A Practical Guide to Choosing Computer Parts

Believe it or not, I wrote this for a assignment in english class. It was my non-fiction piece. Soon other sections such as a build tutorial and a guide to installing the OS and other basic software will be added to our series.

And yes, this thing is huge.

Also, comments and criticisms are actually appreciated. I am always open to editing this, and is, and always will be a work in progress. There is no way to define things like this in such a volatile and changeable market as the computer business is.


P.S. All prices are in Canadian from NCIX.
P.P.S. And yes, I know that this isn't usefull to 75% of the posters on here, but the people that need this, don't usually post, just read, and I hope it can be of some help to them. Not you geniuses out there.

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Many people wonder how their computer works. Not many of them ever go and find out however. Those informed people include those that build their own computers. I am here to start you on that process by showing you what parts are needed and how to chose what, who to get them from, and what is a good price for your needs. Its a world that is full of information, sometimes conflicting, and all there for you to grab onto. At first it may seem overwhelming and that is why we here at Teknofreaks Computers are writing our guides. This is the first of three guides we will write, guiding you from the conception of the idea, and choosing your parts in this article, to building your computer in article two, and finally to installing Windows and other common programs in article three. Thanks for stopping by, and we hope you enjoy yourself.

The first thing that every computer builder has to do when building is to decide what parts they want in it. For instance, do you want to go with a Intel Core 2 Duo (C2D) Extreme, a C2D E6400, or perhaps one of the offerings from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) such as the AMD FX-62 or the more moderately priced X2-3800. Everything you buy you have to choose by your budget requirements, the requirements you have for the performance of the computer. You can build a awesome computer for less than $1500 CAD or you can build a world class gaming machine for $5000. As the price goes up, the increase in performance becomes less and less cost effective. What I mean by that is that a $5000 computer is only marginally better than a $3000 computer but likely has more unneeded accessories and accoutrements. Obviously if you want the best you have to pay for it.

So, choosing components. First we should go over a list of what you need, both software and hardware wise. First and perhaps foremost you need a processor (CPU) which will run your computer, without it, you have nothing. It will calculate all of those 1’s and 0’s that you throw its way quickly and effectively. The current offerings for PC’s are from one of two companies. AMD and Intel both make amazingly good products and are pretty fairly priced for the average market. But like I said earlier, if you want the best, be prepared to pay for it handsomely. With the newest technologies from both companies you can go for processors everywhere from the $60 1.6 GHz Sempron 2800+ stopping along the way with the Dual Core (Makes it so two processes can be completed at once, effectively doubling the speed while multitasking and while using certain programs coded for it) 1.8 GHz X2 3800+ with a price of and finally finishing with the Dual Core FX-62. A thousand dollar investment that runs at 2.8 GHz but will give you the highest speeds possible in everything you do. On the other side of the divide, with Intel, you start with the $60 Celeron D 326 which runs at 2.53 GHz. In the middle of their line is the Dual Core E6400, running at 2.13 GHz at a price of around $300 CAD. Currently the most cost effective processor on their line up in my opinion. Finally, at the top of their line up is the Dual Core Core 2 Extreme X6800 running at 2.93 GHz for the whopping price of $1300.
Now keep in mind that just because the Celeron D 326 runs at 2.53 does NOT mean it is almost two times as powerful as the lowest priced AM2 processor from AMD. In fact, for reasons I will not go into in this article, they run programs at almost the same speed. AMD chips generally have lower clock speeds, but run as fast as much higher clocked Intels. Finally with the newest generation of Intel chips, this trend has been broken with the Core 2 Duo’s which do perform at around the same speed as their AMD counterparts.

The next thing to consider is the motherboard. The motherboard is what all the components of the computer are plugged into. It makes it so they can communicate and is the circuitry of the computer. Such things as USB, Ethernet, and Sound all come off of it. There are MANY options for motherboards. So many that I will only go into some of the ones that I would recommend for the newer technologies. Motherboards have to be the right socket for your processor, meaning they have to have the right slot for your processor to go into. Because there are so many options with motherboards I will simply recommend the best brands for either platform. Generally I stick with Asus or DFI as they are the highest quality board makers. Other good makers that generally are cheaper but still make great stuff are Gigabyte, MSI, and even Intel. Generally I go with motherboards that have nVidia chipsets on them. The chipset is the chip that tells everything where to go on the motherboard.

Next is the Random Access Memory (RAM). RAM enables the computer to quickly access and store files that frequently accessed. Therefore instead of accessing the files off of the Hard Drive (HDD) every time, which has is around 150th the speed of RAM, it quickly accesses it off of the RAM. This has to do with how it is ‘Hard Memory’, and the speed of transfer between the memory and the processor. Again the HUGE variety of types and qualities of products is shown. The first thing you have to do is make sure that you buy RAM that will work with the rest of your components. For instance the latest tech’s from AMD and Intel both run on DDR2, not DDR, the older standard. Another is, the faster you want your RAM, the higher the number is that is on the label. For instance, DDR2-800 is faster than DDR2-667. And the final consideration is the amount of RAM that you want to buy. For me, someone who does considerable design, and gaming, 2GB’s of fairly fast RAM is all I could ever need. If I was a professional photographer who was constantly editing 50 MB files in Photoshop, I would probably have 4 GB’s. What I recommend to most users is 1GB, unless like me you do a large amount of gaming, and or design work. Good brands such as Corsair, OCZ, Mushkin, Samsung, Crucial, and Kingston are highly recommended with RAM as many makers make sub par products.

Nearing the end of this, we have the graphics card. It is required in order for the computer to produce the pixels that you see on your screen and send them to your monitor. Many lower end motherboards and store bought computer have this built into them. You may think that hey, lets do that, but the quality, and speed at which these built in graphics cards (called integrated graphics) produces pixels, is at a much lower rate. You can not use high resolution images, for larger monitors, and you can not use many of the graphic technologies in today’s games and programs. For your average user it is a good deal however because the most they may do is play poker online (which is incidentally illegal). Again, like in the processor market, there are two main players in the business: nVidia, and ATI. nVidia makes the chip on the graphics cards but leaves it up to the different producing companies to build the rest. ATI builds everything themselves on the other hand. If you are buying a nVidia card, of which there are many, look for good brands such as eVGA, XFX, BFG, and MSI. Both companies have their plusses and their minuses. Amount of memory on card, memory bus (width of the data highway) and the speed of the chip are the three main characteristics to look for with them.
Finally, we have the Hard Drive (HDD) and the Disk Drive. They are what store the information that is required for our system to run. Our Operating System, most often Windows, is save on our HDD, along with all of the rest of our files and applications. Having a Disk Drive, while not required for you computer to work like the HDD is, is required to install programs that come on DVD’s and CD’s, such as the operating system. Good companies for HDD’s are Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor, Samsung, and Hitachi. Again the options or numerous, both in size, and speed. You can now buy anything from a 80GB ($60) to 750 GB HDD’s ($540) which will comfortably fit your entire movie collection in digital form. Good companies for Disk Drives, which now commonly are Dual Layer DVD Burners, are NEC, LG, Samsung, Pioneer, Liteon, Plextor, BenQ, Sony, and many many more. All of these companies provide DVD drives that can read and write to/from practically any CD or DVD available.

Computers are complicated machines and have many available combinations of parts and looks. Choosing the right combination of parts in order for your computer to do what you want it to, for the right prices, can take a lot of time spent in research. When I built my first computer, I spent over 200 hours on part research, pricing, compatibility, and the build process. There are many great sites on the internet for this, which I learned a great deal from. There are also a lot of really nice people willing to help you out with your problems on forums and message boards. But you don’t have spend that valuable time and effort on this. If you want a top of the line gaming computer, or just a lower end general use computer. We can help you choose your parts, build your computer, and install everything for a low price. If you chose to work with us, or just build it yourself, you will learn a lot more about the computers that you use everyday than you ever thought was possible.
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2 answers Last reply
More about practical guide choosing computer parts
  1. Well, nice paper. Good job.

    What about including soundcard, power supply, monitor and maybe some input devices such as keyboard and mouse ? IMO, they are essential on building PC. Well, soundcard can be less essential because all mainboard already provide it, but a little review can add some taste in your paper.

    While you are building your PC, where you'll gonna build it ? Casing ? Yes, casing is the place, but there are too much casings. But at least you can provide some review about casing in your paper. IMO, it's a computer parts too.

    I don't know if floppy drive is still essential right now, but if you're building RAID, you don't have any choice than installing the driver from floppy drive. It's your choice to make the review in your paper.

    Keep up the good work.
  2. Thanks for the reply, and I'll get on writing some extra stuff. Out of your list, I'll definetly add the PSU, as most cases don't come with them, and maybe a monitor, keyboard, and mouse section as well.

    As for location of build, and what you need and stuff, that will be taken care of by my friend bigsby, who some of you know on here.

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