Ok, I understand a fair bit about computers, but I'm no where near an expert. This will be my first system ever built from scratch and I have some ideas that I've already researched and some questions. I'd just like some general advice. I want to play all the most recent games and those to come for some time.
I'm likely going to go with an Intel 2 Duo processor only because most of the games today (and to come) don't use the extra two cores, although the games supporting SSE4 show good preliminary testing there's only something like 3 games that actually use it. Any thoughts on this?
I'm thinking about a dual core that is unlocked so that I can OC the multiplier as well, but I'm not sure where I can get one. Otherwise I'll be just doing FSB OCing (I've never actually overclocked anything, but I'm excited to try).
As far as motherboards... Maybe something from Asus around $100? This is one area where I don't have a really clear idea.
I'm not really worried about the hard drive, just something with a decent amount of space. I figure I want to spend more money on RAM in this case, but if someone could recommend one to me that'd be great.
As for RAM I am fairly certain I want 4 gigs, of which brand I'm uncertain. I'll most likely be running 64-bit Vista OS, although it is known at the moment as a gamer's worst nightmare. This is up for debate though, I'm mostly just afraid of when XP becomes obsolete.
PSU... I am not sure what a good amount of Watts for this component is (or the brand), nor how much I should be spending. I've heard that I should be spending around $100-$200.
I'd love to splurge for the GeForce 8800 Ultra for my Graphics Card, although I realize that the 8800GT's with the 112 pipeline are best price/power ratio. I'm also not sure about SLi, I heard there are some issues with some games and it doesn't make THAT much of a difference. One ultra instead of two 8800GT's?
For cooling I'm looking at Aerocool Turbine (14 blade) fans. I have to admit though, liquid cooling sounds SO cool, haha. I'd also really like a case with some good cooling aspects and some decent space, if someone can give me roughly what the dimensions of a relativley spacious (but not absurdly monstrous) case would be, I can browse through some of them.
That's about it really, the other stuff doesn't particularly matter a great deal, but I'd still appreciate the input if anyone was partial to a specific aspect.
I want to play all the most recent games and those to come for some time.
Most game vendors target the mainstream availability on hardware. If no one can play their games, no one will buy/keep them.
Intel 2 Duo processor
I'm guessing you mean Core 2 Duo. Decent chip. Chances are if you don't overspend on it, you can replace it later, and sell the old chip.
SSE4 ... like 3 games that actually use it. Any thoughts on this?
Personally, I'd just buy 2 chips rather than buy one really pricey one.
dual core that is unlocked
In my opinion, don't bother. Just get a decent chip. Even locked processors can be overclocked quite a bit if you are into that. Infact, I've seen people overclock the daylights out of the cheap chips.
Expect to spend $100 - $150. I typically go to newegg.com switch to the advanced view, and checkmark the features I need/want, then sort by best rating, and scour the top 10 results or so.
hard drive, ... decent amount of space
If you're just gaming, go single drive, install your OS on it's own partition, and put your game on another. If you really want to, get 2 HDs and put the OS on one, and your games and stuff on the other. Ignore the people who tell you to RAID unless you really want to do that. Remember to backup anything important, and/or image the entire system after it's working good. Also bear in mind if you RAID 0 your restore app needs to have the drivers so it can restore right. Otherwise you have to install Windows, then restore. I think Vista has a restore option for Vista Ultimate, which might work to supply drivers from the boot CD. Never tried it though.
4 gigs, of which brand I'm uncertain
To be quite frank, memory latencies/brand have very little to do. Just go by price and the fact that it works. Generally you're better off to just get more RAM than buy fast RAM, or spend the extra money in something else. Expensive RAM doesn't return on bang/buck.
64-bit Vista OS
Just check that the games/hardware you want have drivers/support for it.
I measured my power draw at the wall, and I pull 180 watts or so at normal level of use (non-gaming) for my computer which is overclocked C2D E6600 running at 3Ghz, 4GB RAM (4x1GB modules), 4x 320GB HD, 1x500GB HD, 7600GT, Antec P180 case, ThermalTake BigTyphoon, Soundblaster Audigy 4, hotswap sata drive bay.
If you don't overdo it, I can't really see how you could go past the need for a 400-600watt PSU if you stay single GPU card (under the extreme overclocked ones). Good PSUs are gonna cost you >$100 generally. You do need to remember though, extreme overclocking makes your components draw a lot more power when you really go nuts. If you get an oveclocked GPU and CPU, you might need a high end PSU.
I'd love to splurge ...
With your GPU, find the games you want to play, figure out how many fps you need to enjoy it, then get a card good enough for that, and maybe a little more. Don't go too crazy. You're better off to buy again than to go crazy and get the biggest baddest machine on the block.
Don't bother. If you're gonna go SLi, just buy a card 2x as good. Honestly, though, I can't see buying the highest one. Buy a decent one, and let the prices fall.
I'll have to admit, I'm anal about cooling. If I had to splurge on one thing, it'd be a dead silent cooler. I hate noisy machines.
liquid cooling sounds SO cool
If you want to buy it go ahead. Just read up on the caveats, and remember you have to check your fluid levels or you could end up with problems. Also have to leak check your system.
There's lots of reviews on cases. Get one that appeals to you. The Antec P180 and similar series are fairly nice, but the PSU on bottom did make my PSU cable go all the way across the middle of my mainboard which was annoying wiring it up.
cant agree with marshed's statement with ASUS. All the computers i have built have been ASUS, anything from the P4C800 Deluxe all the way to M2N-SLI Deluxe. Never have had any problems what so ever. There are bad boards of every brand, you know that one bad egg thing. Dont get discouraged just do your homework and you will be fine.