What goes in a good PC these days?
March 31, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Building a computer: help me put together a shopping list.

I know this question has been asked a lot before, but not recently, and there's been a whole bunch of 'new' things out. I've got a friend who's willing to help me put it together, but honestly, I don't even know where to start, what parts to get, and so on.

I'd rather put one together due to the fact that I live in Japan, and I'd rather not have to deal with an English OS in a store bought PC. Specialty shops do sell PCs in English, but at a premium. I figure if I put it together myself, it will save me money and give me what I want.

So, what do I want? I want (after years of laptop/onboard graphics) to actually play games again. Steam, GTA, that sort of thing. Not Crysis or whatever. I do my FPS on the PS3 (heretic, I know). I'd like HDMI out, and enough juice to play HD quality video with no issues. I also do a lot of re-encoding video to play nicely with my iPod, which makes my laptop whistle like crazy. I'd like a quiet, but fan driven computer (I'd feel silly with a liquid cooled computer, it'd be like using a riding mower on my 10 square meter lawn). And, as much as possible, I'd like it to be future proofed, in that I'll still be able to use it several years down the line.

I'm thinking of the i7, definitely want 64bit, will likely install Windows 7. I'd like to know about motherboards, power supplies, graphics cards, memory (types). I know this is a lot, but if you can help, or point me to where I should be looking, I'd greatly appreciate it.
posted by Ghidorah to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are major sites devoted solely to answering this question. Try the "build your own" category at Tom's Hardware.
posted by ecurtz at 9:30 AM on March 31, 2010

Best answer: My go to site for shopping for computer parts is www.newegg.com. Here is a direct link to their DIY PC combo deals. While I have no idea if they ship to Japan, they do have a good range in prices, and you can basically figure out what you want to spend, then look at their combos, and then purchase the individual parts yourself (since all the items in each individual combo won't have compatibility issues). Be careful if you start swapping out parts from other combos, though, just make sure you are using compatible parts.
posted by Grither at 10:09 AM on March 31, 2010

Best answer: Start off browsing the Newegg bundles to get a good idea of price ranges.

Currently, I like Gigabyte brand motherboards the most.
I think your dollar value will be best spent on a an AMD/ATI rig, but Intel processors are still king – and nVidia drivers are a pleasure to work with and update in comparison to the shite that ATI dumps out (as far as Windows PCs are concerned).
If you go with AMD/ATI, make sure your board is AM3 and DDR3 compatible (this will allow you to upgrade the processor and/or RAM at least once a few years down the road).

Right now the ATI 5770 PCI-E cards are a pretty great value for gaming. If you really want to go high-end for a consumer gaming ring, a pair of ATI 5800 series cards will get you there – but at an insane price. I’d stick with a single or dual 5770 card and spend money on a triple display mount and three LCD displays

As always, your primary storage (hard drives) will be the bottleneck, and if you hate game load times, consider buying at least two SATA 3 hard drives and striping them (RAID 0) – this is where you can dump your OS and applications. If you do this, make sure that you keep your actual data (documents, pictures, other files, etc) on another hard drive that is not part of the stripe array, or on a NAS box running RAID 1, 5 or 10. Almost every retail board out there has raid built in, and it’s faster than single drives – but an add-in raid card is much faster *and* much easier to use if you plan on loading Linux as well.

In addition to a regular DVD burner, cruise the adds and wait for a blu-ray optical drive to go on sale for ~$50-60.

A lot of this may sound (and be) overkill for your system since you play your FPS games on a console (heretic indeed!), however, if you spend the money now, you’ll avoid a lot of upgrades down the road and have a computer that can play FPS games now, and non-FPS games well into the future. Also, remember that non-FPS games are becoming more demanding as well. I spent about $1500 on a well kitted-out system in late 2006 and I can still play damn near every FPS I want at 1920x1200, with all the settings maxed (excluding Crysis and Serious Sam HD).

Anyway, your question is missing a budget :)
posted by terpia at 10:12 AM on March 31, 2010

Best answer: This thread is where I found most of the components for the P.C. I built a few months back. Check the first (and second, wiki) post as well as the most recent couple of pages. Generally one or more seasoned users of the thread will constantly post "builds" at different price ranges and with different uses in mind (gaming, video, etc). I found one of the recommended builds within my budget that was geared toward my use and upgraded/downgraded the components as I felt would be necessary.

I ended up with a great general-use/media system with a 24" monitor for around $500. 2+ GHz, 1TB hard drive, 4GB ram, etc.
posted by jckll at 10:25 AM on March 31, 2010

Can you buy a pre-assembled computer and just load an english-language OS on it? That seems a lot less work and risk, considering that if you get a bad part it is a pain to figure out which it is.
posted by procrastination at 10:28 AM on March 31, 2010

I'll second Terpia's advice. Intel's got the performance edge, but their CPUs/Motherboards are considerably more expensive than AMD's top-of-the-line offerings.

As always, buying top-of-the-line graphics hardware is a huge waste of money. You'd be better off buying a $100 video card every year for 3 years than you would be buying a $300, and keeping it around for 3 years.

You'll also likely find that the $99 card you purchased is still perfectly adequate 3 years from now.

RAID0 does make things faster, but in all seriousness isn't necessary. Again, echoing Terpia: On-board controllers are decently fast, though you'll need an add-in card to realize any significant performance gain. Also note that RAID0 doubles your chances for a catastrophic drive failure.

If you find the storage bottleneck to be truly unbearable, buy a 10,000 RPM hard drive to use as your boot/swap space, and load everything else onto a normal 1Tb drive. Oh, and do backups!
posted by schmod at 11:27 AM on March 31, 2010

Response by poster: terpia, thanks. Forgot about the budget. About 100,000 yen, or around $950. As for the pre-assembled, most computer stores focus on laptops here, and decent desktops are kind of scarce.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:40 PM on March 31, 2010

Well, I didn't leave much room for a case or LCD display(s), but here's my ten-minutes-on-newegg build. The formatting sucks, but I have to get back to work now...










posted by terpia at 4:55 PM on March 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, terpia. I guess one of the things plagueing me is trying to figure out which parts go with which parts. Like, say, which motherboard works with which processor, and then which memory do I use, and which graphics card? It's a bit confusing for me. The system you put together looks pretty nice though. I'll try to figure it out, and see what happens.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:30 PM on April 1, 2010

As for where to buy, I've heard good things about the online retailers Tsukumo and Dospara. Obviously Akihabara is also an option, especially for used parts, though you'll find huge variations in prices.
posted by armage at 10:24 PM on April 6, 2010

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