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Different kind off homebuilt guide

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August 11, 2006 4:49:10 PM

I have already seen Guides around these forums, so I am not going to re-invent the wheel.
This guide is not about WHAT to choose, it's about the thoughts you could take in account when selecting parts. These thoughts always helped me deciding for my own rigs and others, which all worked out perfectly. Maybe for you it will not work out, maybe it will. Use this info as you see fit.

General thoughts

Don’t wait for lower pricing, or technologies that are in the future. You be waiting till the end of time because there will always be another, better technology coming around the corner every time one product has been released. Just fix your budget and choose what best suites your purpose while staying within this budget on the present day. Your computer will be “outdated” in 6 months anyway. There is maybe one good recent example where it is worth to wait. Past month we have seen AMD announcing huge price drop on the X2 line with even a date connected to it. If this date is like only a few weeks away, then maybe….maybe it is worth the wait. But anything not tied to a specific date and/or few months from release is not worth the wait. As said you be waiting forever. Not choosing that one card you wanted and go with a lower priced option because you want to wait for yet another better card that is coming, will result in playing around with a computer for over a half year (maybe longer because prices of new technology need time to settle) which you did not want in the first place. And it won’t even be cheaper because that lower priced card becomes “trash” in that same 6 months, those costs are, in a way, added to your future goal!
Switch off your EGO when choosing/buying parts. If you are happy with a configuration and you can do everything with it that you want to do……….who is there to judge, you bought a crappy video card, mem or cpu………you are the one that will be using the new computer. So it only needs to fit your needs. Secondly, salesman will always try to get a grip on your ego in order to get you into buying that more expensive stuff whether you will need/use it or not.
Next post contains the different price ranges and the thoughts that accompany those ranges.

Please do not hesitate to comment on grammar or spelling errors. (I am Dutch)
Also suggestions to make this guide better are very welcome.
If you think this guide is not needed, do not hesitate to say so.
Please do explain yourself when posting reply.

More about : kind homebuilt guide

August 12, 2006 3:43:21 PM

500 dollars / Euros

1) Analyze your past usage of your computer and determine what you are missing out on.
2) Just don’t give a dam that you are recycling components from your old computer.
3) Ask yourself how long you will be using your new computer. For example: if you planning to use your new computer for over 3 years because you have always done so, there is absolutely no reason to take upgradeability into account. Upgradeability is only viable when you like to rebuild every now and then (6months, 1 year) because it is your hobby to do so.
4) Getting a decent power supply does not mean you need a 500 Watts or more power supply.
It means you need to make sure the power rating is genuine; many people on these forums wrote about this, I suggest you read them with your EGO switched off. Some of those people came up with decent power supplies just above 50 dollars/Euros.
Example: If the power rating of your old 350 Watts power supply is genuine than it will be able to power any single video card configuration, no matter how many RAM or disks inside.
I measured the power usage of my main pc and it uses between 100 and 180 watts.
(X2-3800, 1 GB DDR2, Raid1, 7600 graphics) (As a rule: make sure your power usage stays under 75% of the GENUINE power rating)
5) You will find that for this kind of money you will probably end up upgrading main board, memory, cpu, graphics card and recycling your hard drive, optical drive, floppy drive, case and power supply (maybe soundcard, the SBLive and the audigy 2 cards are pretty hard to beat when it comes to sound quality). If you do not have these items to recycle yet, you could look for any ATX build with a GENUINE 350 Watts power supply second hand that works (careful though, see point 6). Many PIII series are build like that and can be had for as little as 50 dollars/Euros including monitor. Don’t bother when you go this route with looking for best specs, just look if it contains the recyclable items mentioned above. So 4 new products within a 500 dollar/Euro budget. Basically 25% of your budget for each component, it will be different in certain scenarios. new components (main board, CPU, memory, graphics card)
6) I would not suggest going second hand, although there can be had many advantages that way, you really need to know exactly what you are looking for and how it is suppose to work. Only go this route if you know this or can take someone with you who does know these things.

Office use: 25% from budget for each component ($125 per component)
Gaming: 15% main board ($75), 30% CPU ($150), 25% memory ($125), 30% graphics card ($150)
Editing/encoding: 20% main board ($100), 35% CPU ($175), 20% memory ($100), 25% graphics card ($125)

(Side note for computers used for office applications: I got an old PIII 733 running every modern office application without any problems or being too slow under XP) In this case consider to put your money into stress relieving upgrades and use your current computer another 2 years or so.
Example: If you still use a CRT monitor you could change it for a LCD/TFT monitor, relieving the stress on your eyes. You could also consider putting your money into lowering noise levels.
If the computer is office use only you could also consider to just order a Dell for under 400 dollars that includes an lcd/tft or any other pre-build system and turn your old computer into a file server or a safety feature regarding your internet connection.

1000 dollars / Euros

1) Analyze your past usage of your computer and determine what you are missing out on.
2) Just don’t give a dam that you are recycling components from your old computer.
3) Ask yourself how long you will be using your new computer. For example: if you planning to use your new computer for over 3 years because you have always done so, there is absolutely no reason to take upgradeability into account. Upgradeability is only viable when you like to rebuild every now and then (6months, 1 year) because it is your hobby to do so.
4) Getting a decent power supply does not mean you need a 500 Watts or more power supply.
It means you need to make sure the power rating is genuine; many people on these forums wrote about this, I suggest you read them with your EGO switched off. Some of those people came up with decent power supplies just above 50 dollars/Euros.
Example: If the power rating of your old 350 Watts power supply is genuine than it will be able to power any single video card configuration, no matter how many RAM or disks inside.
I measured the power usage of my main pc and it uses between 100 and 180 watts.
(X2-3800, 1 GB DDR2, Raid1, 7600 graphics) (As a rule: make sure your power usage stays under 75% of the GENUINE power rating)
5) If this is the first time you are going to use a computer, aka are curious what a computer can do for you, go with the previous option to buy a pre-build under 400 Dollars / Euros and find out, before investing in things you might never use. This way you’ll find soon enough what your computer needs to accommodate your needs. I would not suggest going second hand, although there can be had many advantages that way, you really need to know exactly what you are looking for and how it is suppose to work. Only go this route if you can take someone with you who does know these things
6) If you have nothing that is worth recycling aka you don’t have a computer currently or it is Pentium 1 or before you will find that you will need about 11 components most of the time.

(1,Mainboard, 2,CPU+cooler, 3, Memory 4, HDD, 5, CD/DvD drive, 6, Floppy drive, 7, graphics card, 8, casing, 9, power supply, 10, monitor, 11, keyboard-mouse)
As a basic rule you could chop up your budget in the following percentages.

Office Use: (although I still suggest you get that below 400dollar / euro pre-build I am assuming here you want some extra screen real estate and a silent computer)
Main board 7 % (onboard Vga/LAN/sound) ($70), CPU+cooler 8% ($80), Memory 6% ($60), HDD 8% ($80), CD/DvD/RW-Floppy drive-keyboard and mouse 7% (all together) ($70), casing 13% ($130), power supply 5% ($50), monitor 46% ($460)

Gaming: Main board 7% (onboard audio and LAN) ($70), CPU+cooler 17% ($170), Memory 12% ($120), HDD 8% ($80), CD/DvD/RW-Floppy drive-keyboard and mouse 7% (all together) ($70), graphics card 17% ($170), casing 5% ($50), power supply 5% ($50), monitor 22% ($220)

Editing /encoding: Main board 7% (onboard audio, LAN) ($70), CPU+Cooler 23% ($230), Memory 6% ($60), HDD 8% ($80), CD/DvD/RW-Floppy drive-keyboard and mouse 7% (all together) ($70), graphics card 9% ($90), casing 5% ($50), power supply 5% ($50), monitor 30% ($300)

If you do have, for example, keyboard, mouse, an Optical drive, floppy drive, casing with adequate power supply and a monitor to recycle (which is the case in most situations where there is a recyclable computer), the above becomes:

Office use: Absolutely no ground to spend 1k, Go with pre-build under 400 dollars/Euros, even cheaper when you just want the system and not the monitor.

Gaming: Main board 11% (onboard audio and LAN) ($110), CPU+cooler 30% ($300), Memory 18% ($180), HDD 8% ($80),
Graphics card 33% ($330)

Editing/encoding: Main board 11% (onboard audio, LAN, raid controller) ($110), CPU+cooler 40% ($400), Memory 18% ($180), HDD 16% (2 HDD for raid 1) ($160), graphics card 15% ($150)

1500 dollars / euros

I would like to call this price range the cornerstone segment towards serious computing.
I am not saying the previous sections are not for the serious computing needs, what I mean to state is this section often entails some investments that will last you a bit longer (casing, power supply, monitor, input peripherals). In that regard it is a corner stone to truly task dedicated computers. Although a computer is one of the worst investment (money wise) you could make, you could make it last longer in 3 ways.
1 Use the computer until it will absolutely not run anymore (not a option for diehard gamers)
2 Make sure you got some upgrade paths open. (that is if you KNOW you are going to upgrade within 2 years, otherwise no use in leaving upgrade paths open)
3 Buy a casing, power supply, monitor and some input/optical peripherals of high quality, these will become perfect recyclables.

The thoughts stated in the 1k budget (1-5) are still valid in my opinion even in this segment.
So I will get right to the percentages in which you could divide your budget.
You will not find an Office use computer in this price range. Also keep in mind I am seeing this segment as a corner stone for your next computer. I do divide this into 3 sections.
No recyclables present (or just want new build, corner stone), with recyclables (you already have the corner stone items) and a segment for people who will use this pc till it will not run anymore. (7-8 years and than buy a complete new system)

Total new build (buying the corner stone’s (casing, power supply, input peripherals))
(Your old computer will be recycled in either server use or handed down to someone)


Gaming: Main board 7% (onboard audio, LAN) ($105), CPU+Cooler 14% ($210), Memory 11% ($165), HDD 6% ($90), CD/DvD/RW-floppy drive-keyboard and mouse 10% ($150), graphics card 14%($210), casing 10% ($150), power supply 7% ($105), monitor 21% ($315)

Editing/encoding: Same as gaming machine


Build with previously bought cornerstones.
(here you will see the advantages if you bought that high quality casing, power supply, monitor and input/optical peripherals in a previous build)


Gaming: Main board 7% (onboard audio, LAN, raid controller) ($105), CPU+Cooler 30% ($450), memory 22% ($330), HDD 16% (2 HDD for raid 0, 1 HDD for doubling important data) ($240), graphics card 25% ($375)

Editing/encoding: Main board 10% (onboard audio, LAN, raid controller) ($150), CPU+Cooler 40% ($600),
Memory 11% ($165), HDD 24% (2 HDD for raid 1(as large and fast drives as possible)) ($360), graphics card 15% ($225)


Long term usage (7-8 years and then buy complete new system)
(only one configuration here, as said, this is not an option for diehard gamers, this option is often used by people who do play games, just not the latest but some games from some time ago and further use the computer on a daily based on either work (programming, writing etc.) or personal use like internet, administration and before mentioned games or hobby.
(Usually these people back up important data to DVD or the likes, maybe even tape)


Main board 7% (onboard audio, LAN) ($105), CPU+Cooler 20% ($300), memory 22% ($330), HDD 6% ($90), CD/DvD/RW-floppy drive-keyboard and mouse 5% ($75), graphics card 10% ($150), casing 5% ($75), power supply 4% ($60), monitor 21% ($315)

2500 dollars / Euros and up

This segment and up is either for professionals (their job is related to seriously DEMANDING computer usage) or for the diehard gamer who wants high resolution/quality gaming and has money to burn. These people will usually not recycle old computer into new system, but hand it down to someone or give it a new purpose within a network (monitor, casing, power supply might be reused to get that bleeding edge CPU and graphics card in rebuilt although I do think that will only be done by the gamers in this price segment).
I also think point 1 in the 1k budget statements is still valid here.
“Analyze your previous computer usage to determine what you are missing out on”


Gaming: Main board 5% (onboard LAN, raid controller) ($125), CPU+Cooler 16% ($400), Memory 11% ($275), HDD 10% (2 HDD for raid 0, 1 HDD for doubling important data) ($250), CD/DvD/RW-floppy drive-keyboard and mouse 5% ($125), graphics card 16% ($400), audio card 4% ($100), casing 6% ($150), power supply 4% ($100), monitor 23% ($575)

CAD graphics/ Editing-composing AV/encoding: Main board 5% (onboard LAN, raid controller) ($125), CPU+Cooler 12% ($300), Memory 7% ($175), HDD 10% (2 HDD for raid 0, fast and large as possible) ($250), CD/DvD/RW-floppy drive-keyboard 3% ($75), mouse (most likely pen) 5% ($125), graphics card 10% (including hardware video encoding) ($250), audio card 10% ($250), casing 6% ($150), power supply 4% ($100), monitor 28% ($700) (side note: If professional audio composing is your thing, you need lower graphics and mouse percentages (you wont be using pen) and add those percentages to the audio card percentages. In the same way if CAD graphics is your thing, use the onboard audio option and add the audio card percentages to your monitor and maybe a more precise pen (mouse replacement).

With higher budgets than 2500 dollars / Euros you start specializing.

Gamers maybe go SLi route and larger screens.
Audio composers will probably go terratec professional (1k audio cards and up) and maybe even start using UPS (not so much for surge protection, but because of the filtered clean and stable power resulting in lower noise levels in audio)
AV editors would probably go with better hardware support for encoding, larger screens (multiple), high end audio cards, and for same reasons as the audio composer, a UPS)
(Not only lower noise levels in audio but also in picture)
CAD graphics people will start using larger screens (wacom, Eizo style LCD where you draw directly on the screen)

And that’s as far as I will go.

I’ll end this with a list of brands that in my opinion should always be taken into consideration whatever the price range.
Any suggestions or comments for this guide are very welcome. Also feel free to comment on grammar and spelling (I am Dutch). But please do explain yourself. I could learn from you.
As we are all student and teacher at the same time.

Here is the list. Don’t take it personal if your favorite brand is not listed. I just draw from personal experiences and state the brands that in some way or another stood out in quality and/or performance to me. Also I narrowed it down to brands commonly available aka some high end brands are beyond these price ranges. Another thing is these brands can all be fitted into all the above budget percentages.

Main boards: ASUS, ABIT, Aopen
Memory: Corsair (there are other brands that are very good but often show compatibility
issues, I have yet to see the first appropriate corsair module not to be compatible)
Graphic cards: ASUS, Matrox, Aopen, Creative
Optical drives: ASUS, ABIT, Aopen, Plextor
Casings, PSU: Asus, Coolermaster, Spire
Sound cards: Creative, Terratec
Monitor: ASUS, iiyama, Philips, Eizo, Hansol
Hard drives: Western Digital, Seagate
Input peripherals: Logitech, Wacom

Although these are A brands they all have value components in their line ups which are not that much more expensive than the B brand counterparts. The quality of these parts however surpasses the build quality and stable operation in comparison to B brands noticeably.

Again, feel free to comment, point out grammar and spelling errors or suggest changes.

I hope this will help people choosing their components.
August 12, 2006 6:37:07 PM

Edited price ranges so it states amounts next to the percentages.
Making it a bit easier to read.

Also this will be the edit post.

Your name will come here when you added input to make this guide better.

Calyn


Also all changes will be stated here.

Seagate drives added to brand listing (Thanks to Calyn for pointing that out)
Expected changes: Workstations listing will be added soon (Thanks to Calyn for pointing that out)
Related resources
August 13, 2006 1:28:55 AM

Hey, a fellow dutchman :D 

I'd remove the casings altogether and have PSU's only listed. A case is the most subjective item, and generally doesn't really matter much. PSU's are important though. Perhaps two headings for PSU's, one for lower budget and one higher budget.

Antec comes to mind when choosing a budget PSU and some from Enermax as well. Otherwise it's Enermax, OCZ, PCP&C. (I'm forgetting some here, there are more).

With mainboards, you might want a separate workstation selection (Tyan, Supermicro) as these questions are asked as well. A workstation is vastly different in any price range than a gaming PC. Although there's no need to list any WS setup below $2,000 (if it can be done).

With regards to graphics, Matrox is very good with 2D and OpenGL apps, but less than stellar with 3D and DX.

Harddrives might also mention Seagate, as these are good as well. With WD I presume you mean the Raptors only :wink:

Otherwis the guide is good and comprehensive for the goal you set with it.
August 13, 2006 12:23:13 PM

Quote:
Hey, a fellow dutchman Very Happy



eyyy :D 


Quote:
I'd remove the casings altogether and have PSU's only listed. A case is the most subjective item, and generally doesn't really matter much. PSU's are important though. Perhaps two headings for PSU's, one for lower budget and one higher budget.


I agree with you for the most part on this, when budget is tight any casing will do as long as it is cheap and looks good enough to you. Indeed the power supply would be the part needing the carefull attention.

But from the 1.5k and up, i think casings are important. And I am talking lower noise levels when I say this, better cooling properties and longer term recyclability. Somehow I wanted to make clear that there are advantages spending just a bit mor emoney on the casing.

So maybe it should state a short paragraph on explaining casing differences?

Quote:
Antec comes to mind when choosing a budget PSU and some from Enermax as well. Otherwise it's Enermax, OCZ, PCP&C. (I'm forgetting some here, there are more).


Yes the range of brand listings I agree should be wider, although this would work, there aint much choice.
Anyway I do agree with you, but I would like to be more certain on some brands. I never used the brands you stated, many others I did. I feel a bit odd about listing things I know nothing about.
What do you think......Poll this thing?

Quote:
With mainboards, you might want a separate workstation selection (Tyan, Supermicro) as these questions are asked as well. A workstation is vastly different in any price range than a gaming PC. Although there's no need to list any WS setup below $2,000 (if it can be done).


I think its is up to 98% of the general homebuilt forum that asks questions on what to choose under a 2.5k budget. I agree with you that dedicated workstations are a no no in this price range.
I think you noticed the split up in gaming and edit/encoding indeed pointed towards the difference between ws and gamers rig somewhat although still using "standard" parts. It was my intention to emphasize that there are different setups to be had and that workload is a depending factor in choosing components. (or in best case....trigger questions from people who clearly are interested in computing but are still broadening there horizon......)
Thats why I stated I wont go beyond 2.5k, Because you than start entering the realm of workstations, which i hinted. I think for the general homebuilt forum that would be a bit to wide of a scope.
The intention also was to not cluther the scope with possibilities, but make a clear differensation between workloads. Also the intention was to make people sure enough about them selves to atleast give it a go to find a set up them selves having some ehm......english word....handvaten......to guide them...LOL. Also the intention was there to make people see, it is very important to know how you will be using your computer because of the effects on component choice.

But I agree...there could of course be 1 WS listing in the 2.5k range to even further emphasize there is more out there and point out that WS is indeed is whole different world of computing. I just tried to state a "normal" component alternative (read affordable and enough to satisfy hobby needs or get a taste of pro cad/composing/editing/programming)). Maybe in brands list there could be a seperat listing for WS brands.......good idea.....Ty......that will be added.

Quote:
With regards to graphics, Matrox is very good with 2D and OpenGL apps, but less than stellar with 3D and DX.


True.....It is therefor listed as a brand to look for when editing(non 3D graphical or video) is your thing......(although it does do 3D to some extend (even got a whole lot better than the early G450/marvel days) but indeed.....less than stellar performance on that part)

Quote:
Harddrives might also mention Seagate, as these are good as well. With WD I presume you mean the Raptors only Wink


To be honest........i was regarding not only the raptors but the complete range......Maybe i am still angry at drives from seagate and maxtor because of a recent drive failure (which was not backed up....ya I know....stupid....stupid...stupid) after just 2 years of usage loosing to much carefully labeled 80 gigs of media files.....@#$%^&*

I think you are right that it should also state seagate. Regarding the WD's, quality wise they have never disappointed me. Still got some early 1 gig drives working on a daily bases in a proxy/firewall machine.

Quote:

Otherwis the guide is good and comprehensive for the goal you set with it.


Thank you for actually seeing (i got a feeling you picked up on the hints very well) what the goal is.

In conclusion for now, I will work on that WS listing......and wait on your view regarding casing, PSU listings.........I think polling that would give a pretty good idea what could be good picks asswell, as choices are indeed a bit to much limited.

I am looking out to hear from you.
!