available). Therefore, the lower the CAS Latency, the faster the RAM will be. Please note though, that if this is set too low for your memory, your system may not be stable.

    The tRCD is the second number in the timings (ex: 5-tRCD-5-15). This is the amount of clocks it takes between issuing the active command the read or write command. Therefore, the lower the tRCD the faster the RAM will be. Please note though, that if this is set too low for your memory, your system may not be stable.

    The tRP is the third number in the timings (ex: 5-5-tRP-15). This is the amount of clocks the memory is powered for which will allow the computer to read from the memory. Therefore, the lower the tRP the faster the RAM will be. Please note though, that if this is set too low for your memory, your system may not be stable.
    number of clock cycles taken between the issuing of a precharge command and the active command

    The tRAS is the last number in the timings (ex: 5-5-5-tRAS). This is the amount of clocks the module must wait before the next access to the RAM can start. This is usually calculated by adding the CAS + tRCD + tRP since if a command is being executed, another cannot be retrieved. However, if one is being retrieved while a command is being executed, an error will occur with the memory and the system may not be stable. Therefore, the lower the tRP the faster the RAM will be. Please note though, that if this is set too low for your memory, your system may not be stable.

    The last thing to consider about RAM (besides the timings) is the RAM speed. The RAM speed is the speed at which information can be retrieved by the memory. Hence, the faster the speed, the better the RAM. For example (DDR2-800 5-5-5-15 RAM is faster than DDR2-667 5-5-5-15 RAM).

    Also, please note that RAM options should be chosen differently for different platforms in order to optimize performance.
    An Intel platform will benefit more with higher frequencies and looser timings. For example DDR2-1000 5-5-5-15 will be better than DDR2-800 3-3-3-9.
    However, an AMD platform will benefit from tighter timings and lower freq. For example DDR2-800 3-3-3-9will be better than DDR2-1000 5-5-5-15.

    Quality Brands:
    Below is a list of some high quality brands (in no order):
    1. Crucial
    2. Buffalo
    3. G Skill
    4. Kingston
    5. Corsair
    6. Geil
    7. SuperTalent
    8. OCZ
    9. Muskin
    10. Patriot
    11. Team Xtreme

    Budget DDR2 RAM:
    If you are on a budget than look at any Value RAM. This RAM most likely uses PROMO chips which cannot be OCed very high. However, they are the cheapest RAM available. If you currently have a C2D or AMD AM2 system, then try to get DDR2-667 or DDR2-800(only if you are OCing your system). The reason for this is because a DDR2 system will not gain any benefits from lower freq. RAM.

    Intermediate DDR2 RAM:
    If you aren't on a small budget, but dont want to break the bank than you should look at RAM containing either PROMOS or Epilida chips. Some good brands are Corsair, Geil, G Skill, Mushkin, Patriot, PNY, PQI, SuperTalent, OCZ. These sets of RAM will OC better than the Value brands and can be pushed relatively good. Epilida chips can be pushed to around DDR2-1000. If you currently have a C2D or AMD AM2 system, then try to get DDR2-667 or DDR2-800(only if you are OCing your system). The reason for this is because a DDR2 system will not gain any benefits from lower freq. RAM.

    High End DDR2 RAM:
    If you do not care about a budget than you could pretty much go all out. Most RAM in this category use either Epilida or Micron D9 chips which can be OCed very high. Some high end brands are Cruical Ballistix (Tracer and non-Tracer modules), Buffalo Firestix, Corsair Dominator, G Skill (Black Heatspreaders), Mushkin Redline. Please note that only the most expensive Corsair Dominators use Micron D9s now. The other Crucial Dominators use Epilida chips now. Currently the best values are the G Skill, Buffalo Firestix and the Crucial Ballistix.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    V. GPU Buyers Guide:
    There are so many different brands and types of GPUs out today that it may get very confusing on which ones to get. Well hopefully this will help and break it down for you. Please note that this will only go over PCI-Express video cards (not AGP).

    GPU Basics:
    When looking for video cards, just like anything else, you should look at benchmarks and reviews. These will help show you how well the specific card does to others and the pros/cons of the card. However, here are some very basic information to get you started.

    GPU Interface
    The first thing to look at is to make sure the GPU you are looking at has the same interface that your motherboard uses. Currently there are two popular intefaces for GPUS which are PCI-Express and AGP. Graphic Card and Motherboard companies are mostly developing PCI-Express cards and motherboards (since it is the newer interface and supposedly faster), however AGP interfaces are still being developed, but might cost a bit more. Please note that for this guide I am only to discuss PCI-Express Cards.

    GPU Memory
    Each GPU has memory located on it since it uses its own memory and not the system's RAM. Therefore, each video card has a memory size. The majority of today's video cards have 256 mb of memory. However, cards have anywhere from 64mb (older cards) to 768mb of memory. You will want more than 256mb of memory only if you have a display bigger than 19". This is because more than 256mb of memory is only really utilized when you have a bigger resolutions. The bigger the resolution, the more memory you will use.

    A second thing to look for is the Memory type. There are currently four types of memory on GPUs which are GDDR, GDDR2, GDDR3, GDDR4. The memory type will only matter to people who want to OC their memory on the GPU (to OC the Memory Clock). The higher the number of GDDR, the better it OCs. So for example, GDDR4 is better to OC than GDDR3 and so on.

    The last thing to look at for memory is the Memory Clock of the GPU. The memory clock is how fast the GPU can fetch and retrieve data. Therefore, the higher it is, the faster the memory works.

    GPU Core Clock
    The Core Clock is the speed at which the core of the GPU will perform. Therefore, the higher the Core Clock Speed, the faster the GPU is.

    GPU DX9 Shaders
    With DX9 cards (Geforce 7 series and below, ATI X1XXX series and below) there are two types of shaders, pixel pipeline and vertex engines. Both of these different shaders have different jobs. The pixel pipelines applies colors, texture and other attributes to pixels within the image. However, the vertex engines create the look of the objects. Therfore, the more pixel pipelines and vertex shaders you have, the better the card is.

    GPU DX10 Shaders
    DX10 cards have a different architecure that DX9 cards. Instead of having two types of shaders, they have one shader that does both jobs called Scalar Shaders. These Scalar Shaders do both of what the pixel pipelines and vertex engines did in DX9. Therefore, the more Scalar Shaders you have the better the card is.

    By taking a look at ALL of the above will determine which card is better. Please note that if you just look at one specific part of a GPU and not ALL will not help you detemine which is the best GPU for you. For example a GPU with a Core Clock of 520MHZ, a Memory Clock of 450MHZ and 12 pixel pipelines will perform less than one with a Core Clock of 480MHZ, a Memory Clock of 450Mhz and 16 pixel pipelines.

    GPU Brands:
    Now lets take a look at brands.
    Here are some of the top brands for Nvidia cards (in no order):
    1. EVGA
    2. BFG
    3. XFX

    Here are some of the top brands for ATI cards (in no order):
    1. HIS
    2. PowerColor
    3. VisionTek
    4. Sapphire

    Budget GPU:
    These GPUs are for people who are on an extreme budget. In this segment expect to play most new games on lower settings. On the budget end we are going to look for GPUs below $50 US and $100 US. Please note that these are in no order.

    GPUs below $50 US
    1. 7300 LE (Highly Recommended)
    2. X1300 (LE or vanilla versions) (Highly Recommended)
    While these video cards do not supply the highest power, they do support SM3.0 and can run newer games easier than their older counter-parts. Both of these GPUs perform about the same, so you can go with whichever company you prefer.

    GPUs below $100 US
    1. 8500GT
    2. 7600GT (if cannot find then get 7600GS)
    3. X1650XT (Highly Recommended)
    These cards are a bit more powerful than the ones below $50. They can pack quite a punch and keep up in modern games. I also included the only DX10 card available in this category. The 8500GT is the lowest DX10 card currently avail. and may not be as strong as the others in DX9, however, it can run DX10. Also, if you can find a 7600GT for under $100 (as there have been some deals on them) then get that one instead of the 7600GS since it is a faster model.

    Intermediate GPU:
    These GPUs are for people who are on an budget, but can splurge a bit. In this segment expect to play most new games on medium settings. On the Intermediate end we are going to look for GPUs below $150US and $200 US. Please note that these are in no order.

    GPUs below $150 US
    1. 8600GT
    2. 7900GS (Highly Recommended)
    3. X1950GT (Highly Recommended)
    I included the DX10 card (8600GT) for those who want DX10 support. This is currently Nvidia's second lowest offering. Please note, that I cannot recommend one since both the 7900GS and the X1950GT perform about the same.

    GPUs below $200 US
    1. 8600GTS
    2. 7950GT (Highly Recommended)
    3. X1950XT (if cannot find then X1950PRO) (Highly Recommended)
    I included a DX10 card for those who want to have DX10 support. This card is a step up from the 8600GT. Also, please note that the X1950XT has been seen in this price point, however, if you cannot find it (they have been hard to find), then an X1950PRO would be the second choice. Both the 7950GT and the X1950XT perform about the same. However, if you cannt find the X1950XT then get the 7950GT since its the better deal than the X1950Pro.

    High End GPU:
    These GPUs are for people who have a big budget to spend on the GPU. In this segment expect to play most new games on high settings. On the high end we are going to look for GPUs below $300US and over$300 US. Please note that these are in no order.

    GPUs below $300 US
    1. 8800GTS 320mb (Highly Recommended)
    2. X1950XT (Please read below)
    In this category I cannot really recommend another GPU besides the 8800GTS. This card outperforms any other card in this category and also is also DX10 compliant. I am not recommending anyone gets an X1950XT over this card, however, I am listing this card since it is the best card that ATI has to offer in this category.

    GPUs over $300 US
    1. 8800GTX (Highly Recommended)
    2. 8800 Ultra
    3. X1950XTX
    4. HD 2900XT
    In this category, the better card is the 8800GTX (it is also DX10 compliant). However, the fastest card in this category is the 8800 Ultra. I cannot recommend the Ultra though b/c of its high price tag for an Overclocked version of the 8800GTX. However, if the 8800GTX is out of your price range you can get the HD 2900XT for less. This card falls just short of the 8800GTX. Also, I include the X1950XT which is a nice card and can hold its own pretty well against the DX10 monsters.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    VI. PSU Buyers Guide:
    Most people overlook a very valuable part of their PC and it cheap out on it. This is a common mistake made by many. This part is the PSU. This will help you find a good PSU that will last you for a while.

    PSU Basics:
    Most people look at just the wattage of a PSU. This is important, however, the amperage on the 12V line(s) is what is the most important. This line provides most of you computer with power. A high quality PSU will give you a good amount of amperage on the 12V line.

    Above I did mention 12V lines. This is b/c some PSUs have more than 1 12V line. It is also more confusing on finding out the total amperage of the 12V lines with these PSUs. Unfortunately, you cannot just simply add up the amps on each 12V line and there are your total amps. This is because rails can share their amps with other rails, however, there is an overhead due to this. So for example there is a 620W PSU that offers 600Watts of power on the 12V lines. There are 3 12V lines that each have an amperage of 18 amps (this information is found on the back or side of the PSU). The total output on the 12V line is ~50 amps and not 54 amps. An easy way to get an idea of this is to take the following equation [(Total Wattage on 12V lines / Total Wattage of PSU) * Amps on all 12V lines added together]. So for our example its 600/620*54 ~ 50 Amps.

    Another thing to look for are reviews of the specific PSU you are looking for (a good place to look is http://www.jonnyguru.com/ ). Within these reviews they will list the amount of ripple and the effeciency of the PSU. Both of these are important as well. A high ripple is bad since it will limit the amount of OCing you can do, as well as, shorten the lifespan of your components. So the lower the ripple the better.
    Also, the higher the effeciency of the PSU, the better. The effeciency of the PSU is the amount of power that is actually being sent to the computer. Currently a effeciency of 80% or higher is very good.

    Also, many people look at PSUs and see that some are SLI certified. All this means is that the PSU manufacturer paid Nvidia money to get their stamp of approval on this PSU. However, every SLI certified PSU has 2 PCI-Express connectors, so you can SLI two Nvidia cards together. Other than that, these PSUs are exactly the same as other PSUs. Also, you can use this PSU to Crossfire two ATI cards (if they do not require the 8 pin PCI-Express connector).

    PSU Brands:
    First lets list off some quality PSU brands (not in any order):
    1. FSP
    2. Tagan
    3. PC Power and Cooling (expensive)
    4. Zippy (expensive)
    5. Corsair
    6. OCZ (the PowerStream series)
    7. Thermaltake
    8. Silverstone
    9. Seasonic
    10. Hiper

    Please note that Antec is not currently up there since they changed the OEM parts they use. They now use cheaper parts that dont last as long anymore.

    Below is a list of some quality PSUs based on price ranges. Please note though, that it is recommended that you select a PSU that fits your system (not just the price like what many people do). For example, if you have ~ $1000 system, than select from the intermediate PSU section.

    Budget PSU:
    This section is for those who have a very limited budget of under $100 US. Here are some quality PSUs for a budget. Here are some of the best PSUs you can get for this range.
    Any FSP under $100
    Thermaltake PurePower Series
    Hiper HPU Series
    Silverstone ST Series
    Corsair HX520

    Intermediate PSU:
    This is for people with a budget, but can spend a little extra cash. The ranges of these PSUs are from $100 - 200 US.

    FSP FX 600W - 800W
    COOLMAX CUG
    Silverstone ST Series
    Thermaltake Toughpower
    Seasonic M12 (modular)
    Seasonic S12 (not modular)
    Corsair HX620
    PC Power and Cooling Silencer
    OCZ PowerStream

    High End PSU:
    This section is for $200+ PSUs that are needed for the systems demanding the most power.

    Any Silverstone
    Seasonic M12
    Any PC Power and Cooling
    Any Zippy
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    VII. Motherboard Buyers Guide

    Motherboard Basics
    Motherboards are one of the hardest things to pick for many people. The main reason for that is because there are so many different types that one can easily become confused. Here are some basics to look at when chosing a motherboard.

    Socket Type and CPU Type
    The socket type will detemine the line of processors which you can use. Next, the CPU type will further tell you which processors in the processor line that the motherboard will support. For example, if the socket type is Socket 939 and the CPU type is AMD Athlon64, then this motherboard will only be able to support processors in the socket 939 line that are ONLY Athlon64.

    Form Factors
    There are also a few motherboard form factors out there. Here they are list (in no specific order):
    1. mATX
    2. ATX
    3. mBTX
    4. BTX

    The top 2 forms that are used by desktop builders are mATX and ATX. The reason for this is bc most cases used by desktop builders are ATX cases and will have the screw mounts for both mATX and ATX motherboards. However, before buying a motherboard or a case, make sure that the case can fit and support the motherboard.

    Memory
    Each motherboard has memory slots, the memory standard and the max memory supported . The memory slots are the amount of memory slots that the motherboard has. ATX motherboards have 4 memory slots and mATX motherboards have 2 slots.

    The memory standard is the memory that the motherboard supports at its standard configuration. So for example, if the memory standard is DDR 400, the motherboard supports DDR memory at a standard configuration of DDR 400. Please note that if you have DDR 500 RAM the motherboard will default the frequency to DDR 400 unless this is changed in the BIOS.

    PLEASE NOTE, DDR memory and DDR2 memory are two types of memories. So if a board supports DDR memory it cannot take DDR2 memory and vice versa.

    The max memory supported is the maximum amount of memory that the motherboard can recognize. So if you put 8GB in a motherboard that supports a max of 4GB, only 4GB can be utilized and seen by the motherboard.

    Expansion Slots
    These are the slots in which you can put expansion cards. Some of these cards are video cards, SATA cards, audio cards, etc. These slots are usually AGP, PCI-E, PCI, etc.

    AGP and PCI-E (aka PCI-Express) slots are mainly used for video cards. Please make sure that you select a motherboard or video card that is supported.

    PCI slots are mainly used for other expansion cards such as Audio, SATA Cards, PATA cards, TV Tuners, Fans, etc.

    Storage Devices
    These are the slots that the motherboard has available for Hard, DVD and CD ROM Drives. There are a two main interfaces available, PATA and SATA (please refer to the Hard Drive section if you want to know more). Make sure you select the correct amount of interfaces so they support all of your hard drives and DVD/CD drives.

    Please note, that most DVD and CD ROM Drives use a PATA interface, however, there are some SATA intefaced ones available.

    Onboard Video and Audio
    If you are not looking to use a video card than you should look for a motherboard that has onboard video. Even though onboard video is usually weaker than having a video card, it is more cost effective for those who dont need the best and cutting edge graphics.
    Please note, that not all motherboards have onboard video. Using onboard video is not recommended for gamers or graphic intense programs.

    Onboard Audio is on every motherboard. There are many different types of onboard video, however, the most common ones are Realtek audio that supports 6 channels. The audio is not as crisp and nice as ones on most audio cards, however, if sound is not that important it is cost effective.

    Rear Panel Ports
    The rear panel on every motherboard has a certain number of ports. These ports include USB, Audio, Video, PS/2, COM, Firewire, etc. If you need a certain amount of a certain port than this will be important to you since not all motherboards contain the same amount and types of ports.

    Please note, that the motherboard is a very important component in the system. The reason for this is because everything is connected to the motherboard. Due to this, the motherboard faciliates everything.

    Overclocking a Motherboard
    If you plan to OC, you'll want to make sure the board you have your eye(s) on is good for it. Some boards and brands just cannot OC very well. Some boards are okay, but probably won't push your CPU/RAM very much before becoming unstable. Some boards are rock-solid for overclocking. The best way to determine is to Google the board and/or hop onto a good forum and ask around. Please don't depend on the reviews on retailer sites (you cant trust those).

    Overclocking can apply to your CPU, RAM, and graphics port(s). This basically means changing the voltage the motherboard applies to these components. People most commonly overclock their CPU. Many also overclock their RAM to achieve better timings. I do not recommend overclocking graphics ports. Doing so carries the most risk.

    Overclocking doesn't appeal to everyone. Don't brush off a motherboard because it has bad reviews. Sometimes the bad reviews are regarding its ability to overclock. If you don't plan to OC, chances are it's still a good board to run your components at stock speeds.

    Quality Motherboard Brands
    This is a list of quality motherboard brands (in no specific order)
    1. Abit
    2. ASUS
    3. EVGA
    4. MSI
    5. DFI
    6. BioStar

    Below is a list of some quality motherboards based on price ranges. Please note though, that it is recommended that you select a motherboard that will support the rest of your system's components.

    Budget Motherboards:
    This is for people with a budget, but can spend a little extra cash. The ranges of these motherboards are under $100 US.
    AMD
    BioStar TForce550

    Intel


    IntermediateMotherboards:
    This is for people with a budget, but can spend a little extra cash. The ranges of these motherboards are from $100 - 200 US.
    AMD


    Intel
    Gigabyte DS3

    High End Motherboards:
    This is for people with a budget, but can spend a little extra cash. The ranges of these motherboards are $200+ US.
    AMD

    Intel
    All 680i boards (ex: EVGA 680i)
    Intel BadAxe
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    VIII. Hard Drive Buyers Guide
    There are a lot of different types and sizes of hard drives out there. There are also a good amount of companies out there today that it can be confusing. Here are some of the basics and good buys out there.

    Hard Drive Basics:
    There are quite a few things to look at when buying a hard drive. The first thing you may see is the capacity (or the size) of the hard drive. This is the amount of storage that a hard drive has.

    The next thing you will see is the interface of the hard drive. This is the interface that is used to pass data from the system to the hard drive and vice versa. Currently there are two widely used interfaces called IDE (or ATA), SATA and SCSI. Currently, SATA hard drives transfer data faster than IDE hard drives. The SCSI interface is the fastest, but are only really used by servers. Before choosing an interface, please make sure your motherboard has that interface so you are able to connect the hard drive and the motherboard.

    The hard drive usually has three different timings called the Seek Time, the Write Time and the latency. The seek time is the average amount of time it takes the hard drive to find a file. The write time is the average amount of time it takes to write a file to the hard drive. The latency is the average time lag between requests for the information stored on the hard drive.

    Each hard drive also has a cache and RPM (revolutions per minute). The cache is the amount of memory that the hard drive has so it can store frequently accessed data for fast access. The more cache a hard drive has, the more data it can store and access faster.

    The RPM is the speed at which the hard disk will spin. Hence an increase in speed will make the hard drive be able to retrieve data faster.

    RAID Basics:
    RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a common term used for servers. However, more computer builders are using RAIDs in their home computers today.

    RAID is a way to backup data by using redundancy. By using RAID, one backs up their data on multiple disks. Therefore, if a disk fails in their computer, the data is still available on another disk.

    There are quite a few different types of RAIDs out there today. However, I am only going to list some of the most common RAIDs.

    Please note that in order to use RAID, you must have at least 2 hard drives or more.

    RAID 0:
    This type of RAID has no redundancy or way to backup you data. This will setup all of your hard disks as one logical drive. For example, you have 2 hard drives with 150GB each. In RAID 0, the computer will see that you have 1 hard drive with ~300GB of space.

    This RAID requires that you have at least 2 hard drives.

    RAID 1:
    This type of RAID will duplicated the storage of your data (giving you redundancy). If you have 2 hard drives, one will be used as your regular hard drive, while the other one will be used as a backup, copying the exact same data from the first hard drive. Besides data redundancy this RAID does offer faster reading times since the data can be read from either hard drive. For example, you have 2 hard drives with 150GB each. In RAID 1, the computer will see that you have 1 hard drive with 150GB of space.

    This RAID requires that you have at least 2 hard drives.

    RAID 5:
    This RAID will store information in stripes on the hard disks. Therefore, records can be read from any hard drive. Also, in the event of a failure the RAID array can be reconstructed since all of the information is on a stripe on each hard disk. For example, you have 5 hard drives with 50GB each. In RAID 5, the computer will see ~200GB.

    RAID 5 w/ hot spare:
    This is the same as RAID 5 (described above) with only one difference. The only difference is that one drive is used as a hot spare or a drive solely used to reconstruct the RAID in case of a disk failure. This is a very common used RAID today. For example, you have 5 hard drives with 50GB each. In RAID 5 w/ hot spare, the computer will see ~160GB.

    This RAID requires at least 3 hard drives, but 5 are recommended.

    Quality Hard Drive Brands:
    Here is a quick list of some quality Hard Drive brands
    1. Western Digital
    2. Seagate
    3. HP
    4. Samsung

    The best place to usually look for hard drives are local brick and mortar retailers. Online retailers may have them for slightly cheaper, however, shipping usually brings the hard drives to about the same price. However, make sure that you get a big enough hard drive so you have enough storage for your data. For example, if you are a gamer or creating a media center, you may want to get a hard drive over 250GB so you can store a lot of movies and games.

    Raptor Hard Drives vs. Others:
    Raptor hard drives are extremely fast hard drives. These hard drives have very fast data access and can transfer data to the computer extremely fast. They offer the speed of SCSI drives, but use a SATA interface so regular computers can use it, instead of just servers. Of course, all of this comes at a premium price. For example, a Raptor 150GB may cost $250, while you can get a 500GB regular hard drive for $230.

    Many people usually ask if the Raptors are worth the money. The simple answer is, if you want to retrieve your data slightly faster, than get it. However, if that doesnt make a difference to you, than save your money or get a bigger hard drive for yourself.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    IX. Cooling Buyers Guide
    Coming Soon
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    X. Case Buyers Guide
    In the computer world today there are way too many case companies, sizes, types, etc. that it can become confusing when you want to pick a case. Even though many people have different tastes and styles it can never hurt learning a little bit of what to look for in a case.

    Case Basics
    Case Size
    Believe it or not the case size determines quite a few factors. There are three basic size of cases which are micro tower, mini tower, mid tower and full tower cases. There are pros and cons of each size.

    The micro tower case is the smallest case size you can currently get. These cases are very good for traveling around with (esp. for LAN parties) due to their small size and ligher weight. However, these cases offer very little room to hide wires and work in. Also, this case offers the least amount of expansion areas available for Hard Drives, PCI-E cards, etc. Sometimes this makes these cases harder to install components. Also, these cases can only fit micro ATX motherboards (not regular ATX motherboards) due to their small size.

    The Mini tower case is slightly bigger than the micro tower case. This offers some more room to work in, fits both micro ATX and ATX Motherboards and is slightly heavier.

    The Mid tower case is the mid sized case. This case offers more room to work in, hide cables and allows ATX and Micro ATX motherboards. Also, this case offers more expansion slots than the micro cases. However, this case is not ideal for traveling with, but it can be done.

    The Full tower case is the biggest case size currently available. This case offer the most room to work in, hide cables and allows all motherboards to fit in them (some do not allow BTX cases). However, if you are traveling with your computer, this case is not ideal for that.

    Case Materials
    The case's materials usually determines if it will last longer (and is hard to damage) or if it is flimsy and will not last a long time (or dent easily). A good case usually is made of either Steel or Aluminum. Cheap cases are usually made of mostly plastic (hence why they are cheap).

    Now there are two main difference between a Steel case and an aluminum one. Aluminum cases are less durable, however they are ligher and easier to carry around. On the other hand, Steel cases are the most durable cases, but are heavy and hard to lug around.

    Another thing some people look for these days are windows in their cases. Some have them, while some dont. Quality and non-quality cases both offer them and it is soley a personal choice, if you want them. However, please note that if you have a window, cable management should be a priority.

    Motherboard Compatability
    An important thing to look at is if you case supports the motherboard you have or you are going to order. This was said above in the Case Size section, but I will repeat it since it is important.
    Micro towers support Micro ATX motherboards.
    Mini and Mid towers both support Micro ATX and ATX motherboards.
    Full towers support Micro ATX, ATX and BTX motherboards. Please note that only some support BTX motherboards, not all.

    Expansions
    On each case there are a number of expansion slots. There are mainly 4 types of expansion slots which are External 5.25" Drive Bays, External 3.5" Drive Bays, Internal 3.5" Drive Bays, Expansion Slots.

    The External 5.25" Drive Bays are the areas that mainly store Media drives (such as CD and DVD readers/writers).

    The External 3.5" Drive Bays are the areas that mainly store floppy drives, memory card readers, temperature sensors, etc.

    Internal 3.5" Drive Bays are the areas that mainly store the hard drives. Therefore, this will detemine the amount of hard drives you can have.

    The Expansion Slots are the areas in the back of the case where the video card, sound card and other expansion cards' connections are. This will ultimately detemine the amount of expansion cards that you can have.

    Front Ports
    Front ports are offered on most cases these days. The most common front ports are USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 Firewire, Audio & Speaker ports. This makes it much easier to connect and disconnect items.

    Cooling System
    The cooling system of the case is very important since you never want your computer to overheat. Most cases these days come with 2 fans (1 for intake and 1 for outtake). Some come ready for watercooling. Just make sure that the cooling solution you want is supported by your case.

    Also, please see this IMPORTANT note.
    DO NOT USE A POWER SUPPLY (PSU) THAT COMES WITH THE CASE. THESE PSUs ARE OFTEN GENERIC AND ARE NOT GOOD AT ALL. YOU CAN EASILY LOSE ALL OF YOUR COMPONENTS BC OF A BAD PSU. Do yourself a favor and get a quality PSU and dont skimp on it.

    Quality Case Brands
    There are some brands that build very nice cases out of steel and/or aluminum. Here are some of those brands (in no order).
    1. Thermaltake
    2. NZXT
    3. Antec
    4. Lian-Li
    5. Cooler Master
    6. Zalman (very expensive)
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    XI. LCDS:

    Quality LCD Brands:
    Here are some quality brands of LCDS currently on the market (not in any order)
    1. Dell
    2. Viewsonic
    3. Acer
    4. LG
    5. NEC
    6. Samsung
    7. BenQ
    8. HP

    These manufacturers use high quality parts in their LCD monitors. This is why you will usually pay a premium for them.
    If you are looking for a budget LCD see if you can get any of these manufacturers for a cheap price, if not than any other manufacturer is good (just check the specs and compare with others). Below is a list of some (not all budget LCD makers)

    Budget LCD Brands:
    1. Hanns-G
    2. Sceptre
    3. X2Gen
    3. CHI MEI
    4. Rosewill

    Other brands use lower quality parts, hence, why they are less expensive. Below is a list of some quality monitors. There are way too many to list so these are not all quality monitors.

    17" - 19":
    Acer AL1717Fbd
    Dell UltraSharp 1708FP
    NEC 70GX2
    Samsung 731BF
    Viewsonic Optiquest Sereies Q7B

    Dell UltraSharp 1907FP
    NEC 90GX2
    Samsung 941BW
    Viewsonic VX922

    Please note that all 17-19" have the same resolutions. The 19" LCDs just stretch out the picture.

    20" - 20.1":
    Acer AL2016
    Dell UltraSharp 2007FP
    NEC LCD2070VX
    Samsung 203B

    BenQ FP202W
    Dell UltraSharp 2007WFP (20.1")
    Dell E207WFP (20.1" w/ TN Panel)
    NEC 20WMGX2 (The most expensive, but the best one in the 20.1" category)
    Samsung 205B
    ViewSonic VX2035WM

    22"-27":
    Please note that all 22" use TN Panels
    Acer AL2216
    Dell E228WFP (22" w/ TN Panel)
    Samsung 225BW
    Samsung 226BW
    Viewsonic VX2255

    Acer AL2423BenQ FP241W
    Dell UltraSharp 2407WFP
    NEC LCD2470WNX
    Samsung 244t
    ViewSonic VX2435

    Dell UltraSharp 2707WFP
    Samsung 275T

    30":
    Dell UltraSharp 3007FPW
    Dell UltraSharp 3007FPW- HC

    The Dell UltraSharp 3007FPW- HC is a new Dell monitor. The old one is the Dell 3007FPW (first one listed). The difference is that the new one uses a brighter and better panel. Therefore, the monitor will last longer, as well as look Sharper. Many argue that Apple and HP make good 30" monitors as well. This is true, but when compared to the Dell they do not come close. Plus on top of that Dell offer a zero dead pixel policy which no manufacturers can currently compete with.

    LCD TVs:
    Follow the same instructions as you would an LCD monitor.
    1080p LCD TV's work GREAT as monitors.
    1080i LCD's are ONLY 1366x768 and 768 in the vertical direction is NOT enough.
    Therefore, when looking for an LCD TV as a monitor get an 1080p.

    Currently the cheapest 1080p is a Sceptre on Newegg. 37" @ $999 free ship.

    Please note that all UltraSharp Panels use IPS Panels and have USB ports built into them.

    How to Look for a Good LCD:
    Here are some things to look for when buying a new LCD (not in any order)
    1. Panel Type - Not all LCDs use the same panel. You will often (esp. on newegg) see TFT under panel. All LCDs have a TFT panel. The question is do they use a TN, IPS, MVA or PVA Panel.

    TN Panel: The TN panel is the cheapest panel to produce and is the one most LCD manufacturers use due to this. These panels have the fastest reponse time, however, they produce the worst color and the color will slightly change when you move up or down / left to right. They also have limited viewing angles.

    IPS Panel: An IPS is one of the best panels available for an LCD. These panels offer very good viewing angles and color. However, these cost much more than the TN panel and have higher response times.

    MVA Panel: This panel is more of a hybrid between a TN and IPS panel. These panels offer a big viewing angle and color (IPS panel is still better in these departments) with a fast response time. However, these panels cost more than the TN panel, but less than an IPS panel.

    PVA Panel: Very similar to the MVA panel. However, these panels offer much higher contrast ratios when compared to the MVA panel.

    2. Response Time: This is the amount of time it takes for the screen to synchronize. This is esp. important for gamers since if the response time is not fast enough you will see ghosting or the video lagging. For gaming anything 16ms and under in response time is good and you should not see any types of ghosting. Please note, that some monitors with 2ms response times sometimes gets stuck since the response is too fast.

    3. Colors Support: This is the amount of colors that the display can show. There are currently 2 amounts for this. Either 16.2 million or 16.7 million. If a panel has 16.2 million colors it is considered a 6 bit panel. However, if a panel has 16.7 million it is considered either a 6 bit panel w/ dithering or an 8 bit panel. If you want your LCD to be have a similar look and feel like a CRT than you will want a panel with 16.7 million colors. Personally, the 16.2 million color panels seem bleak and dull with their colors.

    4. Contrast Ratio: This is the contrast between colors. The higher it is the better. This is more important for people who use visual programs. However, a nice contrast ratio is nice to have. LG has a monitor with a 1000:1 contrast ratio.

    5. Input Ports: Most LCDs nowadays have both DVI and VGA (Analog) ports, but just make sure it has the ports you need to connect the monitor to.

    6. Brightness: This is only important if you like to have a bright monitor similar to a CRT.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    XII: Gaming Keyboards / Mice:
    There are a lot of mice and keyboards out there.
    If you are not gaming, then may I suggest any keyboard and optical mouse will do.
    Gamers might need a little more functionality with their mice and keyboards.
    However here are some of the quality ones that are currently out (not in any order)

    Gaming Keyboards:
    1. Logitech G11
    2. Logitech G15
    3. Razer Reclusa
    4. Razer Tarantula
    5. Saitek Eclipse
    6. Saitek Eclipse II

    The Razer boards are not fully lit, but parts of them are backlit. With these boards you are able to create macros for games.
    The Saitek boards are completely backlit blue. However, with the Saitek II board you can switch between blue, red, and purple.
    The Logitech boards are backlit blue and you are able to create macros with these boards. The only difference between the G15 and G11 is that the G15 has an LCD which allows you to see various things about your system. This LCD is fully customizable.

    Gaming Mice:
    1. Logitech G5 (new and old one)
    2. Logitech G7
    3. Logitech VX Revolution
    4. Logitech MX 518
    5. Razer Copperhead
    6. Razer DeathAdder

    The Razer gaming mice are small and for those that are used to the traditional mouse, may have a hard time adjusting. They have nice lighting to them and have nice software to mod your dpi settings with.
    However, the Logitech mice are bigger and more like a traditional mouse. They contain nice software to mod your dpi settings.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Link to a Build Guide
    Below is a link to a build guide on how to build a computer.
    Please note that this is not my guide and I do not update it (I am not responsible for any information in this guide).

    http://www.techpowerup.com/articles/other/144
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Thanks for Help:
    GJSNeptune

    Please note that I will be updating this regularly.

    Please support this thread, keep it alive
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2007
    gopal, hag789, Jyoti and 18 others say thanks.
  2. surfsk8snow.jah

    surfsk8snow.jah

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    Sweet this looks awesome. Thanks. I'm looking forward to the LCD section.
     
  3. GJSNeptune

    GJSNeptune New Member

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    While a noble idea, the "help me with this new build" threads will never die. Go to any forum. There's no stopping them. :D
     
  4. bruins004 New Member

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    Agreed.
    However, this might help limit it somewhat.
    Also, this would be a good first stop for those people.

    Putting all this info together too never hurts, esp. if it is stickied :)
     
  5. bruins004 New Member

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    Updated.
    Added Things to Look for in an LCD
     
  6. bruins004 New Member

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    Updated again :)
    Added monitors and updated information for LCD Section.

    Anyone want info about Keyboards / Mice included or anything else relating to new builds?
     
  7. GJSNeptune

    GJSNeptune New Member

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    The more you include, the more (theoretically) you reduce the appearance of 'new build' threads.
     
  8. bruins004 New Member

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    Ok I added that information as well.
    Feel free to add your information or two cents if you want.
    I dont want to hog all the info.
     
  9. surfsk8snow.jah

    surfsk8snow.jah

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    I love my Logitech G5 Gaming Mouse. Sooo butter. Got it on an amazon.com sale a while back for $25. Sweeeet deal.
     
  10. WarEagleAU

    WarEagleAU Bird of Prey

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    What about a substitute on the graphics card for budget systems. Offer those ATI choices as well. Like the X1650Pro or X1950 Pro or summat?
     
  11. bruins004 New Member

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    Good call there.
    I was looking for a card sub $100 US so the X1950PRO is out.
    Added the X1650XT and the 8500GT (if you want DX10).

    Any ideas with an intermediate build.
    Was thinking the E6320 or 6430?
     
  12. ktr

    ktr

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    x1950gt comes in and out of the $100 area...
     
  13. Mediocre

    Mediocre New Member

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    You might think about adding LCD TV's to the LCD section. My advice is:

    1080p LCD TV's work GREAT as monitors. Follow the same contrast/refresh rate/etc.

    1080i LCD's are ONLY 1366x768 and 768 in the vertical direction is NOT enough. 1080p is 1920x1080.

    Currently the cheapest 1080p is a Sceptre on Newegg. 37" @ $999 free ship.
     
  14. surfsk8snow.jah

    surfsk8snow.jah

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    You should have budget, intermediate, high-end, and extreme. I say for C2D: 6320.6430=intermediate, e6600/q6600=advanced, qx6700/x6800=extreme (although I would defintely advise the qx... y buy 2 when you could get 4 for the same price?)
     
  15. bruins004 New Member

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    Hmm not a bad idea.
    I have not kept up to date on LCD TVs for a while now, just regular LCDs.
     
  16. Paulieg

    Paulieg The Mad Moderator Staff Member

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    What about C2D based systems?
     
  17. bruins004 New Member

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    I have added a top of the line build.
    Which is the highest of everything.
    Still looking around as to what else to put in intermediate
     
  18. bruins004 New Member

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    The C2D systems will be Intermediate and up.
    However, no Intel system can compete with that cheap AMD system for the price.
     
  19. GJSNeptune

    GJSNeptune New Member

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    Might also want to post some of the goto prebuilt brands just in case people overwhelmed can rest assured that they can spend their money wisely without building it themselves.

    VelocityMicro/Overdrive
    AVA Direct

    etc. (and also by country/region)
     
  20. bruins004 New Member

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    Added an Intermediate System.....
    Let me know what you think
     
  21. bruins004 New Member

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    Hmm I dont know too many that are good.
    Please give me some and I will add them.
     
  22. GJSNeptune

    GJSNeptune New Member

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    Well for the US, we like Velocity Micro (they just bought OverdrivePC), AVA Direct, Puget, and maybe some others.

    Somewhat overpriced, but there's Falcon Northwest, Voodoo PC, etc.

    Of course, there's Dell/Alienware, HP, Gateway, etc., but they aren't as personable as the previously mentioned companies.
     
  23. bruins004 New Member

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    Good idea and its added.

    Thanks for all the input thus far guys.
    The guide has def. grown.

    Keep those brains pumping
     
  24. GJSNeptune

    GJSNeptune New Member

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    A laptop section (budget, gaming, etc.) might be a good idea, although it wouldn't exactly fit the 'New Build' part.

    I'm guessing after this thread's exhausted, a new one will be made with all of the changes and not all of these replies. :D
     
  25. bruins004 New Member

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    I would rather stay away from that.
    The main reason is bc not many build their own laptops since parts are hard to find and it is hard to do.
    Mainly Dell, Alienware, HP is the place to get them.

    And we might make a new thread once the kinks are worked out, but maybe not.
    There are a lot of threads similar to this that have the same thing.

    Its all about the tweaks :)
     

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