Help me spec my new PC
February 10, 2008 7:21 PM   Subscribe

What are the best components for a build it yourself system these days? Not nec. brands but what specs are important. Can you rec'd a good place to read about the options?
posted by Barrows to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Ars system guide is always good.
posted by smackfu at 7:35 PM on February 10, 2008

Here's a place to review components. Note that the "best" changes every six months or faster.

I generally buy a new PC every two years. Before buying, I do some research, including the above site, and then I take my take my specs with me to a local shop that I've dealt with for the last 8 years. I start by looking at their bundled systems, compare my choices to theirs, make a final selection, and place my order.

It's like building my own systems, except that for an additional $50 they do all the building and configuring, install the OS, and guarantee the whole thing. For me this is custom-building without the risk.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:36 PM on February 10, 2008

It will vary widely depending on what you're going to do with it and how much you want to spend. This thread would be a good place to start, esp the links in the first post.
posted by bizwank at 7:37 PM on February 10, 2008

posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:54 PM on February 10, 2008

Seconding the ARS system guides. They are my bible when I decide to build a new machine.
posted by intermod at 8:09 PM on February 10, 2008

I would strongly suggest not taking Tom's HW's advice. Sites like Anandtech, hardocp and Ars seem a little less influenced by donations from hardware manufacturers.

In the end, there a few things to remember.
- AMD processors are great for low power or low cost builds, but don't currently compare very well to Intel processors.
- For Intel processors, look for the highest FSB, most cache, and 45 nm processors. Only get a quad core if you actually have a use for one.
- An 8800GT has the most numerical power per dollar (base price). The 3850 has the most power per watt. If you don't need 3D power, the 3450 is supposed to to a full HD video offload. If you want to do your own investigations, you want DX10, the most stream processors, highest memory, shader, and core clock. The amount of video RAM is not particularly important - look for at least 512 MB.
- Gigabyte and ASUS make consistently reliable motherboards. P35 is the current tried and true Intel chipset. If you want SLI, go with the newest nvidia chipset.
- Your computer won't draw more than 300 W, unless you have multiple 8800xx cards. Any ATX v2.2 PSU is ok, but Corsair makes quiet PSUs and modular PSUs keep cabling neat.
- Default to the highest RAM speed your motherboard will take. Look for RAM running at 1.8v. Any higher and it may be slower RAM that has been overclocked.
- You won't notice a difference in performance between any new, high capacity (500GB+) hard drives from any of the main manufacturers. Noise, power draw and warranties will vary.

I'd be happy to justify my assertions here or clarify, by mefimail.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 8:15 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, consider building an SFF system this time. is where those guys hang out, and Shuttle is the biggest vendor of the case and motherboard combos. In SFF you usually get the case and mobo (and PS) together because of the integrated cooling solution.

I've been running a Shuttle AMD box as my primary system for a couple years and I'm happy with it. I even managed to fit RAID into it with this and a flash card reader with this.

Of course, if you must have the absolute mostest and fastest (and loudest and depreciatingest) then SFF is not for you.
posted by intermod at 8:49 PM on February 10, 2008

newegg is my favorite for the one-stop DIY store.

You can learn a lot from the reviews they have.

But really, it's pretty basic . . .

1. Motherboard (ATX flavor, BTX got rejected by the Taiwanese alas)
2. Graphics card(s)
3. Power supply (make sure it can power your graphics card(s) as required)
4. Case to match your motherboard type
5. Hard disk(s)
6. Optical disk(s)
7. Windows XP/Vista OEM version (if that's your thing)

... and u r done

Mike's Hardware used to have awesome future roadmap summaries where you could understand what's coming down the pike, but he's stopped updating those I guess.
posted by panamax at 10:27 PM on February 10, 2008

shit . . .0. CPU (AMD or Intel)
posted by panamax at 10:27 PM on February 10, 2008

I've always trusted PC Pro magazine's A List awards. Been knocking together 'puters for more years than I care to remember...

They have a hardware section further down the page.

Hope this helps.
posted by DZ-015 at 4:09 AM on February 11, 2008

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