Looking to buy my first PC - help a total noob out

As the title suggests, I'm looking to buy my first PC and obviously I want to be able to game on it. Until now I've been getting by with my (definitely not designed for gaming) laptop, which actually performed much better than expected, but obviously I'm looking for a decent step up.

My budget is up to £500, so obviously I'm not expecting miracles, just something that can competently run modern titles. I don't care too much about graphics right now (after the laptop, anything above the lowest settings will seem mindblowing :P Plus I can always upgrade later ), but it is going to be my only gaming device for a while. It's also crucially important that I'm able to play Dragon Age Inquisition...

I know practically nothing about specific graphics cards, processors etc, and while I'd love to build my own PC one day when I know more, I'm just not in a position to do so right now, so please don't suggest that. I'd appreciate any basic explanations about what makes certain parts better than others though.

So, yeah... help a gal out? Any suggestions? Any vague idea what the best I can expect for my money is? Should I be looking at machines specifically marketed as "gaming PCs", or do they just charge extra for flashy lights and logos? Tell me what to do!

Eamar:
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I won't recommend pre builts at all. Try to find a shop which does customized builds.

Take a look at the great tier in logical increments, and specify your machine according to that.

Check this thread for basic info on the components.

I would be looking for something like this

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoostorm-7877-0095-Premium-i5-3330-Windows/dp/B006ZINMP6/ref=sr_1_2?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1403854230&sr=1-2

and then buying a r9 270x graphics card and then fitting it.

albino boo:
I would be looking for something like this

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoostorm-7877-0095-Premium-i5-3330-Windows/dp/B006ZINMP6/ref=sr_1_2?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1403854230&sr=1-2

and then buying a r9 270x graphics card and then fitting it.

And then having it explode within 3 weeks of use, because of the shitty power supply :P

AWAR:

albino boo:
I would be looking for something like this

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoostorm-7877-0095-Premium-i5-3330-Windows/dp/B006ZINMP6/ref=sr_1_2?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1403854230&sr=1-2

and then buying a r9 270x graphics card and then fitting it.

And then having it explode within 3 weeks of use, because of the shitty power supply :P

You have made your opinions clear but other people have different ideas to you and they are allowed to express them. Going to custom shop will cost more money for the same spec. Furthermore the pc in question has a 1 year return to base warranty.

albino boo:
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I don't get how my reply disallows people to express their ideas. You can have as many different ideas as you'd like, that doesn't necesserily make them right, at least in my mind.

I don't really think it's going to cost more for a custom specced build. Furthermore the 1 year warranty (which isn't that great to be honest) will be probably void if you go add in a graphics card on your own. Hell, most pre-builts have a warranty seal on the case so that you can't even as much as peek inside without voiding your warranty.

AWAR:

albino boo:
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I don't get how my reply disallows people to express their ideas. You can have as many different ideas as you'd like, that doesn't necesserily make them right, at least in my mind.

I don't really think it's going to cost more for a custom specced build. Furthermore the 1 year warranty (which isn't that great to be honest) will be probably void if you go add in a graphics card on your own. Hell, most pre-builts have a warranty seal on the case so that you can't even as much as peek inside without voiding your warranty.

Because you only think your opinion is right and never give people the option to spend there money on how they wish. You are fixed in your ideas of what is good and what is bad and never bend them to what the person asking advice is looking for. Anytime someone ask about buying a i7, you say buy an i5. Anytime anyone asks about per built you say buy a custom build. Your give your opinion on what they should do but not advice on what they asked. Emmar asked for advice on buying a pre built system and I have given it.

albino boo:
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As a base computer, the http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoostorm-7877-0095-Premium-i5-3330-Windows/dp/B006ZINMP6/ref=sr_1_2?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1403854230&sr=1-2 would be ok. I did something similar for my last PC. The power supply will likely need to be replaced with something better if you want a decent gaming graphics card though. You may also have to be careful about getting a card too big for the tower. Pre-builds like those don't tend to be very generous with internal space a lot of the time. Sadly, these modifications will likely void the warranty.

I'm not sure if they deliver to the UK, but it might be worth considering: https://www.facebook.com/nugencomputers/app_251458316228

I have been buying a few computers from him for various people and I have had no issues with them. They also offer additional upgrades that are not listed if you want, that are rather inexpensive.

AWAR:
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albino boo:
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Aramis Night:
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Thank you all for the replies. I've found somewhere that does custom builds for an acceptable price, so now I'd really appreciate some advice about choosing parts. I'm aware that there are sites available to figure this stuff out, but I'd welcome advice from actual human beings with experience in this area. What are a few graphics cards/CPUs/power supplies that would suit my needs (running modern games nicely, but no need to run everything on ultra or anything like that)? Remember I know nothing, so treat me like I'm five :P

EDIT: Urgh, managed to screw up the quotes, apologies.

I'll attempt a rough run down. I would go into more detail but since I can't see what your option are, these will be rough guidelines.

Gpu: This will largely depend on if your going with Nvidia or Radeon. Typically Radeon tends to be cheaper while NVidia has better driver support, though I have never personally ran across any such issues with a Radeon card. If you are going with a Nvidia option: don't settle for anything that has a 5 or lower in the 2nd digit of the card number. The card numbers usually go something like Nvidia GTX ###. The middle number should be at least a 6, Higher is better. The first # is the generation number. Higher is better there as well, but not as important as the 2nd #. Current generation is 7. Closer to 7 for the first # the better. Closer to 9 for the 2nd #, the better also.

If you go with Radeon instead the card numbers are either Radeon HD #### or Radeon R(9 or 7) 2##(maybe X). If the card is an HD ####, the 2nd and 3rd #'s are the most important. Do not settle for less than 77 for the middle digits. The first # is the generation. The closer to 7, the better. If the card is a R series card, the middle # is the important one(the one after the 2). Do not settle for less than a 6. If the numbers have an X at the end, that implies it is slightly better than the non-X version.

Also different GPU manufactures often make better version's of the same card then other company's. I recommend Asus, EVGA, XFX, or Sapphire.

Cpu: Now the thing to consider is number of cores and processing speed per core. There are other factors to consider as well, but I'm trying to keep this rough. Essentially, more is better, but not always necessary. As for speeds, I would recommend a min of 2.8 gigs per core. But more is better. If you have to make a choice between number of cores and core speed, I would go with core speed. Most programs have a limit on utilized cores. AMD tends to be cheaper, Intel is pricier but is usually preferred by most.

Psu: Brand happens to matter a lot here. Avoid generic brands. They will claim a wattage rating far higher than they will actually provide. Which brings us to wattage. Seeing as how you are not likely to be setting up dual GPU's in your tower and just want a basic game machine, I would go with a 650 watt. That amount of wattage will allow you to plug pretty much any single GPU into your tower and not have to worry about running out of juice with whatever peripherals you decide to use. You could go higher if you want, but it shouldn't be necessary to go beyond 650 watts unless you are putting more than one GPU or several hard drives into your tower.

Don't buy a prebuilt.

Don't buy an i7 or one of AMDs 8 cores. They're not worth it for gaming. Hyperthreading in particular is literally useless for gamers. If you really, really want more than 4 cores AMD has some decent hexacores in their FX line.

Personally I'd go with an AMD processor. Theres an old saying: you get 80% of the performance for 60% of the price (compared to Intel).

I'd go with Radeon for the GPU as well - they generally run hotter and Catalyst can be terrible but Nvidia is so darn expensive when you're on a budget. And fuck, even if you had unlimited money I'd go with the 295x2 anyway. Whether you want to go with a HD---- or an R--- is more tricky really. The HD series cards are cheaper and still do very well, they aren't as future proof though.

There are some decent, relatively cheap PSUs out there but I recommend you check them out on this site first: http://www.jonnyguru.com/index.php . Having a terrible PSU is pretty fatal - beside being inefficient and unstable, it has the potential to literally zap every part in your PC beyond repair with one bang. Do NOT buy the MadeInChina 450W XXX EXPLOSIONS edition - you'll regret it.

Aramis Night:
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Thank you so much, that's exactly what I was looking for :)

SmashLovesTitanQuest:
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Thank you (especially for the link). All duly noted.

With any luck I'll be placing my order tonight. Fingers crossed!

Eamar:
Thank you (especially for the link). All duly noted.

With any luck I'll be placing my order tonight. Fingers crossed!

Feel free to post the parts you decide to order here first, maybe someone will have suggestions on what you can change.

Besides, I'm curious.

Ok, so here's what I'm thinking at the moment based on advice from here, from friends who've recently built PCs at around my budget, and my own tentative research. Nothing's ordered yet, so it's still flexible if I've messed up somewhere:

CD: 24X Double Layer Dual Format DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW DRIVE

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.50 GHz Six-Core AM3+ CPU 6MB L2 Cache & Turbo Core Technology

FAN: Cooler Master Seidon 120M Liquid Cooling System 120MM Radiator (AMD)

HDD: 1TB SATA-III 6.0Gb/s Cache 7200RPM Hard Drive

MEMORY:8GB (2x4GB) DDR3/1600mhz Dual Channel Memory (Corsair XMS3 w/Heat Spreader)

MOTHERBOARD: Gigabyte 78LMT-USB3 AMD 760G Chipset DDR3 Socket AM3+ Micro ATX Mainboard w/ 4 RAM slot, 7.1 Audio, GbLAN, USB3.0, SATA-II, 1 PCIe X16, 1 PCIe X1, & 1 PCI

POWER SUPPLY: Cooler Master B600 B-Series Gaming Power Supply

VIDEO: AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB 16X PCIe Video Card (I know it's not as good as some suggested here, but as far as I can tell it should be ok for my purposes for now)

OS: Windows 7, unless anyone can tell me why I really need Windows 8(.1)

As far as peripherals go, I'm going to save money by using a monitor I was already using as a second screen for my laptop and just buying any old cheap keyboard and speakers off Amazon, with the intention of upgrading/adding in additional screens etc at a later date.

All that plus labour costs etc (remember I'm having it custom built, still too scared to gamble the money on myself at the moment) comes in a bit over my initial budget, but my parents have very kindly offered to help out since I recently saved them a bunch of money fixing their and my sister's various electronics (despite not knowing much about PC hardware, this basically applies to me :P )

Eamar:
Ok, so here's what I'm thinking at the moment based on advice from here, from friends who've recently built PCs at around my budget, and my own tentative research. Nothing's ordered yet, so it's still flexible if I've messed up somewhere:

CD: 24X Double Layer Dual Format DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW DRIVE

CPU: AMD FX-6300 3.50 GHz Six-Core AM3+ CPU 6MB L2 Cache & Turbo Core Technology

FAN: Cooler Master Seidon 120M Liquid Cooling System 120MM Radiator (AMD)

HDD: 1TB SATA-III 6.0Gb/s Cache 7200RPM Hard Drive

MEMORY:8GB (2x4GB) DDR3/1600mhz Dual Channel Memory (Corsair XMS3 w/Heat Spreader)

MOTHERBOARD: Gigabyte 78LMT-USB3 AMD 760G Chipset DDR3 Socket AM3+ Micro ATX Mainboard w/ 4 RAM slot, 7.1 Audio, GbLAN, USB3.0, SATA-II, 1 PCIe X16, 1 PCIe X1, & 1 PCI

POWER SUPPLY: Cooler Master B600 B-Series Gaming Power Supply

VIDEO: AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB 16X PCIe Video Card (I know it's not as good as some suggested here, but as far as I can tell it should be ok for my purposes for now)

OS: Windows 7, unless anyone can tell me why I really need Windows 8(.1)

As far as peripherals go, I'm going to save money by using a monitor I was already using as a second screen for my laptop and just buying any old cheap keyboard and speakers off Amazon, with the intention of upgrading/adding in additional screens etc at a later date.

All that plus labour costs etc (remember I'm having it custom built, still too scared to gamble the money on myself at the moment) comes in a bit over my initial budget, but my parents have very kindly offered to help out since I recently saved them a bunch of money fixing their and my sister's various electronics (despite not knowing much about PC hardware, this basically applies to me :P )

Doesn't look too bad actually. It seems like you did leave room for possible future upgrades should they become necessary. Your PSU should be able to support a GPU upgrade in the future and you still have a couple empty ram slots should you ever need more ram. We'll done. And smart move on getting Windows 7. Just make sure it is a 64 bit version rather then the 32 bit one. The 32 bit version of windows wont be able to utilize all of your systems ram.

AWAR:
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albino boo:
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Aramis Night:
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SmashLovesTitanQuest:
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.

I was watching this video regarding installation of the Cooler Master Seidon 120M, this video:


And I couldn't help but notice how the thermal paste was applied. I had always seen/read about people spreading the paste evenly over the CPU using a credit card or something, whereas this guy just puts a tiny bit in the center and relies on the tightening process to spread the paste out.

Is it a matter of personal preference or is there really a difference?

Frezzato:

AWAR:
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albino boo:
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Aramis Night:
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SmashLovesTitanQuest:
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.

I was watching this video regarding installation of the Cooler Master Seidon 120M, this video:


And I couldn't help but notice how the thermal paste was applied. I had always seen/read about people spreading the paste evenly over the CPU using a credit card or something, whereas this guy just puts a tiny bit in the center and relies on the tightening process to spread the paste out.

Is it a matter of personal preference or is there really a difference?

I'm going to side with preference. As long as the person doing the tightening down places the whole thing down flat, that seems to works fine. If the person doesn't trust themselves to do that when laying down the cpu or if they think they might wind up using too much or too little thermal paste, spreading it out is a good idea. If you have never worked with thermal paste before, i would probably favor spreading it out yourself. If you have experience and understand its consistency and wont leave too much or too little a drop, the drop method works fine.

Frezzato:

Is it a matter of personal preference or is there really a difference?

A little bit of both. Generally there is little difference in case of temps, but the drop method generally works a bit better. You go with whatever method you feel most comfortable with, just be warned that you should never spread the paste with your finger. Use a card instead.

AWAR:
You go with whatever method you feel most comfortable with, just be warned that you should never spread the paste with your finger.

I have actually seen several reviews that show that using your finger (in a glove without powder on it, like say nitril ones) is actually the best option (I've always done card if it wasn't already pre-applied).

A word on prebuilt: They're seldom built with consideration to cooling, upgrading or overall power in mind. In my experience, they're also more expensive than just building your own setup altogether with parts from reasonably cheap websites. You can build them completely to your liking, and if you don't need too much upgrading potential (that is, more than a GPU and a couple of hard drives), you can get by with a nifty m-ATX set up.

(There was actually more to this post, but I found that it was irrelevant since it was already covered).

 

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