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Gaming Computer Build Guide - Selecting Hardware


Started by Tarantadu
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Introduction

I am aware that TESOF is not a tech forum but I had a PC hardware related conversation earlier today with a TESOF member through Ventrilo. It motivated me to write a simple beginner friendly system build "guide". I've only been a member of this community for a little over a month now and I've already encountered several computer and tech related questions and concerns. I'm just hoping that this "guide" will provide useful information to some.

The information I will provide is from my personal experience, I built several gaming systems in the past and I keep my computers up to date. If you have any questions, concerns, need any technical help or recommendations please don't hesitate to ask. I will try my best to assist you. English is my third language, and I make many mistakes when I write something like this. I will try to correct stuff when I can. If you find any mistakes please feel free to correct me.


Selecting Hardware:

I always recommend that you choose the processor and the video card first then "build" a computer around them. Building systems is not as complicated as most people think, it's just like putting legos together. The most difficult part is knowing the component's compatibilities and knowing which component works well with another. You want to avoid bottle-necking and overkill (overspending on a particular component that doesn't improve overall performance). Pre-built computers that retail for 2.5K can be built for less than half of the cost. It's even possible to spend less than $1000 for a high end system if you search for deals and sales.

Pre-built systems:

Watch out for companies that sells pre-built systems like ibuypower.com and Alienware. Not only do they sell overpriced computers, they are known for selling generic memory and power supplies along with their builds. The kind of warranty they provide is unsatisfactory, most computer part manufacturers these days offer 3, 5, 7, 10 years or lifetime warranty. As far as I know Ibuypower and Alienware only offer 1 year warranty unless you pay extra for extended warranty.

If you are looking for a quality company that sells pre-built systems, check out NCIX. They originated from Canada but recently opened a store in California. They also offer free shipping for items under certain amount of weight.


Hardware

[Image: 6B8Uqhl.png]

Processor (CPU)

These days you can find processors that has 4, 6, 8 or even up to "12 cores". For gaming you really don't need anything that has more than 4 cores. Processors with more than 4 cores were designed to be used for photo or video editing/rendering. More cores will improve benchmark scores but that's about it. A lot of current games don't even utilize more than 2 cores. It will be more cost efficient to spend more money on a video card than a flashier CPU.

Unlocked/Overclock-able processors:

If you are not going to overclock at all, you can save a little bit of cash by getting the locked (non-overclock-able) version of the CPU instead. If the prices are comparable (unlocked CPU goes on sale more often than the locked version) then you may as well get the better CPU. Overclocking is getting easier and easier these days and the performance gain is significant (+40% to +75%). It would be a shame not to take advantage of the feature.

Examples of locked and unlocked processors:

[Image: zKQCFyo.png]

Intel i5-2500 3.3GHz (locked processor) Only overclock-able through base clock.

Intel i5-2500K 3.3GHz ("K" represents unlocked multiplier) Stock multiplier for this CPU is x33 and the stock base clock is 100 MHz (100 MHz x33 = 3.3 GHz). Bump the multiplier to x50 and you have a 5 GHz beast. *Warning: Do not attempt overclocking unless you know what you are doing. There are a lot of videos and guides out there that walks you through step by step. Or just ask me, overclocking is done differently on every platform and I can tell you the basics.

Recommended brands:

Intel - quality and warranty
AMD - quality



Video/Graphics card (GPU)


This component is going to be the main performer when it comes to gaming. I really don't have much to say about this, it all depends on how much money you are willing to spend.

I recommend a GPU that have at least 2GB of VRAM (video memory). 1GB GPUs are causing bottlenecks on certain games that were released recently, Battlefield 3 was one of them. I was only using 1920x1080 resolution and I wasn't expecting the degradation in performance due to VRAM bottlenecking. If you are going for higher than 1080p resolution then you should definitely consider 2GB+.

There is nothing wrong with 1GB-1.5GB VRAM if you already own one. People think that they can just add another GPU for SLI/Xfire configuration (Multi-GPUs) to increase performance. The idea of multi-GPU is to "double" the graphics processing power but it will not increase VRAM. Multi-GPU will not take care of the VRAM bottleneck issue.

For what I've seen, I doubt TESO will need more than 1GB for max settings and high resolution. I will update this section when we find out more info about it.

Please be aware of the power supply wattage requirement before you consider high end GPUs.

Recommended brands:

EVGA - quality, warranty and customer support
Asus - quality and warranty
MSI - quality
Gigabyte - quality



Motherboard (Mobo/Board):

Make sure that the motherboard is compatible with the CPU of your choice and has the features you will need or want.

SATA/USB ports:

If you are going to be using SATA III SSD's then you may want to get a board that supports SATA III. Also check for USB 3.0 compatibility, though I'm not a big fan of USB 3.0. It's just more of a hassle that it's worth. USB 3.0 devices are becoming main stream though.

SLI or Crossfire (Xfire) compatibility:

If you are going for multi-GPU in the future make sure to consider a board that supports SLI/Xfire configuration. Are you planning on installing a sound/capture/tuner card? Does it have enough PCIE slots to support all your GPUs? Some high end GPUs are thicker than normal and will block 3 PCIE slots when installed. This is something you have to plan accordingly.

Also check the PCIE bandwidth, current high end GPUs are optimized for boards that supports PCIE 3.0 bandwidth. Regular setups would rarely populate PCIE 3.0 bandwidth though. If you are not going to be using resolutions higher than 1080p, not planning on using multi-displays and/or multi GPUs. Then you should be fine with a board that only supports PCIE 2.0. PCIE 3.0 GPUs are backwards compatible.

Motherboard layout:

[Image: dVYXrdE.png]

Recommended brands:

EVGA - quality, warranty and customer support
Asus - quality and warranty
MSI - quality
Gigabyte - quality



Case/Chassis

Material (Aluminum/metal/hard plastic/cheap plastic):

Some aluminum and metal cases could provide assistance in heat dissipation and noise suppression. Metal cases don't depreciate in value, so it could be easily sold if you keep it in good condition. Plastic cases are cheap, but they are nothing but glorified pizza boxes. Some aluminum and metal cases are going to have plastic pieces on them and it's not really a bad thing. Mine has this hard plastic top cover for example.

Cable management:

Consider a case that provides flexible cable management options. Do you care about internal aesthetics? Do you want efficient interior air flow? Spending extra 30-40 minutes on cable management could save you a lot of time later on. A cluttered interior is going to be hard to clean and will collect more dust. Restricted air flow causes overheating and noise. My system after perfecting airflow and cable management:

[Image: 2ljl.png]
[Image: 2fhf.png]

Interior air flow:

Most MMO players rarely turn their systems off. Good interior airflow doesn't only allow your system to run cool and silent, it can also keep your computer dust free.
Dust in computers can degrade it's performance, heat sinks covered in dust will make your system run slower, hotter and louder because the fans will ramp up to max RPM in attempt to cool down your system. When your hardware reaches the heat threshold the safety feature will kick in and your hardware(s) will throttle down or your PC will crash just to prevent your system from melting or burning up.

Positive and negative air pressure:

Most cases are designed to provide negative air pressure. This means that the exhaust fan pushes more air out than the intake fans can pull in. This creates a vacuum effect. This configuration will effectively cool your system but the dust will get sucked in between the seams and unfiltered exterior openings throughout your case. This will cause the dust to enter your PC. You will just have to clean the interior regularly.

My case of choice provides the positive air pressure configuration. This means the intake fans pulls more air into the case than the exhaust fans can push out. This creates a balloon effect, unlike the vacuum effect the excess air will try to escape from the seams and unfiltered exterior openings throughout the case. This will prevent the dust from getting in as long as all of the intake fans are filtered. You will need to clean the filters every now and then (only takes about 30 seconds to clean). Premium cases are expensive but they pay for themselves in the long run because you will not have to purchase canned air as often, or if you get it right you wouldn't even need any at all.


Negative (left) and positive (right) air pressure configurations:
Legend: Filter Intake Airflow Exhaust

[Image: XIDYV71.png][Image: iTZu15m.png]

Three 180mm filtered intake fans pulls more than enough air to create an internal positive air pressure.

Clearance:

Make sure that the case has enough interior room for your gigantic CPU cooler or water-cooling unit that you may want to install later on. Also some premium motherboards (E-ATX) require bigger or longer cases. So plan accordingly.

Aesthetics:

Is it important to you? Do you want an elegant/professional looking case or do you want something that is considered wild/radical? Case lighting maybe?

Side panel windows:

Do you want a side panel window so you can show it off to your friends? Or just simply to admire your work?

Recommended brands:

Silverstone - quality and warranty
Corsrair - quality, warranty and customer support
Lian Li - quality
Antec - quality and warranty
Cooler Master - quality
Thermaltake - quality



Memory (RAM/DIMM)

You really don't need more than 8GB of RAM for gaming. Going over 8GB will not improve gaming performance. Companies like ibuypower and Alienware likes to advertise how big the RAM is but they leave out the speed. "32GB DDR3 Quad-channel" doesn't really tell me much, did a little researched and I found out that they were trying to sell a slow 1333mhz generic unbranded RAM.

An 8GB with 2133 MHz outperforms a 32GB 1333 MHz kit. Other than the speed you also want to know the RAM's timings, the lower/tighter the timings are the faster your memory modules will respond.

For example; 1866 MHz 7-7-7-21 could be faster than 2133 MHz with 11-11-11-27 timings. Though memory doesn't really impact gaming as much as long as you are running a dedicated video card. RAM performance will only make a difference when you are running 4GB or lower.

Recommended brands:

Corsair - quality, warranty and customer support
G. Skill - quality and warranty
Crucial - quality and warranty
Samsung - quality and warranty
OCZ - quality
AMD - quality



Power supply(PSU)

If you are going for a high end build, do yourself a favor and please PLEASE! Do not skimp on the PSU. Do you want to prevent your system from blowing up? Or prevent it from under-performing? Please read.

80 plus efficiency certified:

I don't care how big of a wattage you have in your PSU, if it's not 80 plus efficient the power supply is capable of ruining your entire system or decrease its longevity. 80 plus efficient PSUs are labeled with 80 plus certified bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Read the description or look for this logo:

[Image: 5bMwJpm.jpg]

Wattage:

Before considering a high end video card, make sure that you are willing to spend money on a quality PSU because they are not cheap. Also make sure to research the recommended wattage requirement to run your GPU(s). 80 plus certified 650 watts PSU is what I would recommend for single GPU systems. Anything over 850w is going to be expensive but you will not need them unless you are going for multi-GPU.

Full-modular vs. Semi-modular vs. Non-modular design:

Full modular are expensive but it makes cable management easeir. If you like challenge, get the semi-modular, if you don't mind clutter and restricted airflow then get the non-modular. I've done excellent cable management on non-modular PSUs systems before but it was difficult.

My old 2011 system that had a semi-modular PSU (left) and an example of a cluttered build (right):

[Image: 3ZqksKC.jpg][Image: OG4yoGP.jpg]



Recommended brands:

Corsair - quality, warranty and customer support
Seasonic - quality and warranty
Antec - quality and warranty
EVGA - quality, warranty and customer support



Storage

Solid State Drive (SSD):

These are cheaper nowadays, you should get one and be happy. I would recommend getting a 120GB-240GB SSD for your operating system and favorite games. And install a secondary HDD other programs and to store your files, movies and pictures.

Hard drive (HDD):

If SSD is not an option then just get a hard drive that is designed for running an operating system. The 5400RPM HDDs are designed for media storage. 7200RPM with 6MB Cache is good enough for the OS. SATA III for HDD is a gimmick because only SSD can cap SATA II speeds. A regular HDD will not even populate SATA II speed limit cap.

Myths:

"SSDs are less reliable that HDD" Not true, SSD's don't have any moving parts, most HDD failure is caused by the moving parts or from an impact that damages the moving parts.
"SSDs are only good for booting up" Again not true, some applications doesn't require much load times so don't waste your SSD space for these and install them on a separate hard drive. Some programs like Adobe Photoshop takes ages to load but the same program loads within 2 seconds if its installed on a SSD.

SSDs are great for games that loads often like Skyrim, I made a video demonstration a year ago to show how fast Skyrim loads on SSD:





I had to move Battlefield 3 from my SSD to my HDD because the game only loads every 30-60 minutes.

If you are in a budget, SSD should be one of the last components you should consider. I would spend more on a video card before considering an SSD. A fair warning though, once you go SSD, you will never go back to a spinning platter.

Recommended brands:

HDD:
Western Digital - quality and warranty
Samsung - quality and warranty

SSD:
Intel - quality and warranty
Corsair - quality, warranty and customer support
Samsung - quality and warranty
Crucial - quality and warranty
OZC - quality




To be continued:
Cooling (air/water)
Cable management
Accessories
Peripherals
Recommendations
Warranty
This post was last modified: March 3rd 2013, 07:25 PM by Tarantadu
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Post #38198
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10 thumbs up for the detailed topic.


Please use the Help & Feedback section if you need help. This will help others that may have the same questions and you will receive a faster response.
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Post #38449
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Incredible Tarantadu. I'll favorite this in my Tech folder. Some of this only kind of made sense in vent (computer jargon and crazy mathwise), but your guide is crystal clear. Now I gotchu, where big numbers isn't always the best way to build.

My recommendation on your recommendations (lol) is a setup that would be able to MMO's on the best graphics.


"I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not." -Kurt Cobain
"Failure, in my book, is someone who lives in the safety of their laptop taking shots at those who actually achieved what they have been unable to do." -Eli Roth
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Post #38462
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nice info @Tarantadu, I know this will help a lot of ppl!


Daggerfall Covenant theme Song, Share with everyone and all will know our greatness!


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Post #38534
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Great thread! I, sure this will help a lot of people including myself. I'm gonna have to get with you in the short future when I upgrade my pc. :)
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Post #38553
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Thanks everyone! I'm glad to help.

@Tecca I just wish I spent more time with it before posting. I did not intend to write a "guide" this long, my intentions were to post this on the "PC specs" thread but it had gotten too long before I realized it. Plus there were specifics that I didn't want to leave out especially for first time builders/buyers.

@Seamus I'm working on recommendations right now, it's going to range from mid/high end and maybe even extreme builds. I just needed more information on the items retail and sales prices because this will be huge factor in decision making.

@Lobsel I'd be happy if its useful to one member!

@Raak just let me know, I may even be able to help you find deals on the web. The best way to save money is to purchase one item at a time. Because PC parts go on sale every now and then.

I edited the post and added some visual aids to make it a bit easier to understand, I will be adding more soon.
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Post #38561
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Happy to see some detailed info on this. I have been wanting to build my own for a while but I didn't know where to start. Thanks!


Zeymah Of The Bromlokiir.Voth Ahkrin!
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Post #38654
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I usually follow this site. The guy keeps things up-to-date rather well and his listing/recommendations provide a lot of options.

http://www.hardware-revolution.com/
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Post #39298
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Wondering if it is worth it to upgrade from a (Thermaltake) 500w PSU to this Centrecom
As I believe the one I have right now is causing me to have some overheating issues.


Specs -

i5 3570k 3.6ghz
HD7850
12GB RAM
1TB HDD
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Post #39317
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(February 13th 2013, 07:43 PM)Nemso Wrote: Wondering if it is worth it to upgrade from a (Thermaltake) 500w PSU to this Centrecom
As I believe the one I have right now is causing me to have some overheating issues.


Specs -

i5 3570k 3.6ghz
HD7850
12GB RAM
1TB HDD

The best <1000w PSU in the market is on sale right now, it's the cheapest I've seen. For $10 more, you can get a fully modular Seasonic X-850. I'm getting one myself just for future builds. I even consider replacing my AX1200 with this PSU.

Ends today so better hurry. It may even go out of stock because the deal made it to slickdeals.net front page.

Seasonic X-850
- Seasonic is the best PSU manufacturer
- Full modular
- All black cables
- 80 plus gold
- 5 year warranty

Link:

Seasonic X-850 Fully Modular PSU $109.99 AR

$40 off w/ promo code EMCXVWV28, ends 2/13
This post was last modified: February 13th 2013, 08:08 PM by Tarantadu
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Post #39327
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(February 13th 2013, 08:04 PM)Tarantadu Wrote:
(February 13th 2013, 07:43 PM)Nemso Wrote: Wondering if it is worth it to upgrade from a (Thermaltake) 500w PSU to this Centrecom
As I believe the one I have right now is causing me to have some overheating issues.


Specs -

i5 3570k 3.6ghz
HD7850
12GB RAM
1TB HDD

The best <1000w PSU in the market is on sale right now, it's the cheapest I've seen. For $10 more, you can get a fully modular Seasonic X-850. I'm getting one myself just for future builds. I even consider replacing my AX1200 with this PSU.

Ends today so better hurry. It may even go out of stock because the deal made it to slickdeals.net front page.

Seasonic X-850
- Seasonic is the best PSU manufacturer
- Full modular
- All black cables
- 80 plus gold
- 5 year warranty

Link:

Seasonic X-850 Fully Modular PSU $109.99 AR

$40 off w/ promo code EMCXVWV28, ends 2/13

Too bad Newegg doesn't ship here lol.
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Post #39506
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I thought about asking for your location but you were offline.
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Post #39517
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Im definitely going to use this guide. Probably won't begin to assemble until July or August. But I do plan on utilizing 3 monitors. So hopefully you're still around to answer a couple questions I may have. :)
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Post #39523
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(February 13th 2013, 08:25 PM)Nemso Wrote:
(February 13th 2013, 08:04 PM)Tarantadu Wrote:
(February 13th 2013, 07:43 PM)Nemso Wrote: Wondering if it is worth it to upgrade from a (Thermaltake) 500w PSU to this Centrecom
As I believe the one I have right now is causing me to have some overheating issues.


Specs -

i5 3570k 3.6ghz
HD7850
12GB RAM
1TB HDD

The best <1000w PSU in the market is on sale right now, it's the cheapest I've seen. For $10 more, you can get a fully modular Seasonic X-850. I'm getting one myself just for future builds. I even consider replacing my AX1200 with this PSU.

Ends today so better hurry. It may even go out of stock because the deal made it to slickdeals.net front page.

Seasonic X-850
- Seasonic is the best PSU manufacturer
- Full modular
- All black cables
- 80 plus gold
- 5 year warranty

Link:

Seasonic X-850 Fully Modular PSU $109.99 AR

$40 off w/ promo code EMCXVWV28, ends 2/13

Too bad Newegg doesn't ship here lol.

You still should definitely upgrade, a 500w PSU really isn't a lot for a gaming system, and not only will it have a chance of solving your overheating issues, but it will also give you more opportunity to upgrade in the future. It's a win win situation if you have the money.


For The Dominion!
Bosmer!
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Post #39784
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This is the first time I've ever seen a PSU installed at the bottom of the case, it looks really perculiar to me, but awesome at the same time!
This post was last modified: February 16th 2013, 12:30 PM by Stokie1996


For The Dominion!
Bosmer!
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