Posted 24 December 2008 - 05:44 PM
The basic components you will need are: The computer case to house the components, the motherboard to connect all the parts together, the CPU to process data, the RAM (or memory, they're the same thing) to send instructions to the CPU, the hard drive to contain all your programs and files, the graphics card to process visual data, the optical drives like CD or DVD to load software, the operating system, and the power supply to, obviously, power the thing. Most of the other components, like the sound card and network card are typically contained on the motherboard. If you choose not to build the PC, you rarely get to select the individual components. Usually, you can change some things but you won't be permitted to select the exact components you wish to use. Some builders say something like "Generic 600 Watt Power Supply" but don't tell you who made it. This can be a problem since quality varies between manufacturers. I went to MSY's website, it was the most confusing thing I've seen in a long time. Below are some things to look for in picking components. As I said to one of our Canadian members, don't expect good performance from a $1000 PC. In the U.S., that one grand will get you a powerful PC with good components, but once you factor in import duties and the increased taxes on items, a once reasonably priced component becomes prohibitively expensive.
Case: I suggest getting an ATX full tower case. These cases are large and heavy but they provide a great deal of room to install components. This is necessary since many top-of-the-line graphics cards will not fit into a mid-tower case.
CPU: How much are you willing to spend here? There is a very fast, and very new, $1000 processor called the i7 965 that will beat anything currently on the market. There are lower priced i7 processors, such as the 920 that are still very powerful, but cost far less. If you're on a budget, or simply don't care about having the latest bleeding edge technology, AMD has several good processors. The Phenom 9750 is a processor that is reasonably priced with solid performance. In the AMD camp, anything at or above the 9750 is an excellent choice. Note that AMD will launch the Phenom II's January 2009 so be on the lookout for price cuts.
Motherboard: This is where things can become tricky. First, you need to know what socket the CPU uses, the i7 uses LGA 1366, the Phenom's use AM2+, and the Core 2 processors use LGA 775. The CPU socket must match the one on the motherboard otherwise the processor will not work. Next, you should see which features are included with the motherboard. Most come with network cards and sound systems built-in. If you're a serious gamer, see if the motherboard supports SLI or Crossfire as that will determine whether or not you can link two graphics cards together. Also, note the memory specifications supported as you should match those with the actual RAM you intend to purchase. Good manufacturers include, XFX, Asus, eVGA, MSI, and Gigabyte.
RAM: Also called memory, is where computer code goes before being processed by the CPU. No motherboard supports all types of memory on the market. Motherboards have a list of available memory types you can use and the maximum amount of memory supported. For instance, if the motherboard lists DDR2 1066, you must use DDR2 1066 memory. Most motherboards support 8GB or more, it's usually a good idea to buy as much as you can reasonably afford. However, you will need a 64-bit operating system to use more than 4GB which I'll explain later. Good companies include, Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, and Mushkin.
Hard Drive: How much space do you need? Buy as much as you can get. Note that some drives come in SATA and IDE, newer motherboards take SATA which send data at a faster rate than IDE. Some hard drive manufacturers also list cache size, the larger the cache the faster the performance. Cache usually hits a 32MB ceiling. Many users get two drives, one for programs and the operating system and the other for all of their media. In the event one drive fails, it won't take everything down with it.
Optical Drive: This is a simple choice, which media do you have and what media are you going to burn in the future? Typically, DVD burners support all DVD and CD formats. Newer drives also offer Blu-Ray reading capabilities. There are also Blu-Ray burners that also support DVD and CD formats but these are expensive. I'm thinking of getting a Blu-Ray burner in the future since each dual layered Blu-Ray disc hold 50GB as opposed to 4GB for DVD's. Perfect for backups.
Graphics Card: You can empty your bank account quite easily here. First, do you want the ability to combine two or more graphics cards together to form one really powerful graphical system? If yes, you need to determine which technology your motherboard supports, either SLI or Crossfire. SLI works only with NVidia cards and Crossfire is for the ATI cards. Note that motherboards supporting the i7 processors allow for both, though not at the same time. The more powerful the card the more power your system will use to run it. The top card for Nvidia is the GTX 280 and for ATI it is the HD 4870 X2. These are large and very expensive. There are cheaper models, that do a good job too, for NVidia, they are the GTX 260 and the 9800 GTX. The GTX 260 is more powerful than the 9800 GTX. In the ATI camp, the HD 4870 is more powerful than the HD 4850. Good manufacturers include, eVGA, Asus, XFX, MSI, Sapphire, and BFG.
Power Supply: The more powerful the components, the more power you need to run them. A Crossfire or SLI system with good graphics cards will take a huge amount of power. A good amount is 750W for a non-SLI/Croosfire and 1000W for a SLI/Crossfire configuration. Corsair and Silverstone both consistently make supplies that get great reviews.
Operating System: If you are going to use 4GB or more of RAM, you need a 64-bit operating system to use all the memory. Most new games and many older ones can make use of more RAM and faster 64-bit instruction sets. I also suggest Vista since it has better 64-bit compatibility, better multiprocessor support, and newer features when compared to XP.