Another PC Building Thread

This is a gaming rig advice thread. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I have a flexible budget of around maybe $1000 (US) and up, and I already possess a monitor, keyboard and the like, so I only require the rig itself. I am doing this in lieu of the next console cycle, so I want it to be able to perform very nicely this generation.

Now, I have neither the time nor experience to actually piece it together myself, so I was wondering if any of you escapists know of any reliable websites to select parts, have them build, and ship it to you (obviously within the US). And generally what parts you'd recommend.

Thanks in advance!

DragonStorm247:

Thanks in advance!

I've heard good things about CyberPowerPC, but have no experience with them because I'm in the UK.
For that kind of build you'll probably be recommended broadly what's on the logical increments website, though it helps that you've already got peripherals.

For your budget I'd also recommend a solid state drive for the OS only. It's expensive, but really does improve performance.

As for brands, personally I go for corsair, western digital, and gigabyte, but that's just personal preference.

OneCatch :

DragonStorm247:

Thanks in advance!

I've heard good things about CyberPowerPC, but have no experience with them because I'm in the UK.
For that kind of build you'll probably be recommended broadly what's on the logical increments website, though it helps that you've already got peripherals.

For your budget I'd also recommend a solid state drive for the OS only. It's expensive, but really does improve performance.

As for brands, personally I go for corsair, western digital, and gigabyte, but that's just personal preference.

How big an SSD would be necessary for an OS?

DragonStorm247:

OneCatch :

DragonStorm247:

Thanks in advance!

I've heard good things about CyberPowerPC, but have no experience with them because I'm in the UK.
For that kind of build you'll probably be recommended broadly what's on the logical increments website, though it helps that you've already got peripherals.

For your budget I'd also recommend a solid state drive for the OS only. It's expensive, but really does improve performance.

As for brands, personally I go for corsair, western digital, and gigabyte, but that's just personal preference.

How big an SSD would be necessary for an OS?

I got a 120gb one, but you could do it with a 60gb one, maybe a little less. Win 7 itself is about 20gb, but you'd also want to install common programs there too (browser, word processor, media player, etc), and you do tend to get a bit of bloat with updates, system restore points, indexing, caches, and so on.

The general idea is to have programs on the SSD, and media files themselves on the hard drive; so you'd install VLC on the SSD but put any video files on the HD, or install iTunes on the SSD but the iTunes library on the HD, and so on.
Don't install Steam, Origin or Uplay on the SSD though - certain games on Steam can only be installed in the original directory, so install those programs into a normal HD drive.

OneCatch :

DragonStorm247:

OneCatch :

I've heard good things about CyberPowerPC, but have no experience with them because I'm in the UK.
For that kind of build you'll probably be recommended broadly what's on the logical increments website, though it helps that you've already got peripherals.

For your budget I'd also recommend a solid state drive for the OS only. It's expensive, but really does improve performance.

As for brands, personally I go for corsair, western digital, and gigabyte, but that's just personal preference.

How big an SSD would be necessary for an OS?

I got a 120gb one, but you could do it with a 60gb one, maybe a little less. Win 7 itself is about 20gb, but you'd also want to install common programs there too (browser, word processor, media player, etc), and you do tend to get a bit of bloat with updates, system restore points, indexing, caches, and so on.

The general idea is to have programs on the SSD, and media files themselves on the hard drive; so you'd install VLC on the SSD but put any video files on the HD, or install iTunes on the SSD but the iTunes library on the HD, and so on.
Don't install Steam, Origin or Uplay on the SSD though - certain games on Steam can only be installed in the original directory, so install those programs into a normal HD drive.

Thanks for the tip. Have any other advice on motherboards, power supplies, and overclocking?

DragonStorm247:

OneCatch :

DragonStorm247:

How big an SSD would be necessary for an OS?

I got a 120gb one, but you could do it with a 60gb one, maybe a little less. Win 7 itself is about 20gb, but you'd also want to install common programs there too (browser, word processor, media player, etc), and you do tend to get a bit of bloat with updates, system restore points, indexing, caches, and so on.

The general idea is to have programs on the SSD, and media files themselves on the hard drive; so you'd install VLC on the SSD but put any video files on the HD, or install iTunes on the SSD but the iTunes library on the HD, and so on.
Don't install Steam, Origin or Uplay on the SSD though - certain games on Steam can only be installed in the original directory, so install those programs into a normal HD drive.

Thanks for the tip. Have any other advice on motherboards, power supplies, and overclocking?

With the motherboard it depends what you need from it.
You need the correct socket (Intel or AMD) dependant on your CPU brand.
You want to make sure your case is compatible in terms of headers and USB (almost all are).
If you might get dual graphics cards you want one which is SLI/Crossfire enabled, if not then don't bother.
Dual RAM slots are good so you can expand on RAM, but most have this anyway.
Motherboards really are a matter of personal preference. There's not one brand that has a better reputation than all others. To get you started, this is what I've got - crossfire support for dual GPUs, Intel socket.

For a power supply you also need to consider dual cards. For example, an 800W PSU is probably needed for SLI/Crossfire, but if you aren't going to bother, a 500-600W is fine. For power supplies I'd strongly recommend Corsair. You can always ask the retailer to be sure that a particular build isn't underpowered.

For overclocking your GPU you generally just need a utility like MSI Afterburner. You can do it in the native program as well (Catalyst Control Centre for AMD, Nvidia Control Panel for Nvidia) - just make sure the card doesn't get too hot (GPU's can take temps up to about 90 Celcius, but I usually don't let mine above 75).

For overclocking your CPU you'll most likely need a CPU cooler because the stock cooler is inadequate for any significant OCs. CPUs are also a little more delicate than GPUs - anything upwards of 70 is kind of concerning.

I haven't got much experience with such coolers because I'm saving up for a watercooling loop, and doing without OC for the time being. Generally though, you don't need to spend huge amounts - something like this is usually fine. Of course, if you want really extreme overclocks, you need more expensive kit or watercooling!

With a lot of these considerations, the builder themselves will make sure everything is compatible anyway.
Hope that helps, any other questions just ask!

As for places to buy:

CyberPower PC - when I've configured PCs here recently, they've always seemed to have the cheapest prices. Maybe $150-250 over what you'd pay for the parts alone, so a pretty nice deal for pre-built, IMO. 3-year warranty too.
AVADirect
Maingear
Xotic PC

Recommendations (Pre-built edition):
Processor: i5 3570k, i5 4670k, i7 3770k, i7 4770k (word is Haswell: 4670k, 4770k, is not a good overclocker because it hits a heat wall fast. With how slowly CPUs are improving lately, getting a one gen older: 3570k, 3770k that can overclock better seems a fair idea). The odds of anything substantially better enough to warrant an upgrade coming out in the next 2-3 years is not great, IMO, so buying a 3xxx processor is OK, even if you can never upgrade it without buying a new MoBo. However, I have no idea how new console ports are going to handle on PC hardware.
RAM: 8GB of whatever, but don't bother with anything higher than 1600MHz.
MoBo: I lack knowledge here, but it probably doesn't matter too much as you're not building the PC. Look for features you want like built-in Wifi, Bluetooth and SLI/Crossfire support etc. Anything with Z77 in the model number, is probably a good choice.
PSU: Pre-builts tend to not offer particularly good PSU choices. Get something that has 80 plus, or Bronze, Silver, Gold efficient in the description. Then it has a chance of being a better power supply. Seasonic and Corsair make the highest quality PSUs. Get ~550W for one GPU, and ~750W for SLI/Crossfire.
GPU: AMD 7950 is the best value GPU around at the moment, IMO; it can be overclocked to stock 7970 levels easily. I'd get at least an AMD 7950 or Nvidia 760/660ti or better. Don't buy a 4GB version of the Nvidia 770, its memory bandwidth is probably too low to take advantage of extra VRAM anyway. Getting something a bit lighter: Nvidia 660, AMD 7870, then buying a nicer card when AMD and Nvidia release new GPUs later this year or early next year, is another option. The next GPUs are supposed to be a big jump. Like possibly the upper mid range being around Nvidia Titan performance (this is me guessing from what I've gleaned from the internet)

Don't pay for overclocking. A small overclock is like $50 or something stupid. Do it yourself. You won't need to do it right off the bat, so you'll have plenty of time to look up guides. Overclocking is much easier than it used to be, so don't be worried. PC components have good fail safes to protect from botched overclocks these days anyway.

I would only Crossfire/SLI if you're going with two high end GPUs, otherwise just get a good single GPU. Dual-mid range GPUs result in more stuttering and poorer frame times.

OneCatch :

DragonStorm247:

OneCatch :

I got a 120gb one, but you could do it with a 60gb one, maybe a little less. Win 7 itself is about 20gb, but you'd also want to install common programs there too (browser, word processor, media player, etc), and you do tend to get a bit of bloat with updates, system restore points, indexing, caches, and so on.

The general idea is to have programs on the SSD, and media files themselves on the hard drive; so you'd install VLC on the SSD but put any video files on the HD, or install iTunes on the SSD but the iTunes library on the HD, and so on.
Don't install Steam, Origin or Uplay on the SSD though - certain games on Steam can only be installed in the original directory, so install those programs into a normal HD drive.

Thanks for the tip. Have any other advice on motherboards, power supplies, and overclocking?

With the motherboard it depends what you need from it.
You need the correct socket (Intel or AMD) dependant on your CPU brand.
You want to make sure your case is compatible in terms of headers and USB (almost all are).
If you might get dual graphics cards you want one which is SLI/Crossfire enabled, if not then don't bother.
Dual RAM slots are good so you can expand on RAM, but most have this anyway.
Motherboards really are a matter of personal preference. There's not one brand that has a better reputation than all others. To get you started, this is what I've got - crossfire support for dual GPUs, Intel socket.

For a power supply you also need to consider dual cards. For example, an 800W PSU is probably needed for SLI/Crossfire, but if you aren't going to bother, a 500-600W is fine. For power supplies I'd strongly recommend Corsair. You can always ask the retailer to be sure that a particular build isn't underpowered.

For overclocking your GPU you generally just need a utility like MSI Afterburner. You can do it in the native program as well (Catalyst Control Centre for AMD, Nvidia Control Panel for Nvidia) - just make sure the card doesn't get too hot (GPU's can take temps up to about 90 Celcius, but I usually don't let mine above 75).

For overclocking your CPU you'll most likely need a CPU cooler because the stock cooler is inadequate for any significant OCs. CPUs are also a little more delicate than GPUs - anything upwards of 70 is kind of concerning.

I haven't got much experience with such coolers because I'm saving up for a watercooling loop, and doing without OC for the time being. Generally though, you don't need to spend huge amounts - something like this is usually fine. Of course, if you want really extreme overclocks, you need more expensive kit or watercooling!

With a lot of these considerations, the builder themselves will make sure everything is compatible anyway.
Hope that helps, any other questions just ask!

Are there any brands you would advise against? And any tips on general maintenance once I have it?

DragonStorm247:

OneCatch :

Are there any brands you would advise against? And any tips on general maintenance once I have it?

I hate to be vague, but it often doesn't come down to the brand, but the model of component itself.

I've personally had bad experiences with Toshiba hard drives and with Seagate external drives. Seagate are one of the best hard drive producers in the world, so I was probably just unlucky. The Toshiba one I had was a pile of crap though.

Really, the only thing you can do is check reviews. If you go on ebuyer or Amazon or or something they'll most likely have upwards of 10 or 20 reviews on any major bit of kit, so for example, take 4 brands of motherboard and cross reference them. Don't just look at the star rating, actually skim the reviews themselves to check for any common problems. That also tells you if the person is unfairly blaming the hardware because they aren't competent - you get a surprising number of reviewers giving stuff one star ratings, and when you actually read the review, they've plugged it in wrong, or not formatted it right, or have tried an utterly ridiculous overclock on stock cooling.

Anyhow, as an example of how useful reviews can be; the aforementioned Toshiba drive I got was really cheap. Started getting a slight, intermittant, idle ticking after the first days of use. I almost waited to see how it would go. Checked reviews online, and about 90% of the people who'd had that problem later had the drive die on them. RMA'd it, got refund, didn't loose any data.
Ideally I'd have avoided the hassle in the first place by checking reviews beforehand.
I know it's a lot of work, but it's really worth doing the research!

One good measure of general brand quality is the type of warranty they offer - if it's crap it suggests they don't have much confidence in their stuff. It's also a good sign if they have an office in your country. But I'd imagine that any decent custom built computer will have a warranty with the builder themselves anyway.

In terms of maintenance, don't leave it on a ridiculous overclock 24/7, and keep it clean.
My cleaning regimen is to clean the exterior when I see dust settled on it, wipe the dust off the inside of the case (not the components, just the case) using a dry cloth or similar every few months or when it gets visibly dusty, and clean the components themselves with compressed air a couple times a year, or when they get dusty.
Getting some thin fan filters on your intakes is always a good way of reducing dust and reducing how often you need to clean. Your build might come with them anyway, but if not then get some. You can either get ones you screw to the inside, or some of these which attach to the outside magnetically.

Inconspicuous Trenchcoat:
As for places to buy:

CyberPower PC - when I've configured PCs here recently, they've always seemed to have the cheapest prices. Maybe $150-250 over what you'd pay for the parts alone, so a pretty nice deal for pre-built, IMO. 3-year warranty too.
AVADirect
Maingear
Xotic PC

Recommendations (Pre-built edition):
Processor: i5 3570k, i5 4670k, i7 3770k, i7 4770k (word is Haswell: 4670k, 4770k, is not a good overclocker because it hits a heat wall fast. With how slowly CPUs are improving lately, getting a one gen older: 3570k, 3770k that can overclock better seems a fair idea). The odds of anything substantially better enough to warrant an upgrade coming out in the next 2-3 years is not great, IMO, so buying a 3xxx processor is OK, even if you can never upgrade it without buying a new MoBo. However, I have no idea how new console ports are going to handle on PC hardware.
RAM: 8GB of whatever, but don't bother with anything higher than 1600MHz.
MoBo: I lack knowledge here, but it probably doesn't matter too much as you're not building the PC. Look for features you want like built-in Wifi, Bluetooth and SLI/Crossfire support etc. Anything with Z77 in the model number, is probably a good choice.
PSU: Pre-builts tend to not offer particularly good PSU choices. Get something that has 80 plus, or Bronze, Silver, Gold efficient in the description. Then it has a chance of being a better power supply. Seasonic and Corsair make the highest quality PSUs. Get ~550W for one GPU, and ~750W for SLI/Crossfire.
GPU: AMD 7950 is the best value GPU around at the moment, IMO; it can be overclocked to stock 7970 levels easily. I'd get at least an AMD 7950 or Nvidia 760/660ti or better. Don't buy a 4GB version of the Nvidia 770, its memory bandwidth is probably too low to take advantage of extra VRAM anyway. Getting something a bit lighter: Nvidia 660, AMD 7870, then buying a nicer card when AMD and Nvidia release new GPUs later this year or early next year, is another option. The next GPUs are supposed to be a big jump. Like possibly the upper mid range being around Nvidia Titan performance (this is me guessing from what I've gleaned from the internet)

Don't pay for overclocking. A small overclock is like $50 or something stupid. Do it yourself. You won't need to do it right off the bat, so you'll have plenty of time to look up guides. Overclocking is much easier than it used to be, so don't be worried. PC components have good fail safes to protect from botched overclocks these days anyway.

I would only Crossfire/SLI if you're going with two high end GPUs, otherwise just get a good single GPU. Dual-mid range GPUs result in more stuttering and poorer frame times.

I notice you don't really mention sound cards. Are they generally unimportant, or already part of the motherboard?

DragonStorm247:

I notice you don't really mention sound cards. Are they generally unimportant, or already part of the motherboard?

Most motherboards come with onboard audio nowadays. Just check the motherboard specs for audio outputs to be sure.
Unless you're one of those people that buys gold plated cables, you should be fine without a dedicated audio card!
It's pretty trivial to buy and add an audio card later anyway, so it's probably worth not getting one initially, then adding it later if you can't do without.

DragonStorm247:
I notice you don't really mention sound cards. Are they generally unimportant, or already part of the motherboard?

Most people don't care about sound cards. You can get one if you want, though. There will be a noticeable difference, especially if you have good headphones. My headphones are not particularly good, but I still noticed a difference with my ASUS Xonar DGK (a cheap card). It widened the soundscape and I immediately noticed I was hearing in-game sounds that I wasn't before. First game I tried was Sleeping Dogs, I noticed the sounds of running faucets, clanging of metal and sounds from the crowds I had never noticed before. Plus, with a soundcard with Dolby Headphone, you can do simulated 7.1 surround, which is kind of fun. It's not too impressive on my mediocre headphones, but it's noticeable.

Sound cards do make a difference; the question is: will you care? There are some people who are just annoyed by the effects sound cards can add too. Plus, onboard motherboard sound has improved a lot in recent years. I think my Xonar was worth the $25 I paid; it was a very small part of my expensive computer build, so I figured, "sure, why not?"

I don't know much of anything about speakers, so you'll have to look elsewhere for info on that.

Inconspicuous Trenchcoat:

DragonStorm247:
I notice you don't really mention sound cards. Are they generally unimportant, or already part of the motherboard?

Most people don't care about sound cards. You can get one if you want, though. There will be a noticeable difference, especially if you have good headphones. My headphones are not particularly good, but I still noticed a difference with my ASUS Xonar DGK (a cheap card). It widened the soundscape and I immediately noticed I was hearing in-game sounds that I wasn't before. First game I tried was Sleeping Dogs, I noticed the sounds of running faucets, clanging of metal and sounds from the crowds I had never noticed before. Plus, with a soundcard with Dolby Headphone, you can do simulated 7.1 surround, which is kind of fun. It's not too impressive on my mediocre headphones, but it's noticeable.

Sound cards do make a difference; the question is: will you care? There are some people who are just annoyed by the effects sound cards can add too. Plus, onboard motherboard sound has improved a lot in recent years. I think my Xonar was worth the $25 I paid; it was a very small part of my expensive computer build, so I figured, "sure, why not?"

I don't know much of anything about speakers, so you'll have to look elsewhere for info on that.

So if I were to own, say, a pair of high quality noise cancelling headphones, as well as an external speakers/subwoofer set, then it might be worthwhile?

DragonStorm247:
then it might be worthwhile?

Yeah, sure. Like I said, I noticed a difference even on my modest headphones. You'll have to look elsewhere for specifics on PC audio and sound cards. My knowledge there is very low.

 

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