Hardware Building a Gaming PC

Xenirina

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Less is more
16GB ram will give little additional benefit over 8GB which gives little benefit over 4GB. More than quad core will give no benefit.

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The faster, the better

more cores doesn't help, faster cores will. Don't get anything less than 3.0Ghz

Tons of ram doesn't help, fast ram does. DDR3 is a must, get the highest speed supported by your board and processor. Lower timings are better. The two most important are: CAS Latency and recharge time. The lower the better, however higher mhz takes precedence. Pay attention to triple/dual channel support on the board. Triple channel means RAM must be installed in groups of 3 identical modules, dual channel in groups of two. Mess this up and it runs much slower. The more modules you have, the better (so long as you don't break the dual/triple channel rule). If you have a board with 6 ram slots and you want 6GB of RAM, go for 6x 1GB over 3x 2GB. This is because of the recharge time, which is a period after a module has been written in which it cannot be written to again. More RAM modules means there will be other RAM modules available while others are recharging, making the system overall more responsive. G-Skill Ripjaw RAM is awesome. Don't forget that you will need a 64bit OS for more than 4GB of RAM.

Hard disks are easily the slowest part of a computer (excluding optical and floppy drives) and there isn't a whole lot that can be done about this. SSDs look great on paper but realworld performance is lacking.
You'll want SATAII/SATA3gb/s, unless you're very rich and hardcore, in which case U320 SCSI and SAS are options (bear in mind these two have a maximum drive capacity of 300GB for SCSI, SAS can go higher). You want at least 7,200RPM rotational speed, and avoid 'green' or 'eco' drives as these run at 5,400 RPM and even if they claim equivalent performance to 7,200s, they aren't equivalent. WD Velociraptors are good performance wise but are known to have reliability issues.

Seek time should be as low as possible, and the drive should be one of: Seagate, hitachi, western digital or samsung. If you're going for SCSI or SAS then fujitsu becomes an option. For optimum performance, you want at least three disks. One for installing your OS and programs on, one for your pagefile, and one for installing games on. It's quite common to use a western digital raptor/velociraptor for the latter, but you could also use one for the former, or even for all three (if you're using SATA). If you're going to download a lot of stuff then get a fourth hard disk (a high capacity one, such as a samsung spinpoint F3)

RAID: avoid RAID 0. It brings very little performance benefit and comes at the cost of data security. I personally use RAID 1 on my OS disk (RAID 1 is where two identical disks are mirrored to look like one disk, and data is written to both, so if one dies then the other takes over). Avoid 'onboard' raid on your motherboard, if you want raid then get a proper raid card (promise, adaptec, LSI logic, mylex or 3ware) avoid 'zero channel raid'.

Optical drive: mostly irrelevant as far as performance is concerned.

CPU cooler: This is hugely important. Don't use the cooler that came with your CPU. It will be adequate, but only just. This is especially true of intel coolers. Frostytech have a nice list of coolers ranked by cooling performance on a 125W CPU, Wander over here: http://www.frostytech.com/articleview.cfm?articleid=2521&page=4 to take a look. Note that it only lists AMD compatible coolers, intel compatible is on the next or the previous page. Also pay attention to the noise level, you don't want it to be too high or it will be irritating. (i'm deaf so I couldn't care less).

Case: This is also hugely important, but not for the reasons most people think of. Get a fancy looking case if you like, but looks are a secondary concern. Most important is airflow/thermal performance. You want 120mm fans in the front and the back at minimum (or slots to put said fans), the more the merrier, and the bigger the better. Side panel fans are a double edged sword, they can improve airflow, or they can totally balls it up. It depends on the case design. Make sure none of the fanciness blocks fans. Front fans should draw air into the case, back fans should pull it out. Side again depends on case design. For the record I hate tooless cases, its faster to use a damn screwdriver. If the case has a full height drive rack, then you will need a full tower (not a mid tower) otherwise the graphics card wont fit in the case.

Fans: the higher the CFM for a given size, the better. Also pay attention to the noise ratings. Coolermaster excaliburs are nice, Delta fans and vantec tornados cool amazingly well but are also hellishly loud.

CPU: The killer question. As said before, no more than 4 cores are necessary, and hyperthreading is a waste of effort. Higher clock speeds are better, bigger L2 and L3 cache sizes can also help. Pay careful attention here as the cache sizes quoted could be either per core or unified (all cores sharing the same cache). Also pay attention to the TDP (thermal design power) as this affects what cooler you choose.

Motherboard: You want one that is compatible with your CPU (Both in terms of socket, FSB and TDP). ATX boards are easier to work with than microATX/uATX. This and the processor dictate what ram you can use, and how much, so DDR3 and as high as possible mhz. Good brands are: Asus, DFI, Gigabyte, MSI. Avoid ECS, PCChips, EVGA and foxconn. Pay careful attention to the chipset; a nvidia graphics card on an ATi motherboard chipset might be what is causing the issues my mate and I have, we just haven't been able to prove it yet.

power supply: Don't skimp here. If this blows it could well take out the rest of your system. you want at least 500W. You will need PCI-E power connectors, and fewer, bigger 12V rails is preferable to more smaller ones. Choose from: Antec, thermaltake, silverstone, seasonic, OCZ, Enermax, coolermaster, corsair. Note that a higher rated PSU will NOT use more electricity than a lower rated one in the same computer; this is a common misconception. The rating is the MAXIMUM amount of power it is capable of supplying, so the higher the better, but there's no need to go overboard. Don't touch any brand I have not listed, and if your case came with a power supply then junk it unless its one of the above.

Sound card: Avoid creative, they suck. Asus Xonar are the way to go.

graphics card: Your choice is ATi radeon or Nvidia geforce. good brands are: BFG and XFX (these are the most used by gamers), MSI, gigabyte. Avoid: sparkle, evga, HIS

Keyboard: logitech G19

mouse: I like the logitech MX518 and it's very highly rated

plug in wired network card: if your onboard sucks, intel is the way to go.

This ends today's lesson, I hope you've been taking notes because there'll be a test.


 

PityOnU

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I feel as if some of what you posted was copy/pasted from an old source.

SSDs look great on paper but realworld performance is lacking.

Incorrect

You'll want SATAII/SATA3gb/s, unless you're very rich and hardcore, in which case U320 SCSI and SAS are options (bear in mind these two have a maximum drive capacity of 300GB for SCSI, SAS can go higher). You want at least 7,200RPM rotational speed, and avoid 'green' or 'eco' drives as these run at 5,400 RPM and even if they claim equivalent performance to 7,200s, they aren't equivalent. WD Velociraptors are good performance wise but are known to have reliability issues.

SATAIII FTW

Seek time should be as low as possible, and the drive should be one of: Seagate, hitachi, western digital or samsung. If you're going for SCSI or SAS then fujitsu becomes an option. For optimum performance, you want at least three disks. One for installing your OS and programs on, one for your pagefile, and one for installing games on. It's quite common to use a western digital raptor/velociraptor for the latter, but you could also use one for the former, or even for all three (if you're using SATA). If you're going to download a lot of stuff then get a fourth hard disk (a high capacity one, such as a samsung spinpoint F3)

Hitachi doesn't exist anymore, but otherwise yup. Good luck with that, though.

graphics card: Your choice is ATi radeon or Nvidia geforce. good brands are: BFG and XFX (these are the most used by gamers), MSI, gigabyte. Avoid: sparkle, evga, HIS

It's now AMD and nVidia

AMD - go with XFX
nVidia - Go with EVGA/Asus

Also, try your hardest to get a "stock" card - no weird extra configurations/VRAM/cooling/etc. Minimizes driver issues.
 

PityOnU

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usually non oem heatsinks/fans cool alot better than the normal reference model

That's the word I was looking for! Reference model!

Yeah, they usually cool better, but sometimes to allow for the extra cooling, they need to shift stuff around on the board, change things, etc. Basically, it comes down to, who do you trust to design your video card? The company that actually designs the GPU itself and then writes the drivers, or a company that bought the IP off of them and messed with it a little to differentiate their product?

I'm not saying they're all crap, or doomed to failure or anything. But the smart money is generally on the reference model, especially with new cards.

Also, never pay full price for any of your components. I've recommended it a few times on the forum, but I'll do it again: go and make an account on slickdeals.net Slickdeals isn't a retailer or anything like that, it's just a huge community of deal hunters. Make an account there, and then decide on the component you want. After you do that, you can set up "alerts" on Slickdeals that will email/text you whenever an online or physical retailer has the part you want on sale. You can easily save $100's by being a smart shopper and using the tools available to you.

P.S. - I don't get any money from that site/whatever else, it's just really good for keeping your money in your pocket.
 

Originality

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This 'network engineer' and I would probably get along quite well. We could debate the importance (lack of) in higher RAM speeds for Intel systems all night. In fact, that quote is full of points which I would debate.

Anyway, the most important questions to ask are needs and budget. What games is the friend trying to play? On what size screen? And how much are you willing to shell out for higher quality parts?

This is what determines between AMD and Intel CPUs, Gigabyte and Asus motherboards, and AMD and nVidia GPUs in a recommended build.
 

Lanlan

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Xenirina That seemed very subjective.
@OP I wouldn't take that info too seriously. Tell us how much you can spend and we'll tailor-make you a recommendation based on that.
 

Lanlan

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$1000 - $1500
Although I'm definitely going with the suggested 760GTX from MSI.

Gotcha. I bet no sane person would object to a nice i5 here. How much does this person care about aesthetics? Do they need a sexy case with pretty lights? Everything need to match? Preferred color scheme?
 

jonthedit

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Gotcha. I bet no sane person would object to a nice i5 here. How much does this person care about aesthetics? Do they need a sexy case with pretty lights? Everything need to match? Preferred color scheme?

Just an FYI, This will not be my PC in the end, but I was told this is what is needed:
-The ability to load Farcry 3 on Ultimate with 60fps constantly. (Basically a rape machine)
-Case design is meh, more looking for a GOOD case that isn't going to screw with my MB.
 

trumpet-205

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more cores doesn't help, faster cores will. Don't get anything less than 3.0Ghz

Do NOT use clock speed to gauge a CPU performance, classic MHz myth.

Tons of ram doesn't help, fast ram does. DDR3 is a must, get the highest speed supported by your board and processor. Lower timings are better. The two most important are: CAS Latency and recharge time. The lower the better, however higher mhz takes precedence. Pay attention to triple/dual channel support on the board. Triple channel means RAM must be installed in groups of 3 identical modules, dual channel in groups of two. Mess this up and it runs much slower. The more modules you have, the better (so long as you don't break the dual/triple channel rule). If you have a board with 6 ram slots and you want 6GB of RAM, go for 6x 1GB over 3x 2GB. This is because of the recharge time, which is a period after a module has been written in which it cannot be written to again. More RAM modules means there will be other RAM modules available while others are recharging, making the system overall more responsive. G-Skill Ripjaw RAM is awesome. Don't forget that you will need a 64bit OS for more than 4GB of RAM.

Average consumer do NOT need to worry about RAM timing. Good RAM timing brings very little performance advantage to the table. RAM speed wise get 1333 to 1600 for Intel CPU, and 1866 or above for AMD CPU/APU.

Hard disks are easily the slowest part of a computer (excluding optical and floppy drives) and there isn't a whole lot that can be done about this. SSDs look great on paper but realworld performance is lacking.
You'll want SATAII/SATA3gb/s, unless you're very rich and hardcore, in which case U320 SCSI and SAS are options (bear in mind these two have a maximum drive capacity of 300GB for SCSI, SAS can go higher). You want at least 7,200RPM rotational speed, and avoid 'green' or 'eco' drives as these run at 5,400 RPM and even if they claim equivalent performance to 7,200s, they aren't equivalent. WD Velociraptors are good performance wise but are known to have reliability issues.

SSD is lacking on real world performance?! Your network friend needs a refreshing course. SSD is about fast random read speed, which have and always will be a problem for HDDs. OS and computer games will load files randomly hence SSD will drastically reduce load time. SCSI and SAS are for server users, and they are all about reliability. In my opinion Velociraptors are overrated for gaming use, since it does not improve random read speed significantly.

Seek time should be as low as possible, and the drive should be one of: Seagate, hitachi, western digital or samsung. If you're going for SCSI or SAS then fujitsu becomes an option. For optimum performance, you want at least three disks. One for installing your OS and programs on, one for your pagefile, and one for installing games on. It's quite common to use a western digital raptor/velociraptor for the latter, but you could also use one for the former, or even for all three (if you're using SATA). If you're going to download a lot of stuff then get a fourth hard disk (a high capacity one, such as a samsung spinpoint F3)

Samsung and Hitachi sold their HDD divisions. Now there are only 3 players left in HDD market: Toshiba, Seagate, and Western Digital. Absolutely no need to have a dedicated HDD for pagefile.

RAID avoid RAID 0. It brings very little performance benefit and comes at the cost of data security. I personally use RAID 1 on my OS disk (RAID 1 is where two identical disks are mirrored to look like one disk, and data is written to both, so if one dies then the other takes over). Avoid 'onboard' raid on your motherboard, if you want raid then get a proper raid card (promise, adaptec, LSI logic, mylex or 3ware) avoid 'zero channel raid'.

Good heavens NO!!! RAID has NO place in desktop except in very rare situation. RAID is about preventing downtime by adding redundancy (downtime is very costly for server user). RAID is NOT about improving performance or being a backup. If you want to use RAID 1 for OS you might as well get a SSD for the same price, with SSD being much more reliable due to lack of moving parts. FYI RAID 0 is not a RAID setup (correct term should be stripped volume), since it has no redundancy. RAID card is NOT needed for RAID 1 by the way (unless you run out of SATA ports).

Case: This is also hugely important, but not for the reasons most people think of. Get a fancy looking case if you like, but looks are a secondary concern. Most important is airflow/thermal performance. You want 120mm fans in the front and the back at minimum (or slots to put said fans), the more the merrier, and the bigger the better. Side panel fans are a double edged sword, they can improve airflow, or they can totally balls it up. It depends on the case design. Make sure none of the fanciness blocks fans. Front fans should draw air into the case, back fans should pull it out. Side again depends on case design. For the record I hate tooless cases, its faster to use a damn screwdriver. If the case has a full height drive rack, then you will need a full tower (not a mid tower) otherwise the graphics card wont fit in the case.

Whether the case have room at the back for cable management is also important.

power supply: Don't skimp here. If this blows it could well take out the rest of your system. you want at least 500W. You will need PCI-E power connectors, and fewer, bigger 12V rails is preferable to more smaller ones. Choose from: Antec, thermaltake, silverstone, seasonic, OCZ, Enermax, coolermaster, corsair. Note that a higher rated PSU will NOT use more electricity than a lower rated one in the same computer; this is a common misconception. The rating is the MAXIMUM amount of power it is capable of supplying, so the higher the better, but there's no need to go overboard. Don't touch any brand I have not listed, and if your case came with a power supply then junk it unless its one of the above.

Depending on your setup, you may NOT need 500 W. My system, i7-3770K & HD7850, consumed less than 250 W when both CPU and GPU were put under stress by Prime95 + MSI Kombuster.

Also one needs to do some research on particular PSU, not just simply relying on brands that have been whitelisted. There are some PSU brands that you should avoid (blacklist, such as Diablotek and Logisys), but no brands that one should buy blindly (whitelist).

Sound card: Avoid creative, they suck. Asus Xonar are the way to go.

This one is subjective. While I can hear a difference using cheap speaker + Xonar D1, many people can't. Consider sound card a good but optional spending. Creative sound card does not suck.

graphics card: Your choice is ATi radeon or Nvidia geforce. good brands are: BFG and XFX (these are the most used by gamers), MSI, gigabyte. Avoid: sparkle, evga, HI

BFG is long out of business. To be honest no GPU brand sucks. Some GPU brands will make higher quality GPU (which are relevant to overclockers) but they all make working GPUs. No brand needs to be avoided. Pay attention to cooling setup and warranty.

Keyboard: logitech G19
mouse: I like the logitech MX518 and it's very highly rated

plug in wired network card: if your onboard sucks, intel is the way to go.

There is no must buy product for keyboard and mouse (again varies depending on person). LAN controller wise unless there is a specific need there is no need to be pickly about whether it is Intel or Realtek.
 

jonthedit

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Do NOT use clock speed to gauge a CPU performance, classic MHz myth.

Dear god that color burns on my eyes on the DarkTemp theme... Anyway...



Thanks for all the help so far! I haven't been back here in a while but plan to finish a basic build TODAY. (What to buy) I've updated my original post with a GPU that is to my liking.

Can anyone recommend a motherboard?
I'm currently looking at the ASRock Z87 Extreme6
 

Originality

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For the motherboard, I recommend a Gigabyte Z87X UD3H. It's one of the best boards in terms of performance and value. There's also the Asus Maximus VI Hero, which scores highest on gaming, but it costs more and not worth the premium.

Since the Z87 motherboards use Haswell CPUs, its worth getting faster RAM as it will have a performance boost in multitasking and gaming (no more than 8GB, but 2400Mhz RAM has a 7-15% boost over 1600Mhz). There's normally only a $10-15 difference.

The 200mm fan you picked is a case fan, and most cases use 120mm fans (some use 200mm on top or the side, but most opt for 120mm fans). Make sure that it is compatible with the case you have/are getting.

And as mentioned, Intel Core i5-4670 is probably the best choice for your friend (since they don't need to overclock with the K version).

For HDD and SSD... I won't recommend any. It depends on your remaining budget, and you've not listed (or requested) a case or PSU so I don't know how much room you have left in your budget.
 

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