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Attention Computer Builders: Ideal Build 6/7/08*UPDATED*

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June 4, 2008 9:32:08 PM

I've noticed on this forum and others multiple daily posts requesting advice on building gaming computers. Nearly the same questions are posted repeatedly, which is understandable. Most people are building computers in order to play the latest games at medium to high settings with good frame rates, and want to spend between $700 and up.

This post is intended to summarize advice that I and others have repeatedly given recently, and imho seems to represent the consensus opinion of most knowledgeable posters. It's for all potential system builders who fit into the 700 and up price range category above, as well as for myself so I can just reference this info in other posts rather than frequently retyping it. I'm sure there will be dissenting opinions, and please feel free to post them in
response.

Any combo of any of the items on the list below should be compatible, and produce a system capable of playing any current game on medium high (Crysis) to very high (Age of Conan) to max settings (virtually every other game).

If posters think this is useful, it could be redone and updated every few weeks as prices change and new products come out.

A couple notes first:

Dual or Quad Core CPU?: No simple answer. The dual cores are cheaper. If your primary goal is gaming, dual cores outperform the quads because they'll usually overclock higher and because current games don't take advantage of the extra cores. If you multi-task or do lots of video/photo editing, then the quad will likely be better. If you don't want to update your computer for several years and want to be 'future-proof', then go quad core.

RAID 0: Though many swear by setting up two hard drives in RAID 0 to increase performance, many articles suggest the real world performance
improvement is not worth the added expense, complexity, and drive failure rate. My advice would be to stick with one big drive in this price range.

SLI: Unless you intend to play games on a very large monitor (24 inches and up) at very high settings and resolutions (1920X1200 and up), SLI does not offer enough improvement in gaming performance to justify the cost in the opinion of most. It's usually not a great upgrade pathway either. The best single-card solution you can afford will usually give you the most bang for your buck (especially with the GTX260 and 280 GPU's being released later this month).

Nvidia Chipsets: If you're not intending to use 2 GPU's in SLI (for
reasons as discussed above), there's no reason to buy a motherboard with an Nvidia chipset (such as 650i, 780i, 790i). Those chipsets have been plagued by more instability and problems than the recent intel chipsets (like P35, X48). If you're intent on doing SLI GPU's, then you're stuck with an nvidia chipset board however. BTW, this is another reason not to go with SLI.

New GPU Release: The Nvidia and ATI new families of GPU's are being released within the next few weeks. If you want the fastest GPU you can get that won't need to be upgraded for quite a while, delay your build until they come out. Otherwise, consider getting a EVGA or BFG
brand GPU, since they offer the option of a 'trade-up' upgrade for 90-100 days after purchase, just in case you change your mind.

Nehalem: This is the name of the next Intel CPU family coming out the end of '08, which will reportedly outperform today's best Core 2 family chips by 20-50%. Unfortunately, Nehalem is a physically larger chip and will require a new socket - thus, you'll need a new motherboard in order to upgrade. Keep this in mind before you drop 2-300 bucks on a new motherboard today.

"Future-Proofing": Many people want to build a 'future-proof' system that will allow them to play the newest games at high to max settings for 3-4 years. Unfortunately, this is probably impossible since that length of time is an eternity in computing terms. IMHO, a better strategy is to build a mid-to-high end system every 1-2 years. Often, you'll be able to recycle the case and PSU, sometimes even the HD or motherboard. For example, today for $1000-1400 you can build a system that'll play all games on high to max settings for the next 1-2 years, and you'll get more bang for your buck than blowing 3k on a bleeding edge system that'll be underperforming within 2 years. This way you'll always have a high-performing, cost-effective system. (And building computers is fun!)

Overclocking: Even if you've never done it before, it's so easy and the performance gain so large with the new 45nm Core 2 Duo chips that it'd be a shame not to at least consider doing it. There are fairly simple primers and guides you can read in the overclocking section of this board and others that'll walk you thru it.

OK, here goes. I didn't list prices because they change daily and differ among various sites.

The idea here is to mix and match components below from different categories depending on your personal preference and budget. I left AMD out of this game so that every part on the list is compatible with every other part (also - I'm not an Intel fanboy, but the truth is AMD is lagging far behind Intel in overall performance at this point in time). This means you can choose any kind of combo you want (example: mid-range CPU, low-end RAM, high-end GPU, low-end Motherboard) and still be ok. You should be capable of selecting components below and ending up with a system ranging in price from around $750 and up. Any system made up of components from the categories below should perform at a relatively high level and run most games and at mid-to-high settings, as well as perform solidly at video/photo editing, web, email, cd burning, etc etc.

CPU:

Value/Low-End: For those on a very, very tight budget only
Intel Pentium E2160 Allendale 1.8GHz 1MB L2 Cache
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Intel Pentium E2200 Allendale 2.2GHz 1MB L2 Cache
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
If you're on a very tight budget, then you could consider these CPU's. They
overclock well. However, the E7200 below is only currently about $50 more, and will almost double the CPU performance of your system.

Mid-Range (best price/performance ratio):
Core 2 Duo E7200
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Runs cool, overclocks extremely well, great price.
Core 2 Duo E8400
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Also runs cool and overclocks extremely well, in fact most will probably be able to overclock this slightly higher than the E7200. If you're not overclocking at all, then this is your choice, since at stock it runs 3.0GHz vs. 2.5GHz for the E7200.
Core 2 Quad Q6600
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Probably the best overclocker of the quad cores, though the 45nm Q9300 is close.

High-End (overkill for most, but good choices if you're not overclocking and
want the fastest stock CPU's, or have money to burn/want bragging rights)

Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 Wolfdale 3.16GHz 6MB L2 Cache
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The fastest dual core chip available. The E8400 above however performs just about as well stock and overclocks just about as well also however.
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 Yorkfield 2.66GHz 12MB L2 Cache
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Great quad chip, overclocked or not. The Quad Q9300 chip listed below performs almost as well for 80-100 dollars less however.
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Yorkfield 2.5GHz 6MB L2 Cache
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Motherboard:

All of the below will support the latest CPU's and GPU's

Low End: (this is still a good performer, overclocks pretty well, fewer bells
and whistles)

GIGABYTE GA-P31-S3G LGA 775 Intel P31 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mid-Range: (best price/performance ratio, overclock very well, have everything
most people want/need)

GIGABYTE GA-EP35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
DFI BloodIron P35-T2RL LGA 775 Intel P35
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
ABIT IP35 Pro LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
EVGA 123-YW-E175-A1 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 750i FTW SLI
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I would only go with this last one if you're determined to go with 2XGPU's in SLI, since the Intel chipsets are more stable. However, as pointed out by many, this is likely the best chipset of the Nvidia's (supporting SLI).

High-End: (overkill for most, overclock very well, lots of bells and
whistles, crossfire or SLI capable)

ASUS RAMPAGE FORMULA LGA 775 Intel X48 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GIGABYTE GA-X48-DS4 LGA 775 Intel X48 ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
XFX MB-N780-ISH9 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
This last board above is only for those who decided they must run 2 X GPU in SLI. Otherwise, stick with one of the first two boards, as
they will probably be more likely to run trouble-free.

RAM:


Get at least 2 X 1 gig, preferably 2 X 2 gigs. Go with DDR2, either 800 (fine
for most) or 1066 (more expensive, only if doing very aggressive overclocking).
Look for RAM with low timings (5-5-5-15 for example). Lower voltage (1.8 for
example) tends to be better as well. A couple good choices below:

Two Gigs (2 X 1gig sticks) of RAM:
G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GeIL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Four Gigs (2 X 2gig sticks) of RAM, midrange (best price/performance
ratio):

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...[/L]
CORSAIR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...[/L]
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1000
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
this last choice is for those who want more headroom for aggressive overclocking of the CPU at about the same price as the others above. If you don't plan to overclock, you're better off with DDR2 800 RAM(one of the first two above)

Four Gigs, high-end, DDR2 1066 for aggressive overclocking (there's no point
in DDR3 RAM right now - maybe when we update this thread next time?):

CORSAIR DOMINATOR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Power Supply:
Don't skimp on this. If you want to overclock, you might get by with less, but
to be safe most will recommend at least a 500W unit from a good company. Corsair, Antec, PC Power and Cooling, and Thermatake are good brands. If you plan to upgrade to one of the newest GPU's coming out just around the corner, according to Nvidia you'll want a PSU with at least 550W.

One current bargain is this Antec case
with quality 500W PSU included for around $130:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Low-end/budget (two pretty good quality PSU's for the price):
SeaSonic SS-500ES ATX12V/V2.2, EPS12V/V2.91, 500W
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Thermaltake Purepower W0100RU 500W ATX 12V 2.0
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mid-Range, two excellent choices:
CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply 100
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
PC Power & Cooling S61EPS 610W Continuous @ 40°C EPS12V
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

High-End (overkill on the PSU never hurt anything):
If you're going high-end, I don't know of any reason not to simply get the most powerful PC Power and Cooling or Corsair brand PSU you can afford. It's hard to go wrong. If you're going SLI, go to the Nvidia website and make sure the PSU you choose is certified for the SLI setup you plan to run.
Examples:
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
PC Power & Cooling T12W 1200W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU:
Keep in mind the next generation GPU release over the next few weeks.

Lower End - Can still play games on mid to high settings however:
EVGA 512-P2-N757-TR GeForce 8600 GT 512MB 128-bit GDDR3
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SAPPHIRE 100226L Radeon HD 3850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mid-Range - Best Values Currently, can play all games on high to max settings:
8800GT 512MB or the 8800GTS 512MB. Examples below:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...[/L]

High-End:
Currently this is comprised of the 8800GTX ultra, 9800GTX, and the 9800GX2.
These are not recommended currently however since in less than 2 weeks the new GPU's will be released that will blow these away, and the prices on these will drop. If you want to take a peep at the fastest GPU on the planet (if only for the next two weeks), here it is:
EVGA 01G-P3-N892-A3 GeForce 9800 GX2 SC 1GB 512-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case:
Personal preference. Pick one with space for at least a couple 120mm fans for good airflow (and don't forget to buy an
extra 120 mm fan if the case only comes with one). Quality brands include
CoolerMaster and Antec. Lian Li is generally considered the cream of the high end. There's so many good choices, I only listed one in each category that I know from personal experience are very good:

Lower-end:
Rosewill R5604-TBK 0.8mm SECC Screw-less Dual 120mm Fans ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A surprisingly solid case at this price level.

Mid-Range:
COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Very popular. Good air circulation and construction.

High-End:
LIAN LI PC-A10B Black Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
This one's very popular with some overclockers b/c of all the fans, though I've personally never been convinced tons of fans is the answer to ideal case airflow.

Hard Drive:
How many gigs you get depends on what you're doing with your computer. For gaming, 250gigs is plenty, but if you want plenty of storage for music, video editing/files, etc go for 500gigs or more. The Western Digital AAKS series and Seagate 7200.11 series are good choices. Good examples below:
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 500GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

High-End: (much more expensive per gig, but the fastest HD you can buy)
Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS 300GB 10000 RPM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

DVD Drive:
Get an SATA one at this point - easier to install. I like this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
because it's quiet and speedy.

CPU Cooler:
Even if you're not overclocking, and aftermarket CPU cooler is a good idea. If you're overclocking, it's really a must.
This most effective on the market:
XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The xigmatek is great, but very large and too tall for some mid-size cases.
Smaller and stil very good is this one:
ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
IMHO, water-cooling these days is not necessary b/c the CPU's run so much cooler and the aircoolers like the one's above have gotten so much better. You don't really want to try to overclock to 5.0GHz do you?:-)

Operating System:
Take your pick. Since SP1 came out, I'd recommend Vista to take advantage of DX10 for the newest games. If you still cling to XP like a security blanket, so be it. Either will cost you about 80-100 bucks at newegg.

Monitor:
Imho, the sweet spot currently is the 22'' widescreen LCD, in terms of
price/screen real estate ratio. If you can afford a 24'', go for it - that's
what I have and I love it.
Acer AL2216Wbd Black 22" 5ms Widescreen LCD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Happy building! More importantly, happy gaming!
June 4, 2008 9:36:28 PM

Your links aren't working.
June 4, 2008 9:38:18 PM

nice links! except not. They dont work
Related resources
June 4, 2008 9:46:40 PM

Thanks. Links should work now.
June 4, 2008 10:21:53 PM

let me make this clear to you.how high would the CPU OC is not depend on their starting speed.it all depend on quality of the component you use in your setup.but consider the quality is the same,the CPU with higher speed at stock which means they are running on a higher multiplier.so look at it this way:
E8400 9x333=3Ghz
E7200 9.5x266=2.53Ghz
the CPU with lower multiplier will need higher FSB to run at the same speed compare to the other one.So:
E8400 9x400=3.6ghz
E7200 9.5x379=3.6Ghz

you see?in the figure above,in theory you will be "easier" to get to 3.6Ghz with E7200 than E8400 since its got a higher multiplier.hence the slower chip will need a mobo that is capable of very high FSB to achieve then same speed.

the main different between the E7200 and E8400 is the L2 cache size and FSB differents.but as proved by reviews 1066 is enough for C2D processor at any speed.and to be honest the performance different will not be noticable.

and for the CPU cooler you would want to get teh Xiggy because its value for money is unbeatable given its performance level.and it all really depend on your OC and budget.size doesnt really matter,i dont think anyone will sacrafice OC ability for the case and generally you want a well ventilated case such as the Antec 900 or the new 1200 if you fancy abit of watercooling later on.

and about the graphics card you would want the cheapest 8800GTS G92 avialable because they are all reference card with their own sticker on it and sell it at different price according to brand name.

RAID 0 i have to say its very hard to spot the difference in everyday use.you will able to tell the difference if you transfer large files from one to another or load up windows after you have stuffed it with lots of service and programs on startup.and hard drive failure is a good point to mention BUT does 1 single hard drive GUARRANTEED it will run for say like 2 years with out break down?generally yes.but if the batch you got thats got alot of inferior drive, then would your setup last longer with 1 drive than 2 drives in RAID 0 before it fail?answer is it doesnt.thats why i always have a back up large drive act as a storage for every single movie or music i download.and even if the main drive(s) fail it wouldnt matter to me.that why everytime i do a windows reinstall i got technically nothing to back up other than some bookmarks:) 

if you can get a 750W PSU and it will guarranteed you last 3,4 years before you need a upgrade to cope with the powerful component inside but only IF it doesnt fail because of quality reasons.and about which memory you should go for,it really depend on which CPU you choose.if its the E8xxx you go for and want to OC to pretty high speed you would want to get memory that stated to run at 1066mhz.but in general 800MHZ will do you justice,always run the FSB:memory at 1:1 ratio.

i would go for a Asus mobo and Gigabyte mobo over the others.SLI dont bring you much performance increase,9600GT SLI is exception.in fact thats give better scale then even the top dog 9800GX2.

Vista is the mainstream OS now even though XP is whats more "powerful" since it runs less junk by default.but in Vista you get better graphics before of DX10 support.i would go for vista but i do have XP on my other PC!lol

TIRED!!!WRITING ALL THAT!LOL
June 5, 2008 12:05:04 AM

Pretty nice list!
One thing i will not on is the video card section. I think if someone has a $700 budget they might not be able to aford a 8800gt/gts. Maybe we can add a lower cost card? Somthing like a 3850 or 9600gso.

June 5, 2008 2:15:04 AM

Hey, this topic is a great idea! I'd just like to add my thoughts on the lower-end. I hope you don't mind.

CPU:
Budget Dual Core: Pentium E2160
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
In comparison to the other chips listed in this thread, the L2 cache kills it, but you cannot complain for the price. The E2160 boasts very good overclocking, like most of the Core 2 series. If you're looking for a low end chip that can overclock well, this is a great choice.

Motherboard:
All of the motherboards mentioned in the original post were P35 chipset motherboards. As good as they are, we have our own alternative on the low-end. The P31 chipset!
The P31 has less RAM slots and an older ICH7 controller on the motherboard, but is still a very strong overclocker. A great choice for 32-bit OS users. I've heard of difficulty getting all 4 RAM slots to work at the same time.
GIGABYTE GA-P31-S3G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GIGABYTE GA-EP31-DS3L
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


RAM:
I believe that there is very little difference between RAM module companies, in general. I'd avoid the COMPLETELY obscure companies, but if they've been around for a while then it should run at the suggested spec.
SUPER TALENT 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2-800 [Great reviews, seems to OC decently.]
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
pqi POWER Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2-800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Transcend 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2-800 [favorable reviews, some say it overclocks well]
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Power Supply:
I completely agree. Love your power supply. Do not let your power supply be your weak point. If you buy a fast computer with a bad power supply, it's like getting a sports car and never changing the oil and putting regular gasoline in. I'd trust a quality 500W PSU with any single card system on the market, however.
SeaSonic SS-500ES [It's a Seasonic (high quality) and a bit cheaper than your options.]
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


GPU:
If you're looking at the lower end, refer to this little hierarchy of value GPUs.
(higher is better)
8800GTS G92 (~$200)
8800GT (~$160)
9600GT (~$130)
3850 (~$120)
9600GSO-8800GS (~$120)
June 5, 2008 2:17:43 AM

Great post modode! I did a similar post, if you want any information or want to do something with multiple builds (low,mid,high) PM me and we can work on a guide to keep updated.
June 5, 2008 2:49:55 AM

I tried to make a post as well in the other Homebuilt System forum, but it went with 0 replies.
Any shot that I could get in with helping this guide?
June 5, 2008 2:56:16 AM

Shadow and Sanji - feel free to copy/paste the OP I wrote above and edit in different builds if you like. If the three of us could then keep it updated and perhaps get it stickied, I think it'd make a pretty good reference.
June 5, 2008 3:13:06 AM

very nice job, hope it gets stickied guys
June 5, 2008 3:21:45 AM

UPDATED June 15!!

I will post them here- then let's do a new post with just the builds. We will decide on the best ones from what us three post.

The Budget Build: ~ $500 (Price as shipped $503.12)
CPU: Intel Core2Duo E2180 2.0GHz
Motherboard: ASUS P5KPL-VM (Intel G31 chipset)
RAM: G.Skill 2GB DDR2-800 5-5-5-12
Hard Drive: 250GB WD Sata2
Optical Drive: Lite-On SATA 20X burner w/ Nero
Case: Antec NSK4480B case w/ 380W PSU
OS: Windows XP Home
Input Devices: MS keyboard and Mouse
Video: On the motherboard because this is a budget build.

This system is good for: Web surfing, e-mail, basic digital photography or a machine for parents/grandparents
This system is bad for: playing games

==============================================
Middle Budget Build: Goal $800- Acutal Price- $791.69 shipped before rebates of $40

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E7200
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3L
RAM: OCZ Platinum Revision 2 2GB DDR2-800 ($20 MIR) $22 RAM !
Video: SAPPHIRE 100225L Radeon HD 3870 512MB ($20 MIR)
Case: Antec Sonta III
Keyboard/Mouse: MS stuff
OS: Vista Home Prem
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD2500AAKS 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB
Optical Drive: SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD Burner SATA
Thermal Compound: Arctic Cooling MX 2
============================================
Mid-Range Build: ~ $1,000 Currently: $991.91 shipped before $30 MIRs
CPU: Intel Core2Duo E8400
Motherboard: MSI P45 Neo-F
RAM: G.Skill 4GB DDR2-800 4-4-4-12
Hard Drive: 500GB Seagate 500GB 32MB cache
Optical Drive: Samsung 20X DVD burner SATA
Case:Antec P182 (Combo on Newegg to save $50 with E8400 and this case)
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling 610W ($10 MIR)
OS: Windows Vista Home Prem
Video Card: EVGA 512-P3-N800-AR GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (for the trade-up program) ($20 MIR)
Arctic Cooling MX-2 compound

Good all around system.
Bad: Won't play Crysis maxed out
============================================
High Middle Range Build: ~$2000 Currently: $2042.19 shipped before rebates

CPU: Intel Core2Duo Q9450 Quad
Motherboard: ASUS RAMPAGE FORMULA LGA 775 Intel X48
RAM: Patriot 4GB DDR2-800 4-4-4-12 x2 (8GB total)
Hard Drive: 500GB Seagate 32MB cache x2 (1TB total)
Optical Drive: LG Super Multi Blu-ray Disc Burner & HD DVD-ROM Drive Black SATA Model GGW-H20L
Case:Antec P182
Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling 610W
OS: Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Input Device: Logitech G15 and Logitech G5
Video Card: EVGA 512-P3-N800-AR GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (for the trade-up program)
Arctic Cooling MX-2 compound
============================================
High End: Budget- $10,000 (no not really but eh :)  8 core system though) $6,315.45 shipped (Don't really build this unless money is no object and you really love your power company)

CPU: Quad 2 Extreme QX9775 x 2
Motherboard: Skulltrail D5400XS
RAM:Crucial 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 FB-DIMM (DDR2-800)
Hard Drive: Seagate 1TB 32MB cache SATA II
Optical Drive:BluRay Burner
Case: Antec P190 (dual PSUs- 1.2kW total)
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate
Input Devices: Up to you
Video: eVGA 9800 GX2 x 2 (quad SLI)
Arctic Cooling MX-2 compound

Amazing system- 8 cores, 4 GPUs, HIGH END :) 
June 5, 2008 3:25:56 AM

lol dont we all love our power companies
why do you hate vista and 2x dvd blu ray burner thats rediculus, maybe 1 reader and 1 burner, but 2 burners?
June 5, 2008 3:26:45 AM

gators1223 said:
lol dont we all love our power companies
why do you hate vista and 2x dvd blu ray burner thats rediculus, maybe 1 reader and 1 burner, but 2 burners?


That was the speed of the drive, not two of them :) 

I need to change that at the end too. Thanks for pointing it out.
June 5, 2008 3:34:43 AM

CPU: AMD Toliman 8450 2.1ghz Combo with Motherboard
Motherboard: ECS A780GM-A AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard combo with CPU
RAM: Super Talent 2GB DDR2-800
Hard Drive: 250GB Seagate
Optical Drive: Lite-On SATA 20X burner w/ Nero
Case: Antec NSK4480B case w/ 380W PSU
OS: Windows XP Home
Input Devices: Logitech Mouse and Keyboard
Video: 780G, the best integrated around!
Total: $518.17 with ship, $508.17 after MIR

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E7200
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3L
RAM: Super Talent 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2-800
Video: EVGA 8800 GT 512MB
Case: Centurion 5
PSU: Seasonic SS-500ES
Keyboard/Mouse: Logitech
OS: Vista Home Premium OEM
Hard Drive: Seagate 7200.10 250GB
Optical Drive: LG DVD-burner SATA
Thermal Compound: Arctic Cooling MX 2
Total: $797.03 shipped, no MIRs
June 5, 2008 3:40:45 AM

i have some systems lined up would you like me to post them?
June 5, 2008 3:42:54 AM

How about a build for about $2500. That is my budget. Want something that I can overclock well and that I dont have to upgrade for awhile. I will be running it on a 24 inch monitor so would nice to have SLI. Thinking of 9800 gtx's SLI on 790i mobo. go with quad core (maybe the 9450) for future proofing..Was thinking of using one of the new velociraptor hard drives...and antec case either the 900 or 1200...any other suggestions?
June 5, 2008 3:44:50 AM

srbraith said:
How about a build for about $2500. That is my budget. Want something that I can overclock well and that I dont have to upgrade for awhile. I will be running it on a 24 inch monitor so would nice to have SLI. Thinking of 9800 gtx's SLI on 790i mobo. go with quad core (maybe the 9450) for future proofing..Was thinking of using one of the new velociraptor hard drives...and antec case either the 900 or 1200...any other suggestions?


Just posted a $2,500 build. I would stay with one 8800GT now, and then use the step up program to pick up a 2xx series card. One of these will best a 8800GT setup, which will be enough to drive a 24" monitor :) 

Add the drive in for OS and stuff and you will be at around $2400.
June 5, 2008 8:38:43 AM

May I ask what is your opinion of PCI-X 16 2.0? If you wanted a gaming PC to last several years, would it better to get a motherboard that has 2.0? I've heard that most video cards have yet to take advantage of it, but even the 8800s all list themselves as using 2.0.
June 5, 2008 11:57:44 AM

Great job guys! I really like those builds. Once we get everything down in this thread, I agree, we should consolidate to one (hopefully stickied) guide to various price range ideal builds and keep it updated.

gogators - by all means, post your builds. We'll come up with a consensus later.

BTW- Go Gators!
June 5, 2008 11:58:18 AM

Great job guys! I really like those builds. Once we get everything down in this thread, I agree, we should consolidate to one (hopefully stickied) guide to various price range ideal builds and keep it updated.

gogators - by all means, post your builds. We'll come up with a consensus later.

BTW- Go Gators!
June 5, 2008 2:07:52 PM

Well, the 9800GX2 does not saturate the PCI-E x16 slot yet. I don't currently see a need for PCI-E 2.0, if it comes at a premium.
June 5, 2008 3:20:31 PM

The PCI Express 2.0 question was exactly what I was thinking as well. All the boards you list are P35 which is great but none will support PCIe 2.0.

There are some X38 boards that still use DDR2 that I think will still keep you well within the price range you specified but give you PCIe 2.0 support.

I would say this price range falls into the "non-enthusiast but frequent gamer" category. That means the system probably needs to last 2-3 years with at least one GPU upgrade inbetween.

Do you think that PCIe 2.0 will be necessary in the next 3 years for a GPU upgrade after GTX280; and if so, shouldn't you replace the P35 boards with some X38/48 boards?
June 5, 2008 6:24:14 PM

I would say it depends on your upgrade time frame. However, I would push X38 over P35 in all but lower budget systems anyway due to the offical FSB1600 support along with the PCI-E 2.0 support. The FSB1600 support helps for overclocking, and will support the next generation of CPUs too.
June 5, 2008 10:05:10 PM

updated the OP significantly to reflect more variety and options. there's some formatting issues i know, which i'll fix later - i'm running out the door. opinions welcome.
June 6, 2008 1:09:11 AM

modode said:
updated the OP significantly to reflect more variety and options. there's some formatting issues i know, which i'll fix later - i'm running out the door. opinions welcome.


Nice updates modode except get rid of the Rosewill PSU. Rosewill is terrible and could damage your system. :)  It is on Tom's list of NEVER EVER buy PSUs.
June 6, 2008 1:39:06 AM

ok so here goes a mid range, a money is no object, and a low end

High end
===============================
CPU: Intel QX9650 3.0Ghz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115034
Mainboard: EVGA 790i Ultra
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813188025
PSU: Corsair 620HX Modular
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139002
Memory: 2x G.Skill ddr3 1600 4g
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231167
Video Card: 2x MSI 8800gts (G92) OC
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127340
Hard Drive: 2x WD 300g Velociraptor RAID 0
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136260
Sound Card: HT Omega Claro
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829271002
Dvd Drives: Lg Blu-ray Burner and Asus 20x dvd burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136133
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135156
Case: NZXT Blackline Lexa
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146048
Monitor: NEC 24in
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824002335
Speakers: Logitech z-5500 5.1
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16836121120
Keyboard and Mouse: Logitech dinovo edge keyboard and Microsoft Habu gaming mouse
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823126008
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826105016
OS: Vista 64-bit home premium
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116204

Couple notes: yes the keyboard isn't a gaming keyboard but it is an amazing product i would love to have
also picked monitor because it was 24in and i was pretty sure not a TN panel

Price: $5,249.83 Shipped: $5,366.30


Low Budget
==================================
CPU: Intel e2180 2.0Ghz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116052
Motherboard: Gigabyte EP31-DS3L\
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128334
PSU: FSP Group 350w
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817104045
Memory: Wintec ampx 2gb ddr2 800
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820161229
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon 3650 512mb
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102726
Hard Drive: WD 160gb
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136075
Dvd Burner: Asus 20x
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135156
Case: Coolmaster Centurion 5
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119068
Monitor: Hanns G 19in
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824254023
Speakers: Altec Lansing 2.1
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16836113014
Keyboard and mouse: Microsoft package wired
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823109156
OS: Vista 32-bit home premium
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116202

Price $724.88 Shipped $774.92


Mid Range
===============================
CPU: Intel e8400 3.0Ghz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115037
Motherboard: DFI BloodIron
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813136038
Memory: A-data 4gb ddr2 800 cas4
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820211282
PSU: Corsair 550VX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139004
Video Card: MSI 8800gts (G92) OC
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127325
Hard Drive: WD 500gb
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136073
Sound Card: HT Omega Striker
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829271001
Dvd Burner: Asus 20x
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135156
Case: Coolmaster Mystique
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119129
Monitor: Acer 24in
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824009125
Speakers: Creative Inspire 5.1
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16836116025
Keyboard and Mouse: Saitek Eclipse and Logitech Mx518
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823175103
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826104178
OS: Windows Vista home premium 64-bit
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116204

Price $1,601.86 Shipped $1,681.98


Note: these builds were made with currently available p[arts it would be to the buyers advantage to wait a couple weeks to see the benchmarks of the new cards coming out for the high and midrange builds
June 6, 2008 1:55:35 AM

shadowduck said:
Nice updates modode except get rid of the Rosewill PSU. Rosewill is terrible and could damage your system. :)  It is on Tom's list of NEVER EVER buy PSUs.


I kind of always felt that way too. Not sure it's a fair blanket statement however. I've had some personal good experience with Rosewill PSU's, and there's this pro review to the contrary as well:

http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=...
June 6, 2008 1:57:43 AM

Well it looks like it depends. Some are good, some are bad. The problem is most people won't do their research and find the OEM for the certain PSU they are buying so I find it hard to recommend a brand that is not excellent across all product lines.
June 6, 2008 2:07:41 AM

shadowduck said:
Well it looks like it depends. Some are good, some are bad. The problem is most people won't do their research and find the OEM for the certain PSU they are buying so I find it hard to recommend a brand that is not excellent across all product lines.


I'm open to suggestions for a replacement in the 50-80 dollar low-end range.
June 6, 2008 2:12:52 AM

Seasonic SS-500ES. $70, 500W, great developer.
June 6, 2008 2:15:32 AM

sanjiwatsuki said:
Seasonic SS-500ES. $70, 500W, great developer.


Nice! Good find. Seasonic is an excellent OEM.
June 6, 2008 2:18:27 AM

sanjiwatsuki said:
Seasonic SS-500ES. $70, 500W, great developer.


Good Call! Agreed. Done and Done.
June 6, 2008 3:54:30 AM

Corsair makes just amazing PSUs lately. Every single of them get a great rating. Glad we recommend them here. :) 

I wish companies would begin to realize just how much sway these forums can have, and how one bad product and cost thousands in sales because we don't recommend that brand anymore.
June 6, 2008 4:05:49 AM

good work Modode, if you're willing to do the upkeep on it, it should be stickied in new builds
June 6, 2008 4:07:33 AM

Hah. I think I have those speakers in your low-end build.

Having learned about all these parts more deeply recently, I think then next computer I build will be a $500 one (not counting OS and monitor). It seems much more logical to build several $500 ones than one big $1500 one.
June 6, 2008 4:13:53 AM

on the advice of several, I added this MB to the mid-range option list. It does seem to be reportedly the most stable of the Nvidia chipsets if you're determined to go SLI and don't want to drop a fortune on the MB:
EVGA 123-YW-E175-A1 LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 750i FTW SLI
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
June 6, 2008 9:38:37 PM

Thanks for the awesome post. I espcially like how all the parts can be mixed and matched and still be compatible.
June 6, 2008 10:08:01 PM

hey, this is a very nice idea!!
Instead of post all sorts of builds, can u list all components together
(CPU's under cpu's, etc...) and explain with each part why we should take this and so on?

So at the end we get a list of all parts and under each part the low-mid-high range pieces and an explanation with each so people can look at for example hi-end CPU and then read the comments to choose one of them...
That would be awsome!!!!
June 7, 2008 12:54:49 AM

oh might want to add at the top that socket 775 days are numbered nayhelm will be socket 1366 or something like that
June 7, 2008 1:41:58 AM

Great work modode!!! [:mousemonkey:5] [:mousemonkey:5]

I agree 100% with what's in the original post.

A few things I'd add:

- the Corsair 1000HX and the Enermax Galaxy 1000W, for people who want two 9800GX2 or GTX 280 cards. There's really no need to buy the $500+ TurboCool 1200W for that, so these PSUs are great there.

- the P182 case for people who want something quiet. Not ideal for major overclocking or SLI, but perfect for a lot of people if they have the money.

- between Vista versions, the one I'd pick is Vista Home Premium 64-bit
June 7, 2008 1:43:05 AM

If you're a student, though, be sure to see if your school will offer Windows for free/at a discounted price.
I'm able to pick up free copies of 64-bit Vista Business, which is a nice perk.
June 7, 2008 2:41:53 AM

i wouldnt recommend the low E2xxx chip because no matter what cooler you put on it.3-3.2Ghz is always the limit and its so so hard to get to that limit as well!

i would get the E4xxx instead for not that much of a price increase!
June 7, 2008 12:32:50 PM

I'm updating the OP with the following points if everyone tends to agree:

Nehalem: This is the name of the next Intel CPU family coming out the end of '08, which will reportedly outperform today's best Core 2 family chips by 20-50%. Unfortunately, Nehalem is a physically larger chip and will require a new socket - thus, you'll need a new motherboard in order to upgrade. Keep this in mind before you drop 2-300 bucks on a new motherboard today.

"Future-Proofing": Many people want to build a 'future-proof' system that will allow them to play the newest games at high to max settings for 3-4 years. Unfortunately, this is probably impossible since that length of time is an eternity in computing terms. IMHO, a better strategy is to build a mid-to-high end system every 1-2 years. Often, you'll be able to recycle the case and PSU, sometimes even the HD or motherboard. For example, today for $1000-1400 you can build a system that'll play all games on high to max settings for the next 1-2 years, and you'll get more bang for your buck than blowing 3k on a bleeding edge system that'll be underperforming within 2 years. This way you'll always have a high-performing, cost-effective system. (And building computers is fun!)
June 7, 2008 12:55:43 PM

In the released specs for the 260 and 280, nVidia says the new cards will require at least a 550W PSU. Personally I wouldn't include anything sub 550W in your mid-range PSU selections.
June 7, 2008 1:10:26 PM

cheshirekitty said:
In the released specs for the 260 and 280, nVidia says the new cards will require at least a 550W PSU. Personally I wouldn't include anything sub 550W in your mid-range PSU selections.


Valid point. Reports are a single GTX280 will pull 236watts!

I updated the mid-range PSU (I never was really totally comfortable with calling 500-550W PSU's 'mid-range' these days anyway, though those were very good units).
June 7, 2008 2:27:03 PM

modode said:
I'm updating the OP with the following points if everyone tends to agree:

Nehalem: This is the name of the next Intel CPU family coming out the end of '08, which will reportedly outperform today's best Core 2 family chips by 20-50%. Unfortunately, Nehalem is a physically larger chip and will require a new socket - thus, you'll need a new motherboard in order to upgrade. Keep this in mind before you drop 2-300 bucks on a new motherboard today.

"Future-Proofing": Many people want to build a 'future-proof' system that will allow them to play the newest games at high to max settings for 3-4 years. Unfortunately, this is probably impossible since that length of time is an eternity in computing terms. IMHO, a better strategy is to build a mid-to-high end system every 1-2 years. Often, you'll be able to recycle the case and PSU, sometimes even the HD or motherboard. For example, today for $1000-1400 you can build a system that'll play all games on high to max settings for the next 1-2 years, and you'll get more bang for your buck than blowing 3k on a bleeding edge system that'll be underperforming within 2 years. This way you'll always have a high-performing, cost-effective system. (And building computers is fun!)


Agree here. Maybe we should include an AMD build just for grins, so we can be called complete :) 
June 7, 2008 3:25:36 PM

vsdagama said:
hey, this is a very nice idea!!
Instead of post all sorts of builds, can u list all components together
(CPU's under cpu's, etc...) and explain with each part why we should take this and so on?

So at the end we get a list of all parts and under each part the low-mid-high range pieces and an explanation with each so people can look at for example hi-end CPU and then read the comments to choose one of them...
That would be awsome!!!!


Well, let's see here. This might kind of redundant from the OP, but maybe we can combine them together.

CPU:

Low-end
Intel
E2180- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116052- 69.99
E2200- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116070&Tpk=E2220- 89.99
E7200- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115052&Tpk=E7200 134.99

AMD
Athlon 64 X2 4400+ http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103221&Tpk=4400%252b 59.99
Athlon 64 x2 4600+ http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103258&Tpk=4600%252b 66.00
Athlon 64 x2 5000+ BE http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103194- $87.99*

We have three CPUs listed from Intel and AMD. All of these can be considered value CPUs. All six are them are dual core, and have between 1MB and 3MB of L2 cache. These processors are good for a variety of tasks like Office, web design, some gaming (with a good video card), and basic photo editing. If you are into overclocking, there is no reason not to pick up the E2180 on a very tight budget system and overclock it. However, if money allows the best solution is to pick up the E7200. The only reason is buy a E2200 is if you are not into overclocking and want the 400MHz increase over the E2180.

Best choice: E7200 or E2180 if the budget is very tight.

Over on the AMD side, things are not rosy right now. AMD is getting run out of the gym so to speak by Intel. It's like a lopsided college wresting match where Intel just cannot manage to keep AMD down long enough for the pin. There is some hope on the AMD side however. If you are into overclocking the 5000+ BE is a good value at $90. The BE is the black edition which means the multiplier is not locked. So this means the multiplier can be changed to any value the user wants. Now, the black edition does not come with a heatsink/fan so that will be an extra purchase. However, stock coolers are usually terrible anyway especially for overclocking so thats not a total loss.

Best AMD CPU: 5000+ BE- Other two are just listed for a complete list, and for extreme value systems.

Choice: Obviously Intel.

Mid-Range- This is where the vast majority of systems will be built, so this is where most people should look. Here we are looking at $700-1500 or so in total price of systems.

E7200- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115052&Tpk=E7200 134.99
E8400- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115037 189.99
Q6600- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115017 209.99
Q9300- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115043 274.99

Now the E7200 is kind of a special bird. It makes both lists because it is right in the middle. It is on the high end of budget systems and the low end of midrange systems. Here we have 4 CPUs, but they are not really listed in order of worst to best. The first two are dual core CPUs and the last two are quad cores. Intel makes it easy to tell by looking what type of CPU you are dealing with: E- dual core Q- quad core. The sweet spot is for the majority of users is the E8400, especially since the price just dropped $10 on Newegg. For the majority of users, dual core CPUs are just fine. Most software does not take advantage of quad core CPUs right now, except for video editing software, Photoshop, @Home Folding, and a few other applications. If your system is mainly for gaming, the E8400 is the best deal. If you want to "future-proof" the system (an paradox but eh) a quad core might be a better choice.

The E8400 can overclock to 4GHz with a good cooler which is a really fast system. The Q6600 can hit around 3.6GHz, not sure really what the Q9300 can do.

Best Choice: E8400- unless performing CPU intensive tasks then its a toss up between Q6600/Q9300.

High- End- Systems $1500+

Q9450- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115042- 339.99
The Q9300 with extra speed and a full 12MB cache. This CPU could make it into a mid range system, but the price is a touch high compared to the E8400, so I put it in the high end. This is probably the best quad core CPU out right now, and maybe the best CPU all-around. 45nm, overclockable, full 12MB cache, runs cool. An easy choice on the high end system.

=====================================================================================
RAM:
Random Access Memory(RAM) are the chips in your computer that store data short term so your computer can operate. Without RAM your computer would have to read all data from the hard disk which is very slow. Your computer on average would take 3-4 minutes to boot up and streaming video would be impossible. For the majority of uses DDR2-800 RAM is the preferred choice. If you are into overclocking on the high-end DDR2-1066 is something to consider. The higher rated speed allows for stability at FSBs beyond 1600 (which is 1:1 with DDR2-800).

On the value side- 2GB is more than enough. If you are overclocking look for RAM with CAS (latency ratings- lower numbers are better without getting into a tech discussion) 4-4-4-12 or better. If you are not overclocking 5-5-5-15 is ok. However, the difference is price is not that much. For example on G.Skill kits (my top brand) its only $5. My favorite: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231087
Extreme Value: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227139 $22 after MIR for 4-4-4-15. A steal.

Mid/High Range- 4GB of RAM unless video or Photoshop work a main use for the system. If PS is main use go 8GB (4x 2GB) instead. DDR2-800 RAM is fine, find 4-4-4-12 RAM. My current favorite is a G.Skill kit: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231148

=====================================================================================
Motherboards

When looking at a motherboard there are three important factors to consider: a) socket type b) chipset used c) layout

AMD and Intel both use different sockets and chipsets, so one must buy a motherboard that supports the processor they wish to use. Chipsets support different features, and each has pros and cons. For example nVidia chipsets are the only chipsets that will support SLI. Intel chipsets tend to overclock better and offer Crossfire support (ironic I know).

On the low end/value side motherboards often included integrated graphics to help further reduce cost. On the Intel side, chipsets in this category at G31 and the low end (on board video) and P35 at the high end (discreet graphics required). Boards in the lower end of this group are often also microATX which while reducing the size of the board and thus the size of the case required limits upgrade options. Often, microATX boards only have 2 DIMM slots and certainly only 1 PCI-E x16 slot.

Boards in this segment that I would recommend:

Intel G31: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131288 I pick this one over a Gigabyte options that are few dollars cheap because this Asus board support DDR2-1066 memory. The video onboard is Intel 3100. Not the best in the board, but its serviceable for basic tasks and more than enough for office use. (not PS) 69.99

Intel P35: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128337 This Gigabyte board is a full size board offers great overclocking, full 45nm support, a great layout. Remember a video card is required here, no onboard video. 89.99

AMD 780G http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131289 For the AMD chips I selected from this segment. While this board is more expensive, it offers HDMI output, Hybrid Crossfire and other features not found on the other two. Hybrid Crossfire allows you to Crossfire with the onboard video card and lower end discreet video card. A nice performance boost for a small investment. 99.99

Mid-Range
Here we are looking are full size boards with lots of features. Intel P35 is still the value champ on the lower end of this segment and at the higher end X38/X48 chipsets are the king. nVidia SLI chipsets enter into this field also for those who actually need SLI. (Read: Most of you don't).

A repeat performer here :
Intel P35: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128337 This Gigabyte board is a full size board offers great overclocking, full 45nm support, a great layout. Remember a video card is required here, no onboard video. 89.99

nVidia 750i: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813188026&Tpk=750i%2bFTW Seems to be the best of the rather crappy nVidia chipset motherboards. If you must SLI use this board. 189.99

Intel x38: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131219 This is the motherboard I am using in my build right now. Overclocks like a champ, full PCI-E 2.0 support, official FSB1600 support, and Crossfire. This is a great board for all users. However, with the price it fits into the higher end of the mid-range segment. 224.99

Intel x48: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131284 Reports to overclock better than x38 chipset motherboards, but basically the same deal. The board offers dual LANs the P5E only offers one. 289.99

Option #2 x48: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128336 This Gigabyte board is a solid x48 performer for only $10 more than the Asus x38 board. You pay extra for the "Rampage Formula" nameplate on the Asus board for sure. 234.99

High End-
Same as the mid-range unless you want to get into Skullrail which is $660. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813121330&Tpk=Skulltrail See my high end build (around $7000) in this post, for a full example of this platform. This is the ONLY Intel motherboard that supports SLI by the way. This is a socket 771 motherboard, Core2Duos WILL NOT WORK (outside of one extreme chip that is $1.5k each), it is made for Xeon.
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Cooling
I do not know much here! Modode/other poster (PM it- full credit to the author of course) please write this section for me !
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Hard Drives

On any computer, the hard drive is a place to save money, or spend a little more depending on your storage needs. Drives should be SATA (not IDE) II (3Gbps) interface with at least a 16MB cache. If the drive is 500GB or larger find a drive with a 32MB cache. Western Digital and Seagate make the best hard drives on the market right now. Look at the Seagate 7200.11 series for some really good deals. Generally I would avoid buying a drive larger than 750GB. If you need more storage than this buy multiple drives. 1TB drives currently seem to have a higher rate of failure, and I would hate for a user to lose that much data.

For the majority of users (yes even you Mr. Showoff who thinks his system is amazing) RAID is an option which offers little or no benefit only risk. RAID will benefit you perform large drive writes on a regular basis. RAID does not read data faster (which is the majority of use from a drive- it is actually slower at that). Writing however though is RAID's benefit because it can write to multiple drives at once. However, depending on the RAID configuration, if one or more drives fail, all data on the array is lost.

RAID Levels-
0- Striping- Two+ drives become one with not fault protection. For large drive writes users will find a 20-30% speed boost. The risk is if any drive fails ALL data in the array is lost.
1- Mirroring- Two drives mirror each other. All data written to drive A is copied to drive B. This is often used in server setups for fault tolerance for mission critical data. Drive operations slow down here, this level is not recommended for users without the need to back up data. If one drive fails- the other one can operate without the array normally.
5- Raid 0 with parity- requires 3 drives and offers the same benefits as RAID 0. However, one drive can fail and the array is not lost- but the drive must be replaced ASAP.
10- RAID 0+1 requires 4 drives and combines RAID 0 + 1. Two striped arrays mirrored. This option is probably the worst option because of the heat/expense required of buying 4 drives and only getting the space of two of them.

Raptor:
Like RAID, the vast majority of users do NOT need a Raptor. Raptors spin faster then regular drives (10,000RPM vs 7200rpm) and this read data faster. If your operations required large drive READS, Raptors are a good investment. Otherwise, it is not worth the huge extra costs of the drive.
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Power Supplies

This is one area where many would be DIYs make bad choices. DO NOT SKIMP ON THE PSU!!. If you have not seen the brand mentioned here in a positive light do not buy it! The PSU is the most mission critical part of your computer because it powers everything else. For most setups, power supplies in the 450-550W range are a good buy. Corsair currently makes some of the best PSUs on the market, and for the majority of users the 550VX is an excellent value and a very reliable PSU. PC Power and Cooling also makes excellent units. For SLI setups look for at least a 750W unit, and make sure it is SLI certified.

On the flip side, many builders are posting builds with overkill PSUs. Your system does not need a 1kW PSU! 1kW PSUs are for very high end systems with 3-4 video cards, lots of hard drives, or servers. For 95% of users, 750W is the ceiling on a PSU. Modular PSUs are nice, but not required. Modular while reducing cable cutter increases costs.

The best PSU to buy now is one with a large SINGLE +12V rail. PSUs will 3+ 12Vs have fallen out of favor and are generally not a good buy.

Again, DO NOT SKIMP HERE!

Corsair 550VX: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139004&Tpk=550VX
Power PC and Cooling 610W http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817703005
PCP&C 750W: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817341011 (SLI certified)

More? Just ask!
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