First of all let me say that I am new to these forums but after posting a question and getting such quick and good feedback from you, I allow myself to dive more deeply into the issue at hand.
So, I have decided. I am going to build my own rig.
A bit of history: ever since I remember myself I built my own computers, the last one was about 3 years ago. I recently moved to NY and decided to treat myself with a brand name computer for the first time of my life, so I went and bought a Dell XPS 600, fully decked with all the cool stuff.
I did it cause I wanted to feel what it’s like to just pay and not worry about anything but turning it on and off ;-)
It definitely worked, I now own a great rig, which runs all my games properly but…
A bit of the present: I feel like I have skipped a generation or two of technology and I can not call Dell and tell them to replace my computer with other hardware. I also learned that especially today, there are so many things to take under consideration when buying a gaming rig and that paying for them at companies like Alienware, Falcon and even Dell is impossible (for me at least), they just cost to much.
A bit about the future: so I am going to build my own gaming machine, hopefully, with your help, chose the best parts for the job and also save some big money on the way.
I do however have questions about the hows/wheres and how muchs
I am going to list all the components that I would like to buy and then write a few of my questions regarding each.
I really appreciate your time helping me out here.
Ok, here we go, his is what I need your help with:
2. Mother Board
4. Graphics Card
7. Hard Drive/s
8. Sound Card
Ok, and here are my questions/thoughts:
1. CPU: AMD or Intel? The never ending story. I have always owned Intel but I have heard many people bragging about the 64bit new AMD processors.
2. Mother Board: Since I definitely want SLI, the question is Intel or Nvidia? Is there an advantage to any of them? Also, is there any technology development that’s supposed to happen soon?
3. RAM: 2Gb or 4Gb? 553 or 866 speed? Is that really important to gaming?
4. Ok, I guess that I am aiming at either one or two 8800 GTX. Is it worth waiting more for a stronger card? I know that you can ask this question and keep waiting for a lifetime but is there anything that’s supposed to be released soon? (R600). Is PCI-E 2 going to be released soon and thus render the current gfx cards useless?
5. Case: so many of them, I have no idea what to do here. ATX or BTX (what is BTX?). I don’t have any space limitations so any size works. I want a case that I can use for a long time, preferably one that I can open and close easily and that is modular.
6. 1000W or less? Which company? I think that if I am going with dual 8800 GTXs I will need 4 x 6 pin connectors right?
7. SATA? RAID?
8. Probably going to with X-Fi, any importance to the model? (extreme music, gaming etc)
9. This is something that I really know almost nothing about: should I build a machine with advanced fan system and air cooling or go for water cooling? I have no experience with water cooling so I am afraid that I won’t know how to maintain a system like that.
As for over-clocking, I never did it and I am not sure if I should, would love to get some advice regarding that as well.
Please feel free to add anything else that I may have forgotten here.
I would love to know where to buy and if I shouold buy everything in one place or it doesn't matter?
Also, do you feel that a system of that magnitude would come out cheaper if built alone?
Sorry for this huge post, I just felt that I wanted to explain where I was coming from.
Thank you all very much for reading and for your help!
I'm just stopping in for a minute here, so sorry I can't provide a complete response. I just wanted to point out that this post would be better in the "Homebuilt" category. I'd also encourage you to read some of the similar threads in that section regarding this topic. Also check the motherboard, cpu and overclocking forums here to get an idea on other components.
A couple things to warn you about though:
A ton of people seem to have problems with sound blaster cards causing intolerable snap-crackle-pop when used on nvidia chipset motherboards. Don't expect that to be fixed any time soon. If ever.
You don't need four gigs of ram unless you're running Vista and there's not much point to running Vista for gaming at the moment as it has a lot of driver and hardware issues and the only thing it offers is DirectX 10 support (for which only one game is known to support it yet -- Crysis -- which isn't even released yet). Wait awhile before making that jump, in my opinion.
Also, decide if you plan to overclock. That will help you decide what board and CPU to go with. If you don't intend to do either, your choices may be different. Take a good look in the overclocking forums for examples.
Intel Core 2 Duos seem to be outperforming the similarly priced AMDs (I'm an AMD fan, but I built my new machine on Intel).
Don't bother with dual cards in SLI mode right now. Chances are your CPU will limit the performance of one. Unless you have a high end chip massively overclocked, your GPU will probably be bottlenecked, waiting on the CPU. Unless you plan to run Oblivion in 2560x1600 with every single setting cranked up as high as it will go, the two cards won't get full use. If you do go SLI, wait a few months before adding the second card -- when they drop to $300 or so.
If you have the money, I don't think you can go wrong with the Cooler Master 830. Incredible quality, durability, performance, features and it just looks damn good. Other good ones are Thermaltake Armor, Thermaltake Kandalf/Kandorf (something like that), Silverstone TJ09 . . . You might also want to decide if you are looking to water cool or air cool. There are some great alternative cases that have a lot of pre-fabricated features (holes in the right places of the case, etc) for water cooling.
Also, I wouldn't be concerned with PCI-E 2, unless you're willing to wait a year or two for a card to require it.
ATX. Can't see a reason to go BTX. Don't know anyoen who has gone BTX. To me, BTX is like BetaMax and Dvorak keyboard layouts.
PSU should be high quality. A high wuality 750w should be plenty. Go 850W if you're going to be dumping a lot of stuff into it *and* overclocking. Silverstone Zeus 850W, PC Power & Cooling 750W Silencer (or 850w version). Go to the PSU/Case/Fan forum and read up on PSU suggestions and a guide to understanding PSU/voltage requirements. It's a good stickied read.
SATA is the only sensible option right now. You can go RAID with it if you want data retention. RAID is on all my servers (then again, those are also SCSI). I don't bother with RAID on my home system. A lot of people do. I wouldn't waist my time with RAID 0 or any of that crap, though. Others might have different opinions, but if I was looking for redundancy and retention, I'd go with mirrored or RAID+5. I have no idea of the quality of software RAID these days. Probably pretty decent.
If you go with a Creative Labs sound card, be aware that they have MAJOR issues on nvidia chipsets. Do a search for snap crackle and pop around the forums or go read the 800+ pages of related discussions about the problem on Creative Labs. You will not be happy if you spend $150 on a sound card and it sounds like crap (constant snap-crackle-pop) on your $250 motherboard. Make sure you can return your soundcard if you encounter that problem or find an alternative altogether (search these forums for Razer Barracuda - I'm considering buying one). Also, if you do go X-Fi, don't waste the $250 on the pro. It has better quality connectors. Other than that, you're just paying for a fancy breakout box that you probably wont' use much. The premium edition (or whatever it is with the faceplate controls that goes in a 5.25" bay) isn't bad. It's about $180. I wouldn't go any higher than that. You might even want to consider just getting the standard X-Fi card for around $100. My understanding is the "Fatality Pro Gramer" version of it is crap. I don't know about the Music / Gamer versions in general. Since I know they will crackle on my $250 eVGA motherboard, I haven't researched them much more.
If you plan on overclocking, then CONSIDER water cooling. Make sure you do your research and read some guides and find some products before even getting serious about it. I did and I decided that it was too much trouble at the moment. If I find my $60 Tuniq 120 (1.5lbs!) doesn't do a good enough air-cooling job, I'll consider upgrading to a water cooling solution. I'm really iffy about the idea of having gaskets and crap in my machine and risking something failing and spraying my components all with wonderfully destructive water (or anti-freeze or whatever).
Read the overclocking forums to see what you think about the idea, see what other people are doing, find some guides and generally consider if it's right for you. It's not hard at all. Just make sure you've read-up first. It can seem confusing at first and there are lots of product and brand specific variables, but the overclocking math itself is rather straight-forward.
If you have a good mom and pop independent computer store near you that you've had good experiences, I'd suggest patronizing them, if their prices are reasonable. They need all the help they can get to compete with online shops and crappy Best Buys and Frye's outlets.
Otherwise, consider PriceWatch.com (check the reputation of a dealer before buying and make sure you know whether you are buying refurbished, whitelable or brand new items!). Or, as I just recently did, buy from Newegg. They're pretty good. They are good about returns, have reasonable prices (but not always the cheapest - so check to see if anyone else has significantly beat their prices before committing to a purchase!) and they have a huge selection. I bought every single part of my $2,200 system from them this past week.
Most of all, read up on hardware sites and review sites. Check out the forums of the actual manufacturers for the items you plan to buy and see what customers are saying. Check out the forums here. Read, read, read and then read the forums here some more.