I Can't Wait to Construct Additional Pylons
May 10, 2010 8:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to buy a new desktop computer. My budget is up to $1,000. My basic requirement is that it must play Starcraft 2 on high settings at 60fps. Where do I start reading / from where do you recommend I buy? How do I learn to distinguish between the seemingly millions of similarly named video cards, ram configurations, Phenoms and i7s, and more importantly how I can maximize the gaming bang for my buck? A friend of mine said that at my price point, I'm best to go with a Dell, getting Dell to install a better video card if possible?

If it's worth the time/benefit investment, I am willing to research, get my hands dirty, and recruit some of my techie friends. (My existing hardware experience = upgrading the ram in my laptop.)

Would like for the $1000 to include monitor -- thinking that I will likely be getting a gently used 22" as I hear there are some good deals to be had. Also, think I can get Windows 7 from my school.

Thanks all!
posted by demagogue to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
You're not going to get a Dell for $1000 that has a good gaming video adapter. Your best bet is to build your own computer and put more of the budget towards a fast graphics card and a motherboard that can support the card.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:12 PM on May 10, 2010

Best answer: A Dell?

Pffft. That person is not your friend. If they were your friend, they would tell you to build your own, and you could meet or beat the system spec needed by your game at a fraction of your budget.

Here is a video card that kills the min spec. It's $130.

Here is a motherboard that would accommodate that card. It's $97.

Stick this CPU in it. It's $168.

Stick this RAM in it. $120.

There, we're barely over $500, and with the HDD and CD/DVD of your choice, you've got a shiny new computer that is forty times better than anything Dell will sell you.
posted by contessa at 9:13 PM on May 10, 2010 [10 favorites]

Wait, here's another video card. Twice the video RAM for only $24 more.
posted by contessa at 9:26 PM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome, I love MeFi. Thanks for the tips so far!
posted by demagogue at 9:38 PM on May 10, 2010

Best answer: Over and over, I answer this kind of question with:

The Ars System Guide, Oct 2009 edition

Sample quote:

"A Radeon HD 5850 or 5870 is an obvious choice for the Hot Rod. NVIDIA simply does not have anything that competes on a one-to-one GPU level; the Radeon HD 5870 is competitive in many games with the dual-GPU Radeon 4870 X2 and Geforce GTX 295 (!). The slower Radeon 5850 gives the Geforce GTX 285 a run for its money as well. That's impressive, and it makes looking at previous-generation video cards (such as the Radeon HD 4890 OC and Geforce GTX 275) almost silly in the Hot Rod, especially given the aggressive pricing of the Radeon HD 5850."

And so forth. Go read it.
posted by intermod at 9:41 PM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Build your own.

Tom's Hardware - Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2010 is worth a read.

Also, StarCraft II Beta: Game Performance Analyzed might be helpful.

Get a good PSU (power supply unit), and any decent case.

Be sure to check reviews at Newegg.
posted by pants tent at 9:43 PM on May 10, 2010

Best answer: Best Of Tom’s Hardware: How To Build A PC
posted by pants tent at 9:48 PM on May 10, 2010

I found this community to be very helpful when I undertook building my own PC for the first time a couple years ago. Building the PC was a fun learning experience, and it runs great to this day.
posted by Ryogen at 10:06 PM on May 10, 2010

If this page of pants tent's link is to be believed, you'll probably want at least an ATI 5850 if you're gaming at 1920x1200. It also looks like holy crap this thing eats CPUs for breakfast! Basically, with AMD's fastest processor as of two weeks ago, you won't be able to get very high frame rates on Ultra.

Basically, there are currently three new CPU platforms on the market: Intel has the expensive LGA1366, with the core i7-9XX CPUs; by overclocking the lowest CPU of the bunch, Tom's was able to reach 52 fps in the Beta.

AMD has the AM3; an overclocked Phenom x4, which was the fastest CPU on the platform until recently, can only make it to 43 fps. The performance of the new 6 core dealies remains to be measured.

What also remains to be seen is the performance of Intel's LGA1156 processors, like the i5-750 and the i7-860.

But of course, this is just a beta from a few months ago; the performance of the final release might be very different. You might want to wait until the benchmarks on the final version are out to pull the trigger.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:13 PM on May 10, 2010

If I were buying a computer to play StarCraft 2, and I wanted to build today, on a budget, I'd probably build something like what I already have, but I'd get an ATI Radeon 5850 with a newer motherboard that supports USB 3. To save money, I might go with a cheaper case+power supply combo (but not that much cheaper) and get a lower capacity hard drive. If I were in the US and there was a Microcenter near me, I'd consider getting an i7-860 through the deal they offer in-store (obviously, their goal if to get you to buy more stuff from them once you're in there).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:35 PM on May 10, 2010

Last place I went to build a desk-top from scratch I got a top-of-the-line rig for about half of what a new Dell would have cost. The guys were going to charge me the princely sum of 20 USD to actually put the components together for me while I waited, but I had a friend do it for me.

Honestly, there's no reason to buy a desk-top that you don't put together yourself or with some assistance. Fuck Dell.
posted by bardic at 1:37 AM on May 11, 2010

If it's worth the time/benefit investment, I am willing to research, get my hands dirty, and recruit some of my techie friends.

Then I would suggest following the above posters' advice and doing that. My reasoning, from a non-hardware-geek perspective:

My last three desktop PCs have been Dells. In each case I was too impatient and lazy to pursue the DIY route. I paid for it not just in money, but in the fact that two of those three Dells had woefully lacking video cards (and at the time they were the best I could get-- both nVidias FWIW), and all three had built-in disc "burners" that could never be made to burn anything; they were/are only good for playing discs.
posted by AugieAugustus at 4:08 AM on May 11, 2010

Well make sure where your getting the parts from has a good replacement gaurantee. You could put all the parts together and it not work. You could also have it running for a month and die.

I got a dell machine after building my own for a while because the parts would die on me and i would have to replace them out of pocket.

So make sure you get them from a place that has a good return policy.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:08 AM on May 11, 2010

Someone already suggested it, and I'm going to back this one up. The Ars System Guide. We've built two computers using the Oct '09 Budget Box guide and they still run all the newest games on high graphic settings, usually highest. My husband has been playing Starcraft 2 and it looks great.
posted by Sufi at 4:41 AM on May 11, 2010

If they were your friend, they probably didn't want to be your personal free tech support guy. There are many questions you need to ask yourself in this situation. You need to weigh the flexibility of building your own system with the sheer pain-in-the-assitude that you may encounter if your components don't exactly work together as they should. What do you do when your system locks up, but only in the middle of the night? Blame the video card? The ram? The power supply? The motherboard? Do you want to troubleshoot this, or do you want to call Dell and say "Hey, fix this," and they do. If it still doesn't work, you can say "Hey, give me a new computer," and they just might. Do your friends really want to sit there with you troubleshooting this when it gives you problems? Do you want to ask them to do that?

It is possible to swap out a video card in a Dell for one that is newer, better, whatever. I usually do it on the systems I buy for work.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:56 AM on May 11, 2010

I would just like to reiterate how easy it is to build a PC, even compared to several years ago. Everything just snaps into place. The hardest part is connecting the case buttons to the motherboard, and it is only hard because the parts are tiny.

I personally prefer the classic Antec 300 (look with a power supply already attached!). All black, nice and easy to get in and out of, no lights or dorky things.

Use NewEgg combo deals to shave off $50-$100 off the price. It took me ~ 15 minutes to "build a PC" after I got the parts in.

If you can upgrade the RAM of your laptop you can definitely snap together a PC. The hardest part is selecting the parts, which is already done up thread.
posted by geoff. at 6:44 AM on May 11, 2010

I used to build my own systems but the last one I got was from the Dell refurb outlet.

You don't necessarily save much money building your own, what you gain is the flexibility to pick the exact components you want. The downside to DIY is when you get all the components and stick them together and the machine fails to start, it's up to you to figure out if you screwed something up or one of the components is bad.

Right now, in the Dell outlet there's a desktop for $619 with the CPU contessa recommended, 4GB of memory, a hard drive, case, power supply and Windows 7 (don't forget to factor in the cost of the OS and case when you price out your machine). Throw in a good video card and you've got a machine for $750.
posted by justkevin at 6:46 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Antec case recommendation. I just bought that exact case and have been *very* pleased with it. The fans that come with it are extremely quiet if you run them on low speed, which is quite possible if you do good wire control and pick up a fan to add in the front; I'm running an i7 with SLI 2xGTX260s and this exact fan setup, and I get very good temps, so most any single GPU system should run quite cool. It's a very solid case for the money.

I can't speak for how good the power supply is though; I would personally recommend shelling out for a Corsair if you can afford it, and pick up the version of the case that comes without a PSU.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck with your new system!
posted by ashirys at 7:38 AM on May 11, 2010

I'm very happy with my gaming box built at avadirect.com. You can specify all the exact components you want them to install.
posted by gnutron at 8:20 AM on May 11, 2010

Seconding the refurb suggestion- if you search on deal sites like Slickdeals or Fatwallet you can find fantastic deals on refurbs- I picked up a reburb quad core for less than $400 a while back and have been very happy with it. Just make sure the PSU can handle your desired video card, or else can be swapped out.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:23 AM on May 11, 2010

Anandtach is another great source. it has a sub-$1000 guide out as of 2/2010, and with computer builds, prices change so fast that currency is important.
posted by rtimmel at 10:44 AM on May 11, 2010

Want to learn? Build it yourself. It's something every computer geek should do once. It's fun and interesting

Any major computer manufacturer is buying components on a scale that gives them better pricing and better control over quality. Dell or HP can get hard drives with X mean failure rate, at a much lower price. You'll pay retail or discounted retail and no idea what the real quality is. The big companies will give you some support. They will have tested the components and drivers together. The big manufacturers get a cheaper version of the OS, and get paid to put trial copies of crapola really great "free" software on the pc for you.

You can get terrific refurbs and upgrade the video card. Get an idea of what you want, then keep checking.
posted by theora55 at 4:10 PM on May 11, 2010

Response by poster: I can see that people are still reading this tpoic, so let me update with a website I found that basically fully answers my question:


It has optimized gaming builds, at a variety of pricepoints, and walks you through potential upgrades - it's really great!
posted by demagogue at 11:51 AM on September 29, 2010

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